DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs from MSP Flaming Film Festival (2001): Joanie Loves…, Josh and Sandhi, in the Face, Cucumber Chronicles, By Hook or By Crook, Straight Acting, Digital Sex, Roberta Loved


Title: Joanie Loves Tchotchkies; Joanie Loves Furbies

Release Date:  1999; 2000

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: about  32 min, 50 min

MPAA Rating: 

Distributor and Production Company:  Slilogram Productions

Director; Writer: Joshu Margolis

Producer: Joshua Margolis

Cast:  Joshua Margolis 

Technical:  DVD

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From the Flaming Film Festival, presented by Intermedia Arts Queer Film and Video Showcase, Minneapolis, Mn, May 10-20, 2001


Joanie Loves Tchotchkies (1999, 32 min ); Joanie Loves Furbies (2000, 50 min.), both produced and directed by Joshua Margolis, from Silogram Productions., both DVD format.  (suggest PG-13, language).


First, a cute note.  Silogram” is a retrograde (or perhaps palindrome, as after the Hindemith Horn Concerto) spelling of the last name of the producer.  Anyway, these two films, shown in sequence, make a coherent whole: a story of a naïve, introverted girl living off the manna of her collections in her little apartment, gradually increasing her human contact with her friendship with the ambiguously sexed Jewish “woman” Viveca, played by Margolis himself.  Now, Margolis does not come across as a Miss Richfield or as some pantomime performer from the Gay 90’s;  rather he his plays this kindhearted older person that could honestly be of either gender but is portrayed as psychologically masculine.  (The appearance is inconsistent in the 1999 film: we have a “drag queen” with chest hair but, as best can be seen from the glare of photography, Mae West’s gams; in the 2000 film “she” (there was once a 1965 movie called She) wears a formal business suit, with a complete topological covering, and is genuinely gender-interchangeable.


The collectibles deserve a note: The Tchotchkies are little dolls like babushkas (they sell them at the Mall of America); the furbies look like fuzzy little fist-sized alien monsters that might come alive if dropped in your toilet bowl (like the “monkeyman” of Indai).  The Furbie film gets into political satire with an invocation of the Monica Lewinsky thing, with an FBI agent, some credit report tampering, and perhaps even Kenneth Starr (the cigar thing gets reworded).  It becomes rather like a scherzo needing a finale (and Margolis plans one, and it could get into visually interesting terrirtory if I follow my erotic suspicions, but Margolis’s tone is always gentle, keeping everything almost into PG-13 territory).   By the way, it usually is not cold in Minneapolis in June.


Josh and Sandi


In 2003, Josh Margolis presented his new Josh and Sandi telethon. On June 14, 2003 he presented the first three episodes at the renovated Mounds Theater in St. Paul, MN.  There will be a total of six. The first three episodes are a “Pilot,” then “What I Did for Jews for Jesus,” and “The Facts of Life.” Although they are separately credited, they were presented as a film event. And this brings up an interesting point. (This was not presented in the Flaming Film Festival.)


The Pilot episode starts with a simple and comic dialogue from Josh (Joshua Margolis) and Sandi (Erin Muir). From there it branches to an apartment scene (reminiscent of “I Love Lucy” but here in garish colors) where there is a little plot about making the rent. Pretty soon, though, the telethon and subsequent episodes branch out into different issues, although many of them stay in the apartment (somehow this also reminds me of the opening dialogue of Vertigo).


 The issues are gravely serious, yet the comedy is flippant. Underlying all of this will be jokes about Judaism, that may have an edge now in the wake of 9-11 and the conflict over Palestine. At one point, Josh says that Jews get to supervise other people: It sounds funny here, but this was the kind of idea that has been exploited (by Nazism) with tragic results earlier last century. The second episode starts with a young man trying to “win” Josh to Christ (without necessarily nullifying Judaism), and quickly develops into homosexual intimacy that is truly erotic while staying in PG-13 territory. In the third episode, anti-gay pickets chain themselves in the apartment.


The telethon format will allow an exploration of all kinds of substance, always with a comic overlayer, without requiring one continuous plot like in a conventional movie. Josh can always return to Josh and Sandi (literally, with his trademark for them) to move on to the next topic. One question for me is, can this work as a structure for epic storytelling? It has been tried (like in Dr. Zhivago) but is out of fashion today.


Margolis acts his comic role with a little-boy kind of innocence, in a style that reminds me of “Blue’s Clues.” There is no established star who delivers this kind of comedy in high-end films, so he could create his own presence in a new style of comedy.


The trademark for his Silogram company (a palindrome on his last name) is interesting: his face transmutes into that of an owl.  Margolis’s work does show how an artist can invent himself.




F___d in the Face, by Shawn Durr (2000), 70 min, NC-17.


Durr’s DVD film is a rather brutal work, attempting to capitalize on the Andrew Cunanan (“gay terrorist”) tragedy of 1995-1996.  So, what it you met someone, was attracted to him, and found out that he was a terrorist?  We saw that theme handled well in the early 1990s with the Argentina film Apartment Zero. Here, the problem is that the “customers” are more brutal and sleazy than the terrorist, and some of them are quite despicable.  There is plenty of graphic sex, with profuse exchange of bodily fluids, and laced with hammer blows and violence—the kind of thing that the Dallas Doctors Against AIDS would use in the 1980s to try to defame the whole male gay community (well before they closed the baths).  Here’s one line uttered by the suspected terrorist: “I’ve got puke breath!”   So the sex and violence are gratuitous and don’t build up to anything, and the viewer becomes satiated and at best, bored.  (There are some female homophobic “lesbians” (??) who come across as a rip-off of the roller-bladers from Dogma.


Cucumber Chronicles I, II, and III (total about 20 minutes), short films by Bryan McHenry (2000).  These animated shorts, somewhat in the Southpark visual style, analyze the word salad of a typical “personals” add, word by word, with all the ambiguities in such concepts as “queer,” “bisexual,  down to the last “no fats or fems.”  Rather feathery stuff. 




Grapefruit (1989, videom 40 min), by Cecilia Dougherty, pokes good fun at the so-called “Fab Four” with an all female cast: Suzie Bright as John Lennon (murdered in New York City in 1981), and Shelly Cook as Yoko Ono. It’s great fun (with a small amount of total female nudity) that seems oblivious to the tragedy that took place. Also shown were the shorts “A Reason to Live” (Keorge Kucher, 1976, 16 mm, black and white in a spoof of old-time potboilers, “Me and Rubyfruit, 1990 (pixelvision to video, “Diddle My Skittle” and “Lovertits” (1999, super 8 to video), by Merrill Nisker, also known as “Peaches,” (sorry, Dallas Roundup bargoers, not “Poodles.”)


By Hook or By Crook (2001) (widescreen DV, 90 minutes, digital stereo soundtrack) from Steakhaus, written and directed by Harry Dodge and Silas Howard, with Silas Howard, Harry Dodge, Stanya Kahn, and Carina Gia, is a gentle road movie in the spirit (though not plot) of Thelma and Louise, with some real gender-bending, to the point that you don’t know whether the relationship is straight or lesbian. The scenery, filmed on-location from Kansas to California, gives the film a big feel and a sense of reality not seen that often from Hollywood movies of this genre.


Straight Acting (2000, 60 min), a video from the UK (Richochet Films) by Amory Peart, is NC-17 all the way, all right, with an ending that really does reverse the genders and embarrass any straight man uptight about his “performance.” The shots of the Thames are spectacular.


Digital Sex (2001, 90 min, suggest NC-17), also from Amory Peart, extracted from a 3-hour six-part series for Ch4 in the U.K.  The film starts with the prospect that modern society and technology offers new modalities of sexual pleasure and fulfillment, based on the assumption that individual satisfaction is paramount. For example, there is a demo of the air-tight “datasuit.” It moves to a complex technical presentation of trans-gendered conversions (both directions) with detailed interviews, and then onto a chilling presentation of the “screening” for circuit party clubs in Palm Springs. Gradually the film takes the position that sexual pleasure and body image are intrinsically linked to identity in a way that takes on moral force. Then it migrates to a disturbing dramatization of a reparative therapy interview (that reminds me of my whole William and Mary and NIH episodes) followed by a rather intrusive aversion therapy demo, and finally to a discussion of sex in space, where physiology changes with low-gravity and where fatter-looking people will perform better and be perceived as desired. The irony is that a space voyage will require family cohesion and values as a matter of survival (maybe for a whole civilization if it ever has to escape the planet). 


This film is very important, and should be shown in art theaters here in the U.S.  The material is politically and morally compelling, and yet it cannot be demonstrated without becoming sexually explicit. What if the author wanted to publish his screenplay or script on the Internet? It would really become a test case for COPA, because the material really does have importance to minors too, which cannot be realized without being very specific with sexual content. The ACLU has emphasize this point repeatedly.


Roberta Loved (2002, from Allan Brocka, (suggest R) presents a shocking vignette of a woman undergoing assisted suicide for cancer, and her use of the services of a gigolo to give her comfort in her last day. In fact, the film starts with her getting laid off (or perhaps outrightly terminated)t work—she finds out when her workplace logon fails—when I got laid off, my account became suddenly disabled while I was still logged on and helping a customer! The credits are very complete and pretentious for a short film, to the point of listing a “body shaver”—a union member, maybe?


I showed a 3-minute DV video called “Bill’s Clips” (suggest PG-13) from the 60-Minute Love and Sex Show “Sunday afternoon. My clips, a study for a future “Do Ask Do Tell” project, showed a street-level air-raid siren and approaching plane display, remembering 9-11. With all of our liberation and freedom, it can be taken away from us with one major lapse. The audience responded well to it. The “Love and Sex Show” (NC-17) concluded with a stage and 50s halo-light TV demonstration of sadomasochism, “Viva la Flame,” complete with chainsaws, by Venus and Shannon, in the spirit perhaps of Motel Hell (1984), or the Ground Zero (a Minneapolis bar) stage shows, but with a shocking anatomical twist at the very end.


The 2003 festival presented Hope Along the Wind: The Life and Times of Harry Hay.


Related reviews: Heterosapiens, by Jon Springer


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