Knight at the Movies Archives
Kirby Dick is back with an inflammatory documentary, so is Christian Bale in a bone crunching, dispiriting return to the 80s franchise
Kirby Dick, the documentary filmmaker who made the eye opening 2006 This Film Is Not Yet Rated returns with Outrage. If I felt
frustration and anger over the unfair way that GLBT themed movies are treated by the MPAA ratings board as highlighted in that film
imagine how, as a queer movie critic, I felt coming out of Outrage, in which Dick takes on the topic of closeted politicians lobbying for
anti-gay legislation, blatantly flying in the face of their own kind. I’m boiling. Just as in Milk, I realized early on during the screening
that it was going to be hard, if not impossible, for me to remain objective about the film given the subject matter so read what I
thought with a grain of salt. When it comes to Outrage, balanced I’m not.
That may have to do with Dick’s approach. He’s less showy than Michael Moore, more methodical and he slowly builds his case with
solid research and the audaciousness of some of what he shows you, the stunning denial of the participants is mind boggling. In
Outrage (which has the canny tag line, “Do Ask. Do Tell”) he doesn’t just expose politicians (yes the majority of them Republicans)
engaged in this insidious practice, he also takes on their operatives and friends in the media who have also remained closeted while
supporting anti-gay agendas. The film also gives us a historical overview – stretching back to Roy Cohn going after commies and
queers during the red baiting scare and then into the beginning of AIDS and the terrible silence and indifference during the
devastating Reagan era that helped the pandemic take hold. It’s a long, painful, gut wrenching history of willful persecution and the
film persuasively makes the case that staying in the closet has been tremendously damaging on a personal level and to society at
When Ed Koch, the detestable, still closeted former Mayor of New York (who I personally hold responsible for the deaths of hundreds
of gay men during the early days of the AIDS outbreak), spits out a “Fuck you” directly at the camera I found myself screaming “No.
Fuck you!” right back at the screen – my objectivity tossed out the window once again. And who can blame any of us for feeling this
way? I mean, what is it with these self-loathing people that make them, not just go after their own kind, but outright vilify and try to
hurt us? Dick offers some psychological guesswork from formerly closeted Log Cabin Republicans and other talking heads, along
with a lot of psychobabble from outed ex-governor Jim McGreevey as possible explanations but it’s still a head scratcher for me.
The powerful film starts with the audio of Larry Craig being interviewed by police after his arrest while trolling for gay sex in the
Minneapolis airport bathroom stall over the credits and next we see bits of Craig’s follow-up press conference in which he denied
being gay (the film keeps coming back to this press conference, interspersed with questionable incidents from Craig’s past until this
conference becomes ludicrous – a record of shame and guilt). Next we learn that apparently our nation’s capital is queer central as
supporting witnesses confide and we read about “a brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy” to keep Washington’s closet door shut tight
while somber cello music plays on the soundtrack.
As Dick provides evidence against a cadre of closeted, purportedly anti-gay politicians and their disgraceful voting records, he also
delves into the practice of “outing” itself and includes on camera interviews with those for it (Michelangelo Signorile who climbed to
fame because of his willingness to name names), against it (conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan) and those inbetween. Now, no
matter your opinion on the practice it is Mike Rogers, the man who has become most feared by closeted politicians doing us the dirty
(because of his website www.blogactive.com that tracks these guys), who neatly sums up the reason to out these venal politicos, “I’m
reporting hypocrisy, not outing.” Rep. Barney Frank echoes a moment later that these anti-gay gays deserve “A right to privacy –
not a right to hypocrisy.” The seemingly benign Rogers is the film’s hero – he shows no fear, no hesitancy to go after closeted
politicians – past, present, future – and their minions who are working hard against Our People from within their closet walls.
Dick makes the case that while the gay media has been reporting on a batch of these suspect individuals – from Florida governor
Charlie Crist to David Dreier, a California Republican congressman – the mainstream has ignored it. One reason for that seems to
be a collective media sensitivity to their subject’s sexuality – a thorny issue the film identifies. How to get the mainstream past their
hesitation and “privacy” issues about revealing queer sexuality? The first step, of course, is to remove the shame and stigma
attached to it across the board once and for all – a slow process not for the impatient. The slain gay activist Harvey Milk provides
the instant solution, via an archival clip that comes at the end of the film. “If every gay person in the closet would come out…we’d
That was over 30 years ago but sadly remains not just timely but up to the minute. Case in point: as Outrage is going into
mainstream release Charlie Crist has announced his candidacy for senator, a first stop toward the White House. Not one of the
mainstream media outlets reporting this announcement has mentioned that Crist is a prominent subject in Kirby Dick’s film in their
The action in Terminator Salvation takes place in a post nuke world in 2018. Appropriately enough, there’s a distinct Road
Warrior feel to the movie and the film also harkens back to the original Terminator picture. But though the movie references the 80s
post nuke sci-fi action blockbusters it takes off from it exhibits none of the clunky sci-fi gadgetry or personality of the first
Terminator, or the spare, icy sleekness and visual panache of the second installment. It’s a bone crunching, mean movie, without
much character and worse, no originality.
Skynet Central, which is where the bad machines reign supreme, is like a high tech Auschwitz. The plot hinges on Christian Bale as
John Connor jumping through the run of the mill action movie hoops in order to free some very important prisoners – including one
who will One Day Save Mankind. This movie is a muscular FX thriller as advertised, alright but so tightly wound it can’t seem to
deliver anything but explosion after explosion or stop long enough to let the audience rest.
I miss the klutzy, winning, and surprisingly suspenseful and finally compelling first edition which featured a group of good supporting
actors, some clever dialogue and situations and best of all of course, Schwartzy’s all too human massive body and mangled line
readings (even when he appears late in the movie in CG form it’s a cheat and we miss Ah-nuld’s all too human line readings). I did
like the eel-like monsters in this new edition with their razor sharp teeth but even they reminded me of The Matrix – once again
pointing out the lack of originality on display here.
After witnessing Bale’s performance which consists of either acting through clenched teeth or shouting intensely one doubly wonders
why he threw the onset tantrum when his "concentration" was affected. From the evidence here, the crew member prevented another
moment of over acting. With one of only two acting modes on display here, Bale doesn’t so much act as veer back and forth from
Intense to Shouting (Bales’ acting style in his recent spate of blockbuster pictures is wandering dangerously into Tom Cruise
At one point, whipping up the resistance, Bale decrees, “We are not machines” but the movie sure is – sleek, human-like but
ultimately cold steel and unfeeling.
This Is War:
Expanded Edition of 5-20-09 Windy City Times KATM Column*
By Richard Knight, Jr.
*Terminator Salvation screened after my column deadline but in time for me to include it here