Nationality and Language:
Distributor and Production Company: Strand Releasing;
Director; Writer: Thom FitzGerald
Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:
Movie Review: Beefcake (1999); Director: Thom Fitzgerald’ From Alliance Atlantis Films; 96 Minutes; NC-17 (total male nudity)
This little period piece
from the 1950's McCarthy era (I saw it at the
Miser, in libertarian
fashion, used his opulent property (while keeping his mother living there
with him while not quite understanding his intentions) in LA to set up a
little live-in "colony" for models that he would meet at bus
stations as they came to town. The athletes were to be
In fact, Miser's concept was to set up an "ideal" to which the rest of the world could be compared. What point was there in begetting and fathering your own kids if they turned out to be ordinary. He could select the cream of the crop. A mental or fantasy image of an ideal was more important to him than committed interaction (connected to sexuality) with real people. A body ¾ a photograph of a body ¾ was like a musical composition; it lived forever. Of course, the real people, presented in interviews, grew old. We see many of them as old men, such as Joe Dellesandro, star of the Andy Warhol movies ("Trash") of the late 1960's.
Of course, this elitist, effete, Nietzchean idea rubs a lot of people the wrong way. If only the handsome are valued (and only in their short biological summers), what happens to the rest of us? That's why we need "family values" isn't it? I guess that's what the Los Angeles Police Department thinks when it busts Miser for running a prostitution ring (but Miser was no pimp). The black-and-white courtroom scene rather invokes Pleasantville.
The production values of the film were good: a digital soundtrack recreating 50's be-bop music, and even the logo for the film's title reminds one of Cinerama.
I Think I Do (1997, Strand Releasing,
dir. Brian Sloan, sug. PG-13) is a lightweight
comedy about two former college roommates Bob and Brendan (Alexis Arquette and Christian Mealan)
who come to a housemate’s heterosexual wedding. The comedy turns into a chain
letter of desire, a bit like a gay “Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice” movie.
Sometimes they fight, sometimes they love and embrace. Toward the end, the
migrate toward their own marriage. This movie was made in the wake of the
debates over gay marriage in
Boys Life 4: Four Play (2003) is the
fourth in Strand Releasing’s franchise with a title
based on the 50s boys magazine (popular with the Boy Scouts). This quartet of
films consists of “Long Term
Relationship,” a video documentary of two young gay men trying to become
a couple; “O Beautiful,” an
encounter between a “Christian athlete” who rescues a victim of a gay bashing
that he had watched, “Bumping Heads,”
an encounter between two gay men winding up the St Vincent’s emergency room,
and One-in-Ten’s “The Car Up,” a video diary of a bike messenger, decorated
with body art, who meets up with a lawyer in a downtown Minneapolis
skyscraper. The second film splits the screen to show the encounter from the
point of view of each character. The Christian finds himself talking in
circles (“are you gay all the time?” “are you hungry
all the time?”), mostly about collective religious and family loyalties, as
the victim stands up to him (with stories about sex from Boy Scouts camp
leaders, a history teacher, and a claim that at least one specific major
The commentary by director Alan Brown on “O Beautiful” provides an
interesting overview that seems to me to present the Christian’s behavior
(that is, Andy, played by David Rogers) as a kind of ritualistic sacrifice or
atonement. Brown might contest this statement, implying some ambiguity of
motive. He states that the film was motivated by the Matthew Shepard murder and was shot in the winter after 9/11 in
farm field in
Brian Sloan gives a technical discussion of “Bumping Heads,” especially
about the different color schemes in the film. One fact that he mentions is
that dancing is illegal in most gay bars in
Boys Life 5 (2006, Strand) is mainly a
vehicle to distribute Eytan Fox’s forty-minute film
about the kinder, gentler Israeli army, “Time
Out,” pretty much a docudrama about some soldiers who go out on weekend
pass. Yes, there is an indirect restroom encounter, and it is clever but not
impressive. There is urination in formation, and a zen
exercise. But the tone of the military is much warmer than what one expects,
or saw in the feature “Yossi & Jagger”. The other three shorts present the idea of an
older teen introducing a younger, vulnerable boy to the warmth of manhood, on
the edges of experimentation. Andy Salky directs “Dare”
in which two high school seniors from a drama class discover some warmth in a
home swimming pool by reciting the lines in a play. In Michael Burke’s “Fishbelly White” a country bumpkin helps
initiate a redhead aspie type, a “chicken man” who
sucks chicken heads and proves his manhood be decapitating a chicken with his
mouth. That will not be permissible if the bird flu comes. In “Late Summer” a
Boys Life 6 (2007, Strand) has a couple
of films with real tension, ideas and technique. An underlying theme of two
of the films is ritual initiation, and another film deals with tribalism. The
most interesting is Bugcrush
(36 min, Pollywog Pictures, dir. Carter Smith, story by Scott Treleaven, website)
where an appealing and somewhat cautious and mainstream-like but artistically
inclined high school student (on the edge of coming out) Ben (Josh Barclay Caras) notices a weird swarthy student Grant (Donald Eric
Cumming) who sports a secret underneath an armband at detention and has some
unusual arthropod-related souvenirs. Ben is slowly drawn into his somewhat
menacing world, which includes a couple of Gothic friends. They go on a night
“road trip” to his house in the Maine woods (a bit of Stephen King’s effects
here with dark screens – the blackouts may be unnecessary -- followed by odd
camera angles), and gradually the intimacy builds up to – the initiation.
Grant repeatedly comforts Ben, with lines like “you don’t have to …” and
especially “you want this.” Message boards indicate that many viewers believe
that the outcome is catastrophic, like a ritual sacrifice of perfection – but
in terms of what is shown, there is some ambiguity, left to the imagination.
(Eh, gads, Grant actually grows bugs in the tissue of his upper arm
underneath the “tattoo” bandage; these are not innocent tats for a web page.
Indeed, Grant taunts a paralyzed Ben, “You want this,” that Ben’s revealed
body surface could be used to cultivate a garden of bugs. Indeed, ancient
medicine men used to use soldier ants to sew up cuts.) The film builds up
genuine suspense and keeps you guessing. It could have been blown up into a
feature (with more attention to the school situation, and maybe a followup as some kind after the “event”, like having Ben
become one of “them” and then finally “escaping”), and could it become a
Hitchcock-like filmmaker’s exercise in balancing horror with genuine
polarized tension and morality among characters. The film presents the notion
of the “Nighthike” which I develop in a couple of
my own scripts. I’m told by a bartender that there is a specific mixed drink
called “Bugcrush.” (See also Smith’s “The Ruins”,
link below). Davy and Stu (13 min, dir. Soman Chainani, play by Anton Dudley)
has two Scottish teens meeting in a bog near
MSN/Howcast has a 5 minute short “How to Get Rid of Bedbugs” that amounts to a “Bugcrush 2”.
MSN video follows:
There were three other films by this name in the franchise. The best is the first one, with “Pool Days” presenting some genuine young adult virility in lifeguards met by customers; Also “A Friend of Dorothy” and “The Disco Years”
These films should not be confused with “This Boy’s Life”, a 50s period drama starring Leonardo Di Caprio (to be reviewed later).
and the Men Who Love Them (2005, Arizitical/Hollywood
Independent/Culture Q, 81 min, R, Spain/Brazil/USA). How many gay men
remember crushes on straight men, unrequited “love.” In these six shorts
(“Truth or Dare” “In the Name of the Father” “Uninhibited” “Popcorn and Coke”
“Coffee Date” “Space Two”—the last film from Spain is the longest) it is
sometimes hard to tell who is who, which makes a statement about the cultural
divides. There are moments, as when a father goes after his son in the
shower, or when a gay man cruises on a train in
Briefs (2000, Picture This) is a collection of seven brief films, linked
by commentary from an engaging young male couple in LA. The most important
film is “Fairy Tale” (directed by
David Kittredge), in which another young male couple (Todd and Eric) goes up
A sequel is Boys
Briefs 2 (2002), hosted by Danny Roberts. Films include “Doors Cut Down,”
about what happens to a glory hole in a
Boys Briefs 3: Hook Up (2005, Picture this!, NR but would be NC-17 for a few explicit scenes) is a collection of eight short gay films. As with the first two of the set, there is a tendency for the films to squander opportunities for tension and not really supply a lot of payoff. Here is the rundown:
dir. Jarrah Gurrie, has a
voyeuristic camcorder filming skateboarders in NYC’s
. Shakepeare’s Sonnets, dir. Samuel Park, set in the 40s, has one preppie challenging the social conventionality of his boyfriend, who admits that he would “buy” children rather than beget them.
. David, dir.
Roberto Fiesco, is set in
. Boys Grammar, dir. Dean Francis, starts with an athletic shower room in an Australian private school, when one of the boys is noticed having an “artistic” book of pictures of young men. They strip him and rape him as a hazing ritual. The boy’s father then says that all boys have to go through hazing. This film would have potential if expanded. It was of interest to me because of the “tribunals” which I skipped at my lost 1961 freshman semester at William and Mary.
. Latch Key, dir. Garth Bardsley, has two brothers at home waiting for a single mom. The straight one bangs a girl upstairs, while the younger brother and a friend stimulate one another while watching porno – until Mom comes home.
. Little Boy Blues, dir. John McCrite, is the other film in the set with some promise. An artist Michael (Malcolm Gets) has lost his lover (to AIDS) and brings home a sailor (Adam Bloch) who brags about his crystal meth use. If the artist uses it, he would be likely to have a cardiac arrest. But the sailor looks fare too together to be credible as a meth addict or even a user. The director claims that the film is about the pressures or temptations to get into unsafe or unprotected sex. It is about two likeable characters in different worlds that "hook up." The lighting is often dim, but treated differently for the characters.
. Between the Boys, dir. Jake Yuzna, is a video set in Minneapolis with a setup a little bit like LatchKey, but simpler.
. Postmortem, dir. Eldar Rapaport, 16 min, Two ex-lovers (Murray Bartlett, Daniel Dugan) bump in NYC and have a “My Dinner with Andre”) before hooking up for re-discovery.
Boys Briefs 4: emphasizes hustling. Some of the hustlers don’t like kissing.
Into the Night: In
Boy: A macabre piece about a hit-run accident.
Gigolo: An Arab consorts with the Parisian jet set.
Build: An architecture student takes up hustling to support an alcoholic mom, and brings a fellow hustler home. There are odd encapsulated images of building going up inside a tv set.
Rock Bottom: (Mary Feuer) A fat man picks up a hustler who does drugs, and both have expectations. Both were only children. There’s a little bit of “Bugcrush” here but the progression doesn’t work so well because you don’t like the characters as much.
Gold: An artists tries to teach his boyfriend to paint. There’s a taste of Dorian Gray in the story.
Boys Briefs 5:
Kali Ma (dir. Soman Chianini, India). A mother from India takes action to protect her teenage son when he is bullied.
Flatmates (dir. Magnus Mork, Norway). Two roommates, one straight with a girl friend, draw closer after renting an apartment together
Secrets (dir. Jeff Warden). Some friends, at a poker party, start unveiling that some of them are gay
Yeah, No, Definitely (dir. Dave Snyder). Boyfriends, at a debutante party, build a relationshio when one passes out drunk and tries to drive away drunk and makes a revelation. This film has the first scene ever of someone given a lover an insulin shot in the thigh.
You Me & Him (“Café com Leite}, dir. Daniel Ribeiro, Brazil. In what looks like Sao Paolo, two gay men as lovers adjust to raising the younger brother of one of the men when the parents die. The theme (of a gay man raising a sibling) occurs in the feature “The Conrad Boys”.
Benny’s Gym (dir. Lisa Marie Gamlem, Norway, 25 min) Two young boys, one with a tattoo, have a friendship that attracts bullies; ends with a near drowning scene; also they break into a disco (through a window) and get in underage.
A Year Without Love (“Un Ano sin Amor”) (2005, Strand/BD Cine, dir. Anahi Beneri, Argentima, 102 min, R). Pablo Perez (Juan Minujin) is a 46-year-old unemployed writer living with his uncle and slowly developing symptoms of AIDS. Apparently he has mycobacterium tuberculosis as an opportunistic infection (or perhaps pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, which can come on gradually) and goes through a medical workup and short hospitalization, with some graphic details (the bronchoscopy) shown. He is supposed to start AZT, which he resists. He travels the S&M clubs, and finally brings home two men who bind and gag him, and then play with him with a knife in a way that reminds one of “Deliverance.” His partners are surprisingly gentle when they let him go. But then his uncle (Carlos Echevarra) returns and complains about Pablo’s transparently autobiographical novel, which apparently is getting published. “Why do you have to drag the family into this?” He asks. Pablo says, “It’s my life. And I didn’t give any names.” Indeed all of this is true, and indeed the public will figure out who the other affected family members are. The uncle throws him out of the house, and Pablo has to find support and loyalty in his own community. The film has some anachronisms: there is email, but the computer screens look like old Radio Shack TRS80’s, and AZT was the anti-retroviral drug of choice in the 1980s; today we would use protease inhibitors. The family setup reminds one of a gay version of The Glass Menagerie.
The Celluloid Closet (1995, Sony Pictures Classics, dir. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 104 min, R) is a documentary that traces the evolution of the presentation of homosexuality in the movies, back to the days of the old production codes (often influenced heavily by the Vatican), where “sexual perversion” was the last taboo to gradually lift away. Gay viewers in the 1950s would read between the lines with films like Tennessee Williams’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” or “Suddenly Last Summer”; British film would address the subject more directly early on with Victim, although Hollywood would give us Advise and Consent soon. It was sometimes more acceptable if “gay” characters were presented as evil and condemned by the story. There is a deleted scene from the 1960 spectacle “Spartacus” where the master talks to the slave about liking more than one kind of seafood (mussels and oysters?). One thing is clear (when you compare to the Strand film “Beefcake”)—it was the subject matter, not the presentation (that is nudity or pornography) that would upset people in those days, because it would make them uncomfortable with their own adaptation to the expectations of conventional heterosexuality. There is a curious correspondence between social norms over media subject matter in past generations and norms over public decency and nudity that exist today; both seem designed to protect the appeal of conventional sexual interaction when the appropriate opportunity comes.
The Story of Queer Cinema (2006,
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