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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29th SF Intl. LGBT Film Fest - Day 5

Usually, this is where I would take an 'intermission' as it is the half-way mark and features a 'special presentation' referred to as the "Centerpiece Film." (A 'special presentation' in price only, it seems.) But this time, my 'intermission' meant seeing only two films:

"Night Corridor" (dir Julian Lee 2004 Hong Kong 74 min 35mm in Cantonese with English subtitles) What was promised to be a David Lynch-esque nightmare of Catholic gay guilt, with a Hong Kong horror twist, turned out to be just... bad. In fact, as I read what I just typed, I realize that there were three too many concepts and styles being thrown into this thing. I could give you a synopsis, but... what would be the point? Once I got to the point of the twin brother's (who was molested by a priest as a child) death by being torn apart by monkeys, you'd probably stop reading anyway. The ONLY reason I stayed in there was because I needed to save seats for the "Centerpiece Film" which was to follow.

Speaking of saving seats, the Castro Crowd can become a little cranky as the fest grinds on. Alot of us have been in there all day, everyday, and have a tendency to 'home in' to certain seats. During the 45 minute or so break between programs, we throw down our personal items and wander off to stretch. As the new audience pours into the theatre for something that is oversold, as the next film was, these 'newbies' can get pretty rude and resentful that 'people are saving seats already?' Well, yes. We are. We've been here all day, all week, so back off. In yesterday's 'moment,' I was holding seats for Andy, Bong and Bob: Andy and Bong in front of me and Bob next to me. On the aisle, of course, not so much having to do with legroom as it is sightlines and clausterphobia. Well. These six big, beefy 'straight acting/straight appearing' guys come up and decide that it is not fair that there is a jacket (mine) over these two seats on the aisle. "I hate these guys who just come in at 11 and save their seats for all day! It's not fair." I, in full Chemo-Boy Mood Swing Mode replied (and lied), "I guess they ran across the street for a pizza and some air since they've been in here all week. Maybe next year, they should sell 'reserved seats' so no one can complain about how unfair it is that the people seeing 30+ films might want to save their seat between movies? That way, if you did end up in the back row on the side you'd have no one to complain to." And that, friends, ended my sermon and any chance of a coffee date with one of the six big, beefy guys. Anyway, Andy and Bong got in soon enough. But poor Bob didn't make it until curtain, by which point I felt the need to give up his seat (Sorry, again, Bob!!), as they had asked Frameline Board Members and Volunteers to give up their seats for the oversold audience. In short, this crowd was a mess! And what, you might ask, was all of this excitement and anticipation for?

Well, you don't get to find out just yet. There are the festival trailers and introductions before each screening. None of these are usually of any remarkable interest, as opposed to the magnificent faux pas that Rrrrrrrroxanne(!) makes at the SFIFF. The co-directors, Michael Lumpkin and Jennifer Morris, are appealing, welcoming and well spoken. This year, however, is a big fund raising year for Frameline (the host organization of the festival). It would appear that they have committed their budget to raising $1.2 million dollars for their "Campaign for the Future of Queer Film." As awkward as that campaign title may seem, so are the 'pledge break speeches' that various board members have made during the film introductions. Last night's was no exception. These pledge breaks (and yes, they are nearly identical to a PBS pledge break, with volunteers going into the audience with pledge cards for us) are dull, awkward and just a bit uncomfortable as each speaker has asked for "a raise of hands of who wants to help Frameline now!" Once that moment passes, to the relieved applause of the 1400 in the theatre, we finally get to:

"Happy Endings" (dir Don Roos 2005 USA 128 min 35mm) Don Roos created "The Opposite of Sex" which has a devoted following and so the anticipation of his next film was pretty high. Mind you, it has been doing 'the circuit' (Sundance, etc.) to mixed reviews, and it has distribution, opening in San Francisco in only two weeks, but the Festival successfully promoted it as a Special Event and the audience was READY. For this 'special screening' the only production member present was Jason Ritter, who plays a particularly small, supporting role, which happens to be gay, so that's why they (the studio?) shipped him out to be with us, I presume. He had very little to say during the introduction and was going to be there for the Q&A afterwards, of which I had no interest in hearing what he might have to say. Anyway, what about the film, you're asking? It's ok. Yes, just ok. Roos does get some fun snarky lines in there. However, that sort of works against itself. This is one of those large ensemble cast projects where the focus tries not to be on any single performance, but on the wit of the script. The problem here is that the cast is a really good, smart group of actors who are playing characters that are either 1) neurotic to the point of "Woody Allen-isms" or 2) the person who can't seem to let go of the stupid neurotic who is about to screw up their life. In each of the plotlines, and there are many, Character #1 does something so annoying and stupid that any normal Character #2 would just tell him/her to fuck off and leave. But in this script, Roos 'forces' the situation to continue with a stupid choice on the part of Character #2. I find this really annoying. Mostly because the 'odd couple' set ups here don't have the proper situations to force the characters into the relationships they find themselves. Yes, there are a lot of fun punchlines and great quirky little moments, particularly from Lisa Kudrow and Maggie Gyllenhall (and surprisingly enough, even Tom Arnold!). However, the characters are making stupid choices while spouting inspired one-liners and it feels forced. If anything, it did increase my appreciation for Woody Allen and Neil Simon in their abilities to take smart actors/characters and place them into chaotic messes that you actually feel they MUST work out of. Roos' script has situations that are not nearly as 'life or death' and result in feeling quite contrived for the sake of some really good snarky lines. It's a good rental and you'll get some good laughs, but it's going to go down as forgettable in my book.

After the screening, I had two options: run over to the Victoria for "Guys and Balls" (about a gay german soccer team - will they win??) or catch up with Bob and go to the "Happy Endings" post screening party at Foreign Cinema. I went home and went to bed BEFORE 11 p.m.! woo hoo!!!!

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Monday, June 20, 2005

29th SF Intl. LGBT Film Fest - Day 4

Well, I started the day with 2 sets of Shorts Programs and 3 Features. I'll toss the 14 shorts to the end, since it can become sort of tedious, and start with the features.

"Based on a True Story" (dir Walter Stokman 2004 Netherlands 75 min video) This documentary wished to explore the truths and myths behind the real event that inspired "Dog Day Afternoon." In, dare I say, typical Dutch documentary fashion, the making of the documentary is as much apart of the film as the subject is. Though we get a decent number of interviews of the hostages, John Wojtowicz's first wife, Frank Pierson the screenwrighter, Sydney Lumet the director, as well as some harrowing recollections by the FBI agent who eventually brought everyone out, it is the 'interviews' or the attempts to interview Wojtowicz himself (the character Al Pacino played) that reveal more about what that situation must have been like than the witnesses actual recollections. Wojtowicz is... well, crazy. And quite the narcissist. Which would explain why the bank robbery and hostage situation was as unique as it was. His transexual wife (he married bigamously) has died since then, and we only see interviews after the film was released. It's really sort of a fascinating story, as those who tell it seem to hardly believe or yet understand what was happening. And that the man who caused it, is so mentally 'gone' that we can't get a clear picture from him either, except that, THAT is probably why it was so compelling: it just wasn't making any sense! The documentary is sort of goofy and fun in that way. Yes, there was a tragedy involved (his accomplice was killed), however even that doesn't seem to cast a shadow on the novelty of it all. It's well worth seeing! And it made me want to rent/see "Dog Day Afternoon" again. This was the first of what proved to be a great double feature! Following it was:

"Loggerheads" (dir Tim Kirkman 2005 USA 90 min 35mm) Tim Kirkman directed the nearly brilliant documentary "Dear Jesse" in 1998, which explored the North Carolina mindset that had supported Jesse Helms' terms in office. "Loggerheads" is his narrative debut, and is set in North Carolina, and features some of those mindsets found in "Dear Jesse," but explores so much more... It's a complex narrative structure, in which three stories from three years apart are woven together. There is a gay beachcombing drifter, a mother searching for her child she gave up for adoption, and a pastor and wife in denial of their son's lifestyle. The cast is EXTRAORDINARY! Bonnie Hunt, Tess Harper, Michael Learned, Chris Sarandon, Kip Pardue and Michael Kelley fill the cast and do some beautiful work. Hunt and Learned (as mother and daughter) have some exceptional scenes, as does Tess Harper. The editing was particularly great in this. In what could have been a confusing mess, was tightly pulled together and scenes were always completed before the cut away to the next story. We were never left hanging with questions to distract us from the next scene, but it still fed us information that would eventually bring the film to a beautiful and heartfelt climax. It is an exceptional piece of work. The Castro Audience gave it a partial Standing Ovation. It was too sweet to 'jump to your feet' for, but I would not be surprised to see it win the Audience Feature Award.

After "Loggerheads" I had a ticket to pop over to the Parkway in Oakland for "Surge of Power" at 9:15. But I didn't want to dampen the experience I just had with both "Based On A True Story" and "Loggerheads" with a cheesey/campy gay superhero flick. So, I zoomed down Market Street and I just couldn't keep myself from turning LEFT down Franklin to be home by 9:00 pm. ;-)

Now, the 14 Short Subjects. They were presented in 2 programs: "Boys School" and "The Return of the Antipodeans": 1) shorts about guys in school; 2) Australian short subjects. In vaguely preferential order, first the 6 "Boys School" shorts and then the 8 "...Antipodeans":

"On The Low" (dir Luther M. Mace 2004 USA 16 min video) Love between a pair of African American guys in an inner city school. The performances were REAL and gutsy! Not to mention, that there is a certain homogeny in a lot of these 'gay angst in school' flicks where we are presented with a "Beaver Cleaver Comes Out!" story. This had so much more depth and guts to it than the WASPish ready-for-tv stuff that is usually presented.

Speaking of WASPish ready-for-tv stuff, "Ryan's Life" (dir Nick Wauters 2004 USA 24 min video) was unapologetically a pilot. Imagine "Wonder Years" but he is gay. Yes, it was clever and funny and "Ryan" did a really good job, but... we've seen this before. And we'll see it again. Twice in fact in the same day with:

"Shakespeare's Sonnets" (dir Samuel Park 2005 USA 7 min video) and "dare" (yes, all lower case - ugh) (dir Adam Salky 2004 USA 17 min video). "dare" featured 'Zack' from "The O.C." as the bad-boy flirt at school who preys on our broodingly gorgeous, closeted and angst ridden gay hero. Oh, "Shakespeare's Sonnets" had the same plot, but different actors.

"Katydid" (dir Scott Boswell 2004 USA 13 min 35mm) was just an odd bit about twin brothers, one of whom is gay and comes out to the other. I'm sure the director was terribly impressed by his gimmick of having the same actor play both roles. sigh.

"Last Full Show" (dir Mark V. Reyes 2004 Philippines 18 min 35mm) was another odd little bit about an older man's infatuation with a wealthy student. Sort of a Philippines version of "Death In Venice" without the tragedy. So it was... dull.

From Australia, aka the Antipodeans:

"Work It Out" (dir Kym Vaitiekus 2004 Australia 3 min video) Painlessly short vid where two NASTY automechanics are about to beat the pulp out of each other until their boss tells them to kiss and make up. Which they do. DEEPLY. har. har.

"Hitch Cock" (dir Stuart Vauvert 2005 Australia 10 min video) If it weren't for his fabulous style, good technique and great cast, this would be considered terribly sophomoric, but FUNNY! In a 'Rear Window' homage, a man sees a pair of men making out across the street. He then goes into a 'Vertigo' like obsession with the word 'cock,' as it invades his every thought and begins to hallucinate seeing and hearing it from the world around him! It was a hoot!

"Moustache" (dir Vicki Sugars 2004 Australia 13 min 35mm) This was a quirky, yet charming little tale of a husband and wife, whose romantic life is pretty well dead, until... well... her hormones begin to change... ;)

"Shining The Ball" (dir Tom Conyers 2005 Australia 17 min video) They make WASPish ready for tv gay angst stuff in Australia, too, it seems. Pretty, but, yawn.

"Teen Christian Beach Party" (dir Richard Vette 2004 Australia 4 min 16mm) The title held so much promise! But it just didn't deliver. In fact, I can't even synopsis this, as it was such a mess.

"Transient" (dir Craig Boreham 2004 Australia 10 min video) Visually, quite arresting, however something of a drag. It chronicled the 'transient nature' of a relationship... I'm sort of giving it a bit of a disservice here, because it was quite well done. It just wasn't pleasant to sit through. It was almost too real watching the pair drift apart like that...

"Crash" (dir David Moore 2004 Australia 5 min 16mm) NOT ready for tv gay angst flick, as it climaxed with a nasty 'fag-bashing'! Nearly generated hisses and boos, this did. It does have a point to make, as the closeted guy is the one doing the bashing, but... TOO GRIM!

"What Grown-Ups Know" (dir Jonathan Wald 2004 Australia & USA 30 min 35mm) I loathed this thing. Hideously performed. Three characters: Mom, Son and the Manager of the trailer park that they are staying at. Yes, we are talking poor white trash. Mom was played like Blanche Dubois. The Son started off normal enough until faced with his BREAKDOWN SCENE (from out of nowhere). The Trailer Park Manager was sort of hunky and completely aware that he was acting opposite idiots. Which made me laugh! Sadly, the guys in the row behind me felt "...that was the most interesting piece here this afternoon." *bitchslap*

Yes, there is more tomorrow... but starting at the civilized hour of 4:15 PM! :-)

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

29th SF Intl. LGBT Film Fest - Day 3

I'm pooped (in more ways than one!) and just couldn't get through all 6 programs today. Just 5, starting at the Castro (with markosf ) for the animated shorts ("Queermation"). In order of preference:

"Powerplay" (dir Greg Lawson 2003 Netherlands 4 min 35mm) was one of the shortest but most witty pieces in the group! Animated S&M basically, but it was FUNNY!!

"Listen" (dir Susan Justin 2004 Canada 3 min video) reminded me of one of Don Hertzfedlt's Bitter Films. Line drawn and sort of snarky episode of a mother and daughter talking, yet 'puncturing' each others thought balloons... hee hee...

"Bikini" (dir Lasse Persson 2004 Sweden 7 min 35mm) was a colorful and funny little ditty of a guy coming out in drag on a beach to the tune of "Itsy Bitsy, Teeny Weeny, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini"!

"Christopher & Gordy" and "Lonely 15" (dirs Frank Mosvold & Tom Petter Hansen 2004 Norway 5 min and 3 min 35mm) I remember liking these two, but I don't remember why, now... They're by the same director team (Mosvold was present), and have a great style and look to them. I remember them being pretty witty, too. But I just can't put my finger on why... It was so long ago...

"Granny Queer - The Late Bloomers" (dir Jacinda Klouwens 2004 Australia 7 min video) A pair of animated (think Warner Brothers) granny lesbians. Hilarity was attempted, yet did not ensue.

These two were just pretty amateurish: "Sigmund Freud: Professional Psychoanalyst" (dirs Kami Chisholm & Jennifer Gilomen 2005 USA 7 min video) Finger puppets! Freudian finger puppets?!! "Falling" (dir Petra Rossi 2004 Finland & Wales 4 min video) A lesbian relationship that can't get off the ceiling. har.

These two thought they were 'art': "Dreaming is for Moonrise" (dir Pei Ying Lee 2004 Taiwan 7 min video) Pretty and I appreciated her technique (animated lead shavings), however, dull. "With What Shall I Wash" (dir Maria Trenor 2003 Spain 11 min 35mm) was much more successful, though even more abstract. Something having to do with cult gay artists of this century.

I slept through this one: "John and Michael" (dir Shira Avni 2005 Canada 11 min 35mm), a pair of down syndrome gay guys??? Dunno...

With that tediousness out of the way, which I assume Mark was thrilled to be released from, the next program was the Oscar nominated documentary:

"Twist of Faith" (dir Kirby Dick 2005 USA 87 min video) An intensely intimate documentary about how a man (and his family) deal with the sexual abuse he was subjected to by a priest, twenty years earlier. There are some extraordinary moments, as the director allowed the family to video themselves during some of their most personal moments. The family is quite amazing, really. The film is from HBO and will begin broadcasting next week. I was then joined by Sue Jean for:

"My Brother Nikhil" (dir Onir 2005 India 120 min 35mm in Hindi with English subtitles) Set in the late '80's, a state champion swimmer tests HIV+ and he is basically arrested and his family ostracized from society. Apparently, this over-the-top melodrama is quite a HUGE step for an Indian film, "as the first Hindi movie to take on the twin taboos of homosexuality and HIV." However, there was just too much dreck and cheap sentiment for me. The performers are all 'Bollywood Lovely' to look at and it is shot in widescreen, which is always pleasant. However, it reminded me of a BAD 1970 made for tv movie, frankly. In fact, since the entire thing is told in flashback as a memoriam to Nikhil, I didn't stay to finish it. (I'll have to ask Sue Jean if it ended any less maudlin, considering that we had been waiting for his death scene for nearly two hours!) I only had 15 minutes to run to the Victoria Theatre for:

"Poster Boy" (dir Zak Tucker 2004 USA 98 min 35mm) Yet ANOTHER frustrating feature! It came so close to being so good, but... The editing and direction were terrible! The cast was terrific! Michael Lerner plays a Republican Senator from North Carolina, whose son is gay and in the closet. Karen Allen plays the Senator's wife and gives it a good whirl! The son and his latest trick/boyfriend/activist are cute enough, too. However, the script would try to pull a "Citizen Ruth" on us and place the son's sexuality and coming out in the middle of a political struggle that just isn't characterized enough. (It made me appreciate Swoozie Kurtz's work in "Citizen Ruth" even more!) The pacing of the film just killed whatever emotional momentum it almost built, time and again. It uses the conceit of the son being interviewed by a reporter after having come out at his father's re-election rally, and continues to break whatever pace and continuity the plot had by cutting back to the interview. Such a shame, because the cast really is quite good.

Finally, the last program of the day (though I had planned on going to a 6th one, but just could NOT do it!) was a collection of 5 short subjects featuring gay guys and lesbians - together! Yes! In the same films!! Can you imagine that?! It only pointed out how segregated these things can be. In order of preference, though I use that term quite lightly here - in fact, there is no preference. They were all fair to mediocre for one reason or another, so I'll just list them here as a matter of record:

"Pants? Skirt? Lipstick?" (dir Shelley Barry 2005 USA 15 min video); "Kansas City Here I Come" (dir J.T. O’Neal 2004 Canada 15 min video); "Beyond Lovely" (dir Hilary Goldberg 2005 USA 11 min video); "Those Were The Gays" (dir Nancy Kissam 2004 USA 17 min video); "What Remains Human" (dir Maureen Bradley 2005 Canada 25 min video)

I should have popped over to the Castro from that for the 10:30 pm "Peaches Christ's Tranilogy of Terror" but... No. More. Amateur. Video. EVER!!!! Actually, Peaches Christ's stuff (which I've seen two out of the three parts of her 'Tranilogy of Terror' at the Bridge Theater midnight movies) is pretty funny! Yes, it's done for about $100 each, but it still has a wicked and fierce humor about it! I just wanted to go home, though...

Tomorrow, starting at noon....

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Saturday, June 18, 2005

29th SF Intl. LGBT Film Fest - Day 2

I skipped "Fun In Boys' Shorts" this morning, but will catch it on it's repeat next weekend. I was able to get to the Castro in time for "Fun in Girls' Shorts" however! (Thank you markosf for saving me a seat!) It was a typically fine collection of shorts subjects, in preferential order:

"A Girl Named Kai" (dir Kai Ling Xue, 2004, Canada, 10 min. video) Even though I missed some of this due to a potty break (what can I say?), it was still one of the most unique looking and fabulously recorded shorts I've seen in a while, and definitely the stand out of the group! Plot-wise, it is basically the 'coming out angst' of a Canadian-Asian woman. However, she filmed it with such unique vision and style, that it bordered on poetic.

"PROM-troversy" (dir Leanna Creel, 2004, USA, 12 min. video) This gets a special nod if just for the appearance of Jane Lynch, who also served as Associate Producer. She plays an uptight, conservative mother and leader of "Defense Of Prom Integrity" (DOPI) after a pair of girls run for Prom Queen and King. It was cute, and not in a good way, but it had nice production values and some cool performances.

"Sushi" (dir Rebecca Heller, 2004, USA, 9 mins. video) Clever little bit about a closet sushi lover in a ballpark franks world! She eventually finds her sushi loving girlfriend... hee hee...

"Hi Maya" (dir Claudia Lorenz, 2004, Switzerland, 12 mins. 35mm) A pair of senior women bump into each other at a beauty parlor and re-establish a decades old 'friendship.' It gets special mention since one doesn't see much about senior love at these things. After a while, it is a real breath of fresh air not to watch another overly tattooed and pierced pair of dykes make out, in an attempt to make an 'edgey' queer film. Which is almost exactly what these next two did:

"Day One" (dirs Pam Dore' & Dara Sklar, 2005, USA, 15 mins video) and "Hung" (dir Guinevere Turner, 2005, USA, 13 mins video). Both featured studly, tattooed and pierced dykes. "Day One" was about the discomfort of the first day of menstrual flow, which was sort of gross at points. (Is there really that much blood?!) "Hung" was a fantasy in which five lesbians grow penises for a day. Both films started a joke that they couldn't really find a punch line for. Pity.

"Inclinations" (dirs Jen Simmons & Shelley Barry 2004 USA 15 min video) A writer who is attempting to create an erotic novel, watches her 'creations' in her living room, to unsatisfactory results. That is until a girl friend, who wants to be her girlfriend shows up and shows her how to do it for REAL. Interesting set up with her novelized characters speaking to her, but... poorly acted and even at 15 minutes, goes on too long.

Finally, "Puszta Cowboy" (dir Katrin Kremmler 2004 Hungary 9min video) is so incredibly quirky, but then it IS produced by the Budapest Lesbian Film Collective in Hungary. It's an all lesbian, cross dressing, western. That's that for that!

After lunch with Mark, a Rex and Greg sighting and killing a bit of time before selling my back-up "Charles Busch" ticket at the Victoria, the next feature was the documentary:

"Blood, Sweat and Glitter" (dir Sasha Aicken 2005 USA 80 min video) This documented the "Miss Trannyshack 2004" contest and it totally blew away my expectations! I walked in expecting some sort of trashy video of drunk drag queens on stage. What I got was a "Spellbound" level documentary of the intensive preparation and competition that this group of drag queens commit themselves (and their friends!) too, in order to present a PERFORMANCE and win the title! It was fascinating and inspiring! Really, it was! Where's my wig!??! ahhhh.... there it is...! The audience was filled with the contestants and I would have liked to have stayed for the Q&A with the director, but I had to run over to the Castro for:

"A Year Without Love" (dir Anahí Berneri 2004 Argentina 95 min 35mm) This was perhaps the most aptly named title of a film I've seen this year: it felt like it lasted a year and was completely devoid of any kind of love. It is 1996 (right before the 'cocktail' was developed) and an HIV+ man wanders the bars and sex clubs of Bueno Aires searching for love, but getting involved in bondage, instead. What is up with these depressed Argentinian film makers?! This was in the same vein as "Pin Boy," "Extrano" and probably a couple of others that I've tried to forget. It's really sort of sad that a film that featured as much S&M as this did could still be this slow and dull. Of course, it didn't start until 11:00 PM, so that didn't help matters much either. Oh, and let's not forget to mention the 'white on white' subtitle debacle. People began to groan and just get up and leave as it was becoming difficult to even read what was being said. I thought about leaving early, too, but kept dozing off and was unable to get up. I should have though. I got a $75 parking ticket for being 4" into somebody's driveway. BLECH!

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Friday, June 17, 2005

29th SF Intl. LGBT Film Festival - Day 1

I chose not to go to Opening Night on Thursday, for various reasons: 1) pricey ($75) for an 'ok' party; 2) an 'ok' party would be even LESS 'ok' since I'm 'hooked to the pump' this weekend and unable to consume the Skyy Vodka Open Bar; 3) the film ("Cote d'Azure") releases this summer anyway.

So, today, pump in tow (my shrink will be so proud!), I went to the first pair of matinees at the Castro.

"The Joy of Life" (dir. Jenni Olson, 2005, USA, 65 mins, 16mm) This was neither joyous nor lively. Jenni Olson has never exhibited what I could call a sense of humor, even in her previous compilations: "Homo Promo" parts 1, 2 and I think there was a 3. In "The Joy of Life" (dedicated to Mark Finch, former artistic director of the festival, who apparently committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge), there is a collection of beautiful visuals of San Francisco. However, the narration is split into several parts: a) a butch lesbian bemoaning her loneliness; b) a critical dissection of Frank Capra, centering on "Meet John Doe"; c) a poem about San Francisco; d) an analysis and history of the suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge. The pacing is referred to as 'hypnotic' in the program. "Hypnotic" means S L O W. And completely void of life. In fact, the photography is completely made up of landscapes and avoids all persons or creatures. During the Q&A, someone asked, "Where is the joy?" Olson responded, "My love for San Francisco is bittersweet." Oh. Ok. Whatever... This was preceded by the short:

"Small Town Secrets" (dir. Katherine Leggett, 2004, USA, 8 min, video) in which a woman explores what it was like being the child of parents who both came out of the closet at some point: her mother is a lesbian and her father is gay. It could have been a sort of an interesting story, but she basically recorded phone conversations and webcam sessions with her parents. Visually, dull, but it had potential. Oh well. Thank god for the second feature, though!! markosf caught up with me for:

"The Lady in Question is Charles Busch" (dirs John Catania & Charles Ignacio, USA, 2005, 93 min, video) This is simply a tribute to that fabulous performer and playwright, Charles Busch! It features a TON of video archives of the early productions of the Theater-In-Limbo! It was fabulous to see excerpts of "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" "Psycho Beach Party" "Shanghai Moon" as well as "The Lady In Question" which was the last Theater-In-Limbo production. The documentary is a biography tracing his childhood, through his years with the Theater-In-Limbo, climaxes with the production of "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," his brush with a cardiac aneurysm, and finishes with the pre-production of "Die Mommie Die." There is a graceful and short, though unflattering nod to "Taboo," which he wrote the book for the Broadway production, while filming "Die Mommie Die." (It would seem that Rosie O'Donnell was NOT to be denied!) Overall, it was a pleasure, if not a privilege to get to witness the videos of Busch and his troupe at their peak! I'd love to have this on video, once it releases!! There was a Q&A, but it was fairly unremarkable.

That was all for today, as I didn't want to push it since it is going to be a LONG week and a half! :-)

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Holy IMAX, Batman!

[Jun. 16th, 2005|02:29 pm]

Last night, markosf (and half of his LJ friends), along with a sold out crowd and I went to "Batman Begins" at the Metreon, in the 'IMAX Experience' version.

First off, Christopher Nolan has done a spectacular job! Even though this is only his third film [oops! EDITED: it's his FOURTH film! I forgot about "Insomnia"], he has already begun a 'signature style' as it were. He films paranoia fabulously! His flashback/dream/nightmare/hallucination sequences are wonderfully executed. In this, everyone is paranoid of something. (Well, everyone except for couple of villains.) But what I found most exciting and disturbing at the same time, was how he was able to turn Batman into something of a 'creature' to be feared. I was feeling suspense FOR the thugs at one point! Nolan's camera work and editing were a BIT heavyhanded at times, but that could have actually had more to do with seeing it in IMAX than had it been regular 35mm. (FYI, the 'IMAX Experience' version of this is more of a blown up 35mm. It is letterboxed to fit the screen. harumph.)

I'm not a 'Bat-aholic' so I can only remark on the screenplay as viewed and not compare it to the canon of the comic. It's an odd thing, really. It's GREAT during its most ambivalent moments! However, when 'goodness' appears (most specifically, Bruce Wayne's parents), it just falls flat. In the case of Liam Neeson's character, I don't know which would be more at fault: the actor or the script. Or perhaps I just find him way too stiff in almost everything he does. ("Love Actually" was probably as loose as he will ever be.) He was still in "Star Wars" mode or something. I dunno. I just wish he would enjoy himself! Anyway, I digress... The script does a wonderful job of analyzing 'justice and revenge' and those who find themselves caught between those two ideals. Overall, loved the script!

The performances are exceptional, of course. I mean, LOOK at that cast! Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Rutger Hauer, Tom Wilkinson! And they are just the supporting cast! Christian Bale is quite nice to look at, and he plays the whole 'Hamlet' ambiguity quite well. I only had a couple MINOR reservations. One, his voice is a bit forced when he is en masque. It does have a couple of extremely effective moments, but there were more moments when he seemed uncomfortable speaking that low. Two, and this is not really his fault, but with his face blown up to IMAX proportions, he really should have that little mole between his right eye and his nose removed. I know, I know, how PETTY can I get?!? But, it was a couple of feet big when projected to that size and I found it oddly distracting. Other than that, he is back into physically outstanding shape. (Yes, we get a couple gratuitous beefcake shots of him in bed.)

Katie Holmes is fine. She's not really required to do much here. Michael Caine is outstanding! He actually choked me up at one point! Freeman, Oldman, Hauer and Wilkinson are all quite good, though you can tell that this is not a stretch for any of them. But at least they are ENJOYING themselves! (Note to Neeson, please!) And Cillian Murphy is quite creepy/sexy as the evil Dr. Kane!

The production design of Gotham City is quite cool! The rest of it is fairly standard 'wet alleys and caves' fare. The soundtrack had some great moments. Oddly enough, it is credited to both Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. I don't know quite how that happens, but... The special effects were not of the overtly obvious (i.e. "Spider Man") variety. I was never distracted by the shot.

Overall, I REALLY enjoyed this! I think it might rejuvenate the franchise. Though I do not know if Christopher Nolan would be one to continue it. If not, we could end up back with a Schumacher debacle...

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?

Tonight, Gretchen, Judy and I saw Edward Albee's "The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?: (Notes on a Definition of Tragedy)" - it's full title - at A.C.T. The production starred Don McManus and Pamela Reed (with Joseph Parks and Charles Shaw Robinson), and was directed by Richard T.E. White. (Gretchen scored outrageous 2nd row seats!!!)

I. Loved. This. Play.

I can understand that some people might feel that Albee goes to an absurd and cruel extreme in order to RIP the family apart. However, there is wit and anger and love and the emotions are all real. In what seems like a post-modern, absurdist complication (and, even though it is revealed within the first few moments of the play, I'll not mention it here, as I have been accused of giving away spoilers), the full title (Notes on a Definition of Tragedy), as well as the design of the set, elude to Greek tragedy, when inhuman entities entered the lives of mortals and led them to their fall. On one hand, it's as if Albee has taken an early Greek myth and placed it in a 21st Century family to deal with. On the other, he uses perhaps the last taboo to challenge the concept of fidelity and family. He has created a situation that can not be simply, much less peacefully, resolved. He structured it wonderfully in three parts: easing the audience into a comedy, then thrilling us with some HIGH drama (Man! Those Monologues!) and then finally shocking us with the tragedy.

Pamela Reed plays the wife with nearly Medea-like fury! I loved her! (She did seem just the SLIGHTEST BIT HESITANT during some of the 'set destruction' moments, but this was the Final Preview and she might not be trusting that pieces were not going to hit the first couple of rows in the audience.) Don McManus did a wonderful job as the confused and doomed tragic (anti)hero. The other two roles (the Son, played by Joseph Parks and the Best Friend, Ross, played by Charles Shaw Robinson) felt a bit contrived, for my taste. Including the son does help separate the play from being another "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", and his occasional entrances do give the pair a break between rounds. Though I'm not sure quite what his 'role' was about in the third part of the play, except that it did fill 'time' for some nasty off-stage business. The Best Friend is simply the messenger, for both the audience and the wife, though he does play it well.

The only minor flaw that bugged me was the costuming. It simply paled in comparison to the set and the level of sophistication and status of the characters, particularly Reed's dress in the first scene. It was just so PLAIN and highly unflattering. The lighting design was fabulous, as the entire day seamlessly passes as the two intermissionless hours play on.

It Opens on Tuesday and runs for a month or so. GO SEE IT!

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