While it is not my intent to get political on this blog, there are a couple things we can talk about now that were a bit more taboo when I woke up Tuesday morning: Same-sex marriage and marijuana. Just to be clear, Backstage Pass is politically neutral. We do, however, know a good comedy when we see one. There are a number of great comedies about gays and stoners — although I couldn’t think of one that had both. It’s out there somewhere, I’m sure. Like many successful comedies, these films tend to exploit stereotypes and revel in awkward social situations. Really, they aren’t much different from classics such as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” or “Arthur” (not the Russell Brand remake). In the end, the message is about acceptance of people outside the dominant worldview. Or maybe it’s about dressing great and having a good time. You can decide.
We can debate the merits of this American remake of the French “La Cage Aux Folles” all day, but since we live in this country, we’ll focus on this 1996 film. Nathan Lane, Robin Williams and the amazing Hank Azaria star in this Mike Nichols flick about a gay cabaret owner and his cross-dressing partner as they play it straight in order to meet the right-wing parents of the cabaret owner’s son’s fiancée. Social awkwardness at its best.
Bo Welch and Cheryl Carasik were nominated for an Oscar for their art direction/set decoration and watching how they moved from the more colorful sets to the more sedate is a highlight of the movie. One wouldn’t think that Lane and Williams could have any scene stolen from them, but Azaria as Agador steals scenes like John Dillinger robbed banks. Gene Hackman and Dianne Weist play the conservative parents in the situation and fulfill their roles with the brilliance expected of them. No matter what your thoughts on the issue are, “The Birdcage” is a funny, insightful movie.
Other movies to watch: “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar;” “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert;” “Connie and Carla;” and “In & Out.” (We’re doing comedies today. Serious dramas tackling these issues are for another post.)
“Reefer Madness: The Musical”
If one were to look at the subgenre of “stoner movies,” you’d see a variety of films ranging from the 1970s-set coming of age story to the contemporary “how can we smoke weed and make money” film. “Reefer Madness” has those elements, sure, but it is also a musical. About marijuana.
Based on the 1930s scare film of the same name, “Reefer Madness” follows high school senior Jimmy Harper as he descends into the pit of addiction and how that affects his girlfriend, Mary Lane. He meets a bunch of shady characters and gets advice from a number of sources, including Jesus. Capturing the drug paranoia of the ’30s is Alan Cumming as the Lecturer recounting Jimmy’s story to a group of concerned parents. The song-and-dance numbers follow a traditional musical format, even if the subject matter is not standard. The highlight is “Listen to Jesus, Jimmy” featuring soap opera star Robert Torti as Jesus. I dare you not to sing along.
Other movies to watch: “Dazed and Confused;” “Half–Baked;” “Pineapple Express;” “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle;” “Friday;” and any of the classic Cheech & Chong movies.
Whether or not you choose to light up a fatty or attend a same-sex wedding, we can all laugh together.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/0zFbc5MzAxk?list=PLQqs2Ob5xaNhRUEpp0yvAbqM8m-0x5lxM&hl=en_US" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>