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IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: I Actually Liked Something! And It Was "Humpday!"

Yes, it’s true: I, a person who gets cranky on a more or less continual basis, often at movies, saw a movie that did not make me cranky at all. That movie was “Humpday,” and probably you cannot see it because it is only playing in two theaters in the entire world right now. However! It will be opening in Berkeley and San Francisco shortly! So you can see it then! 

Also, I wrote about it for “Comment is Free,” and talked about its relationship both to Bruno, homophobia in general, and the fine cinematic tradition of the Bromance. Here is part of what I wrote: 

Last week, two movies opened. Their intentions were, on one level, remarkably similar: both of them were intended to be about homophobia, or, more specifically, about the weird blend of fear and fascination and prejudice many straight people express when faced with the thought of two men having sex. 

The first movie, Bruno, opened internationally, had a massive promotional campaign, and stars the straight comedian Sasha Baron Cohen playing a hugely exaggerated, hugely offensive gay stereotype: its method of exposing homophobia was to have this comedian wander around and act in an offensively stereotypical manner in the hopes of making people visibly uncomfortable. (The critical reaction so far seems to show that while Bruno did his intended job, and got some rises out of the yokels, what makes many people really uncomfortable is the idea of a straight man playing a hugely offensive gay stereotype.)

The second, Humpday, opened in just two cinemas in the United States. Its aims were smaller, and simpler, and smarter: it’s a comedy about two straight men, who have known each other for many years, and how they try to close the rift in their friendship (one is married, and quickly growing up; the other couldn’t grow up if he tried) by having sex with each other. They intend for the sex to be filmed; they intend for it to be exhibited at a local “art porn” festival; it’s not entirely certain – to us, or to them – what else they intend for it to be. Whatever it is, they want it to happen; whatever it is, they’re scared.

Now you can read the rest of it! Over at CiF! I will probably never be this positive about anything ever again (and, hey: maybe if “Humpday” ever makes it out into the rest of the world, we can discuss the un-positive aspects of it! Right now I am just hoping that people will actually see it) so I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity. 

23 Comments

  1. eloriane wrote:

    SADY! I am in Canada, in a cottage so remote that the closest towns are not known by Google Maps. There is one movie screen within half an hour: it is playing Transformers.

    The good part is that probably Bruno won't be getting anywhere near me. The bad part is Humpday won't be either! And yet, your review! You have tortured me with all these fantastic plot points of which I must know more! I need to see this movie!

    Plus, I am totally fascinated by the way it was filmed. I want to see how it works! Arrgh. I have saved it in my Netflix queue. It will have to be enough.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 1:56 pm | Permalink
  2. Mendacious D wrote:

    Loved your term "brotesque" in comments to that article. It perfectly encapsulates what it feels like to watch Apatow's "comedies."

    Also being from Canada, though, I suspect I will have to wait for DVDs as well.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink
  3. oshima wrote:

    According to my bisexual boyfriend and -his- allegedly straight ex-boyfriend, it's not so terribly odd for single, otherwise hetero guy friends to hook-up with each other. I'd like to observe, though, that both boys here are hailing from another country entirely and that may be why none of their peers (also foreign) thought their relationship very strange — very different cultural attitude towards homosexuality.

    I'm dying to see this movie, regardless. As for that other movie-type thing; I have this elaborate fantasy about a film very similar Bruno, only featuring a main character who is a hi-larious parody of a HOMOPHOBE, not a parody of a homosexual man. Wouldn't it be wonderful? I can just see it: Pastor Rod Christian (our candid-camera hero, played by some brave actor) infiltrates the ranks of the anti-gay activists, spreading around pamphlets about the colossal successes he's had with his "Pray The Gay Away" Camp and Resort. He explains to the assembled homophobes that his unique therapeutic approach has a 99% success rate in converting gays back to the straight and narrow path. Then at the end he offhandedly mentions that his "therapeutic approach" involves the "patients" praying…while having marathon sex sessions with a neverending series of burly lumberjacks.

    It would be priceless. I should find an agent, really.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  4. Sady wrote:

    @oshima: Well, it's probably not uncommon for straight-identified guys to hook up anywhere, whether we're talking about guys who are in the closet or guys who just try it to figure out whether they like it. The thing is, we don't talk about that. Whereas, when girls do the same thing, we get pop songs and articles and also an entire genre of porn.

    (Actually, on the subject of porn, because I KNOW PEOPLE WANT ME TO TALK ABOUT IT SOME MORE: most of the porn I've seen, I saw as a part of my training to work at a sex shop. And there's apparently a pretty common motif of dudes having experimental sex with each other in gay porn. Like! I saw one movie that was based on "The Ring!" Its completely inventive premise was that if you, a straight man, see a certain videotape, you will be compelled to have sex with a dude within seven days. There was lots of dialogue along the lines of "but I'm straight!" "So am I, but my girlfriend is out of town this weekend!" I actually kind of recommend it, I guess?)

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  5. julian wrote:

    I am so incredibly confused about this movie.

    As a gay dude whose partner has slept with a fair share of "straight" dudes…. we just don't get it.

    Maybe it's the premise that I'm confused about. In the (what? two? maybe three?) reviews I've read, it sounds like the dudes aren't too keen about doing it. So, um, WHY do they? Is it like "Zack and Miri" with a "gay for pay" twist?

    Granted, I may be somewhat sexually sheltered — but I have a hard time imagining two otherwise-heterosexual guys randomly deciding to have gay sex and film it, apparently because some lesbians told them to. Or maybe I'm just cynical about men, in that I imagine most Hotblooded American Dudebros would answer that with, "How about YOU have sex and film it, and we'll jack off in the same room while watching?" (How straight men don't see mutual masturbation/masturbating together as a homoerotic affair, I will never understand.)

    I think that otherwise-straight men experiment – or would be willing to experiment — with teh gay, in the right circumstance, far more often than straight men want everyone to believe. My partner and I have both had straight men "fall in love" (somewhat creepy naive crushes) with us.

    But two straight dudes? I just don't get it.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 2:37 pm | Permalink
  6. oshima wrote:

    @Sady: I guess that was what startled me most — they talked about it! (Albeit while drunk, and it seemed taboo to mention it around women.) And their friends and roommates acted as if they found it amusing, but not weird or gross.

    "The Ring" porn? oh dear. I'll be honest, I prefer foreign gay porn to the American stuff, so plots tend to escape me for the most part XD (But, again, "The Ring" porn? what was it called? I may have to look for that one…) And I theorize that yearning after a straight buddy may be a shared experience for a lot of gay men, so naturally the "straight but curious" theme would strike a chord with a lot of viewers.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
  7. Sady wrote:

    @oshima: Well, I am not one of those straight ladies who fetishizes dude sex (in fact, I kind that kind of fucked-up in many cases) so I can't really comment on how sexy the porn was. Mostly, I found its dialogue clever and its premise witty. Yes, I know. I KNOW. BELIEVE ME.

    And, yeah, I can see why the "straight but curious" or "my girlfriend is out of town this weekend" narrative would work, porn-wise. It's about having sex with someone you would never be able to have sex with normally. See: every porn movie ever made, especially those featuring pizza-delivery guys or plumbers and their unaccountably rapacious clients.

    @julien: I feel kind of weird, praising the movie so highly, even though I do think it's beautiful, because I am a straight lady and can only write from my straight lady perspective. There is no monolithic Straight Lady or Gay Dude perspective, but I don't want to appropriate someone else's right to speak from his or her own experience, especially since my own sexuality is so privileged. I have this theory that the only people who have real authority, on the subject of gay sex, are people who actually have it.

    What I can tell you is that I think a major accomplishment of the film is that it doesn't oversimplify things: there are four "sex" scenes in the movie, and each one of them arises very specifically from the personalities and needs of the people involved. Without giving too much away (and I knew nothing about the movie, going in, and think it's a better experience that way) what I can say is that one of the men involved has had a crush on a guy in the past, although he's unsure as to what it means for his sexuality in general, and the other one thinks that having a broad array of sexual experiences is "cool" and feels like a little bit too much of a square, given that his sex has always been of the one-lady-one-dude vanilla variety. On top of that, these guys think that their porn will be "artistic" and "push boundaries," and being "artistic" and "boundary-pushing" is important to them both for a variety of reasons. Basically, they're both trying to prove how edgy they are, although at different points they both realize that it's a stupid reason to have sex with someone. Add to that the fact that they used to be the most important people in the world to each other, and aren't any more: people have always used sex as a way to create intimacy or heal rifts. And then there's all sorts of unnamed and maybe unnameable stuff floating around in the air. Anyway: those were the rationales for their plan in the movie, and I bought it. Someone else could find it totally obnoxious and sensationalistic and even offensive – and I'd like to hear that perspective, too.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    @oshima: Look up "The Hole" (2003)

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink
  9. sylviasproblem wrote:

    I'm so happy to hear good things about this movie from you. I've been rooting for it — and hoping it actually turns out to be good — ever since I first heard about it back in January.

    A lot of that is just "local" pride from years as a Pacific-Northwest-ern-er. I mean, the amateur porn contest that provides the movie with its premise is an actual thing sponsored by one of Seattle's alt-weeklies, and when I heard the premise I went "ahahahaha of course, I wish I'd thought of that" where almost everyone else everywhere seems to have gone "O.O". It comes across as a very, very PNW movie and I guess in the next few weeks we'll see whether its sensibility will translate to larger-scale success.

    (P.S. I think they are *very* smart to make the SF Bay Area its second stop on the way to wider release.)

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 6:29 pm | Permalink
  10. ChelseaWantsOut wrote:

    You know what is really stupid? I totally ran out of money this weekend (having to buy groceries pisses me off) and didn't go see the damn film, after I told everyone to go see it. I am sad about this.

    On the subject of dudes who usually like chicks getting together with dudes, I think it's maybe sort of common at the college I went to, where there are many many guys and very few ladygirls. No one talks about it, of course…except that one guy. Man, I am so sleepy. What was I trying to say?

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 11:18 pm | Permalink
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    I would like to see this also! BUt, being the third Canadian to post here, I'll reiterate that I, too, will likely have to wait for DVD release. (Since, being as it does not [from the sound of it] appear to incorporate homphobic jokes IN ANY WAY, it is unlikely to attain wide release). I weep, but I shall live.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 4:12 am | Permalink
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    Another movie about how awesome and edgy it is to be in porn doesn't sound appealing or innovative in the least. But now I understand why the NYT dude thinks the director is so awesome, "just one of the guys"

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 5:29 am | Permalink
  13. Sady wrote:

    @Anonymous 2: Well, is it just the EXISTENCE of porn you object to, regardless of the amount of agency and control the actors have, their working conditions, what the goals of the porn are, etc.? Because my understanding is that Humpfest is a big sex-positive amateur deal, and filled with a lot of people who make porn because it feels artistic and liberating to them, or just because they think it'll be fun. What it is not, from my understanding, is a mainstream porn festival, tainted by its association with the unsafe and unfair working conditions of mainstream porn. From everything I've heard, this movie isn't unfairly painting porn as fun; it's realistically depicting one amateur porn festival, at which many people actually do have fun making porn.

    But if any movie which does not condemn porn, regardless of its content or context, is off-limits for you, I can re-write "Humpday" right now so as to be more satisfying:

    BEN: Porn!
    ANDREW: I know, right? It is a plague upon society today!
    BEN: It sure is. I hate porn so much.
    ANDREW: Yep, me too. It's the only virtuous way to be! I hope anyone who overhears this conversation – our "audience," if you will – takes to heart our unilateral condemnation of porn.
    BEN: As do I, my friend.
    ANDREW: … Well. See you.
    BEN: …. Yeah, uh. Bye, I guess.

    It's a short movie, and not very funny, but at least you can see it while staying within the bounds of an ideology that is so rigid it cannot allow for any recognition of context. And that's what movies are for, right?

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 7:53 am | Permalink
  14. ChelseaWantsOut wrote:

    I dunno, Sady, I thought your movie was pretty funny. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just one o' dem fawning fangirls I hear so much about. Shit.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 8:13 am | Permalink
  15. Anonymous wrote:

    what nobody askes is, what fantasies are playing in the mens minds while they have the sex. you can screw a stuffed barney (the purple dude) and it doesnt say anything really, its what in your HAID that counts! and people lie about that, so we can never know. apologies to barney.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 8:15 am | Permalink
  16. snobographer wrote:

    I'm curious if this is anything like Shortbus? You know, with the realism?
    This is going to be a very busy summer for me, movie-wise. There's quite a few decent-looking lady-directed movies coming out. And I must support them ALL! Plus I'm in San Francisco.

    A bromance about two dudes doing porn, as in starring in a porno flick together, is edgy, anonymous-number-whatever. If Shelton was "one of the guys," she'd just have a couple hot chicks oil up and roll around with each other, call it a "lesbian love scene," and slap the "puritan!" label onto anyone who has a problem with it. She probably would have gotten a much wider release that way.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 9:26 am | Permalink
  17. Anonymous wrote:

    Other Anonymous: Anonymous1 here, and I imagine men fantasize about the same types of things that women fantasize about during sex. Sex with another partner, sex with the same partner in different situations, or just how awesome they look having sex. I don't think porn ultimately changes what men fantasize about, although exploitative porn can change how they fantasize.
    Sexual fantasies would find an outlet even if there were no established porn industry. So I think it's kind of naive to imply that the world would be a much more egalitarian place without porn as opposed to the exploitative practices that take place in much of the porn industry (gay, straight, and otherwise).

    Disclaimer: I am a gay male, so I could TOTALLY be wrong about this junk.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 11:08 am | Permalink
  18. Anonymous wrote:

    I saw Humpday at SXSW this year- I wondered if it was going to get a release!

    I'm anxious to hear your slightly more critical thoughts because I'm still not entirely sure how I felt about the movie. I thought it was very well made, but I'm not sure if I liked it (?).

    It's got to be the best mumblecore thing I've seen, tho.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  19. Rebecca wrote:

    snobographer- It's only like Shortbus in subject matter, not tone. There are only a few main characters and it's much more about the (non-romantic) relationship between the two guys than the SEX IS AWESOME tone of Shortbus. (Not that I didn't like Shortbus.) Humpday is understated and even a little ackward and it's more about identity than sexuality (although sexuality is a part of that).

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  20. julian wrote:

    Sady: That makes a lot more sense now, thanks. Unfortunately I'll have to wait for the dvd release anyway (no theaters with captions 'round here), but hopefully I'll remember it.

    Anon1: You think you look awesome having sex? That alone is pretty weird, but add on that you think about how awesome you look having sex while having sex…. wow. :P

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 1:27 pm | Permalink
  21. amellifera wrote:

    Ahhh. I love/hate reading the comments on your Guardian articles. I haven't bothered to set up an account there, but the whole …"I'm not homophobic, I just don't think men should kiss in public (especially if they're fat) in front of me (but the ladies are fine and love to have sexy threesomes with me, and their totes lesbian rather than bisexual)" … really, it causes me to laugh.

    This is the closest I've come to setting up an account due to the genetics dude. He is definitely not very knowledgeable about the genetics or (especially) evolutionary biology. I find it REALLY annoying when someone uses a little knowledge of science to say something really dumb. Like. We've found instances of homosexual behavior in every species we have studied. And this entire adaptationist approach to science chaps my hide. Mainly because it looks like the adaptationist is being logical. They are using logic. They just aren't using science. Science does not look at a result and then try to find evidence that supports that result. Science asks questions. Good science asks good questions. So, when we observe homosexuality in fruit flies, we don't automatically assume that we are observing defective males that attempt to mount each other. We ask what causes this (a mutation at a specific gene locus). We determine the mechanism of the mutation (complicated). We determine whether or not this mutation occurs in natural populations outside of a lab (yes). We determine the rate at which this mutation occurs (variable). We ask whether there are any outside factors at work that are correlated to this mutation ocurring (yes, specifically population dynamics). Then, and only then, do we attempt to even ask the goddamn question of whether or not homosexuality is adaptive behavior (in this species, in this population instance). Some scientists (even "good" ones) often make the mistake of assuming this somehow applies to humans. In a broad sense, it probably does. In the fact that it has been established that there are adaptive benefits to a population in which some members are homosexual (if we're talking inclusive fitness). It's also been shown that homosexuality occurs more frequently in populations with genetic homogeneity (which does NOT apply the population in America, but may explain why more people in Utah google "men kissing" than anywhere else). My very long and convoluted point (that I'm sure no one cares about here) is that … well, there are a whole lot of the pseudoscientists that spew hate. I've noticed in some of your past posts that you sometimes don't distinguish between science and the shitty scientists who do their shitty studies (or the scientists with interesting studies whose conclusions are skewed by the media), and I think the genetics dude (who obviously isn't a scientist) is a perfect example of this. It made another commenter say, "forget nature." We don't need to forget nature. We need people to start looking at the world around them and realize that male bottlenose dolphins have sex with their mates for fun; bisexual dolphins. Many birds are homosexual and still reproduce. Most birds are socially monogamous but sexually promiscuous. There is no such thing as a sexual norm in nature. There is no cut and dried fitness the way social darwinism presents.

    Finally, was it the same or a different dude who blamed the jews for anal sex. I mean, WHUT?

    Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
  22. julian wrote:

    re: the last sentence in the previous comment (sady, seriously, your comment box won't let me paste anything into it, either):

    hahahahhahahahaah
    ahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    *deep breath*
    hahahahahaahahahah

    blame the gays for anal sex if you wish… i mean, i will GLADLY take the credit for that one. but jews? how does that even make sense?

    Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink
  23. ChelseaWantsOut wrote:

    I finally went and saw the movie, and my husband wrote an LJ entry about it. You should read it, Sady, because you love me. With internet-love.

    http://godhatesglobes.livejournal.com/11842.html

    Monday, July 20, 2009 at 10:50 pm | Permalink