DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of A Home at the End of the World, You I Love, Best of Schools, Poster Boy, Bear Cub, Straight Jacket, Tarnation, Cowboys and Angels, Testosterone, Brother to Brother, Summer Storm, Producing Adults, Eating Out, Sloppy Seconds, Saving Face, My Summer of Love, Heights, The Second Coming, Prom Queen, Three Dancing Slaves, Hate Crime, Guys and Balls, Bulgarian Lovers , Ethan Green, Ordinary Sinner, Hard Pill , Keep Not Silent: Ortho-Dykes , Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School , Same Sex America, Dorian Blues , Garcon Stupide , I Can’t Marry You , Saints + Sinners, Ben & Arthur, Tying the Knot, V for Vendetta, The Truth About Jane , Circuit, Another Gay Movie, Gays Gone Wild, [The Big Gay Musical], Queens, But I’m a Cheerleader, Jam, Blueprint, Puccini for Beginners, Coming Out, Colour Me Kubrick, Boy Culture, The Yacoubian Building, Shelter, Phoenix, Gone but not Forgotten, Outing Riley, Nina’s Heavenly Delights, 200 America, Slutty Summer, 2 Minutes Late, You Belong to Me , In the Blood, Rock Haven, Little Ashes, An Englishman in New York, Mr. Right, The Swimsuit Issue , The Kids Are All Right, Patrik Age 1.5, Undertow

 

Title:  A Home at the End of the World

Release Date:  2004

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: 120 min

MPAA Rating: R

Distributor and Production Company:  Warner Independent Pictures

Director; Michael Mayer, based on a novel by Michael Cunningham

Producer:

Cast:  Erik Smith, Harris Allen, Sissy Spacek,, Robert Wright Penn

Technical:

Relevance to doaskdotell site:  HIV, homosexuality and teens

Review:

A Home at the End of the World (2004, Warner Brothers Independent Pictures, R, 120 min, dir. Michael Mayer, written by and based on a novel by Michael Cunningham) presents the dramatic possibilities of the reunion of boyhood or high school best friends. Now one way this can go is if one friend is married with kids and the other friend is gay and then draws him out, but here the situation is more subtle. Bobby Morrow and Jonathan Glover will watch their lives time out at they grow closer again, as family dies away in various tragedies and waits for them. This is a kind of gay “Terms of Endearment.” They wind up living together in a rural house in upstate New York in 1982, about the time that AIDS is still called GRID, and they both have lesions that look like Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Now Jonathan is openly gay, where as Bobby is ambiguous, trying female attachments in his young manhood despite reuniting with Jonathan when moving to the East Village in NYC.

Bobby’s history goes back to 1967, where his admired brother acts cool about free love in his presence (inviting him into bed after sex with a girl friend) but will die in a tragic accident at a party when he runs into a sliding class door, pulls a chard out of his juggler vein and dies. Bobby and Jonathan pick up in 1974 as Erik Smith plays the teenage Bobby and Harris Allen plays Jonathan. The physical transformations into manhood by the actors are subtle and interesting—as is a scene where they explore tenderness in the bedroom. Bobby learns cooking from Jonathan’s mother (Sissy Spacek), and he really likes to cook—it becomes his livelihood.  By 1982 when Colin Farrell and Dallas Roberts take over, the transformation is complete, but Jonathan seems to be aging faster. It is Jonathan’s turn for family loss, as they travel to Phoenix, and the Arizona sequences provide for some visual treats taking advantage of the full widescreen format.  The female queen Clare (Robin Wright Penn) loves both men and provides a baby, with a certain amount or irony. The experimental family will provide a real life, but for tragedy; it will have to go away (the baby is taken, literally) as Jonathan gets sick and then maybe Bobby.

This is a story of tenderness, of people making their own choices, and their turning out tragic. The ending is ambiguous enough, though, that they could have survived. But for the moralists who want to claim that their choices lead to their young demise, there is no real defense.

You I Love (Ya lyublu tebya) (2004, Picture This! Dir Olga Stolpovskaya, Dmitry Troitsky, Russia, R) provides a bit of gay love intrigue and family retribution in neo-capitalist Russia. Timofey, a young advertising executive, strikes a young zoo worker, Kalmyk, from the Russian steppes, and this leads to a comic love triangle (with a woman), until Kalmyk’s uncle tricks him back home to Siberia for retribution for being gay. Ironically, the “cure” is to join the Army (but the film rather stops there for a happy ending, rather than taking the family issues as far as some other films on this page). The on-location and detailed cinematography offers sweeping vistas of Moscow and the arctic taiga.

Best of Schools (Grand Ecole) (2003, Pyramide/Eden Films, dir. Robert Salls, play and screenplay Jean-Marie Besset,  France, hard R) presents a polygon of young adults, many of them students in a college business academy, in a complicate bisexual love network that is supposed to parallel the business concepts (“Hostile takeovers” “leveraged buyouts” “swaps”) being taught in the b-school. Agnes (Alice Taglioni) plays one boyfriend, the buff-blonde Paul (Gregori Baquet) against his water-polo perhaps straight boyfriend Louis (Jocelyn Quivrin), in a mismash that also brings in an Arab construction worker and painter Mecir (Salim Kechiouche).  The confrontations are loaded with erotic potential (and outright nudity) but the French stylization and over-manipulation tends to weaken the story’s beats and the stakes for the characters, so the move leaves one wanting to have seen “more”—subtlety, that is.

Poster Boy (2004, Shallow Pictures, dir. Zak Tucker, with Matt Newton, Michael Lerner, Jack Noseworthy, 95 min, HDCAM, rec. PG-13), presents family and political drama, as a kind of sociology lesson. Jack Klay aka Jesse Helms runs for re-election as a religious right Republican U.S. Senator and enlists his appealing son Henry (Matt Newton) to be his poster boy in a show of family solidarity. Well, Henry is gay, and very much of the assertive kind—Matt Newton plays the role out rather like Matt Damon. He is first trailed to Palm Springs, when he reacts by setting his straight friend laid with a hooker. When he meets ACT-UP activist Anthony (Jack Noseworthy), he falls for a trap without knowing that Anthony is really gay. There is a big first screen kiss. The intimate scenes are handled with great tenderness, within PG-13, and that adds to the eroticism of the film, although there are some minor technical gaffes (regarding underwear that is sometimes on and sometimes not) in the film editing. The outdoor scenes in Palm Springs, including the windmill farms, are interesting; the film is told by Henry to a reporter in New York City with Henry as a limited observer.

Bear Cub (Cachorro) (2004, TLA, Studio Canal, Spain, Cinemascope, digital, rec. hard R, dir. Miguel Albaladejo ). Well, a lot of us gays are attracted to hairy men, but I don’t know why they need to be “big,” like ursa--- they could better be tall and lean for my taste. But Pedro (Jose Luis Garcia Perez), a fortyish dentist in Madrid, enjoys an active sex life and, we learn, has become HIV+.  And, well, is he really a bear, when his chest looks shaved? (There are two scenes that seem to reinforce that observation.) His 11-year-old nephew Bernardo (David Castillo) comes to stay with him while his New Age mom travels to India. She gets busted for marijuana possession and kept in jail, so Pedro winds up with the prospect of raising his nephew as a single gay “father.” Devoted he is, until the ‘wicked grandmother” tries to blackmail him (by following him into the bushes with private detectives) to get partial custody. Bernardo will go to Valencia for boarding school and do well, and the resulting teenager (Daniel Llobregat, maybe another rising star will make quite a character impression at the film’s denouement. Bernardo, it is said, is immune to HIV because of his mother’s infection at birth, a medical possibility that seems to suggest another strategy for a vaccine. This film is very well done technically, with expansive shots of Spanish cities and coast near the end, and detailed indoor sets with very subtle colors and hues, managed by careful film editing and stock. Spain is presented as a super-modern country, very mainline European, in quite a contrast to Mexico and Latin America. It is refreshing to see major European filmmakers willing to go to the edge and getting the budgets to do so. I’d like to see more film from the Bilbao and San Sebastian area. IMDB shows another film, 1996, by the same name.

Straight-Jacket (2004, Regent Pictures/Here!/SRO Pictures [which has a trademark that looks like Paramount Classics], dir. Richard Day, 99 min. PG-13, Cinemascope) is a situation comedy whose closest heterosexual analogue is Down With Love. This looks like the 50s Twentieth Century Fox comedies, down to all the interior décor with wide shots and lots of detail and color shades. The story is an easy set-up: Heart-throb Guy Stone (aka Rock Hudson, maybe) ((Matt Letscher) has been leading a closet gay life. When he is “found out” at a police bar raid, the studio sets him up with a manufactured marriage, a one-year contract, to Sally (Carrie Preston). His rules: no snooping, separate beds, and no babies!!  Gay life continues when he meets a handsome gay screenwriter Jack (Freddie Stevens), who is disillusioned that Hollywood wants to corrupt his novel (“Working America”) to please the Tall Gunner Joe McCarty censors (don’t mention “unions”). At one point, he considers whether he should ever write again. Stone gets caught again—it seems to be people’s jobs to catch queers and spread scandal about them in Hollywood—and he winds up testifying in Congress before McCarthy, made up with green paste. He is asked to name names (of other commie homosexuals—translate as homosexuals in the military) for a witch-hunt. He refuses, and gives an impassioned speech, that “we mean you no harm, and you can’t say the same about yourselves.” It reminds me of Jim Carry in The Majestic. You come away with the impression that homophobia then was just an easy way to make money, to play on straight men’s fears of physical failure. One other thing, is all that body shaving, the no-hair-on-his-chest rule, I guess. The movie opens with Stone in bed with another man who looks like a clone of himself—and of Victor Mature. It seems like in the 1950s you couldn’t let some housewife in Peoria see what nature gave you and what you have that women don’t. There was a short story, “The Body Shave,” in 1984 in one of the gay mags (I think In Touch) that made this point.  The film never does show actual sex acts and is so innocent that it should get a PG-13. Look up “Strait-Jacket” on IMDB.

Tarnation (Wellspring, dir. Jonathan Cauoette, exc prod Gus Van Sant, 88 min, NR but should be R) is an interesting collage assembled from home movies (in various formats, from digital video to super 8 to older 8 mm) by a growing boy and young man (31 at the time of filming) of his history with his psychotic mother Renee.  Her descent into madness may have been induced by shock treatments and horrible mismanagement by both family and the Texas mental health system back in the 70s. Jonathan, who was gay, had to go through horrible perambulations but eventually became a productive young man as an actor and was gradually able to help take of her with his lover.  Now, the right wing often argues that the need to care for family members is easier for offspring who have their own large families, but this film makes a legitimate counter-case, that his being gay gave him the flexibility and access to unusual resources to help his mother. Much of the story is told with simply worded subtitles, and much of the video is very grainy indeed, to the point of annoyance, but then the autobiographically-driven message seems to justify the technique. Filmed largely around Houston and in New York. There is a line where Jonathan says to his mother, “It’s not your fault”—that comes from the script of “Good Will Hunting,” Van Sant’s masterpiece.

Cowboys & Angels (2003, TLA, dir. David Gleeson, 89 min, R) gets us rooting for a young (straight) civil servant Shane (Michael Legge) in Limerick, Ireland. To save money, he moves in as a roommate with a young gay man Vincent (Allen Leech), a fashion designer (stereotyped). They warm up to each other quickly anyway, as Vincent tries the “queer eye for the straight guy” makeover. Shane focuses on his desire to quit civil service and go to art school, and, well, he needs money. He gets involved in drug running (as a “cowboy”) after a chance encounter with a neighbor (who later turns out to be gay and will try to “do him”). Vincent, in the meantime, is busting forth to get his fashion show done. Vincent (the gay one) turns out to be much more stable (the “angel”), as Shane starts getting into trouble. One early scene shows Vincent picking up an older man at a mixed bar (well defended by bouncers) who tries to strip off his shirt and says “I’ll buy you a new one.” That turns out to be critical as Shane drags Vincent into trouble too, and, well, the screenplay here needs a big character-driven payoff and it gets one. There are two other films in IMDB called “Cowboys and Angels.”

Testosterone ((“Testosterona”, 2003, Strand Releasing / Blue Streak, dir. David Moreton, USA/Argentina, English/Spanish, 105 min, R) is a pretty weird comedy/drama about masculine gays—about the fusion of macho masculinity of the “pink pistols” variety and aesthetic male homosexuality. The opening credits, in fact, present woodcut-like artwork showing gay men in various embraces, one hairy and one smooth—hence the movie’s title. Dean Seagrave (played with great charisma by hairy-chested David Sutcliffe) is a well-to-do successful gay novelist and artist living in the ephemeral spring-like world of LA and West Hollywood. As the movie develops, we ask ourselves—is this just and S&M game played by a good person trying to keep what is his, or is Dean basically criminal? More than a gay soap opera about jealousy, this movie plays with our notions of right and wrong in comic yet earnest fashion. One night his smooth Latino boyfriend Pablo (Antonio Sabato, Jr.) disappears when he goes out for cigarettes (why do screenwriters of gay movies have to keep their characters using tobacco?—the use thankfully really is going down in the real world). Dean quickly jets to Buenos Aires to hunt him down, since he has some clues as to his rich family background. The on-location scenes in what used to be one of the world’s most beautiful cities is are quite captivating. Along the way he meets other female and gay male characters, as well as Pablo’s mother who stonewalls him. One such character is the ambivalently masculine Marcos (Leonardo Brzezicki) who starts out as a fan of Dean’s book but draws him into sexual (and later “pink pistols”) teasing that director Moreton draws out. They go on the road, into the pampas at a couple of rich estates, to look for Pablo. This gets to be the real South America. Finally, Dean and Marcos have a fight that turns into a love scene on the floor. Several times in the movie we see gay character’s shirts get stripped off as if they were on dance floors. Finally, well, Pablo has gone straight on him and gotten married, heterosexually, for reasons of money and family name—well, maybe not so straight. The ending is indeed ambiguous—will a jealous Dean really cut Pablo up into itty bitty pieces as a memento? There are feints and twists in the plot that make it complicated and weird, all to make you laugh a little, cry a little. Does this bizarre yet spectacular and rather erotic movie really work? It does for me, finally, and it gives me encouragement (for my own work) that this movie got funded, made, and commercially distributed.

 Brother to Brother (2004, Wolfe/C-Hundred, dir. Rodney Evans, 16 mm, NR but recommend R, about 90 min) provides the moviegoer with “intersection data” between African-American issues and gay issues. Yes, there is tension between gay blacks and the larger black community (which can be outrighly hostile to homosexuals), and there is a relationship of sorts here between a black and a white gay man, but what is interesting is the way the film provides an outsider’s view of the entire Civil Rights movement and the honesty thereof with which the media portrays it. I’m getting ahead of myself, and the movie’s website (link above) gives a detailed synopsis of the layered (after the manner of Adaptation) plot, but I want to make a few points.

Early on, Perry (Anthony Mackie), a young black man, is attending college, especially a heated political science class, and meets Jim (Alex Burns), a tall, gangly white student. Soon they have an intimate encounter in Perry’s room. There are details here—like no food or drink in a dorm room??—odd) and I personally think the scene could have been even more intimate without crossing the line---although Jim will apparently not get as close to Perry as Perry would like. (Although that almost happens—Jim, in bed in a tender scene, says as he strokes Perry, “You are so beautiful… your skin is so smooth.”) Now Jim seems like a role model gay character, rather like Jared Price in the movie reviewed above on this page, and I would have been interested in a movie that develops him more.  However, the film quickly moves to its core issues. Perry, we learn, was kicked out of his home onto the streets when his dad found him in bed with another man. Another of Perry’s friends, Marcus (Larry Gilliard, Jr.) is reading poetry for him when aging writer Bruce Nugent (Roger Robinson, who rather resembles James Earl Jones in Everwood) appears. Soon Bruce is telling his long story of the Harlem Renaissance, which is shown in a crisp, abstract, 50s style black-and-white flashbacks (amounting to almost half the screen time of the movie) that reminds me of Amos ‘n’ Andy. Young Bruce is played by Duane Boutte, and looks much leaner. There is a particularly interesting episode where Bruce is trying to get published, and finds that his editor would compromise his integrity by trying to make “minor changes” to appeal to bean counters and mass markets—all of which reminds me of the “enemy” of all aspiring screenwriters—Hollywood. There is a tongue-in-cheek urinal scene where a vice cop, posing as a sailor (as if all sailors in that era were gay—here comes “don’t ask, don’t tell”) tries to entrap Bruce.

This film is on a small, platform release schedule, so the viewer will need to pay attention to when it comes to his or her hometown.

Summer Storm (Sommersturm) (2004, Warner Independent Pictures/Regent/Claussen, dir. Marco Kreuzpainter, in German, Widescreen Arriflex, 98 min, R) is a comic rondo of high school kids coming of age – and coming out – in summer camp somewhere in Bavaria. You know that this film is going to go toward the edge when the opening shot is that of some teenage boys’ hairy legs, without faces. Then Tobi (Robert Stadlober) and his buddy Georg (Trsitano Casanova) are running through the forest, when Tobi collides with a branch (ouh!!) and plays dead, or at least mute, for a minute. The romp ensues. Tobi, Achim (Kostja Ullmann), Anke (Alicja Bachleda-Curus) and Sandra (Miraim Morgenstern) have arrived for training for a rowing competition, and it seems that this will be against the “queer” team from Berlin. Soon, the “straight” team starts having various personal encounters that will bring some of them out of the closet. Tobi gets a sunburn; Achim gives him a back and leg rub, and that turns into a tender but compelling love scene. The sociology, here, is to keep the team together; in the more liberal and coherent social climate in Germany, unit cohesion is not as big a deal as it is with the “don’t ask don’t tell” mentality of the U.S. military. There are some problems, to be sure, and they must be ironed out when a violent thunderstorm hits the camp, forcing them to shelter in a vacant youth hostel. Setting the gay issues aside (this film is a bit of a gay “The O.C.” [Orange County] perhaps, or “Summerland,” or even a gay “Discovery Kids” (where high school students, the cream of the crop, take on physical challenges in the wilderness, usually Hawaii), what strikes me here is the way high school kids (high school or early college) are usually portrayed in the movies as much more poised, sharp-witted and mature than many kids are in our real high schools. That is cause for concern.

Producing Adults (Lapsia ja aikuisiaKuinka niita tehdaan?) (2004, Wolfe, dir.Aleksi Salmenpera, Cinemascope, in Finnish, 102 min, R) is the sensational film from Finland, shown at the Toronto Film Festival, about fertility and birth control issues. Venlay (Minna Haapkyla) works at a fertility clinic and decides who is the most suitable for artificial insemination. She wants a baby herself, but her boyfriend Antero (Kari-Pekka Toivonen) has a vasectomy—a procedure shown in clinical detail in the movie. (I recall a coworker in 1971 announcing to me that he had just had his “tubes tied.” Having married a third time into an instant family, he would lose that family, and soon have difficulty starting another one—that sounds like a plot for a movie, doesn’t it?) Soon she finds herself exploring other opportunities, including lesbianism. The trouble here is that the film puts together a lot of different pieces without sustaining a lot of tension among the characters. There is an interesting scene where some of the characters take an ice dip in the ocean. The film purports to provide an interesting moral paradigm: that it is more important to make the children you do have into adults, than it is just to have babies—perhaps a controversial proposal in countries with low birth rates and growing aging populations. Finland produces fascinating dramatic films, and they are little seen in this country, partly because they often are sexually explicit enough to rate an NC-17 [Finnish mores are less squeamish than ours] and their directors do not like to compromise. Outside of a few areas of the country (like Minneapolis-St. Paul) they can be hard to find.

Eating Out (2004, Ariztical, dir. Allan Brocka, 90 min., rec. NC-17, HDCAM ). Do not confuse this with Eating Raoul! This little “comedy club” gem is filled on location in Tucson, Az, and right off it shows the “problems” with American “adult” films.  They have trouble with being serious, partly because of cultural squeamishness and moralism—European filmmakers (especiallu in Spain and Finland) have gotten past this long ago. The film starts out as a crossover between softcore porn, “Will and Grace,” and “Beauty and the Geek.”  But pretty soon the characters and story fall into place, as do the sexual situations, and the viewer starts to get hooked—the clever comedy lines are then almost superfluous. Scott Lunsford plays Caleb (a character name popular in soap operas such as “Port Charles” and “The O.C.”), slightly ripening heterosexual political science major at a local community college. He likes aggressive women, but, curiously claims to be a virgin. Gwen (Emily Stiles) sets him up with a date with a gay classical musician Marc (Ryan Carnes), and then with a bit of telephone sex, dictates the whole middle section of the movie—their erotic encounter after they rented and watched a video with a blue bowl of popcorn between them (popcorn polishes your teeth, you know). The scene is erotic if ambiguous. After Gwen tells Caleb to undo some of his shirt, Marc starts to explore, and Gwen, curiously, asks over the phone if Marc “hurt him.” The neckrubs and then chest, tummy and lower explorations continue (still under Gwen’s phone supervision—she would make a good debt collector) , and Caleb enjoys being deflowered, even with a certain amount of surrender to passivity. From the direction, it appears that he may or may not have shaved his own chest first—why would he have done this if he was still a virgin? (I wonder if the ambiguity was intentional, or just technical carelessness with the lighting, or if Marc is somewhat the magician). Afterwards the story moves to getting Marc back with boyfriend Kyle (Jim Verraros), who launched the whole plot. The closing scene is tender indeed. (Or, what a tender little baby!)  Ryan Carnes, with his visually striking virility and muscularity (though if you compare the movie to imdb, you notice that he must have shaved), makes a most interesting casting choice for a classical pianist (there are two scenes where he plays, hands off screen—once a Chopin etude, and once in a 4 piano 8 hand family exercise, Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” march—a bit of post 9/11 patriotism.) I wonder if the filmmakers anticipated comparison of Marc with the (heterosexual) teenage character Ephram (Gregory Smith) in the WB show Everwood—a character with great subtlety who evaporates in Season 3 out of his own anger against his overbearing father. Here, Marc, instead, seems reconciled with his family is presumably destined for great things. He just doesn’t go to Julliard—that would make a different movie.

Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds (2006, Ariztical, dir. Phillip J. Bartel, 81 min, NR (NC-17?) has different characters for a dessert farce, hardly up to “Eating Raoul”. This time Kyle (Verarros) enlists some fag hags to go after an ambiguous boy Troy (Marco Dapper) in an ex-gay group. The homophobic comedy (“Homo no more!” “Stamp out faggotry!” “He conquered his inner demons. He dates girls and he likes dating girls; if you hide it, you can bury it!”) has become trite. There is a gay climax involving a port-o-potty in the classroom and the vixen getting “sprayed.” This movie has more shirt pull-ups than ever before (they even get into the dialogue), but the bodies are all hairless, perhaps artificially.  For me, there was less to savor than in the first course.

The DVD has a short: “Serving Seconds: The Making of ‘Eating Out 2’” which explains the need for new director and some new cast, and shows some of the auditions.

Saving Face (2004, Sony Pictures Classics, dir. Alice Wu, 91 min, R) combines several indie genres and topics, and produces a comedy that skims across the surface of much deeper issues of family loyalty and responsibility. You could say that the picture blends TheWB’s The Gilmore Girls with My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with The Joy Luck Club and oriental comedy in general, back to women’s interests, feminism, and lesbianism, not that any of these need to come together. They just do in this film, shot in Queens, though not in an explicitly Chinese-American neighborhood. Wil (Michelle Krusiec) is a resident surgeon, whom we slowly learn has a love affair with a dancer Vivian (Lynn Chen). They have one bedroom scene at midpoint in the movie that is quite passionate, showing almost everything, even, for an instant, the clitoris, to the point that the film probably bordered on NC-17. (Eyes Wide Shut couldn’t get past this.) Apart from that scene, the film pretty much stays in PG-13 territory of derivative ethnic comedy. The mother (Joan Chen), who does not look that much older than Wil, has made a “mistake”—she has gotten pregnant, probably a great biological blessing at her age, but she has earned the strong familial disapproval of her own father for staining the family’s honor. So the hunt for a husband ensues, and that will lead to the inevitable broken wedding scene at the movie’s denouement. The wedding will take place in a glitzy restaurant, and the confessions at it (when Will breaks it with a secret letter) call to mind a similar catastrophe on TheWB’s Summerland, or even an episode on NBC’s Days of our Lives where Shawn crashes Belle’s wedding to Philip with his motorcycle. So the pieces of this movie have all been tried before.  Then there is the reconciliation at the airport between Wil and Vivian (how did Wil get through security if she is not a passenger?) that brings to mind the end of Garden State.  The mother has rebuffed Wil when Wil discloses her lesbianism to her mother, somewhat gratuitously, shortly before the wedding, and that is supposed to set off event chain leading to the confrontation. The screenplay seems like a compilation, and it gets too telescoped at the end to make complete sense.  What I would have liked to see is more of the “why” of this sense of family betrayal—I can think of a lot of reasons having to do with collective identity and security, but they are hard to express in film. Maybe the scene where mother and daughter share a family bed expresses the idea of family solidarity as well as possible. 

My Summer of Love (2005, Focus/Apocalyso/BBC, dir. Pawel Pawlikowski, based on the novel by Helen Cross, 86 min, R). Okay. Female homosexuality. Lesbianism. This movie seems like a revisiting of the explicit female bonding movies of thirty years ago that seemed so groundbreaking at the time. Rich girl Tamsin (Emily Blunt), on horseback, sees Mona (Nathalie Press) lying in a pasture in the English countryside. Soon they are dedicated to one another. Each has blood family sibling troubles Tamsin had a sister die of anorexia, and Mona’s brother Phil (Paddy Considine) has become a born again Christian, turning a pub into a church and manufacturing a brass cross that he will raise on a hill with his congregation. It’s not hard to predict that Phil will have trouble with his sister’s affair, even she had been abused by a heterosexual boyfriend. The question, of course, is why. Is it that his idea of faith cannot be questioned, or does his whole idea of masculinity depend on absolute family loyalty. The movie builds towards a somewhat brutal and final payoff between the lovers. 

Heights (2004, Sony Pictures Classics/Merchant Ivory, dir. Chris Terrio, screenplay by Amy Fox, produced Ismail Merchant, 93 min, R) strikes me as a retelling of “Making Love” even if that comment strikes many people as missing the dramatic point. The “omniscient observer” viewpoint of the screenplay keeps us from seeing this as a “gay movie,” but rather as a dramatic daisy chain. The film comes from Merchant Ivory, best known for historical costume period pieces. Instead, here we have a one day “24 hours” multi-character drama (the Heights is not necessarily Brooklyn Heights, but just a figurative term for relationships in New York City), moving from one to the next in cartwheel fashion (reminding one of “Crash,” “Magnolia,” “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” John Sayles and Robert Altman movies, even if smaller here). Yes, the characters will collide like Pauli particles and get reshuffled. The real story, though, turns out to be transparent. Isabel (Elizabeth Banks), a photographer, is engaged to an attractive entertainment lawyer Jonathan (James Marsden), and gradually will learn of his bisexuality. In fact, Jonathan has weekly trysts with a young actor Alec (Jesse Bradford), and at one time had a gay affair with a British artist, whose agent Peter (John Light) seems to be unmasking the episode. I’ll note that the head shots for Marsden and Bradford look a lot alike on imdb.com, and they seem a bit too much alike in this film. Jesse Bradford has indeed recovered from the depilation needed for Swimfan. It seems that Alec lives in the same building as Jonathan, unbeknownst to Isabel until Alec auditions with her mother (Glenn Close), a Shakespeare director putting on Macbeth and playing Lady Macbeth. Alec accidentally (or perhaps not so accidentally) leaves his leather jacket after the audition, and that helps bring the characters together. Along the way there are voyeuristic opportunities, such as when Isabel is rebuffed for trying to take a picture of a low income mother and daughter on the subway, and even the swing Chelsea apartment party, which seems to be for swinging bisexuals, as another supporting character Mark (Matt Davis) gets stripped by a gay dirty dancer in the background. George Segal plays the rabbi trying to reassure Jonathan about his upcoming heterosexual marriage, for which Isabel has given up a big job opportunity. The question is, thought, why does Jonathan want to marry Isabel? In at least one scene, he has the jealousy when Isabel wears Alec’s jacket (except we don’t realize yet what generates the jealousy), when he can attack her with sexual passion (is this logical?  Passion was the point of the “Making Love” film and Jonathan’s passion for Alec is not lessened at the end.) Maybe he wants the social supports of a legal family. In the end, the various characters have to start in new directions.

The Second Coming (1995, Water Bearer, dir. Jack Walsh, 53 min) is a delicious little 16 mm grainy black and white film documenting the takeover of the US government by the “Army of God,” in a manner that is supposed to parallel the rise of Nazi Germany. The terrorists take over a nuclear power plant (housed in the Bureau of Standards, which of course does not have a nuclear plant on its premises) and blackmail the government into surrender. It seems that it was an inside job with the military and the president.  In the meantime, a gay Puerto Rican fellow named Carlos (John Connally) falls in love with a Jewish geek (Jeff Constan) and they try to organize a resistance. They both meet separate, grisly ends, not until Carlos is teat-tortured and raped by straight men. The title is ironic, in that I named the third chapter of my first DADT book “My Second Coming.” The DVD has a supplementary short, Dear Rock, which is an open letter to Rock Hudson, who died of AIDS in the 1980s. We all know how Rock passed as straight. There are multiple beefcake stills, and on some of them he was allowed to keep his chest hair.

Bulgarian Lovers (“Los Novios Bulgaros”) 2003, TLA, dir. Eloy de la Iglesia, 101 min, NC-17) is one of those European films that presents the gay world as a complete parallel universe, here centered around modern Madrid. A middle aged businessman Daniel (Fernando Guillen Cuervo) brings home a handsome young man Kyril, from Bulgaria (Dritan Baba). Of course, the youngster reams him, and he enjoys it, and he wants a younger lover. (At one point he sucks Kyril’s thumb!) And soon the question is, will this lover lead him into a dangerous life that undermines his stability. To the straight dominion, of course, Daniel seems like a “fag.”  But it’s all relative, isn’t it. There is plenty of politics (capitalism and socialism, with the platitudes), especially when they visit Sofia, Bulgaria, which appears to be shot on location (including the Alexander Nevski Cathedral). The plot widens out then, with a wedding, and soon Kyril is in real trouble, accused of trafficking cocaine and perhaps highly enriched uranium (from Russia). Daniel, while driving, falls asleep at the wheel, and dreams of a nuclear attack. The gay world, here, seems to be able to buy its citizens out of terrorist sleeper cells.

Prom Queen: The Marc Hall Story (2004, Wolfe/CBC, dir. John L’Ecuyer, 92 min, PG-13) examines the issue of anti-gay discrimination in a Canadian Catholic school. The specific setup is that a gay high school student wants to take his boyfriend to the prom and sues the school. This is a bigger legal issue in Canada than in the United States because Catholic schools take public money and Canada by and large protects citizens from sexual orientation discrimination. The intellectual arguments sift down pretty quickly: the Church invents a good practical argument: the senior prom is a socialization process for straight students, and important courtship step on the way to their becoming married fathers and mothers a few years later. That begs another question: why does society, and especially the state with public monies, need to be involved in supporting personal relationships and giving them meaning beyond what the individual spouses give it. That has become the heart of the gay marriage debate in the U.S. (gay marriage has passed in Canada). Now, as for the film, it seems that Marc’s boyfriend Jason (Mak Fyfe) is already out of high school, and both partners (Marc is played by Aaron Ashmore) look like twenty-somethings (not 17-year-old seniors), filled out and with hairy chests. Marc’s hair looks almost gray on the DVD; maybe that is a lighting issue (in the courtroom scene he dyes his hair blue). But Marc is certainly upstanding and a good role model. Jason smokes in one scene (I wish he didn’t – that is depressing – the screenplay could have done more with his character). But the important thing is what the court case means to others. The parents are supportive (unusual in the movies), and the civil rights lawyer (David Ferry) is out to make a name for himself, while Marc and Jason almost split up over the controversy. Marc wants to drop out, until an younger gay teen calls him.

Three Dancing Slaves (“Le Clan”) (2004, TLA, dir. Gael Morel, France, 90 min, Prob NC-17) has three brothers coming together in an outdoors area in southern France apparently near the Pyrenees. Marc (Nicolas Cazale) is a skinhead who sometimes shaves elsewhere, and is slipping into an underworld. Christrophe (Stephane Rideau) has returned from prison, and youngest Oliver (Thomas Dumerchez) wants to belong but must come to terms with coming out toward the end of the film. The movie is divided into three parts according to the characters but seems aimless to many viewers.

Hate Crime (2005, Pasidg, dir. Tommy Stovall, 104 min, R) is a riveting revenge drama of the hidden commission and aftermath of an gay-bashing murder. The film is shot on location in Dallas, much of it in the White Rock Lake area. It tells a story that resembles “In the Bedroom” and “A History of Violence.” Robbie (Seth Peterson) and Trey (Brian J. Smith) are an attractive young male gay couple that moves into a tract house in North Dallas, somewhat away from the more bohemian Oak Lawn area. Next door, unfortunately, live a fundamentalist pastor Boyd (Bruce Davison) and his unstable son Chris (Chad Donella). Boyd promotes vehement hatred of sinners from the pulpit, reminding one of the “God hates fags” church. One day Chris and Robbie have a confrontation. Chris quotes Bible verses (especially Romans) and Robbie takes it as a threat. Soon, the gay couple’s dog returns home bloody and Robbie finds his lover Trey brutally beaten in the park. He will linger in a coma in the hospital and die. (The medical scenes are quite graphic.) Robbie will long for revenge, of Shakespearian dimensions. His mother joins him in the quest. The Dallas Police (Farah White) are supportive at first but when detective Esposito (Giancarlo Esposito) takes over Robbie himself becomes a suspect over a life insurance policy. Now the pink pistols element comes into play, as Robbie and his mother prepare to take the law into their own hands, leading to a showdown and payoff. There are surprises, as when Chris gets photographed himself at a triple-X gay sex club, and the preacher does live up to expectations. The film could have benefited from even more detail from Dallas, as like with a scene in the Cedar Springs clubs (like the Throckmorton Mining Company, Village Station, and the Roundup). But then, perhaps, the secluded lives of some of the characters does match their location. 

Guys and Balls (2004, Buena Vista Int/Regent/Hager Moos, dir. Sherry Horman, R, 106 min) (“Manner wie wir”) Ecki (Maximilian Bruckner), playing goalie, loses a soccer game for his team by letting a shot through, and this is caught kissing a teammate. Banished, he organizes a gay soccer team that will win the final match. This is a kind of gay “Remember the Titans.” There is plenty of physical comedy, even with women (one of whom taunts Ecki with total off camera nudity after she “prepared”), and even affectionate action in elevators.  This seems to be a crowd pleaser. 

Hard Pill (2005, Stoebner, dir. John Baumgartner, 94 min, R) is a slow-motion situation comedy with a premise that one could deem offensive: a gay man, Tim (Jonathan Slavin) signs up with a pharmaceutical company to take a pill that will make him heterosexual. The experiment makes the news, with others making comments, some of which would get one in trouble in the workplace.  The film introduces many characters with a Kinsey scale meter on the screen, with the homosexual to heterosexual continuum shown. Tim has been having quick tricks with a bisexual rock musician friend, and Tim’s role is what one might guess (the scene is not that well directed – the terms in the Army were “give” and “take”). The medication itself is a kind of Viagra, that makes him interested in performing and bearing the responsibility for the initiative, and also makes him reactive to typical female signals (even pheromones).  That (the biology) is presented with a certain candor. The film has various subplots with other characters’ liaisons that seem at most loosely connected to Tim’s struggle.

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green (2005, Production/Zone, dir. George Bamber, 92 min, R) gives us a handsome, masculine and likeable 26-year-old protagonist Ethan (Daniel Letterle), who has an on-off love affair with an older guy. He meets a baby-faced teenage realtor Punch (Dean Shelton) who will complicate his love life with lots of 50s-style physical comedy. The one serious line is when Ethan asks Punch how old he is (he is rightfully suspicious of underage) and Punch answers 19. (Maybe that was to reassure the lawyers.)  Their “friendship” grows, as other characters migrate toward a gay wedding that will be punctuated by an asthma attack. (Broken weddings are pretty common in movies and television series today.) There are some scenes where pretty specific acts are suggested, but they are funny rather than erotic. So the film bops along with very little tension.

Ordinary Sinner (2002, Wolfe/Jour de Fete/Thief, dir. John Henry Davis, 93 min, R) sounds like a downer for a title for a film about religion and homosexuality. The story is engaging. A young Episcopalian seminary student Peter (Brendan Hines) quits school, apparently after being put on probation for tangential involvement in a violent incident with a troubled skinhead (and maybe repressed gay) man Scott (Joshua Harto). He goes to college at a small school in Vermont, where he knows Father Ed (A. Martinez). He befriends a gay college student Alex (Kris Park) and a swinging single girl Rachel (Elizabeth Banks). All the time his own sexuality is ambiguous, but Rachel seduces and undresses him in a provocative scene, with foreshadowing that never pays off.  (It’s important that Episcopal priests can marry, whereas Catholics cannot; this is pointed out clearly in the script.) Soon Father Ed outs himself when giving a sermon on homosexuality and the Bible,  and a red-haired redneck (no pun) Ogden (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) makes what sounds like a threat because Leviticus apparently compels him to put homosexuals to death. Soon Father Ed dies in a diving accident at a local quarry, and it turns out that it is not an accident. But the killer is not who you think it is, and neither is the motive (it never is). The film does leave a lot of loose ends open. The device of opening in jail and returning for a scene is intriguing, but does not leave a resolution.

Keep Not Silent: Ortho-Dykes (2005, wjff/Keshet-Rainbow,  dir. Llil Alexander, 52 min, Israel, rec. PG-13) is a documentary exploring the psychological battles fought by lesbians in Jerusalem’s Orthodox community. Several are already married and threatened by family pressures. One has a confessional with a Rabbi, who insists that lesbian is an inborn weakness that she most overcome to obey the Torah. It sounds a lot like the Vatican, doesn’t it (“objective disorder”). The women struggle with the effect their values may have on their children, because of the prejudices of others. But there seems to be an emphasis on obedience as a way to serve the interests of the group (a chosen people, with the special history that it has). It seems that some deference to the values of the group are needed for everyone to be supported. At the end, however, there is a colorful same-sex (two females) union, and it goes over well in public, even in Jerusalem. This was shown in the Washington Jewish Film Festival. 

Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School (2005, wjff/Keshet-Rainbow, dir. Irena Fayngold, 60 min, USA, rec. PG-13) is a documentary about starting a gay-straight alliance in a Jewish high school in Lexington, Mass. The heroine is Shulamit Izeb, who starts the effort in ninth grade. The kids in this film are all very mature, articulate and academically proficient. There are interviews in rabbis, who emphasize that the Torah over 4000 years has viewed homosexuality with negativity, primarily to protect shared religious and community values (including family and procreation). The school, though private and parochial, wants to allow it because Massachusetts requires public schools to allow them. The group eventually is allowed to be a “support group” but not an “advocacy group.”  

Same Sex America (2005, Seventh Art, dir. Henry Corra, 95 min, PG-13) is a documentary presenting the gay marriage issue, particularly tracing the stories of several same sex couples as they face the variety of anti-gay initiatives in many states (and the silly attempt at a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage in the summer of 2004) after the ruling in Massachusetts in early 2004 requiring the state to recognize gay marriage. Of course, the conservative arguments skim along the top. The fact is, many conventional straight people need the social supports of marriage (including the whole biological complementarity and courtship) as part of their psychosexual experience, a necessity to keep a marriage together while the raise children. Various domestic situations, such as a gay male couple adopting, are shown. Harvard Divinity School dean Peter Gomes gives a “just say no” speech on the Mass. Constitutional amendment. Some people will call same sex marriage “offensive.”  Like “it just wasn’t meant to be.” The reporter is Eliza M. Skinner.

Dorian Blues (2004, TLA, dir., wr Tennyson Bardwell, 85 min, PG-13). Well, the Dorian mode is what you get with a scale that starts on D and plays the white keys. Dorian is also the name of the protagonist, and he is a much gentler soul that Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray. As a high school senior (played by Kansas Michael McMillian), he has an epiphany, and tells his football jock brother Nicky (Lea Coco) that he is gay. (Dorian seems somewhat verbal and artistic, and at one point he says that he has a gift for “melancholy,” a concept that religious right Evangelist Tim La Haye used to quote in his anti-gay tirades twenty years ago.)  At first, the brother warns him not to tell anyone and high school students taunt him; it seems that by “telling” about a personal characteristic he can destroy other people, as if he had some kind of heat vision. It’s always been interesting to me that people regard personal disclosures about oneself as harmful to others (especially family, but also peers). The brother gradually accepts it but the father (Charles Fletcher) doesn’t and kicks Dorian out. Apparently, though, he pays for Dorian’s tuition at NYU, where he becomes a top student and runs through some boy friends before having a real reconciliation with his brother. His father will die of a heart attack brought on by his inflexibility, and in the end Dorian will be reconciled with his mother (Mo Quigley).  Dorian manages to look sexy with his clothes on, whereas his brother always seems to socially clumsy.   

Garcon Stupide (2004, Picturehouse, dir. Lionel Baier, Frm 93 min, NC-17) casts Pierre Chatagny as a young adult (Loic) going through coming of age, with his camera and various explicit encounters with men, while he “dates  Marie (Natacha Koutchoumov). The film is choppy and in small aspect ratio, digital video although great sound with the Rachmaninoff First Piano Concerto and First Symphony in the background toward the end. There are kinky scenes, as when he starts to shave the chest of one of Marie’s partners while he sleeps. At the end, he watches a globalization protest in Paris, ready to stop being the “stupid boy” and then meets another trick on the ferris wheel.

I Can’t Marry You (2004, F.Y.I. Productions, dir. Catherine Gray, 57 min) is a documentary making the case for same-sex marriage. Evan Wolfson at one point simply states that the government has no right to discriminate on someone based on their choice of adult partner, that is part of the fundamental right to privacy or at least private choice. But even more so in the Internet age, marriage itself is a very public affair. Early on, a speaker asserts that gay marriage is important for giving gays social equality, or at least social acceptability. The keyword here is social.

The film presents a lot of people, including one male gay couple that has been together for 55 years, another for 42. One gay policeman accounts that one day his mother had read his personal diary (printed, not on the Internet) and asked for a Rheingold talk. The mother admitted that she had not enjoyed sex with her husband for thirty two years, yet threw him out the next day (after the son said that that was her problem, not his). Over seven years, she grew and changed her views. There is a pair of charismatic teenagers, one of whom had outed his lesbian parents.

The film goes into the plethora of benefits that accompany marriage, of course, but it does not go far enough to explain why gay marriage matters even to those not in relationships. That is because persons who did not get married are often expected to subjugate their own interests to meet the needs of those who do. The heterosexual family is viewed as a final step of validation of adulthood and one’s claim of the full respect for others. The head of a family is expected to protect other family members, including those who cannot marry but who are expected to remain in a supportive position. Modern individualism has questioned this, and viewed relationships as private choices for the benefits of the individuals, but older views of the family were that it provides a social order that takes care of people and therefore should not be challenged. Why are parents so often crushed by learning that a son is gay? Because the unquestioned deferential loyalty to blood by children was thought to be a birthright that made fulfilling the duties of parenthood worth it, and because it gets most of the caretaking of people done. The competition from gay sexual interest, and therefore even committed gay marriage, devalues the notion of blood family as an indirect component of self-esteem for many people. There is a basic conflict here about what basic rights ought to be, given the tremendous responsibility for others that keeping a free society going requires. Such topics as filial responsibility laws come to mind, as these could well be covered in another film. The second-class citizenship idea, however, leaves as wondering about all the ways some of us expect others to remain subordinate to us and still have their own world of dignity. We used to expect that of the “Negro” slaves.

Tying the Knot (2004, Roadside Attractions / Docurama, dir. Jim de Seve, 87 min, sug PG-13) is an even more comprehensive, from a historical point of view, account of the issue of same-sex civil unions and same-sex marriage. It starts with black and white footage of the Gay Activists Alliance at 99 Wooster Street (The Firehouse) in New York around 1971. It moves quickly, and spend a lot of time on the percolating legal battle in Hawaii in the 1990s, which preceded the victory in Massachusetts in 2003. It also covers a pension case in Tampa, FL where a lesbian partner has to fight the legal system for her benefits when her police officer partner is slain on the job. (There is another short on a similar incident in New Jersey, “Freeheld.”) And there is a tragic case of a gay male couple whose relatives get a will annulled to claim benefits out of blood relationship where they did nothing to earn it. The surviving partner’s rural house is torched. That case really shows up this issue at a deep level as a battle about how well people do under various possible sets of societal rules, set up under postulates about “morality”. A lot of the rants are “Biblical.” The movie also covers the Loving miscegenation case, which the Supreme Court threw out in 1967. But the couple had actually been arrested by a police knock on the door, and upon conviction, the couple was told they would either go to prison or be exiled from Virginia for 25 years. (Virginia is for Lovers? Right?)  Arguments were made then about the “definition of” and “meaning” of marriage, and how society would become unglued without it. The film also maintains that conservative ideas about marriage are an outgrowth of "feudal marriage." In feudal society, men could not even start business or acquire land without wives to support the work in running them. 

The DVD has extras, including panel Q&A's of the director at the LGBT Newfest, and also at Tribeca; the director mentions the raiding of estates supposedly with wills by blood relatives. There is also a short Boston May 17 2004 showing the celebrations of winning the court battle in Massachusetts.

Saints + Sinners (“Saints and Sinners”, Persona / HVE / Avatar, dir. Abigail Honor, Yan Vizinberg, 71 min) Edward De Bonis and Vincent Maniscalco trace their separate comings out to their families as young men, their living together in New York City, and their decide to get married. A Catholic priest performs the holy union ceremony in an Episcopal facility. There is a lot of discussion of how Catholic theology regards homosexuality as an “objective disorder” and sex without procreative potential as sinful or as cheating nature or God, and of the risks taken by Catholic personnel in having anything to do with this. The film accounts for the founding of Dignity, and of its meeting in non-Catholic facilities. The DVD adds a four-minute short, “Legally Married,” of how the couple married in 2004 in Sommerville, MA. But when one of the partners became critically ill, the other could not stay with him in the hospital, even in New York City. 

Ben & Arthur (2002, Q Culture, dir. Sam Mraovich, 85 min). A low-budged melodrama that moves all too quickly in showing how extreme homophobia can turn to violence. Arthur (Sam Mraovich) convinces his lover Ben (Jamie Brett Gabel) to fly to Vermont from LA to marry (actually a civil union). The film starts walking through all the legal issues like a docudrama. He has asked his fundamentalist brother Victor (Michael Haboush) for money, but Victor turns against him (hiring a private detective) and resorts to escalating violence. (But so has Ben’s ex wife, who threatens him with a gun when he leaves her.) Victor becomes even more unhinged when his cult-like fundamentalist church throws him out because his brother is gay. (He complains that he won’t get any nieces and nephews. Really. But it gets worse.) Arthur finally resorts to desperate and violent measures. The problem with this film is that it tries to create hectic urgency every couple of minutes and piles on crises that are not credible in this combination. Pretty hard to take.

 V for Vendetta (2006, Warner Bros,/Anarchos/DC Comics, dir. James McTeigue, dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski, 130 min, R) has a masked vigilante character named V taking pot-shots at a totalitarian Britain in 2020, with John Hurt as the dictator. The world has fallen apart because of political corruption and mismanagement of major threats, including epidemics. It seems that the government may have planted a viral epidemic that has killed 80000 people in a few days. Infrastructure has fallen apart in both Britain and the US, as dictators blame immorality and homosexuals. There is mention of avian influenza, and the implication is that government deliberately withheld vaccine and mismanaged the crisis in order to have an excuse for dictatorship. V (William Rookwood, played by Hugo Weaving) has been horribly disfigured in an explosion and wears a mask like Zorro. He befriends Evey (Natalie Portman) whose longterm committed lesbian relationship (Natasha Wightman) preceded the breakdown of society, as she has been imprisoned and tortured for information on traitors and “seditionists”. Now we see her head shaved and in prison the hair on her legs grows back and she starts to look like a man. At the end, she is freed when her captors realize she has no fear and cannot be impeached. The inspector is played by Stephen Rea, who delivers his lines with the same earnestness that he showed in “Copenhagen” as he voices his concerns that the government engineered the whole thing. Indeed, he could be executed for “sedition” – the film explores why this has often become a crime when order is coming apart. Deitrich is played by Stephen Fry. At the end there are great explosions of Parliament to the 1812 Overture. Despite its wide screen and major studio backing and comic book origin, this movie has the look of a big British art film. There is a great line where V says that ideas are bulletproof.

The film has been viewed as controversial as somehow justifying terrorism. I don't think it does, as the circumstances have become so extreme. It sounds more like "revolution" as we took it to mean in the 60s. 

The Truth about Jane (2000, Lifetime/Hearst/Starlight, dir. Lee Rose, 87 min ) gives us Stockard Channing in one of her most intense roles (like The Business of Strangers), this time as a previously liberal mother Janice who wads up when faced with the suspicion and then “admission” by her daughter (Ellen Muth) is that the teen is a lesbian. Jane has discovered herself in a friendship with Taylor (Alicia Lagano). Even the understanding father says he wants grandchildren, but Janice seems particularly hurt by her daughter’s apparent lack of biological or blood loyalty. She insists that he has a right to have what she wants for her daughter. The parents threaten to send Jane to boarding school. An English teacher Ms. Walcott (Kelly Rowan) confides her own lesbianism to Jane, and Janice threatens to press some kind of charges for “improper influence.” But when Jane threatens suicide, Ms. Walcott is able to bridge the gap in a climactic confrontation. Finally, Jane is able to get Janice to join PFLAG. 

The script does delve into the causes of “homophobia” among parents, and that includes the idea that they feel rejected by their children’s lack of biological loyalty, and they subscribe to a moral value code that the conventional heterosexual world of marriage and children is the best way to give everyone some sense of value.

Circuit (2001, TLA/Jour de Fete, dir. Dirk Shafer, 140 min, HD digital video, sug NC-17) At a gay book club at Barnes and Noble in Minneapolis, I can remember a heated discussion about circuit parties. Well, this film starts with the “Red Party” and switches over to the “Blue Party,” and seems like a continual circuit party. The story, though, matters. A small time gay cop John Webster (Jonathan Wade-Drahos), after he refuses to bust another gay in front of his partner, is asked by the chief to move to the big city where he can really live his “lifestyle.” He meets a hustler Hector (Andre Khabazzi) who, despite the fact that he only does sex for money, initiates him in circuit party culture. The story sprawls over a lot of territory, as an HIV+ man who is shaken down by a viatical “investor” when he will live too long. Tad (Daniel Kucan) is a nice character who is always videotaping everything, turning this into an “I am curious” film. Slowly John sinks into the world of drugs (ecstasy and probably crystal meth) and can’t vomit it out fast enough. There are even scrotal Viagra injections, almost on camera. The circuit party disco floors are surprisingly tame, however, given the dirty dancing. There is no ritual; the men are already stripped and prepped with shaved chests. (In a fitting room, there is one razor swipe.) There is nothing left to do. Maybe that’s how it is in Palm Springs (or West Hollywood CP). I couldn’t get into one of these if I tried, so I would only know from hearsay. The film does build up to a climax at the Palm Springs White Party (here is a typical link); and, yes, it’s not a decent circuit party “unless we have an O.D.” Unfortunately, they have more than one. At the end, Tad’s “documentary” is shown, in the epilogue; I think that the movie could have developed Tad’s character and personal story with more visual controversy. A love story between John and Tad would have engaged the reader and avoided the need for so much negative behavior. I don’t know if this is a gay “Boogie Nights.” But this is a curiously epic film.

Another Gay Movie (2006, TLA, dir. Todd Stephens, 92 min, sug NC-17). Well, students at “San Torum” High School in the O.C. California can be openly gay, and teachers seem to be able to cross the line. Actually, in higher income areas in more progressive communities, it is not unusual to find GS alliances and openly gay students who progress happily. Here, the four pals are varied enough in how they look, but Jarod (Jonathan Chase) is the hairy-chested stud who can hit tape measure home runs, Andy (Michael Carbonaro, who looks and acts his part like another "Jason Biggs," even to the point of preparatory ritual "grooming" of himself) has a bisexual dad who helps him celebrate his graduation and 18th birthday with sex toys, and Jonah Blechman and Mitch Morris round out the musketeers. That is as serious as you can get, though, as this comedy tries to exceed “American Pie” with gay gags, body excretions, sex toys, harnesses and the like. It’s not necessary to make a detailed list for a movie review. It may be funny as sitcom, but it is not erotic. One can question taste, as in one scene two older bears wear Nambla t-shirts, even as one of the characters recreates Ben Affleck’s dance moves from “Forces of Nature.” The characters have to “score” before the summer before college is over. (There’s no Seth lamenting about not getting in to Brown.)  Only in the last ten minutes do the characters find anything like real love, and only then does the film get in any way erotic.

Gays Gone Wild: Another Gay Sequel (2008, TLA, dir. Todd Stephens, 95 min, NC-17) Gays on spring break have a contest as to who scores the most. This film is much more explicit, with lots of gay “American Pie” comedy. There’s crabs crawling on guys (resembling “Bugcrush”) leading to a crotch shaving scene, then a puke fest, and then a scene where somebody uses epoxy glue instead of condom lube. There are horror movie “dream” scenes with frat attacks and decapitations. This is pretty wild.  Jake Mosser plays the most likeable character.

[The Big Gay Musical] (2009, dir. Casper Andreas and Fred M. Caruso). Blogger.

Queens (“Reinas”, 2005, Regent/Here!/Penthouse/Fortissimo/Warner Bros Espana/Warner Independent?, dir. Manuel Gomez Pereira, Spain, 107 min, R) traces five mothers in the days and hours leading up to a mass gay wedding. Major studios were involved, such as Warner Brothers in Spain, but because of the social controversy of gay marriage and the reaction that the film could get in this country, the studios seem to have arranged with Penthouse to provide a releasing trademark. The technical production values are up to the best big studio standards, rather resembling the great Fox comedies in the late 1950s: Cinemascope, sharp and clear photography, handsome uses of Madrid and surrounding arid Spanish countryside (sometimes from a train), and a snappy music score by Bingen Mendizabal, all in the best Dolby Digital. In Spain, gay marriage has recently become legal. The mothers vary in their attitudes, and the men go through some comic perambulations, such as one who deliberately loses his dog, who becomes quite Disney-human when on her own, fending for herself by begging from strangers. The men are likeable, most of all the hairy aerobics instructor, but also the conceited Narciso (Paco Leon). Some scenes, like the fake attempted suicide, did not ring true.

But I’m a Cheerleader (1999, Lions Gate, dir. Jamie Babbit, 85 min, NC-17) is a “comedy of sexual disorientation.” Megan (Natasha Lyvonne) doesn’t keep up the proper appearances at high school and her parents suspect her of lesbian, so she gets sent to a boarding camp for ex-gay rehabilitation. But she may develop a real love affair with Graham (Clea Du Vall). This film was mentioned in “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” as an example of how gay films get more restrictive ratings from the MPAA. 

Jam (2006, Article, dir. Mark Woollen, 87 min, sug PG-13) is a video documentary about the American Roller Derby League, from 1998-2004, run by Tim Patten (diagnosed as HIV+ in 1984) and his partner David. Various business conflicts are shown, as a lot of contemporary San Francisco, such as the Market Street area and bay bridge. According to the documentary, roller skating has always been popular among gay men, as has rollerblading, all of which are easy to develop skills in quickly. Shown at the 2006 DC Reelaffimations LGBT filmfest. (Do not confuse with an unrelated dramatic film in 2006 with same title, on IMDB).

Blueprint (2005, “First Look” “Work in Progress”, Balancing/OneinTen/Jerome, dir. Kirk Shannon Butts, 72 min, NR, sug. PG-13) is a bit of an indie road movie in the tradition of  Jerome’s Razor.” Here, two African American friends of college freshman age take a trip to Sullivan County from NYC. A motorcycle gets towed and will cost $1100 to get back. The go to a stream and private property and approach intimacy, without sex. A white man is filming them, which they notice. There is a confrontation, and the young white man himself admits that he doesn’t like being filmed. They go back to the City, to heal a rift with a parent and grow their relationship. The film may have more material added which would fill out the story. But some movies of this type are definitely left open ended. This particular film needs a little more suspense and tension. 

Puccini for Beginners (2006, Strand/IFC/InDigEnt, dir. Maria Maggenti, no rating but sug soft R, 90 min, USA) was the closing night film at the DC ReelAffirmations Film Festival. A New York lesbian writer, recently “dumped” searches for love and gets into a chain letter of relationships, sometimes turning sheets with metrosexual (though male-enough looking and attractive) men. The story is formulaic screenwriting 101, in Three Acts and an Epilogue (like on a Bax Symphony), the comedy situational and sometimes physical. But there are clever lines about majoring in philosophy (some of my friends in Minnesota did) and about Columbia University (where George Stephanopolous teaches). There are nice little sidewalk scenes of New York City. I thought I caught the East Village once, and even Julius’s once. The title refers to the opera forma (the Met at the Lincoln Center is shown), and the soundtrack seems to have more Mozart than Puccini. The story of Turandot, and how it was finished, would make a great film, wouldn’t it.

Coming Out (1989,TLA/DEFA, dir. Heiner Carow, 113 min, R) is first gay film to come from East Germany after reunification. A young closeted and married (wife played by Dagmar Manzel) gay teacher Philipp (Matthias Freihof) befriends a young man Matthias (Dirk Kummer), invites the young man home, and then has to confront his wife on the day of Bernstein’s famous concert of the Beethoven 9th. The music score seems to include Schoenberg’s “Five Pieces for Orchestra.”  The film opens with a bizarre sequence where Matthias gets his stomach pumped because he’s a “queer”, and then the gay teacher has a similar epiphany in a bar as he listens to an old man tell a concentration camp story.  

Colour Me Kubrick: A True…ish Story (2007, Magnolia / Europa Corp., dir. Brian W. Cook, 86 min, UK, no rating but would suggest R). So we see John Malkovich (now 54) being John Malkovich being Alan Conway being Stanley Kubrick. John is about the only actor who can pull something like this off, a very male comedy that is almost a monologue. Here he is, loaded with inverted testosterones: male enough to be bald and hairy of body, even if his aging gams look stubby.  The story is supposed to be more or less true: a middle aged gay man Alan Conway did an “identity theft” on Stanley Kubrick, pretending to be the director in order to pick up young men in gay bars, while Kubrick filmed “Eyes Wide Shut.”  It caused Kubrick enough trouble to take legal action. In time, Conway’s games catch up with him. One trick realizes that he did not direct “Judgment at Nuremberg” (that was Stanley Kramer) as his charade started to fall apart. Eventually he winds up as a god damn MP – in a mental hospital aka nursing home, and then the British government sends him to an alcoholism rehabilitation spa for the rich and famous. Some of the film was shot on the Isle of Man (it seems like the drive on the right there). If I ever found money for my movie (“Do Ask Do Tell”) I’m afraid that John Malkovich is the “obvious” candidate to play me. The other one is Patrick Stewart. Most of Kubrick’s films are reviewed, at least on the tidbits file, on this site.

Boy Culture (2006, TLA Releasing / Pierce, dir. Q. Allan Brocka, 87 min, NR but would be R). This little film, set in Seattle and Portland around Thanksgiving time, made the GLBT festival circuit and is usually shown by digital projection from a DVD. X (Derek Magyar) is a Gen Y 25-year-old “hustler,” crew cut and “masculine” (though his chest looks cropped in some scenes) who narrates this somewhat self-indulgent coming of age story. Much of the reaction centers around his interaction with an elderly “client” (Matt Riedy), and an African American roommate Andrew (Darryl Stephens) with whom he is developing something like a real relationship, which is tested when he makes a trip with Andrew to Portland to see a wedding and finds that Andrew has just come out to his mother. The other roommate, a rather stereotyped effeminate Joey, is played by a smooth-skinned Jonathon Trent. Much of the substance of X’s life is told in flashbacks and isolated episodes, often funny and mildly erotic (there are some scenes to the disco “Boy Kultur” and X remarks that he loves disco music)  

The Yacoubian Building (“Omaret Yacoubian”, Strand Releasing / BAC/ Good News, dir. Marwan Hamed, Egypt, 172 min, NR but sug R, Arabic with subtitles) is a sensational new film set in a historic apartment building in Cairo, and dealing with many controversies in contemporary Muslim life, especially homosexual relationships. Much of the story concerns a relationship between a middle-aged journalist and a young police cadet – both are married. The Egyptian cops are only too willing to inflict homosexual sadistic torture on the cadet when they catch him. Despite its length, the play-like movie heads for an explosive and tragic conclusion, almost Shakespearian. Blogger entry for more details here. This film reminds me of the Argentine masterpiece “Apartment Zero.” 

Shelter (2007, Here! / Regent, dir. Jonah Markowitz, 97 min, R, USA) seems like a gay version of TheWB’s “Summerland” and sets up involuntary family responsibility again. Zach (Trevor Wright) is a budding artist (about 19 or os) whose creations on walls in the Bay Area get painted over.  After a family tragedy, he is helping his older sister (Tina Holmes) raise her little son Cody. He meets accomplished novelist Shaun (Brad Rowe), after some surfing together in wetsuits (like in Summerland) and sleepovers has his epiphany. Once when left with Cody he takes the boy to Shaun’s to sleep. His sister is shocked when she finds out. “You’re the only male role mode he has.” Then his sister gets a live-in job and has to leave Cody with him just as he has gotten into art school. One can imagine the denouement – a practical setting for gay marriage and even gay custody. There is a feel-good ending. But the moral question is, should the burden for raising the boy have fallen Zach just because he is “kin”?  Many people think so, even if the law no longer says that. (IMDB lists several other unrelated films by this name.) Blogger discussion in conjunction with Reel Affirmations 17 is here.  (Should not be confused with a different Italian film in the festival, “Shelter Me” (“RiparoAnis tra di noi”, dir. Marco S.  Puccioni, Wolfe.)

Phoenix (2006, United Gay Network, dir. Michael D, Akers, 91 min). A young male nurse Dylan (Chad Bartley) in LA travels to Phoenix when his lover Ken (Gaetono Jones) seems to disappear. He finds that Ken has another partner of seven years (the length of time it takes the cells in our body to be replaced) Demetrius (Jeff Castle), and then starts to develop a relationship with Demetrius himself, setting up a hidden triangle which need not be closed again. The film is clean looking and shows stunning views of the Phoenix area. The windmills provide an interesting metaphor at the end – as if Dylan were a kind of Don Quixote, and yet Ken has called him a “child” (after the opening intimacies). The very end of the film, returning to the sea and surfing, closes a circle.

Gone, but not Forgotten (2003, United Gay Network, dir. Michael D. Akers, 94 min). Again, this is a gay situation “melodrama” with some writing tricks known from French film but also reminiscent of Douglas Sirk’s work in the 50s. In the San Bernadino Mountains near LA, a park ranger Drew (Aaron Orr) rescues a yuppie Mark (Matt Montgomery) who has temporary amnesia after a climbing fall. He takes Mark in and they start a love affair. As Mark’s memory starts to return, his heterosexual past will catch up with him, and suspicion will catch up with Drew. The plot threads recall a bit of both “Misery” and “Making Love” in different ways (maybe even “Gone, Baby Gone”), but the resolution is much brighter than it might have been.  The DVD would play only on a new Windows machine; it would not start on my iMac, and I could not turn off the commentary. Oh, yes, Montgomery might have had some pre-production work. 

Outing Riley (2004, Wolfe, dir. Pete Jones, 88 min) Bobby Riley, the youngest son in a large Irish Catholic family in Chicago, struggles with multiple opportunities to out himself to his brothers after his father dies. There is an interesting confessional where the priest says he is a chaste heterosexual who has followed his calling, and this gets into the choice v. nature argument. There is more female nudity than male in this light-hearted film, and it touches on a few other topics, such as improper web surfing in the workplace.

Nina’s Heavenly Delights (2006, Here!, dir. Prabitha Pamar, UK/India, 94 min). A young woman Nina of Indian extraction (Shelley Conn) leaves Glasgow to avoid an arranged marriage, but returns to help the family’s curry business when her father dies, and she falls in love her own way. Some people like to cook, and the “chemistry” in the pestle scenes is interesting.

200 America (2003, Wolfe, dir. Richard LeMay, 83 min) A hairy-chested gay man Conrad (Matt Walton), reeling from a breakup, meets a male prostitute from Australia Ian (Sean Matic) and then hires him for sleeping with him into an ad agency that he owns.  Ian goes for another man in the agency, but we learn that Ian is illegal (why from Australia?) and is seeking heterosexual marriage in order to get legitimate. The movie seems rushed and misses a lot of chance for real tension. Isn’t it cynical, you get business by sleeping with the right people?  

Slutty Summer (2004, TLA, dir. Casper Andreas) The writer and director of this film plays a writer who takes a summer job as a waiter and goes through a number of boy friends, which being very clumsy at his job. The main friend seems to be Tyler (Jamie Hathchett, who keeps his Brit accent). Rather light hearted stuff. There are some directoral inconsistencies. In one erotic scene, he is about to be undressed by Tyler by buttons, and suddenly instead he has a pullover shirt on.

2 Minutes Late (2007, TLA, dir. Robert Gaston, 78 min) is a film noir thriller where a gay insurance adjuster impersonates his missing twin brother who is a risqué photographer, with the help of a lesbian detective. But some homage to 40s style storytelling. You hardly notice that it is a “gay movie.” Blogger.

You Belong to Me (2007, Wolfe, dir. Sam Zalutsky, 82 min). A gay architect (Daniel Sauli) moves into a brownstone to chase a boyfriend but find the landlady won’t let go of him. It turns into a kind of Psycho. Blogger.

In the Blood (2008, TLA Releasing / Superstitious, dir, wr. Lou Peterson). A college senior (Tyler Hanes), struggles with coming out and at the same time protecting his sister from a campus stalker, the complications of with lead to a supernatural family secret. Hanes is impressive. Link here.  

Rock Haven (2008, TLA Releasing, 78 min, dir, David Lewis, NC-17) A late teen moves to the California coast with his evangelist mother had has to come to terms with homosexuality when he meets the teen next door. Sean Hoagland, Owen Aalabdo. Blogger review. 

Little Ashes (2009, Regent / Here!, 112 min, R, Spain/UK) Three artists in pre-Franco Spain gradually become intimate. Robert Pattinson, Javier Beltram. Very “male”. Blogger.

An Englishman in New York (2009, LeopardDrama, dir. Richard Laxton, 72 min, UK) The later years of raconteur Quetin Crisp, aka Denis Charles Pratt, who tended to blurt out what was on his mind in his speeches. Blogger.

Mr. Right (2007, Mugshots, dir. David and Jacqui Morris, UK, 115 min, R) Several young gay Brits collide, especially Alex (a charismatic Luke de Woolfson) in his bid to break into showbiz. Blogger.

The Swimsuit Issue (“Allt Flyter”, 2010, Tribeca, dir. Mans Herngren, Sweden, PG-13). Straight men from Sweden enter what is normally a women’s swimming event in Germany and pass through gay pride. Blogger.

The Kids Are All Right (2010, Focus/Gilbert, dir. Lisa Chodolenko, R), but the grownups (lesbians who each had a kid by artificial insemination from Mark Ruffalo’s character) aren’t.  Watch actor Josh Hutcherson, “the gentle jock” for is future. But the lesbian parents did raise great kids. Blogger.

Patrik Age 1.5 (or “Patrik 1,5”, 2010, Regent/Here!, dir. Ella Lemhagen, Sweden, 103 min, R) Two married gay men adopt a homophobic teenager, inadvertently trying to get a baby. Blogger.

Undertow (“Contracorriente”) (2011, Wolfe//Dynamo, dir. Javier Feuntes Leon); a ghost of a male lover appears to a Peruvian fisherman when his wife has a babt. Blogger.

 

Related reviews: Making Love (and other older GLBT films); Latter Days (God’s Army, Saved); POV films; The Journey of Jared Price with And Then Came Summer, The Trip   Luther  Five Lines Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House Dogma et al.  Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss   Gods and Monsters; Kinsey   Gerry; Elephant   Good Will Hunting  Bad Education and Mysterious Skin(important!!); Death in Venice; The Music Lovers  Far from Heaven  Advise and Consent  Chuck&Buck (Swimfan on that file), The Closet  Water Drops on Burning Rocks  Beefcake  The Next Best Thing  Boys Don’t Cry Dear Jesse Homo Heights; Naked Fame, also Crash, Magnolia  ; also WTC View  Loggerheads   Kids in America  The Dying Gaul   Brokeback Mountain  Book: Peter Gomes, The Good Book   The Picture of Dorian Gray   Beautiful Thing  I am Curious (Yellow)   Boogie Nights    Time to Leave   This Film Is Not Yet Rated Jerome’s Razor (indie road movie example)  Borat  Hellbent    Running with Scissors  Food of Love   Being John Malovich   Eyes Wide Shut  Judgment at Nuremberg  Ice Men


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