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Movie of the Day: Gods and Monsters

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What It Is: A fictionalized account of the classic horror film director James Whale’s later years, Gods and Monsters is more than just a (sorta) true Hollywood story. Bill Condon’s drama depicts the friendship between the gay man who made who made Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein (Ian McKellen) and a handsome working class gardener (Brendan Fraser). In addition to dealing with issues of class, prejudice, and sexuality, the film offers a thoughtful look at melancholy and aging.

Why It’s Unique: Before this movie, Sir Ian McKellen was just an acclaimed British stage actor relatively unknown to American and international audiences. His complex performance earned him an Oscar nomination – though this was far and away the best piece of screen acting in 1998, he lost to Roberto Benigni in one of the Academy’s all-time blunders – and propelled him to the later roles like Gandalf the Grey which have made him famous. Yet more than McKellen’s acting, as well as the surprisingly effective turn by Brendan Fraser or the great Lynn Redgrave as Whale’s long time maid, Gods and Monsters earns its place in the pantheon of Hollywood Gothic stories like Sunset Blvd. or The Player.

Who Made It: Director Bill Condon has had an eclectic career. Right before this film, he made Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh, which actually isn’t as surprising as it may seem at first glance: Clive Barker, who wrote the source story, is something of a gay horror icon, and he actually was an executive producer for this movie. After Gods and Monsters, Condon directed the biopic Kinsey about the revolutionary sex researcher and the musical adaptation of Dreamgirls. He also collaborated again with Ian McKellen on Mr. Holmes, a literary updating of the Sherlock Holmes mythos that resonates thematically with Gods and Monsters. Of course, before that film, he directed the final two installments of the Twilight Saga, and most recently released the live action version of Beauty and the Beast. Can you find a common thread in Condon’s diverse filmography?

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