Thursday, December 18, 2014

A look back at Cuban-American émigré Reinaldo Arenas via the biopic Before Night Falls

Against the backdrop of President Obama's steps to normalize relations with Cuba, we thought we'd try to find the sly dig at Fidel Castro's gay brother, Raul, in the Reinaldo Arenas biopic Before Night Falls on Youtube. We couldn't, but below is a nice clip, anyway (watch till the end!) Javier Bardem became the first Spanish national ever nominated for a Best Actor Oscar after he portrayed Arenas in this 2000 film, which also has a cameo by Sean Penn AND Johnny Depp in a dual role. From Roger Ebert's 3.5-out-of-4-star review:
      Arenas is played by Javier Bardem, a Spanish actor with a specialty in macho heterosexuality (if you doubt me, see "Jamon, Jamon"). He doesn't play Arenas as a gay man so much as a man whose body fits like the wrong suit of clothes. We accept Arenas as gay in the movie because the story says he is, and because there are after all no rules about how a homosexual should look or behave -- but there is somehow the feeling that the movie's Arenas is not gay from the inside out, but has chosen the lifestyle as part of a compulsion to defy Castro in every way possible.
     The film contains two more convincing homosexual characters, both played by Johnny Depp: Lt. Victor, a sleek, tight-trousered military officer, and "Bon Bon," a flamboyant transvestite who struts through Castro's prisons and proves incredibly useful by smuggling out one of Arenas' manuscripts, concealing it in that place where most of us would be most inconvenienced by a novel, however brilliant.

For his second inauguration, in 2013, Obama tapped gay Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco to compose a poem.

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