The Year’s 10 Best – Analysis of “I Love You, Phillip Morris” & the Enduring Influence of Paul Corrigan
Phew! Now I have the time to go into a little bit more deeply the whys and the wherefores and the WTF element(to some, perhaps) of my selection of the Year’s Ten Best Films.
As someone who sees films ALL THE TIME, Day in and Day Out, nearly every day of my waking life…Films that really last and really stay with you, films that are a total, immersive cinematic experience that affects one so deeply that it becomes part of your life as well as part of the year’s discussion of Best Films…well, that’s why they are all here…And why we are all here…Because we love film…
Yes, I do have a propensity for foreign films and independent films. I stay away from the big studio blockbusters and franchises, if I can help it. Unless I CAN’T help it. Like as you all know, I reluctantly found myself at “Harry Pooter 7 1/2” and I’m glad that I did~ ONLY to see Helena Bonham-Carter’s THIRD terrific performance of the year, as a witch with the name that I just can’t stop saying “Bellatrix La Strange”. A scary ten-minute turn that could help her get her long overdue Oscar…The other two films are “Alice in Wonderland” and of course, “The King’s Speech.”
But I digress…
Number Ten ALMOST was “Fish Tank” a film I loved tremendously. A British Indie. Gritty, grimy, grinding poverty depicted in a council flat setting in London’s East End where I, as you all know, lived for quite a number of years in the ’70s& ’80s. Andrea Arnold, the writer/director, and Michael Fassbender, the rising star of stars, acting alongside a completely inexperienced non-actress, Katie Jarvis, was really a wild, unexpected ride. I couldn’t believe Jarvis was NOT a pro, so profoundly compelling was her portrayal of teenage Cockney torment, when her mom brings a new boyfriend (Fassbender) home. You’ll remember Fassbender from “Inglorious Basterds” as the British officer in that wacky, unforgettable card game.
I guess that would be my number 11, if I was going to extend this arbitrary listing slightly, but I just wanted to give the stunning “Fish Tank” an honorable mention.
I made “I Love You, Phillip Morris” my number ten, because I found myself laughing out loud and also crying inside and totally immersed in the preposterous, gay yarn, that is evidently ALL TRUE, about a homosexual con man extraordinaire(Jim Carrey is his best EVAH) and his finding true love, in jail, natch, with a sweet blond gay guy, Phillip Morris. Yes, that’s his real name…played to a touching fare-thee-well by the unrecognizable Ewan McGregor. I was told not to review it at the time, but I guess I’m raving about it now. It’s in theaters and playing very robustly AND it was raved about by my critical colleagues! Good! Great!
And I do have to mention that as much as I was enjoying the film, when the end credits rolled, I was blown away all over again, by the film’s dedication to my late friend Paul Corrigan, who evidently was the impactful teacher of these young filmmakers, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, both straight. At Pratt. In Brooklyn. Paul died tragically of AIDS a number of years ago.
And I thought the book was closed forever on his life. But no! His great gay spirit keeps jumping up from beyond to assert Paul’s powerful, playful personality once again. It was uncanny how much I thought the Jim Carrey character did, and still does remind me of Paul.
I wrote an Obit for him at the time that I wrote for “Lesbian and Gay New York.” It was all too brief, and didn’t give at all a taste of what Paul was really like. There was very little space. He went to Sarah Lawrence where he was a classmate of Bob Plunket, Susan Haskins(of “Theater Talk”) and Amy Robinson, producer-extraordinaire and also Harvey Keitel’s girl-friend in “Mean Streets.”
I remember Paul first play, his first New York production of two one-acts called “Tan My Hide” and “Nancy’s Tragic Period.” At La Mama E.T.C. and they starred if memory serves Bob and Amy as Santa’s Elves, who were having to make leather gear for Santa, or something like that.
I remember Bob had the immortal(to my mind) lines, “Have you ever seen a dwarf come?”
“Little drizzle droplets.”
And I think Susan was Nancy in “Nancy’s Tragic Period” where she was a girl whose record player(yes, her RECORD PLAYER. That’s how long ago this was.) whose record player keeps telling her how to live her life and acting like a Greek Chorus…I could go on and on.
But I remember to this day the freshness of the writing and the humor and the direction, which I think Paul essayed himself.
But he did not continue with his playwriting. I wish he had.
Years later I encountered him on a Manhattan street and he told me he was teaching Film at Pratt University, a school in Brooklyn that at the time was not known as a cinema studies center, by any means…
And I thought he was being disingenuous.
Then I met Susan Haskins, who was also a fellow teacher at Pratt. And she assured me that yes, Paul was teaching a very special cinema class.
And all these years later, “I Love You, Phillip Morris” bares testimony to the enduring quality of his teaching and his impact on his pupils.
More on numbers 9 to 1 of my Top Ten later…