Love and Death on Long Island [1997]

An older artist, shunned by the white-hot media of the contemporary world, begins to glow again when he meets a handsome, not-altogether all-American boy. In 1998, two writer-directors brought extraordinary care to this subject, creating films that appeared on several top 10 lists. Gods and Monsters won an Oscar for Bill Condon's screenplay and a nomination for Ian McKellen's acting. Richard Kwietniowski's Love and Death on Long Island was forgotten during the award season. John Hurt has rarely been better as Giles De'Ath, a renowned British author of dry, laborious text. By sheer accident he sees a Porky's-type comedy at the theater: Hot Pants College II. About to leave, he spies on screen his very idea of beauty: a near-talentless American actor named Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley, in another deft, underseen performance). So starts De'Ath's very long trek out of his shell. He is so out of touch that when he purchases a VCR (to see the original Hot Pants College, no less), he doesn't realize he needs a TV set to view the picture. By film's end, he will meet his idol and jump into an abyss. Kwietniowski's debut film has uncommon sensitivity in the realm of fantasy and dream makers. As with Gods and Monsters, its homosexual undercurrent can play comfortably in front of straight viewers looking for crisp writing, fresh perspectives, and great acting. --Doug Thomas

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