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Review: Another Gay Movie

another gay movie

Starring: Michael Carbonaro, Jonah Blechman
Director: Todd Stephens
Publisher: TLA, 2006
DVD
Not Rated

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (3.5/5)

If you’re looking for a heartfelt coming of age story, complete with a strong moral accompanied by a brilliant plot and scriptwriting… Another Gay Movie may not be the film for you. Then again, if you couldn’t figure that out simply by staring at the cover of the DVD, then you may be a lost cause. The movie unapologetically exploits some of the most infamous and laughable stereotypes about growing up gay, and being homosexual in the 21st century. Staying true to low-brow, slap stick humor, those who are fans of other parody films (such as the Scary Movie series, or Not Another Teen Movie), will certainly appreciate the film.

Reminiscent (if not sometimes blatantly mocking) of the first American Pie, the movie revolves around a group of four long time friends hoping to find love, but more importantly sex, before heading off to college at the end of the summer. The twist, of course, is that all four of these gentlemen are gay, and are so deep invested into the stereotypes and mythologies of gay society that they go about their endeavors all wrong. Usually, this is done in the most outrageous, and humorous ways possible.

The film sports an array of guest stars and celebrities that most people would recognize whether they were immersed in gay popular culture or not. Graham Norton makes a guest appearance as the guys’ very foreign, and highly sought after teacher. Richard Hatch (the winner of the original Survivor on CBS, and openly gay man in real life), makes a brief cameo as another of the main character’s sexual targets. Those who also really know their trivia will recognize James Getzlaff from Bravo’s Boy Meets Boy lighting up the screen.

Now, the film isn’t completely devoid of meaning. As with most toilet humor, you just have to dig a little deeper to catch the social commentary that the writers are attempting to push. One of the more humorous moments in the film is a failed sexual attempt between two rather masculine gay guys, one of whom seems to get off on messing around with men who “act straight”. The film appears to attack this behavior in a very humorous, although be it disgusting sort of way. In addition, there is a rather sweet side story gradually developing between two of the main characters that will leave most of us going “awww”, at the end of the film, in between the laughs that is.

Chances are if you’re reading this review, you already know that Another Gay Movie is the kind of movie you’d enjoy. If you found yourself disgusted by its heterosexual predecessors however, you may want to steer clear. Ideally though, this is the movie you invite a few friends over for, order a pizza, and just have a real chill night watching and laughing until you cry. Enjoy!

- Nick Butcher 06/04/2008


Review: The Art of Touch 2: A Taoist Erotic Massage

The Art of Touch 2 poster

Publisher: Greenwood-Cooper, 1992
Documentary

For the last century there has been a distinct Drang nach Osten evident in certain circles which reached its apex in the hippie culture of the 1960′s and 1970′s and has resulted in adding such words as guru, ashram, and karma to the American vocabulary. This video may indicate one reason for that yearning after oriental religions and philosophies: its non-judgemental acceptance of sex.

This instructional video teaches the (gay, male) viewer how to give an erotic massage based on Taoist principles. According to the video Taoist massage aligns the energy forces of the body to match the energy forces of the universe which control the yin and yang. This reviewer does not have the expertise to make any judgement about these claims, or whether the content of the video accurately reflects Taoist teaching. Whatever one may think of its religio-philosophical content, there is little in the instruction of this video to give pause. There is no heavy kneading or pummeling involved, nor are there any complex or demanding techniques called for; and it emphasizes that Taoist massage is based on slow, relaxed stroking. Simplicity is the controlling factor. Because of this the techniques may have some value as simply an anodyne for the tension and stresses of living in a highly technological civilization. And, your reviewer would imagine, for couples exploring a relationship, it would provide an effective means of bonding. And we all know how much the popular psychologists love bonding.

For your reviewer the film has two negative features. The first involves the production values for the film. Although the film insists that one must prepare the space, “filling it with things of beauty and spiritual significance”, an over zealous production designer has cluttered up the set with so many vases, candlesticks, statues, and assorted gimcrackery that one has the feeling the demonstration is being given in some Hong Kong flea market. In addition, at certain moments the entire set begins rotating against changing backgrounds. The reviewer felt that he should have taken a Dramamine before watching!

The second caveat involves the music for the film. This consisted of a confusing mix of the lushly romantic with eerie, science fiction film touches; and every once in a while a pentatonic scale would sound, apparently just to remind us that we are in the orient. These things are, of course, matters of taste, but this reviewer found that both these elements detracted from the purpose of the film, besides being annoying in themselves.

These warnings aside, the film could be an interesting way to spend a rainy Saturday or Sunday afternoon given the right company. And for those who are indifferent to the religio-philosophical aspects, and for those who do not care about the stresses of modern life, and for those who would not dream of bonding, the film may still be worth a glance. After all, the young men who demonstrate these techniques are unquestionably attractive and unquestionably nude.

- George R. Boyd


Review: Bi the Way

Bi the Way

Directors: Brittany Blockman and Josephine Decker
Publisher: Third Room Productions, 2008
Documentary

The creators of this film traveled the country interviewing various people to try to get some idea of what the term bisexual really means. There are two distinct interwoven strands in the film: people living a bisexual lifestyle, and sex researches and psychologists. The film makers keep themselves in the background and do not attempt to reach any definitive conclusions but leave the viewers to draw their own conclusions. The result is a profoundly thought-provoking film.

This reviewer was struck by the different reactions to the term bisexual between the people experiencing it and the scientists researching it. The former group seems indifferent to the term (“I don’t think of myself that way, I’m just me”). The latter groups wants to answer the question does the class bisexual even exist.

An interesting example is presented by a group of researchers who ran an experiment that, they claimed, indicated that bisexuality does not exist. But when a researcher at the Kinsey Institute was asked about this he said that the research was flawed because it assumed that all subjects would respond to the same stimulus in the same way, an assumption that is, at best, questionable and, at worst, demonstrably false. Another researcher states that different areas of the brain control three different kinds of sexual response: lust, romantic love, and stable enduring love. I’m not sure what significance this fact has outside the narrow field of brain anatomy. It is interesting, but hardly a revelation.

The human side of this issue is well represented by the stories told by the people interviewed. Most seem to have been able to reach a modus vivendi. Perhaps the most revealing story is that of a young man who throughout his high school years was a ‘normal’ heterosexual. But in his early twenties he met another young man and fell in love with him. Although he accepts this fact, he seems a little bewildered by it.

Perhaps one of the messages of this film is that we need to stop worrying about the abstractions and labels of scientists and focus on the realities of the human experience. It seems counterproductive to try to prove that bisexuality doesn’t exist to someone who lives it.

This film is recommended as a serious examination of a group that tends to be ignored.

- George R. Boyd


Review: The Birdcage

The Birdcage

Starring: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane
Director: Mike Nichols
DVD
Rated R

The movie begins in “the Birdcage,” a gay nightclub in southern Florida, with the owner being Armand, played by Robin Williams. He holds a long-term relationship with Albert, played by Nathan Lane, who happens to be the club’s main act as well. They’ve always been intimate with each other, being open about their orientation as well as their relationship. Their house is furnished seemingly to the point that every piece of furniture somehow reflects homosexuality. Albert’s son Val, who is the after-effect of a one night stand with another woman, is getting married. But it’s to the daughter of Senator Keeley, played by Gene Hackman, who is the founder of the Coalition for Moral Order. Val needs everyone to act straight for when his fiancée and her family come over to dinner, but he realized it’s going to be a lot more difficult than it.

This movie really is a comedy. The ending is non-stop laughs and the acting with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane is a great duo. Even though homosexuality is viewed as something to hide and something to be ashamed embarrassed about, not to mention many homosexual stereotypes are portrayed, being gay becomes more of an “interesting quality,” in a good way. The movie has an innocent-quality, and it’s nice and easy to watch. It may be a little too fictional and hard to believe in terms of the plot, but nevertheless it’s very humorous and a unique film.

- Alex Raben 11/26/2010


Review: The Book of Daniel (Complete Series)

the book of daniel

Starring: Aidan Quinn

Publisher: Universal Studios, 2006
Television series
DVD
Not Rated

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (5/5)

Simply put, this is the best show you never saw on television. The Book of Daniel was a short lived series that aired on NBC for a mere three episodes before it was cancelled. The complete series spanned seven episodes altogether, the final four were filmed, but never had the chance to air. Why was it cancelled? I could go on for pages in regards to my own personal opinion as to why such an intelligent, witty, funny show could meet such a quick end, but to sum it up: It simply offered a view of religion that struck a nerve with many of the Religious Right. It offered compassion, sympathy, understanding, and open-mindedness…and sadly, those traits have no place in some people’s views on religion. For some, those are empty words that are spoken, never practiced.

The Book of Daniel stars Aidan Quinn as Daniel Webster, with a family only a man of God could have the patience for. From his alcohol dependant wife, to his drug peddling daughter, to his adopted horn ball and gay republican sons, the good Revered certainly has his hands full. As if that’s not enough however, Daniel himself has an addiction to painkillers, his father is cheating on his wife (with a female Bishop no less), and his church is partnered under the table with the mob.

Did I mention that on occasion, Daniel also sees, and speaks, to Jesus?

At this point, you may be skeptical about my earlier claims that this show offers compassion, understanding, etc., you may instead think you’ve stumbled onto the review for some kind of sordid soap opera, well let me back up and explain. The Book of Daniel tugs at your heart strings, as it takes a topic as sensitive and as controversial as religion, and spins it on his head. In a society such as ours today, it’s so rare to see religion used as a tool to comfort and inspire, as opposed to a weapon of discrimination. Sure, when you’re introduced to the show you’re a bit in shock by how “out of control” some of these characters seem, but as you are welcomed further and further into their lives, you start to see the good that lies underneath. It’s hard to judge the daughter for possessing marijuana when she’s also giving her house’s nanny (who has a severe pain disorder) a drug that provides her with much needed relief. You find yourself grieving and in pain right along side of Daniel and his wife when you come to see that their addictions to painkillers and alcohol, respectively, have come as a result of losing their son to cancer only a couple of years ago. You can’t really judge Daniel’s father for falling in love with the Bishop, when you see his heart breaking every second he spends with his wife, who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and doesn’t even recognize him anymore. As for his sons, his adopted son Adam is your typical horny teenager, but your heart will break for him all the same as he’s met with prejudice and discrimination on the basis of his ethnicity, by members of the very church he attends. You’ll shake your head in disbelief as he’s barred from seeing his girlfriend, simply because his parents, who are suppose to be “people of God”, don’t want a “mixing of the races” under their Christmas tree someday. As for Daniel’s other son, Peter, this is the plotline that really brings it all together for me (and I’m sure, was sadly the main complaint of conservative viewers.) Witnessing Daniel interact with his son Peter really gave me hope that someday religion and homosexuality could walk hand in hand. Seeing Daniel and Peter joke about his sexuality so casually, and to discuss it so openly among the family really leaves you in awe at first, and as you watch the show flashback to the day’s when Peter’s twin brother was still alive, you start to understand how Daniel and his family came to accept Peter for who he is in spite of their strict religious affiliation. The story of Peter’s coming out, and of his twin brother’s death (which spans two episodes, and sadly never got to air on television,) will have you on the verge of tears. Be forewarned, Daniel’s daughter Grace (played by Alison Pill), will sing “Time After Time” at some point in these episodes, and send chills down your spine.

I can not stress enough how badly everyone should watch this show. If only it had somehow survived the barrage of complaints of those too narrow-minded to understand the potential this show had to redeem organized religion in the eyes of mainstream society. Those who complained this show mocked religion should have taken a closer look, and realized there was no mockery, only an attempt to humanize the cold stereotypes many Christians have unfairly received as a result of extremists. Please run down to the GLBT library and pick it up today. Laugh, cry, and grow with the Webster family, then pray to whatever God you believe in that we’re lucky enough to see a show this insightful grace our lives again.

- Nick Butcher 07/09/2008


Boys Briefs

Boys Briefs

Publisher: Picture This!, 2000

This disc is a collection of six short films from the U.S., France, Germany, and Hong Kong. It is the first in what is now a multiple disc series. The films explore the gay experience in various ways. The individual films are:

The Absolution of Anthony, U.S.A.; director, Dean Slotar. An exploration of the unexpected problems of phone sex.

Smear, U.S.A.; director, Sam Zalutsky. The suppressed desire of a teen finds a distressing outlet.

Front Room, France; director Pierre Yves Clouin. Is this a visual trick or a satiric criticism?

Fairy Tale, U.S.A.; director David Kittredge. A young man brings his boyfriend home to meet decidedly hostile parents.

Piglets, Germany; director, Luc Feit. A bizarre comedy with touches of the surreal. Or is it a satiric take on modern life?

Stanley Beloved, Hong Kong; director Simon Chung. Two teen-aged boys face separation when one is sent to England for schooling.

This collection is notable for the wide variety of subjects and styles. There is certainly something here for everyone. It is an imaginative and satisfying anthology.

- George R. Boyd


Boys Life

Boys Life

Publisher: Strand Releasing, 2004

This is a collection of three short films, each about 30 minutes long. It is the first in what has become a series celebrating gay-themed short films.

Pool Days. Director Brian Sloan. In his last year in high school the hero takes a job as a life guard at a fitness center. There he is befriended by a man who is a regular at the center. The latter definitely makes a subtle play for our hero who is definitely intrigued. Will our hero take the plunge? The story is told in a sophisticated and understated way.

A Friend of Dorothy. Director, Raoul O’Connell. Our hero manages to persuade his parents to allow him to go away from home to attend college at New York University. A female friend of his is already a student at NYU. In this case, our hero has no doubt as to what he wants, and when he meets his temporary roomate he has no doubt as to who he wants. Our hero is shy, however, and finds it difficult to talk to others; his roommate ironically refers to hem as ‘chatterbox’. Will he manage to make it with his roomate before the roomate moves to the west coast? It is a hackneyed story, but it is told with a light touch and considerable humor. And the charm of our hero (who happens also to be the director) is undeniable.

The Disco Years, Director, Robert Lee King. A high school boy develops a relationship with a class mate. After a night of making love with the class mate, however, the latter pretends it never happened. When the other students take revenge on a particular teacher, our hero turns them in. He is ‘outted’ as a ‘queer’ to his mother. The conflict compels him to accept who he is and take over control of his life. This is the most serious of the three films, but also the least successful. It is perhaps a little too earnest; and the motivation of the school friend is never explained. This seriousness, however, makes it a nice contrast to the other films.

- George R. Boyd


Review: The Butch Factor

The Butch Factor

Director: Christopher Hines
Publisher: Wolfe Video, 2010
Documentary

This film starts from the premise that in the U.S a very rigid idea of what constitutes masculinity exists as presented in advertising and the media. As an example they cite the fact that men kissing is received negatively here, but in other cultures it is actually the norm for close male friends and relatives to greet each other with a kiss. This can create problems for gay men. As one man interviewed says, “You know you are attracted to other men so you wonder about your own manhood.” The film sets out to find out what it is that makes gay men masculine; a quality they call the butch factor.

The film then proceeds to take a look at various groups of gay men, starting with gay football and rugby teams. There are many such teams competing in amateur sports. In an interview with a player from a straight team which was competing against a gay team, the player commented, “I’d never heard of a gay rugby team, but, man, these guys play some great ball!” Why the surprise?

Perhaps the quintessential image of masculinity in this country is the cowboy. The film introduces us to a gay couple who run a ranch to raise and train horses for the rodeo circuit; and they themselves compete in one or more of the several gay rodeos that take place every year. These events have the same events as other rodeos, but the competitors are gay. The only major difference to ‘mainstream” rodeos is that in a gay rodeo the clowns will likely be in drag! In a very interesting segment the film makers interview two gay rodeo clowns as they get into their gear; they comment on how and why they perform.

There is also a segment on those gay men who are definitely not ‘butch’. Two of them are featured discussing their lives. The stories they tell show the strength required to be oneself and defy the taunts of others. They demonstrate that it takes considerable courage to decide to be oneself and to defy the ridicule of those who cannot accept someone who is different than they. In one of the most memorable moments of the film one of the gay athletes is asked if he considers himself tough. The replies that he does not consider himself tough. He then tells the interviewer that if he wants to see tough he should go talk to some drag queens; “they don’t put up with anything from anybody. Now they’re tough!”

Finally there is a section concerning “bears”. It is a little difficult to define exactly what a “bear” is except that in this context it does not refer to a mammal of the family Ursidae. They are generally more mature men, often with husky, powerful builds, and hairy (hence the name ”bear”; though the film points out that it is not necessary to be hairy to be a bear.) They are, in short, self-confident men who relish the company of other men.

The film draws no conclusions; it leaves it to the viewer to draw them. And the film itself makes plain that the variety of gay men is as great as the variety of straight men. Ultimately terms such as ‘masculinity’ (and, by implication, ‘femininity’) are essentially meaningless except as simple biological descriptors and should not be used in any normative sense.

- George R. Boyd


Chris and Don: A Love Story

Chris and Don

Directors: Guido Santi and Tina Mascara
Publisher: Zeitgeist Films, 2007
Documentary

Christopher Isherwood, the British novelist, came to the United States in 1939. He settled in southern California and one day met, on a beach in Malibu, the sixteen year old Don Bachardy. Within two years they had established a relationship that lasted until Chris’ death in 1986. This film is the story of that love affair. It is told through archival footage, interviews with people who knew Chris and Don, and extensive interviews with Don himself.

At the start of their love affair Chris was an established author and Don was in his late teens; there was a difference of thirty years in their ages. Through Chris, the young Don was introduced into a world of notable people: actors, writers, directors, and musicians. Don showed considerable artistic talent, but it was undeveloped, partly because Don’s father did not approve of his son’s becoming an artist. It was Chris who encouraged Don to follow such a career and paid his tuition to attend art school. With this training, Don gradually became a successful portrait artist. The film thus shows that the relationship was a two-way one: Chris giving Don his start in the artistic world, and Don giving Chris a sense of stability he had not known.

There are some interesting sidelights on Hollywood personalities and Hollywood attitudes. Don recalls that the nature of their relationship was well-known. They attended Hollywood parties as a couple. He remembers that Joseph Cotten was quite outspoken about his contempt and dislike of ‘queers’ whenever Don was around. But, Don points out, he never spoke that way when Chris was within hearing!

There are two particular episodes recalled in detail that tell a great deal about this relationship. There was a time when the two came close to breaking up. Don was feeling he was missing some of the excitement of a non-committed gay life. Chris was aware of this, and he dealt with it by imagining what he would do without Don. The result was Chris’ novel A Single Man. The crisis past, but it left as a reminder what may be the greatest, and certainly is the most heartfelt, of Isherwood’s novels.

The second episode occurred at the end of their long love affair. Chris was suffering from cancer and his decline was long and drawn out. Every day Don would draw Chris at least once, and often many times. On the morning when Don walked in to discover that Chris had died during the night, Don tells us that his first impulse was to draw him. But then he didn’t think that he could or should do this. He tells us that he could hear in his head the voice of Chris saying, “You are an artist; that is what artists do.” So, for the last time, he drew a portrait of the man he had loved for many years.

This film is highly recommended as a story of an aspect of gay life that is all too little commemorated.

- George R. Boyd


Review: The Cockettes

the cockettes

Starring: Marshall Olds, Ann Harris (II)
Directors: Billy Weber, David Weissman
Publisher: Strand Releasing, DVD
Documentary
Rated R

If you are looking for a ride down a wild road back to a time very different than ours, this is the perfect documentary for you. Time warping back to the 1970’s lifestyle of the communes; this is the story of a group called The Cockettes. They were a revolutionary group of androgynous people looking for a good time, unknowingly changing the course of many things to come. The watcher is introduced to the story line through the people who lived it, and the documentary is basically random interviews amongst clips corresponding to the same people 30 years ago.

To begin with, a person must have a respect for different cultures to enjoy this documentary. It is filled with stories of drugs, sex, and uncanny situations. There is a strong amount of nudity involved that cannot be looked over. There is also a great amount of contradicting information from the various people being interviewed, and this is very obvious within the documentary. The story has been put together carefully so the viewer can see these contradicting statements, whether for enjoyment or pure proof of the memory loss that comes along with heavy drug use.

As far as the content goes, the documentary is fascinating and captivating. To see the world through the eyes of someone so different than anyone most people come into contact with today is interesting. The stories that are told are disorienting at first, but it seems that by the end of the documentary they all come together and make sense. It also seems that at the beginning it is hard to feel connected to the story because it is so different than anything the viewer has experienced. Stick it out and watch the entire documentary, because by the end it is satisfying.

The story is better understood having some knowledge of the people involved, such as Divine and John Waters. If the viewer is familiar with Pink Flamingoes, or other John Waters films, it will be easier to understand the general culture more. With this documentary the viewer is simply thrown into this foreign world head first, so without some background first it might be a little to much to absorb. A small amount of research prior to viewing the documentary would be highly beneficial, but not completely necessary.

Overall, this documentary is a good one to watch if a passion for drag exists with the viewer. To be curious about drag in general, this wouldn’t be the best bet. To have some interest in the history of the art form, The Cockettes is a good place to start. Remember to keep in mind the extreme difference in culture, the drug use, the nudity, and the overall intensity of the documentary. It wouldn’t be a good Friday night entertainment for just about anyone, but if the viewer is seeking knowledge about his or her cultural past (given the viewer is part of the said culture) The Cockettes would satisfy this craving.

- Amy Basham 02/07/2008


Review: Connie and Carla

connie and carla

Starring: Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette
Director: Michael Lembeck
DVD
Rated PG-13

Connie and Carla is a film about two Show business wannabes who just can’t seem to make it to the top, or even the middle. While singing at an airport they witness a crime that makes them next in line for the bullet. After realizing they have to run, they end up in an unfamiliar place with no way to make money. The best friends stumble upon a gay bar, and happen to see a drag show. They quickly realize they either have to pretend to be men pretending to be women or face their doom.

This movie has got a great cast starring Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette, with a supporting role played by David Duchovny. The acting is great and the quality of the film is good. It is very funny to watch and has many quotable lines. It would be good to watch with a group of friends or by yourself.

For anyone interested or involved with the art of female impersonation Connie and Carla would be a safe choice for good entertainment. There are many female impersonators in the cast of the movie, and it goes without saying they add an element of comedy that is undeniable. The movie also stays very true to Queer culture and the art form of impersonation. It’s clear the directors did their research and made sure to let the real art form shine through. Although this is a comedy there is of course a serious side to the film too. There is a love story thrown into the mix, and it also touches on some issues faced by the GLBT community. Connie and Carla is a good mix of love, drama, and comedy that is sure to be an entertaining and heartwarming movie for just about anyone.

- Amy Basham 02/25/2008


Review: D.E.B.S.

d.e.b.s.

Starring: Sara Foster, Jordana Brewster
Director: Angela Robinson (III)
DVD
PG-13

D.E.B.S. is one of my favorite lesbian movies ever. There is a little romance, a little action, girls in short skirts, and plenty of laughs!

There is a secret test hidden in the S.A.T. It measures a student’s innate ability to lie, cheat, fight and kill. Those who score well (and apparently can pull off the short plaid skirts that comprise one hell of an impractical spy uniform) are recruited into a secret paramilitary academy. There they fight crime and stuff, sorta like Bond – if Bond had to live in a sorority house with a bunch of other hot and quirky 00’s.

Amy, the only person to make a perfect score on the secret test, just broke up with her boyfriend and is more interested in art school then fighting crime. Lucy is a supervillian on the rebound and is actually quite nice (despite her tendency to want to destroy Australia). When the two meet the chemistry is palpable. When the two women end up on a strange yet sweet date, the D.E.B.S. gang believes that Amy has been kidnapped by the notorious supervillian and all hell breaks loose.

One of the things that makes this film so funny is all the strong characters. Dominique is a sex addict, Janice is pretty much incompetent, and Max is the super-soldier tired of living in Amy’s shadow. Lucy’s best friend Scud is basically her male fag hag. And they all work together to keep the comedy flowing while Amy and Lucy fall in love.

You can see clips from the film or you can stop by the office to check it out from us.

- Sarah Stumpf 04/18/2008


Review: Daddy and Papa

daddy & papa poster

Director: Johnny Symons
Publisher: New Day Films, 2002
Documentary
DVD
Not Rated

Johnny Symons and his partner William decided that they wanted to adopt a child. Since Johnny is a documentary filmmaker, he decided to create a film about their adoption. As well as telling his own story, he sought out three other examples of gay men adopting children. The film explores the personal, cultural, and political aspects of such adoptions.

The process that Johnny and William had to go through is revealing. First they had to get certification as foster parents, including a criminal background check, CPR training, psychological tests, and extensive grilling about every aspect of their personal lives. Once they had been approved as foster parents they began the “strange process of catalogue-shopping for our child.” They examined dossiers on hundreds of children. And once they had chosen the child, they had another, more subtle hurdle to overcome: the child’s foster mother was a Pentecostal. As she admits in an interview, she had trouble overcoming the negative view of her church regarding these two men as fathers. The men dealt with the problem by inviting her to bring the boy and spend time with them before the adoption. After several weeks of regular visits, the foster mother says that “she realized that this was a house filled with love.” When the boy finally moved in with the two men, his foster remained a regular guest in the house as the boys “unofficial grandmother”.

The director’s story is interwoven with three other stories of gay men as fathers. Kelly and William, white men, adopt two black children who are brothers. In their case they had the services of Sharon Alexander to assist them. She states that she is not a gay-adoption advocate, she is an adoption advocate, and she feels that gays are an “untapped” resource.

Doug is a single, white, gay nurse in Florida. He became the legal guardian of a black boy because the boy’s father had asked him to take the child because he was unable to take care of him. Doug immediately began by dealing with the many health problems that the boy had. In an interview the boy’s grandmother states bluntly, “I doubt my grandson would be living today if it weren’t for Doug.”

In the case of Phillip and Jim, Phillip’s high school sweetheart has their child for them, a girl. Yet another pattern is shown here when, several years after the adoption, Jim leaves the family.

There is a good deal in this film to make the viewer think. As Johnny’s partner, William says, “To get a child straight people only have to fuck; we have to be interminably grilled.” The film states that there are over 130,000 young children waiting for adoption in this country. Yet a Hollywood celebrity can make a big publicity splash by adopting ‘third-world’ babies. Is sinking the problem of adoption into the political bureaucracy really the best way to handle it? Do the ‘guidelines’ of the system arrogate to themselves the decisions of who is a fit parent? Do the guidelines automatically debar some from even being considered? These are difficult and disturbing questions and the problems involved are not simple. But the last question can be answered in the affirmative, at least for some states: after Doug, in Florida, had been the legal guardian for some years, the Florida law banning homosexuals from adopting children were challenged. A state judge upheld the state’s right to prohibit gays from adopting. In this case one might ask why the state doesn’t extend the law and say that if a gay man actually sires a child, he should be forbidden to be recognized as the child’s father! Here is a case where the law is being used to uphold the state’s definition of what are ‘undesirable’ persons! These issues are difficult and demanding; this film gives the viewer the chance to think about them in a new light.

There is a heartening end to the film that suggests that perhaps things do have a chance of improving. Johnny receives a call informing him that his and William’s son now has a younger brother, also put up for adoption. The two men extend their family and adopt the younger brother.

- George R. Boyd 03/22/2012


Review: Dante’s Cove: Season One

dante's cove

Starring: Rena Riffel, Stephen Amell
Television series
DVD
Not Rated

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (2.5/5)

If you’ve come across Dante’s Cove then chances are you’re like me, and by that I mean you’re drawn to shows that heavily focus on the paranormal. When it was on the air, I was a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I adored the show and felt that it only got better with each progressing season. However, after watching all seven seasons, I can hardly stand to return to the first season. The plotlines just seem ridiculous (even by standards of the Buffyverse), some of the dialogue is totally forced, and the characters are just very two-dimensional and underdeveloped. However, a bad starting season should never mean a show is down and out. First seasons are a place for the actors to discover their characters, and the writers to hone their skills.

Much like Dante’s Cove.

Dante’s Cove centers around two basic story lines. The first begins in 1840, in the little town of Dante’s Cove, where a man is caught cheating on his fiancé with another man. Turns out his fiancé is a witch dabbling in some powerful dark magic, and as punishment for his infidelity, transforms him into an elderly man. She chains him up in a basement where he’s forced to stare upon his hideous face for all eternity…at least…until the kiss of a young man breaks the curse.

Flash forward to present day, where our other storyline begins. Kevin and Toby are two extremely gorgeous gay guys madly in love with each other. Fleeing from his abusive stepfather, and a mother very much in denial about her collapsing family, Kevin goes to live with Toby at Dante’s Cove, where he’s introduced to an array of interesting characters. One night at a party, Kevin is drawn to the basement, where he discovers Ambrosius (the cursed elderly man) chained up in a secret storage room. Long story short, Kevin is tricked into kissing Ambrosius, ending the curse, and setting Ambrosius free. Back in his attractive, youthful body, Ambrosius sets out to take revenge on his witch of a fiancé Grace (still very much alive and youthful), and of course, to spend all of eternity with the guy who set him free, even if that means killing anyone who gets in his way.

I in no way mean to come off critical of the show. Dante’s Cove shows great potential, but I’m not going to lie to you and say you’re going to be blown away; you’re definitely going to have to cut this season some slack. The acting is very hit or miss, with a lot of the female actors usually “hitting”, and a lot of the males “missing.” I especially enjoyed anytime Tracy Scroggins (Grace) was on screen, and felt she often saved the cast from coming off completely amateur. Nadine Heimann (the actress who plays Toby’s best friend Van), is also quite impressive. The sex scenes are a bit excessive, and it will become apparent after awhile that in order to get their show picked up the writers were writing a lot of skin shots into the plot.

If you’re patient with it though, and keep an open mind, you’ll enjoy it. Adam, although he appears very little on screen compared to the other characters, shows great potential to be developed later on down the road due to questionable history with Toby, and his even more questionable sexuality. Both of the lesbian subplots (both Van’s and Amber’s, another girl living at Hotel Dante), weren’t given nearly enough time to develop. Both stories would definitely promise to give a better rounded feel to the show if further explored. Hopefully as future seasons are released, we’ll have answers to the multitude of questions the first season raises. Here’s hoping this show also reaches its full potential to become as great as it could be. Despite its flaws, I definitely recommend you check this one out. When this show comes into its own later, you’ll be glad you did.

- Nick Butcher 05/21/2008


Review: Eating Out

Eating Out

Starring: Rebekah Kochan, Scott Lunsford
Director: Q. Allan Brocka
Publisher: Ariztical, 2004
DVD
Not Rated

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (3/5)

The gay American Pie

If you wish for a gay American Pie, I’d bet that you’d get something close to Eating Out. Except this movie lacks the type of character that you want to root for. For a GBLT comedy, it does manage to strike a few more funny bones than most, but sometimes you just feel like laughing because of how ridiculously offensive some of the humor is. If you’re in the mood for a good adult humor/gay movie then this will be one of your new favorites, but the predictable storyline and extremely stereotypical characters leave much to be desired.

Granted, there are some scenes that are quite funny and the acting was better than par for the most part, except for the clone of Stifler’s mom, Tiffany. I wouldn’t recommend watching this movie with any type of reserved people because it may put them off. The ending is quite ridiculous and frustrating; it didn’t match the mood of the rest of the movie, at all.

- Michael Cooper 02/29/2008


Review: Fabulous!: The Story of Queer Cinema

fabulous!

Directors: Lisa Ades and Leslie Klainberg
Publisher: Wolfe Video, 2006
Documentary

This film brings together writers, directors, actors, and distributors to discuss the history of queer cinema. The panel members discuss what films were especially important to them and the films that have influenced their own work. There are film clips from the earliest films up to the time of this film’s release. There is discussion of how the subjects of the films have broadened in variety over time, as well as problems of marketing and the economics for gay-themed films. It discusses the great expansion of queer cinema as a result of the video stores that flourished beginning in the 1980′s and the sudden flowering of the independent film.

Perhaps the most interesting comments in the film are those of how the films reflect the growing awareness of and discontent with being merely a sub-culture. With the AIDS crisis the films reflect the growing awareness that gays are a community with shared concerns, and a community that is beginning to realize its political and economic power. Today, according to the film, there are more gay and lesbian film festivals than any other type.

The future holds even more promise. With the increased availability of video cameras anyone can join in. The rise of the video disc has created an economically feasible market for films of all kinds. One panelist, however, added a cautionary note. He points out that watching a movie alone in your home is a very different experience from that of viewing it in a theater with a group of like-minded individuals; the latter strengthens the feeling of a community. Could this be part of the reason for the flourishing of gay and lesbian film festivals?

An interesting and informative film.

- George R. Boyd


Review: Fellow Travelers

Director: Jeffrey Schwarz
Publisher: Automat Pictures, 2005
Documentary
DVD
Not Rated

This is not a film, but rather a slide show. It features photographs of several men who were instrumental in giving direction and purpose to the gay liberation movement. The photographs and the text are by Mark Thompson. It is a tribute to the effect these people’s lives had on the world and on the gay struggle to be accepted as valid human beings. These are people who first gave a public voice to ‘the silent minority.’ In short, they were instrumental in changing the world.

They people discussed include Harry Hay with his insistence that “it’s a gift to be gay”; Robert Mapplethorpe who despite strong opposition insisted that photographs of nude men were worthy to be shown as art; Paul Monette, writer and winner of the National Book Award; Essex Hemphill, poet inspired by Voodoo religion; and Clyde Hall, a Shoshone Indian exemplifying the native ideas of the “two-spirited ones” of American Indian tradition.

I am assuming that the film’s is an ironic nod in the direction Senator Eugene McCarthy and his totalitarian tactics. McCarthy said that he was after not only the evil communists, but their “fellow travellers” (that is, anyone who was unafraid to deal with ideas that McCarthy didn’t like). The film is only twenty minutes long, and I would recommend it as a good introduction to some of the leaders who have in the past insisted on the validity of the gay community.

- George R. Boyd 03/22/2012


Review: Girls Will Be Girls

Girls Will Be Girls

Starring: Jack Plotnick, Clinton Leupp
Director: Richard Day
DVD
Rated R

Girls Will Be Girls is a comedy about three women living in Hollywood trying to become/maintain their “celebrity” statuses as actresses. One of the main factors of this movie is that the three main characters, who are portrayed as female, are all played by men actors dressed in drag. The three main characters are Evie, Coco, and Varla. Evie and Coco live together in the beginning and have an interesting relationship. Evie is a has-been who still hangs on to her old short-lived fame. Coco is living in the past and is still in love with a doctor who performed an abortion on her many years ago. Evie’s jealous side becomes very apparent when the new, young roommate, Varla, moves in. Throughout the film Evie makes hilarious passive aggressive comments toward Varla, which Varla rarely takes note of.

This film is definitely one of my favorites and I would recommend it. There were many times were I laughed out loud. Jack Plotnick, Clinton Leupp, Jeffery Roberson are all incredible of their portrayal of Evie, Coco, and Varla. This film is not for those who take offense easily. For example, there are many comical references to some serious issues such as abortion and death. Girls Will Be Girls has sexual references in almost every scene, which makes this film even funnier. The sexual references are comical because they are usually made by the characters dressed in drag. Girls Will Be Girls is definitely meant for older audiences, but if you like to laugh and enjoy seeing out of the ordinary things, I definitely recommend this movie.

- Vanessa Johansen 10/25/2010


Review: Hard Pill

Hard Pill

Starring: Michael Chieffo, Beth Grant
Director: John Baumgartner
Publisher: Fox Lorber, 2005
DVD
Not Rated

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (3.5/5)

Would you take a pill to be normal? Most people do in American society. Everyday Americans take pills to get rid of that nasty headache, heartburn, or love handles, but homosexuality? This idea may be ridiculous to some, but extremely valid to others. Would you do it? Could you do it? Why? Why not? Would you tell your heterosexual partner that you only love them because of your medicine? Hard Pill is a question at its core: “If you could take a pill to make you straight, would you?” The main problem is that it tries harder to ask the question than apply the concept to its story.

Tim is the not-so-stereotypical gay male, whom cannot find companionship with other men, seemingly due to bitterness. Of course he must have an extremely stereotypical gay friend that has anonymous sex, a female friend that is in love with him, and a straight friend that he fools around with. By the time the viewer is interested in the plot, the movie cuts to basically a testimonial break where random people state their opinions on such a pill. This is distracting from the story. If a movie seeks to ask a question of its audience, it should ask it indirectly through the language of the plot, not just ask it.

Aside from the distracting testimonials, Hard Pill does deliver with a talented unknown cast, but sometimes awkward camera movement gets in the way. If there was any advice to give before watching this movie it would be to not read the back cover; it tells you the beginning, middle and end. What was said to be a thought provoking, original film seems all too similar to the premise of the 2002 movie, Fixing Frank. Three and a half stars.

- Michael Cooper 02/13/2008


Review: Harsh Beauty

Director: Alessandra Zeka
Publisher: Frameline, 2005
Documentary
DVD
Not Rated

Harsh Beauty takes a sympathetic look at the lives of the hijra in India: people born anatomically men but who feel that they are really women. One hijra who is interviewed is named Jyoti (radiance); he grew up in a small farming community but was very unhappy. In his teens he ran away to Bombay and there joined a group of hijra. After training with the leader of the communal group Jyoti chose to have the “operation”. She states that she “only felt happiness when I came to Bombay.” Jyoti then worked, as many hijra do, as a prostitute: “Some men like women, some like men, and some like us.” But the beauty of a hijra fades quickly. Jyoti trained with a guru and now performs various religious rituals, including weekly blessings of the local shops; she tells us that many consider such blessings most effective if performed by a hijra.

Other hijra are interviewed, and, as might be expected, their opinions sometimes differ from those of Jyoti. One held, at the time of filming, a seat in parliament and was a leader in the areas of educational and social programs. She proudly states that in her election campaign “we made history.” She declares that she is a “eunuch by birth”; she did not have the operation, and she looks down on the hijra who have had it.

One of the interesting things about this film is the realization that for centuries India has provided means for the hijra to be integrated into their society. It may not be an ideal system, but it does accept the hijra. There is even a yearly festival that celebrates their history and thus provides them with a sense of having a history within the society. Rather than marginalizing those who do not fit the “normal” pattern, India has long provided them with a niche of their own.

- George R. Boyd 3/22/2012


Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Starring: John Cameron Mitchell, Miriam Shor, Stephen Trask
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Publisher: New Line Home Video, 2001
DVD
Rated R

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a musical turned movie about a very non traditional rock star seeking fame and freedom in the United States. As a German boy, Hedwig does everything in his power to flee from his unforgiving life at home. After making it to the United States he is faced with many situations and many opportunities to rock out.

This is a one-of-a-kind story with an amazing cast of actors and actresses. From the very beginning the viewer is thrown into a world of glam and rock and roll. The filming is fantastic and there are also wonderful cartoon scenes added to some of the songs that give different but very pleasing visual and symbolic imagery. The score is good too, mixing various types of music into a meaningful set of lyrical content. This is a guaranteed good experience for any viewer who enjoys a musical.

Compared by some to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, this film is a modern cult classic. The story is racy, sexy, and very interesting. The movie itself holds true to the tradition of musical theatre, so it is over the top and somewhat cheesy at times. I will admit that if you aren’t a fan of musicals this movie could get a little irritating at times, but nothing that the viewer couldn’t get over if you allow yourself to fall into the story line. The characters are captivating and the viewer can understand the plot easily. One seems to get involved quickly, and it seems that the viewer isn’t satisfied until the entire story unfolds. I was very impressed with the way the story was told, and enjoyed every second of this film.

This film also touches on the many sides of gender, adding another intriguing element into the mix of things. Androgyny is a reoccurring theme throughout the film, and even has the viewer second guessing the assumed gender of some of the characters. I believe this is intentional to send a message to the viewer, but it would be best to figure this out for yourself.

Overall this is a beautiful film. I would recommend it to anyone, and I would also tell everyone to watch it twice. Not only is it a wonderful movie, the soundtrack is amazing in itself. The music alone sends countless words of wisdom to anyone willing to give it a listen. Visually stunning, aurally pleasing, and just an overall great experience.

- Amy Basham 03/12/2008


Review: Hellbent

Hellbent

Starring: Dylan Fergus, Ryan Kirkwood
Director: Paul Etheredge-Ouzts
Publisher: Liberation Ent, 2004
DVD
Rated R

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (3/5)

The most important thing I have to stress about Hellbent is that when watching it, you must keep one thing above all else in mind. This movie’s strength does not lie in its acting, its plotline, or its character development (then again, when was the last time you saw a horror/slasher movie that excelled in any of those categories anyway?) Hellbent is phenomenal because it is a breakthrough film in and of itself. It is one of the first, if not the first, horror films to feature an all gay/bisexual cast of characters, and written and directed specifically for the gay audience.

Those who came to know the NBC soap opera Passions as a guilty pleasure will immediately recognize the handsome and charming Dylan Fergus as the film’s main protagonist Eddie Fitzgerald. Eddie works a desk job at a police station (after being dismissed from officer training due to disability). His hopes of following in his father’s footsteps crushed, he instead pushes papers while his sister patrols the beat as a cop. When reports come rolling into the station of a homicidal maniac killing off homosexual men, Eddie is asked to put up wanted posters around town for anyone who might have information leading to his arrest. In doing so he comes across bad boy Jake, a motorcycle riding, chain smoking, tough guy who’s probably concealing more than a few insecurities under that manly façade of his. It isn’t long before Eddie is totally taken with him. As fate would have it, Eddie later comes across Jake that night at a Halloween carnival with his friends. Of course, the killer has made his way there as well.

As any typical horror movie formula will tell you, the side characters are killed off one by one in an attempt to build suspense. The movie doesn’t really accomplish this. Most of the scares you’ll see coming well before they occur, and the jump factor is rather low. This is good news however for people who find it difficult to stomach the overly gory shock fests that are being mass produced by Hollywood today. This movie does make a valid attempt at establishing a three dimensional personality for most of its characters though. Some will complain that the movie tends to drag after the initial arrival at the carnival, but I admired the film’s attempt at displaying that these characters were not just typical gay stereotypes. While they enjoy a good party and a sexual innuendo or two, they are still people with genuine thoughts and feelings. Eddie’s cross-dressing friend Toby actually stole a number of scenes for me. For a horror movie, he actually has a couple of really funny lines. His disappointment in the “gay scene” at the carnival is something I feel a lot of gay people can relate to as well, as he realizes that while he’s out for someone who can match him intellectually as well as physically, that the other guys there are only after the latter.

I will say that the climax adequately keeps the audience on the edge of their seats however, and Eddie’s final showdown with the killer will leave you glued to the television. If you’re searching for answers to the killer’s history, or even why he’s choosing to kill off the victims he seeks out, you may find yourself disappointed with the rather hasty wrap-up. You may be better off agreeing with Toby when he states early on in the film that the killer is “probably some 40 year old gay guy that just came out of the closet.” As that answer may be just as good as any given the lack of information you’ll be given.

Again, what’s much more important about this movie is that it’s paved the way for the gay slasher genre. Films like Hellbent have surely opened doors for films just like it to continue making their way into our homes and our culture. Eventually, maybe a gay horror movie might even breakthrough to mainstream media. Who knows, a few years down the road we might even see a much better produced Hellbent II.

- Nick Butcher 05/14/2008


Review: Hooked…get it on [line]

Hooked poster

Director: Todd Ahlberg
Publisher: Film Threat, 2004
Documentary
DVD
Not Rated

There is much current discussion about the wonderful ease of “communication” through our modern technology. That word, “communication” is the crux: as one cynical writer expressed it, communication has become very easy, but people don’t seem to have anything significant to say. The problem is that it is easy to confuse contact with communication.

This film looks at one means of contact via technology that points up the very contradictory nature of what people consider communication: going on-line looking for sex. In the film several gay men from around the country who regularly seek sex partners on-line are interviewed, and their comments show the contradictory and problematic nature of the activity.

On the one hand, one man states simply that “it gave me community.” And one man from Salt Lake City offers the comment that it is the only way gay men in his area can find a community. On the other hand, others comment: “It’ll make you a monster”, “The internet takes away intimacy”, “It’s a lonely place to be”.

Another aspect of the internet is its ability to create a new, but false, persona: through entering your ‘stats’ on-line, you can create the kind of person you want to be or wish you were; you can manipulate those ‘stats’ to the market, creating an alter-ego. As one person states, “If you give the people what they want, they’ll take the bait.”

Then there is the hedonist approach: “You can have a great sexual experience and never talk to them again”; “The thrill is in the randomness”; “If I wanted to get romantic, I’d be in a relationship”; “It is so much easier on-line.”

Then there is simply settling for what is available: “If it weren’t for the computer, I’d still be a virgin”; “It’s not what I want, but it’s something I’m settling for”. At the same time there is a recognition of the dangers of anonymous encounters: “I don’t know who I’m hooking up with, but I still do it”; “There are no safety guarantees.” Several of those interviewed admit to having had some really bad experiences.

The film thus raises interesting issues regarding modern life and technology. Does the technology create an environment leading to isolation and detachment? Does technology contribute to self-centeredness? Does technology make things too easy? Does technology actually contribute to personal isolation by paradoxically making contact too easy?

It is easy, however, to blame the technology; but technology has no will. It is how people use the technology that is the deciding factor. And outcomes of its use will vary widely. At least two of the people interviewed said that they stopped using the internet for hook ups when they developed a personal relationship with someone they originally met on-line! The film is a good introduction to at least one facet of modern dating in the gay world.

- George R. Boyd 03/22/2012


Review: It’s Elementary

Director: Debra Chasnoff
Publisher: The Respect for All Project, 2007
Documentary
DVD
Not Rated

This film is a survey of six elementary and middle schools where students are given instruction concerning “alternative” life styles. It covers the background of the development of the program and the creation of appropriate teaching materials. It also covers the fierce response of parents who confuse the program with sex education. The heart of the program is not about sex or sexual lifestyles; it merely teaches the children to respect people who may be different in various ways.

The most refreshing aspect of the film is the director’s decision to have the film focus on the children themselves. This clearly reveals that the students have heard a lot of rumors and misinformation which they do not understand and so are curious about. As one student says: he knows the words and that they are not “nice” words, but he doesn’t know what they mean or why they are “bad” words. A middle school girl says with directness and simplicity: We keep hearing all these things from TV, friends, or the internet so the school should give us the facts so we can decide for ourselves.

The film also includes interviews with some of the teachers and administrators of the schools. Especially revealing is the comment of one teacher who was dubious about the program but admits that as she taught the materials she realized that “the students are ready for a lot more than I gave them credit for.” One administrator boldly states that we’re not taking care of our children; society is saying that gay is not acceptable and so gay teens are left feeling isolated and unworthy.

The film raises complex and interesting questions: Who should decide what is taught in the school? Do parents have the right to decide according to their own preconceptions? Should the schools be educating for the future society that their students will inhabit as adults or for the society the students’ parents have grown up in? How much should the schools reflect the rapidly changing social conditions of our society?

The original film was shot in 1996; this DVD version was released in 2007. Do not overlook the special feature of the DVD, “It’s Still Elementary.” This feature re-interviews some of the teachers and students in the original film and discusses changes that the original film has engendered. It includes statistics comparing 1996 to 2007 in relation to the program: statistics that show that although significant progress has has occurred in some areas, there has been depressingly little in others.

- George R. Boyd 03/22/2012


Review: Latter Days

Latter Days

Starring: Wes Ramsey, Steve Sandvoss
Director: C. Jay Cox
Publisher: TLA, 2003
DVD
Rated R

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (4.5/5)

Finally, a GBLT movie that isn’t predictable!

I was told to pick up this movie because it wasn’t like every other gay movie ever made. Generalizations aside, it was a great movie. The story revolves around Aaron, an in-the closet Mormon, and the ironically named Christian, a stereotypical out-of-the-closet man that likes to hook up every weekend with a different guy. At first the movie may seem typical or slow, but it picks up fairly quickly, delivering with touching dialogue and superb acting from most of its cast.

Latter Days makes for a great date movie. It is a drama at its core but there is a healthy helping of humor also. The only difference from the humor in this movie compared to the humor in most GBLT movies is that it’s not just funny because they’re gay. It tries harder than most to avoid offensive jokes that imply that all homosexuals are always sexual. I would recommend this movie to anyone regardless of sexual orientation. I’m glad I was introduced to it and will soon be adding it to my personal collection.

- Michael Cooper 02/10/2008


Review: Mango Kiss

Mango Kiss

Starring: Danièle Ferraro, Michelle Wolff
Director: Sascha Rice
DVD
Not Rated

Mango Kiss was released in 2003 and stars Daniele Ferraro and Michelle Wolff. This movie starts out with two women, Lou and Sassafrass, who move out to California and eventually become sexually involved with each other. Their relationship is very unique, to say the least. They are not monogamous and experiment with a number of things, such as role-play. Although they are in a non-committed relationship, both women do not have the same view on these escapades. Things start to get complicated when Lou gets jealous and feels as if Sassafrass is being too promiscuous. The line between friendship and lovers is blurred throughout this film.

Mango Kiss was definitely one of the more outrageous films I watched. It could be interpreted as very graphic during a few parts, which could make the viewers feel uncomfortable. Although I felt uneasy at some parts, overall this was a very good film. Ferraro and Wolff show how all relationships, no matter if their homosexual or heterosexual; have generally the same types of issues. This film is definitely very emotionally charged and these women are not afraid to express their feelings. I definitely recommend this film to anyone who likes a good and interesting love story.

- Vanessa Johansen 10/25/2010


Review: Milk

Milk

Starring: Sean Penn, James Franco
Director: Gus Van Sant
DVD
Rated R

The movie Milk depicts the real life of political gay activists, Harvey Milk. He was the first openly gay man to be elected into American public office. Milk has an impressive cast including Sean Penn and James Franco. I would definitely recommend this movie to my friends.

Milk is a very emotionally charged film and by the end of it I almost felt like I had a personal relationship with the characters because I was so connected to the storyline. It chronicles Milk’s life including his relationships, political career, and most of all, his hardships. I feel like this film very accurately portrays the gay community in San Francisco without any bias, which was refreshing. If you don’t know anything about Harvey Milk’s life, the ending will definitely surprise you. Overall, I think this movie was refreshing and captivating.

- Vanessa Johansen 12/01/2010


Review: Monster

Monster

Starring: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci
Director: Patty Jenkins
DVD
Rated R

Academy award winner Charlize Theron plays the role of Aileen, a broke, violent prostitute who had no one else to turn to in order to develop the normal life she fantasized until she met Selby, played by Christina Ricci. Together the two women develop an intimate relationship, and they leave town to chase their dreams, the dreams of money and happiness. What Selby didn’t know was the dangerous activity that went on when Aileen worked the streets, and together they discover that climbing out of the hole their lives were already in would be harder than they anticipated.

As a fan of movies, this movie was very powerful. In terms of sexuality, this movie pinpoints several negative interpretations of sexuality, such as lesbianism as low-hygeine, hooker-like deviants, but as the film progresses, lesbianism appears to be transformed as no different from heterosexuality; still just two people who are dependent of the love of the other, or a positive portrayal. This is true because Aileen speaks of love as the forefront of the lives of humans; it is all-knowing and all-powerful. Even though she is violent, and in no way is she accepted among those in society because of this, deep down there is a soft interior that just needs the love and care she never had, and she found that with Selby. This is a definite recommendation for those who want a movie that lingers with them in their mind, but not for the weak stomach due to strong gore, language, and sexual content.

- Alex Raben 10/25/2010


Review: The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green

Starring: Daniel Letterle, Meredith Baxter, David Monahan
Director: George Bamber
Publisher: Regent, 2005
DVD
Rated R

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (4.5/5)

I actually saw this movie for the first time at a monthly movie screening club that was held at Willkie, and when I did, I knew immediately it was the kind of film I could watch over and over again. I’ve watched it twice now since renting it, both for the sake of the review, and because it’s just simply so easy to fall in love with the film.

The movie doesn’t get lost in over zealous messages or in desperate attempts to relay meaning, it keeps things light, and draws on the truths of our everyday lives. For example, everyone knows someone like Ethan Greene: He’s cute, he’s smart, he’s got a great sense of humor, and no one can figure out why he’s still single. That is, until you see him in action, and are able to conclude that this seemingly perfect specimen is alone due to his own self-sabotage. Like clockwork, Ethan shuffles through man after man, each one charming and lovable in his own right, and one by one we watch Ethan completely botch these relationships on his quest for “love”. When in reality it seems he’s actually on a quest for drama. Just when the plot risks getting repetitive and stale, Ethan miraculously comes to his senses and realizes it’s time to stop messing around, because the man he’s actually loved all along is slipping away if Ethan doesn’t grow up, be a man, and tell him how he really feels.

The film stars the handsome and charming Daniel Letterle, who many people will recognize from Camp, as well as an array of actors that if you’re like me you’ve never seen before, but will soon come to love, such as Ethan’s boy toy Punch (played by Dean Sheldon). Much like Ethan, we have all at some point met a guy just like Punch. Totally enveloped in the party scene, the casual and kinky sex, and goes through guys like they’re Kleenexes, all the while complaining about the shallowness of the gay culture. Another unforgettable character is Ethan’s long-standing ex Leo (played by David Monahan). Monahan’s character is especially endearing for his capability to withstand a friendship with Ethan after their breakup (which is resolved before the start of the film). He also delivers one of my all time favorites lines in film history: “There’s one way to win the game Ethan…stop playing.”

I highly recommend this film on account of the fact that it’s a film for all kinds. I simply don’t know anyone that could watch this film and not find something to like about it. The next time you’re in the GLBT Library pull it off the shelf and see for yourself, it’s quite the gem.

- Nick Butcher 06/11/2008


Review: Mr. Leather

Director: Jason Garrett
Publisher: Here!, 2006
Documentary
DVD
Not Rated

This film uses the Mr. LA Leatherman contest as a means of explicating the leatherman philosophy. It follows the path to the main contest from the various “feeder” contests in the Los Angeles area: the winners of these feeder contests become the contestants in in the main contest. It is emphasized that this contest is not a beauty pageant, but rather a search for a leader and spokesman for the leather community. The leader must be someone who is willing to tell the truth about alternative sexuality and work for the validation of a marginalized minority.

The feeder contests and the main contest are run under strict guidelines. The contestants are interviewed in depth by the judges before the contest to determine the contestant’s ability to be articulate and at ease in a public situation. In addition the judges who are themselves leathermen and leather women, and often include winners of a previous contests, submit challenging questions to be asked of the contestants as part of the contest.

The film also traces the particular contestants as they prepare for the contest. We learn why they decide to enter the contest and how they prepare. Along the way the viewer learns various aspects of what, exactly, defines a leatherman. Among the characteristics of a leatherman are discussed hyper-masculine identity, extreme sexual practices, and relationships strongly based on a dominant/submissive model, and a penchant for sado-masochism. Several leathermen comment on their desire to “test the limits.” One comments that for him sado-masochism is merely an extreme sport, like sky diving. The film also includes a brief history of the leatherman phenomenon from its inception among military men returning to the U.S. after service in the Second World War.

Your reviewer must confess that he almost did not review this film because he simply did not understand the whole phenomenon. Certainly he finds the hyper-masculinity questionable because it becomes strongly parodic and the dominant/submissive pattern antithetical to his views of the nature and function of relationships. The film, however, made me give serious consideration to viewpoints different from mine and to the necessity of being willing to accept other viewpoints. On a larger scale it made me realize that the parodic element of hyper-masculinity is just the other end of the parodic spectrum shown by the drag queen: both use parody to mock and defy the restrictions of “established standards” and thus reveal the limitations of these standards. They project and celebrate the diversity of the human experience, and both are a demand to accept and embrace that diversity.

I recommend this film both to those who might be interested in experimenting with the leatherman mystique as an informative introduction to that mystique; and to those who are not interested in the mystique as an exercise in enlarging their understanding of the varieties of the human experience. And it would perhaps be helpful to remember Dr. Thomas Szasz’ definition of a sadist as “one who is kind to a masochist.”

- George R. Boyd 03/22/2012


Review: My First Time, Becoming Men, and Making the Man

My First Time
Publisher: Alluvial Entertainment, 1996
Documentary

Becoming Men
Publisher: 10% Productions, 1998
Documentary

Making the Man: A Young Man’s Guide to Safer Gay Sex
Publisher: Wolfe Video, 2003
Documentary

These three instructional videos all start from the premise that the young gay man has few role models or much chance at reliable guidance as he begins to explore his sexuality. The purpose of these films is to try to fill that void. The films have all used medical professionals as consultants concerning what are ‘safe’ sexual practices for the gay man. All three discuss the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases and what behaviors to embrace to lessen the dangers of contamination. All the films, in various ways, also have ‘dramatizations’ of sexual situations using professional models. There are demonstrations of safe sex practice, discussions of coming out, handling relationships, and in one film even a discussion of sex for money.

Perhaps the finest feature of all the films is the interviews with gay men about their experiences. These are people talking about their own experiences, not the professional models of the demonstrations. They cover a wide range of behaviors, including some that were not too pleasant or too wise. Thus the interviews can serve as both encouragement and warning of what to avoid.

The three films basically cover the same area and any one of them would be a good starting point. I would, however, suggest Becoming Men as somewhat superior to the other two films in two aspects. The other films were made in Britain, and the accents can be somewhat trying for an American; in addition the production values seem not as high, especially in the fact that the photography seems rather murky and dark. Becoming Men seems to have higher quality production values; the camera work is well-lit and sharp. But its greatest claim to preference is that the interviews seem more substantial and richer in substance. In Making the Man the young men are interviewed as a group and so the information is diffuse and unstructured, focusing more on generalities and less on particular experiences, while the interviews in the other two films are of individuals and so cover a wider spectrum of experience in a more precise manner.

Any or all of these films would be a good starting point for any young man just starting out in the gay world. And even for those that are more experienced, they may be worthwhile: after all, you may even learn something.

- George R. Boyd 03/22/2012


Review: Mysterious Skin

Mysterious Skin

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbett
Director: Gregg Araki
Publisher: TLA, 2004
DVD
Not Rated

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (4/5)

The first time I watched this film was thanks to my boyfriend introducing it to me.
“Is it good?” I asked him as he put the DVD in.
“No.” He replied.
“Is it bad?” I laughed. “Why are we watching it?”
“It’s not bad…it’s…it just is.” He said, and that was it.
By the time the film was over, I knew exactly what he meant.

Mysterious Skin spends the first part of the film constantly switching back and forth between two seemingly different plotlines. Neil (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, known for his works on 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Latter Days,) is the cute bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks with a damaged past. Brian (played by Brady Corbet) is a paranoid homebody convinced that at some point in his life, he was abducted by aliens and experimented on. The only thing these two boys, separated by space and time, seem to have in common is the fact that long ago when they were just children, they played on a little league baseball team together. By the end of the movie when the two find each other, Brian finally learns the truth about his delusions, and Neil is finally forced to come to terms with what really led him down the path he now finds himself on. To tell you anymore would ruin it, but be warned, the revelation is enough to bring anyone to tears, and leave a pit in your stomach that won’t fade for several hours.

As with any movie I often rate high on my list, this film’s ability to excel with its audience lies in the fact that the events of this film can happen. The movie keeps you at a safe distance from the dark reality of itself by Neil’s ability to shrug off a lot of what happens to him, and Brian’s seemingly ridiculous notions that he was abducted. We feel endured to the characters, but at a safe distance from them by their seemingly inhuman traits. It’s only after Neil stops his façade, and after Brian uncovers the truth, that you finally come to fully see the tragedy that these two young men have endured, and how it’s drastically altered the course of their entire lives. In the final moments of this film, when it all comes together, you want to cry for them, you want to hug them, and tell them it will all be ok. For a few minutes, you’ll shudder and wonder if anything like this could have happened to anyone you know.

Be warned, this is not a film for just any occasion, and it’s not something to watch if you’re already down. It is, however, a beautifully done film. It’s passionate about what it attempts to express to its audience, and it presents its message compellingly.

- Nick Butcher 06/18/2008


Review: The Opposite of Sex

The Opposite of Sex

Starring: Christina Ricci, Martin Donovan
Director: Don Roos
DVD
Rated R

The Opposite of Sex was released in 1998 and stars Christina Ricci. It is about a troubled girl who leaves Alabama, moves in with her half brother and his gay lover and starts to complicate their lives. Her half brother Bill and his gay lover Matt are in a serious relationship and live together in Indiana. Dedee moves in with him after her step-father’s funeral. She does a number of things, including sleeping with her brother’s boyfriend, that sets of a chain of dramatic events. She serves as an interesting protagonist because she is not particularly likeable or relatable in any sense. I like this because it makes the film unique.

This film is described as a “dark comedy” and even on the front of the DVD it says ‘a scathing comedy’, which I find interesting because I did not laugh at a lot of parts in the film. I thought that this film was more dramatic than funny. Regardless, it was still an interesting film that I would recommend. In my opinion, the actors chosen for these roles were excellent; especially Christina Ricci who played the confused and troublesome adolescent, Dedee. This film is also unusual because during the whole movie Ricci’s character is narrating, which puts an interesting spin on things. The movie is obviously about sex but the constant references to it can be a little bothersome and annoying. Overall, this is a good film that I would definitely recommend to any of my friends.

- Vanessa Johansen 10/25/2010


Review: Our Sons

Our Sons

Starring: Julie Andrews, Ann-Margaret
Director: John Erman
DVD
Not Rated

Our Sons is a drama starring Julie Andrews, Ann-Margret, and Hugh Grant. It is about two mothers who bond together despite their differences. Margret and Andrews’ sons are in a relationship together and it is revealed to them that Margeret’s son has AIDS. Both mothers are homophobic, but while Margaret, a small town conservative waitress, is openly homophobic, Andrews is not. Donald, whom is dying of AIDS, has been estranged from his mother for a number of years because of her homophobia and her disapproval of his way of life.

This film is extremely heartfelt and brought out a lot of emotions in me. Sometimes films that depict such serious issues do not do a very good job capturing feelings, but Our Sons makes it so you feel like you know the characters personally. The actors, especially Julie Andrews’, performances were spectacular. This film shows how the presence of homophobia can really affect and ruin a family. It also shows how a mother’s love toward her son, in the end, is unconditional. I would definitely recommend this film to someone who likes dramatic films that bring out emotions.

- Vanessa Johansen 10/25/2010


Review: Paris Was a Woman

Paris Was a Woman poster

Director: Greta Schiller
Publisher: Zeitgeist, 1997
Documentary
DVD
Not Rated

Greta Schiller offers in this fascinating documentary a heartfelt tribute to the intellectual and aesthetic energy of the city of Paris in the early years of the 20th Century. It is both a brief history of those years and an exposition of the conditions that gave rise to the first blossoming of new and radical artworks, and thus of the beginning of the modern aesthetic.

The film’s alludes to the fact that many women, American, British, and French were living in Paris as independent professionals, thus breaking with the restrictions of 19th Century cultural patterns. These women, many of them lesbians, both served as catalysts for, celebrants of, and contributors to the new and challenging forces in the world of arts and letters.

Three women are of special importance in the film. Gertrude Stein, an American, in her experimental writings, in her appreciation of painters such as Picasso, Cezanne, and Matisse and in her strong influence on American writers including Earnest Hemingway and Sherwood Anderson put her stamp on the new literature. Sylvia Beach, another American, opened an English bookstore, “Shakespeare and Company’, in Paris which also served as a lending library and assisted English language writers in finding publishers and translators. Perhaps the best known of her efforts was the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses; since it had been banned everywhere, the Beach edition was the only one available at the time. Beach had been assisted in the opening of her bookstore by the French woman, Adrienne Monnier, who owned a a French language bookstore, “La maison des amis des livres”. Monnier also published a French translation of Joyce’s Ulysses. Among others the film also covers such people as Janet Flanner, Josephine Baker, Colette, Djuna Barnes, and Paul Valery, all of whom moved in the circles surrounding Stein, Beach, and Monnier.

This is a wonderful tribute to the guiding spirits who largely created the new aesthetic of “modernism” in a spirit of daring experimentation. One of its special delights is the use of period photographs and news films, giving a strong sense of the background against which these fascinating lives were lived. Highly recommended.

- George R. Boyd 03/22/2012


Review: Party Monster

Party Monster

Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green
Director: Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato
Publisher: Strand, 2003
DVD
Rated R

Party Monster is the true story of James St. James and Michael Alig, the original club kids. As the club scene in the ‘80s rose, so did the fame of both St. James and Alig. With a life full of drugs, sex, and techno these two boys seemed to be on top of the world until…

The cast of this film is very close to perfection, starring Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green, Cholë Sevigny, Marilyn Manson, and Dylan McDermott. If you aren’t a fan of these actors, it will be hard for you to say that after seeing their performance in this film. It is clear that they all did major research on their characters and it almost seems they are the real people.

The story itself is completely enthralling, and knowing it is a true story makes it even better. It has got all the elements of an exciting movie: love, partying, a little splash of comedy, and great music. The filming is modern and quite pleasing, although at some points it feels as though you are tripping right along with the characters in the film. This adds another dimension that draws you very deep into the characters’ situation and makes you feel like a part of the story yourself. The wardrobe itself is enough to give the movie a standing ovation, and the make-up and hair is also amazing.

I will admit that you have to be interested in the culture to enjoy the movie to its fullest. If you aren’t a big fan of the club scene you might not be able to understand everything that happens in the film because a lot of the situations aren’t fully explained. Overall though it is a great film and I think it would be a good experience for everyone.

- Amy Basham 03/07/2008


Review: Pedro

Pedro

Starring: Alex Loynas, Justina Machado
Director: Nick Oceano
DVD
Not Rated

“Pedro” is the true story about the optimistic life of a courageous young man named Pedro Zamora, a Cuban homosexual who in the early 1990s preached the awareness of HIV/AIDS among his community and eventually the entire world. Suffering himself of the disease, he was able to capture the hearts of those moved by him and his seemingly full-of-life attitude.

This movie can inspire anyone who watches it if they come to realize how incredible the journey of this young man really was like. He preached of how all people should accept him along with every other human being not only homosexual but for those infected by HIV and AIDS because it’s “just who we are.” He understood that people may not want to be around him because of his sexual preference or because of his disease, but he not only accepted that, he lived his life as if none of it had ever bothered him. Throughout his life he met many new friends, and eventually he was selected to be in the cast of the first season of “The Real World” on MTV. After this he became a global icon, and he continued to spread awareness of AIDS to the population.

What makes this movie unique is the distinct character of Pedro Zamora. He truly was a courageous person and he is able to touch the lives of everyone, regardless of sexual preference or whether or not a person has HIV or AIDS. This movie is definitely worth the watch.

- Alex Raben 10/10/2010


Review: Philadelphia

philadelphia

Starring: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington
Director: Jonathan Demme
DVD
Rated PG-13

Philadelphia is a powerful and emotional story about a homosexual man named Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) who seeks the help of the popular Philadelphia lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) because of the conspiracy among his discriminatory law firm that he was fired because of his diagnosis of AIDS.  Though the story is about Andrew, who seems to always be optimistic about his life and struggle, the main character appears to be Joe Miller.   Growing up being taught that gays are bad, he begins to realize that the true inner being of Andrew is full of life and acceptance.  And when it comes down to doing justice for what’s right among all working citizens, he’s willing to change his attitude and outlook on life in order to protect Andrew, realizing that everyone deserves a chance.  This is a must-see movie.

- Alex Raben 09/21/2010


Review: Poster Boy

Poster Boy

Starring: Matt Newton, Jack Noseworthy
Director: Zak Tucker
Publisher: Liberation Ent, 2004
DVD
Rated R

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (2.5/5)

This movie was a bit hard to get into and took a few attempts to finish the movie all the way through because I simply couldn’t get into it. The acting was okay, as was the plot, and pretty much everything else in the movie. The problem is that nothing was really good or interesting.

The idea behind the movie of an in-the-closet son of a an extreme right-wing Republican Senator was intriguing enough for me to grab it off the shelf, but it lost its luster soon after putting it into the DVD player. The plot was somewhat hard to follow and some of the characters could easily be mistaken for other characters because they looked so similar, not to mention the camera working of a deranged monkey. It wasn’t necessarily a bad movie or a good movie; it was just okay. I don’t feel like I was left with a new lesson or idea by the end of it.

- Michael Cooper 01/29/2008


Review: Producing Adults

Producing Adults

Starring: Kari-Pekka Toivonen, Minttu Mustakallio, Minna Haapkylä
Director: Aleksi Salmenperä
Publisher: Wolfe Video, 2004
Finnish with English subs
DVD
Rated R

Producing Adults surprised me. I wasn’t surprised that it was so good, since it was an Oscar nominee and won a ton of queer film festival awards. But I was surprised that it was about two bisexual women. That never happens! Go Finland!

A brief plot summary: Venla really wants a baby but her boyfriend Antero is concentrating on yet another Olympic bid as a speed skater. They start into a battle of wills, with him slipping her EC while she starts initiating sex while she is ovulating. The deceit piles up as he gets secret vasectomy and she considers artificial insemination at the fertility clinic where she works as a counselor. Obviously that relationship is going nowhere fast, despite a sudden engagement.

Then there is Satu, an open bisexual who is doing her brothers’ roommate/bandmate out of boredom. She tries to make it clear that this is not a serious relationship however he is becoming annoyingly fixated on her. Meanwhile her mother is dying of cancer and she just started a job at the fertility clinic.

The romance between Satu and Venla starts slowly, and builds through the unusual situations they find themselves in when Satu agrees to inseminate her after hours. Their romance is sweet, but never saccharine and it sensitively portrays Venla’s hesitancy to break up with Antero (even though he is a real dick and she knows it). The film never becomes ‘Venla’s Big Coming Out Movie’, thank god, and the ending is realistic and well handled.

The film is in Finnish and subd in English, but it isn’t an artsy pretentious foreign film and there are quite a few laughs. I would recommend it to anyone who likes well-made dramas, films about bisexual women, or queer foreign film.

- Sarah Stumpf 04/07/2008


Review: Proteus

Proteus

Starring: Shaun Smyth, Rouxnet Brown
Director: Jack Lewis & John Greyson
Publisher: Strand Releasing, 2003
DVD
Not Rated

Proteus is an independent film about a South African island prison that holds two prisoners that are very different from one another. One, a native named Claas Blank, is serving time for the false charges of stealing cattle. The other is a Dutch man by the name of Rijkhaart Jacobsz who is charged with homosexuality. The two are treated very differently within the prison, but somehow they become connected and their relationship flourishes. This is a love story intermingling with the wrongdoings of the past.

Proteus has a very deep story line, and it would be great for any couple to watch together. There are some very intense sex scenes which make this movie even more intriguing for the viewer. The acting is good quality, and the actors aren’t bad to look at either. This film was chosen to be viewed at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival, and also won Best Actor at the Cape Town World Cinema Film Festival, so it has been recognized throughout the world. The film is in English and Afrikaans, but there are English subs through almost the entire movie.

There is some confusion within the story about the time period. In the very beginning they announce the time as the 18th century, and shortly after a jeep pulls into the shot. There are other various time conflicts including plastic bags, plastic coolers, and costuming from about every era possible. With a little research one could discover that this was on purpose to symbolize the struggle that the GLBT community has faced through all eras and is still facing today. Although that is a great concept, it gets a little distracting while watching the movie, and slightly takes away from the mood of the film.

The viewer should also keep in mind that this is an independent film, and that it is very obvious. Although there is a great message being sent out, it is also clear that this film was made on a low budget. The filming is good, but it isn’t A list in the least. There is also a slight problem with the subs. They are there for about 99 percent of the movie, but it seems that during the most important line of the film they disappear. I believe that this could have been on purpose also because eventually the line is revealed, but again during the movie it becoming very frustrating.

Overall Proteus is an okay film. The story line is great, the acting is good, but there are definite down falls within the filming and creative elements. For a movie that is so identifiable with the queer culture I would give praise that it was made by anyone. Just remember to go into it with an open mind, and I believe the viewer will be satisfied.

- Amy Basham 02/16/2008


Review: Pursuit of Equality: The Unfinished Work of American Freedom

Directors: Geoff Callan and Mike Shaw, 2008
Documentary

When Gavin Newsom was elected mayor of San Francisco few realized that he would almost immediately stir up a major controversy. After a little more than a month in office, he directed the city to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This film is the story of that decision and what it entailed. The presence in his office of a film crew allows us to follow the aftermath of his momentous decision.

Two things are significant about Newsom’s decision: first, it is obvious that the staff of city hall was definitely behind his effort, and the film makes plain the excitement and joy with which they entered into this new endeavor; second, was Newsom’s reliance on carefully reasoned argument, and his calm refusal to be bullied by his opponents or himself succumb to the emotionally charged atmosphere that those opponents brought to the argument.

Gavin Newsom, who, it probably needs to be said, is not gay, reached his decision on logical grounds. He tells us that although the Constitution guarantees “equal protection under the law”; it was thereby evident that same-sex couples were not equal under the law. The ban against same-sex marriages was discriminatory, and hence unconstitutional. He states, “I was elected to end discrimination.” He also points out that this fight is by no means new: the arguments used by the opponents of same-sex marriage are largely the same as those used by those opposing the banning of laws against inter-racial marriage in the 1940′s and 1950′s. The same argument applies in both cases: if any couple meeting the age and citizenship requirements is denied a marriage license, then equality does not exist in this country.

It is an engrossing experience to watch the unfolding of events as depicted in the film. It becomes very plain that the reaction of the dissidents is based largely on emotion and not on reason; and it is very hard to argue against people who argue from an attitude of absolute moral certitude. We are present as the mayor’s office awaits the decision of the California Supreme court on the legality of the marriages. When that court did uphold the legality, its opponents appealed the decision. The appeals court upheld the opponents’ position. The mayor’s office then took it back to the supreme court which reaffirmed its earlier decision.

Legal action in California subsequent to the time of the film has regressed somewhat from Newsom’s bold challenge. His position has not changed, and he keeps insisting that the debate is about discrimination. He tells us that some people told him they didn’t think it was the right time for such a challenge; but he replies that if one waits for the right time, no action will ever be taken. Newsom admits that they never expected to get as far as they did. Their efforts, nevertheless, allowed some other states to remove discriminatory marriage laws. Newsom states that his actions opened the door, and that once the door is opened it can never be completely closed again.

- George R. Boyd


Review: Serving in Silence

Serving in Silence

Starring: Glenn Close, Judy Davis
Director: Jeff Bleckner
Publisher: Sony Pictures, 1995
DVD
Not Rated

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (4/5)

This true story is centered on Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, a woman who comes to terms with her homosexuality while in the armed forces. With most movies where plots are centered on homosexuals, the hardest part for heterosexuals playing the role is acting as a genuine homosexual would act. However, Cammermeyer, played by Golden Globe winner Glenn Close, is a very believable character who is easily sympathized with. Her performance won her a Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries. Her heartfelt performance makes the movie worthwhile by itself; it is easy for any GBLT person to identify a part of themselves in Cammermeyer. Serving in Silence delivers a few tear-jerking moments. Don’t be afraid let it out!

Close stars opposite Judy Davis who plays her romantic partner/painter, Diane. The only problem with her character is that it seemed as though she was just a closet-case lesbian, and that was pretty much it. As Diane comes to terms with herself, her redeeming qualities as a real person manage to shine through a par acting performance per Judy Davis.

There wasn’t much affection between the two characters; this is a more politically driven movie. On the back cover the words are written, “Ask. Tell.” which casts a direct opposition to the “Don’t ask. Don’t Tell.” policy of the United States Armed Forces. All politics aside, this TV feature has earned a four-star rating in my book.

- Michael Cooper 03/14/2008


Review: Small Town Gay Bar

Small Town Gar Bar Poster

Director: Malcolm Ingram
Publisher: Genius Entertainment, 2006
Documentary

Malcolm Ingram set out to show the special problems for gay men and women in small towns. He focuses on what the gay bars in those towns can mean to their clientele and the sense of belonging and acceptance they can create. He interviews bar owners and bar patrons as well as townspeople and relatives of some of the patrons of the gay bars. These bars are usually rather hidden, doing little advertising save by word of mouth. Most of the patrons mention the feelings of community and freedom to be who they are that the gay bar gives them. Some also emphasize their rarity. As one comments, if the bar weren’t here, he’d have to drive 90 miles to find another.

Two particular bars are featured in the film; one in Shannon, Mississippi and the other in Meridien, Mississippi. As anyone who has ever lived in a small town knows, everyone knows everyone else and this can create special problems. A patron of the bar in Shannon was attacked in his home, tied to a chair, and beaten repeatedly over several hours. He was then mutilated and partially decapitated and his body taken to the woods and set on fire. His name was Scotty Weaver. There are also advantages to a small town: within 48 hours three people had been arrested and charged with the murder. It is hard for most of us to conceive what would lead anyone to so drastic an act; but the film gives us a suggestion. A Baptist minister is interviewed who states, “‘God hates fags” is a profound theological statement.” His church actually changed the time of its service so this ‘man of God’ and his parishioners could picket all those “mangy fag-loving churches” who don’t preach this man’s gospel. Perhaps the most repelling moment in the film is a shot of this man’s church newsletter; above a picture of Scotty Weaver the article is headed in bold capitals: “Scotty is in Hell.”

The film is a reminder of the fact that the fight for human freedom and dignity has by no means been won. There are still those who preach hate. When the politicians indulge in their rhetoric about the United States being the land of the free it is well to realize that, though it sounds good, it is by no means a true description.

- George R. Boyd


Review: Straight (and Gay) Talk From IU Students

Starring: Students at Indiana University Bloomington
IUB, DVD
Documentary
Not Rated

“Straight (and Gay) Talk from IU Students” is a series of interviews with both homosexuals seated as a group answering questions about their orientation, and interviews on the street with random IU students. Frequently asked questions are “Do you think people get fired from their job because they are homosexuals? If so, do you agree?”, “What do homosexuals look like?”

This video can be effective for those of the homosexual community, but especially for those among the IU community because you can receive a better experience of and understanding of your primary environment, as well as get a feeling of support listening to Doug Bauder, the interviewer. The viewer can begin to notice how interviewees react to these questions; seeing that some feel a little uncomfortable. This shows that a portion of the population don’t want to be a part of the homosexual community and they want it out of their lives, yet there were also several students who spoke passionately and had a useful and valuable input about this issue. Though I discovered this video to be a little shorter than expected, it is a strong recommendation for anyone who may need to understand how some students’ reaction are on campus without actually having to find out for themselves, and as I can see, there still is tremendous support, especially at the LGBTSSS.

- Alex Raben 11/07/2010


Review: Straight Acting: A Story about Queers and Sports

Director: Spencer Windes
Publisher: Pissant Productions, 2005
Documentary
DVD
Not Rated

This film is one man’s journey to discover a meaningful life. Spencer Windes was raised as a good Mormon boy; he served as a missionary and then moved to southern California to work in the film industry. Although he knew he was gay, he found little to attract him in the gay community. At the age of 30 he weighed 300 pounds and was very unhappy. His life changed when he heard about the death of Mark Bingham who died in the Pennsylvania plane crash brought down by the terrorists on 9/11. Bingham was a rugby player and he was gay.

Spencer soon heard about the LA Rebellions, a gay rugby team in Los Angeles. Spencer took himself in hand, lost 100 pounds and joined the team. This was a struggle for him; his teammates were afraid he might not survive. But survive he did. He had a found a group which accepted him and with whom he could feel at home.

Having found a place on a gay rugby team, Windes then goes on to examine other sports. He covers the Gay Rodeo association and interviews some of its participants. He goes on to New York to cover the New York Gay Hockey Association, one of whose teams has a transexual player.

Finally, he accompanies the LA Rebellions to England to take part in the competition for the Mark Bingham Cup. This is an award established by Mark Binghams parents for gay rubgy teams. As he states at the end of the film, “In learning how to play rugby, I learned how to live.”

Several players from various gay teams are interviewed during the course of the film. These interviews contain some thought-provoking comments. Many players were asked what they thought the of the film meant. One replies,”Straight-acting; I think it means self-loathing.” One player comments that gay athletes are not accepted in ‘main-stream’ gay society; the only images people have of gays are drag queens or leathermen. When the founder of the New York Gay Hockey Association was asked what he thought his association was about, he said, “Breaking stereotypes.”

It is a little disheartening to realize that gay society can be just as judgmental in its stereotypes as straight society. There is much food for thought in this unassuming little film, about stereotyping, accepting people on their own terms, and trying to bring about a change to a world where people are judged on their inherent worth as persons and not as members of a defined group. This film made your reviewer, who has only once, under protest, attended a sporting event, want to stand up and cheer the teams on for their courage and their refusal to conform to the pre-existent ideas of both straights and gays.

- George R. Boyd 03/22/2012


Review: Sugar Sweet

Sugar Sweet

Starring: Saori Kitagawa, Saki
Director: Desiree Lim
Publisher: Wolfe Video, 2003
Japanese with English subs
DVD
Not Rated

Naomi wants to be a great director for lesbian drama. However, her bosses think her work is more for lesbians, not for men. For comfort, she finds this girl online named Sugar and talks about her struggles. Then, she gets this job for the TV show. It’s about two people getting a diary that tells the future and follow the diary. She asks her best friend, Azusa. Although Azusa has a girlfriend, Yuriko, she says yes. Naomi later finds the other person, Miki, at a bar. Azusa later thinks that she may be in love with Miki. However, Miki does not want to have a “serious” relationship. In the end, Azusa finds out that she actually loved Yuriko and apologized her (although Yuriko does not know what exactly was going on; however, she knew Azusa may be cheating on her). Then Yuriko tells her that Azusa is really important to her and she doesn’t want to lose her. The next day, as the dairy says, Azusa tells Miki that she can’t see her anymore. Miki says it’s okay because she has someone else that she met online. Later, Naomi quit her job and gets a grant to make lesbian drama. When Naomi tells Sugar, she finds out that Sugar actually was Miki. Miki quits her job as an executive, and becomes an actress.

The thing I LOVED about this movie was that there were almost no stereotypes of lesbians. In this society, people tend to think that lesbians are hot, like Megan Fox, but actually, that’s not always the case. There are some people who are hot and lesbians, but most of the time, you won’t see lesbians as a hot women. Also, there is one stereotype where all lesbians are butch, or more masculine, and this movie showed that it is not the case. I like how this movie showed that there are so many types of lesbians. Miki is one of those hot lesbians, Naomi is a butch, Azusa is femme, and Yuriko is not really categorized as lesbians that we would see often. This movie showed that there are so many types of lesbians, just like other straight people. GLBT people are not any different from straight people, they prefer their love differently. I think this is the great movie to show to straight people so tell them that GLBT people are not any different from straight people. I really wish there are more movies like this.

Although this may be a great movie to show it to straight people, it may not be a good movie to entertain GLBT people. I did not think the acting was that great. Also, most of the time, it was very difficult to see, so I was not really sure what was going on. (It could be just my laptop- which the tool that I used to watch this movie) I highly recommend to people who are either bi-curious or straight who wants to know more about GLBT.

- Saki Tanaka 10/20/2010


Review: Summer Storm

Summer Storm

Starring: Robert Stadlober, Kostja Ullmann
Director: Marco Kreuzpaintner
Publisher: Regent, 2004
DVD
Rated R

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (5/5)

I don’t think I know a single person who didn’t grow up with a lot of angst during their adolescences, and that goes double for anyone of homosexual orientation who spent their high school years in the closet. Taking it one step further though, I’ve got to say what really made for a dramatic experience for those growing up gay, was when you came to the realization that not only were you gay, but you were in love with your best friend.

Enter Summer Storm, a coming of age story of Tobi and his best friend Achim. Tobi is captain of his school’s rowing team looking to lead the team to the gold. In spite of all that weighs on his shoulders, we quickly see that his mind is elsewhere, as the sexual tension between him and Achim is introduced quickly, but believably. The entire time you watch these two on screen; you’ll feel yourself getting pulled back to that age when you were faced with the impossible: Loving someone who will never love you back. Even more frustrating, while you’re certain early on in the film that Tobi is gay, you’ll wrack your brain trying to figure out if Achim is gay, curious, kidding himself, or just straight and completely oblivious to his best friend’s feelings. The drama only escalates as the rowing team arrives at the camp site days before the big race, to discover that the hot Belgian women’s team has forfeit, and their new competition is the “Queerstrokes”, an all gay rowing team. The homophobia abounds among Tobi’s teammates, and this only strengthens Tobi’s fears and uncertainty. Topping everything off are Achim’s and Tobi’s girlfriends who are both very much in love with these two guys, and the very attractive Queerstroke that has a soft spot for Tobi.

What makes this film so amazing is its believability. The entire time I spent watching these characters interact, I felt as if it was my own teenage years being put on screen. I felt like I knew someone personally from my own life that fit these character’s personas. I don’t feel my experience is an isolated one; Summer Storm is a very moving film for any viewer young or old, gay or straight. It exposes the wounds and anguish of those difficult years and tugs at our heartstrings. You’ll smile when you see Tobi and Achim rough house. Your heart will pound in your chest the first time Tobi kisses a guy. Your stomach will turn as Tobi continues his façade with his girlfriend Ankh, and your heart will break for the both of them when he finally tells her the truth. This movie runs the full spectrum of emotions, and will leave you begging for more.

Like real life, the film doesn’t end everything wrapped up in a pretty package. If you’re like me, you’ll be dying to find out the answers to several questions, answers that you’ll never get. It’s kind of as if the filmmaker knew he was presenting not just a story of his design, but a story that pulled from the lives of every gay person. The answers to the end of the film aren’t found in the film itself, they are found in the minds of its viewers.

If you haven’t already seen it, take my word for it, the best thing you can do today is run down to the GLBT and pick up Summer Storm. You’ll thank me for it later.

- Nick Butcher 05/28/2008


Review: Two-Spirit People

Director: Michael Beauchemin, Lori Levy, Gretchen Vogel
Publisher: Frameline, 1991
Documentary
DVD
Not Rated

The term berdache has come into English from Persian through French. Originally meaning merely a catamite, it is now used of those persons from American Indian tribes that showed interest in a life style opposite to that expected for their sex. These are the “two-spirited people” partaking of the attributes of both gender roles. Each Indian language, of course, has its own term for the concept, and the word berdache, despite its origins as a somewhat pejorative term, now functions as a general term both for the individual two-spirit person and the general social function they serve. In many American Indian tribes such people were recognized at an early age and assigned to roles as a shaman or medicine man or woman because their possession of “two spirits” gives them a special relationship to the spirit world. They were often considered to have been created by the Great Spirit to bring creativity and spirit knowledge to the rest of the world.

This film consists of interviews with several men and women of various Indian tribes discussing their experience as two-spirited people. Although different tribes had different approaches, it was generally agreed that a berdache was set apart, as if a third sex. In some tribes, if a married man or woman had sex with a berdache, it was not considered adultery. Conversely, in some tribes it was forbidden for a berdache to have sex with another berdache.

It is good to be reminded that other societies have created social codes that are inclusive; realizing the fact of homosexuality and creating a useful position for it in society is an integrative solution that western civilization is only now beginning to realize is a better and more useful strategy than the harsh and divisive judgementalism of the western Christian tradition.

Unfortunately the film also makes clear that many Indians have been successfully indoctrinated into that alien tradition. Of the Indians interviewed on this film, two of them (a man and a woman) relate that they were cast out by their families and tribes. One stated that in some tribes homosexuals are not only cast out but are declared ‘dead’. Perhaps it is time that we tried to learn something from the social solutions of the Indian tribes instead of insisting that they embrace our doctrines. This film is a good way to start thinking in a different way about the relationships of the individual and society.

- George R. Boyd 3/22/2012


Review: Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives

Director: Mariposa Film Group
Publisher: Milliarium Zero, 2010
Documentary

In the 1970′s the Mariposa Film Group, an ad hoc association of like-minded friends, embarked on a project of interviewing gay men and women around the country. The resulting film was released in 1977. The original film has been restored and re-released on DVD.

The film is structured in three parts: ‘The Early Years’, ‘Growing Up’, and ‘From Now On’. As the people tell their stories they make clear that they are very “ordinary” people from a range of professions and backgrounds. I would imagine that this may have been rather shocking to viewers in 1977. The only thing that made them unusual was that the power of vested interests declared them outcasts. As one of those interviewed expressed it, “The clergy tell us we’re sinners, the doctors tell us we’re insane, and the law tells us we’re criminals.”

The people interviewed came to adulthood in the 1950′s and 1960′s, a time when witch hunts were in the air since Joseph McCarthy had shown that the laws of the country could be ignored under the rubric of “national security.” They articulate the experiences of anger and frustration at the society that rejects them (“the scariest thing is the anger–to feel that anger”); the experience of personal worthlessness (“I never felt that I was worth very much”); the experience of isolation (“there was nowhere to go that was safe”); and the cruelty that society can bring to bear on outsiders (“Things happened to me that I didn’t think could happen in this country”).

It would be easy to dismiss this film as merely of historical interest. This would be a serious mistake. As one of those interviewed says, “I lived through the McCarthy era, I lived through military purges [i.e. military purging itself of gay men and women]. Things are better now, and I’m glad they’re better. But my fear is that those times could return.” It is a fear we should take seriously; there are groups working at the present time who plainly want that time to return. The people in rhis film can serve as models of the quiet courage and humanity that will always be needed to prevent its return.

Do not overlook the DVD’s special feature, “Word Is Out Then and Now: 30 Years Later” in which several of the people were re-interviewed for the DVD release.

- George R. Boyd


Review: You Don’t Know Dick

Director: Brestor Cram
Documentary
DVD

This movie is mainly about a group of people who had transgender surgeries, and their genders were transformed from female to male. They talked about how they felt before they did the surgery, why they chose to give up the original gender and how those changes affect their lives.

Before I watched this documentary, I totally had no idea about any transgender issues, I even don’t know how to think about this phenomenon. However, through the movie, I reconsidered those people, I found out that their inner world is the same as everyone else’s, they just have more masculinity than other women, and they felt very limited when their soul was constrained in a female body.

Although, I still cannot understand why people have this kind of feeling that do not like the gender that they were born, but I know that it is all about the way that we are choosing to live, just like someone want to be lawyer and someone want to be teacher, it’s the value that we choose. So, I think we should respect them, and try to know more about them.

- Han Wang 09/24/2010


Review: You’ll Get Over It

You'll Get Over It

Starring: Julien Baumgartner, Julia Maraval
Director: Fabrice Cazeneuve
Publisher: Picture This Home Entertainment, 2003
DVD
Not Rated

Reviewer’s rating: ratingratingratingratingrating (2.5/5)

You’ll Get Over It is a foreign film that originally aired in France. It centers around its protagonist Vincent, an 18 year old high school senior and star of the swim team. The film chronicles Vincent’s coming out process, and how it affects the lives of his friends, family, teammates, even his teachers and principal. The film offers an array of solid actors, from Julian Bamgartner (who also stars in the 2005 film Look at Me, and the better known 2001 film Sexy Boys), to his character’s best gal pal Noemie (played by Julia Maraval). You’ll quickly find yourself feeling strong emotions towards the majority of these characters. You’ll mourn with them, you’ll laugh with them, and you’ll even grow angry with them. The film definitely succeeds in this particular department.

What it falls short in, however, is the direction and the writing of the film itself. You’ll quickly become annoyed with the sense that the story doesn’t proceed smoothly, instead, the scenes seem to constantly jump around to different characters. Each scene will consist of a few minutes of dialogue, and then quickly jump to another scene with different characters. Often times there will be scenes that feel completely out of place, and unnecessary. I think this comes from the fact that Molina (the film’s writer), was attempting so hard to portray the coming out process, which he wanted to examine it from all sides. You won’t just see Vincent accepting his homosexuality; on the contrary, Vincent accepts his sexuality almost too naturally. Instead, you’ll witness conversation between his two best friends regarding how long they’ve “known” or if they really “knew” their best friend was gay this entire time. You’ll see his parents have the “Do you still love our son? Do you look at him differently because he’s gay?” discussion. There’s even a scene where the school officials discuss the most sensitive way to handle Vincent’s situation after it becomes public knowledge. You’ll come to love a lot of these characters, the problem is that several of them are dispensable and excessive. I for one could have done without Vincent’s brother being in the film at all. His side plotline is never really resolved, and it’s just a pain to watch every time he’s on screen. He’s a character obviously designed for you to dislike, and he achieves this splendidly. I wish I’d seen a lot more of Vincent’s English teacher in the film, I feel his character would have had a lot more to offer to Vincent, and the film as a whole, but sadly he’s very much overshadowed with needless filler characters. The budding romance between Vincent and the tall dark and handsome stranger also seems to escalate out of nowhere. One second you’re not even entirely sure if the guy is gay, and the next second, he and Vincent are happily ever after. Molina simply tried to accomplish too much within this film, and as a result, it comes across as a jumbled mess. You’re not really sure what to think when it’s over.

HOWEVER. Don’t get me wrong, it’s so important to watch films such as this one. It does successfully account for that frustrating stressful time in each gay person’s life, when they must finally come to terms with who they are…it just seems to focus a lot more on the side character’s reactions than it does what our actually hero is enduring. I’d still recommend you picking it up for yourself sometime though, maybe you’ll disagree. Maybe you’ll be able to find more meaning it in than I did. If you do like this film, I’d highly recommend Summer Storm (also available at the GLBT library.) It has a lot of the same themes, but overall is a much better done film.

- Nick Butcher 06/25/2008



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