Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Outfest 2008

I won't be attending Outfest 2008 in Los Angeles, beginning tonight, but I've seen and reviewed a number of the films that will be screened. Here's a quick summary, with each title linked to the full review.

Affinity (dramatic centerpiece)
Another Gay Sequel
Boystown (Chuecatown)
Breakfast with Scot (opening night)
Dream Boy MUST SEE
It's STILL Elementary MUST SEE
A Jihad for Love (documentary centerpiece)
The Lost Coast
The New World
Newcastle MUST SEE
On the Other Hand, Death
Out in India MUST SEE
The Polymath
Ready? OK!
Saturn in Opposition
The Secrets
She's a Boy I Knew
Sordid Lives: the series
Tru Loved (closing night)
Were the World Mine (awards night)
Wild Combination (platinum centerpiece)
The World Unseen
Word is Out (legacy gala)

(You may also want to check the list of shorts I reviewed in Frameline32, in the entry directly below this one.)

Technorati tags: ,

Monday, June 30, 2008

Frameline32 cross-reference

Affinity (Frameline32 opening night)
All My Life
Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild! (Frameline showcase)
The Art of Being Straight
Be Like Others (documentary) MUST SEE
Big Eden (retrospective) MUST SEE
Bound (retrospective)
Breakfast with Scot (Frameline closing night)
Buddy G
Byron Chief Moon: Grey Horse Rider
Derek (documentary, Frameline showcase) Highly recommended
Dottie's Magic Pockets
Drifting Flowers (Piao Lang Qing Chun) (漂浪青春)
Dyke Delights (2008) (shorts program)
Electroshock (A Love to Keep)
Envisioning Justice: the journey of a transgenderered woman
Fairytale of Kathmandu
Les feluettes (Lilies) (retrospective) MUST SEE
Gewoon Liefde (Simply Love)
It's STILL Elementary (documentary) MUST SEE
Japan Japan (יפאן יפאן)
A Jihad for Love (documentary, Frameline showcase)
The Kinsey Sicks: Almost Infamous
Law of Desire (La Ley del deseo) (retrospective) MUST SEE
La Léon
La Ley del deseo (Law of Desire) (retrospective) MUST SEE
Lilies (Les feluettes) (retrospective) MUST SEE
The Lost Coast
A Love to Keep (Electroshock)
Mala Noche (retrospective)
Manuela y Manuel, MUST SEE
Mom, I Didn't Kill Your Daughter (אמא, לא הרגתי את הבת שלך), MUST SEE
The New World (Le nouveau monde)
Le nouveau monde (The New World)
Oh Happy Day
On the Other Hand, Death
Out in India: a family's journey
Over Da Rainbow
Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band
The Perfect Man
Piao Lang Qing Chun (Drifting Flowers) (漂浪青春)
The Polymath, or the life and opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman
Ready? OK!
Ruby Blue (Frameline showcase) MUST SEE
Saturn in Opposition (Saturno contro)
Saturno contro (Saturn in Opposition)
She's a Boy I Knew (documentary) MUST SEE
Sikil (Unspoken Passion)
Simply Love (Gewoon Liefde)
Sordid Lives (tv series preview)
Steam (dir. Kyle Schickner) MUST SEE
Tru Loved (Frameline showcase)
U People (documentary) MUST SEE
Unspoken Passion (Sikil)
Were the World Mine, MUST SEE
When I Knew (documentary, Frameline showcase)
U People (documentary) MUST) MUST SEE
Wild Combination: a portrait of Arthur Russell
Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives (documentary, Frameline showcase) MUST SEE
The World Unseen (Frameline showcase) Highly recommended
XXY (Frameline centerpiece) MUST SEE
סרט חובה • MUST SEE (Mom, I Didn't Kill Your Daughter) אמא, לא הרגתי את הבת שלך
(Japan Japan) יפאן יפאן
漂浪青春 (Piao Lang Qing Chun) (Drifting Flowers)

Shorts programs:
Fun in Boys' Shorts (2008) (shorts program)
Fun in Girls' Shorts (2008) (shorts program)
Transtastic (shorts program)
Worldly Affairs (2008) (shorts program)
The Young and Evil (shorts program)

Short films by title:
Alonso's Deadline, "The Young and Evil"
Babysitting Andy, "Fun in Boys' Shorts"
Baggage, "The Young and Evil"
Bend It, "Transtastic"
Benni Has 2 Mothers, "Fun in Girls' Shorts"
The Bond (documentary), "Transtastic" MUST SEE
Bongo Bong, "Fun in Boys' Shorts"
Bonne Mère, "Worldly Affairs"
Bramadero, "Worldly Affairs"
Café com Leite (You, Me and Him), "Worldly Affairs"
Congratulations, Daisy Graham, "A Gay Old Time"
Country Life (Landleben) (Vie champetre), "Worldly Affairs" MUST SEE
The Cousin (El Primo), "The Young and Evil"
Crafty, "Dyke Delights" MUST SEE
Dolls (short), "The Young and Evil" MUST SEE
Donkey Girl, "Fun in Girls' Shorts"
Donny & Ginger, "Transtastic"
Downstream (Im Fluß) (documentary), "A Gay Old Time"
Duck Soup, "Fun in Girls' Shorts"
El Primo (The Cousin), "The Young and Evil"
En el Instituto (In the High School), "Fun in Boys' Shorts"
Felicia (documentary), "Transtastic"
For a Relationship, screened with Ciao, Recommended
Forever's Gonna Start Tonight (documentary), "A Gay Old Time"
Forever's Gonna Start Tonight (documentary), "Transtastic"
Happenstance, "Fun in Girls' Shorts"
Hello, My Name is Herman, documentary, "A Gay Old Time"
HerzHaft, "Worldly Affairs" MUST SEE
Hirsute, "Fun in Boys' Shorts"
How Do I Say This? I'm Gay!, "Fun in Girls' Shorts" MUST SEE
Im Fluß (Downstream) (documentary), "A Gay Old Time"
In the High School (En el Instituto), "Fun in Boys' Shorts"
Just Me? (documentary), "A Gay Old Time" MUST SEE
King County, "Dyke Delights"
Landleben (Vie champetre) (Country Life), "Worldly Affairs" MUST SEE
The Last Visit, "A Gay Old Time"
Lezbro: Don't Cha Know, "Dyke Delights"
Lloyd Neck, "The Young and Evil"
Lot's Wife, "Worldly Affairs"
Love Sucks, "Dyke Delights"
Maggots and Men, "Transtastic" [not reviewed]
Mars, "The Young and Evil"
Menopausal Gals Gone Wild, "Dyke Delights"
Mirror Mirror, "A Gay Old Time"
No Bikini, "Fun in Girls' Shorts" [not reviewed]
Operated by Invisible Hands, "Dyke Delights" MUST SEE
Overstuff, "Fun in Boys' Shorts"
Pages of a Girl (Páginas de Menina), "Fun in Girls' Shorts" MUST SEE
Páginas de Menina (Pages of a Girl), "Fun in Girls' Shorts" MUST SEE
Pat's First Kiss, "Fun in Boys' Shorts"
Pitstop, "Fun in Girls' Shorts" MUST SEE
The Postcard, "Worldly Affairs"
The Premiere, "Fun in Girls' Shorts"
The Role I Was Born to Play, "Transtastic" [not reviewed]
Screening Party, "Fun in Boys' Shorts"
The Sheep and the Ranch Hand: A Sexyqueer Love Story, "Dyke Delights" MUST SEE
Silver Road, "Fun in Boys' Shorts"
Sistole/Diastole (Systolic/Diastolic), "A Gay Old Time"
Social Conflict Management, "Dyke Delights"
Souljah, "The Young and Evil"
Systolic/Diastolic (Sistole/Diastole), "A Gay Old Time"
, "Worldly Affairs"
Thorn in Your Side (documentary), "Transtastic"
Toi et Moi, "Dyke Delights"
The Touch, "Fun in Girls' Shorts"
TRANSforming Healthcare (documentary), "Transtastic" MUST SEE
Unca Trans, "Transtastic"
The Vicious & the Delicious, "Dyke Delights"
Vie champetre (Landleben) (Country Life), "Worldly Affairs" MUST SEE
The Window, "Fun in Boys' Shorts"
A Work in Progress, "Dyke Delights"
Worst Case Scenario: Femme Edition, "Dyke Delights" MUST SEE
You, Me and Him (Café com Leite), "Worldly Affairs"
The Young and Evil (short), "The Young and Evil"

Technorati tags: ,

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!

Another Gay SequelDirector Todd Stephens had a smash hit with his first film, the coming-out drama Edge of Seventeen. He had difficulty with his second film, Gypsy 83, because distributors said it was "not gay enough" for the sorts of DVD vendors that were happy to push Edge. With his third film, he rose to the challenge of making the gayest film ever, 2006's Another Gay Movie. He's back this year with the follow-up, Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild! picking up the same foursome of boys, now in college and no longer virgins, going on spring break to Fort Lauderdale.

Unfortunately, three of the four original cast members backed out of the sequel, two of them at the last minute. While the replacements aren't close lookalikes, they did an admirable job of capturing the mannerisms of the original characters, making it somewhat easier to keep track of who was which. Scott Thompson and Lypsinka are back as Andy's parents (although it's a new Andy), and RuPaul, The Lady Bunny, and Brent Corrigan splish-splash their way on the screen. The story line, though, lacks the freshness of the first film, making it a bit harder work to get the laughs that came so easily last time. It's largely a case of "sequel-itis," although it didn't help that I'm much less familiar with the source material being spoofed this time around: shifting from American Pie and the John Hughes movies to Annette Funicello and Beach Blanket Bingo, is bound to lose some of your target market. Where Another Gay Movie was an out-of-the-park home run, the sequel is at best an infield double. It may have a very limited theatrical release, and the DVD is due around Christmas. Recommended

Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild! dir. Todd Stephens, 2008 USA 90 min.; official website

update: I recently saw Another Gay Sequel (now out on DVD), and it fares much better standing on its own than watching it soon after having watched Another Gay Movie — the casting changes are much less jarring if the first film is not quite as fresh in your mind. In particular, my friends who had not seen the original at all, found the sequel very enjoyable. By all means, see both movies — just not back-to-back!

Technorati tags: , ,

Over Da Rainbow

(screened before Another Gay Sequel)

Rapper Terrier (teh-ree-AY) has a music video for his new song, "Kill Faggots" off the triple-platinum album hoMOFObic, with lyrics like "a butthole ain't no buffet meal" and "stuff faggots' ass up with electric eels." Terrier wants to sample the 1980's "hair metal" song "Teri Why," but he must get Max Lightning's widow Theresa to sign off. She agrees on the condition that he reunite her with her estranged son Christopher, a gay-rights activist and childhood friend of Terrier's. Gee, do you suppose the lyric "so deviant, so sinister, that's why I love killin' faggots named Christopher" might have some relevance to the plot line?

It's a satire of the world of rap, where song lyrics are often only slightly less violently homophobic than this parody. I'm not at all sure, though, that people seeing the video by itself on the web (yes, it's out there) will grasp the context, even with the "" logo in the corner of the video, if they don't read the notes below it. I certainly hope that it will provoke the discussion it aims to begin, and perhaps shame some of the real rappers into selling music instead of hate. Recommended, with a caveat regarding extremely offensive content.

Over Da Rainbow, dir. Jay Lap, 2007 USA 20 min.

Technorati tags: , ,

Dyke Delights (2008)

Menopausal Gals Gone Wild: Who says that only college co-eds get to whoop it up and show some skin? We've got hot flashes! We don't need no steenkin' tampons! It's all in the flavor of those obnoxious late-night TV ads, but with a highly subversive twist — although you can get your MMGW merchandise, including shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, and fridge magnets. Cute and funny, highly recommended
Menopausal Gals Gone Wild, dirs. Donna Marie Nudd & Diane Wilkins, 2007 USA 4 min.

Crafty: an activist with a petition for E.R.T.V.S. — Equal Rights This Very Second — shows up on a woman's doorstep and decides that she wants more than just her signature. It includes such educational gems as the factoid that women in same-sex relationships are 70% less likely to be attacked by sharks. An excellent mix of sex and politics, MUST SEE
Crafty, dir. Erik Gernand, 2008 USA 9 min.

Toi et Moi: dance-offs and drag queens, in a music video style, set in Portland, Oregon, but with really bad French accents. Amusing; recommended
Toi et Moi, dir. Ali Cotterill, 2007 USA 3 min.

Social Conflict Management: a 1950's-style educational film, instructing young people on how to deal with some awkward situations. Cute, well done, highly recommended
Social Conflict Management, dir. Dagny Thompson, 2005 Canada 8 min.

Lezbro: Don't Cha Know: Gay men have their "fag hags," but what do you call a straight man who hangs around with lesbians? He's a lezbro! A fun testament to cross-community harmony, highly recommended
LezBro: Don't Cha Know, dirs. Melinda Bagatelos & Dara Sklar, 2008 USA 10 min.

A Work in Progress: two writers with a past are thrown together to work on a project, with cinematic nods to D.E.B.S. and Go Fish. Highly recommended
A Work in Progress, dir. Keshia Coe, 2008 USA 8 min.

Worst Case Scenario: Femme Edition: How do you, as a femme dyke, get that butch dyke to notice you? This black-and-white Super-8 instructional film will get you started. "Oh, didn't I see you at Moist Wet Pussysnatch [club]?" Very funny, MUST SEE
Worst-Case Scenario: Femme Edition, dir. Mary Guzman, 2008 USA 5 min.

Op. by Invis. HandsOperated by Invisible Hands: Two dolls come to terms with the existential angst around feeling like you're being controlled by an unseen force, as if your life isn't your own and you have no free will. Brilliant script, hilarious, MUST SEE
Operated by Invisible Hands, dir. Nicole Brending, 2007 USA 7 min.

Love Sucks: For two lesbian vampires, it can be a real challenge to keep the relationship fresh, even with some help from a couples counselor, especially when they're trying to be socially responsible vampires, keeping live feedings to a minimum. Funny, well done, highly recommended
Love Sucks, dirs. Ingrid Jungermann & Sara Winters, 2008 USA 10 min.

Sheep & Ranch HandThe Sheep and the Ranch Hand: A Sexyqueer Love Story: You'll never hear the words "rack of lamb" quite the same way again, not to mention "C'mere, ewe!" A woman dreams of being a sheep, shacking up with a female ranch hand. Lots of little touches, several laugh-out-loud moments, MUST SEE
The Sheep and the Ranch Hand: A Sexyqueer Love Story, dir. Loretta Hintz, 2008 USA 14 min.

King County: The challenge: find a bad 80's movie to turn into a Broadway-style stage musical for a Seattle audience. How about Top Gun as performed by butch lesbians? Or maybe an all-bear version of Showgirls. Fun, well done, highly recommended
King County, dir. David Quantic, 2007 USA 7 min.

The Vicious & the Delicious: An Australian soap opera, with some over-the-top plot twists, including a whole new meaning to "I'll rip your throat out!" It drags on a bit long, though, and not all of the gags work. No recommendation.
The Vicious & the Delicious, dir. Tonnette Stanford, 2007 Australia 11 min.

"Dyke Delights" (2008) (shorts program)

Technorati tags: , ,


Sonja is a 16-year-old girl who can't seem to fit in. She is alienated from friends and family alike, indifferent to her boyfriend, but irresistibly drawn to her friend Julia. She writes in her diary about her feelings for Julia, but her mother snoops and scowls, leading Sonja to take a holiday with her father. While at the beach house, she decides to try out this whole heterosexuality thing, but with a rather iffy older man. The teen angst is palpable throughout the film, but I didn't really get a good sense of the characters; in particular, the decision to have sex with a man seemed abrupt and lacking in context. I also felt that the film tried to say too much with wistful glances that ought to have been conveyed in dialogue. Recommended

Sonja, dir. Kirsi Marie Liimatainen, 2007 Germany 73 min., in German with English subtitles
view trailer

Technorati tags: , ,

Friday, June 27, 2008

Worldly Affairs (2008)

"Worldly Affairs" (2008) shorts program of international films

Tá: Two young men gather in a toilet stall to snort some cocaine and talk about sex. One asks the other to help him get aroused, but it takes a bit of work. Very cute boys, and a nice surprise ending; highly recommended
, dir. Felipe Sholl, 2007 Brazil 5 min., in Portuguese with English subtitles

HerzHaft: The 33yo soccer coach and a 15yo member of the team are having an affair, but things get dicey when the boy's (lesbian) mother finds out. Treads deftly between the extremes of NAM­BLA's view that children's sexuality is the same as adults' and the religious right's view that children have no sexu­al­ity at all; the reality is far more complicated. Excellent, MUST SEE
HerzHaft, dir. Martin Busker, 2007 Germany 15 min., in German with English subtitles

Bramadero: Two men find a con­struc­tion site where they can explore their passion for each other. No dialogue at all, and no shortage of skin. However, the film seems to mistake slow motion for emotional intensity, and the lack of dialogue ultimately results in a lack of storyline. Eye candy aside, is this porn trying to pretend to be art or art trying to be porn? My recommendation: choose one or the other, because Bramadero fails at trying to be both. Not recommended
Bramadero, dir. Julián Hernández, 2007 Mexico 22 min., no dialogue

Bonne Mère: The Frameline program says only this: "Alfred leaves northern France for Marseille to look for his mother." She works as a prostitute, and he changes his name and becomes a hooker, too, to be just like dear old Mom. I just didn't see any point to it; my reaction is summed up in a single word: "Huh??" Not recommended
Bonne Mère, dir. Maxime Desmons, 2008 Canada 3 min., in French with English subtitles

The Postcard (그림엽서): Last year, filmmaker Josh Kim presented his first short, The Police Box; he's back with another fun short this year. A young man comes into the post office day after day to send a series of postcards with highly personal messages but only an address with no name. The gossipy female clerks try to figure out which of them he's flirting with, never guessing the truth, until things come to a head. Highly recommended
The Postcard, dir. Josh Kim, 2008 South Korea 15 min., in Korean with English subtitles

Lot's Wife: A young man's family comes to his tenement to "rescue" him from his life of "shame," living with another young man. His mother isn't sure how to act, so she just watches. Even at 9 minutes, this short felt more like a prelude than an actual story. Recommended
Lot's Wife, dirs. Koray Durak & Harjant Gill, 2008 Turkey 9 min., in Turkish with English subtitles

Country Life (Landleben) (Vie champetre): Julian, a shy country boy, just came out to his best friend Simone. She introduces him to another gay friend, but Julian meets his mismatch in the very urban party boy Adi. The two young men are worlds apart, one seeking quiet solitude in the mountains while the other looks for the gay clubs in the big city. Cute, fun, and funny, with very cute boys. MUST SEE
Country Life (Landleben) (Vie champetre), dir. Lukas Egger, 2007 Switzerland 16 min., in (Swiss) German with English subtitles

You, Me and Him (Café com Leite): A young man and his boyfriend are planning to move into an apartment together, finally getting out from under their respective parents' roofs. Their plans change suddenly, and the two lovers must learn to live with the kid brother, and decide what to do about their plans for a honeymoon trip. Very well done, although I thought the ending left a few too many loose ends. Highly recommended
You, Me and Him (Café com Leite), dir. Daniel Ribeiro, 2007 Brazil 18 min., in Portuguese with English subtitles

Technorati tags: , ,

Pride Weekend at Frameline32

a few selections for the final 3 days of the Frameline32 festival; note that I have only seen the ones marked with

6:00 Cas: ∗Were the World Mine, choreographed h.s. rugby team — you gotta see this!
9:00 Vic: Chris & Don, gay lit icon Christopher Isherwood & his lover (doc.)

11:00a Cas: ∗Yes, Nurse! No, Nurse! silly, campy, Dutch musical
1:15 Cas: ∗Sordid Lives, preview of the new TV series coming later this year
6:00 Cas: ∗Kinsey Sicks, behind-the-wigs look at drag-a-pella politics
6:00 Vic: ∗Jihad for Love, doc. about gay Muslims. NOTE: jihad does not mean what the US media think it means!
8:30 Cas: Another Gay Sequel, must-see follow-up to Another Gay Movie

SUNDAY (all at the Castro Theatre)
11:30a: ∗"Fun in Girls Shorts," some real gems, as usual
2:00: ∗"Fun in Boys Shorts," not as good as the Girls, but still worth seeing
4:30: ∗Derek, moving doc. on Derek Jarman, narrated by Tilda Swinton
7:30: ∗Breakfast with Scot, closeted jocks reluctantly take on a foster child who challenges them on many levels

Technorati tags: ,

Thursday, June 26, 2008

On the Other Hand, Death

here!TV, the gay premium cable channel, has been bringing author Richard Stevenson's mystery novels, centering on gay detective Donald Strachey, to television. On the Other Hand, Death is the latest, with Strachey (Chad Allen) caught up in a tangled web when his mystery client hires him to surveil a woman who turns out to be an undercover cop. In the mean time, a small-town lesbian couple (Margot Kidder and Gabrielle Rose) are facing homophobic vandalism, escalating to violent threats, plus angry parents upset that Kidder, a high-school guidance counselor, is telling her students about the Trevor Project, a crisis hotline for queer and questioning youth (1-866-4-U-TREVOR = 1-866-488-7386). Of course, there turns out to be a connection between the two threads, which Strachey uncovers — but not before a dead body turns up in Kidder and Rose's barn. It's an entertaining and engaging mystery story, in the tradition of Barnaby Jones or Columbo, but with a bit more of a noir aesthetic and a definite gay twist. Highly recommended

On the Other Hand, Death: A Donald Strachey Mystery, dir. Ron Oliver, 2008 USA 86 min.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band

If you know anything at all about gay rock'n'roll, you've undoubtedly heard of Pansy Division. They take a defiantly in-your-face-queer approach to making rock music, but equally eschew the disco / boy-band / synthpop aesthetic of much of queer music. This documentary is a history of the band, made by their friend Michael Carmona and band member Chris Freeman, tracking from the very beginning when Jon Ginoli was Pansy Division as a solo act, to teaming up with Freeman, through the succession of drummers, the tour opening for Green Day just as they started tearing up the charts, and the change of record labels. Bits of concert footage, mostly submitted by fans with video cameras, are interwoven with TV appearances, plus interviews specifically for this film. I've known Jon Ginoli for years and been a Pansy Division fan, but I learned quite a bit about the band's ups and downs. Highly recommended for any fan of rock'n'roll.

Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band, dir. Michael Carmona, 2007 USA 84 min.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives

Way back in 1977, the Mariposa Film Group interviewed 26 openly gay and lesbian people, from college-aged to senior citizens, about their lives. The result is a two-hour documentary that aired on PBS. In many respects, the interviewees are typical folks, but their candor about their sexuality was striking for the late 1970's. Some of them had stood up to oppression and violent homophobic attacks; for example, a woman who was in the WAC in World War II told of the soldiers who would attack the lesbians because they weren't making themselves sexually available for their pleasure. All of them displayed tremendous personal courage in standing up for themselves. In some ways, we are light years removed from the world of the 70's, as we fight for marriage equality and other issues that were not even on the radar back then, but it is important to remember our collective history, and Word is Out provides a priceless window into that era. MUST SEE

Word is Out, dir. Mariposa Film Group, 1977 USA 124 min., restored print; DVD release is planned

Technorati tags: , ,

Big Eden

Big Eden has the distinction of being my mother's favorite film ever from the Frameline festivals; in fact, it's one of only a very few I've ever gotten her to watch. Henry (Arye Gross, "Ellen") is an artist in New York City, looking forward to his big gallery opening with a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for root canals. The day before, he gets a call from Big Eden, his home town in the mountains of Montana, that his grandfather is dying, so he flies back, much to the dismay of his agent. He ends up staying for several months to care for "Sampa," and reconnects with some old friends, including his high-school crush Dean and the inscrutable Pike, now the owner of the general store. Henry is preoccupied with Dean, who is now divorced with two kids; in the mean time, Henry is oblivious to Pike's steady interest. The small town turns out to be very different from the redneck hellhole one might imagine, and it seems that the biggest obstacle to Henry's coming out is himself. It's a beautiful story, told flawlessly, down to the smallest details of plot, dialogue, costumes, and props. All of the major characters give award-worthy performances, and the film more than earned its thunderous standing ovation the first time it screened at the Castro, 2000-06-22. Definitely a MUST SEE, and a must for your DVD collection.

Big Eden, dir. Thomas Bezucha, 2000 USA 117 min.; view the trailer

Technorati tags: , ,

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Love to Keep (Electroshock)

Based on a true story, A Love to Keep begins in fascist Spain in the early 1970's. The two main characters are school teachers Elvira and Pilar, two women who live a quiet but happy life together until Pilar's parents intervene and have her shipped off to a psychiatric hospital for "treatment," including electroshock aversion therapy. She remains confined for over 4 years, finally released after Franco's death, as the fascists give way to a more open society and political system. However, she is a broken woman, beset by nightmares and sudden mood swings — side effects of the electroshock therapy — and their hopes for a happy life after their long-awaited reunion slowly unravel. It's a moving story, although heavily downbeat and at times difficult to watch. As a made-for-TV movie, the production values are a little rough around the edges, but the performances make up for those minor issues. Highly recommended

A Love to Keep (Electroshock), dir. Juan Carlos Claver, 2006 Spain 98 min., in Spanish with English subtitles

Technorati tags: , , ,

Ruby Blue

Jack (Bob Hoskins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) is a recent widower, still trying to regain his footing after his wife's death. He has a flock of racing pigeons in the back yard, but even they only barely hold his interest. A nosy little girl begins to draw him out of his shell, but it's Stephanie, the French divorcée across the street, who gently nudges him to re-engage with life, giving him several surprises, some pleasant and others unsettling. A teenaged hooligan-in-training comes under Jack's wing, learning how to care for and race the pigeons. Things get ugly when the little girl goes missing and rumors fly that Jack is a pedophile, but Stephanie and some of the neighborhood children stand up for him. It's well-written, with strong performances across the board, and a story of hope and connection; MUST SEE

Ruby Blue, dir. Jan Dunn, 2008 UK 112 min.

Technorati tags: , , ,

A Gay Old Time

"A Gay Old Time," a program of short films by or about older members of our LGBT community

Systolic/Diastolic (Sistole/Diastole): A short film dealing with end-of-life issues, including senility. Well done, highly recommended
Systolic/Diastolic (Sistole/Diastole), dir. Pelayo Muñiz, 2006 Spain 20 min., in Spanish with English subtitles

Forever's Gonna Start Tonight: (documentary) Vicki Marlane, at 71 "the oldest living, con­tin­u­ous­ly performing transgender drag performer" tells some tales, including Ethel Merman and the entire Broadway cast of Gypsy giving the female impersonators a standing ovation for their version. Highly recommended (also screened as part of the "Transtastic" shorts program)
Forever's Gonna Start Tonight, dir. Michelle Lawler, 2007 USA 9 min.

The Last Visit: a woman visits her bubbie (grandmother), wringing her hands as she brings the news, "Yes, bubbie, I met someone." Recom­men­ded
The Last Visit, dir. Bee Sack, 2007 Canada 5 min.

Congratulations, Daisy Graham: A schoolteacher is being honored for her many years of service, but she has something far more pressing to worry about (although she does pause long enough to correct the grammar in her congratulations letter): her partner fades in and out of contact with reality, sometimes violently. Daisy has a rifle and a box of bullets; how will she get out of this awful situation? Highly recom­men­ded
Congratulations, Daisy Graham, dir. Cassandra Nicolaou, 2007 Canada 15 min.

Downstream (Im Fluß): Two older women ponder the unthinkable: what will either of them do if the other passes away? Their lives are so interwoven after decades together that it's hard to imagine. We see them both literally and figuratively floating down the river of life together. Highly recom­men­ded
Downstream (Im Fluß), dirs. Claudia Lorenz & Cecilia Barriga, 2007 Switzerland 5 min., in German with English subtitles

Mirror Mirror: (no, not the famous Star Trek episode!) Joe has shared the last many years with his alter-ego Jana, but now he must kill off his inner drag queen. Highly recommended
Mirror Mirror, dir. John Winter, 2007 Australia 10 min.

Hello, My Name is Herman: I saw this one up in its native Toronto in May. The Queer Youth Digital Video Project helps a handful of young Torontonians make short films; Karine decided to introduce her grandfather to us. He's 91, and loves Karines's girlfriend almost as much as her. Definitely worth seeing twice; highly recommended
Hello, My Name is Herman, dir. Karine Silverwoman, 2007 Canada 10 min.

Just Me?: Am I really the only lesbian in the family, or is there something I should know about my great grandmother? It seems Nana had a "good friend" (and housemate and traveling companion) named Betty.... Excellent, MUST SEE
Just Me?, dir. Amy Neil, 2007 USA 22 min.

Technorati tags: , ,

Lilies (Les feluettes)

Lilies 1I was in the Castro Theatre on 1997-06-26, when Lilies played to an enthusiastic capacity crowd. Other movies have followed with some of the cinematic elements Lilies pioneered, but the film itself has lost none of its lustre. The setting is a Québec prison in 1952; the bishop has come, ostensibly to hear the confession of one of the prisoners, but he arrives to find the tables turned. The prisoner, the young man for whose murder he is imprisoned, and the bishop were boyhood schoolmates, and with help from the other inmates and the chaplain, the prisoner stages a play about their shared past. The top of the confession booth lifts off, and the bishop finds himself transported back to Roberval, on the shores of Lac St.-Jean. Lilies 2We see the young Bishop Bilodeau (Matthew Ferguson, Eclipse), wracked with jealousy over Simon's affection for Vallier. A variety of other characters enter the story, most notably a Parisian lady who arrives by hot-air balloon. The interplay between the characters in the flashback and the present, weaves an enchanting tapestry, drawing the viewer completely into its world. Flawless performances, exquisite cinematography, a compelling story, and a liberal sprinkling of eye candy, justify not only Lilies' place in the pantheon of gay cinema, but also its Genie® award (Canada's answer to the Oscars®). Any serious gay film buff must have Lilies in the DVD collection. MUST SEE

Lilies (Les feluettes), dir. John Greyson, 1996 Canada 95 min.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

She's a Boy I Knew

She's a Boy I Knew is a transgender documentary with a major twist: the filmmaker is not only transgedered herself, she is the subject, giving a much closer first-person narrative than any other similar work I've seen. Gwen Haworth began life as Steven, and she uses family photos and videos and interviews to explore the emotional dimensions of her transition, not only in her life but in the lives of the people around her. Steven's wife Malgosia is supportive, but she fell in love with a man and isn't sure she wants to stay married to a woman, Gwen's father speaks of his feelings of losing a son even as he embraces his new daughter, but Gwen's friend Roari is a champion of acceptance and support. Gwen herself is both an interesting subject and a capable filmmaker, creating a compelling documentary. MUST SEE

She's a Boy I Knew, dir. Gwen Haworth, 2007 Canada 70 min.

Technorati tags: , ,

Ready? OK!

Joshua is on the cusp of his 11th birthday, going to Catholic school, living with his single mother in Normal Heights, USA. But Joshua is not so much interested in being on the wrestling team, as in cheering the team on to victory. For Halloween, he goes to school dressed as Maria von Trapp from Sound of Music. He gets some help and support from his gay next-door neighbor Charlie (Michael Emerson, Lost), although his mother is clearly uneasy with the stereotypes her son's behavior plays into. Joshua does his best to tough it out, but it's clear that he doesn't belong on the "straight and narrow" path.

The backdrop of the family dynamic is a bit uneven, particularly the character of Joshua's vagrant loser uncle, who seems mostly to point up the lack of stable male role models in Joshua's life. But Lurie Poston as Joshua lights up the screen, leaping into the role with "gimme a V" V-E-R-V-E. (Remarkably, he was unable to attend the Frameline screening because he's away at football camp in South Carolina!) Look for him later this summer in the Will Ferrell movie Step Brothers. Michael Emerson plays the gay neighbor with quiet grace and understated elegance. Carrie Preston as the mother captures the uncertainty of trying to understand and deal with her son's likely homosexuality — how much should she try to butch him up? How much should she give him free rein to simply be himself, straight or gay, macho or sissy, quiet or flaming? Cute and sweet, with a strong child actor in a strong child role; highly recommended

Ready? OK!, dir. James Vasquez, 2008 USA 91 min.

Technorati tags: , ,


Before The Matrix trilogy or V for Vendetta, never mind Speed Racer, the Wachowski Brothers made a movie that remains a classic of lesbian film, pairing Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly as two small-time criminals with a plan to make their big score by putting one over on the Mob. Watching this film, you'd be hard-pressed to imagine that it was written and directed by a couple of straight boys making their second feature film. The heat between Gershon and Tilly is so intense, it's a wonder the screen doesn't melt. There are some gruesome scenes of violence, too, but the center of the story is the pas-de-deux of these two women figuring out how far they can trust one another, both in love and in crime. A dozen years later, it's a real treat to see it in 35mm on a big screen, even though it's already in any serious queer film buff's DVD collection. MUST SEE

Bound, dirs. Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski, 1996 USA 108 min., available on DVD

Technorati tags: , , ,

Monday, June 23, 2008

Oh Happy Day

It's a nightmare scenario for any closeted office worker: Saturday's one-night stand turns up on Monday, the big new client your boss expects you to reel in. Jonathan, the advertising director, faces an impossible task, working with a man with whom he shares an unmistakable passion without either running afoul of company non-fraternization policies or alienating the client. Throw in some complications from Jonathan's co-workers, and you have the makings of a right mess. I couldn't help feeling, though, that Jonathan's stodgy stiffness (in public, anyway) gave the film a bit too much of the aspect of feeling trapped in an untenable position, not leaving the humor enough air to fully breathe. Still, it's a solid comedy; highly recommended

Oh Happy Day, dir. Ian Poitier, 2007 UK 100 min.

Technorati tags: , ,

Steam (dir. Kyle Schickner)

Three very different women — a college student, a single mother, and a widow — meet in the steam room, hoping to melt away their troubles. Elizabeth, the college freshman, is struggling to break loose from her controlling, narrow-minded parents, and her world is rocked when she meets a seductive activist. Laurie (Ally Sheedy) is trying to cope with her ex-husband's efforts to use their son to get back at her, even as she begins a tricky relationship with the son's soccer coach, a man closer to her son's age than to her own. Doris (Ruby Dee) spends her days avoiding the church busybody committee until she meets a new man. All three stories are engaging and well told, with a wonderful performance especially by Ruby Dee. MUST SEE

Steam, dir. Kyle Schickner, 2007 USA 117 min., view the trailer

Technorati tags: , ,

Simply Love (Gewoon Liefde)

Forty-some years ago, Marcel and Marijke met at a summer camp and fell in love. Circumstances separated them, and each married and had children. In 1993, Marcel was the subject of the documentary A Change of View (Anders Bekeken), following him on his transition to Marcella. Now, Marijke's husband has died, leaving her to wonder what ever became of Marcel. She writes a letter, which reaches Marcella, and they rekindle their romance, not skipping a beat over the change from "boy meets girl" to "two older women." Some tensions arise, of course, as they try to figure out how to fashion their new life together, with Marcella's ex-wife still in the picture. Of course, in the Netherlands, marriage is an option, and that brings up further issues. Simply Love is an engaging portrait of an extraordinary love story; highly recommended

Simply Love (Gewoon Liefde), dir. Eveline van Dijck, 2007 Netherlands 50 min., in Dutch with English subtitles

Technorati tags: , , ,

Envisioning Justice: the journey of a transgendered woman

Pauline Park has a pretty incongruous life story. She was a Korean orphan, but grew up with Lutheran adoptive parents in Wisconsin, eventually coming to terms with being a transwoman. She has picked up the baton, though, and run with it, becoming an outspoken activist on transgender and other issues, co-founding NYAGRA, the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy. Envisioning Justice is a compelling portrait of this remarkable activist; highly recommended

Envisioning Justice: the journey of a transgendered woman, dir. Larry Tung, 2008 USA/Taiwan 32 min.

Technorati tags: , ,

Law of Desire (La Ley del deseo)

Monday, June 23, 1:45 pm, Castro Theatre

Law of Desire wasn't director Pedro Almodóvar's first feature film by a longshot, but it is the one that brought him to the attention of a wider American audience, in large part thanks to Michael Lumpkin and Frameline. It also brought actor Antonio Banderas to our screens, long before he became fluent in English. The story is almost as crazy as Banderas' character, a stalker obsessed with Pablo Quintero, a gay filmmaker. (Hmm, I wonder who that could represent...) The wonderful Carmen Maura, one of the director's favorite actors, plays Pablo's MtF sister. Throw in a few other of Almodóvar's signature "crazy but somehow still functional" characters, and you have a classic. MUST SEE

A few of my favorite Almodóvar films: What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Dark Habits, Volver, Bad Education, Labyrinth of Passion [22yo Antonio Banderas playing a gay Islamic terrorist in 1982!]

Law of Desire (La Ley del deseo), dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1987 Spain 102 min., in Spanish with English subtitles

available on DVD

Technorati tags: , , ,

Sunday, June 22, 2008

All My Life

Frameline describes All My Life as "epic in length"; unfortunately, that's not so much for having 2½ hours worth of story to tell, but for lack of an editor with the detachment to cut some of the many, many places where the film bogs down, often in repetitive scenes. It's a basic rule of film-making: if the filmmaker is also the editor, he or she is often too emotionally enmeshed with every frame to make the difficult decisions necessary to pare it down to a watchable length. There's probably a good, solid 90-minute film to be made from this footage, but by the time I finally walked out a little past the 2-hour mark, I was about ready never to set foot in a theatre again.

On the positive side, All My Life is ground-breaking for its open and explicit portrayal of gay men in Egypt, and it grapples with what has to be one of the most gut-wrenching decisions imaginable: stay in the land of my birth, despised and oppressed for my sexuality, risking arrest, blackmail, or even torture and death — or emigrate to a land where I can be openly gay but where every other aspect of my culture is alien and where I may be despised and oppressed as a foreigner. The shoestring budget of the film shows through, but that isn't enough to spoil it. If Maher Sabry brings on someone else to do a re-edit down to 90 or 100 minutes, I'll give this film a "highly recommended," but at 150 minutes, I have to say not recommended.

All My Life (طول عمري), dir. Maher Sabry, 2008 Egypt/US 150 min.

Technorati tags: , ,

Drifting Flowers (Piao Lang Qing Chun) (漂浪青春)

It seems I am fated not to see this film in its entirety. I gave up my ticket for the screening at InsideOut in Toronto last month, I tried unsuccessfully to check out a press screener before the Frameline festival, and I left early from the Castro Theatre screening in order to catch a feature at the Victoria. I did see the first of the three segments of Drifting Flowers, but missed the other two.

In the first segment, we see two orphaned girls: Jing, a nightclub singer who also happens to be blind, and Meigo, her younger sister, just on the cusp of puberty. The two face a daunting challenge, trying to take care of one another, leading Jing to make the wrenching decision to place Meigo in foster care with a wealthy family. But there is a third player in the domestic drama: Chalkie, a butch musician from the nightclub. Chalkie is chasing after Jing, but Meigo has a crush on Chalkie and is bitterly jealous of her sister.

The character of Jing comes across as woefully lacking in self-confidence, forced to rely on others for her day-to-day well-being, but the callous indifference of the strangers she encounters on the street makes that seem more a question of environment and less a matter of personal shortcomings, softening my usual distaste for "shrinking violet" characters. Meigo is a barrel full of monkeys, ready to burst forth at any moment with a torrent of dammed up energy, but yearning for something more. Chalkie appears as the ticket to stability, but only for one or the other sister.

Based only on the first ⅓ of the film, I'd recommend it, although I would hope for some stronger characters in the other two segments.

漂浪青春 (Piao Lang Qing Chun) (Drifting Flowers), dir. 周美玲 (Zero Chou), 2007 Taiwan 97 min., in Taiwanese (臺灣話) with English subtitles; Official website

Technorati tags: , , , ,

When I Knew

"When did you know you were gay or lesbian?" It's one of the ubiquitous questions any out-of-the-closet queer has heard a thousand times. For me, there is no simple answer, since it was a gradual dawning masked by the equally gradual erosion of an elaborate system of denial and concealment of the truth even from myself. Documentary filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (everything from Party Monster [both the documentary and the feature film] to The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and many more) let a succession of people sit down in front of a camera and give their answers. Since there's only one question, there's no need for an interviewer. The answers run the gamut from poignant to funny, but they all shed light on the experience of realizing that you're profoundly different from the other boys and girls around you.

In addition to the main screening, the filmmakers set up a video booth at the Frameline festival, allowing quite a few of this year's attendees to see themselves on the screen. MUST SEE

When I Knew, dirs. Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato, 2008 USA 35 min.
When I Knew: Stories from Frameline32 Patrons, dirs. Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato, 2008 USA 30 min.
Filmmakers' Official Website

Technorati tags: , ,

It's STILL Elementary

In 1996, Debra Chasnoff made the documentary It's Elementary, exploring the ways a few courageous teachers and schools presented gay and lesbian issues in age-appropriate contexts for elementary school children. It was controversial, to say the least, sending right-wing groups into apoplexy. Since then, the film, and a shorter version edited for presentation to educators, have been percolating through the schools, so Chasnoff made a follow-up to explore the impact of the first film. We get to talk with several of the original kids, although the "no big whoop" kid declined to be interviewed on camera.

It's Elementary presented with stunning clarity the reality that it is possible to talk to young children about gay and lesbian issues, without getting into sexual material beyond their grade level. Kids need to know that there are some families that have two moms or two dads instead of one of each, and that it doesn't make them monsters. They also need to be taught, not just as a one-time lesson but as an immutable part of the background of their education, that using a slur based on perceived sexual orientation is no more acceptable than using a racial slur. It's STILL Elementary puts the lesson in context and gives some good follow-up, showing teachers who have gotten into hot water over their lessons as well as educators with much more positive experiences. MUST SEE, especially for educators and parents.

It's STILL Elementary, dir. Debra Chasnoff, 2008 USA 51 min.
It's Elementary, dir. Debra Chasnoff, 1996 USA 37 min. [abridged version]
Filmmaker's official website

Technorati tags: , , ,

Dottie's Magic Pockets/Buddy G

Frameline pulled together a program of "family"-friendly family-friendly television: in other words, children's shows that validate and celebrate families with same-sex parents.

What happens when a stay-at-home lesbian mom sprinkles some enchanted glitter around her lonely living room while her partner and son are off to work and school? She gets to sing and play with her new magic friends, learning about life and the world. I'm past my second childhood, not yet into my third, and I don't have kids in my life right now, so take my perspective with a grain of salt; that said, I didn't find it engaging, and the kids in the audience seemed at best tepid in their response. The flower has an annoying faux-Frahnsh accent, and a song about being yourself carried an undertone of "don't try to be something different" that would be a terribly negative reinforcement for internalized transphobia, for a couple of examples. I think I'd flip channels to watch a re-run of Mister Rogers. Then again, it's still better than a lot of the junk television out there, particularly stuff with a much more blatantly heterocentrist worldview. No recommendation.

Buddy G is aimed at a slightly older audience, roughly kindergarten. Buddy lives with his two moms, having friends over for backyard adventures in his treehouse. The 3-D computer animation is reasonably well done, and the characters have some depth, too. In this sample episode, Buddy loses one of his moms' rings, and the whole family gets in on the search, assisted by Buddy's armband computer Socrates. It's cute and well presented; Recommended

"Dottie's Magic Pockets" (shorts program)

Dottie's Magic Pockets, episode: "Doing the Flower," dir. Andrea Maxwell, 2007 USA 23 min.
Dottie's Magic Pockets, episode: "Beat Beet," dir. Andrea Maxwell, 2007 USA 23 min.
Dottie's Magic Pockets official website
Buddy G, My Two Moms and Me, episode: "Lost Rings," dir. Margaux Towne-Colley, 2007 USA 11 min.
Buddy G official website

Technorati tags: , , ,

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Manuela y Manuel

Saturday, June 21, 9:00 pm, Castro Theatre, MANU21C
Monday, June 23, 9:30 pm, Elmwood Theatre (Berkeley), MANU23E

Manuela (Humberto Busto, Amores Perros) is a Puerto Rican drag queen, performing in a nightclub and living in a beautiful apartment, but all is not roses and champagne. Manuela's boyfriend Toño dumped her, the crazy landlady is after the rent, and her best friend Coca is pregnant after a one-night stand — but wants Manuela to put on boy drag and pretend to be the baby daddy, to conceal the truth from Coca's crazy parents. Toss in the landlady's crazy niece (pining for a husband who just left her), plus some unexpected cross-connections among the characters, add liquor, firearms, and taffeta, plus an over-the-top gringo businessman, and stand back and watch the soap-opera comedy spin. Laugh-out-loud funny (even though the subtitles — as always — miss a good few subtleties of the dialogue), but also an engaging and sometimes touching story. Humberto Busto is flawless, the costumes are great, and the dizzying pace of the screwball antics leaves just enough breathing room to recover before the next plot twist. MUST SEE

If you missed this one on Saturday, you get a second chance in the East Bay on Monday.

Manuela y Manuel, dir. Raúl Marchand Sánchez, 2007 Puerto Rico 94 min., in Spanish with English subtitles

Technorati tags: , ,

Out in India: a family's journey

Saturday, June 21, 6:00 pm, Roxie Theatre

When I first saw the description of this documentary, my initial reaction was, "Fight AIDS with art? What do you mean?" The answer to that question provides a compelling look into the creativity we need to tap into in order to address the worldwide AIDS crisis. The umbrella of "art" includes street theater, puppet shows, traditional painted teaching scrolls, dance performances, and other means of sneaking in a message that the audience might not pay attention to without the distraction of entertainment. A group of people in a town square aren't likely to listen attentively to a dry medical lecture, but they'll happily watch a show that presents much of the same information. In a country where HIV is running wild, with an estimated 90% of carriers unaware they're infected, we have to get the knowledge out there any way we can.

Out in India chronicles the journey of UCLA arts professor David Gere as he travels to India on a six-month fellowship to organize a conference, to gather together local artists from across India who are already using their talents to increase HIV/AIDS awareness, so they can compare notes and feel that they are part of a tangible movement. We get to go along for the ride, but we also see David's partner Peter and their two children as they navigate life in a foreign country, with the added challenge that David is traveling around India and both childcare and preschool are dicey propositions. In the end, David's Make Art/Stop AIDS conference is a huge success, splashed with a little extra glamor by a cameo appearance by David's brother Richard Gere, and Peter and the kids pull through unscathed.

Director Tom Keegan deftly weaves the personal with the global, bringing to life an issue that will reverberate through the 21st century. MUST SEE

Out in India, dir. Tom Keegan, 2008 USA 71 min.

Technorati tags: , , ,