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June 23, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 25
 
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The Real Spin
Boys of summer: From Gyllenhaal to García Bernal, these young movie hunks will keep you hot under the collar
by Ron Anders - SGN A&E Writer

As the warm breezes of summer finally descend on Seattle, and jeans and tee shirts get a little tighter - and as Hollywood puts out its warm weather popcorn product - our thoughts turn to the heartthrobs that make us swoon at the movies. There is no shortage of beefcake in movies today. Has there ever been? Let's take a look at a few of the young popular hunks that inhabit our fantasies, make us a little hot under the collar, and crave a tall drink of water.

Jake Gyllenhaal, perhaps best known for his beautiful performance as Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain, played the eager romantic to a stoic Heath Ledger. Although his role in the film was less acclaimed than his counterpart, his sad, puppy dog eyes made the role immensely appealing. It's difficult to remember an actor so lovingly photographed. The character in Annie Proulx's original story was a little chunky and bucktoothed, a far cry from Gyllenhaal's lean handsomeness. But, hey, we're not complaining. His follow-up role, in the Gulf War drama Jarhead, finds him with a buzz cut, seriously buffed-up as a military grunt. He will next portray a reporter obsessed with capturing a serial killer in true crime thriller Zodiac, scheduled to open this winter.

Christian Bale first came on the scene at age 13, playing a boy who fights to survive under Japanese occupation during World War II in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun. Blossoming into an enigmatic, somewhat reluctant movie star, he made a shocking, bloody comeback (at age 26) as the lean, immaculately tailored murderer in American Psycho, a role he roared into with maniacal gusto. Bale turned in solid performances in a variety of genres over the next five years, the most striking being The Machinist, in which he played an industrial worker whose paranoid inner demons keep him from sleeping. Bale lost 60 pounds for the role, his shockingly skeletal appearance setting the surreal tone of the film. For his trouble, he was rewarded with the title role in Batman Begins, a noir-ish take on the franchise (allowing him to beef up to body builder proportions), which impressed moviegoers and studio execs enough to schedule another Batman sequel with Bale, now in pre-production. These transformations are reminiscent of Robert DeNiro's weighty stunts in his early career (all sinew and muscle in the scorching Taxi Driver and flabby and puffed up for a prizefighter's later years in Raging Bull). Bale has three films awaiting release: The Vietnam War drama Rescue Dawn (playing a fighter pilot battling to survive), The Prestige (as a magician pitted against über-hunk Hugh Jackman) and I'm Not Here (Todd Haynes' film about Bob Dylan).

Ryan Gosling, already considered one of the best actors of his generation at the tender age of 26, has made about 10 films to date. The Believer (a prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival), based on a true story, raised such controversy that it barely found a distributor. Gosling plays a Jewish student whose rage finds a channel in violent anti-Semitism. He turns the character's self-loathing fury into a breathtaking performance, giving shading to his character that the script itself lacks. Taking on the romantic lead in The Notebook, a syrupy but enjoyable tearjerker, evidences his remarkable range of acting skill. His latest role is a drug-addicted high school teacher in Half Nelson, which just screened at the Seattle International Film Festival. Gosling's acting chops and robust physicality easily merit a private screening.

Gael García Bernal is a young actor who is clearly not afraid of showing his emotions or his body. Both are displayed to erotic effect in the two best films for which this Mexican native has gained stardom. In Y Tu Mamá También, his breakthrough effort, he and a buddy take an older woman on a road trip - a journey navigated by adolescent testosterone and bad behavior. The boys are ostensibly straight, but the homoerotic charge of the film spills into a kiss in the film's feverish climactic sex scene.

Bernal plays multiple roles in Bad Education, Pedro Almodóvar's riotously color-drenched, gender-bending Hitchcock homage. We first see him as an actor/writer submitting a script to a director with whom he had a childhood romantic relationship. In a film-within-a-film sequence, he morphs into Zahara, a seductive transvestite who takes revenge on the priest who abused him as a child. His funny, desperate portrayal is completely believable, with a bizarre sexiness fueling his flamboyance. Bernal's innocent good looks add a perverse undertone of outrageousness to his villainy. He will co-star with Brad Pitt in Babel, scheduled for an October release.

Other hunk-filled summer theatrical releases include: Colin Farrell (following in Don Johnson's pastel-shaded footsteps) in Miami Vice, newcomer Brandon Routh in tights in Superman Returns, and Johnny Depp gaily swashbuckling in Pirates of the Caribbean 2. These are all guys that will keep your popcorn popping.

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