Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Chronicles of The Ringer

I walked into "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" with my arms firmly crossed as the whole series punches a parochial school button of mine. However, I actually ended up being thoroughly entertained and didn't sit there trying to re-analyze the Messianic messages that we were taught in school. The four children are actually quite good. But it is Tilda Swinton who stole the picture right from under the children as well as C.S. Lewis! She is every Disney villianess come to life. She is even able to perform beyond the design of her outrageous gowns. I loved her! The effects, mostly by Rythm and Hues, are seamless. It really is an impressive spectacle to see!

I walked into "The Ringer" with my arms open and ready to receive some more Farrelly Brothers sick humor starring Johnny Knoxville posing as a mentally handicapped athelete so he can win the Special Olympics! What I got was a cute movie. I hate cute. The problem? Well, it could have been a 'heel learns to love' story, but Knoxville's character is a conflicted good guy, and therefore never really commits to the sick and offensive humor that is just WAITING there to be had! In fact, it would be hard to pick out the 'bad guy' in this as none of his foes are truly developed into any kind of loathsome creature that a farce like this warrants. And don't get me started with the S L O W pacing. The friend I went with to see this actually dozed off at one point. It's just a silly little movie that's going to vanish off of everybody's radar.

Maxxxxxx's Meter:
The Chronicles of Narnia: "I love you, too!"
The Ringer: "Is it bedtime?"

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Merry ChristMaxxxxx!!!

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Parrot and Penguins

Maxxxxx reviews the DVD, "March of the Penguins"

"What a good bird! What a pretty bird!"

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Munich and the Maxxxxx Meter!

"Munich"... Hmmm... Steven Spielberg (director) and Tony Kushner (screenplay)... together... Well, that's a pretty odd pairing, if you ask me. Spielberg is an entertainer, while Kushner is a lecturer, as far as I am concerned. And what they created is a pretty odd film, incorporating nearly Hitchcock like suspense and then some really dry, and fairly simplistic, discussions on ethics.

If you haven't been reading the papers, "Munich" is about Israel's response to the 1972 Munich Olympic killings of the Israeli team. Quite simply, the moral is violence begets violence. However, where Copolla was able to do it without lecturing us in "The Godfather," Spielberg/Kushner literally STOP the film after every assassination to review what happened and teach us something. The problem is, that lesson is the SAME LESSON, over and over. However, perhaps that is the TRUE moral, that regardless how many times violence is repeated and regardless of how many times a lesson is learned, violence recurs. But then, at nearly 3 hours, it really tests one's patience.

That said, the performances are generally good, with a nearly great performance from Eric Bana ("Chopper" "Hulk" "Troy"), as the leader of the assassination squad, and Daniel Craig (the 'new' James Bond) is just outrageously magnetic everytime he is on screen. Geoffrey Rush gives another nearly over-the-top performance. The production design is exemplary, of course. The cinematography seemed really odd to me, as the abrupt changes in lighting and film stock wasn't making sense.

In the end, since the film is so blatantly objective, it's going to piss off the extremists on both sides of the Mid-East conflict. However, the fact that Spielberg did NOT give this an audience pleasing ending, is a sign of how invested he is in the subject, and for that, he gets MAJOR props!

Now, due to popular demand, I shall introduce the "Maxxxxx Meter," which is made up of Maxxxxx's actual phrases. On the "Maxxxxx Meter" for "Munich," Maxxxxx says, "Is it bedtime?"
To catch up with the previous posting:
"King Kong" Maxxxxx gives it a screaming flight around the apartment, in thrill and terror!
"The Producers" Maxxxxx says, "Mmmmaxxxxxx!" and "Step up! Step up!" and a Sieg Heil with his wing!
"Brokeback Mountain" Maxxxxx says, "Wanna come out? Wanna come out?"
"Pride and Prejudice" Maxxxxx says, "Is it bedtime?"
"Mrs. Henderson Presents..." Maxxxxx gives it a 'wolf whistle'! (Well, it is about nudity on the West End!)

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Monday, December 19, 2005

No force on earth can stop one hundred Santas!


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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Kong Producers Brokeback Pride and Mrs. Henderson

Last time I went from 'rant to rave.' This time I will 'rave to rant.'

"King Kong" was another example of how much Peter Jackson likes movies. Not just 'movies' but BIG MOVIES!! His latest works are filled with the joy of what makes going to a BIG MOVIE is all about! Yes, 'Kong' is over 3 hours long. So what?! The first hour is the slowest of the three and may test the patience of those waiting to see the Big Ape, but it is a required exposition that will make the third hour all that more emotionally rewarding. The second hour is pretty much an homage to Steven Spielberg, back when Spielberg was FUN! (aka, Indy Jones, Jurassic, etc.) It is almost breathless in it's series of confrontations! The third hour is where Naomi Watts and Andy Serkis (the CGI'ed Kong) really get to shine! I was more emotionally involved in their tragic climax than I was in "Brokeback Mountain" (more on that, later). Visually, Jackson and his production design team and the Weta Workshop have created and re-created some fabulous worlds! I experienced those "is this real?!" gasps that I hadn't had since "Jurassic Park (I)" when the dino ate the man out of the out-house. I LOVED this film!

"The Producers" on the other hand doesn't create a new world as much as re-create the musical stage production, which is FINE with me! I loved the musical on stage, and Susan Stroman adapted to the screen 95% of the production. It doesn't serve so much as a 'cinematic adaptation' as it is an archival of the stage production. She does open it up, but in only two scenes ("You Can Do It!" in Central Park and "Little Old Lady Land" in the streets of New York), yet they still feel 'stage bound.' Now this is where cinema purists/critics and those who 'just like movies' are going to split. I think it mostly has to do with the cinematography. She does not break (or actually photograph) the 4th wall. In one way, it preserves the actors' moments when they DO break the '4th wall' and sing/speak directly to the audience. In another way, it anchors the film into a stage-like setting by not letting us see the entire set. (For instance, I was surprised to learn that Roger De Bris' apartment was not a set, but actually shot at a mansion.) But I think that is quibbling about cinematic aesthetics. What REALLY matters is the production itself, which I loved! There are moments that even improved on the original material as far as I am concerned, i.e. the blue blanket bit, and of course, the pigeons! (I LOVE the pigeons!!) Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Gary Beach and Roger Bart blast out their performances as if they had just opened the show! I LOVED them! Will Farrell actually stands his ground and keeps up with this 'family'. His reprise during the final credits is worth the price of the soundtrack CD! My only hesitation is Uma Thurman's 'Ulla.' She is physically perfect, and she acts the part, however she is also obviously over-dubbed in her singing and has a replacement dancer during the more difficult moves. I just don't think she is a big enough box office draw to justify her casting over someone who could fully perform the role. Other than that MINOR hesitation, I LOVED the movie, and up to the VERY END of the credits! (I want to see it again!)

"Brokeback Mountain" (aka 'the gay cowboy movie' aka 'the gay date movie of the year') did not emotionally satisfy me nearly as much as the previous two mentions. Though I LIKED this, I can't say that I loved it, much less fell prey to it's attempt to force me into a 'three hanky' sob fest, unlike many of those around me. Ang Lee is just too tasteful of a director to actually MOVE me into an emotional catharsis. The only exception to that, is "Sense and Sensibility," but I credit those moments to Emma Thompson, who wrote it and was obviously a strong enough performer to transcend Lee's emotional discretion. Heath Ledger, as well as Michelle Williams, prove to be strong enough to transcend Lee's control. However, I did not find Jake Gyllenhaal to be quite as capable. I blame it on his opening shot: Gyllenhaal and Ledger or nearly choreographed to be archetypal cowboys. Ledger is able to break from it, whereas I never thought Gyllenhall did. At that point, I was looking at them, particularly Gyllenhaal as stereotypes: 1) gay cowboys; 2) Jack = pushy bottom (which is maybe why I think Gyllenhaal seemed uncomfortable to me)/Ennis = cold top, who could only express his love through anger; 3) Jack's wife (Anne Hathaway) = long suffering and in denial; etc. There were just too many trite pieces for me to get emotionally involved. And I never felt the 'social pressure' that forbade their love as explicitly as say "Boys Don't Cry." That said, I do think that Ledger and Williams were nearly brilliant! It was their partners (Gyllenhaal and Hathaway) that didn't let it soar for me. The second unit photography is GORGEOUS! The production design is right on, which seems to be an Ang Lee specialty, i.e. "The Ice Storm" "Sense and Sensibility" "Crouching Tiger...". Overall, I LIKED it, however, I would NOT consider it the 'Best Film' of the year (NY, LA, SF and Boston Critics awards, a half dozen Golden Globe noms, etc.)

Finally, "Pride and Prejudice" was another lovely little adaptation. Keira Knightly was surprisingly GOOD as Elizabeth! Dame Judi Dench did her 'steamrolling curmudgeon' with great effectiveness and Donald Sutherland was GREAT as Elizabeth's father. However, Matthew MacFayden as Darcy was a bit... drab, and Brenda Blethyn really needs to find a new character to play, other than an overbearing mother. There were some nearly brilliant cinematic moments: the ballroom scene, overall all was spectacular in it's technical virtuosity! There is an exceptionally LONG take as we drift from room to room in the mansion, eavesdropping on a half dozen conversations; the 'crowd disappearing act' in the middle of Elizabeth's and Darcy's dance; the editing of 'across the room glances.' It was an exceptional 10 minutes out of a fairly routine Jane Austen flick. The last 5 minutes are totally out of period and character for the film and ALMOST ruins it, however.

Speaking of Dame Judi Dench, she gives a near Oscar worthy turn in "Mrs. Henderson Presents..."! The film itself is pretty confectionary, but I LAUGHED a lot and LOVED Dench and Bob Hoskins! That's all I need to say about THAT! ;)

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Maxxxxx's Bio


Maxxxxx was hatched approximately July 7, 2002. I adopted him in November of 2002. He took ownership of me during August of 2004, as he moved into the 'Terrible Twos.' The "Maxxxxx Meter" is made up of Maxxxxx's actual phrases. Currently, I am facing a possibly trans-gendered parrot as he is exhibiting female nesting behavior. His/her little hormones have kicked in. It. Is. Not. Pretty.

A RARE interview with Maxxxxx: (click there)

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"Rent" Rant, Capote and Good Night and Good Luck!

Where do I start? "Rent"? "Capote"? "Good Night and Good Luck"? I'll start by ranting off on "Rent." After all, it's easier to be snarky than complimentary!

'Musical Drama' is a difficult creature to transfer to film. 'Musical Comedy' is much easier, as the camp quotient is already inherent in the material. When a cinematic musical drama is successful, it needs to be brilliant, i.e. "West Side Story," "Oliver," and even if you allow, "1776." Musical comedy can be good, not necessarily brilliant, and still get away with it, i.e. "Moulin Rouge," "Chicago," and nearly anything by Disney. "Rent," the movie, is not brilliant. The source material is not brilliant to begin with. So, Chris Columbus, who is nothing if not slavishly devoted to source material ("Harry Potter..." 1 & 2), apparently found himself in a trap this time. He does attempt to go 'outside' of the stage production, but to ludicrous effect. He can't seem to decide exactly what the style of the piece should be. He has included flashbacks, fantasy escapes and 'audience/extra participation' (are the customers in the diner audience or participants?). The piece as a whole felt quite episodic and disjointed. Columbus doesn't seem to 'invent' sequences as much as steal them: "The Tango Maureen" is straight out of "Roxanne" from "Moulin Rouge"; "La Vie Boheme" IS "Hair" from "Hair," down to the ogling bystanders; "Rent" is something out of "Network" ("I'm as mad as hell..."). And don't get me started on flashback sequences he used to 'fill the time' taken by ballads he obviously didn't trust. By the time we reached "La Vie Boheme" (the end of the first act), I had to check the time to see that we were 90 minutes into it and only half way! The film is made endurable only by some of the performances. Ironically, Columbus' apparent fear of this adaptation worked in his favor in casting 80% of the original Broadway cast in the film. The quartet of 'Angel, Collins, Joanne and Maureen,' played by Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Tony winner), Jesse L. Martin, Traci Thoms and Indina Menzel (Tony winner) respectively, were a joy to behold! They seemed to be the only ones who didn't fear what the camera was seeing and played it as large as musical drama insists on. The other leads, Anthony Rapp (who annoys the HELL out of me!), Adam Pascal (pushing 40 and looking everyday of it) and Rosario Dawson ('Mimi') seem too aware of the camera and afraid of overplaying it. Pity that Columbus didn't remind that that a) it's melodrama!; b) it's loosely based on an opera ("La Boheme"), so GO FOR IT!!; c) it's a MUSICAL melodrama! You know that Robert Wise told Natalie Wood to go for it in the Big Climax of "West Side Story!" These people just sort of sniff and tear up in front of the camera during the Big Climax! Whereas Menzel and Thoms are fighting for their relationship's life, Pascal and Dawson seem content and letting theirs drift away. Part of that is inherent in the script, but that's what adaptation is about: FIXING IT! Ah well... it went on for 2 and a half hours. And it's not even pretty to look at: 30+something slackers in tenements. blech.

"Capote": I've seen twice and LOVED it! The script is quite good, though on first viewing it gets lost in Philip Seymour Hoffman's BIG performance as Capote. On second viewing, you can see how Hoffman is so invested in the outcome of the script, that he is hitting a ton of foreshadowing. Dan Futterman (screenplay) has laid out a psychological maze for Hoffman to wander through as he disseminates Capote's ethical and emotional collapse as being the first truly exploitative novelist, if not brilliantly so. His entire being seems to focus on the age-old gay theme of "each man kills the thing he loves." It's NOT a happy movie, but I loved it!

"Good Night and Good Luck" is probably one of the most beautifully shot black and white films made in a LONG time! I hate to overuse the word, but 'stunning' is totally appropriate, especially during the opening shots. George Clooney has helmed a production team to specific brilliance in capturing the period. The script itself is a bit off, but David Strathairn's performance as Edward R. Murrow is rock solid, as are the monologues he is given. The world that is whirling around him is a bit more cloudy, however. In fact, I'm not sure what the subplot involving Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr. had to do with the film as a whole, except that their work is always lovely to see. I remember 'pictures' from the film, though no 'moments.' It'll be interesting to hear what the designers went through to recreate that world, on the dvd, I hope!

There are a bunch of others I've seen, though not necessarily passionate enough to remark on here, i.e. "Harry Potter..." "Shopgirl" "Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic!" "The Constant Gardener." I LIKED them all, but not enough to spew a paragraph or so...

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Viva, Las Vegas!

Shows, attractions and other 'stuff':

"O" I approached this with a sense of sticker shock ($150 a seat?!) and cynicism as I felt it was overhyped by anyone who has seen it. After experiencing "O" I would have paid up to $200 for a center section seat and I became my own personal pet peeve. I couldn't stop verbally gasping, 'oh'ing, 'ah'ing and 'oh my god'ing as each new visual appeared. It is the most amazing piece of stagecraft I have ever, or possibly will ever, witness. Truly an incredible experience! I was in section 104, Row D, Seat 21, which is too close and a bit too far to the side. I will go again and hopefully sit closer center and towards the rear of the 100's section or the front of the 200's section. The only criticism I could toss at this is that director Franco Dragone gets in the way with his clowns/dancers, who are distracting of the actual acrobatics happening above them. I don't know why he insists on that...

"The Bellagio Dancing Waters" I ran into these around 8 p.m. in the evening, when they are 'active' every 15 minutes. I spent nearly an hour there, standing in the middle of the sidewalk in awe! (Sorry, Sherri, but I must disagree with your assessment!) This football field long pool of fountains was incredibly choreographed to whatever the music was at the time. I saw "All That Jazz," some Trisha Yearwood song and Andrea Bocelli's big hit, which I can't remember the title to right now. The Bocelli was the most beautifully enacted piece of the three I saw. And the "All That Jazz" (from the movie) was sort of funny, as the fountains actually became the fringe of a dress at one point! I could have stood there for a long time, had my feet not been killing me.

"Avenue Q" Featuring John Tartaglia (Tony Nominee) and Rick Lyon from the original cast, I thought this was just delightful! There was no question in my mind why Tartaglia was nominated for a Tony for this. Even though he was a bit over-the-top during Rod's big coming-out scene, what he has to do technically, physically and vocally was truly intense! As was Brynn O'Malley as "Katie Monster/Lucy The Slut." In fact, I thought she is far superior vocally at least to that of Stephanie D'Abruzzo, who originated the role and is on the cast album. O'Malley has a fabulous vocal range! She used a fairly high and squeaky soprano for Katie Monster and a rich, deep alto for Lucy The Slut. The rest of the cast kept up with these two and special mention should go to Rita Dolphin, who is the 'silent partner' when an extra pair of hands are needed for the puppets, and plays one of the "Bad Idea Bears," who I loved! Technically, the backstage must resemble something out of "Noises Off!" The number of versions of each puppet started to remind me of all the plates of sardines in "Noises Off." I could picture each actor running backstage and trying to figure out which puppet he/she was to bring out next, not to mention the multiple story set that they had to climb around! The animated visuals were a surprise treat, too. The theater that Steve Wynn has built for the production doesn't have a bad seat in the house! I was in Orchestra, Row G, and the last seat against the wall, but had a completely unobstructed view of the production.

"The Wynn Gallery" Steve Wynn has a collection of 15 MASTERPIECES on display at the Wynn Gallery. It is a stunning little collection of Picasso, Monet, Mondrian, Rembrandt, Warhol and I don't remember the rest. But each one is something out of a text book! I actually walked out of there breathless! (Yes, Kirk and Gretchen, I viewed art that was breathtaking!) Unfortunately, there wasn't a catalog available to take home and remember what I saw. It was perhaps the best $6 I have ever spent!

"The Liberace Museum" Though it is in a strip mall, the treasures inside are truly outrageous! The docents were quite helpful and knowledgeable when it came to my questions about some of the costumes. They weigh up to 200 pounds. What appeared to be out of his personal collection of clothes was actually carefully planned and designed as part of a production, taking up to 18 months to create. The detail of embroidery and beading is outrageous. It is WAY out of the way, but worth the little trip.

"Brunch at the Wynn Buffet" This was a beautiful and tasty experience! I decided I needed to explore the Wynn on Sunday, as I was rushed on Saturday night before and after "Avenue Q." The Buffet at the Wynn is in a gorgeous setting, as is the entire hotel, actually. And the eggs benedict was perfect! This is my standard as to whether a 'steam table brunch' is good or not. And this was great! The pastry/desert section was overwhelming. I had this delicate little marshmallow cream custard thing that was just heavenly! I loved it! It is a bit pricey ($30) but worth it.

"Penn and Teller" I decided that I needed to see Penn and Teller in Las Vegas. I was a bit disappointed that this was the same show that they toured through San Francisco a couple of years ago. There were no new bits or tricks. But they're still fun to watch. And I did get my program signed by both of them in the lobby after the show. I was able to comment to Teller, that I wished I brought my copy of the "The Fantasticks" with me and that he was the best thing about that movie. He laughed and was sort of surprised and remarked, "But I only had two bits in it." I also told Penn that I wish I had a poster of "The Aristocrats" with me and how much I loved that movie. He was genuinely grateful.

"The shopping malls" The Venetian was gorgeous! I loved wandering around there! AND I was able to actually BUY things! The 'bit' with the river and gondoliers was actually not as cheesy as I thought it might have been. When I go back to Vegas, i think I would like to stay there. On the other hand, The Forum at Caesar's Palace was a bit disappointing. Yes, there are the animatronic shows at both ends of the mall, but I just wasn't that overly impressed. Though I have to admit that watching fireballs emit at the "Atlantis" show was sort of interesting in that I wondered what would happen if the place actually caught on fire... The exit is a couple blocks away, it seemed. The stores are all terribly high end and overpriced. I had to do a self-intervention to keep from buying a $275 pair of shoes.

"The Star Trek Experience" Hmm. $40 for two simulation rides and a 'gallery' of props and costumes. I was deeply underwhelmed by this 'Experience.' Not only that, but it took much more time than I originally expected or intended and I had to rush to get dinner and make it to my evening of "Avenue Q" and "O".

In the midst of all the touristy stuff, I also got to do dinner with Tommy (San Jose Paul's brother) at the Mirage Buffet, which was quite good, actually and a nice time.

I also got to reconnect with Janie Lee (after SIX YEARS!) and spent most of the day on Thursday with her, which was great! (She looks great! Love the hair and even though she denies it, she looks in great shape!) She gave me a nice tour of the 'suburbs' of Las Vegas and I got to visit her home, too! She took me to a wonderful Tapas joint on the strip: Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, which was fabulous! They had these bacon wrapped figs that I could have eaten like candy! I hope to see her again, soon!

"Laying by the Pool at the Sahara" This became one of my favorite past times whenever I had 'dead time.'

"Massage at the Sahara" This was one of the best massages I have EVER had! She was great! It was about 90 minutes...

"Texas Hold'Em Poker" Yes, I lost $150 in over 2 hours, but had a fun time doing it! The cards were just against me. I was playing logically, folding on 6's and 3's only to see pairs of 6's and a 3 come up on the flop. I would play with Aces and Queens, only to lose to three 2's. So after an hour of that, I started holding everything and paying to see the flop, which is sort of playing out of desperation. When I bottomed out, with just $5 left, I tipped the dealer with that, which was received with a round of applause and a "that's a great way to go!" from the guys. I don't regret that $150 at all, as opposed to the $40 that "Star Trek" took from me!

The only other disappointments (other than the "Star Trek Experience") were with ALL THE WALKING, not returning with $20K and the general state of The Sahara Hotel. There is a nifty monorail system that runs on the 'backside' of The Strip and stops at a half dozen of the hotels. However, that means having to drag yourself through the maze of the entirety of the hotel/casino/shopping mall before reaching The Strip. And THEN you get to walk to where ever it is that is the destination and go through the maze of the hotel/casino/shopping mall before finding the restaurant or theater that you intended to go to! The walking was just killing me! I got blisters and would end my day with a hot soak in the tub before bed. (In fact, I fell asleep in the tub each time.) About the Sahara: it was only $300 for four nights and the buffet was 1/3 the price of what the 'hotel/resorts' were charging. However, you do get what you pay for. The weekend brunch was inedible (the eggs benedict was hard and chewy! yuck!), and the condition of the hallways were just filthy. The room itself was ok, though. The Sahara is located at the for north end of The Strip, which made getting in and out more of a chore. Since I got most of my 'touristy' stuff out of the way, I would not need 4 nights on my next visit and would choose to stay somewhere more centrally located and much more pleasant.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Rodalindaauuugh... (SF Opera)

The 'opening' of my season at the San Francisco Opera this year was:
"Rodelinda" by Handel. Briefly: It sucked. Gretchen LOATHED it. Here's why:

First, I really like Handel. His music, anyway. There's something about baroque fugues that makes me twitter! There's a lot of that going on in "Rodelinda" and I appreciated it. However, the man simply couldn't write a libretto. NOT that I am an expert on Handel operas, mind you, but this is the 4th or 5th one I've seen, and only 2 of those ("Semele" which was brilliantly directed and performed and "Julius Ceasar" which at least had characters we're familiar with!) made any sense what so ever. This thing has a cast of only 7 characters, so you'd think it would be easier to keep track? Well, no. I'm not even sure I want to go into a synopsis. However, I must, it seems...

Rodelinda (competently performed by Catherine Naglestad) believes her husband (who was king of ??? We dunnno...) is dead. Some Duke (dully performed by Paul Nilon) has plans to ascend the throne. (Who he is and how that is able to happen?? We dunno...) Meanwhile, her sister-in-law (Phyllis Pancella, attempting some sort of misdirected comic relief) seems to be plotting on becoming queen herself by seducing the Duke's right hand man (yet another DULL bass, Umberto Chiummo). (Why seduce him? We dunno...) In the meantime, Rodelinda's husband does pop up along with HIS aid (wonderfully sung by TWO countertenors: David Daniels and Gerald Thompson!) and then chaos and confusion really begins to ensue. Oh, their son is on stage too, as the 7th character, but he's just a prop.

So, you've got this story about royal intrigue, more or less. Which would naturally lead any contemporary director, in this case, David Alden (remember that name! The Guilty Party of this fiasco) and his design staff to stage it in 1940's film noir. Yeah. That's it! Baroque = Film Noir!! The entire stage is grey. EVERY INCH OF IT. Except for a splash of red in the third act. So, we've got these gorgeous baroque fireworks coming from the pit and the singers and they're just standing in front of a HUGE grey brick wall. For most of the first hour, anyway. It does fly away to reveal two more HUGE grey brick walls, that will 'symbolically trap' our characters. Then there are the cubicles in Act 3...

As far as costumes, except for a brief appearance in a red dress by the sister-in-law (apparently her cue that she is 'comic relief'?) and a stunning silver sequined gown she gets in act 2, EVERYONE is in black and grey. On top of the grey set and the black and grey clothes, it was of course lit from the sides and below. In harsh whites. No pinks. In fact, the side lighting was so harsh and extreme, we got to watch the cast obviously maneuver themselves out of each other's shadows. It sort of made me giggle at one point as they were shuffling around trying to keep out of each other's light.

So, this silly attempt at 'updating' Handel to a "...a sinister setting that Raymond Chandler would have loved..." (the SFO Press Release) only got sillier. As we visit our characters who are in cubicles (why? we dunno...), our thought to be dead king 'finds' a knife. That knife is being dangled by some guy from behind the set over the top of his cubicle. It was the silliest bit of 'stagecraft' I have possibly ever seen. At that point, the audience started laughing. I think we were laughing AT it, and not with it, as the director might have hoped? From that point on, the thing just fell apart dramatically. The single death is committed by a shooting. This is only significant in that the gun is left on stage and picked up by the (mute) son and aimed at some of stage target, during the overjoyous finale, in an attempt to darken the whole thing up again.

So, three and a half hours of music and I haven't even really mentioned the singing? THAT is how frigging distracting this production was! The sopranos and countertenors did wonderful jobs, really. The two other guys were dull. However, the entire cast looked uncomfortable. They knew this was wrong.

(I've just read what I've typed here and it's as much of a mess as the production. Garbage in - Garbage Out!)

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Summer, er, Autumn? Viewing Update

I guess it isn't official Autumn yet, or is it? Anyway...

"The Overcoat" at A.C.T. A "play without words" though it is not mimed. It is danced. It IS a ballet, or as Gretchen said, "If it sounds like a duck, if it looks like a duck..." The creators refuse to admit that it is a ballet. It is the story of "The Overcoat" by Gogol, set to about a dozen excerpts of music by Shostakovitch. Visually, it's quite striking. The cast (most of whom seem to have been in the original Canadian production) were quite good, I guess, but it IS a ballet and that's a bit out of my 'field' as it were. It looked cool and I liked the music. Dramatically, I thought it was pretty anticlimactic, as there aren't any real relationships developed, except for his relationship with The Overcoat. And that's just so... ARTISTIC, that I was not emotionally caught up in it. Apparently Mark Morris and Matthew Bourne have inspired, or at least launched a whole new genre. Hmmmm.

Filmwise, I may have spent too much time with "March of the Penguins," as I have seen it three times now. However, this past weekend I was able to squeeze in:

"Broken Flowers," the Bill Murray/Jim Jarmusch 'comedy.' I don't 'get' Jarmusch. He just seems to try to be so C O O L. Bill Murray gives a "Lost in Translation" minimalist performance. Because it's cool. On the other hand, Tilda Swinton was completely unrecognizable in her all to brief appearance as Jenny! She can be amazing! I also enjoyed Jessica Lange, as she looked incredible, as did Frances Conroy. Oh! And Jeffrey Wright is always a delight to watch, though he is given a single joke/plot to play out throughout the film. Out of the half dozen or so people at the theatre, there was one guy who found it to be LAUGH OUT LOUD FUNNY, which I found annoying too. But speaking of laugh out loud funny...

"The 40 Year Old Virgin" was! I had a FUN time at this thing! I'm not a big Steve Carrell fan, so I walked in kind of skeptical, but he did a marvelous job performing his script. The script gets a little bogged down at times, however, he was quite generous in giving some of the best gags and lines to his supporting cast, which is always admired and appreciated! The three guys playing his 'pals' (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogan) are a hoot of an ensemble. Catherine Keener has the unenviable job of having to play it straight and be the love interest in what is a farce. However, she does give it a good go and this is possibly the warmest character I've seen her play. I almost winced at what I thought was going to be it's ending (it was giving itself applause and a standing ovation), however, I was fooled! The actual ending is FABULOUS!! The film is pretty obscene, in an almost "The Aristocrats" kind of way, but I love that!

"The Brothers Grimm," Terry Gilliam's latest release (though I can't wait for "Tideland" - his version of Alice in Wonderland, which just premiered in Toronto!). This was grim, indeed. I don't know where to start or where one would place the blame, but the thing just doesn't click.

First, the script is pretty messy. We've got the conflict between the brothers: One is The Cynic (Matt Damon) and the Other is The Hapless Romantic (Heath Ledger). We throw in The Girl, which they both sort of like. Then toss in the French occupation of Germany (it is the 18th century, during Napoleon's reign, apparently), represented by a comically over acting Jonathan Pryce and Peter Stormare (who is playing an evil Italian professional executioner - Italian? Why?), who seem to have a personal vendetta against the Grimms and continually threaten to execute them, no less than 4 times during the picture. Oh, and then there is the actual Evil Enchanted Forest that ALL of the above must face, at some point. Though, of course, only The Hapless Romantic believes is actually an enchanted forest, regardless of the abilities of the trees to toss horses three stories up off the ground. Then there is the continual insertion of fairy tale references, which I understand why they are there, but at some point they became as intrusive to the plot as spotting 'cameo celebrity appearances.' It made me stop being involved in the story to say, "Oh, there's red riding hood! Oh, there's Hansel and Gretel! Oh, there's Snow White's Wicked Queen!" etc. There was just too much in this soup to actually find something or someone to care about.

So, even though Gilliam has worked with messy scripts, one can usually just sit back and watch some pretty spectacularly witty visuals!! Not so, here. This is visually the darkest, nearly monochromatic, palette I've ever seen him work with. In fact, it almost seems to want to be a Tim Burton flick. One might dare to say that it was an homage to "Sleepy Hollow" in fact. There is a brief bit of Gilliamism in the armor that the brothers wear and the Evil Witch's tower and mirror, but... overall...

The entire production lacked wit or at least a sense of joy. Some of that might be due to the much talked about fights between Gilliam and the Weinsteins, his executive producers. Matt Damon looks sort of miserable. And, in fact, the end credits list a staff of nearly a dozen people for Mr. Damon (including TWO drivers and TWO personal chefs?!). So, one might be led to believe that the Harvey Weinstein spent some time trying to keep Damon on the set, if not happy. Also, the logistics might have been a problem. The costumes were built in Italy and the shoot was in Prague. There are credits for production design and costume design interpreters. I can picture Gilliam having just had another long distance blow out with Harvey Weinstein and then walking on to the set, unable to directly speak with his crew without an interpreter, and REALLY LOSING IT! Anyway, it's sort of a pity...

Also, this week on video:

"Live Flesh" by Almadovar. LOVED IT!! It's twisted Almadovar. FUN twisted Almadover from 1997. There's sex and shootings and revenge and more sex and death, all over a 25 year period! Javier Bardim gives a great performance, as usual! Liberto Rabal (who I've never seen before and has a fairly small resume) is totally gorgeous! Rent it! BUY IT!!

"Place Without Limits" by Arturo Ripstein was lent to me by SueJean, of Filmsluts fame. Made in 1978 in Mexico, I can see where it could be considered ground breaking, as the protagonist is a transvestite. He's brilliantly played by Roberto Cobo! He has a dance sequence towards the end of the film which is just mesmerizing! Other than that, I admit I was a bit bored, though could appreciate it's artistically historic and sociological value. I think I need to try "Deep Crimson" next, though...

That's it for now.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

MORE Summer Viewing....

"2046" Directed by Kar Wai Wong, is the 'B' word! At least visually! The costumes, photography and production design are incredible! I don't quite get the 'attraction' of Tony Leung as he works his way through all of these affairs, but then I've never seen a 'Casanova' that I really LIKED. It's just a work of art! Yes, ART! It does run a BIT long and it is in Mandarin, Canton and Japanese, with subtitles, but don't let that scare you!! It's sort of a Hong Kong Fellini flick! I LOVED IT!! (Though "March of the Penguins" is easier to get through...)

"Forty Shades of Blue" Directed by Ira Sachs, is NOT the 'B' word! Well, maybe it is a "B" word - BAD! I tried to sleep through as much of this as possible. I found the entire thing so miserable, had I not been in the middle of the row, I would have walked out. Not even Rip Torn could save this thing. Miserable... Every character, led by Dina Korzun as some sort of Russian bride, who has affairs with Rip Torn AND his married son, is comatose with misery. GAWD I hated this thing!!

"Hustle and Flow" Directed by Craig Brewer, features a performance that is ANYTHING BUT Comatose by Terrence Howard! The man is amazing! Yes, I had problems understanding the thick Memphis dialect and some of the language, but there was no question to his every intention in every scene. And it feels like he is in EVERY scene, if not every frame! The work by the women (he's a pimp, they are his prostitutes) is just as incredible. He's looking to break away from pimping by rapping. I know, I know. It took me forever to get past the idea of the plot to walk into the theater, but it is WELL WORTH IT!!!

"Junebug" Directed by Phil Morrison. I guess. I keep forgetting that I saw this. And when I am reminded that I DID see this, I can't remember a single scene without looking up a synopsis. When I do nudge myself, I do remember liking Amy Adams' quirky little performance. However, the whole "families are much more 'real' in North Carolina than Chicago" is just a bit trite for my taste.

On the home video front, I FINALLY made it through "Miller's Crossing"!! I have wrestled with this thing for... well, 10 years now, I guess! Though the Coen Brothers do a typically BEAUTIFUL job visually, I just have the HARDEST time following the plot. This time, I FORCED myself, in one sitting, to get through it. And it did feel forced. The performances are all great to watch, though they are SO STYLIZED that I found myself watching their technique more than listening to the complex plot that they were explaining. I'm glad to have finally gotten through this, but it's not going to be part of the 'permanent collection' as I just don't think I could do it again.

I think that's all for the past couple of weeks... (Well, there was the 4+ hours of "Gormengahst" on DVD.)

I NEED to see "Broken Flowers", though the coolness factor is scaring me. Jim Jarmusch does that to me...

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

More Summer Viewing...

War of the Worlds Visually stunning at it's most ridiculous moments! The 'SUV conversation shot' is amazing, but the situation is so ridiculous that maybe the shot was to distract us from the total improbability of the moment. (I'm trying not to drop spoilers.) Poor Tim Robbins. Well, at least this will help with his kids college funds, I'm sure. Thankfully, I saw this as part of a 'double feature' with:

Wedding Crashers Hm. Well. I did laugh a couple of times. The women are great. Rachel McAdams was truly charming and 'present' and actually grabbed the screen whenever she was on! Jane Seymour? I don't know what she was doing in this, but she gives it her best! Also, Isla Fisher steals every scene she is in! The guys don't fare as well. I LIKE Vince Vaughn, but he is overplaying the 'obnoxious ass with a heart' again. Owen Wilson is a better writer than actor and seems to just think he can walk through these things on charm alone. Christopher Walken needed to make a house payment. The continuity is a mess. There is one wedding montage that was sort of visually exciting to watch, but that was in the first 20 minutes. The rest of the thing was all downhill. I was sort of disappointed.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill Doesn't really count as 'summer viewing' as it's been out for MANY months, but my sister was visiting from Denver for a week and I thought this was the perfect little San Francisco summer documentary for her. She liked it. Actually, she wanted to go find them, but we let that moment pass... It's a pleasant enough little flick.

Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Midnight Mass with Peaches Christ and Peaches' Playhouse) I dragged my sister to this and not only did she remain awake (midnight movie in drag queen time means being out til 3 a.m.), but she really had fun! She didn't think it was as offensive or outrageous as the Peaches' website would lead her to believe. Even if Peaches' Playhouse ended with Peaches being eaten by a giant vagina?? Anyway, the crowd was a bit more over-the-top than normal. It was "Paul Rubens Day", after all. (The anniversary of his arrest in Florida.) This week is the CLASSIC Barbarella, preceded by the even more anticipated Drag Queen Roller Derby!! I. Can't. Wait!

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Friday, July 15, 2005

A Summer Viewing List, so far...

[Jul. 15th, 2005|11:19 pm]

The March of the Penguins!! GORGEOUS!!! I hate it when critics use these words, but they apply to "March of the Penguins": Stunning!! Gorgeous!! Awestruck!! I. Love. This. Movie!!

The Aristocrats Filthy, but VERY, VERY Funny!! VERY FILTHY!! I mean, we're talking NC-17 doesn't really do it justice. I'm surprised the MPAA gave it a rating at all! It is ALL language, but... Wow! With somewhere between 80-100 participants, there are GREAT sections and yawners. But it's worth it for the GREAT sections!

Crimen Ferpecto (The Ferpect Crime) (No, that is NOT a typo) Excellent farce from Spain. Almost Almodovar-esque!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory See it in IMAX! It's HUGE and GLORIOUS to look at! However, it does seem to have lost some of the heart that worked into the previous incarnation. Tim Burton has pushed Depp so HARD, that he doesn't have the pathos and nuance that Wilder brought to it. So, Burton devised a back-story, in a series of flashbacks, that felt intrusive. At least to me. Still, it's worth the bucks!

More on Monday, I think...

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Monday, July 11, 2005

10th San Francisco Silent Film Festival

[Jul. 11th, 2005|08:58 am]
[ music | the waltz from "The Side Show" ]
7/So, instead of a blow-by-blow account of the 10th San Francisco Silent Film Festival (, I thought I would just do a single recap, seeing as there were only 9 programs over the three days. (Even at that, I slept through two of them, so this will be even shorter!)

Opening night: First, the crowd for this was pretty unbelievable! The showtime was 8 p.m., I got in line at 7 p.m. and it went down Castro, turned the corner at 17th and then turned the NEXT corner at Hartford Street (in front of Darren and Allen's house)! Thankfully SueJean (film society 'film slut') was volunteering that night and had saved seats for the rest of our little film slut circle! We spent the weekend pretty huddled together. There is a different 'element' that voraciously attends a silent film festival it seems. They were either in the original audiences, wished they were in the original audiences or believed they were there now. Mind you, I'm not complaining about seniors going to the movies. However, the festival organizers might want to consider creating a separate line for them, so that they won't be trampled by the rest of us. As for the 'dressing up' crowd, they do lend a festive atmosphere to the proceedings, however unnerving it might be if you think about it too much. The really creepy crowd is the 'wished they were there' group who are way too up on their silent film trivia, including the archivists and restorers. However, I guess it's an avid, if not commendable hobby. It is just a bit odd listening to these highly animated discussions about Lillian Gish's resume or the missing reels from a Fleischer Brothers cartoon while standing in line for the men's room. I guess guys do that sort of statistical banter at baseball games, too?

One of the more interesting things about this festival is the amount of background given during the introductions. There is a host for the entire festival, whose name escapes me, however he has a fabulous broadcast voice and handles the crowd quite well. The programmer responsible for the print is introduced, who will give us the background of the actual production. And then a guest is brought up, who is responsible for the restoration of the print, at which time we are given (sometimes EXHAUSTIVE) details about the restoration process.(By the way, the prints at this festival are all in near perfect condition!) There were also Special Guests who were, basically, family members of the subject at hand. On Opening Night, Harold Lloyd's grand-daughter was present and served double duty, having been responsible for the restoration and archiving of his films, as well as giving us stories about what it was like living with Harold Lloyd. (She was raised by her grandparents.) This was an entertaining little interview (there are NO audience Q&A's, thankfully!), and I unfortunately missed the juicy part at the very end (pre-emptive bathroom strike!), where she was asked about his hobby as an erotic photographer! (See "Tura! Tura! Tura!")After those interviews are over, the accompanist is introduced, who usually has a few words to say about the score he is about to play. AFTER ALL OF THAT IS DONE, we finally get to the film!

Now, I don't know how much I will go on about the actual films, as the experience as a whole is what makes the fest for me, more than the films themselves. Of the nine programs presented over the weekend:

"Stage Struck" (dir. Allan Dwan, US, 1925, 120 mins.), piano accompaniment by Michael Mortilla. Starring Gloria Swanson, this was by far the favorite piece presented! You can see why she was such a phenomena then, as she was stylistically ahead of her time. "Stage Struck" is a comedy, bordering on madcap (Gloria Swanson in a boxing ring?!), and she played it perfectly - on that edge of deadpan and clowning! I loved it! Plus the opening sequence of designed by Erte' is not to be missed!

"For Heaven's Sake" (dir. Sam Taylor, USA, 1926, 105 mins.), accompaniment on the Wurlitzer by Chris Elliott. Starring Harold Lloyd, this was the feature for Opening Night. Featuring some great bits, it is a fun little flick! I am a Buster Keaton fan myself, however it was noted that what made Lloyd stand out amongst the 'clowns' (Keaton, Chaplin, etc.) is that he was physically against type: he was stylish and handsome enough that his were romantic comedies, in which he always got the girl. It features an impressive chase scene, however, I do think he pales in comparison to Keaton, as far as inventiveness is concerned.

"The Side Show" (dir. Erle C. Kenton, US, 1928, 105 mins.), piano accompaniment by Jon Mirsalis. This was the surprise of the weekend! Starring 'Little' Billy Rhodes, the synopsis read like it was an early "Freaks" (dir. Todd Browning). However, if anything, Billy Rhodes' (whose only memorable role was that of the Barrister in 'The Wizard of Oz') performance is really good! In fact, the film itself reminded me more of HBO's "Carnivale" than anything else. There was a sincere amount of drama and a fabulously suspenseful climax, which was brilliantly accompanied by Mr. Mirsalis' score! In fact, this featured my favorite score of the weekend, which apparently, was 'improvised/composed' by Mr. Mirsalis. I would love to contact him to see if he has any recordings/dvds/etc.

"It" (dir. Clarence Badger, US, 1927, 100 mins.) accompanied on the Wurlitzer by Clark Wilson. This was the closing night feature, and starred Clara Bow, in her trademark role as the 'It Girl'! She truly was a screen wonder! In fact, she nearly overwhelms the rest of the cast and production. I'm sure this is available on video, so it is more than worth the effort to track it down! Also, whatever format you find it in, I can probably guarantee you that it will have a better score than the one that Clark Wilson put together for it. There is no existing score, so he unapologetically thought that a medley of songs from the period might work best. eh. It's a BIG organ! It should be playing something more than the Top 20 of the '20s! ack.

"Animation Rarities" (var. directors, 1926-1928) piano accompaniment by Michael Mortilla. This was the Saturday Afternoon collection of cartoons, featuring Felix the Cat, Koko the Clown, Oswald the Rabbit and an 'Alice cartoon' from Disney. Overall, the program was pleasant enough. There just isn't anything that really sticks out in my mind.

"The Big Parade" (dir. King Vidor, US, 1925, 180 mins.) accompaniment on the Wurlitzer by Chris Elliott. This starred John Gilbert and was the 'centerpiece' of the festival. Running 3 hours, and including a literal panel of guests (King Vidor's daughter, John Gilbert's daughter and grandson, and the archivist from George Eastman House), as well as an intermission, it was sort of a long evening. Vidor's daughter was quite well spoken and charming. Gilbert's daughter gave the REAL dish on why John Gilbert was blackballed in the 30's. (It wasn't his speaking voice that knocked him out of the talkies, it was that he knocked Louis B. Mayer out at a wedding!) The archivist gave us some cool trivia about the film and the mutations it suffered after it initial run. It was the biggest moneymaker until "Gone With The Wind" taking in $25 million! Eventually, the film would be hacked down from it's original 3 hours, which made restoring it quite the challenge. The score was the complete original score for the 1925 print. After all of that was said, the film itself was... ok. I'm sure it was quite a landmark, and possibly controversial, to present an anti-war film only 10 years after WWI. However, it is really long. In fact, it plays like two separate films: Part One is recruitment and the time spent in France waiting to be deployed. The actual deployment scene, which is the climax of Part One, was really haunting and wonderfully shot and scored. It could have ended there! Part Two is the actual battle. It's not spectacularly overdone. In fact, it is awkwardly staged, as lines of soldiers unflinchingly march into machine gun fire. On one hand, I think Vidor was trying to be 'personal and real'. On the other, it came off looking even more symbolic and false. John Gilbert does return home, but a very changed man, and unable to readjust to his life there. This performance is really the most redeemable aspect of the film, in my opinion anyway.

"The Scarlet Letter" (dir. Victor Sjöström, US, 1926, 130 mins.) accompanied on the Wurlitzer by Clark Wilson. This was another long one in which the sole redeeming feature was the star turn, this time by Lillian Gish. In fact, she was the ONLY reason I was able to get through it. What the woman could register facially really was astounding! However, her co-star, Lars Hanson as the ineffectual Puritan pastor with whom she has the affair, was truly awful, and reached nearly unbearable levels of annoyance for me! I just wanted to see him get slapped! But, instead, he as an unremarkable death scene, in which he continued to display the one emotion he apparently was capable of. He really ruined this film for me. The film was not assisted by Clark Wilson's score, either. It was another piecemeal score of puritan hymns and '20s love ballads. yawn.

These last two features, "Sangue Mineiro" (dir. Humberto Maura, Brazil, 1929, 90 mins.) accompanied with an original ensemble score by Maura Correa; and "Prem Sanyas" (dir. Franz Osten, Himansu Rai, India, 1925, 110 mins.) accompanied with a 'tabla ensemble' led by Ben Kunin on satir and Debopriyo Sarkar. These both played in the unenviable position of 1:00 p.m., aka naptime, on Saturday and Sunday. The Brazilian feature was so confusing, I simply gave up and went to sleep, only to be validated by those around me who were awake for it all and still couldn't explain what was happening. The India feature was gorgeous, but so was the music! In fact, the music was so enchanting and lulling, that I went completely out during the film. I was not alone in our clutch to do so, either, so I felt sort of validated by that, too! Thankfully, the plot was so simplistic (the history of Buddha), that I was able to catch up whenever I woke up.

This was the first time that I was able to do the festival. (Usually, this is when I would be in Altanta/South Carolina.) markosf was able to join for a couple (Stage Struck and It), and the 'film sluts' (SueJean, Netta and Mike, Carole and Marvin) were there for the entirety, ravenously protecting our seats! SueJean was particularly wound up over the weekend. ;-)

There is rumor that the new Operations Manager of the Silent Film Festival would like to move it to a different theatre. (She was a manager at the Castro and part of the management shake-up there this year.) I hope the Board of the Festival help her get over her grievance with the owners of the Castro and keep it there in the future.

That's it for MY Festival season! I'm a bit burnt out to be able to go to the Jewish Film Festival next week. (Plus my sister will be visiting from Denver, and I don't think she's come out here to sit in the dark for a week!) The next possible fest for me MIGHT be the Mill Valley Film Festival in September/October, though it is a bit of a hassle, logistically... Of course, I'd love to go to Toronto in the second week of September, but... sigh, that is not to be, yet...

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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Tura! Tura! Tura!

She's BIG! Well, perhaps more kindly put, Tura Satana has grown into her bosom. Ms. Satana was the Special Guest at last night's 'Midnight Mass with Peaches Christ', which opened its season with "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!"

Peaches began the evening by debuting her new single "Idol Worship." Unlike other celebrities or 'pop stars,' Peaches sang this live, backed up by a chorus of Trannyshack regulars, choreographed by Fauxnique. (Yes, I saw one too many Trannyshack documentaries.) The song went over quite well, and was available for purchase in the lobby, along with much assorted Midnight Mass merchandise. (Peaches is becoming quite the 'product.') After a brief introductory monologue, including an explanation about the camera crew (the Independent Film Channel (IFC) was taping it for a series this fall), Peaches stepped aside for a video montage of Tura Satana's work.

Surprisingly enough, Tura has appeared in a couple remarkable features, including "Irma la Douce" and "My Man Flint." Then the lady herself entered to a 90% standing ovation. I don't know why, exactly, but I was not moved to do so. Well. I do know why. It's not like she's exactly Vanessa Redgrave. Anyway, I don't think anyone in our (Bob, Jimmy and Kevin) little section at the Bridge theatre stood, though we were conspicuously seated in the house left exit row. Tura entered wearing a size 20+ version of the costume she wore in "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" which was sort of a hoot. But she does look good for 66, and she definitely is not a starving has-been.

Peaches began her interview. She is simply fabulous at this. She was remarkably adept at making Ms. Satana feel comfortable, yet with a bit of a wink at the audience about how surreal the event was. Tura was also quite willing to spill as much dirt as Peaches (and the audience) wanted! In fact, she has apparently written an autobiography that is in search of a publisher. Peaches' program notes had a mini-biography of Tura, but she sort of fleshed it out during the interview. The woman has lived quite a life. She's partly Japanese and nearly 67 years old now, which meant that her life story begins with being in a Japanese internment camp when she was 3. From there, she was raped when she was 9, sent to a girls infirmary, ran away by age 13, at which point she began to use her anatomic gifts and was able to pass for 19. At which point, Harold Lloyd (yes, THAT Harold Lloyd) took nude photos of her, and her career in burlesque began! (She even appeared at the Condor Club here in San Francisco.) She shared a story about having an affair with Elvis Presley before he was discovered, and she claims to have been his confidant (as well as sexual stimulant, i.e. making over Priscilla to resemble her) throughout his life. Eventually, she was spotted by Billy Wilder and his wife at a club in L.A. (I would like to have had a bit more detail about what the Wilders were doing in a strip club...) We got some good dirt on Billy Wilder playing with her tassles on the set of "Irma La Douce," which performers she did not like working with in "Faster Pussycat!...," as well as how she worked with Russ Meyer, and a cool little story of it's premiere here in San Francisco.

The audience Q&A portion was actually much better than most episodes of this type have proved to be at film festivals! It started off with local celebrity, Leigh Crowe, asking for details about the bra Tura wore in the film. I cannot do justice to the way Leigh asked, which is why she is one of my favorite performers (ah, the days of "The Sick and Twisted Players"!!) in town! The rest of the questions sort of fade into a blur right now. However, there weren't any of those embarrassing 'James Lipton at The Actors Studio' type of idol worship questions, but real 'give us dirt and details' inquiries.

During all of this, camera people (2 on video and 2 still photographers) were running all over the place. I really don't know what this thing is going to look like as a finished product as there didn't appear to be a director in charge, nor any fixed point of view taken by any of the photographers. Plus, as we were seated in the exit row, this meant that there was a good deal of room in front of us, which they used as vantage point, aka got in our way.

Ms. Satana exited to another 90% standing ovation and was followed by Peaches' extraordinary collection of trailers of highlights of the coming Midnight Mass season. The print of "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" was in pretty good shape. (There was an exception in reel 8, as it cued 'houselights up/projector off' for no apparent reason.) Ms. Satana stayed in the lobby during the screening and was available for autographs and selling memorabilia in the lobby. (Jimmy got a full-sized, signed lobby poster and found out that she resides in Reno and suggested that she get a guest shot on "Reno 911!") She was going to be there after the film, too. (We chose to avoid the melee and ducked out a side door at the end.)

To sum up, I never dozed off. The event started in 'Drag Queen Time' - a good 20 minutes late, and we exited at 2:45 a.m. It was definitely a 'San Francisco Only' event!

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

29th SF Intl. LGBT Film Fest - Day 10 (Closing Night)

I skipped the Gay Day Parade and Festival and went to a spectacular brunch at ex-next-door-neighbor-Tim's on Twin Peaks before popping down into the Castro for three more programs. The first was the collection of shorts "Fun In Boys Shorts":

"Billy's Dad is a Fudge-Packer" (dir Jamie Donahue 2004 USA 10 min video) This was unquestionably the best of the group! Styled as an early 60's educational video, we explore the life of little Billy as he tackles a homework assignment in which he needs to think about his future as an adult. His dad is a fudge-packer at the local candy factory. hee hee... The film is one continuous double entendre and features Cady Huffman as his mom and Alex Bornstein as the 'single lady' next door (who we THINK might have a crush on mom!). I want a copy of this! I do!

"The Sadness of Johnson Joe Jangles" (dir Jeffrey St. Jules 2004 Canada 19 min 35mm) Another one that I must get a copy of! This was a gay musical western! Ok? Enuf said? :)

"Deliriously Jen" (dir Angus Oblong 2004 USA 13 min video) A film devoted to a hilariously naive 'fag hag'. The actress wrote and produced the film for herself and she was really quite good! (I think she wants to be in "Hairspray" someday!)

"Taco Chick and Salsa Girl" (dir Kurt Koehler 2005 USA 15 min video) This isn't the first time that T.C. and S.G. has been at the festival. The first pair of videos about 3 years ago were terrible. However, they've improved! There were some genuine laughs produced by these drag queen super heroes! As long as you check your political correctness out at the door, that is...

These three were just ok and not really worth going into at this point: "Ping Pong Love" (dir Bo Mehrad 2004 USA 10 min video); "Feltch Sanders" (dir Abe Sylvia 2004 USA 12 min 16mm) (Note Diane W.: This was a gay private eye 'comedy' that might have bumped YOUR submission?!); "The Homolulu Show" (dir Frank Mosvold 2004 Norway 1 min - apparently an ad - 35mm)

And these two were just terrible! "The Devil's Day" (dir Sean Drakes 2004 USA 9 min video) Subtitled as an "experimental documentary" it was just crap; "Between the Boys" (dir Jake Yuzna 2004 USA 4 min video) What starts off as a fairly sexy little erotic treat, turns spine shivering weird as we find out that they are brothers. ick. However, the next two features cleansed the palate, as it were, starting with:

"Unconscious" (dir Joaquín Oristrell 2004 Spain 108 min 35mm in Spanish with English subtitles) This is a hysterical mystery/farce about psychoanalysis, set in 1918 in Barcelona. A woman searches for her missing husband, who is a psychoanalyst, using the notes he has made of his patients. It culminates with a visit from Freud, himself! I. Loved. This! The production design is gorgeous! The jokes were GREAT! The leading lady was a hoot! And the score... oh, the score! The main waltz theme and the various tangos were lovely! I. Must. See. Again! After the film, they made everyone exit the theatre (ugh!) before the closing night feature:

"Transamerica" (dir Duncan Tucker 2005 USA 103 min 35mm) Felicity Huffman gives a brilliant (yes, the "B" word!!) performance as a male-to-female transexual, who discovers that she is the father of a son from a dalliance with a girl when she(he) was in college. Huffman is nearly Vanessa-Redgrave-in-"Second Serve"-Brilliant! Her technique is impeccable and she literally disappears in the role. During the Q&A, the director mentioned that the Weinsteins have picked it up for distribution by their new company in December, and are already planning an Oscar campaign for her. The film itself is quite good, though I did find it a bit heavy handed at times. However, it would seem that the audience disagreed with me...

The Closing Night Party was held at the old Federal Reserve Building, across from the Embarcadero. The catering was 'ok' as far as festival parties go, though the cream puffs were fabulous! And the lines were well organized and short. There were a half dozen open bars, which are always appreciated! "Pepperspray" was the band for the night, and they are a HOOT and pretty good, too. (One interesting little occurrence included my catching the eye of this handsome man, then turning to watch the band some more, then turning around and finding that it was my Therapist's date! ack!!) Of course, the main reason we are here is for the announcement of the award winners.

The Levi's Strauss First Feature Award (juried and carrying a $10K check) went to:
"GYPO" dir Jan Dunn 2005 UK 100 min 35mm (I did not see this, as it was filmed under the rules of Lars Van Treir's Dogma95, which is sort of scary under the BEST of conditions...)

The Michael J. Berg Documentary Award (juried and carrying a $10K check) went to:
"ZERO DEGREES OF SEPARATION" dir Elle Flanders 2005 Canada 90 min video in Hebrew & Arabic with English subtitles (I did not see this one either, as it concerned a pair of Israeli-Palestinian couples and the outrageous difficulties that such an arrangement would create. It just sounded too... oh gawd... How political can this get?)

The Audience Award for Best Short Subject (via audience ballot, but no cash prize) went to:
"IN MY SHOES — STORIES OF YOUTH WITH LGBT FAMILIES" dir Jen Gilomen 2005 USA 30 min video (No! I didn't see THIS one, either!! argh! This was part of the "New Youth Films" program, which I wasn't interested in, and actually, sort of afraid of.)

The Audience Award for Best Documentary (no cash here, either) went to:
"BLOOD, SWEAT AND GLITTER" dir Sasha Aicken 2005 USA 80 min video (Finally! Yes, I saw this - see Day 2, dated on June 19 - and LOVED it!! I agree that it was probably my favorite doc in the fest!)

The Audience Award for Best Feature (no cash here, but it'll get pull-quotes on the posters) went to:
"TRANSAMERICA" dir Duncan Tucker 2005 USA 103 min 35mm (I found it oddly suspicious that the balloting for the closing night feature was thorough enough for a win, but it was the only feature I witnessed a 'jump to your feet' standing ovation for. Plus, it is the most 'queer' of any of the features and isn't as much of a downer as "Loggerheads" - see Day 4, dated on June 21 - which would be MY choice for Best Feature. Ah well. At least I saw it!)

After that, Pepperspray started playing some more, but my job was finished and I left...

Next: Perhaps the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, July 8, 9 and 10...? :)

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

29th SF Intl. Film Fest - Day 9

Five more programs today, plus a cool (literally!) party at the end, started at 11:00 AM with:

"Lesbian Grandmothers from Mars" (dir Keith Wilson 2005 USA 88 min video) This was the first documentary of the festival that actually got me choked up! Carrie and Elisia (I can't remember their last names! ACK!) are 50+ year old partners, who bicycled from San Francisco to New York City in an effort to raise awareness for same sex marriage. (Elisia is from Mars, Pennsylvania, which was one of the stops - her family ignored her visit, though.) Their focus, determination and devotion to each other by the end of the three month journey was quite touching. The film also focused on the more emotional stops along the way: Laramie, Wyoming (where Matthew Shepherd was killed), Fort Collins, Colorado (where Marilyn Musgrave is based), and Topeka, Kansas, to protest Fred Phelps. It is an extraordinary story, which kept me awake even after only 4 hours of sleep! Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I caught up on some of that sleep during the next program of 8 short subjects by local lesbian film makers (aka "Girls by the Bay"):

"a place to begin" (yes, all lower case - yawn) (dir Monica Enriquez 2005 USA 14 min video) This was a short tribute to a local media workshop devoted to helping Latina film makers. It is in Spanish with English subtitles. It was sort of dull. I began to doze off and basically slept through the next three shorts:

"Mirror" (dir Kimberly Alvarenga 2005 USA 4 min video), "Dear Old Man" (dir Ana Lazo 2004 USA 6 min video) and "Our Life, A Hidden Life" (dir Alexa Inkeles 2004 USA & Brazil 13 min video) I did wake up enough to know that the first two were in Spanish and the third was in Portuguese. I just couldn't read the subtitles without sleeping. It was a nice 20 minute mini-nap!

"Faith-Based Charity" (dir Maria Breaux 2004 USA 10 min video) This was just a weird little story of a woman who hires another woman to 'be her mother.' I didn't get it.

"Dangerous Kisses" (dir Mary Guzman 2004 USA 2 min video) Only 2 minutes, it was over before I almost knew what it was doing. Some sort of faux-commercial for a business called "Stop Your Stalker." It wasn't at all effective.

"Diving For Pearls" (dirs Tara Jepsen & Beth Lisick 2004 USA 10 min video) This was sort of a cute (i hate cute) story of how a lesbian couple, who are also stand up comedians, attempt to get pregnant without the use of a man. It had one good gag. The rest was tiresome and it ended terribly!

"Between the Lines" (dir Laurie Koh 2005 USA 14 min video) By the time I got to this final piece, it really didn't have a chance. It actually had the best script of the bunch, but the editing and pacing was dully slow. I tried to keep my hopes up for the next program of 10 short subjects by local gay guys, aka "Boys by the Bay":

"Kisses That Move You" (dir Elizebeth Chávez 2004 USA 4 min) Ironically, this short directed by a woman, was the best of the bunch. It was a simple music video featuring a pair of guys making out. The music was lovely, and the technique she used on the images was quite unique and lovely to look at.

"C.H.A.M.P." (dir Eric Smith 2005 USA 5 min video) This was a personal and heartfelt little memorial to a friend of the director. It was a cute little video of his friend doing a bit of a routine after having picked up his 'stash' from a local Cannabis Club.

And, frankly, the rest of them, I don't even want to talk about. (KATYDID dir Scott Boswell 2004 USA 13 min 35mm PORNO BONDAGE dirs David Cutler & Mark Ewert 1999 USA 3 min video TO HOLD A HEART dir Michael Wallin 2005 USA 12 min video THOM GUNN — DOUBLE PORTRAIT dir Rudy Lemcke 2004 USA 5 min video ABRIDGED dir Mark McCormick 2005 USA 8 min video REMOVAL dir Jo J. Barker 2004 USA 4 min video GLORY HOLE dirs David Cutler & Mark Ewert 1999 USA 3 min video THE FAIRY TALE dir Billy Clift 2005 USA 18 min video) I left the last one before it was over. It was a tiresome program and I needed to get over to the Castro (these first three programs were at the Victoria) to join the MOB for:

"Tammy Faye: Death Defying" (dir Chris McKim 2005 USA 65 min video) Produced by the same company that did "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," this followed her struggle against an inoperable colon cancer, that masticized in her lungs. She is a total hoot, even in the face of all of the stuff she went through. (Guess what? She and I are on the same regimen! With the same side effects!) She was having such a hard time with the chemotherapy, that she stopped it early. At that point, it focused on how she prayed for a miracle, and got it. (hmmm...) The documentary is not as polished as the earlier one. However, it was helped by having her there, in person (greeted by several standing ovations: when she entered, when she went on stage and when she was finished!). Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the evening, however, was during the Q&A. She was asked why she supports the gay community, yet is against same sex marriage. She was apologetic, expressed how same sex couples should have the legal rights of access (aka domestic partnerships), yet bravely faced the crowd and admitted that she was raised to believe that marriage is a sacred act between a man and a woman. That was greeted with half hearted applause. But she ended her little visit by playing the Castro organ and leaving us with a slightly blue joke about Frank Sinatra having given one to her. "I have Frank Sinatra's organ in my house!" After a fairly extended break (Maureen and Deb: I got to have my 'annual visit' with Rex and Greg - hee hee), we were ready for:

"eXposed" (yes, that's how it is capitalized) (dir Pam Doré “Mr. Pam” 2005 USA 96 min video) This is a making-of Colt Studio's "BuckleRoos" starring Zak Spears. I can't believe I am about to say this, but even with the extraordinary displays of male pulchritude, this felt like it lasted for hours. It was simply too long. (har! There's a porn joke in there somewhere!) There was a definite feel of 'home video' to it, in which everybody gets to talk to the camera about what they are doing on a porn shoot, how they started, do they like it, etc. and on and on. It really pales in comparison to "Shooting Porn". However, this, like "Tammy Faye: Death Defying," got a jolt as the cast of the movie was there! Zak Spears is one big man! (He's my daddy! But he doesn't know it yet...) The Q&A was fairly unremarkable, beyond getting a good look at them. However, there was a post-screening party, which provided a meet-and-greet! I am too shy, of course, and could only admire from afar... Well, from about 10 feet, I guess.

This party was called the "Pink Saturday Ho' Down!" as tonight is referred to as Pink Saturday in the Castro (the day before 'Gay Day'). It was drizzly and cold. But the beer, hot dogs and brownies were unlimited. And my friend Bob (a Castro theater employee) brought me and another friend of his up on top of the marquee of the theater, to join the rest of the Castro staff and gaze down upon the MASSIVE crowd! We just missed the 'show' that the Colt Models gave the crowd from up there. Ack! Normally, I could have stayed out and partied with Bob, et al, until the wee hours, but it was too wet and cold and I didn't get enough sleep the night before. And tomorrow is a BUSY Closing Day!

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29th SF Intl. LGBT Film Fest - Day 8

15 hours... well, there was a 2 hour break, but still... Starting at 11:00 a.m.:

"Healing Sex" (dir Shar Rednour 2004 USA 120 min video) This isn't so much a documentary as it is a self-help video for victims of sexual abuse. It is an exceptionally well done 'course' led by Staci Haines, a therapist and somatic practitioner. The participants were particularly great, as we found out that they were not actual patients, but actors! I really couldn't tell. In fact, it was starting to worry me that these patients were being videotaped during their therapy. In actuality, they were re-enacting cases. It was a bit of a crash course at 2 hours length, however it is produced for home video and to be used, like a book, where you should stop and work on some of the exercises. It's available at: It is a video that the directors of the next short and feature should watch before continuing on their careers.

"The Last Night" (dir Matthieu Guez 2004 Canada 19 min video in English and French with English subtitles) Basically, bisexual porn from Montreal. It reminded me of Jennifer's French porn flick from "Valley of the Dolls." The two guys and the girl have a three-way, which makes all three of them depressed. Oh joy. Apparently, this program was the "B" in LGBT, as the next feature continued the theme of unpleasant and depressing bisexual relations.

"Race You to the Bottom" (dir Russell Brown 2004 USA 75 min 35mm) A guy and a girl both leave their boyfriends to have an affair for a weekend in Napa. The guy is a self-loathing ass hole. The girl, to her credit, does fight back. The dialogue is extremely unpleasant and quite forced. The actors (Cole Williams and Amber Benson) are too young to be able to handle the "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" type of confrontations. Overall, I found it quite unpleasant, even if it had some killer snarky lines. There were a couple of boos at the end credits. However, during the Q&A with the director and Amber Benson, people were fawning over it! The best quality of the film was, to paraphrase one of our great social commentators of our day, "It was film for me... to poop on!" Yes, it was lovely to be able to run to the restroom during the film and not regret missing a frame. This only helped prepare me to watch EVERY frame of the next program of a trio of short subjects called "Rugger Buggers".

"Gay Volleyball Saved My Life" (dir David Thorpe 2004 USA 8 min video) This was a quirky, humorous and autobiographical story of how a big nelly guy found some love playing gay volleyball in NYC. It was quirky as one of his issues has to do with the suicide rate in his family. It was a terribly uncomfortable moment for the audience as the short was bouncing along in a totally campy way (gay volleyball?!) and then hit a wall as he expressed his concern about committing suicide if he did not pull his life together in NYC. The director/writer/actor was present and has a charming screen presence, also.

"No Ordinary Joe" (dir Jules Nurrish 2005 UK 13 min video) A gay soccer player has a crush on another player and 'channels' the spirit of Joe Orton to get the guts to make a pass at him. Firstly, the accents were so thick and the sound distorted enough that I couldn't understand most of the dialogue. Secondly, it was sort of... dull and humor less.

"Rugger Buggers" (dir Mark Loughlin 2005 UK 45 min video) This was cosponsored by the San Francisco Fog Gay Rugby Team. Which means that they had 5 rows reserved for them in the theatre. Which means, that every time they saw themselves or other teams they liked or disliked, they began shouting, as if they were watching the live matches. The director introduced the film by putting off a percentage of the audience by explaining he wanted to show 'images of gay men who weren't old depressed aging queens, or sissies.' There were a few hisses at that one! To quote markosf , "Well, thank god hyper masculinity is not a gay stereotype, huh?" The documentary itself was about the 2004 Mark Bingham Rugby Tournament in London. And actually, what I could hear of it, it was quite funny and comprehensive. It even built some suspense and tension during the actual matches. (You would have thought that since the Fog had BEEN there, that they didn't need to scream during those sequences?) Anyway, it was all hunky and funny and cute, in a 'straight acting, straight appearing' way, of course.

At this point, it was after 6:00 pm and as neither Mark or I were interested in the next program, we decided to try some Happy Hour! Friday night. Before Gay Day. We were able to get down one drink at The Edge, aka Castro's 'bear bar,' which was PACKED with large men who have boundary invasion issues. In other words, stop shoving! We left there and I took Mark to a somewhat surprise Birthday Dinner at Ma Tante Sumi! YUMMMMM!!!! After that, Mark wanted to do some more wandering and I HAD to get back to the theater to sit down and digest during the 8:45 screening:

"The Journey" (dir Ligy J. Pullappally 2004 India 107 min 35mm in Malayalam with English subtitles) It is the story of two teenage lesbians in love, in India. It opens with a sweeping crane shot over a cliff of waterfalls, in which we are led to believe that a girl is about to jump off of. And you know how I am a sucker for a good sweeping crane shot! Especially after 8 days of hand held video. The photography was gorgeous!! The script was sweet and sincere. The performances were quite lovely, too. Considering that the director/writer created this in response to the suicide rate of lesbians in India, I really enjoyed this much more than I expected. In fact, I had not planned on seeing it all! However, it did give me a chance to grab GOOD seats for the scheduled 11:00 pm screening of:

"Trannyshack" (dir Sean Mullens 2005 USA 90 min video) It took forever to get the sold out crowd (50 percent in drag) seated and settled. And then, of course, there was the director introductions. In other words, it didn't start until nearly midnight, aka 'Drag Queen Time.' The audience was filled with drag celebs: Heklina, Chi Chi LaRue, Peaches Christ, Squeaky Blonde, etc. I was half expecting Varla Jean Merman to be there, as she is in town this weekend. Anyway, the documentary, which celebrates 10 years of Trannyshack performances at The Stud on Tuesday nights, is a pure delight!! Yes, the queens were yelling as loud as the rugby players did earlier in the day, and made it all that harder to hear what was going on. But, it is Trannyshack, where the visual transcends the verbal! I had a great time watching the highlights of the acts and some of the snarky reminisces of the interviews. I may also be in love with The Lady Steve. ;) But he wasn't present, that I am aware of.

There was an after-screening party at Heklina's house that Mark seemed quite anxious to go to, BUT it was 1:45 a.m. when we got out! I have to start the day again at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow... which includes, live and in person, Tammy Faye!! woo hoo!!

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

29th SF Intl. LGBT Film Fest - Day 7

It's another 11 a.m. to midnight day. There was a lot of FLESH to be seen today, however tedious. Starting with the shorts program "My Hustler," featuring 5 shorts with a focus on male prostitutes:

"My Hustler Boyfriend" (dir Peter Pizzi 2005 USA 4 min video) was an odd poetic ode to, well, a tranny's hustler boyfriend. Hardly remarkable enough to even include here.

"Licking Our Wounds" (dir Wendy Dallas 2005 USA 16 min video) Ok, it has a BUMMER plot, but it was wonderfully performed. A woman provides a hustler to her dieing friend. The woman was fantastic! She was present and I actually felt the need to meet-and-greet and thank her for her performance. I can't remember her name now, unfortunately...

"Room Service" (dir Daniel Reitz 2004 USA 20 min video) This could have been more amusing, if it weren't so honestly annoying. A geeky guy hires a hunk of a hustler, only to be so self conscience and nervous that the entire episode collapses. The geeky guy was almost TOO good! I really wanted to slap him around as much as the hooker did.

"Gold" (dir Amen Kazazian 2005 Canada 16 min 35mm) A boy is 'kept' by a blind painter. He is 'used' by the painter to continue his work. This little synopsis doesn't do the film justice. It was really sort of intense and quite well done.

"Myopia" (dir Mark Alan Dashnaw 2005 USA 29 min video) A guy gets mugged while attempting to hook up in a park, and then catches up with the mugger to take vengeance. There is fall out for the muggee, in which the whole thing got murky, and sparked an odd line of questioning during the Q&A, since the mugger was hispanic and there was name calling during the fight scenes. Some people are just too touchy... Speaking of 'touchy' the next program was a documentary about Mexican strippers!

"Zona Rosa" (dir Dan Castle 2005 USA/Mexico 75 min video in Spanish with English subtitles) This focused on dancers who worked in the "pink zone" in Mexico City, where there used to be a large number of male strip clubs. (Apparently, almost ALL of them were closed just last year.) Though some of the guys are gorgeous, their homophobic interviews got tiresome, and to be honest, I actually dozed off at one point. They're all quite pretty, but... well... The documentary just didn't seem to be leading anywhere except for an opportunity to ogle boys. I can appreciate that, yes, but in the comfort of my own home... ;-) NOTE: this was the FIRST time in THIS festival that I took a nap! I should have saved some of my nap time for the next program:

"Heroes and Gay Nazis" (dir Rosa von Praunheim 2004 Germany 90 min video in German with English subtitles) This was a comprehensive documentary about gays in the Nazi movement, both present day and historically. To a certain extent, this could be fascinating. However, Praunheim's style is primarily 'talking heads' and after a while, the constant babbling began to drone. I was tempted to doze off. Which means, I probably did doze off and don't remember. This was preceded by the short:

"A Life In Vain - Walter Schwarze" (dir Rosa von Praunheim 2004 Germany 16 min video in German with English subtitles) This is another Praunheim interview, however Walter Schwarze's testimony of his experience in a WWII concentration camp is horrific and should be captured and archived for posterity.

After spending the morning and afternoon with all this bummer material at the Castro, I decided to pop over to the Victoria to see the short that was preceding the 'encore screening' of "Paris Is Burning":

"Who's The Top?" (dir Jennie Livingston 2005 USA 22 min 35mm) This was a wildly entertaining fantasia of a woman's sexual daydreams! At one point, it goes into a Busby Berkley inspired S&M ballet! It was short, funny, wonderfully photographed and briskly paced. Jennie Livingston also directed "Paris Is Burning" which is why this was being shown with it. I did not stay for "Paris is Burning" but scampered back to the Castro for:

"TransGeneration" (dir Jeremy Simmons 2005 USA 80 min video) This documentary follows four college students who are in the process of sexual reassignment. Ok, I must admit that the whole transexual 'thing' is just a bit out of my box. I risk sounding like my parents, but I just don't understand it. And following the four students was a bit too episodic and made the 80 minutes seem much longer to me. Also, the Sundance Channel, which will be airing this next month, has been promoting it so hard, that I felt like I'd already seen it. There was also this uncomfortable moment for me, as the director, producer and all four students were at the screening and received a standing ovation, which I really didn't think was deserving. But one doesn't want to piss off a tranny, so I joined in anyway. There was NO standing ovation for the final program of the day:

"That Man: Peter Berlin" (dir Jim Tushinski 2005 USA 80 min video) This documentary seeked to explore the 'Greta Garbo of gay porn,' Peter Berlin. Peter Berlin interviews that he created a persona, not unlike Marilyn Monroe. He continues to express his resentment that he was never treated like anything more than a sex symbol. Now, this is where the film gets sort of sticky. Berlin was for all intents and purposes an artist. All of the photographs of him (with the exception of one sitting he did with Robert Mapplethorpe), he took himself. He was nearly obsessed with self-portraiture. Not only did he photographically create this character, but he lived in it. Though he may claim that no one knows him for who he really is, he is so absorbed in the sexual persona he created that he doesn't allow anyone to get to know him. He tells a story of how he was wandering through a shopping arcade in Paris that was filled with glass cases. He spotted a guy whom he felt instantly attracted to. This was a thrill for him, as he had never felt that rush before. As he approached, he realized that is was actually his own reflection. This is the level of vanity and narcissism that fills the documentary. However, there are a number of interviews with 'gay historians' including John Waters, who is just a HOOT!! Peter Berlin was present at the screening for an awkward Q&A, where he not only deflected any compliments, but went out of his way to shoot them down. (The Q&A as nearly 30 minutes.) The man claims to be 60 years old now, but still dresses as if he were in his 20's. Oh! Which reminds me that one of the odd trivial facts that came out was that he didn't create 'Peter Berlin' until he was 30 years old. "I looked so much younger. It was flattering to know how beautiful I could appear to the camera." That's the kind of interview he gave. It is doing exceptionally well on the film festival circuit and will probably get distribution. It is worth a look, if just for all the footage of San Francisco in the 70s.

Tomorrow: starting at 11 a.m. and going until... Happy Hour or "Trannyshack" the documentary at 11 p.m.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

29th SF Intl. LGBT Film Fest - Day 6

It's sort of scary, now. I'm in the groove! I walked into the Castro theatre at 11:15 a.m. and didn't leave until 11:45 p.m. (Well, there was a brief pasta run at 3 p.m.) But do not fear! It was NOT a day of 35 short subjects! Just 6 features (and one short). And I wasn't alone through it all. markosf , Andy, Bong and Bob H. were there at one or more films at some point.

"Just for Leather" (dir Lawrence Ferrara 2004 USA 5 min video) is an ok little vignette about how a newbie acquires his first pair of leather pants. ;-) It preceded the first of three documentaries of the day:

"Original Pride: The Satyrs Motorcycle Club" (dir Scott Bloom 2005 USA 56 min video) This is a documentary about the possibly oldest gay social club. In a way, it is a significant document of gay history as it spans the 50 years of the club's existence. It possesses an archive of photos, films and oral history. It is focused on The Satyrs, almost exclusively, which might limit its audience appeal. But the director's technique is so academic (almost patronizingly so), that the film will probably only be shown in Gay/Lesbian Studies. That's not to say it is completely without entertainment value, however, if it weren't for some of the more salacious subject matter, it's a pretty droll hour. The next documentary was anything BUT droll...

"Same Sex America" (dirs Henry Corra & Charlene Rule 2005 USA 89 min video) This chronicled the situation in Massachusettes as it began to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Though there is no doubt where the intent of the directors lie, they were able to get a generous amount of interviews and footage from both sides of the issue, which only added to the emotional drama of the piece. The primary subjects are a half dozen couples who begin planning their weddings immediately after the news that the Massachusettes Supreme Judical Court ordered the state to begin issuing licenses. The drama of the film is only elevated by following the several attempts by the legislature and eventually, the governor to pass an amendment banning same sex marriage. The footage of the utter chaos at the state capitol during the debates is extraordinary! The building was jammed with protesters from both sides of the issue, just blaring away. It gave the whole process a surreal, if not circus like atmosphere. There are more than just a few touching moments involving the couples, as well as a fabulous interview with a single lesbian who speaks of her wishes and dreams of a wedding, though it is against her parents' ideology. The documentary is a very emotionally based appeal on behalf of same-sex marriage. What I wish it did, however, was explain in concrete terms, the civil rights involved. It does not provide examples of what is lacking in terms of the couples rights who are without that marriage certificate, i.e. property rights, death benefits, etc. What it does focus on is the emotional impact of the weddings on the participants. I will admit that this sort of pushed one of my buttons. Marriage isn't exactly on my 'agenda', however, I do believe it is something that if you want it, go get it. However, by playing up the emotional aspect of the weddings, the focus of same-sex marriage was presented as a validation of the relationships, which I do not believe is the point of changing the law. That is my hesitation in unconditionally praising this moving documentary. Perhaps the directors felt that an emotional appeal might be more effective than a legal analysis of the status of 'partnerships' in this country. The film is produced by Showtime, so I assume it'll be airing sometime this summer. The next documentary was probably as 180 degrees from 'weddings' as you can get:

"Gay Sex in the 70s" (dir Joseph Lovett 2005 USA 68 min video) This was exclusively focussed on gay sex in New York City in the years after Stonewall up until the AIDS epidemic broke out. It is very much like Marc Huestis' "Sex Is..." except that there is a great deal of film and photographs from that period, which adds a nice visual element. (Huestis' "Sex Is..." is basically all 'talking heads'.) Interviewees include the photographer Tom Bianchi and "writer/activist" Larry Kramer, whose book "Faggots" is referenced and quoted in the description of Fire Island. The film traces the more, how shall I say, riskier ways guys were having sex (i.e. the piers, the meat packing district, etc.), through the peak of the 'bathhouse era' and includes the excitement of the discos (Studio 54 and The Saint). It then details how it so dramatically changed in 1981, after the initial breakout of the 'gay cancer'. Overall, the film is titillating and waxes nostalgic (some of the guys literally glow when they reminisce!) about a short, yet dramatic era in gay history. The subject matter here, just as in the Satyr documentary, will probably limit its audience. However, the amount of archive material and its unapologetic manner does give it some historical significance. At least in my opinion. ;-) From these three fairly earnest documentaries, we launch into total narrative fluff with:

"Formula 17" (dir D.J. Chen 2004 Taiwan 93 min 35mm in Cantonese, English & Mandarin with English subtitles - except for the 8th reel!! ack!) This felt like it was written by Russel T. Davies ("Queer As Folk")! I found it charming and, yes, cute! And almost cute in an icky way, but after three hours of documentaries, this was the perfect little piece of fun! A newcomer to Taipei enters a dizzying miasma of friends who decide that they are going to get him laid. But he is holding out for love. Yes, it is totally predictable, plot wise. However, I found some of the performances charming and quite comically gifted! I don't know if I were to see it again, I might not be able to take it, but for today, it was just right. Even losing the subtitles in the 8th reel didn't lessen my enjoyment, unlike some other audience members. ("Rewind it!" - ??!! gawd!)

"Wilby Wonderful" (dir Daniel MacIvor 2004 Canada 99 min 35mm) This was what "Happy Endings" could have been, as far as I'm concerned. It features a large ensemble, multiple plot lines, and even though it becomes high farce at one point, I never doubted the characters' needs to press on! Sandra Oh does a nearly brilliant (yes, the "B" word!) job as an extremely high-strung real estate agent, who has no limits to what she will do to close a deal! The climax of her storyline was hysterical! She is just amazing. The rest of the cast and plots are understated in comparison, but do not lose interest. In fact, they balance the piece out rather well. The film is set in a SMALL town in Nova Scotia, so everyone knows everyone else, which is really the center of the 'drama.' There is a plot line involving a closeted gay man who is determined to commit suicide, though he is consistently foiled. This plot though is fairly incidental to the whole, which makes it sort of an odd entry for THIS festival. However, it is exceptionally well written and produced and deserves as much exposure as it can get. The film received theatrical distribution in Canada, however it will be released direct-to-video here. I plan to find it and get it! I also plan on obtaining a copy of the final program of the day:

"Kiki and Herb On The Rocks" (dir Mike Nicholls UK 2005 65 min video) It's a documentary! Really! It follows the near legendary lounge-act-on-acid that is 'Kiki and Herb' as they prepare to perform their act in London. Kiki (Justin Bond) and Herb (Kenny Mellman) remain in character for the entirety of the documentary, so it is hard to not call it a 'mockumentary' except that their personas are so finely etched (like the wrinkles on Kiki's face!) that it feels completely real. Kiki and Herb arrive in London, jet lagged and ready to step on stage of where they will be performing, but not before finding some much needed whiskey. ("You don't want to see Herb get the shakes, now do you?!") Unfortunately, Kiki thinks they will be performing at The Palace, where "Les Miserables" just closed a month before, and not the pub-cabaret-boat on the Thames, where they are actually booked. They are also given a tour of London, in which Kiki expresses her own special 'appreciation' of the city. ("The Ritz? You'd think they would have closed it after what they did to that princess.") There's lots of footage of Kiki getting incredibly drunk, some footage of the actual act, an absolutely classic scene at the after-show party, and of course, lots of footage of Kiki basically arguing with everyone she comes into contact with. She's a JOY! :-)

That's it for today. Tomorrow is another 11-11! woo hoo!!

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