Chapter 1: List of Films; Chapter 2: Black Mirror: San Junipero; Chapter 3: Carol; Chapter 4: Freedom to Marry; Chapter 5: Handsome Devil: Spoiler Free Review; Chapter 6: Handsome Devil thoughts with SPOILERS; Chapter 7: TAB Confidential; Chapter 8: The Out List; Chapter 9: Do I Sound Gay?; Chapter 10: Game Face; Chapter 11: Jenny's Wedding; Chapter 12: Breaking Free; Chapter 13: Velvet Goldmine; Chapter 14: Decoding Alan Turing; Chapter 15: Codebreaker (an Alan Turing film); Chapter 16: On the Other Hand, Death; Chapter 17: Yves Saint Laurent; Chapter 18: The Trans List; Chapter 19: Last Call at Maud's; Chapter 20: Out Late; Chapter 21: Wanda Sykes: Me (Stand-up); Chapter 22: Do You Take this Man; Chapter 23: Suited; Chapter 24: Paris is Burning; Chapter 25: The Normal Heart; Chapter 26: Passing; Chapter 27: A Luv Tale; Chapter 28: And the Band Played On; Chapter 29: Reggie Yates Extreme UK: Gay and Under Attack; Chapter 30: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women; Chapter 31: American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace; Chapter 32: Kevyn Aucorn: Beauty the Beast in Me; Chapter 33: Far From Heaven; Chapter: 34: Two Spirit; Chapter: 35: To Be Takei; Chapter 36: Billy Elliot; Chapter 37: Save Me; Chapter 38: Fair Haven; Chapter 39: More Than T; Chapter 40: The Wedding Banquet; Chapter 41: God's Own Country; Chapter 42: Beyond the Opposite Sex; Chapter 43: The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister; Chapter 44: Pride; Chapter 45: Pride Divide; Chapter 46: Intersexion; Chapter 47: God's Own Country: SPOILER Thoughts; Chapter 48: The Gymnast; Chapter: 49: Queens and Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo; Chapter 50: I Do; Chapter 51: A Very English Scandal; Chapter 52: Women He's Undressed (about Costume Designer Olly-Kelly); Chapter 53: The Feels; Chapter 54: Jewel's Catch One; Chapter 55: Todrick Hall: Behind the Curtain; Chapter 56: Straight Outta Oz; Chapter 57: The Iron Ladies; Chapter 58: How to Win at Checkers (Every Time); Chapter 59: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson; Chapter 60: Front Cover; Chapter 61: Angry Indian Goddess; Chapter 62: Breakfast on Pluto; Chapter 63: Arisan! 2; Chapter 64: The Feminists: What Were They Thinking? Chapter 65: The Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric; Chapter 66: Love, Simon; Chapter 67: The Untold Tales of Amistead Maupin; Chapter 68: Bohemian Rhapsody; Chapter 69: Colette; Chapter 70: Evening Shadows; Chapter 71: The Third Party; Chapter 72: The Happy Prince; Chapter 73: Bridehead Revisited; Chapter 74: The Birdcage; Chapter 75: All in My Family; Chapter 76: Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga; Chapter 77: Lez Bomb; Chapter 78: The Pass; Chapter 79: Yes or No; Chapter 80: Elisa and Marcela; Chapter 81: Mario; Chapter 82: Life in the Doghouse; Chapter 83: Yes or No: Back to Me; Chapter 84: Girl; Chapter 85: Mario SPOILER review; Chapter 86: Yes or No 2.5; Chapter 87: My Beautiful Laundrette; Chapter 88: Holding the Man; Chapter 89: Moonlight; Chapter 90: We Were Here; Chapter 91: 4th Man Out; Chapter 92: Transformer; Chapter 93: Anatomy of a Love Scene; Chapter 94: TJ LeRoy; Chapter 95: My Beautiful Laundrette SPOILER thoughts; Chapter 96: The Pink Mirror; Chapter 97: Margaret Cho stand-up: Psycho; Chapter 98: Set Free Simon Amstell Stand-up; Chapter 99: Tell It To the Bees; Chapter 100: Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Chapter 101: Stonewall Forever; Chapter 102: Rafiki; Chapter 103: Macho; Chapter 104: The Saint of 9/11; Chapter 105: Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom; Chapter 106: Gayasians; Chapter 107: The Talented Mr. Ripley; Chapter 108: The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Chapter 109: The Danish Girl; Chapter 110: Dear Ex; Chapter 111: Benjamin (2018); Chapter 112: The Queen; Chapter 113: Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish; Chapter 114: Benjamin (SPOILER review); Chapter: 115: Welcome To My Queer Bookstore; Chapter 116: Strike a Pose; Chapter 117: A Single Man; Chapter 118: The Infamous T; Chapter 119: I Am Michael; Chapter 120: Michael Lost and Found; Chapter 121: My Brother Nikhil; Chapter 122: The Justin Fashanu Story; Chapter 123: Laerte-Se; Chapter 124: Born Beautiful; Chapter 125: Night Star; Chapter 127: A Secret Love; Chapter 128: Absence: No Fats, No Femmes, No Asians; Chapter 129: Playing with Gender; Chapter 130: Don't Erase My History; Chapter 131: I Choose; Chapter 132: Street Harassment: Non-Binary Identities; Chapter 133: Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts; Chapter 134: Before Stonewall; Chapter 135: After Stonewall; Chapter 136: A Tribute to Phyllis Lyon; Chapter 137: Disclosure; Chapter 138: Baby Steps; Chapter 139: The Watermelon Woman; Chapter 140: Drawn This Way; Chapter 141: Queerama; Chapter 142: Much, Mucho Amor; Chapter 143: The Half of It; Chapter 144: In My Shoes; Chapter 145: The Birthday; Chapter 146: 50 Years Legal; Chpater 146: Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson; Chapter 147: Envisioning Justice; Chapter 148: Lingua Franca; Chapter 149: Queer Son; Chapter 150: Almost Love [Sell By]; Chapter 151: Love, Lt; Chapter 162: Saving Face; Chapter 163: State of Pride; Chapter 164: Saturday Church;Chapter 165: Carlos Alvarez: Playing with Fire; Chapter 166:Boys in the Band; Chapter 167: A New York Christmas Wedding; Chapter 168: Monsoon; Chapter 169: Seoul to Soul; Chapter 170: Tracks; Chapter 171: Your Name Engraved Herein; Chapter 171: Tears of the Goddess; Chapter 172: Wish You; Chapter 173: My Neighbor, Miguel; Chapter 174: The One You Never Forget; Chapter 175: Kapaemahu; Chapter 176: Pride (Yan Horowitz;
If spoilers are not listed in the description then the review is as spoiler free as possible while still giving enough information to help readers decide whether they want to see the film.
Comments may contain spoilers so if you want to avoid spoilers for a film you might want to skip the comments section.
I have a separate set of metas for Maurice that includes discussions about both the E.M. Forster book and the Ivory-Merchant film.
Chapter 2: Black Mirror: San Junipero
This chapter reviews the Black Mirror episode "San Junipero", an interracial love story between two women in a world where the ultimate happy ending is possible.
I was beginning to feel like I was running low on available enjoyable LGBTQ films that weren’t sex with a hint of a plot on top of it. Finding good quality happy wlw stories can be a real challenge. San Junipero is uplifting, thoughtful, romantic, and definitely deserved the two Prime Time Emmys and BAFTA Television Craft Award that it won.
The majority of the episode takes place in 1987 in a small beach town in California named San Junipero. Yorkie, a shy and uncomfortable young woman with very religious parents, is visiting and stops by a club. She shuns the dancing and goes for an arcade game. After a man tries to hit on her she decides to sit down where she is joined by Kelly, who starts talking to her in an attempt to get away from a man who doesn’t realize that their fling is over. Kelly tries to convince her to dance, but Yorkie flees at the first opportunity. Kelly followers her and continues flirting, but Yorkie declines saying she is engaged. A week later she returns to the same bar only to find Kelly flirting with a man, but they reunite in the bathroom and really begin their relationship. Yorkie admits she had never had sex before and Kelly reveals she is bisexual and was previously married to a man.
The following week Yorkie can’t find Kelly and is advised to try a different time giving the viewer the confirmation that something strange is definitely going on. The remaining episode is a wonderfully written love story. The relationship has time to develop. It is also an equal relationship with each of them at times asking for more and the other one putting on the breaks. They are negotiating a relationship in which they will both set the rules.
The chemistry between Yorkie (Mckenzie Davis possibly best known on Tumblr for Halt and Catch Fire) and Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw possibly best known on Tumblr for playing Trish Jones, Martha Jones’ sister on Doctor Who) is perfect and changes as the relationship develops. The theme of Black Mirror is technology and in San Junipero you can see both the benefits and costs. There is a very strong spiritual theme that lead to asking the question of what is the happiest possible ending.
The “science-fiction” element is something I remember reading in science-fiction novels and short stories as a teenager a couple of times, but the episode isn’t about that element. It is a love story that uses technology to realize it.
Make absolutely sure that you watch the entire credit sequence of the episode.
The song choice for the ending is the absolutely perfect choice and really captures the story. Interestingly, according to Mbatha-Raw the episode was shot quickly over three weeks and there was no read-though. This makes the performances even more impressive.
The original draft had a heterosexual couple, but it was decided (correctly, I think) that it had more poignancy with two women who could not have gotten married in our world in 1987.
My “behind the scenes” notes come from the Wikipedia page which I highly recommend reading after you see the episode.
Black Mirror: San Junipero is a Netflix financed show. I don’t know if it is available in all countries, but based on publications that reviewed it, it should definitely be available in the US, Canada, Britain, and the Philippines. (The first two series aired on Channel 4.)
Chapter 3: Carol
This chapter analyzes the film "Carol", a love story between two women set in the 1950s.
Starring: Cate Blanchett and Mara Rooney, Driected by Todd Haynes, Rated: R
It is hard to find good wlw films and writing up LGBTQ film reviews has really brought that frustration home. Cate Blanchett is one of my favorite actresses and although I have seen fewer of Mara Rooney’s films I know she is also a good actress. I have been a fan of Todd Haynesis my indie films snob phase when I was in my teens and early twenties. I have always loved the style of his films.
The atmosphere of the film and main theme is very similar to his earlier film “Far From Heaven”. Both take place in the 1950’s. In “Far From Heaven” a woman finds out that her husband is having an affair with a man. She begins a relationship with an African-American man. It is beautifully done, but not a happy film.
Although Carol has some really sad moments and Terese and particularly Carol pay a high price for their relationship the happy moments outweigh the sad ones.
The acting is superb and the chemistry between Carol and Terese is electric. Carol is confident in her sexuality and her feelings and attraction towards Terese, but is struggling with the consequences she will have to pay. She has moments of feeling that maybe the happiness she gets from being with Terese isn’t worth the price. I was born decades after the story takes place, but I am old enough to remember when saying you supported gay rights made many people think you needed a counselor.
Terese, who is younger, is more confused about whether she could be happy with a man and, thus, save herself from the consequences of being in a lesbian relationship. In contrast to Carol who is going through a messy divorce, there is a man who wants to marry Terese.
Their relationship has time to develop organically. Their sexual relationship is shown in a way that shows their attraction and love without feeling exploitative or gratuitous.
As with all of Todd Haynes’ films the film crew is crucial for creating the atmosphere and characters. The costumes, props, and locations are critical for creating the atmosphere. The music and sounds do not draw attention to themselves which fits the tone of the film. (This is 180% from his previous film “Velvet Goldmine”.) I don’t have personal experience with the 1950’s, but it fit with what I know of the period and did not feel current at all.
Chapter 4: Freedom to Marry
This chapter reviews the documentary "Freedom to Marry" about the fight for marriage equality in the US.
“Well, that only took 32 years,” Evan Wolfson.
“The Freedom to Marry” is a documentary that followed the fight for marriage equality throughout the United States. The film is a combination of history and a “how to guide” on the methods used to change minds.
Even though the courts are not supposed to decide cases based on public opinion they often are influenced by public opinion. The organizations supporting marriage equality made a long term plan that involved targeting three states every year and using grass roots methods to change public opinion in these states. Their first step was to have supporters agree to have five conversations in a week with people who opposed or were neutral on gay marriage and explain the personal, moral, and statistical reasons for supporting it. A significant amount of time is spent on their campaign in Texas.
The documentary also features comments by the anti-equality side including an excerpt of a speech by the horrid Roy Moore, the creep who thankfully lost in Alabama thanks in large part to black women helping save the US again.
The documentary gives a pretty good overview of the judicial reality in 2014 at which time the likely swing vote would be Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. The lawyer arguing for gay marriage was Mary Bonauto. Cameras are not allowed during the questioning, but the film features some audio clips from her answers.
The documentary really shows the stories of the individuals named in the case who were fighting for the right to have their marriage recognized in all 50 states.
It wasn’t known in advance what day the decision would be handed down. One nice touch was it showed some of the main organizers meeting each day and waiting to find out whether the decision would be handed down that day only to have to come back the next day to wait again.
There was a previous documentary “Freedom to Marry” made in 2005. It is available on Netflix at least in some countries.
Chapter 5: Handsome Devil Spoiler-Free Review
This is the first of two reviews and analysis posts on the Irish film "Handsome Devil". This one is spoiler free. The following chapter will contain spoilers.
The title Handsome Devil and the picture associated with it gave the impression it was a film intended for teenagers. However, when I accidentally clicked on the drop-down description I saw a picture of Andrew Scott and decided to check it out.
The story structure is similar to numerous straight films, but one that is rarely used in LGBTQ films. A musically inclined loner with an attitude meets and accidentally becomes friends with the star of the rugby team. Add in a new English teacher who is moments away from a nervous break-down, but inspires and is inspired by his students and you have the basic formula. The difference is in this case the loner and the star rugby player are gay and they are roommates.
The film opens with the loner, Ned Roche (Fionn O’Shea) being driven to a school he hates so much he dreams of being expelled. Once at the school he is immediately bullied by his homophobic classmates.
The new English teacher Dan Sherry (Andrew Scott) quickly takes control of the class by deducing students in a bored voice and throwing a student out of the classroom. He then makes it clear that the obnoxious noise to indicate someone is gay is not allowed in his classroom.
The star rugby player Conor Masters (Nicholas Galitzine) is shown around the school by his mother and the Headmaster Walter Curly (Michael McElhatton). The mother is absolutely horrified to find out that her son’s roommate Ned has a picture on the wall of two men making out. Curly just seems resigned. Both boys talk to the Curly about not rooming together, but the Curly stands firm.
Ned and Conner slowly become friends after Conor shows a genuine interest in music. Sherry warms to both boys after learning about their interest in music. Sherry seems to know immediately that Ned is gay, but neither he nor Conor realize that the other one is gay until an awkward incident. Andrew Scott makes Sherry’s awkward embarrassment so realistic that it is uncomfortable to watch.
The rugby coach Pascal O’Keefe (Moe Dunford) is the worst kind of an obsessed youth sports coach and not surprisingly incredibly homophobic. He strongly disapproves of Conor’s friendship with Ned and asks Curly to investigate Sherry because some types of people shouldn’t be around impressionable young people. He warns Conor that if you hang around with dogs you get fleas.
The friendship has time to develop, but Conor’s fear and Ned’s anger cause them to hurt each other badly. I liked the fact that the film was willing to go there and show what the pressures of being gay and being bullied in a homophobic environment can make people do.
I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it was happier than I expected and true to the characters. One of the film’s main strengths is that the characters’ story arcs make sense.
Both Andrew Scott and Nicholas Galitzine were absolutely brilliant throughout the film. Andrew Scott does an amazing job at showing someone who is trying to convince himself he is happy and comfortable with himself when in reality he is awkward, often miserable, and on the edge of a breakdown. Outside of the deduction sequence there is nothing of James Moriarty in his performance. Nicholas Galitzine does a brilliant job of conveying emotions despite Conor having very little dialogue.
There is an “it gets better” scene that is absolutely heartbreaking as we see Sherry desperately trying to convince Conor that it will get better. We can see that Sherry is also trying to hold onto that conviction himself. Conor is at the point where he can’t even imagine it getting any better.
I was unsure whether we were expected to see Walter Curly as not straight or if he was straight, but didn’t think being gay is a bad thing. Either way the characterization worked.
Pascal O’Keeffe is horrible, but Moe Dunford gave a great performance and O’Keeffe never becomes a cartoon villian.
Fionn O’Shea had chemistry with everyone, but something about his performance as Ned felt flat.
Andrew Scott had a much larger role than I expected including his own storyline. This helps to make the films less exclusively “teenagersish”. (Teenagerish isn’t a bad thing. There should be LGBTQ films for teenagers. It is just that I personally have less of an interest in teenage marketed films.) I am increasingly convinced I would watch Andrew Scott recite the periodic table.
Chapter 6: Handsome Devil SPOILER Review
This is the second review and analysis of the Irish film "Handsome Devil". This one contains SPOILERS.
The more I think about the film Handsome Devil, the more I liked the film. (My non-spoiler thoughts were posted here.)
The fact someone is gay doesn’t actually tell you that much about them. Some gay men love fashion. Some gay men love musical theatre. Some gay men love rugby, hockey, football, NFL football, and/or basketball. Some love rap music. Some want to meet guys at clubs for one-night stands. Some want a husband and a house in the suburbs.
The idea that a gay man shouldn’t fit any of the stereotypes of gay men is problematic. If a gay man majors in English, loves fashion, and adores musical theatre he isn’t doing anything wrong nor should he be pressured into being someone he is not and giving up his interests. At the same time for some gay men to being their authentic honest selves means loving playing and watching sports.
I am a life-long sports fan. Off the record and quietly on the record it is widely acknowledged by players and people directly involved with numerous “macho” team sports that there are gay men who play and have played these sports professionally. Occasionally players come out after they retired and in extremely rare instances players come out while they are still active players.
I have been posting about documentaries a lot lately so I forgot to include the usual crew review. Film crews play a crucial role in the quality of a film by influencing the audience’s conscious and subconscious views the characters and story. The cinematography was excellent, the music choices helped the story along, the editor did a exceptional job with pacing of the film, and costume, make-up, and hair helped shape the characters.
Seeing Ned and Conor embrace was one of the most emotional moments of the film.
I am fortunate enough to have seen my teams “win it all”. After the players have a few minutes to celebrate among themselves the wives, girlfriends, and kids are brought down to celebrate with them. I have heard players talk about about how important their wives are to their success. There are a few women athletes who have their wives or girlfriends there for the celebration, but the Ned and Conor hug is something I have never seen in real life.
Ned pocketing Conor is a great touch. It really showed that Ned was starting to fit in and adopting some of the less horrible behavior of the other students.
One of the things I liked about the film is Ned, Conor, and Sherry are complex characters. Ned and Sherry fit more of the gay stereotype than Conor, but neither becomes a stereotype. None of the three show the remotest interest in fashion and Sherry always looks like he just rolled out of bed. This was a great costume, make-up, and hair choice as it contributes to the view of him as being on the edge of a breakdown. Andrew Scott is an attractive man in real life, but his looks were toned down for the film. Ned dresses differently than his rugby obsessed classmates, but not in a way that screams high fashion. Nor is Ned remotely flamboyant.
The introductory music for Sherry was a perfect choice. You already know something about the character before he does anything, but walk down a corridor.
Ned reading his essay at the National Essay contest (for which the school would get a donation) and his comment that people talked about it for months afterwards makes it clear that Curly canceled Ned’s punishment for disrupting the rally after outing Conor after Ned brought Conor back and Conor won the game especially since Conor presumably would have gone to bat for Ned.
It is interesting that the status of Ned’s and Conor’s relationship is left somewhat ambiguous. The only word we hear used is friend, but Conor refers to Sherry’s friend during the “it gets better” scene and Sherry’s friend is clearly his boyfriend/partner. I am guessing the status would be on the way to being boyfriends although that does leave open the question of them being roommates. On one hand it would be stupid to separate them. On the other hand would the school be ok with two openly gay students rooming together? (Yes, I sometimes overthink things when I start analyzing films.)
Chapter 7: TAB Confidential
This chapter reviews the documentary film "TAB Confidential", an autobiographical film about Tab Hunter, a "heartthrob" actor from the 1950's.
I’ve seen references to both the book and film Tab Hunter Confidential since they came out, but I couldn’t drum up an interest in an autobiography of an actor that I don’t think I have ever seen on-screen. Finally one night I was looking for some light viewing one evening and decided that it might be interesting for the coverage of the ‘studio era’ of Hollywood.
Tab Hunter was a ‘heartthrob’ actor and singer in the 1950s. During the 1950s an actor would sign with a studio and the studio choose which films an actor was in and would control his public image. Hollywood’s original interest in Hunter was based solely on his looks and it took him some time and acting classes to be treated as anything more than eye candy.
The documentary deals extensively with the role the studio would play in an actor’s career. The studio would choose the actor’s roles and would sometimes purchase roles specifically for the actor. Warner Brothers would also lend Hunter out to other studios for a large fee, but pay Hunter his usual salary.
Hunter finally decided to buy out his contract not knowing that it would be the end of his mega-star career. The market for an actor who was not attached to a studio and had left one was almost nonexistent. Being unattached to a studio also gave the tabloid press the ability to publish anything about the actor no matter how untrue or ridiculous. Hunter had enough and left Hollywood for an extended length of time.
Times had changed. Actors were expected to be anti-establishment and edgy. His ‘he’s a good boy introduce him to your mom’ persona was no longer appealing to casting directors. After a stint doing dinner theatre he returned to a limited extent. Probably of most interest were his roles in John Waters’ Polyester and Paul Bartel’s Lust in the Dust both of which were with actor Divine.
Early in his career he was arrested while at what the feared tabloid Confidential would later describe as “a limp wristed pajama party” (an obviously homophobic euphemism). Warner Brothers allowed the article to run in exchange for keeping Confidential quiet about Rock Hudson who was a bigger name at the time. Afterwards Jack Warner did ensure that article was forgotten. At the time entertainment journalists knew perfectly well that Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, and numerous other actors were LGBTQ, but they generally kept quiet.
Warner Brothers had Hunter attached to a number of women including Natalie Wood, Debbie Reynolds, Etchika Choreau, and Joan Perry. Debbie Reynolds appears in the documentary several times. During his highly publicized relationship with Natalie Wood insiders joked “Natalie Wood and Tab Wouldn’t". As with many actors his homosexuality was an known to many in Hollywood.
His first real relationship was with figure skater star Ronnie Robertson who was told he would not win World’s if he brought Hunter. Robertson brought Hunter and did not win World’s. Their relationship was well-known within the figure skating world, but not the general public. He also had a relationship with actor Anthony Perkins, but Perkins was obsessed with his image leading to the end of the relationship. Perkins went on to marry a woman and had kids with her. He died of AIDS in 1992. Hunter has been with his current partner Allan Glaser for over 30 years. They met when Hunter pitched him Lust in the Dust.
Hunter is also an avid horse rider and now lives a largely quiet life with his partner Allan Glaser.
The documentary includes a number of celebrity participates including Clint Eastwood, Debbie Reynolds, Portia de Rossi, Noah Wyle, George Takei, and John Waters.
The documentary can serve as an introduction to the studio system and what it meant for LGBTQ actors at the time. The world was more anti-LGBTQ at the time. Yet in some ways it was easier in the pre-internet and pre-camera phone era for actors to have a gay relationship. Studios didn’t care if actors were LGBTQ as long as the public didn’t find out. The studio era described in the film ended decades ago, but the current system isn’t always better.
At the end of the documentary there is a brief discussion about how in many ways Hollywood is still stuck in the 1950’s when it comes to LGBTQ actors and how many actors feel their careers would suffer if they came out. The documentary came out in 2015, but if anything it has gotten worse in Hollywood with the election of Donald Trump and the right of the right wing fanatics. Ultimately, Hollywood’s only loyalty has always been to TPTB making money.
Chapter 8: The Out List
This chapter reviews the documentary "The Out List".
The Out List is an hour long movie that has 16 short segments of people talking about being openly LGBTQ. The list includes celebrities (Ellen Degeneres, Neil Patrick Harris, Wanda Sykes, Larry Kramer, Suzi Ozman, etc) and people in non-celebrity professions.
It features a drag queen, Lady Bunny, who reminds viewers to remember their history and the importance drag queens played in LGBTQ rights. I liked seeing it articulated that there is a difference between drag queens and trans women. The most controversial is probably the Log Cabin Republican, R. Clark Cooper. Log Cabin Republicans are LGBTQ Republicans. One of the best stories was from a queer woman teacher whose parents are refugees from Afghanistan. When she was younger she said she wondered if she could get away with not coming out by justifying that she came from a homosocial culture.
The Out List does a pretty good job of showcasing people who are Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, or Queer. It also features a number of POCs. LGBTQ media has been getting better about remembering that there are people of every race and ethnicity who are LGBTQ. The stories show the spectrum of how people of faith treat people who are LGBTQ. Some have very positive stories about churches. Others had very negative ones.
In terms of celebrities, Neil Patrick Harris talks about the diverse people he grew up knowing in the entertainment industry and gives the most positive view of any of the celebrities. Ellen Degeneres gives a more negative view of the industry and talks about people who help you stay closeted and try to convince you that since you are out within the industry you don’t need to be out to the public. She points out how many people were profiting off her before she came out. Wanda Sykes said that after talking about her wife and kids on stage she would still get questions about why she didn’t talk about being LGBTQ. As she pointed out that WAS what she is talking about when she talks about her wife and kids.
There was one major negative. The closest it came to representing someone who is bisexual was a woman who rejected the bisexual label because of the negative stereotype. They had people who were positive about every other label. Was it really impossible to find someone who identified as bisexual and embraced the label?
At the time The Out List was made most of the US did not have gay marriage. That isn’t a flaw. It did annoy me that Suzi Ozman said that everywhere else in the world had gay marriage. She was right that in terms of LGBTQ rights the US was behind South Africa, but there are numerous countries that do not have gay marriage now let alone in 2013.
The Out List originally aired on HBO. I watched it on Netflix. It seems to be a recent addition.
Chapter 9: Do I Sound Gay?
This chapter reviews the documentary "Do I Sound Gay?" The documentary examines gay men's feelings about the stereotypical "gay voice".
The documentary Do I Sound Gay? takes a look at one of the most prevalent stereotypes of gay men: their ‘gay voice’. The documentary focuses on an openly gay man who spends a lot of time with his openly gay friends, but isn’t comfortable with his own ‘gay voice’. He wants to know how he ended up with it and find a way to get rid of it. I almost turned the film off after about 20 minutes, but later went back and finished it.
Having seen the whole documentary I highly recommend watching it, but be warned that there is a lot of internalized homophobia especially in the earlier parts of the documentary. I particularly recommend it for people who wonder why older openly gay writers write stories that are ambiguous or downright hostile towards LGBTQ characters.
I am younger than the people featured in the documentary (except for the random young men on the beach) and am aware of the generation gaps in the LGBTQ community. People’s views of the documentary might largely be influenced by their age.
The documentary begins with him telling his friends about his plan to learn to sound less gay. Some of his friends support it. Others are bothered by it. He visits his high school best friend who says she never had a problem with him being gay, but didn’t like it when he came home with a different voice than he had in high school (1). Another friend said when she came out as a lesbian she bought a leather jacket and suggests that the change in his speech patterns was his leather jacket.
Random men on and by a beach are asked if they would date a man who sounds gay and the universal answer is no. Many of the answers reveal the men are disgusted by a partner who has any characteristics associated with women. The LGBTQ community has never been one large supportive accepting family and even the ‘gay men’ portion of the community has a lot of divisions. Heteronormative society sees gay men as less than men and some gay men respond to that by becoming almost a parody of traditional masculinity.
The documentary includes a number of well-known openly gay celebrities including George and Brad Takei, David Sedaris, Dan Savage, and Don Lemon. George Takei not surprisingly comes across as completely devoid of any internal homophobia. The others admit to having some despite being out and proud.
The documentary deals briefly with homophobia against actors in the Entertainment industry, but treads carefully. It is clear that the people who help gay men change their voices have a lot of clients who are actors, singers, and other entertainers. It also shows the number of ‘gay voices’ that are used for villains in films.
Unlike many LGBTQ documentaries the documentary includes discussions about race and ethnicity. Don Lemon talks both about the ‘gay voice’ and his frustrations with being told he ‘sounds white’. Margaret Cho talks about how determined her parents especially her father were not to sound Korean.
The documentary also addresses the origins of ‘the gay voice’ and whether it can accurately used to identify gay men. The ‘gay voice’ has feminine qualities and sometimes straight men who were raised in an environment with a lot of girls and woman (for example, a man who was raised by a single mother and has four sisters, but no brothers) ends up with a ‘gay’ sounding voice. Also for a certain generation upper class male characters often had a gay voice. Boys and young men who wanted to sound like they came from a higher socioeconomic class sometimes ended up with gay sounding voices.
I should note that trans men and bisexual men are not really featured in this documentary. Also the documentary is Americancentric.
The fact I am recommending the documentary probably gives you a clue as to how it ends. Suffice to say it is not a self-loathing ending.
1. The scene reminded me of a similar one in The Making of Me although John Barrowman’s friend is far more accepting.
Do I Sound Gay? is available on Netflix.
Chapter 10: Game Face
This essay reviews the documentary "Game Face" about a gay basketball player and a trans woman lesbian MMA (mixed martial arts).
Game Face is a documentary about Fallon Fox, an African-American trans woman lesbian MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter and Terrence Clemens, a gay African-American college basketball player. At the start of the documentary Fallon Fox is in the closet about being transgender. She is single at that point and it never says whether she is out as a lesbian. Terrence Clemens is also in the closet.
Fallon Fox’s daughter appears in the documentary the two of them are close and her daughter is her number one supporter. In order to fight she needs to be licensed and the license application includes a lot of medical information including all surgeries. She is honest in her application and gets licensed with no problem, but then she gets outed. The outcry is swift claiming that she has an advantage. (Hypocritically one of the women who claims she has an unfair advantage ends up failing a drug test.) The crowds turn against her. Her story does end relatively happily, but it is clear that her fight for respect and equality is not over.
Terrence Clemens had been a star on his high school basketball team until he was spotted kissing his boyfriend. Without basketball he drifted and ended up being incarcerated. The documentary picks up where he is starting a two-year college in Oklahoma that has a basketball program. He wants to come out, but he is scared to as he is afraid the other guys will be afraid to have him in the locker room and they frequently make homophobic comments. As the documentary goes on we meet other gay basketball players. Some of whom came out and it did not go well. The “mom” of the team adores him, but when she finds out he is gay even she urges him not to come out yet. He also gets a happy ending, but as with Fox it is clear that he will still have more fighting to do.
During the telling of Fox’s story we see a trans man triathlon athlete. Not surprisingly nobody worried that he would be at an unfair disadvantage as they worried that Fox had an unfair advantage. In telling Clemens’ story we also see Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA (National Basketball Association) player.
This is a good documentary although not always a happy one. Sports can be particularly anti-LGBTQ and there are numerous professional sports leagues with no out players.
Chapter 11: Jenny's Wedding
This essay reviews the film "Jenny's Wedding".
It is hard to find good wlw stories and this is a good one that felt painfully close to real life. Jenny (Katherine Heigl) has no idea how to tell her small town conservative parents she is a lesbian so she waits until she is getting married.
She first tells her mother (Linda Emond) who doesn’t want to believe it and makes her promise to keep lying to everyone else including her sister. The cover story is that she was in a relationship with a married man because clearly that would be more moral. (Yes, that last bit was highly sarcastic.)
Jenny’s brother is happily married and only plays a small role in the film.
Her sister ends up seeing her kissing her fiancee Kitty played by Alexis Bledel (who the family think is simply her roommate) and immediately runs to tell their mother who admits she already knows. The sister, who thinks their mother loves Jenny more than her, gets mad at both of them for conspiring to lie to her. Her father seems more open-minded and has a friendly lunch with her after she tells him. We see him telling her mother that she looked happy as if he is satisfied and accuses his wife of not wanting her to be happy. The mother insists that the father always sets things up so she is the bad guy even though he agrees with her. The dynamic will change throughout the film with both parents showing some intense homophobia and seeming to be quite happy to lose their daughter in the process.
Much of the film is on the family dynamics as well as the homophobia particularly the dynamics between the Jenny, her mother, and her sister Anne played by Grace Gummer. Anne is realizing how unhappy she is in her relationship with the dead grass being symbolic of the dying relationship. Despite the tense relationships between the family members it is clear that it pains them to cut each other off even when they feel they have no choice.
Jenny and Kitty are adorable and Heigl and Bledel have good chemistry.
The film does a good job at showing the homophobia and the difficulties that come with realizing how much you might have to give up to be yourself. The ending is positive although still easily within the realm of realism.
I appreciated the ‘realness’ of the story, but some people might be uncomfortable with how much it reflects their own life.
Netflix considers this film a comedy and there are some funny moments, but a lot more definitely not funny ones.
Chapter 12: Breaking Free
This essay reviews the documentary "Breaking Free" about LGBTQ rights in India between 2007 and 2014.
This documentary was a seven year project (2007-2014) about human rights abuses against people who are LGBTQ in India.
Homosexuality was criminalized under Colonialism and, unfortunately, the end of official colonialism did not mean the end of criminalizing homosexuality. Unlike in Britain where relationships between two women were not outlawed due to fears that passing such a law would cause women to become aware of the fact that two women could have a relationship, wlw in India faced the same threats as mlm.
The documentary covers the whole cost of anti-LBTQ laws from discrimination in healthcare to forced marriages to blackmail.
The documentary includes video footage and interviews with hundreds of people. Some of them show their faces. Others are only shown in shadow for their protection.
Unlike “Freedom to Marry” Breaking Free does not have a happy ending. As has happened in other places sometimes the government takes steps backwards and takes away people’s rights. As is true in many countries the courts are supposed to be above politics, but in reality changes in attitudes across society are often necessary for the courts to act in favor of a minority's rights. Despite the sadness and anger inducing ending this documentary is worth seeing. There is a hint of hope in the end due to the fact that the LGBTQ community across India is becoming organized and the filmmaker talks about a two part next step: working towards legal steps and changing people’s views in society. It can take time to change enough people's minds for a culture to change, but these two goals have worked in other countries.
I sometimes see well-meaning (at least I hope they are well-meaning) people telling other people they should just be out and will be happier. I don’t think some people really understand the steep costs of being out in many places and situations.
The film does not explicitly talk about the differences in cultures across India beyond the divide between urban and rural communities, but there are numerous recognized subcultures across India. I am guessing it was assumed that anyone watching the documentary would be aware of the different cultures within India.
Breaking Free is available on Netflix at least in some countries.
Chapter 13: Velvet Goldmine
This chapter reviews the 1998 film "Velvet Goldmine".
“Velvet Goldmine” which is written and directed by Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven, Carol) and produced by Christine Vachon (sometimes referred to as the grandmother of Queer Cinema) takes place during the Glam Rock Era. Brian Slade is a David Bowie like singer who faked his own assassination when his character Maxwell Demon became too much for him to handle. In 1984 Arthur Stuart, a New York journalist from England who had his own experiences in the Glam Rock scene, is asked to write an article about what happened to Brian Slade.
The film has an element of fantasy starting with a piece of jewelry that appears to have come from a extra-terrestrial spaceship and ends up in the hands of a young Oscar Wilde. While the film comes down to earth in many ways there remains a dreamlike element that works well with the presentation element of Glam Rock.
The music is good. The set design and costumes are excellent. The performances by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Brian Slade), Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor), Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale), Toni Collette (Mandy Slade), Eddie Izzard (Jerry Devine) are top-notch and the actors embraced their characters.
Jack Fairy (Micko Westmoreland) is in many ways the inspiration in the film for Glam Rock, but is quickly eclipsed by Brian Slade’s and Jerry Devine’s (Slade’s manager) marketing. Brian Slade wants to collaborate with Curt Wild, an American singer. There is a great scene in which Slade looks at Wild with hearts flashing over his eyes and Devine’s eyes are flashing dollar signs. Brian Slade is already married to Mandy Slade, but he and Wild have an intense affair. Instead of being hidden the affair is used for publicity (“a Tracy and Hepurn for the 70’s”). The presentation element of Glam Rock merges with the presentation element of rock stars. The film invites one see that the artifice in the Glam Rock presentation mirrors the artifice in celebrity culture.
There are many elements that break the fourth wall and resonate so much it is painful. Arthur and his parents listen to a Brian Slade press conference in which Slade talks about bisexuality. Arthur imagines himself pointing at the telly and yelling, “That’s me!” although I got the impression from the overall film that Arthur is gay rather than bisexual. Arthur gets thrown out of his home for being attracted to men and ends up finding a new community- if not the healthiest- in the Glam Rock scene. Within the film fans are part of the story rather than outside of it.
The film does answer the question of what happened to Brian Slade, but not in the way one might expect. The Glam Rock era is treated as magical by the characters in contrast to their current lives in the 1984. The contrast is not just the existence of AIDS and the homophobic and biphobic backlash, but the state of music and the state of both Britain and the United States. Some of the contrast is also that they are older.
This film includes a brief non-con scene and a woman being pressured to have sex by her boss scene. It also touches briefly on the electric shock treatment that was used against mlm.
The film was released in 1998. I saw it a few years later on DVD at a time when LGBTQ representation was much less than it is now. At the time it felt like a breath of fresh air to have a story with gay and bisexual characters that did not include AIDS (because the bulk of it takes place before AIDS) and the main characters were alive at the end. In reviewing it against the film options that are available today and it doesn’t stack up as well as it did then, but I still recommend it. Although “Velvet Goldmine” is mainly about men it doesn’t have the same hostile attitude towards women as many older films focusing on gay and bisexual men. Mandy Slade has a combination of strengths and weaknesses allowing her to be a realistic person. There is also a very brief wlw scene. As for behind the scenes consideration when Todd Haynes, an openly gay filmmaker, learned that women and teenage girls liked the film, Haynes was thrilled to hear it instead of being insulting to female fans as is sadly common with many male filmmakers regardless of sexuality.
As you can tell many of the names have obvious LGBTQ related references. The 1984 scenes have a dark and oppressive feel to them so it is likely that the choice of 1984 is not coincidental and is a reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
A few quotes:
“Just because you see two naked people in bed together does not prove sex was involved. It does, however, make for a very strong case.”
“He was elegance, walking arm in arm with a lie.”
“You live in terror of not being misunderstood.”
Chapter 14: Decoding Alan Turing
This essay reviews the short film "Decoding Alan Turing" about the British mathematician, computer scientist, cryptanalyst whose work on helping break the German Enigma code during World War II. He hypothesized a machine that became known as a Turing machine which is the basis for computers and created "The Turing Test" for determining artificial intelligence. He was gay and one of the many victims of the horrific Labouchere Amendment.
I will be posting reviews of other Alan Turing related films including probably the best known one, "The Imitation Game".
This 16 minute documentary on Alan Turing is a good short introduction of Alan Turing that covers his genius, accomplishments, and life as a gay man at a time when homosexuality was illegal in Britain. In contrast to most other documentaries it is made by a gay man and has an extra resonance. The first half focuses on his mathematical and technical genius. The descriptions are understandable by a general audience and does not require a background in mathematics, computers, and artificial intelligence.
The second half is focused on Alan Turing as a gay man. It makes the excellent point that the simple stereotype of gay men does not fit well with the usual image of a scientist. There is a brief discussion about how inspiring Turing is for gay and bisexual men who have an interest in mathematics, computers, and AI.
The documentary features some short clips from “Breaking the Code” staring Darek Jacobi as Alan Turing.
The documentary features the statue of Turing at Manchester University that shows him holding an apple. When the statue was unveiled the artist had apples with a sticker showing a skull and cross-bone surrounding the statue which were given out to those present as a symbol that they were talking Alan Turing’s story with them. The documentary features a gay computer science student talking about how inspiring he finds Alan Turing.
It is available on Amazon video and is free if you have Amazon prime.
Chapter 15: Codebreaker
This essay reviews Codebreaker (2011) a deservedly award-winning film about Alan Turing.
Codebreaker is a combination of interviews and dramatically reenacted scenes in Turing’s life that are based on his own writings, those who knew him, and historical facts. The majority of the documentary takes focuses on his mathematical brilliance, importance in ushering in the computer age, and insight into artificial intelligence. Although he is frequently referred to as a war hero a surprisingly small portion of the documentary is focused on the actual breaking of Enigma. Turing did not work alone, but the cryptanalysts work affected he length and possibly the outcome of World War II and he was probably the most important cryptanalyst.
Alan Turing’s intelligence, insight, and ability to explain his insights in a manner that is understandable to others, admittedly more understandable to those with a mathematical and technological background is a central part of his character and the reason he is rightfully considered a war hero. Revealing interviews those who knew him include the daughters of the psychiatrist he saw Franz Goodman, his own nephew Dermont Turing, and the nephew of his childhood best friend Christopher Morcom who is also named Christopher Morcom, Professor Ian Stewart who collaborated with Jack Cohen and Terry Pratchett to write The Science of Discworld series, Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak, and Alan Turning’s Biographer David Leavitt all provide insights into Turing’s work and life.
Codebreaker does a good job of balancing Turing’s genius with other biographical elements of his life. Due attention is given to his friendship with Christopher Morcom including reading a letter he wrote to Morcom’s mother and how Morcom’s death drove Turing throughout his life. Codebreaker’s take on the friendship is that it was a strong and healthy one.
Alan Turing was separated from his parents at a young age as his father was with the Imperial Indian Civil Service and stayed during school breaks with an retired Army couple. He was well-liked and athletic, but his favored sport was running- a solitary sport- and he was a bit of a loner.
Codebreaker talks about Turing’s eccentricities without making him seem cartoonish. There are also references to and examples of Turing’s sense of humour. In talking about AI Turing wrote that you couldn’t even eliminate sonnets although it might be unfair as a sonnet written by a machine would be most appreciated by another machine.
Codebreak does a good job of discussing Joan Clarke, Turing’s friend and brilliant fellow mathematician and cryptanalyst. The two had a friendship, connection, and respect for each other. Like many gay men at the time (and in later times) he made an attempt to live a heterosexual life and proposed to her. She was reportedly unfazed by the fact that he was attracted to men, but in the end Turing realized it was a bad idea. He knew it would hurt her, but less than it would hurt her if he had gone through with the marriage.
The documentary talks in depth about his trips abroad. Like many mlm in post-World War II Britain the continent was a safer place as homosexual acts were not illegal.
One of the things that comes through in Codebreakers is the focus on Turing’s honesty and in some ways naïveté. He did not have to hide his homosexuality during the war as winning the war was what mattered to people. After the war he maintained a in Britain that would be betrayed. He assumed that the tacit acceptance of his homosexuality would continue after the war. He also assumed that telling the police was the right thing to do. Britain in the 1950’s was a time of reassuring conservative so-called moral values. Anyone who was not straight was considered a security threat and considered at risk for going rogue. (One could reasonably argue that if you want someone to remain loyal to you don’t criminalize their existence.)
Ed Stoppard who plays Alan Turing gives an excellent performance during the dramatic scenes. At first the dramatic scenes annoyed me as dramatic scenes added to documentary style film are a mixed bag, but it worked in this case. His performance is very different from Benedict Cumberbatch’s in “The Imitation Game” although strangely some of his gestures and the way he used his hands reminded me of Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes.
For most of the film Codebreakers takes a standard documentary more distant view of Alan Turing. His homosexuality is discussed, but in a less emotional manner. This changes near the end of the film which is much more emotional including a moment in the dramatically acted portion in which a parallel is drawn between the castration of Jews by the Nazis (Goodman was Jewish and from Germany) and the chemical castration that the British legal system forced Turing to undergo.
Codebreaker is available for free on Amazon prime video (at least in some countries).
Chapter 16: On the Other Hand, Death
This essay reviews the movie "On the Other Hand, Death". The movie is part of the Donald Strachey mysteries movies series based on the book by Richard Stevenson.
“On the Other Hand, Death” is part of the Donald Strachey mystery TV movies series based on the books by Richard Stevenson. Donald Strachey (Chad Allen) is private investigator who comes home at the end of his cases to his husband Timothy Callahan (Sebastian Spence), a legislative aid to a New York Senator, although his husband has a tendency to end up helping him with his cases. An excellent addition to the films is Strachey’s very enthusiastic young assistant Kenny Kwon (Nelson Wong).
The film opens with Strachey tracking a woman he has been told is an unfaithful wife. It turns out she is a cop who is working on an undercover investigation. As she and Detective Bailey questio Strachey it is clear that he does not have a huge amount of confidence in the police department’s abilities.
Upon returning to his office he gets a call from Timothy reminding him that they have agreed to support Timothy’s ex-boyfriend Andrew’s close friend, a lesbian guidance counselor Dorothy ‘Dot’ Fisher who has been put on paid leave by homophobic parents after she came out. Strachey and Callahan are introduced to her and her partner Edith Strong. Strachey comments on the homophobic graffiti that has been sprayed on their wall. As they are talking after dinner a brick is thrown through the window. Strachey gives chase, but the perpetrator gets away and the license plate has mud on it.
Strachey who is none to pleased at having been lied to by his previous client is pleased to discover that Kenny has the email address of their client. Unlike his snail mail address and phone number the email appears to be legit. He ignores the police detective’s order to turn over any information he finds out about his client and asks Kenny to investigate further while he heads to Hollis to see Dorothy and Edith. Dorothy is convinced that the brick was thrown by a homophobic student Joey Deems. However, things turn more serious when Dorothy’s and Edith’s barn is burned and a dead body is found inside.
There is also a subplot about Dorothy trying to help a gay student Derek who she fears will commit suicide. His arc is wonderful. The film deals with homophobia as Dorothy and Edith live in a small rural community and things it can make people do.
To tell more would be to spoil the story and I do not wish to do so as I think it is a film well-worth watching. The chemistry, flirting, and teasing between Donald and Timothy is very natural and sweet. They are in many ways an “old married couple”, but one that has not lost the magic in their marriage. Timothy is in many ways the long suffering husband who wishes his husband was less likely to do dangerous things while pursuing a case.
Both Donald and Timothy and Dorothy and Edith have strong loving and supportive relationships. Dorothy and Edith argue, but you can see the deep love between them. They are each other’s soulmates. The same is true for Donald and Timothy. This film is largely about gay men and lesbians. Straight people take a back seat. Love and specifically gay love as healthy and healing is very much a theme of the film.
Kwon can be a bit snarky and is not above needling Strachey. Kwon has a habit of sleeping with the men who have information he needs. In “On the Other Hand, Death” Kwon is taking a class to earn his own P.I. license. He provides much of the humor in the films.
The film is very much about the case and it is an interesting and complicated one. Strachey gets a wonderful line when he realizes what is going on. There are moments when Allen is not acting and that is not a bad thing. He clearly remembers what it was like to be a closeted teenager. I am not saying that a straight actor can’t play a gay character convincingly. Sebastian Spence who according to behind the scenes information is straight is completely convincing as are a number of other straight actors who have played gay characters.
Unlike many mysteries there is nothing of the Holmes and Watson dynamic between Strachey and Kwon. To the extent it exists in the story it is between Donald and Timothy.
“On the Other Hand, Death” was nominated for the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series.
I have the DVD. There is a nice BTS feature in which the people involved, particularly the ones who are gay themselves, talk about the importance of representation and how important it was to them to get it right and show healthy gay relationships. Unfortunately, the movie does not appear to be on Amazon or Netflix Streaming.
There are four TV movies in the series. I have also seen “Shock to the System”, but not the other two movies. I have heard very mixed reviews about the books.
Chapter 17: Yves Saint Laurent
This essay reviews the French film "Yves Saint Laurent". The film is in French. If you watch it on Netflix there are English subtitles available.
Yves Saint Laurent is a beautiful film. The cinematography is incredible. The music is perfect. The production values are exceptional. The acting is excellent. The majority of the dialogue is a mourning Pierre Berge (Guillaume Gallienne) telling the story of Yves Saint Laurent (Pierre Niney) and their life together. Yves Saint Laurent was was one of the most successful fashion designers. As an artist it makes sense to tell his story in a beautiful artistic manner. On the other hand the story of his life as a bipolar (what was called Manic Depressive) man with drug and alcohol addictions gives parts of the film an unpleasantness that feels at odds with the beautiful storytelling.
Yves Saint Laurent began his career working under Christian Dior. At age 21 he became the head designer at Dior after Christian Dior's sudden death from a heart attack. In 1958 he meant Pierre Berge and they fell in love. His first collection succeeded, but later collections were not as popular and in 1960 he was conscripted into the army during the Algerian War of Independence. He did not last long in the army and ended up in a military hospital where he given high doses of sedatives, psychoactive drugs, and underwent electroshock therapy. He was eventually released, but Dior had fired him. He successfully sued for breach of contract and won. He and Berge began work on creating their own fashion house.
The film alternates between the personal story of Saint Laurent and Berge and their professional work as they worked side by side as both personal and business partners. The film does not shy away from showing his mental health and addiction problems nor from how they negatively affected his relationship, but it also shows his genius. Nor does it shy away from their sexuality. It is a fundamental element of the film. The relationship between Saint Laurent and Berge was never easy. The film tends to side with Berge as he is the narrator. The main portion of the film ends in 1976. There are brief scenes at the beginning and end of the film that occur shortly after Saint Laurent’s death. Pierre Berge died in 2017.
My knowledge of Saint Laurent going into the film was limited both in terms of his personal and his fashion influence although I knew he was a major designer. His glory days were before I was born. I looked up some information on him and it looked to me like overall the film did a good job particularly with the narration throughout the film. As to how close private conversations came to reality there is no way to know.
The film does not dwell on it, but not surprisingly the film takes France’s side in the Algerian War. On a more positive note Saint Laurent was the first major designer to use Black models and a number of the models shown are women of color (WOC). Also, the film is almost entirely free from homophobia which is rare for an LGBTQ film.
I think this film is worth watching for its beauty, but it does cover some unpleasant subjects.
The film is in French. I watched it with English subtitles as my French is limited. It cannot vouch for the exact accuracy of the subtitles, but they made sense and seemed to fit with what was being shown on screen. The film is rated R.
Chapter 18: The Trans List
This chapter reviews "The Trans List".
“The Trans List” (2016) is an HBO documentary that is in the same style as “The Out List” which I previously reviewed. The documentary features a eleven trans men and women sharing their stories. Some of the better known trans people featured are Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and Caitlyn Jenner.
One of the strengths of these “list” documentaries is that they feature people in different professions including both “celebrities” and lesser known people and different ethnicities. One of the trans men is Native American and grew up partly on a Reservation. It is rare to see Native Americans featured in any media.
The documentary smashes a number of stereotypes including the one that everyone in the military is anti-LGBTQ. He argues that what matters in the military is can you do your job more than what gender is listed on your birth certificate.
Nicole Maines, a young trans woman who won a discrimination lawsuit against her school district for being forced to use the boy’s bathroom. The case took 6 years to reach the Supreme Court. It took her father a while to accept that he had a daughter and son instead of two sons, but he came around. Also featured is Kylar Broadus who was the first transgender person to testify before the US Congress in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2012.
One shining example of how utterly ridiculous it is to insist that someone’s gender on their birth certificate defines them and that everyone can tell someone assigned at birth gender is Caroline Cossey, an international model who also appeared in the Bond film “For Your Eyes Only”. The general public only became aware that she was trans after she was outed by a British tabloid in 1981.
I know Caitlyn Jenner is controversial, but I did appreciate her emphasizing that she can tell her story, but does claim that she is telling every trans woman’s story because everyone has a different story. The fact that not everyone in the same demographic has the same story is something that a lot of people seem to forget.
“The Trans List” is less uplifting than “The Out List” as people who are transgendered have fewer rights and are even more likely to be assaulted than people who are LGB. There are some uplifting stories, but even the less uplifting ones come with the promise that life will get better.
Depending on where you live it might be available on HBO On-Demand and/or Netflix with the rest of “The List…” series.
Chapter 19: Last Call at Maud's
This chapter reviews the historical documentary "Last Call at Maud's" (1993) which is a tribute to what was the longest running lesbian bar in the United States.
“Last Call at Maud’s” is a historical documentary about what was the longest running lesbian bar in the United States and stories of the regular patrons over the years.
The documentary starts in the 1940’s and talks about the raids on LGBTQ clubs. (Obviously, the term LGBTQ was not used in the 1940’s.) Everyone in the bar would be arrested and the newspaper would print the names of the people who had been arrested. Sometimes the police would also call the people’s employers to let them know. San Francisco, California might be known for being relatively LGBTQ friendly now, but it was much less so historically. Technically being homoerotically inclined was not illegal and only certain acts were illegal, but the police tended not to care about the legal technicalities.
On another sad note the documentary also covers the reactions of patrons during the height of the AIDS crisis. One of the women interviewed talks about how there was a feeling among many lesbians that they had no right to be sad or angry because they were not the ones dying, but many of the patrons felt that both AIDS and the government’s lack of caring about it was an assault on the entire community and spoke up. The first hand stories really show the sadness of the period that does not fully come through in documentaries that take a more clinical and distanced view.
On a more positive note there are the personal stories of women finding a community where they could be themselves and where being a wlw was the norm rather than something that had to be hidden. Women along the spectrum from femme to butch (and those who are fluid in between) are shown. One femme woman says she was often mistaken for a straight woman because she is very femme. Much of the documentary has the feel of a small town community talking about the local pub or bar that they have stopped by for decades. There is a comfortable feel of familiarity.
I had not known that it used to be illegal for women to be bartenders. In the early days of the bar men had to be the ones tending the bar.
Depending on where you live the documentary might be free to watch through Amazon prime video.
Chapter 20: Out Late
This documentary features LGBTQ people who did not come out until they were over 55 years old.
The documentary “Out Late” tells the story of several LGBTQ people who came out after they were 55 years old. The people featured are from Canada and the United States. I sometimes see people in their twenties questioning whether they are too old to come out either to themselves or to the people around them. This documentary is an excellent reminder that it is never too late to realize your sexuality or to come out.
The documentary is uplifting in many ways, but it does not shy away from the challenges older people who are LGBTQ face. Not only is there the worry about how people will react to finding out they are LGBTQ, but there is the fact that many of them lied either directly or in lies of omission. Many of the people featured had previously been in straight marriages. There is also the fact than on average older adults are less likely they are to be accepting and embracing of people who are LGBTQ. Most of the people featured had family members who rejected them and some have never come out to family members even as they are telling their story in the documentary.
Several of the people interviewed talk about the difficulty in finding a partner. Sadly, the LGBTQ community tends to be very ageist. This is one area where mlm probably have it harder wlw.
Despite the challenges all the people telling their stories are glad to be out and are happier being themselves than they were being in the closet. There are happy couples. In contrast to many similar documentaries there is a brief interview with the neighbors of one of the lesbian couples. The husband seems to be accepting, but the wife is far less accepting.
I am guessing that the assumed demographic for this documentary is LGBTQ people over 55 years old, but I am decades younger and think it is important viewing. The LGBTQ community needs to be better about not treating people over 40 (and sometimes even people over 30) as people to be ignored and discarded. It is also a good reminder for those of us who get frustrated with how slow progress has been to remember that there has been progress.
Depending on where you live the documentary might be included with Amazon prime video.
Chapter 21: Wanda Sykes: Me (Stand-Up Comedy)
This chapter reviews comedian Wanda Sykes' show "Me".
Sometimes you just need to laugh. Wanda Sykes’ “Me” has serious messages about being a black woman and being gay, but does so in a way that allows you to sit back and laugh. After watching more serious LGBTQ stories this one felt like a relief. Sometimes laughter is what gets us through the hard times.
In one of the funniest, but also most poignant bits she does a routine about what it would be like if she had to come out to her family as black with her family responding with the usual anti-LGBTQ arguments. (It must be because you hang around with black people so you now think you are black. I should never have let you watch Soul Train. etc)
This being said the stories she tells are personal ones. They are about the costs of racism and anti-LGBTQ attitudes and how they affect individuals. Sometimes these are the stories that really change people’s minds although I doubt too many racists and homophobes would watch her show.
There is a long segment on weight and specifically gaining weight as one gets older. There is also a good one on drug companies constantly advertising medications that are designed to make the viewer feel insecure.
There is a bittersweet quality to it as the first portion is about her excitement at having a black man, Barack Obama, as President. There is also a bittersweet quality in the routine as she lives in California. Not only was Barack Obama elected President in November 2008, but in California Proposition 8 passed stripping many gay couples of the legal recognition of their marriages and preventing other gay couples from getting married. Gay marriage would not be legal again in California until June 26, 2013, the Friday of Pride Weekend in some California cities.
Chapter 22: Do You Take This Man
This chapter reviews the film "Do You Take This Man", a drama/comedy starring Anthony Rapp (Daniel), Jonathan Bennett (Christopher), and Alyson Hannigan about the day before Daniel and Christopher get married.
The summary makes it sound like it is going to be a standard formula of “what last minute problems can come up just before a couple gets married”. I would have scrolled past it if I hadn’t seen Anthony Rapp and Alyson Hannigan names on the cast list. I am glad I decided to check it out as it turned out to be a great film.
The film has a freshness and truth to it. There is a real examination of relationships; the couple getting married, one of the groom’s parents’ seemingly effortless happy marriage, a couple divorcing because they think it is too late and too much has happened to fix things, and two people who may be about to begin a relationship.
Daniel (Anthony Rapp) is a type A personality who wants his wedding his long-term boyfriend Christopher (Jonathan Bennett) to be perfect. He has not hired a wedding planner and is refusing any help preferring to do everything himself. He refuses to go to brunch with Christopher and his friends Bradley (Thomas Dekker) and Summer (Hutchi Hancock). His hands are covered with flour when his best friend Jacob (Mackenzie Astin) stops by with some food and tries to calm him down. It is clear that Daniel and Jacob are close. Jacob asks what Daniel has gotten Christopher for a wedding present. Daniel shows Jacob an expensive pen. Jacob is unimpressed until Daniel explains how it relates to their first date, but then Daniel starts questioning whether it is a stupid gift.
Meanwhile at brunch Summer and Bradley give Christopher his wedding gift. They have tracked down his childhood best friend Emma. Christopher is overjoyed to see her. Emma starts asking questions and it is clear that Summer and to a lesser extent Bradley are unenthusiastic about Christopher marrying Daniel. Summer finds the seven year ago difference a negative along with Daniel’s type A personality. They come back to the house and when it is announced that there needs to be another seat for Emma, an over-stressed Daniel reacts badly, but quickly apologizes. As the day goes on Daniel’s parents and sister Rachel (Alyson Hannigan) arrive.
As different combinations of people talk to each other it is clear that although Daniel and Christopher clearly love each other they could work on their communication skills. This is particularly true when Christopher keeps an important secret from Daniel. Things get tenser and tenser, but this does fall into the drama/comedy genre and there are certain rules of the genre. Or in the immortal words of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”: Don’t panic.
There is a lovely discussion about what it means to have the possibility of a legally recognized marriage be available when you previously thought it could never be a reality. There is also a reminder that for all the progress in LGBTQ rights young LGBTQ people do not necessarily have it easy.
The film does a wonderful job of showing that relationships take work, compromises, honesty, and displaying vulnerability. When a relationship hits a bump the couple must make a choice whether the work is worth it. Love can deepen by facing these bumps together.
To see a healthy if not perfect relationship between two men is rare. To see one that actually discusses the challenges that any relationship faces, but particularly a mlm or wlw relationship is even more rare. It is a low-budget film, but a well-done one. The acting from the leads is excellent with Anthony Rapp, Alyson Hannigan, Jonathan Bennett, Mackenzie Astin, and Thomas Dekker being especially good. Rapp and Bennett did not have OMG sexy type chemistry, but there was a sweetness and comfort between them despite the communication problems. Four years into a relationship this felt realistic. Alyson Hannigan did not have many chances to show her brilliant comedic skills, but she really brought Rachel to life.
Depending on where you live "Do You Take This Man" may be available on Amazon Prime Video.
Chapter 23: Suited
This chapter reviews the HBO documentary "Suited", about a company that tailor makes suits to fit customers' gender identities.
Suited is a documentary that follows several clients of “Bindle and Keep”, a custom suit company dedicated to helping customers find a suit that looks good and allows them to express their gender identity. Featured customers include a trans man looking for the perfect suit for his wedding, a black trans man at a Georgia law school in Georgia who needs a suit because he is not being hired despite his qualifications, a woman who is undecided about transitioning but prefers the company of men and male clothing, a trans woman lawyer who will be delivering oral arguments in a transgender rights case in front of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and a twelve year old trans boy who needs a suit for his Bar Mitzvah.
The company came into existence due to Rae Tutera’s the first time she bought a custom suit. Tutera is now a partner of “Bindle and Keep”. The company asks detailed questions on their “schedule a fitting” contact form on their website and then meets with the client to have a long talk about exactly what they need and more information about their personality. Their measurements are taken. When the suit is ready there is a second fitting and sometimes adjustments are made.
This is an uplifting documentary. The clients happiness at their well-fitting suits is shown. In some cases their reason for purchasing the suit is show.
Depending on your location it may be available on HBO on-demand and/or Netflix.
Chapter 24: Paris is Burning
This chapter reviews the award-winning documentary "Paris is Burning" about the Harlem drag scene during the 1980's.
The documentary Paris is Burning is one of the classic LGBTQ films. The documentary is about the ball scene in Harlem during the 1980’s. The bulk of the documentary takes place in the mid-1980’s with a short “where they are now” segment in 1989 at the end. Harlem is and was predominately African-American.
The bulk of the documentary is focused on explaining the ball scene and it’s terminology. It describes how the scene changed in the 1980’s with there being an increasing number of categories so that more people could find a way to be themselves in it. There is a large section about the houses, their structure, and how they provide support for those in them. In the earlier parts of the documentary there are brief references to their lives outside of the ball scene. As the documentary progresses it increasingly focuses on the intersection between the ball scene and their lives in the outside world. They face discrimination outside of the ball scene and most do not have family support so there are frank discussions about stealing and how they are able to participate despite not having the money to pay for the clothes that fit their presentation in the ball scene. There are reminders of the violence they face for being LGBTQ and particularly being POC and LGBTQ.
Near the end there is a good discussion showing the differentiation between being a drag queen and being trans. I am guessing that most people reading this know the difference, but I suspect that at the time the documentary was made some members of the expected audience would not know the difference.
It was an award winning documentary, but I can’t evaluate whether it accurately captured the feel of the ball scene as my knowledge of it is largely from this documentary and references in other LGBTQ documentaries and books. I do know that it does a good job of both giving factual information and telling people’s stories. Despite the fact it has been “upgraded” to HD quality the technical quality of the film is not as good as in more recent films.
I firmly believe that history is important. If you want to know why the LGBTQ community is the way it is today you need to learn its history. Historically drag queens and trans men and women played a huge part (and paid a huge cost) in fighting for LGBTQ rights. I think their stories should be told and those of us who came later and enjoy more rights should listen to their stories.
Depending on where you live Paris is Burning may be available on Netflix.
Chapter 25: The Normal Heart
This chapter reviews the film "The Normal Heart" based on the play by Larry Kramer.
Based on the semi-autobiographical play by Larry Kramer, the movie “The Normal Heart” focuses on a gay rights activist Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. The film opens with Ned traveling to Long Island to celebrate his friend Craig Donner’s (Jonathan Groff) birthday. Craig is young, healthy looking, and handsome, but during a walk on the beach gets dizzy and collapses. Later he experiences a coughing fit after blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.
On the way back to his home in New York City Ned reads a New York Times article about 41 homosexual men being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The cancer only occurs in people with a compromised immune system. Back in New York City he visits Dr. Emma Brookner’s (Julia Roberts) to see if he has the disease. Dr Brookner is in a wheelchair having been paralyzed by polio, another dangerous virus, as a child. He does not show the symptoms, but Dr. Brookner asks him to help raise awareness about the disease within the gay community. (I use the word gay rather than LGBTQ because it is the term used in the movie.)
The film then cuts to Craig’s quick, but painful death. Over the course of the film the number of deaths rises as we see a snapshot of an epidemic that most straight people pretended did not exist. Ned organizes a meeting at his home with Dr. Brookner as the speaker to try to start spreading the word throughout the gay community. Dr. Brookner does not have conclusive evidence, but based on what she has seen she thinks that the disease is sexually transmitted and that men should stop having sex with men to avoid it.
Not surprisingly there is strong opposition to her suggestion. Even beyond the power of the human sex drive, telling mlm who had found so hard for the right to have sex with men to not have sex with men and particularly to be told by a woman in a wheelchair who they probably assume can’t have sex comes across to them as just another excuse to stop them from being mlm. Although we now know that AIDS (then called GRID- Gay Related Immune Deficiency) can be sexually transmitted, the men’s suspicion, especially before conclusive evidence existed, is not surprising.
Ned starts a small group including his friends Bruce (Taylor Kitsch), Mickey (Joe Montello), and Tommy Boatwright (Jim Parsons) dedicated to spreading information about the disease. When Ned and Dr. Brookner visit a local hospital we see another another side of Dr. Brookner. Unlike the rest of the people who work in the wing she refuses to wear the mask.
Determined to get the information out about the disease and undeterred by how many people he irritates, Ned contacts a gay New York Times reporter, Felix Turner (Matt Bomer). The two had previously met at the baths and quickly become a couple.
Ned’s single-minded focus on spreading information about the disease and getting funding is objectively a good thing, but his way of doing things alienates people that he needs to accomplish his goals. Presentation can matter when you are asking people to do something they do not want to do.
The film does not shy away from deaths from AIDS and the decimation of much of a generation of gay men. The constant reminder of death can be seen in Tommy’s ritual of removing the card with a man’s name and contact information from his Rolodex and wrapping them in a rubber band when the man dies. Periodically we see him adding another card to the rubber banded stacks. The deteriorating physical condition of the men are showing including sours, weakness, and thinness. This film never forgets why Ned is fighting so hard and how horrific it was that the majority of the population turned their backs on the thousands of people dying because to them the lives of mlm meant nothing.
Most of the anger is directed at the medical establishment and New York City Government, but there are scathing facts at the end about former President Ronald Reagan’s administration negligence and active homophobia. At one point Dr. Brookner points out that there are reports from doctors in Africa of women getting AIDS from having sex with men, but he arguments fall on deaf ears. The refusal of the government and the mainstream straight society to make a real effort to fight AIDS was not just based on homophobia, but also on racism. Had AIDS been causing the havoc in Europe that it did in African the US government and local governments would have taken more action.
The acting is excellent. Mark Ruffalo captured Ned’s determined heroism and tendency to behave like a tank going down a small road. Matt Bomer gave a heartbreaking performance as strong man being absolutely destroyed by a horrifying disease. Jim Parson, who had also played Tommy Boatwright in a limited run Broadway Production in 2011, gave an exceptional performance despite having a relatively small part. From what I have seen of him in “A Normal Heart” and “Hidden Figures” I really need to check out more of his films.
The Film won Critics’ Choice Television Awards for Best Movie, Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries for Matt Bomer, the Prime Time Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie, a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor Award for Matt Bomer, the Stanley Kramer Award from Producers Guide of America Awards, and Mark Ruffalo won a the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie. It was nominated for numerous other awards. The film has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Chapter 26: Passing
This chapter reviews the documentary "Passing" about three black trans men.
Passing is an award winning 22 minute documentary about three African-American trans men. The documentary deals as much with race, culture, and racism as it does with being a trans man.
One of the men talks about the challenge of suddenly being faced with the way US society treats African-American men as opposed to cis African-American men who grew up with it. He talks about the frustration of people assuming that he is stupid and uneducated.
One of the men points out the challenge of learning to react to men who don’t know he is trans and say horrible things to him about girls and women.
One man has a girlfriend and he talks about the challenges of behaving in the way she expects him to behave including not being intimidated or hesitating when meeting her parents. There are many things most cis people consciously associate with being masculine or feminine, but there are also many things where people do not realize how differently boys and girls are socialized.
One of the men talks about his prior knowledge of being transgendered was through media that virtually always treated it as a bad thing. This has only made him more determined to get more positive portrayals in the media.
There is also brief mention of racism within LGBTQ communities. This is a problem that needs to be fixed. It does seem to be getting better with each generation, but it is still a problem. There are too many people who are LGBTQ, but do not feel safe in LGBTQ communities because they are POC.
The intersection between being LGBTQ and POC is one that deserves more attention not only for people who are LGBTQ and POC, but by everyone else. There are cultural differences in gender roles and how LGBTQ identities are viewed. African-American trans men and drag queens (they aren’t the same thing) played a large role in early fights for LGBTQ equality.
Depending on where you live it might be available for free with Amazon prime.
Chapter 27: A Luv Tale
This chapter reviews the film "A Luv Tale"
A Luv Tale (1999) is a heartwarming award-winning short film about a romance between an photographer for a fashion magazine (Gina Rivera) and an editor at the same magazine (Michele Lamar Richards). The photographer is an outgoing lesbian who has been dating a model who treats her like garbage. Candice is in an introvert in a long-term relationship with a man, but there is increasing physical and emotional distance between them.
The attraction between them is immediate, but Candice tries to fight it and clings to her relationship with her boyfriend. Although the film is only 45 minutes it is enough time to allow their feelings to develop and make choices about what type of life they want to live.
Both women are black. Good quality wlw films are rare and it is even harder to find ones with a POC cast. There is a significant age difference between them, but both are adults who have been out in the working world for years and it is the younger woman who is the one pushing for the relationship. Age differences often make me uncomfortable, but this one does not feel like there is an imbalance of power.
The negative is that it was a low-budget film in 1999 so the technical quality of the film is uneven when watching on a high-def screen. Despite this weakness I think it is well-worth watching. It won awards at festivals including the Atlantic Film and Video Festival, Tampra Intl Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Black Film Marker’s Hall of Fame, and Hollywood Black Film Festival.
Depending on where you live it may be available for free with Amazon Prime.
Chapter 28: And the Band Played On
This chapter reviews and analyzes the film "And the Band Played On".
And the Band Played On is based on the novel by Randy Shilts about the early days of the AIDS crisis. The film focuses on the US government’s lack of interest in a disease that was killing mlm and infighting within the scientific community that was charged with studying AIDS.
The film opens with Dr. Don Francis (Matthew Modine) in Central Africa during an Ebola epidemic. A dying woman grasps his hand and he pulls away. He is challenged by residents as to why he, a doctor, can’t save the people dying of Ebola. Those memories will continue to haunt him throughout the film.
The film starts with the medical community knowing nothing about what is causing mlm to die of unusual illnesses that only affect people with a compromised immune system. Is it a virus or bacteria? Is it a combination of factors? How is it transmitted? How can you test, treat, or cure something that is a complete mystery.
The film is very factually based, but yet there are enough personal stories to make it an emotional film. Also, the facts speak for themselves. People were dying and the general population and government was more interested in building up the military than saving American lives. Unlike “The Normal Heart” film which I reviewed earlier there is not a passionate anger in the film. Instead there is a quiet anger and most of all frustration at the lack of resources being allotted for fighting HIV/AIDS.
For the majority of the film the characters do not even known that HIV is a retrovirus. There are constant reminders that they have hypotheses and theories, but not the concrete evidence for forging a path forward.
Several meeting are shown in which members of the mlm community react badly to the suggestion of closing down the bathhouses or even the increasing evidence that HIV is an STD (which is not to say that is the only way to acquire it).
The film also deals with those who acquired AIDS via transfusions and children who were born with it because their mothers were infected.
The film includes old news clips, marches, candle lit vigils, and political speeches. At the end there is a very emotional montage featuring well-known people including children who died of AIDS.
The film had a star studded cast including Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Ian McKellen, Anjelica Huston, Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin, and Richard Gere. (It is possible there were other famous actors that I don’t know were famous because I was a kid when it came out.) The acting is exceptional. I watched M*A*S*H reruns when I was growing up and although I know perfectly well that actors are not their characters and I am usually good about not thinking of an actor in another role while I am watching a film it felt strange to see Alan Alda as a doctor who was more interested in awards and fame than saving lives.
The clips are from the 1980s so the quality looks terrible on HD, but it is enough to remind you that this story is based on history. The film’s technical quality suffers a bit for having been made for lower-res screens, but it does not impact the story. The film accomplishes its goal. There is also something about the fact that the film was released in 1993 and made people people who most likely knew at least a few people who were HIV positive that gives it an extra resonance.
The version I saw had some additional facts listed at the end that included information from the late 1990s.
The film won an Emmy for Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries or Special, and Outstanding Editing or a Miniseries or Special- Single-Camera Production, Ian McKellen won a Best Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries in the CableACE Awards, and the film won the Humanitas Prize, GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Movie, Montreal World Film Festival Special Grand Prize of the Jury, Casting Society of American Artios Award for Best Casting for a TV Movie Movie of the Week, and an American Cinema Editors Eddie Award for Best Edited Motuon Picture for Non-Commercial Television.
Chapter 29: Reggie Yates Extreme UK: Gay and Under Attack
This chapter analyzes the episode "Gay and Under Attack" that is part of the documentary series "Extreme UK".
The episode could more accurately be called “LGBTQ and Under Attack” as one of the featured people is a trans woman and the scenes at clubs include anyone who is LGBTQ rather than only people who identify as gay.
The episode focuses almost exclusively on blacks and “Asians” except the only Asians included are Muslim. This is both a good and bad thing. It is a good thing in that the LGBTQ people who are featured are POC and they talk about intersectionality and their experiences within their own community. Yates also speaks almost exclusively to people who are POC. The drawback is in focusing solely on POC communities and Yates’ comments it gives the impression that all whites are supportive of people who are LGBTQ and it is only POC communities that are anti-LGBTQ. Despite this major drawback I still recommend the episode because as long as you understand that there are also white people in Britain who are anti-LGBTQ the episode really goes out of its way to show the complexities of intersectionality and the variations within ethnic groups in the attitudes towards people who are LGBTQ.
Reggie Yates is black, but is not afraid to criticize people within the black community who are LGBTQ. He discusses views on being LGBTQ at a barber shop and later at a church with a predominantly black congregation. One of the ministers at the church is a charismatic man who is seemingly free of fire and brimstone style attitudes, but turns out to be incredibly homophobic. On a more positive note the father of the trans woman featured who Yates expects to be homophobic turns out to be very supportive of his daughter.
There is a brief very explicit discussion of sexual realignment surgery. I mention this because I know some people reading this have young kids and you probably want them out of the room. Although Yates comes across as LGBTQ accepting for most of the episode he reacts negatively to the details.
The documentary also features a Muslim raised gay man whose mother said she could accept him if he murdered someone, but not accept him being gay. The LGBTQ community in Britain is very white and he was worried about fitting in at LGBTQ events. The other Muslims who spoke on-camera were anti-LGBTQ. It is, of course, possible that some would be less hostile if they were not on-camera. This is the segment that goes most in-depth into intersectionality.
There is a brief sequence in a club that caters to the POC LGBTQ community. Few people were willing to speak on-camera and the documentary blurred some faces.
Reggie Yates also has an episode about being gay and under attack in Russia which I plan to watch and review.
Chapter 30: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
This chapter analyzes the film "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women".
There is a definite irony in the fact that the inventors of the systolic blood pressure test which is a component of the lie detector test spent years lying about their lives to the outside world.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is an emotional intimate love story. Usually I watch movies that I have an amount of confidence I will like or I watch them with my partner, friend(s), or family. This is one of the few films where I went in with low expectations, but was impressed by the film.
I think I have become desensitized to the fact that so many love stories and sexually charged scenes are meant for the ‘male gaze’ and women are shown in a way that will turn men on. Even films with wlw sometimes fall into this trap. Like Patty Jenkin’s “Wonder Woman”, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” is not filmed for the standard ‘male gaze’. The overwhelming style is one of intimacy and with more being implied than actually shown. It is clear to anyone old enough to watch an R rated film what is going on, but it also leaves some things to the viewers imagination.
The acting, directing, writing, and cinematography are the heart of the film. It has a quality independent style that is not afraid to let the viewer or actors breathe. It is telling a personal story. The frequent close-ups emphasize the intimacy as the viewer feels they are right there with the characters.
The film is framed around Professor Marston being interrogated about the content of “Wonder Woman”. These scenes are darker (as in low lighting) than the rest of the film. It is the reality of an outside world in which far too many were not ready for “Wonder Woman”, a woman who combines strength and vulnerability. Nor are they ready for comics written by a man who respected strong capable women and thought that they would do a better job than men at running the world.
Although Professor Marston’s name comes first in the title it is more a story about Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne than about him. It is a love story between the three of them, but it is Elizabeth’s and Olive’s conflicts and love for each other than provides the driving force for the film. Elizabeth Marston is the most dominant of the three. Professor Marston is an idealist. Elizabeth and Olive are more practical and aware of the consequences of their three way relationship.
Professor Marston’s wife Elizabeth should based on her abilities and work ethic have had a Ph.D. in psychology, but that option was not open to her. She spends a large portion of the film working as a secretary.
During the scenes that take place in the outside world there is often a secretary in the background sitting silently taking notes and often out-of-focus representing the way the outside world wanted to view secretaries- silent, in the background, and hanging onto a man’s or men’s every word.
The film makes the point to show that the sexual scenes are consensual including having characters ask multiple times for verbal confirmation.
During one of the interrogation scenes Marston argues that it is important for young boys to read the comics and understand them so that they will respect strong capable women. It is important for people who rarely see themselves represented in media to see themselves represented, but it is also important for the people who frequently see themselves to read and watch these stories. If boys only read and watch stories in which boys and men have the leading and interesting roles that reinforces their view in their superiority and importance in comparison to women and girls. If people who are straight only read and watch stories about people who are straight that reinforces the idea that they are the normal ones and people who are LGBTQ are the outsiders.
Luke Evans gives an understated, contained performance that is perfect for Professor Marston, but sadly the type that tends to be overlooked by critics, viewers, and people giving out awards. Rebecca Hall is wonderful as the brilliant, strong, feminist, scientist Elizabeth Marston. You can feel her frustration at being professionally held back because she is a woman and her determination to maintain her own autonomy in her marriage contrasted against her struggles with how own emotions and desires. Bella Heathcote nails Olive Byrne’s innocence and wish to conform to society’s standards contrasted against her bravery and love for the Marstons.
The most noticeable weakness in the film is the music which is occasionally distracting.
Considering the popularity of “Wonder Woman” (2017) I was surprised to see so little about the film in feminist and LGBTQ circles online.
Director and writer Angela Robinson is not the first "Wonder Woman" scholar to suggest that Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne had a sexual relationship and there is evidence to support that conclusion. Elizabeth Marston's granddaughter Christie Marston has contested that conclusion. Considering people don't always reveal their true sexuality to their family, it is probably unknowable whether they were really in a relationship. Poetic license was used liberally with other elements of the film so this film should definitely not be treated as a documentary.
The film has 87% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Chapter 31: American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace
This chapter analyzes the nine part mini-series "American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace".
The content of this chapter contains only vague references to violence, but the miniseries itself contains graphic violence and disturbing material.
I watched the first episode of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” with trepidation as I have heard very mixed reviews of Ryan Murphy’s shows. I think he did an excellent job with “The Normal Heart”, but that was a one-off and he didn’t write it. Ryan Murphy served as Executive Producer and directed the first episode “The Man Who Would be Vogue”, but does not have any writing credits although it is probable that he had some input. The bulk of the writing is by Tom Rob Smith.
The show was better than I expected and I watched the whole show except for parts of “House by the Lake” which was too disturbing for my tastes. Of all the films and episodes I have covered in this LGBTQ films series this is by far the most violent, creepy, and disturbing. It has a TV MA (Mature Audience) rating. A story about a serial killer is always going to be upsetting, but the story is told in a manner that really brings home the horror of Cunanan’s actions.
American Crime Story seasons are based on real life crimes in American society shares in the guilt of the crime. The first season was “The People v. O.J. Simpson” about a trial that was often referred to as “The trial of the [20th] century”. Racism played a huge role in the trial. “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” is not surprisingly about the assassination of Gianni Versace. He was assassinated by Andrew Cunanan, a serial killer who was gay and had previously killed several gay men. Despite having plenty of evidence it was the largest failed man hunt in FBI history. The guilt American society shares in is homophobia and not carrying that gay men were being murdered. Cunanan was half Filipino and there are also elements of racism. Gianni Versace was murdered in 1997 and numerous scenes are flashbacks.
The show successfully navigates the difficult balance of explaining why Cunanan committed the murders without defending his actions nor hiding the pain of those he killed and their family and friends. It does not shy away from the fact that he could be charming and that his lies were told without the usual tells that someone was lying. Nor does it shy away from the negative influence of his father and the homophobia that was prevalent at the time. It is well-known that US society as a whole did not care as mlm died of AIDS. It is less well-known that most of US society was fine with mlm being murdered. The US judicial system accepted the “gay panic defense” in which a man could be excused for killing a mlm if the murderer became temporarily insane because of an unwanted homosexual advance. (In 2018 the “gay panic defense” allowed in 48 states. It is now banned in California and Illinois.) It should be noted that the US judicial system has not been so willing to accept a woman killing a man to avoid sexual assault.
Most of the episodes are dedicated to one of the people he killed. When I read the Wikipedia entry for the first season it stated there were complaints that the show had only shown one of the victims as a corpse. This season definitely corrected that problem. It is clear that no amount of showing Cunanan’s reasons makes what he is doing acceptable. The victims are shown as people with their own dreams. As Cunanan supported himself by making arrangements with older closeted gay men the age range of his victims varies for two young men his age to older gentlemen.
Cunanan gaslights (makes them doubt their own perceptions) his victims particularly David Madson and Jeff Trail. He also humiliates several of them. He exposes several of his victims’ homosexuality. In short he psychologically tortures his victims as well as killing them. There are often misused S/M elements in some of his sexual encounters.
Cunanan is an expert mimic, a skill that is shown in the first episode. He can freely switch between a seemingly normal, charming guy and someone who is clearly mentally unhinged.
Homophobia lurks in all scenes even the ones that are not specifically about it. Virtually all of the characters except for Donatella and Cunanan’s parents are gay. Except for Versace and to a lesser extent D’Amico they all are very well aware of how hated they are by society in general. The FBI should have caught him before he had the chance to murder Versace. They did not take the investigation as seriously as they should have done and they did not do basic things (like putting up as many flyers as were needed) because they did not care. Only one member of the FBI is shown to actually really care.
There is Catholic iconography throughout the series as Cunanan, his family, and several of his victims are Catholic. For once in American television it used realistically rather than gothically. Having been raised Catholic there is one scene with Cunanan that made complete sense to me, but I wonder if it will be confusing for those who are not or were not raised Catholic as it doesn’t fit headlines Catholicism. I am guessing this was Ryan Murphy’s influence (and Darren Criss was raised Catholic), but it is possible it also came from other directors and the crew.
The acting is exceptional especially from Darren Criss (Andrew Cunanan), Penelope Cruz (Donatella Versace), and Ricky Martin (Antonio D’Amico). The cinematography, music, set design, and other technical elements was appropriate although at the beginning the technicolor look was distracting. Darren Criss looks so much like Andrew Cunanan that it is unnerving. Matt Bomer’s episode was particularly well directed.
The miniseries is based on the book “Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History” by Maureen Orth. Versace’s family has contested the accuracy of the story most notably Versace having AIDS. The series adds a suicide that did not happen in real life which I found a distasteful addition. Donatella Versace was happy that her friend Penelope Cruz played her in the series. Cruz asked Donatella Versace's permission before accepting the award. Very little is known about “the real Cunanan” as he assumed many identities so the miniseries using an amount of artistic license.
Chapter 32: Kevyn Aucorn Beauty & The Beast in Me
This chapter reviews the documentary Kevyn Aucorn Beauty & The Beast in Me.
This documentary is focused on make-up artist Kevyn Aucorn. The documentary is a combination of videos he took and interviews with the people who know him. He took hundreds of hours of videos.
Kevyn Aucorn did the make-up for numerous models, actresses, musicians, and other celebrities including Cher, Gwenyth Paltrow, Cindy Crawford, Tina Turner, Naomi Campbell, and Whitney Houston. He was well-liked and became friends with several of his famous clients.
All the interviewees talk about how he knew how to make a woman look beautiful even if she did not see her own beauty. They also talked about how safe he made them feel. It is clear that they all respected and liked him and were saddened that his life was cut short.
Kevyn Aucorn was gay and had a difficult childhood growing up in Louisiana.
He was adopted and struggled with feelings of having been unwanted. Sadly, meeting his birth mother made things even worse.
In contrast to many make-up artists and people who work with celebrities he would talk about himself with them. The interviewees all knew about his feelings of abandonment.
A couple of his ex-boyfriends are interviewed. He would go from one relationship to another with few breaks.
He developed a painful disease which led to him taking higher and higher doses of pain killers. Sadly, this would end up being the cause of his early death.
His parents founded the first chapter of P-FLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Despite some of the video footage being subpar quality due to its age this documentary is worth seeing.
Chapter 33: Far From Heaven
This chapter reviews Todd Haynes' film "Far From Heaven" (2002).
In some ways “Far From Heaven” seems like a prequel to Todd Haynes’ later film “Carol”. Like Carol, “Far From Heaven” takes place during the 1950’s and deals with homophobia. It also deals with racism and is a sadder film although it is at times a beautiful film.
The film opens with Cathy Whitaker (Julianna Moore) living a seemingly 1950’s view idealized life as the wife of a successful salesman. She is featured in society magazines. People constantly compliment her on how ability to host parties. She and her husband are seen as a perfect couple. She gets a shocking call that her husband has been arrested in what is explained away as a mix-up. The cinematography is vintage to the extreme as it is throughout the film at times when the film is so over-the-top that even people like me who were born decades later can tell is more parody than reality.
The film then shows her husband Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid) at work in a similar stereotypical environment. He is clearly well-liked and respected. Everything seems perfect “1950’s normal” until he enters a gay bar.
Frank covers up his visits to the gay bar and encounters with men by claiming to be working late. One night Cathy discovers him with a man. Her reaction is horror and she begs him to see a doctor to “cure” him. He goes to the appointments, but needless to say the “cure” does not work.
The Whitetaker’s gardener died and his son Raymond (Dennis Haysbert) takes over the job. She has a conversation with him and it is clear that the two get along and are attracted to each other. Cathy is naive about her even talking to a black man is going to turn to nasty gossip in their vary white Connecticut town.
The Whitetaker’s housekeeper Sybil (Viola Davis) is in a lot of scenes, but rarely speaks. She tries to educate Cathy about racism and her relationship with Raymond, but although Cathy is “nice” to her, she does not really listen to her.
Her best friend Eleanor Fine (Patricia Clarkson) is an interesting character. Cathy and Eleanor have some very emotional scenes. Her scene with Cathy after Frank and Cathy fight is real, raw, and one that we need to see more of between women in film in which they really do care for each other.
Movies have been referred to as “motion pictures” and Todd Haynes’ style is very artistic. The cinematography, acting, music, and other technical elements are excellent.
The film is harder to watch than “Carol”, but is still a good film. One caveat is it includes a couple brief, but upsetting violent scenes.
Chapter 34: Two Spirit
This chapter reviews the documentary "Two Spirit".
"Two Spirit" is a 22 minute documentary that follows Joey Criddle, a Two Spirit man, and his work to help other Two Spirit” Native Americans reclaim their place of honor. He serves as a co-director for the Two Spirit Society of Denver. Two Spirit is a pan-Native American and First Nations term to describe people who are a third-gender (or other gender variant). It is not exactly the same as LGBTQ as it should be viewed within the context of Native American cultures. Families were considered blessed to have one or more Two Spirit members.
Joey Criddle’s family was Pentecostal. He was married to a woman and had a son. The documentary also includes him attending his son’s wedding. His son struggles with Joey’s identity as a Two Spirit man. When he is briefly shown in the documentary his face is blurred. It is clear that his son’s lack of acceptance hurts Criddle, but he is also determined to support his son.
This documentary is highly recommended. It gives a good overview of what it means to be Two Spirit both in terms of the identity and how it is integrated into everyday life.
“Two Spirit” is available on YouTube via Frameline Voices.
Chapter 35: To Be Takei
This chapter reviews the excellent documentary "To Be Takei".
To Be Takei is a surprisingly candid documentary about George Takei. It covers his career, but primarily focuses on his life as a Japanese-American man who spent part of his childhood in internment camps and as a gay man who spent most of his life hiding his sexuality (and for decades his partner Brad). The documentary features brief interviews with Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, William Shatner, and politicians such as Norman Mineta. It also includes some comments that may be of interest to TOS fans.
During the segment about his life in the internment camps the documentary switches between him giving speeches, him testifying before Congress, clips of other Japanese-Americans speaking about the camps, and pictures of the camps and the racist signs that greeted Japanese-Americans after the camps were finally closed. Having known several people who were in the camps this was not news to me, but if you are not familiar with them, and especially if you are American or Canadian, I strongly encourage you to learn more about them as it is a reminder that the Nazis were not the only ones who behaved badly during WWII.
The documentary shows the beginning of the San Diego run of his musical "Allegiance" which is influenced by his time in the camps. After the documentary was finished the play would later run in New York.
During his discussion of his early career Takei talks about his Japanese-American agent encouraging him and him agreeing to play racial stereotyped roles in order to be better known. The documentary then moves onto his years doing Star Trek. The subject of Kirk/Spock slash comes up. There is an interesting quote by Nimoy (maybe TOS fans already know) in which he says that why Kirk’s and Spock’s relationship was intended to be platonic he sees how some fans saw things differently.
Much documentary deals with him coming out and his life with his husband Brad Takei. Their interactions show a lot about the strength of their relationship and how well they compliment each other. It is clear that they both give the other one things they need to balance out their own personalities.
Their wedding is shown as is them sprinkling Brad Takei’s mother’s ashes. George Takei is Buddhist and although it never directly states it, it is clear that Brad Takei has adopted at least some of George Takei’s beliefs.
One nice story is when Brad Takei told his mother that he was gay his mother replied that she was also gay. His “aunt” was actually his mother’s girlfriend.
I highly recommend this documentary. Despite the struggles and prejudices George Takei has faced it is a very uplifting documentary.
Chapter 36: Billy Elliot
This chapter examines the 2000 film Billy Elliot.
Over the years I have seen Billy Elliot included on LGBTQ films lists. For a long time I questioned its inclusion. Billy’s best friend is gay, but he is a relatively minor characters and seems to exist largely to prove that Billy isn’t attracted to boys. I rewatched the film recently and still find question including it if it is because of Billy’s best friend.
During my rewatch I realized a more understandable reason to include it with LGBTQ films. The biggest theme of the film isn’t about dancing. A lot of scenes shouldn’t be included if that was intent. The biggest theme is a critic of traditional strict gender roles particularly the “uber macho” role that is forced on men. On that level its inclusion in LGBTQ films lists makes more sense. The film came out in 2000 and as with all films reflects both the time it came out and the Yorkshire Coal Miners strike in 1984-1985 when the story takes place. Within the film it is an environment where gender nonconformity in any form was seen as queer and suspect.
Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) is an 11 year old who misses his dead mother, doesn’t do well at sports, and takes care of his grandmother who has dementia. After his boxing class goes badly he goes to give the ballet teacher who uses the same facilities a key and ends up participating in the class. The ballet instructor (Julie Waters) assumes he is there for the class and immediately notices his talent.
Stuck in a world where men box, work in the coal mines, don’t cry, punch people, and the only acceptable emotion is anger, Billy Elliot finds himself enjoying ballet, but scared of people finding out. His older brother, an acceptable “macho” man, ends up deciding that violence is necessary as the strike drags on. His father frequently explodes in anger and at times punches both Billy and his brother. His father, who is clearly still hurting from his wife’s death, treats his mother-in-law extremely badly.
The film follows much of the standard pattern of kid following their dreams despite adults opposition with a heavy dose of politics. However, Billy’s experiences have a lot in common with many LGBTQ children in conservative environments. The secrets he keeps, the lies he tells, his tense relationship relationship with his father, and his feeling of being an outside are very much within the experience of many LGBTQ children.
I suspect the story would have been different if it came out now at a time when when gender identity is more openly discussed.
The soundtrack is particularly good although the songs such as “London Calling” are ones that tend to get stuck in your head and refuse to get unstuck. The soundtrack includes some dialogue and the exchange “The Sun will come out tomorrow… fat chance” always makes me laugh.
Chapter 37: Save Me
This chapter reviews the 2007 film "Save Me".
Mark (Chad Allen) is young gay man who is addicted to drugs. His brother tries to “save” him by checking him into a Christian retreat intended to “cure” him of being gay. This film is in some ways quieter and less angry than many films about forced gay conversion centers, but in some ways it makes the psychological abuse these young men are going through even more horrifying.
The retreat center, Genesis House, is run by a woman Gayle (Judith Light) who started the center after learning that her teenage son, who she had thrown out of the house for being gay, had died. In order to “save” other gay young men she thought the solution was to use (or rather misuse) Christianity to “cure” gay men. She does not use electric shock treatment on the men. She does not starve or beat them. She does not inflict the physical horrors that some gay conversion centers use and in her own bigoted narrow-minded way she seems to care about the men. Her methods include making bird houses to sell- an irony considering the center is in many ways a cage-, sports, prayer, reading the Bible, and “counseling sessions” that involve the men talking about their lives. The sad reality is that these men do crave and need someone to listen to them to about their lives.
From the moment she sees him Mark reminds her of her son and she takes particular interest in saving him. Mark is angry, outspoken, swears, and does not want to be there. He doesn’t seem to have as much of the homophobic self-loathing as the other gay men at the center. She thinks that by “saving” Mark she can have the son she lost back. The sad truth is that although her love and attention comes with horrifying conditions she shows him more attention and love than he has experienced in his life. This ends up causing to a really twisted relationship. Much as I disliked her character, Light portrayed her brilliantly and realistically.
Mark’s roommate is Lester (Robert Baker). Unlike some of the others Lester’s self-loathing is contrasted against the fact he still has some hope. He looks up to Mark.
The man who has the most impact on Mark is Scott (Robert Gant). They quickly become friends and it is clear that they are also strongly attracted to each other. Gayle immediately sees Scott as a threat even though many of the interaction she sees is well within the realm of platonic male friendships. They are also in many ways the least stereotypically gay except for line Scott’s line about Mark’s bird house being the best and that line is intended to be flirtatious.
Some of their interactions are definitely not platonic. Both Allen and Gant do a great job of showing their attraction and longing for each other. At times one of them fights against the attraction. At other times the let themselves feel and enjoy it. Both Mark and Scott are challenging roles and both actors nailed their parts.
Gayle’s husband Ted (Stephen Lang) is one of the more interesting characters in that you are never quite sure how he is going to react. He loves Gayle and feels she saved him from his addiction, but he is not convinced in gay conversion therapy. He sees that Gayle uses is using Mark as a substitute for her son and tries to stop her as he knows she is harming both herself and Mark in her obsession with curing him of his gayness. Gayle’s conversion therapy is focused on making the men more “manly” and yet Ted isn't a stereotypical "manly man" and she is definitely the dominant one in the marriage.
Both Chad Allen and Robert Gant were openly gay when they made the film. (Allen was outed by a tabloid.) When I first saw the film years ago I remembering seeing that Judith Light was a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I can’t image they would have been in a film that supported gay conversion centers. Nor would I recommend a film in which characters were “saved” by these horrible centers. The title is apt, but the saving is not what Gayle intended. However, the film tries to be realistic and there is a bittersweetness to it.
I liked the choice to only give most of the characters first names. It adds to intimacy of the film.
I recommend this film, but with conditions as despite the fact that on the surface it can feel less horrifying than many stories about gay conversion centers, it has some upsetting scenes.
In terms of realism the characters seem to be Evangelical (maybe Pentecostal?) Christians which is not my background and most of what I know about it comes from reading and watching the news so I can’t fully judge how accurately it is portrayed. I do know that they don't use rosaries and one of the DVD covers has Mark holding a crucifix to his head like a gun. I had thought Evangelical Christians thought crucifixes were too Catholic. I haven’t been to the southern United States were it takes place and thankfully I have never had a personal experience with gay conversion centers. If anyone who is familiar with any of these elements of the film and has some insight on how realistically they are portrayed in the film I would love to hear your thoughts.
Chapter 38: Fair Haven
This chapter reviews the 2016 film "Fair Haven".
Having recently reviewed “Save Me”, another film that features gay conversion centers I would have scrolled past “Fair Haven” if I didn’t vaguely remember hearing that it was a good film. It is a good film, but it is one that you have to not give up on in order to appreciate it.
The film opens with James (Michael Grant) returning home to his family’s farm after having been at a Christian gay conversion center. During his stay at the conversation center his mother was in the hospital and died. The bills for her hospital stay and funeral mean that he no longer has the money to attend the music school at the University of California, Berkeley. His father (Tom Wopat) says if he is paying for James community college education James needs to study either agriculture or business.
During the earlier parts of the film there are flashbacks to James’ conversations at gay conversion center as the staff tries to figure out what in his background made him gay and how to set him on the “right” path to being straight. Being an occasional smart aleck I couldn’t help noticing that the staff’s clothes clearly mixed fibers in violation of Leviticus. James insists that he is “cured” and more than anything he wants to find a woman and raise a family. His dream is no longer becoming a concert pianist.
Some “yuppies” have been going around the town trying to buy a farm and turn it into an organic one. James’ father is determined not sell and not to go organic insisting that organic is just a phase.
When James delivers apples to the supplier he is startled to see his ex-boyfriend Charlie (Josh Green) and reacts hostilely to the point of mild violence. His father chastises him for not getting a receipt so he is forced to go back. It is clear that he has fallen for the lie that he has been “cured” of being gay.
He is encouraged to ask Suzy (Lily Anne Harrison) for help filling out college applications. It is clear that it is intended to be an excuse for him to ask her out. He is awkward around her and although he does go out with her it is clear that it is not going to work. He also attends classes at the church that are an extension of the gay conversion center.
After he sees Charlie with a broken arm and bruised eye he insists on giving Charlie a ride home from work each day. It is clear that he still has feelings for Charlie even as he tries desperately to run from those feelings. Charlie’s feelings for him have never wavered.
James was accepted into Berkeley and already deferred for a year so it is probable he is 19. Certainly he would have to be at least 18 years old. Charlie’s age isn’t outright stated, but it is clear that he is also an adult.
The cinematography is great. The pacing is generally slow interrupted by short bursts of energy, but in a way that works for the environment and atmosphere. Neither the town nor James’ father move quickly. The acting is good and often understated. The little touches such as the bottles of various alcoholic drinks near his father show rather than tell how the characters are coping and not coping.
James is a very contained person in an environment in which boys and men are not supposed to show emotion in healthy ways. Both James and his father are in a world where men are not encouraged to show their feelings in healthy ways. This presents as acting challenge as they need to find subtle ways to show the feelings they cannot voice. Both actors, particularly Grant, succeeded.
Even as James’ situation looks bleak you can see the way the film is heading. There is always an element of hope that life will get better and that love has not been completely destroyed. The film does not play coy nor does it shy away from the realities of being gay in a small town- both the times of pain and the moments of joy. Nor does it pull punches with the realities of families and generation gaps.
Chapter 39: More Than T
This chapter reviews the documentary 2017 "More Than T" that features the stories of six transgendered people who have found different ways to work towards equal rights.
More Than T is a personal documentary about six people’s experiences being transgender. Although all of them fight for transgender rights they do so in different ways from acting, to working as lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union to being a minister.
Transgender documentaries are better at showcasing racial diversity than documentaries about the rest of the LGBTQ community and this one is no exception. These individuals experiences are as influenced by their race and ethnicities as much as being transgender.
This first story told is that of a Japanese-American transwoman Mia Yamamoto. She spent World War II in an internment camp along with the rest of the Japanese-American community. When she got out of the camp finding work was difficult and one of the few places that would hire her was the ACLU. She worried that transitioning would negatively impact people’s perception of her enough to harm her clients, but her clients supported her decision to transition.
Another one of the stand-out stories is a black transman Reverend Louis Mitchell who is a minister for a Church of Christ parish. He lived through the hardest years of the AIDS crisis before the so-called miracle medications. I know a number of people who are LGBTQ who are also religious and most feel they are never really accepted either in their religious community (even if the community officially supports people who are LGBTQ) or in the LGBTQ community. His parish is mostly white, cis, and over 75 years old, but he says he has found more acceptance among them than in his life before becoming a minister.
The most specifically activist story is a Latina transwoman Joanna Cifredo who has dedicated her life to advocating for transgendered people. Her story was personal, but her descriptions were a more factual and less emotional in some ways than the other stories featured. They were also more polished in some ways as she is more used to telling her story.
The documentary originally aired on Showtime.
Chapter 40: The Wedding Banquet
This chapter reviews the 1993 film "The Wedding Banquet".
The Wedding Banquet is a 1993 romantic comedy about a gay couple and the drama that ensures when one of them Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein) suggests that Wai-Tung (Winston Chao) can get his mother Mrs. Gao (Gua Ahleh) off his back about finding a woman and settling down with her and help one of their tenants Wei-Wei (May Chin) get a Green Card (basically be allowed to stay in the US legally) by marrying her. Before Wai-Tung’s parents arrive Simon explains everything she needs to know about Simon and three of them take down everything that would reveal that Wai-Tung is gay. They decided that Simon will be introduced as Wai-Tung’s landlord.
The plan appears to go off with only minor hassles. Unfortunately, the place they choose to have the wedding dinner turns out to be owned by a Wai-Tung's father Mr. Gao (Sihung Lung) driver during his military career who insists on hosting a traditional wedding banquet. Things quickly begin to go wrong and as the lies build up and Wai-Tung’s parents stay drags their lives start to unravel.
Although the film is classified as a comedy, it sometimes veers into drama. There are parts where I don’t see any viewers laughing.
I first saw the film years ago (although years after it was made) and wondered how it would hold up at a time when films such as “Love, Simon” are available. It was released only five years after “Maurice” and films with gay characters that were not unrelentingly depressing were rare. Sadly, it is not as dated as I expected. There are moments that show the time period. The cordless phones are huge. There are Silence = Death posters. However, many of the events could conceivably happen to people today.
The film is almost as much about ethnicity as it is about a gay couple. The film assumes the viewer has a certain amount of familiarity with Chinese and Taiwanese culture particularly in regards to family. If these are cultures you are not familiar with you may find yourself feeling lost at points. I should not that the “liberating you” comment is a political joke about Chinese and Taiwanese politics and not about sexuality.
The acting is strong and the cast have the appropriate chemistry with each other. The production values are good although due to the film's age it does not look as crisp as newer films on an HD screen.
The film has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for both an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (although the bulk of the film is in English) and Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It won the Golden Bear at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival.
Chapter 41: God's Own Country
This chapter reviews the excellent 2017 film "God's Own Country".
“God’s Own Country” has been referred to as “the British Brokeback Mountain”. Certainly, it has the strengths of “Brokeback Mountain” particularly the brilliant acting with very little dialogue and beautiful cinematography. It also has a lot of other strengths. The style is very British and a style filmmakers seemed to avoid for several years. I am glad to see it return.
There is a realism to the film that at times makes you feel as if you are watching a documentary. The scenery and “props” are largely provided by nature. The colors are often muted. Everyone and everything has dirt on them. Often you only hear the sounds of nature and the music is rare and unobtrusive. I have heard comments from people who are more used to the slick Hollywood style say it looks amateurish, but it is that very look that tells the story. There is nothing clean and slick about the environment. It is a place of hard work and low pay. The people’s jobs involve nature. Usually I would talk about the characters and plot before the setting and soundtrack, but the setting and soundtrack function as two major characters in the film.
If you want to take an analytical academic view you could argue that setting a gay love story in such a setting implies that homosexuality is just as natural as heterosexuality, but I doubt that entered the minds of the filmmakers. Their motivation is simply to tell a love story about two quiet men whose actions speak louder than their words.
The film opens in Yorkshire with a young man, Johnny (Josh O'Connor), who lives with his father (Ian Hart) and grandmother (Gemma Jones). Since his father’s stroke Johnny has been doing most of the work to keep the farm running. We can immediately see that Johnny is a lonely emotionally shut down man and spends his time getting drunk and having anonymous sex with men. We can hear his father’s frustration in both Johnny and his own physical limitations when he blames Johnny for the death of a calf.
Johnny is sent to pick up Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), a Romanian migrant work, to help with the lambing season. During the drive Johnny uses the offensive term “gypsy”. Johnny and Gheorghe are sent to camp near the sheep. It is clear that Gheorghe is the more responsible and more capable of the two men. When Johnny uses the g-slur again Gheorghe tackles him and threatens him if he ever uses the term again. It is clear to the audience that Johnny is taking out his frustrations with his life on Gheorghe. It is also clear that the two men are attracted to each other.
After a fight takes a different turn, Johnny initially tries to pretend it never happened, but as the day wears on it is clear that they have fallen for each other. Johnny asks Gheorghe to stay in the house with him, but Gheorghe chooses to remain in the caravan the family rented for him. It is clear that a relationship between them is not going to be easy. The first time I saw the film I wasn’t sure how some things would play out
O'Connor and Secareanu have perfect chemistry that varies as the character's relationships changes throughout the film. There was more tenderness than I expected considering the men, their responsibilities, and their environment. There was also more sex and nudity than I expected considering how often LGBTQ films that aren’t mainly about sex swing the other way and include almost no sex and no nudity. The film is very much a love story. Romance films are a dime a dozen, but the film has a fresh feel to it that is not simply that it is between two men.
It may seem odd to compliment the script when the actors have so few lines compared to most films, but sometimes the best thing a script can do is stay out of the actors way.
“God’s Own Country” is a quality, loving, tender, painful, beautiful, coming of age, gay love story. It earned the 99% approval rating it has on Rotten Tomatoes along with its numerous awards nominations and wins. It isn’t a fluffy movie, but it is a great one. I have reviewed over 40 LGBTQ films for this series and this is one of the best.
Depending on where you live, “God’s Own Country" might be available on Netflix.
Chapter 42: Beyond the Opposite Sex
This chapter reviews the 2018 documentary "Beyond the Opposite Sex". The documentary follows the journey of a transman and a transwoman.
This documentary features a transman Rene and transwoman Jaime 13 years after having sexual realignment surgery. As with all documentaries featuring trans people it shows the transphobia they face, but unlike some documentaries it also features the good times.
Both of them are in happy relationships. Rene is in a long-term relation with woman. He was treated horribly by his family. At the beginning of the documentary he is at a meeting of a transgender group and afterwards sounds angry and resentful of the people at the meeting whose families support them. He has reasons to be angry, but the way he lashes out at his ex-wife might be hard to watch for viewers who have been abused. His current wife adores him and there are really sweet scenes with them.
The Jaime is also in a fulfilling relationship. She has faced transphobia, but is less angry than the Rene. Often the transwomen shown in documentaries and news clips are exceptionally feminine, but she has several attributes that are associated with “butch” women.
One of the hardest parts to watch during her segment was when she had a discussion with a TERF (Trans-exclusionary radical feminist). The TERF attitude reminded me a bit of Professor Umbridge in the Harry Potter films- sweet sounding while saying horrible things.
One of her ex-boyfriends appears in the documentary. She had kept the fact that she was trans a secret from him during the earlier parts of their relationship because she wanted to make sure that she could trust him.
The documentary includes a frank and clinical discussion about sex when one of the people is transgendered and the limits of what current medical science can do for Rene and other transmen.
There is also discussion about Christianity and being transgendered. There are churches that accept and embrace people who are transgender, but my understanding is that they are hard to find in the American south (1).
The documentary is one of the rare ones that I would consider uplifting. Along with the challenges faced by people who are transgendered, it has some heartwarming moments. People that were assumed to be transphobic turn out to not only be accepting, but to actively embrace Rene and Jaime. There are a number of really sweet moments between both Rene and Jaime and their partners.
1. For those who are not familiar with how people in the US divide cultural regions “the south” does not refer to all southern states, but ones from the Atlantic Ocean to Texas. The southwest excluding southern California is viewed as its own region although my impression is that it also relatively anti-LGBTQ.
Chapter 43: The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister
This chapter reviews the BBC Two film "The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister".
“The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister” is a dramatized film based on the diaries of the real Anne Lister. Anne Lister was a Yorkshire wealthy landowner, diarist, and traveler. The film focuses on her romantic relationships with women, but also briefly features her industrial activities and work improving Shibden Hall.
The film opens with Anne (Maxine Peake) sneaking away with her girlfriend Mariana Belcombe. They appear to be a happy couple, but Anne and the audience soon learn that Mariana is to be married to a much older man Charles Lawton (Michael Culkin). Anne is heartbroken by Marianna’s betrayal and unmoved by Marianna’s desire to be socially acceptable. Anne does not feel the need to make an effort to hide that she is attracted to women and not men. Her a heartbreak that gets more intense when Anne does not hear from Mariana for over a year after the marriage.
Anne lives with her aunt (Gemma Jones) and uncle (Alan David). Both of them have let Anne live her life without pressuring her to find a suitor. Anne deals with her heartbreak by focusing on her studies. Her diaries were written in code, a wise decision considering her extensive writing on her lesbian relationship. They would not be translated for 150 years.
Mariana finally writes back and says if Anne would meet her she would arrive unaccompanied. Unfortunately, when Anne arrives Mariana’s husband is with her. Nevertheless, Anne and Mariana are able to resume their relationship. The film is neither coy nor exploitative in showing the sexual elements of the relationship. Mariana says that her husband is in ill-health and once he is dead they can be together. They buy rings and wear them around their necks planning to wear them on their fingers once they can live together.
With Mariana unavailable Anne pursues other women along with her financial goals. There aren’t any men for most of the scenes. This is very much a film about women in a patriarchal society.
The actresses have the appropriate chemistry. The production values are sufficient although within the usual realm of a BBC Two film. The pacing isn’t too bad if you are used to the British period pieces, but if you are used to blockbusters it might feel too slow.
The film’s focus on relationships means that the rest of her life is only briefly explored or ignored. As a biographical film one can argue this does a disservice to the real Anne Lister. There are also scenes where Anne comes across as overly aggressive in her pursuits. This isn’t a bad thing in abstract, but I wasn’t entirely surprised to read that The Telegraph gave it a better review than The Guardian.
I disagree with the criticism that the film had too much sex- plenty of mainstream straight films have more-, but I do wish that other elements of her life were given more screentime.
Despite the weakness the film is worth watching with the caveat that if you want a more complete understanding of the real Anne Lister you should read the diaries rather than rely solely on this film.
Depending on where you live it might be available on Amazon Prime.
Chapter 44: Pride (2014)
This chapter reviews the 2014 film "Pride" about a London based LGBTQ group that supported the miners during the coal miner's strike in 1984/
Pride is based on a true story about a group of LGBTQ activists in London who supported the coal miner’s strike in 1984. Anyone who is familiar with British politics during the 1980’s knows how the strike will go so that part will not come as a surprise, but this story isn’t just about the coal strike.
The group (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) was started by Mark Ashton, a gay rights activist, who saw the similarity between how the government and police treated the LGBTQ community and the coal miners. Ironically, the LGBTQ community benefited from the strike initially as it gave the police a different target to harass.
Despite the fact that the National Union of Mineworkers is desperate for money and support, there are hesitant to accept the help fearing that people’s negative views of people who are LGBTQ will cause PR problems. The LGSM decides to focus on one Welsh village. Initially the LGBTQ community is hesitant to support the miners. The first person they talk to Dai Donovan assumed that L stood for London, but knows that they need allies to succeed. One of their first supporters within the village is Sian James. Unfortunately, it is harder to win over the support of many of the people in the village. Most of the overt prejudice shown is on the side of the miners.
There are a number of subplots. Joe, the photographer of the group, has been living with his homophobic parents. The film also notes the fact that gay sex has a higher age of consent than straight sex. Some of the worst days of the AIDS crisis and its impact on the community. Sian James, one of the villagers, becoming more comfortable being politically active.
The film is a roller-coaster of joy, sadness, hate, love, support, and everything in between. Ultimately, it is a film about unity and hope. It is a film about when we help others we sometimes end up helping ourselves. It is a film that shows that it is better to be part of a community and build bridges than to segregate ourselves and fight alone.
The acting is exceptional and the characters really come to life. Ben Schnetzer as Mark Ashton shows the strengths and weaknesses of being a passionate activist. Imelda Stanton nearly steals the show. Jessica Gunning is fantastic as a woman realizing her own potential. Dominic West is excellent both in his serious and light-hearted scenes including a fantastic dance number. Andrew Scott is great as always. There is some overlap with his character in “Handsome Devil”, but it is a distinct role and there are some really touching moments. Bill Nighly is his usual perfectly cast self.
The crew also did an excellent job. The small details of the sets really serve the story. The dirt and dull colors fitting the harder moments and bright colors emphasizing the happy ones.
The credits give you updates on several of the real people. Some of the notes are happy. Some are sad.
This is one I had been meaning to write-up a review of for a long time. After I have posted reviews of 50 films I plan to post a best films on the list and this one will be near the top. It is a film that can be even more enjoyable on re-watch. I know a lot of you have already seen the film. I may write some spoiler comments and analysis in a separate post.
If anyone needed to be reminded about how terrible Thatcher was this film should do it.
Chapter 45: Pride Divide
The chapter reviews the 1997 documentary "Pride Divide".
“Pride Divide” is a 1997 documentary than examines the history of how gay and bisexual men and lesbians and bisexual women united in some cases to fight for their rights despite some members of each group often having a negative view of the each other. The documentary and discussion of events are old enough that I cannot personally judge exactly how well it represents the history of the LGBTQ community. I have heard about the divide before although not usually as extreme as it is presented in the documentary. The documentary is Americancentric.
The bulk of the documentary’s focuses on the LGBTQ community prior to the AIDS crisis. The documentary is a collection of segments by various members in a variety of professions. I debated including it in this series because of its largely binary and stereotypical views on gender. Lesbians are largely presented as being good at relationships, caretakers, and focus on analyzing problems. Gay men are all about sex and action. Although it is true especially traditionally that gay and bisexual men often glorify machoism there have always been men who were comfortable rejecting that role. I know from talking to lesbians and bisexual women who lived through the period of time the documentary focuses on and do not embrace all elements of traditional femininity. Not everyone shown in the documentary is white, but the cultural norms shown are largely of white America. Despite this narrow view on gender I am including it because the attitude still exists in the LGBTQ community especially among older members.
The documentary argues that equality between men and women within the community improved due to the tragedy that during the AIDS crisis. The documentary presents it as it largely being women who cared for the sick and dying. Many of these men were completely abandoned by their biological families. The death toll among gay and bisexual men was also high enough that numerically there were fewer men, particularly the generation of young men in the 1980’s and early 1990’s to be leaders. Lesbians, bisexual, pansexual, and queer women took their places.
Although I disagree with the attitude taken during much of the documentary, it is an attitude that exists. It is an attitude that shaped the community. It explains although certainly doesn’t justify the negative attitude of parts of the community towards “feminine men” and anyone who is transgender or even bends traditional gender roles.
I am sure this documentary would have been very different if it was made in 2018. Not only has the mainstream community become more open-minded, but so has the LGBTQ community.
Chapter 46: Intersexion
"Intersexion" (2012) is a documentary about people who are born intersex. Someone is considered intersex if medical professions do not consider them obviously biologically male or female.
Intersexion is a documentary about people who are intersex. One in 2,000 babies is intersex. A person who is intersex is born with genitalia that is considered ambiguous.
In some cases the baby is “assigned” a gender by the doctor and given surgery and/or hormones. This assignment may involve surgery and/or hormones. There have been numerous cases where the parents did not consent or even didn’t know. In many cases this has proven disastrous for the person as their assigned gender is wrong.
Some of the challenges faced by people who are intersex are the same as those faced by people who are transgender and as societies slowly (far too slowly) become more comfortable with realizing that gender is not always binary things will hopefully become easier for people who are intersex. The documentary did not hide the challenges faced by these individuals, but it was more positive and uplifting than I expected.
Sadly, despite it being relatively common it isn’t often talked about even in LGBTQ+ circles and ignorance tends to lead to fear and disapproval.
Despite its ultimately positive view there are some horror stories including a 14 year old boy being told that he would never be a happy and fulfilled man and should be a girl. At the time of the interview he was an adult man who is happy and comfortable with his body.
Some of the people featured did not know they were intersex until they discovered it themselves rather than being told by their parents.
This documentary includes clinical descriptions and diagrams of anatomy, thus, it would probably be rated R.
Depending on where you live it might be available on Amazon Prime Video.
Chapter 47: God's Own Country: SPOILER Thoughts
If you have not already seen the film "God's Own Country" skip this chapter as it contains major spoilers.
The details really make the film.
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
Gheorghe’s caretaking tendencies are not only shown with Johnny, but with the sheep. There is a real difference between how he cares for the sheep and how Johnny cares for the sheep. You can see Johnny changing to be more like Gheorghe as the film goes on. It is ironic that after their break-up he ends up on a potato farm. I don’t know how you care for a potato.
Having Johnny lay his head on Gheorghe’s shoulder on the way home was a wonderful touch. It showed how far Johnny had come on his emotional journey and that it was him rather than Gheorghe initiating the touch.
On first viewing I noticed that the scene where Johnny is holding Gheorghe’s jumper mirrored a sadder jumper (or sweater since it is an American film) scene in “Brokeback Mountain”, but it was only one my second viewing that I noticed there were a few similar shots. I doubt that was a coincidence.
One first viewing I thought Deidre Saxby started crying while ironing because of having found the condom due to her reaction when Johnny walks in, but when I rewatched it I think it could easily be her pain over Martin’s condition.
The scene where Gheorghe tackles Johnny is one of the most important scenes for understanding Gheorghe. It shows Gheorghe has temper. Gheorghe is more competent, but he is in a vulnerable position. At that point in the film he needs the job more than they need him. We know from the later scene in the pub- and he no doubt knows- that he is in an area where he is hated not because of anything he has done personally, but because he is Romanian. He is risking a lot by tackling Johnny and yet he does so anyway. He stands up for himself even when it might be safer to just keep his head down. It comes up again when he pushes Johnny after Johnny asks him why he is leaving.
During the first sex scene I could see Gheorghe stopping Johnny both because he has no intention of being used as if he was an object (the way Johnny does with most of the men he has sex with) and/or because he has no intention of having unsafe sex. Considering what we see of Johnny’s history that is a very smart decision as I am not sure Johnny is responsible enough to always wear a condom.
I love when they are by the fire and Gheorghe has the lamb inside his jacket to keep it warm.
During the scene where Johnny is kissing Gheorghe’s neck in the house you can see that Gheorghe is gently stroking Johnny’s arm.
The film actually doesn’t have more sex than a lot of other films, but it does have more intimacy. Josh O’Connor, the actor who plays Johnny, mentioned in interviews that the audience is the third person in the relationship. There were moments when it almost feels like as an audience we are intruding in something private, but I prefer it the standard ‘turn on straight men in the audience’ exploitative style of film sex scenes. The sex scenes are part of the story and fading to black would have been weird. A story about a man learning about intimacy needs to show intimacy.
As someone who was raised to always wash their hands before eating I was cringing at Gheorghe eating with filthy hands. That really didn’t look sanitary.
It is clear that Gheorghe has fallen for Johnny and that moving onto another job is going to be painful for him. His decision is based on trying to be responsible even if it hurts both of him. In some ways it would have hurt him almost as much to leave on good terms.
You could see the progression of their relationship during the bike rides. The first time Gheorghe is keeping as much space as possible between them. Then he is cautiously touching Johnny. Finally, Gheorghe is really holding onto him as they have become completely physically comfortable with each other.
I assume there must be a break between when they are on the coach and the caravan is taken away. It is too much of a coincidence if they arrive home just as it leaves.
Depending on where you live "God's Own Country" might be available on Netflix.
Chapter 48: The Gymnast
This chapter reviews the 2006 film "The Gymnast".
It is hard to find good wlw (women who are bisexual, lesbians, queer, or otherwise attracted to women) films. There are fewer of them than there are mlm films and many are made not with wlw in mind, but with straight men who get off on the idea.
Ten years earlier Jane Hawkins’ (Dreya Weber) career as a gymnast ended with a devastating injury. She kept herself in shape and at the beginning of the film she goes to a gym for the first time in 10 years. She becomes so emotional as she watches a gymnastics student practice that she goes to leave, but is stopped by the teacher Nicole (Mam Smith) who suggests she join her adult classes. The adult class turns out to be her and one other student Serena (Addie Yungmee). Serena is graceful, but lacks Jane’s strength. Jane has the strength, but lacks Serena’s grace. Nicole suggests the two can learn from each other and they start practicing an aerial act hoping to take it to Vegas.
Nicole suggests sexing up the routine. Jane who is Not Gay (TM) is fine with embracing it, but Serena who is gay isn’t as comfortable ‘playing gay as not being real’. A family emergency causes Nicole to be gone for an extended period of time during which time Jane and Serena grow closer.
Jane has been working as a masseuse. As her training continues one of her clients complains that her hands are too rough. She is married to a man David (David De Simone) who treats her terribly. His behavior towards her gets worse as the film goes on going from dismissive to actively manipulative. Parts of it can be hard to watch, but it is a crucial part of the story and something that happens in real life. Yet she stays with him due to her desire to have a baby and as protection against her growing feelings for Serena. (Sadly, the credits include In Memory of David De Simone.)
The one person she can really confide in is a former gymnast friend Denise (Allison Mackie). Their friendship is realistic and well-played.
The film was made in 2006 on a relatively low-budget, but the lack of polish suites the film. The acting is good and the actors have appropriate chemistry. This is not only true between Jane and Serena, but between Jane and Denise. Sadly, realistic female friendships can be hard to find. The cinematography of the routine is partly good and really exemplifies why films have been called motion pictures.
It is not only wlw that can be hard to find in films, but realistic Asian characters and films that treats Asian cultures with respect. Serena was raised by a Jewish adopted family. This isn’t a problem. It isn’t unrealistic. The problematic element is the near erasure of her Korean heritage and reliance on racial stereotypes combined with the uncomfortable way it makes a joke about a racial slur that was far from a joke when people were put in relocation camps in the US and Canada gave the impression that the writer and director Ned Farr was completely clueless about Asian cultures. Jane has a binary view of sexuality, but the film critics it. It does not critic the racial issues. (This is in contrast to another film I reviewed recently in which a character uses a racial slur and it clear that the film condemns it.) This is particularly frustrating as racism, particularly the more clueless rather than actively hateful kind, is common in both film and many parts of the LGBTQ community in western countries.
“The Gymnast” won the Grand Jury Award for Outstanding American Narrative Feature and Audience Award for Outstanding First Narrative Feature at the 2006 Los Angeles Outfest. AfterEllen.com and Variety gave it good reviews. On the other hand, academic Katharina Lindner also noticed the racial issue (via Wikipedia).
Pretend it is a Marvel film and stay for the credits.
Chapter 49: Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo
This chapter reviews the documentary "Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo".
Queens and Cowboys follows the gay rodeo circuit in the United States and Canada for a year. The documentary shows both the triumphs and the heartbreaks both during the rodeos and in organizing them. Along with cowboys the film features a female cowgirl Char.
Non-gay rodeos have a conservative homophobic culture. One of the challenges faced by the organizers is finding venues that are willing to host them. The documentary includes a brief section with sound clips of homophobes objecting to the idea of a gay cowboy. Despite this section the documentary is surprisingly hopeful.
The documentary does not hide from the physical danger of the sport. Char has broken numerous bones and the men talk about their injuries.
The section on the San Francisco chapter starts by noting that the chapter had $400US at the time they started trying to book a venue. The documentary notes that despite numerous fundraisers they were not able to raise enough money for their original choice of venue. San Francisco has a large LGBTQ community, but it is very possible that because rodeos are associated with conservatives it doesn’t get a lot of attention in San Francisco. It reminded me of in the based on a true story film “Pride” which I recently reviewed in which the LGBTQ community in London was initially hesitant to support the coal miners.
The production values were better than many of the LGBTQ documentaries I have reviewed. It does a good job of keeping the focus on the rodeo while still being personal enough for the audience to care about people.
My knowledge of rodeos is pretty limited. I would love to hear from people who are more familiar with them.
Chapter 50: I Do (2012)
This chapter reviews the 2012 film "I Do".
Reviewing LGBTQ films and posting the reviews has encouraged me to be more adventuresome and watch films that look potentially interesting based on their description rather than going largely by recommendations. “I Do” is a hidden gem.
At a time when US immigration policy is so horrible that thousands of children have been literally put in cages, I wondered if a film that addresses US immigration problems might be too close to life to be enjoyable. Fortunately, I was wrong.
Jack Edwards (David W. Ross) has been living in the United States, specifically New York, for 17 years when his visa renewal request is denied. The woman handling his case suggests closes the door and tells him if he has a girlfriend now would be a good time to marry her.
Jack is gay, but feeling that he has no other choice he asks his best friend Ali (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), a lesbian, to marry him so he can stay in the country. He is single and marrying a man would not be enough to keep him in the US. The film was released in 2012 when New York had marriage equality, but immigration falls under Federal (US) law and the United States government would not recognize his marriage.
Jack is also helping his friend Mya (Alicia Witt), a single mom, raise her daughter. He goes from being the “gay uncle” to being functionally her father. He is doing a better job as a father than many biological fathers. The scenes of him with his “daughter” are adorable.
Ali Edwards agrees to marry Jack, but says they should do so quickly before she changes her mind. Ali has just broken up with her girlfriend and been asked to move out. Marrying Jack and moving in with him not only keeps him in the US, but solves her “where to live and have her stuff” situation.
The marriage starts off well, but starts having problems especially after Jack starts falling in love with Mano (Maurice Compte) who is from Spain, but is an American citizen because his mother was an American citizen.
Another standout character is Sam, an older gay man who serves as a mentor and almost surrogate father to Jack. It is rare to find older LGBTQ characters treated so well.
The script only tells half the story. The rest is told by the acting, the cinematography, the sets, the costumes, and the soundtrack. We learn about the characters as much by their reactions as by their words. The actors have the appropriate chemistry and we can sympathize with them even when we wish they would make different choices.
The story has unexpected twists and turns, but it plays fair. The characters feel like real people.
I wish there were more LGBTQ films like “I Do”. It is a film that could only be about LGBTQ characters, but it has many of the appealing elements of heterosexual romance films. This is one I will end up rewatching.
Chapter 51: A Very English Scandal
This chapter reviews the 2018 miniseries "A Very English Scandal" based on the Jeremy Thorpe Scandal.
“A Very English Scandal” is aptly titled as elements of the scandal are incredibly English. The humour is also English and might not translate well if you are not familiar with it and the English ability to show humour in tragedy. The three part miniseries is based on the book of the same name by John Preston. The script was written by Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk, Doctor Who, Torchwood).
The show opens with Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant) having lunch with Peter Bessell (Alex Jennings) in the members dining room. The two men, somewhat surprisingly given the location, mutually confess to sometimes being “on the spear side” (aka having relations with men).
Thorpe is on holiday when he meets a young man who works at the stables, Norman Josiffe (later Norman Scott- the name I will use for the rest of the chapter- played by Ben Whishaw). Thorpe subtly flirts with him. Josiffe is clearly pleased, but also shy. Thorpe gives him his card.
A year later Scott visits Thorpe at work. He has in his possession some compromising postcards that Thorpe sent to the owner. He gives Thorpe the letters before crying because since he took them and left he does not have his National Insurance Card. Scott’s lack of a National Insurance Card will be a driving force in the miniseries.
Thorpe decides it would be fun to bring Scott to his mother’s house. During Scott’s visit, Thorpe propositions Scott. Scott starts crying so Thorpe slows down, but it is clear that he is the one initiating sex. The two continue their relationship with Thorpe providing rent money for Scott to have his own flat. The “happy times” in their relationship are only shown briefly although it is later commented on that the relationship continued for years. Thorpe’s ambition and Scott’s mental health and medication issues combined with him not enjoying being a “kept man” lead to them breaking up.
Neither man seems to be able to really move on leading to events that become increasingly over-the-top and bizarre including a horribly botched conspiracy against Scott led by Thorpe. The miniseries revels in the absurdity of many of the situations.
The miniseries does a good job of giving the viewer insight into why the characters (who are, as stated above, based on real people) did what they did. The miniseries does not shy away from the homophobia that influenced all of their actions. Nor does it shy from showing all the characters’ flaws.
Thorpe was apologetically pro-immigration and in favour of the European Economic Community. Both the script and Grant revel in it relishing the chance to strike back against Brexit.
The acting is excellent. Hugh Grant’s Thorpe is far from likable, but at the same time painfully human. His weakness is his ambition. Grant absolutely nailed a wonderful scene near the end of the movie in which Thorpe hesitantly tries to explain himself. Ben Whishaw is his usual excellent self. He juggles insecurity, naïveté, confidence, anger, fear, and resilience. His Norman Scott grows into an unapologetic strong man who is comfortable with his sexuality. He also gets a disproportionate number of the best lines. Alex Jennings does an excellent job of portraying Thorpe's best friend who is ambivalent about some of Thorpe's actions. Adrian Scarborough gives humanity to the unlikable George Carman, Q.C.
The miniseries covers decades. The costumes and sets show the passage of time although the make-up changes were less than I expected. I might not have noticed the later if I hadn’t watched “Patrick Melrose” recently.
Russell T. Davis’ script has a familiar flare, but a maturity that was not always seen his earlier works.
1. For those who are not familiar with the Liberal Party at the time it attempted to be a radial centrist non-socialist alternative to the Conservative government. During Thorpe’s time it appealed to some of the middle-class suburban generation and polled at up to 20%. The main left-wing party in the UK is the Labour Party.
2. One of the characters John Le Mesurier has the same name as an actor on a television show that was popular at the time "Dad's Army".
Chapter 52: Women He's Undressed
Despite the suggestive sounding title the documentary is about Orry George Kelly (credited as Orry-Kelly) one of most accomplished costumes designers during the classic days of Hollywood. The documentary covers not only his work, but his life as a gay man at a time when, as one of the interviewees, described it, Hollywood was not only the most homophobic city in the United States.
“Women He’s Undressed” is a documentary about costume designer Orry Kelly who worked on over 280 films. Despite the suggestive sounding title the documentary would probably be rated PG to PG-13 and as he was gay he was dressing them for work.
Even though the Oscar for Costume Design did not exist until 1948, long after Kelly had established himself as a top designer, he won three Oscars. His films include The House of 56th Street, Baby Face, 42 Street, Stars Over Broadway, the Woman in Red, The Widow from Monte Carlo, The Walking Dead, Jezebel, Casablanca, Now Voyager, This is the Army, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Maltese Falcon, An American in Paris, Oklahoma!, Some Like It Hot, and Irma la Douce. His career spanned both the black and white film era and the earlier days of color films. He worked with Hollywood’s biggest stars including Bette Davis, Katharine Hepurn, Ingrid Bergman, Olivia de Havilland, Ava Gardner, Natalie Wood, and Ann Sheridan.
One of his greatest achievements was creating the cross-dressing costumes for Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) in “Some Like It Hot”. The characters were meant to look like realistic women who could fool people into thinking they were women rather than drag queens.
He grew up in Australia, but moved to New York and started designing costumes for theatre before the stock market crash and the Great Depression started at which time he moved to Hollywood. He began his film career at Warner Brothers in 1932 as their chief costume designer. This was the era of the studio system when studios held all (and I do mean ALL) the power over talent including actors, writers, directors, and crew members. The Hays Code which set Hollywood “decency standards” was in affect for much of his career, but he tended to push the envelope.
The documentary is a combination of old pictures and footage, dramatized (ie played by actors) monologues, interviewers including costume designers, people he worked with and in some cases relatives, and film experts. The dramatizations were subpar, but the rest was excellent.
The film not only covers his career, but also Hollywood culture during his career. One of the interviewers refers to it as not only being the most homophobic city in the United States, but in the world. (I disagree with the "in a world" part, but I am guessing he meant the "western world".) Being gay (or even bisexual) was not acceptable unless you kept it secret. Nevertheless, he lived relatively openly as a gay man. The personal elements of the documentary largely focus on his life and relationships as a gay man.
There is an extensive discussion of Cary Grant, which the documentary argues largely lived an openly gay life in his earlier years before giving into the studio system requirements and marrying women. One of the interviewers argues that his attempted suicide after his first marriage was the result, or at least partly the result of this closeting. This is hardly the only source to argue that Cary Grant had relationship(s) with men most notably Randophl Scott, but other sources contest that they were simply ‘just friends’. Orry-Kelly and Grant had an on-and-off friendship.
He died of cancer in 1964. His pallbearers were Cary Grant, Billy Wilder, Tony Curtis, and George Cuker. His eulogy was by Jack L. Warner, the man who created Warner Brother Studios.
Chapter 53: The Feels
This chapter reviews the 2017 film "The Feels" about the dramas that ensue during bachelorette weekend get-away between a lesbian couple, Andi and Lu.
Andi’s and Lu’s, a lesbian couple, bachelorette weekend get-away quickly starts unraveling as drama involving both them and their their friends. At first it seems like a trailer for standard rom-com wedding films with the only difference being it is a lesbian couple rather than a heterosexual couple. However, that difference along with the film being written and directed by women and the cast being predominantly women gives it a freshness.
The problems start when Lu admits to never having experienced an orgasm causing Andi to feel insecure about her abilities as a lover. Then two of the wedding party (not either of the brides) hook up. Someone hides the fact they have broken up with their partner. The lone man in the group Josh sometimes seems to feel he is out of his depth.
The film is largely composed of small groups of people talking and occasionally yelling. This is a group that is very comfortable going into what some people would consider TMI (too much information) even among friends. Interspersed are video excerpts in “wedding video style” of the brides and guests talking about their first orgasm. I found the film watchable, but suspect it will appeal more to women who have mostly women friends and are used to spending a lot or all of their socializing time in women only groups. As someone who even as an adult tends to be “one of the guys” I couldn’t relate to parts of the film.
The film is low-budget which adds to the realism. It definitely has a “female gaze” both during the conversations and sex scenes. The sex scenes are ones a woman would actually enjoy rather than ones that are designed to turn on a male audience.
It is hard to find good wlw films and particularly ones with an interracial couple. The acting is good particularly from Constance Wu (Andi), Angela Trimbur (Lu), Ever Mainard (Regular Helen), and Josh Fadem (Josh).
Chapter 54: Jewel's Catch One
This chapter reviews the documentary on Jewel Thais- Williams and the club she owned for over 40 years Catch One.
Jewel’s Catch One is a documentary about about a nightclub in Los Angeles run by Jewel Thais- Williams. She opened it in 1973 and left it in 2015. It was open to everyone, but especially aimed at queer POCs.
The documentary is a compilation of clips, photographs, interviews with Jewel and people who knew her, and discussions about LGBTQ history. The film quality of some of the older clips is poor due to their age, but the voiceovers make it understandable.
When it opened in the 70’s it was often targeted by police who frequently harassed the customers. Although the harassment was a legal in California it was common. Jewel saved up enough money to buy the entire building. The building not only housed the nightclub but a health clinic. Jewel did not have any children of her own, but became the surrogate mother to many of her customers.
The section on the 80s covers the AIDS crisis. It is a hard section to watch as many of her customers were HIV-positive. She organized a number of fundraisers for various AIDS organizations. During the 1980s there was also a fire that caused Chatch One to shut down for two years. On a more positive note this section also covers a lot of the celebrities who visited Chatch One Nightclub. The celebrities including Madonna, Harrison Ford, Sharon Stone, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, and Whoopi Goldberg.
Catch One was so popular that some celebrities held the opening party for their new albums at the club. It is clear from the documentary that she was well-liked both as the owner of the club and as a friend. Interviews include frequent visitors at the club and those who were involved in the financial running of Catch One.
The documentary is not only about the Chatch One nightclub but about Jewel Thais-Williams. Jewel is an incredibly hard-working person, an excellent business woman, and also a kind heart. Many of the people interviewed commented they were surprised she kept the Chatch One open despite numerous challenges.
Despite some upsetting topics this is a very uplifting documentary. The interviews are insightful and it also gives an overview LGBTQ history during the period the club was open. Not surprisingly the soundtrack is also excellent.
I highly recommend this documentary. Depending on where you live might be available on Netflix.
Chapter 55: Todrick Hall: Behind the Curtain
This chapter covers the documentary "Todrick Hall: Behind the Curtain" set during the tour of his autobiographical show "Straight Out of Oz".
Todrick Hall: Behind the Curtain is a documentary about Todrick Hall during his tour of his autobiographical show “Straight Out of Oz”.
The documentary follows the practicalities of putting together a large musical with a large cast, numerous costumes and costume changes, choreographed dance numbers, and a lot of technical components. If you are already familiar with low-budget theatre some of it may feel familiar, but if you are not it is a good general overview.
The documentary also includes interviews with his friends, his family and members of the cast, and fans. It also includes extensive interview clips with Todrick Hall. Hall is honest about the challenges of putting on the show. The documentary not only covers the show but also talks about his early life.
The Pulse nightclub shooting occurred during the tour. Hall is a gay man and YouTuber so he and his casts were particularly affected by the shooting.
The documentary briefly covers his time on American Idol. This will already be known to his fans but will be helpful for those who have not heard of him.
The documentary covers the intersection between race/ethnicity and being LGBTQ. This is something that is often covered in transgender documentaries, but not in LGBQ focused documentaries. As a YouTuber he is familiar with that abuse directed at people who post their creative works online.
This documentary is polished and professional. Depending on where you live it may be available on Netflix.
Chapter 56: Straight Outta Oz
This chapter analyzes Todrick Hall's semi-autobiographical musical "Straight Outta Oz".
"Straight Outta Oz" is a 71 minute semi-autographical musical by Todrick Hall. The musical is professional quality. The acting, costumes, and production values are excellent. It can be viewed for free on YouTube. It can also be bought on iTunes.
The musical starts with the stories from his childhood. The early numbers mainly focus on his family and the importance of church and how much he enjoyed singing at church. The musical moves on to his first real real relationship. The actors have good chemistry and this number is quite emotional. The bulk of the musical is about his time in Los Angeles.
The musical is a biting inditement of the entertainment industry. One of the numbers is about the things people will do for attention. Another one focuses on how contracts screw over artists. One of the hardest number to watch is about “casting couch” or having to choose whether to perform sexual favours in exchange for help with his career. The musical briefly covers by the Pulse Nightclub shooting and other acts of violence against and people who are POC and/or LGBTQ. As an gay black man he has experiences with both racism and homophobia.
The musical features a number of short appearances by celebrities. The celebrities were a mixed bag. Costumes and make-up for huge component of the production. Drag is heavily featured. Not surprisingly “The Wizard of Oz” is a huge inspiration and the title obviously takes inspiration from “Straight Out of Compton”.
The music is catchy and despite some upsetting topics it is overall an uplifting production. It is nice to be able to recommend something that can be viewed by anyone across the world.
Chapter 57: The Iron Ladies
This chapter reviews the Taiwanese film "The Iron Ladies".
The Iron Ladies is a comedy about Taiwanese volleyball team largely composed of players who are gay or transgendered. I had to rely on the subtitles and, unfortunately, even when subtitles are technically accurate they do not always convey the connotations of words. This is particularly a problem with this film as the subtitles include a lot of slang (including the f slur) and I don’t know whether the Thai word was really the equivalent. I am assuming that the stilted sounding dialogue is largely a translation problem. For this reason I considered not reviewing the film.
The film is classified as a comedy and comedy can be subjective. Anyone who is familiar with sports inspirational films will recognize some of the clichés. I found some scenes laugh out loud funny, but others were more cringe inducing. Comedy is also partly culturally based. If you're used to British and US television and film you might find some of the humour off-putting or even offensive.
The characters can be very stereotypical, but there are also some sweet moments. The film definitely has its heart in the right place. It is also a lot more optimistic than a lot of LGBTQ films.
Even the scenes showing prejudice treated as comedy which is something that was not always handled well in the film. This will rub some people the wrong way and I cringed at times. I suspect that people who are less used to Asian cinema will cringe even more.
The production values are low, but were sufficient for the film.
If anyone understands Thai and has insight on the accuracy of the subtitles I would love to hear your thoughts on the film.
Depending on where you live the film might be available on Netflix.
Chapter 58: How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)
This chapter reviews the Taiwanese film "How to Win at Checkers (Every Time). According to Wikipedia the Thai title is "My Hero".
I watched this film several months ago. I considered whether I wanted to recommend it as it includes a couple of really disturbing scenes, but it is rare to find an LGBTQ film with Asian characters and it is a good film.
The film is told in flashback by the Adult Oat who is remembering how he learned to win and lost his innocence. His older brother Elk has a boyfriend Jai who comes from a higher social class. Elk and Jai are about to be entered into the draft lottery. Oat sees Jai’s parents using a bribe to prevent Jai from being drafted. Oat decides to try to earn enough money so that it can be used as a bribe to keep Elk out of the military.
The film is well-acted, the actors have the right chemistry, and the production values are sufficient and serve the story well. A super-polished production would have detracted from the story. The support the two brothers show towards each other is heartwarming. It is a film in which two of the main characters happen to be gay, but are not solely defined by being gay. It captures the loss of innocence when the reality of the world interferes with good intentions.
There is a dark and disturbing subplot about Oat finding out that Elk earning money as a sex-worker. A couple of these scenes are why I considered not reviewing the film and can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. I decided to review it in part because when I researched the film I did not see any warnings of the material and I wanted to give people a heads-up about the scene.
Depending on where you live the film might be available on Netflix.
Chapter 59: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
This chapter reviews the documentary "The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson" about black transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson.
"The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson" is an excellent documentary that celebrates the life of black LGBTQ and specifically transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson without flinching from the difficulties during her life nor the violence of her death.
The documentary begins with her death. The search for the real cause of her death which was initially ruled as a suicide serves as a framing device for the documentary. Trans activist Victoria Cruz from the Anti-Violence Project leads the investigation. Thus, there are frequent time jumps, but most of the jumps are seamless so you can follow the story even if this is the first time you have heard of her.
Although it is clear that most of the people believed she was murdered all possibilities are explored including that it was a suicide or an accident. A significant portion of the documentary is interviews during the investigation with people who knew her. There are also clips of her that bring her strength and personality to life in a way that a short summary or a few pictures cannot adequately show.
The documentary deals bluntly with the prejudices against people who are transgendered within the LGBTQ community. There is a wonderful forceful clip of Johnson on-stage describing how hard she had to fight to get on-stage and how wrong it is to be sidelining people who are transgendered. Several of the documentary participants argue that once marriage equality was achieved some of the LGBQ parts of the community considered the fight for equality largely over.
Silvia Rivera, an activist who fought for the rights of those who were left behind when the LGBTQ rights movement moved into the mainstream, is also featured.
Marsha P. Johnson is one of the most commonly discussed LGBTQ activists on Tumblr so some of you are probably already familiar with her, but I still highly recommend that anyone who is LGBTQ or interested in LGBTQ equality and respect watch the documentary. Much of the early fighting for LGBTQ equality was done by drag queens and people who are transgendered particularly those who are POC and transgendered. The LGBTQ community can be both overtly and subtly racist making it that much more important to watch, read, and listen to the stories of members of the community who are POC.
Chapter 60: Front Cover
This chapter reviews the film "Front Cover" about a complicated relationship between a gay Chinese-American stylist Ryan and a Chinese actor Ning.
“Front Cover” is passion project that remains firmly grounded in reality. The film opens with the main character Ryan, being frazzled as he tries to get his models ready for a photo shoot. It is clear that he is loves his job and it is good at it.
Ryan (Jake Choi) is comfortable with his sexuality as a gay man. He is not comfortable being ethnically Chinese. It is clear that if he could wish himself white he would do so in a second. He is not happy to be assigned a Chinese actor Ning (James Chen) who requested an ethnically Chinese stylist after being disappointed with a white stylist who did not understand Chinese fashion and culture.
Ning is horrified to discover that Ryan hates his Chinese heritage. He is also an aggressive womanizer. Ryan does not want to design for him believing that Ning hates him for being gay, but he is told if he wants to keep his job he will work with Ning.
Ryan tries to reach out to Ning which seems to be an utter failure, but when they are alone Ning makes a move on him. The two grow closer and Ryan his hatred of his heritage lessens. Ning is comfortable in his closet causing additional stress on their relationship. The issue of a closeted celebrity is one that is frequently discussed in many fandom circles, but the film has a gritty realness to it. A person’s closet also depends on their culture. An exploration of a Chinese actor being closeted is different in some ways than an exploration of a British, American, Canadian, or Australian actor being closeted due differences in both the larger culture and entertainment industries.
The film is as much about ethnicity as it is about being LGBTQ. The film was censored in many parts of Asia including Singapore. The film assumes a certain knowledge of Chinese culture and the experience of people who are ethnically Chinese, but live in so-called Western countries. I suspect parts of the film plays very differently for viewers who are less familiar with the cultures.
The writer and director Ray Yeung has ran the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
Chapter 61: Angry Indian Goddess
This chapter reviews the film "Angry Indian Goddess".
“Angry Indian Goddess” is an excellent film, but that includes violence and upsetting material. The film is more about being a woman in a sexist society than it is about being LGBTQ. The film is in English and Hindi (with subtitles).
The film opens with a montage of women getting angry at the men who are treating them badly. I suspect that the majority of female viewers have found themselves in similar situations.
The plot is familiar one. A woman who is getting married invites some friends to celebrate with him in preparation for her wedding. The first difference is that the bride refuses to tell them the groom’s identity. The film’s greatest strength is the realistic friendships and tensions between the women. Many of the women are hiding secrets about their lives are not as easy and happy as they pretend. One has a you daughter. Another is having trouble getting pregnant and the family blames her rather than her considering the possibility that her husband might be the reason they are having trouble having a child. One is a struggling actress. One is getting stonewalled by the courts in seeking justice.
There is laughter, music, celebrating, and bonding. There is frustration with the way they are treated by men. During one pivotal scene they are harassed. There are conversations about whether to fight against the sexism and how to do it.
Of course, no film can exist without conflict. To discuss it would be to spoil the film, but it is not what much of the audience will probably expect.
I thought that watching the film after Section 377 (a law criminalizing homosexuality) was no longer an issue, but the film is about the reality of life even more than it is about the letter of the law. Sadly, that times a lot more time to change. Even in countries where homosexuality is not only legal, but so is marriage equality there is a still a long way to go both for women’s equality and LGBTQ equality. The film also addresses the valuing of Indian women with lighter skin over those with darker skin.
Depending on where you live the film might be available on Netflix.
I should note that I am not ethnically Indian nor have I been to India. I have friends who are Indian and have a some knowledge of Indian culture and entertainment, but I would love to hear how accurately people who are ethnically Indian and/or live in India think the film represented reality. I know there are numerous subcultures within India.
Chapter 62: Breakfast on Pluto
This chapter reviews the film "Breakfast on Pluto".
I was surprised at how well “Breakfast on Pluto” has held up over the years. The Neil Jordan film based on the novel by Patrick McCabe takes place in a fictional Irish town near the Northern Ireland border. The film is composed of 36 chapters and the early transitions can be jarring.
A baby given the name Patrick Braden is left on his father’s doorstep, a priest named Father Liam (Liam Neeson), by Patrick’s birth mother Eily Bergin. Father Liam sends him to an unloving foster home. The first chapter is narrated by birds giving the audience a heads up that there will be some fantasy elements in the film.
The film catches up with “Patrick” (Cillian Murphy) who has come out as transgender and now goes by Kitten or occasionally Patricia. Kitten is obsessed with wanting to learn about her birth mother. She tries to ask Father Liam during confession, but Father Liam refuses to answer her questions. Being rejected at school he leaves both home and school to travel with a glam rock band after starting a flirtatious relationship with the band leader Billy Hatchett (Gavin Friday).
As with many of Neil Jordan’s films “The Troubles” in Ireland serve as a forbidding backdrop and a stark contrast to Kitten’s innocence, optimism, and dislike for violence. There are some upsetting scenes, but not as many as I expected considering Neil Jordan’s other films and the state of LGBTQ cinema when I first saw the film.
One of the most beautiful relationships in the film is the friendship that grows closer between Kitten and Charlie (a biological woman rather than a name as some would assume from the name played by Ruth Negga). It was surprising and unexpected that she had friends who supported her and genuinely cared about her.
Chapter 63: Arisan! 2
This chapter reviews the film "Arisan! 2" which is available on Netflix.
Anisan 2 is an Indonesian film available with subtitles. The film involves a group a group of friends- all of whom have their own personal problems- getting together for a film festival. The group includes a woman, Meimei, whose cancer is resisting the chemo she is undergoing whose story provides much of the heart of the film along with a gay couple- Nino and Sakti- who have broken up and are now in relationships with other men. Some of the characters are neither 100% gay nor 100% and it features threesomes.
The stilted dialogue may be due to the subtitles and translation issues. Unfortunately, the over-the-top focus on plastic surgery, make-up, hair, and physical appearance is clearly a major part of the film. Luckily, it lessens and starts to have plot significance as the film goes on. It is one of the rare films that features a character's partner being fine with them having a sexual relationship with someone else.
The silly superficiality of the film gives way to some emotional and touching scenes.
Surprisingly, Arisan! does not appear to be on Netflix at least in some places and only the sequel is available.
Chapter 64: The Feminists: What Were They Thinking
This chapter reviews the documentary "The Feminists: What Were They Thinking".
The Feminists: What they think is a Netflix original documentary focusing on feminists from the 1970’s looking back on their experiences at the time and the situation in the United States under President Trump. I am recommending the film because it is important to know both the history of women’s rights and of wlw rights and experiences. The film features interviews and both non-fiction interview clips and film clips from both past decades the past couple of years.
The majority of the film is focused on white, middle-class, university educated baby boomer generation American women. This limitation does an injustice to the scope of feminism, but there are segments that try to offset this narrow view. I appreciated the fact that it addressed intersection and the fact that in womencentric circles black women are expected not to discuss race, culture, and racism and in circles focused on racial equalty they are often expected not to discuss sexism and issues impacting women. This is true for all WOC, but the documentary focuses on black women specifically.
The film features celebrities, activists, artists, writers, and other people involved in the fight for women’s rights.
Although Netflix classifies it under LGBTQ films many of the women featured are straight cis women. The discussion topics include education and educational opportunities, birth control and abortion, sexism at work, society’s views on “proper” women, and how women are portrayed in the media.
This is a Netflix original documentary. It is new and I am not sure if it is available everywhere yet.
Chapter 65: The Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric
"The Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric" is an introduction level documentary focused on western particularly American changing views on gender.
The Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric is an introductory level examination of changing western and specifically American views on gender. The target audience is older cis people who are confused and/or fear people whose gender identity does not correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate. I am guessing that many people reading this post do not fit this demographic, but I am conditionally recommending it because it has a heavy focus on scientific facts, an informative section on people who are intersex, and is a documentary readers may wish to recommend to those who need basic information.
The intersex section is the most in-depth and the most well-done. It covers not only information about being intersex, but the fact that most of these people who surgically assigned a gender by doctors shortly after their birth. In some cases this probably fit their actual gender identity, but in many others it made them “the wrong gender”. The sick irony is that in trying to fit everyone into a strict gender roles and identity the doctors in practicality created people who are transgender.
In terms of the nature versus nurture argument on gender the documentary provides some noteworthy facts. Brain scans of people who are transgendered are different than brain scans of people who are cis gendered with the brain scan correlating to their gender identity. Also if one identical twin is transgendered the other one has a 40% chance of being transgender compared to fraternal (non-identical) twins where the chance is small. This strongly suggests there is a genetic component.
There is a brief section on gender views across cultures. This section deserved more time and leaves out several cultures with a third (or six) genders, but it does show that a binary view of gender is not universal among cultures. Cultures featured include Samoan, a subculture in Mexico, and ancient Jewish culture which includes citations from the Talmud. (I have some familiarity with gender views in the first two cultures and those parts seemed to be accurate if brief, but not with the Talmud and gender in historic Jewish culture so I can’t judge its accuracy.)
Couric seemed really clueless at times, but she seemed to be trying to be a stand-in for the assumed audience and I wondered at a couple points if she was playing it up a bit.
This documentary features children, teenagers, and adults. Despite its weaknesses it is a good introductory documentary. It covers a small amount of upsetting material- mainly the suicide rate-, but is less depressing than most documentaries on gender.
Depending on where you live it might be available on Netflix.
Chapter 66: Love, Simon
This chapter reviews the film "Love, Simon".
One of the most impressive things about “Love, Simon” is well the film fits comfortably in the standard teenage romcom genre. A story in which the main character is gay is always going to play differently than one in which the main character is straight- at least until societies become more open-minded-, but the differences flows naturally from the characters rather than feeling as if the film is drawing attention to it.
Romcoms are not my usual preferred genre and even as a teenager I was not a fan of teenage romcoms. I also had heard mixed things about “Love, Simon” so I initially saw it as an obligation to support a major studio releasing an LGBTQ film that could have a real life impact. The film was better than I expected and generally hit the right notes. Representation is important, but so is good filmmaking and this was a well-made film.
The story follows the basic structure of a romcom. The film avoids the temptation that weakens some films that have a representational message to make the main character perfect. Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) has flaws and those flaws are more than standard awkwardness. He makes mistakes. He is scared and ends up hurting people.
I really appreciated how much the film focused on Simon’s friendships. In many ways his friends and his concerns about whether they will still see him the same way if they learn he is gay provides a lot of the heart of the film. Like many teenagers he falls for someone, but falling for someone does not mean he loses interest in spending time with his friends. Two of is friends- Leah Burke (Katherine Langford) and Nick Eisner (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) have been his friends for 13 years. Abby Suso (Alexandra Shipp) has only been his friend for 6 months, but it is clear that he already values her friendship.
The love story is sweet although I figured out who “Blue” was very quickly. There was a line relatively early on that I felt completely gave it away. I had guessed it was probably him even before, but that clinched it. I wish a little more effort had gone into making it harder to guess Blue’s identity.
Simon knows he is not the only person who is gay at his school. Ethan (Clark Moore) has been out since he was sixteen.
Keiynan Lonsdale had a smaller part than I expected, but he did an excellent job of making sure that his character, Abraham “Bram” Greenfeld, felt well-developed. I loved Lonsdale as Wally West, but in contrast to Wally, Bram required subtle acting as he does not have a lot of dialogue and Lonsdale delivered.
The marketing was focused on it being an LGBTQ film and that is the focus, but it also features interracial couples and potential couples. Interracial couples still face prejudices and it was really nice to see them also get some representation. Traditionally LGBTQ films have been “very white”.
The family elements did not work as well as the friendship elements. It was obvious what I was supported to be seeing from the family, but I did not really feel it in most of their scenes. Probably the best family chemistry was between Simon and his sister Nora Spier (Talitha Bateman).
The principal and his comments were inappropriate to the extreme and creepy. I haven’t read the book so I don’t know who is responsible, but it was unnecessary and gross. Luckily, this only ruins a few minutes of the film. Some of his father’s comments were inappropriate, but sadly are similar to real life stories.
The film does a good job of balancing romance, friendship, acceptance, and comedy. The scene of him imagining people having to come out as straight- which was featured in the trailer- was particularly funny and a great way of making a point.
The film could best be described as comfortable. It isn’t a “best film of the year”, but it is an enjoyable and generally relaxing one. The LGBTQ community could use some romcoms and this is a film that made a difference out in the real world.
Chapter 67: The Untold Tales of Amistead Maupin
This chapter reviews the excellent documentary "The Untold Tales of Amistead Maupin" about writer and activist Amistead Maupin.
“The Untold Tales of Amistead Maupin” is a documentary that celebrates both the main Amistead Maupin and his stories. He is best known for “Tales of the City”. The city in question is San Francisco during the 1970’s. The stories include LGBTQ characters that were often introduced to the reader before it was revealed that they were LGBTQ. Thus, people who would not have normally read stories with LGBTQ characters grew to love the characters before learning about their orientation and gender identity.
The documentary includes clips from the televised production of “Tales of the City” along with extensive interview clips by those involved including Laura Linney. Other well-known interviewees include Sir Ian McKellen, Margaret Cho, Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Groff, Amy Tan, and Almanda Palmer. There is also archival footage of John Kerry (US politician), Rock Hudson, andHarvey Milk (an openly gay mayor of San Francisco who was assassinated).
Maupin’s interactions with fans is also featured and reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman’s relationship with his fans. The documentary does not hide from the horror of AIDS nor the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community, but it is an uplifting documentary.
The documentary does not hide from the parts of his life that will offend and/or annoy some members of the LGBTQ community. He enjoyed and was proud of his military service. As a young man he worked for former Senator Jesse Helms, a man known primarily for his extreme racism and anti-LGBTQ attitudes. Nor does the documentary gloss over the fact that he supported outing people in some circumstances.
His personal relationships and views on sex are included, but not in a way that appears tabloidish.
I recommend this documentary to anyone who is interested in LGBTQ history, literature, or media who is old enough to handle some frank sexual discussion. As someone who was born after the events of much of the documentary I appreciated the history. For those who remember it and especially for those who loved his work it is a great opportunity to celebrate a life of a man who made many people feel less alone.
Depending on where you live it might be available on Netflix.
Chapter 68: Bohemian Rhapsody
This chapter examines the 2018 film "Bohemian Rhapsody" about Queen and Freddy Mercury. If you know nothing about him and Queen it has spoilers. If you know the basics I tried to make it is spoiler free as I could while still reviewing it. As stated in the review I completely understand those who prefer to boycott the film due to the accusations against director Bryan Singer.
Bohemian Rhapsody’s greatest strength is the acting particularly the Rami Malek’s performance as Freddy Mercury. Its biggest weakness is the inaccuracies about the people and situations shown in the film. Most of these inaccuracies are cannot be justified as necessary for translating real life into a film including troubling elements in regards to Freddy Mercury’s sexuality and relationships.
Credible sounding accusations that Bryan Singer has a history of assaulting minors are obviously also troubling and I completely understand those who choose not to see the film for this reason. I was able to see it legally for free and I chose to do so due to the glowing reviews of Malek’s performance and because although I found its attitude towards Mercury’s sexuality problematic it was at least acknowledged that he wasn’t straight.
I should also note that Queen rose to fame before I was born and I am too young to have seen the Live Aid performance at the time. I would be interested to hear from people who remember their reaction and other people’s reactions at the time it aired.
The film opens with the lead-up to Queen’s Live Aid performance, a performance that is a highlight of the film.
Looking at Rami Malek as himself I had doubts about him as Mercury, but hair, makeup, and costuming did an excellent job of making him look the part and his performance was a reminder of his immense talent.
The strongest parts of the film are the ones involving queen and Mercury’s relationships with his bandmates. The scenes of them sticking to their guns against a music industry that wants to erase their uniqueness in order to market them are satisfying. (If you want a documentary on how EMI later collapsed I recommend “Artifact”.) It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the soundtrack is great. The production values in general were excellent.
Although Mercury and Mary Austin did have a relationship in real life I took issue with the way it was shown in the film particularly in contrast to his hook-ups and relationships with men. His relationship with Mary is shown as wholesome and supporting and shown in direct contrast to Mercury’s hook-ups, relationship with Paul Prenter, and sidelined later relationship with Jim Hutton. There is disagreement about whether Mercury was gay or bi and either way it is clear that he did care deeply about Mary and considered her a close friend as well as partner then ex-partner.
The problem wasn’t in her character and his relationship with her so much as with his attraction to be men being contrasted negatively against it with it causing him to break up the band (which never happened in real life) and with the mlm = death attitude in regards to him becoming HIV positive. The biggest problem I had in terms of her character is a spoiler for near the end of the film that was simply petty. Sidelining Jim Hutton was inexcusable and unnecessary. It would not have cheapened Mary and would have been more accurate to really show him with his supportive boyfriend.
I have no idea why they decided to have Mercury break up the band and tying it to his sexuality made it even more inexcusable. There was enough real life drama in his life. There is also no justifiable reason for the weird timeline for his AIDS diagnosis. The later was presumably done for dramatic reasons, but the changes it makes in his story are large enough that the drama excuse is insufficient justification.
Chapter 69: Colette (2018)
This chapter reviews the 2018 film "Colette" starring Keira Knightly.
Colette is a brilliantly acted engaging film about the French novelist, actress, and journalist Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette) who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984.
As with most biographical films about interesting people large amounts of their lives had to be left out due to time constraints. The years are shown on-screen to show how much time has passed between events, but the film’s biggest weakness is in a few cases the viewer has to fill in what must of happened between the gaps in order for the characters and story to make sense.
The acting and chemistry between the actors is excellent and the backbone of the story. The film is largely about Colette’s relationships and how they impacted her writing. This isn’t necessarily a bad choice, but some viewers may have wished to see more of the Colette beyond her relationships. Luckily we see more of Colette as an individual as the film progresses.
The fiery personal and professional relationship between Colette and her husband Henry Gauthier-Villars is heavily featured. Her first four novels appeared under his name, a marketing decision that can still influence contemporary publishing as see by examples such of Joanne Rowling being asked to use the pen name “J.K. Rowling” to obscure the fact she is a woman. Despite Henry’s treatment of Colette including blatant unfaithfulness she continues to stay with him for years. Although it is important to view her decision in light of the time period, sadly, the tendency of people to stay in unhealthy relationships after a less than convincing apology or an “I love you” is something that also continues in contemporary times.
Colette’s other major relationship shown and one much healthier than her relationship with her husband is with Missy, a talented dancer and lesbian, who prefers clothes that were considered “men’s clothes”. Their chemistry is excellent and you really see Colette blossom as a person as their relationship develops.
The film used much of the same producing team as another people wlw film, Carol. As with Carol, this is particularly noticeable in the more intimate and emotional wlw scenes. There is far less “male gaze” than in most films (wlw or otherwise).
The film received good reviews with a 87% rating on Rotton Tomatoes. The film received several award nominations including a British Independent Film Awards Best Supporting Actor nomination for Dominic West, Independent Spirit Awards Best Screenplay, and several nominations for best costume design.
In real life Colette said that she never would have become a writer without without Henry Gauthier-Villiars.
My knowledge of the real life Colette is limited. If anyone with greater knowledge of the real life Colette would like to comment about how well they feel the film portrayed the real woman I would love to hear your comments.
Chapter 70: Evening Shadows
This chapter reviews the recommended Indian film "Evening Shadows".
Evening Shadows is in most ways a beautiful film. Kartik visits his parents for the first time in four years to photograph what subtitles called “a religious service”. He had always been close to his mother, but has avoided visiting his family because he does not know how they will react to him being gay and being in a loving relationship with his partner (who he passes off as simply a “roommate”) Aman.
An LGBTQ character fearing his/her/their/other pronoun’s reaction to their sexuality and/or gender identity is a common theme in so-called western LGBTQ films and after watching it I realized it was more “western accessible” than a lot of Indian films due to a combination of the theme being one that transcends cultures (although the details are cultural) and because in a sick twist of irony, the extent of homophobia and transphobia in India is heavily influenced by British imperialism. Sadly, the attitudes have remained even after the official imperialism ended. I should note that since this film was made homosexual acts are no longer illegal in India.
Although the film does not shy away from Kartik being gay or the fact he and his partner are in love (although little actual physical affection is shown), ultimately the heart of the film is about a mother and son who love each other and can be each other’s strongest protector and advocate. Unfortunately, that connection is seriously damaged when Kartik tells her he is gay and in a loving relationship with Aman.
Aman is a wonderfully supportive partner who encourages and supports Kartik’s visiting his family and caring for his mother even though it is clear that Aman misses Kartik greatly and it pains him to be apart from Kartik.
Although Kartik has some stereotypical qualities, the film largely avoids stereotypes except for one brief scene.
The oppression and poor treatment of both women and mlm in Indian society are shown in clear parallel. The film is almost as much a condemnation of sexism as it is about homophobia. One of the most heartbreaking moments is when Kartik’s father says that he and Kartik’s mother are happily married as the audience can see how deeply unhappy (but in denial about her unhappiness) Vasu is in her marriage. Kartik’s seemingly silly and shallow aunt is shown to be a far more complex woman that she initially appears and Kartik’s love and support for both of them is touching.
Kartik’s father is shown in a generally negative light from the moment when he tries to pressure Kartik into an arranged marriage. However, we do see occasional moments of him showing true affection for Vasu.
One beautiful thing about the film is although it in many ways about societal and religious attitudes virtually all the characters shown are part of Kartik’s family… including his partner.
I don’t understand Hindi (although I can occasionally subconsciously understand the occasional phrase) so I had to rely on subtitles. The subtitles appeared to be better than average as it sounded like actual human beings talking to each other. However, the dialogue is often subordinate to the silent acting- the tears in people’s eyes, their smile, their hunched back.
The film had a couple scenes that felt way too coincidental to be believable.
I have seen studies from western countries that over 80% of sexual abuse occurs in families. I don’t know what the percentage is in India and getting accurate stats in any country is hard considering it is one of the least like to be disclosed forms of abuse, but I know it exists. There are several scenes where Kartik has to fend off his gay, but in denial uncle. Sadly the scenes all within in the realm of realistic, but people who have been victims of abuse may find these scenes triggering. There was one particular one that bothered me and I found unnecessary, but even it can fit reality. The intent is clearly to show a gay man (his uncle) married a woman and is still gay, but I think it could have been handled better. (Auntie and Uncle sometimes refer to not-technically family members, but it is his actual uncle.)
The music was particularly good with the lyrics fitting the scenes exceptionally well.
At the end of the film there is a screen credit thanking people around the world for helping to finance the film through crowdfunding. Ten percent of the money raised was used to form a support group for parents of LGBTQ children in India. The film has won 16 festival awards around the world. It screened as the closing film at the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. (via Wikipedia)
Chapter 71: The Third Party
This chapter reviews the 2016 Filipino film "The Third Party".
The film opens with the main character, Andi Medina (Angel Locsin), arguing about the cost of tuition. Her boyfriend, Max Labrador (Sam Milby), comes up and takes care of it saying that he will always be there for her. The film cuts to their graduation during which Max’s mother, assuming she already knows, tells her that he is going to Medical School in San Diego. Convinced that the long distance relationship can’t work she breaks up with him. She turns her attention to her dream of being a fashion designer.
Four years later she is excited to hear that he has returned from his studies and expects them to resume their relationship. When she learns that he has a boyfriend, Christian Pilar (Zanjoe Marudo) she reacts badly not due to generalized homophobia so much as rejection and the seeming death of her fantasy that they will get back together. In time she calms down and accepts both of them, but it is clear that she would love for them to get back together.
The early parts of the film are relatively formulaic with some overly dramatic acting and it is obvious why it is classified as a romantic comedy.
The quality improves- although not the characters’ happiness- when she learns that she is pregnant by an ex-boyfriend. She has always felt a sense of rejection because her mother gave her up for adoption and she knows her life is too messy for her to be a good mother. Even though abortion is illegal in the Philippines she goes to them and asks for one. They turn her down and as it happens Christian is looking into him and Max adopting a child. He suggests that they will take care of her financial, housing, medical, and other needs while she is pregnant and they will adopt the baby after it is born.
Although Andi is the main character much of the film is about Max figuring himself out and accepting himself. He cares deeply for both Andi and Christian, but he is not just choosing between two people as choosing whether to play it safe and do the “acceptable” thing and go back to Andi as a romantic/sexual partner or continue his relationship with Christian, come out to his family, and know that he will face hatred, prejudice, and not be able to legally marry the man he loves.
Christian’s parents are completely accepting of him being gay and in a relationship with a man. Conversely, Max has every reason to be afraid of his parents’ reaction to him having a boyfriend.
Both Milby and Marudo fit the classic “good looking young doctors”. Both have worked as models as well as actors. They have good chemistry.
One of the film’s greatest strengths is it allows the characters to have flaws and make bad choices. They all face challenges and bad situations that are beyond their control, but they have the agency to be more than helpless victims. Christian has many good qualities and an admirable comfort with himself and his sexuality, but he can also be a controlling. Andi isn’t a great judge of people and didn’t really move on from Max when she should have done so. Max hurts those he cares about with his indecisiveness and fears.
If you are only familiar with western films and cultures the film's style may be a bit jarring.
Depending on where you live the film might be available on Netflix. Subtitles are available (ironically, including when dialogue is in English).
Chapter 72: The Happy Prince
This chapter reviews the 2018 film "The Happy Prince" about Oscar Wilde's life after he was released from prison.
There is a human tendency to want to classify people as either good or bad and consider them admirable or contemptible. In real life humans are rarely one of these extremes. I find him interesting not because I think he was perfect, but because he had amazing strengths and at the same time serious weaknesses. Over the years I have seen films about him, films of his stories, attended plays based on his life, read books about him, and had discussions of him. To my disappointment most works about him ignore or try to excuse away his complexities.
The Happy Prince is probably the best work I have seen for showing those complexities. He was a victim of his time and the hatred towards men who were attracted to other men, but he was not without agency. Bosie encouraged him to sue for libel, but ultimately it was his choice to do so. He reveled in an extravagant lifestyle. He spent a fortune paying for sex. The age gap can be difficult to watch. For all his brilliance he failed to appreciate Ross’ support and love instead choosing the more self-centred Bosie. He is not at fault for not being attracted to his wife nor for living in a society that expected that a “respectable gentleman” would marry a woman, but he did treat her badly.
The film focuses on his life after he was released from prison. It was a passion project for Rupert Everett who spent 10 years working on it. I was pleasantly surprised that a man who was such of fan of Wilde was so willing to show not only strengths, but his weaknesses.
No matter what hardships are throne at Wilde and how much he is mocked, he never loses his brilliance nor his wittiness. Even as a man who has been nearly broken his quips are still perfectly timed.
The film spends more time on his wife and the pain the loss of his family causes him than most works about his life. Often we see him alone. Robbie Ross and Reggie Turner are his constant companions. The audience can feel for Ross’ frustration that Wilde chooses Bosie over him. Bosie only appears in the film relatively briefly. Their reunion is surprisingly sweet, but as expected the happiness and sweetness does not last.
The film relies heavily on acting and the actors are all great in their roles. You can see Everett’s commitment to the project in every scene. Edwin Thomas expertly shows the frustration- sometimes subtly and sometimes in outburst- of being unappreciated- while still supporting Wilde without coming across as weak. Colin Morgan gives Bosie a magnetism that allows the audience to understand Wilde’s attraction to him and moments of sweetness, but shows the appropriate snottiness and selfishness when needed to show that Ross would be the better choice for Wilde. Colin Firth embodies Reggie Turner as a friend who remained loyal to Wilde after his imprisonment, but unlike Ross was not in love with Wilde. Emily Watson has less meaty material, but she captures a woman balances pain with self-respect.
The films’ weaknesses is it drags at times and some of the artsy camera work is distracting rather than serving the story. It is a quiet and raw film and the camera work and lighting could have done a better job at reflecting that mood. On the other hand the costuming is terrific and the locations fit the emotions of the story being told.
If you want Oscar Wilde as the completely admirable LGBTQ hero and fighter you should definitely skip this one. If you want Oscar Wilde as the complex man who was wronged by his society and yet not without agency in his downfall this one is definitely worth your time.
Chapter 73: Brideshead Revisited
This chapter reviews the film "Brideshead Revisited".
Brideshead Revisited, based on the novel of the same name by Evelyn Waugh, is a well-acted and beautifully made film. Unfortunately, it is a hard one for me to review as many of my criticisms involve spoilers.
There are four themes of the story: Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) being enamored with the upper class lifestyle at Brideshead, Sebastian’s (Ben Whishaw) and Charles’ homoerotic friendship and the question about how far it went, Charles’ attraction to Sebastian’s sister Julia, and the non-religious Charles navigating within the Anglo-Catholicism of the Brideshead household.
Films should stand on their own merits, but I listened to some of the commentary to see whether I was missing something in my less than impressed view of elements of the scripts. Unfortunately, it confirmed my suspicions that the filmmakers were primarily interested in Charles’ attraction to Julia, the theme I found the least original or interesting.
Adapting a novel, especially a complex one, into a film inevitably means leaving things out. It also means you often lose character(s) inner voices although there are a few voice-overs in the film.
I had no problem seeing that Sebastian loved and was attracted to Charles. Unfortunately, I was never fully convinced whether Charles returned his feelings and attraction or if he tolerated them in order to enjoy the luxury of Brideshead and get closer to Julia. (Either way it was “progressive” for the time period, but in the later case it made me far less interested in the film. A gay man being attracted to a straight man who prefers a woman is something that has been done to death.) I have seen Matthew Goode in other things and I find it unlikely that he didn’t know how to fully sell it if Charles was truly attracted to Sebastian. There is really only one moment when I could really see it and he was drunk at the time.
After being disappointed by the portrayal of the Charles’ and Sebastian’s relationship I assumed they were going to “side” with the religious theme in the novel. However, according to the commentary they had an Anglo-Catholic advisor so although the religious elements are “correct” they feel emotionally empty.
The result is that although the film is visually beautiful and the cast is excellent, it plays if the filmmakers were playing it too safe and in doing so the beauty feels hollow. There are emotional moments including a scene midway through the film in which I saw a more modern parallel.
If you have read the novel the film has a “safer” ending and while the change in some ways is appealing it also left me thinking “so what”.
Although this film fits within the confines of LGBTQ films it is one that has less LGBTQ content than most of the films I have reviewed for this collection. Unlike the novel the film can’t justify it by the time period nor could the fact that Waugh had converted to Catholicism and supported a traditional version of it rejecting the reforms of Vatican II explain it.
If you want an adaptation that lacks some of the technical beauty of the film, but does a better job with the LGBTQ content there is a television serial adaptation.
Chapter 74: The Birdcage
This chapter reviews the 1996 film "The Birdcage" starring Robin Williams.
The Birdcage is a 1996 film starring Robin Williams. Armand Goldman’s (Robin Williams) and his partner Albert Goldman’s (Nathan Lane) relationship is thrown into disarray when Armand’s son Val Goldman (Dan Futterman) announces that he is is engaged to Barbara Keeley (Calista Flockhart), the daughter of an (American) Republican senator (Gene Hackman), and has invited her and her family for dinner. Her parents are conservative Christians and homophobic he asks Armand and Albert to tone down their behavior, make their home look it belongs to conservative “traditional family values” Christian parents rather than gay Jewish men.
Armand took twenty years to be comfortable being himself and initially pushes back against the request, but acquiesces after seeing how much it means to his son. He visits his ex-wife and Val’s mother Katherine Archer (Christine Naramski) and asks her to play his wife for the night. She is delayed in traffic and Albert’s solution ends up being more complicated and showing more shades to the characters than expected.
The film is a comedy and although Albert’s flamboyancy could be considered a little overplayed in the earlier scenes it is nothing compared to the cardboard parody of the Senator and his wife. Considering the time period- although in some ways it could still be true- the film is an advocacy film. For a film of that period to not be focused on AIDS and tragedy is a breath of fresh air. It is not that there is anything wrong with the films that did focus on AIDS and tragedies. They told important stories, but sometimes it is nice to see a film in which LGBTQ are shown in romcoms as straight people.
Although I have some criticisms they are ones that come from watching it from a 2019 perspective. It is still an enjoyable watch and LGBTQ cinema still features far more dramas and tragedies than comedies (in large part because progress has been slow- or in some places almost non-existent). I recommend this film, but it should be watched with the understanding that it was made for a world where gay marriage wasn’t legal in any country and in which homosexual activity was illegal in many more places than it is today.
The film was nominated for numerous awards and won the Screen Actor’s Guide Award for Outstanding Performace by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
On a real life note is a reminder of Robin William’s brilliance and the tragedy of his suicide.
Chapter 75: All in My Family
This chapter reviews the 40 minute documentary "All in My Family".
All in My Family is a 40 minute documentary by Has Wu about his family’s long journey towards accepting that he is gay, in a relationship with a man, and he and his partner are using a surrogate to have two children. Wu lives in New York, but the rest of his family lives in China and most of the documentary is filmed during visits to his family.
Although the film is short it covers a lot of material. When you are a member of a minority there is often a lot of pressure to present your culture in a positive way, but Wu does not hide the his family’s homophobic attitudes nor the pain that those attitudes cause him. This is a realistic documentary and his relatives vary in how long it takes to fully accept him (if they ever do during the period of the documentary). It also shows family members accepting part of his indentity and choices, but not other parts.
The documentary opens with a scene involving a white accepting family before a voice over explains that isn’t his family. This is an excellent way of introducing the tone of the film.
The documentary tries to be accessible to those who are not familiar with Chinese culture, but at 40 minutes there is not time to fully explain the complexities of the culture. If a viewer is not familiar with cultures where there can be a tension between the love family members show towards each other and the judgements they make about each other this documentary does not take the time to explain it. It is clear that his family loves him and continues to love him, but it is not a love that always includes accepting and being happy about his life.
The documentary is a Netflix original, but I am not sure if it is available in all countries with Netflix.
Chapter 76: Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga
This chapter is a review of the excellent film "Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga ".
I have seen “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga” recommended for its representation. This is a good reason to watch it, but an even better reason to watch it is its representation combined with the fact it is an excellent film. The title translates to “How I felt when I saw that girl”). The film is in Hindi so I mainly relied on subtitles.
The film opens with a seemingly generic and formulaic love story being played out in the form of a play. The writer, Sahil Mirza (Rajkummar Rao), sits in the audience and watching it. A woman, Sweety Chaudhary (Sonam K Ahuja and Sara Arjun as young Sweety in flashbacks), comes in and, not realizing she is talking to the writer, criticizes the play. When he asks her what it needs she mentions complications. We learn throughout the course of the film that her own love life has plenty of complications. A man walks into the theatre causing to Sweety gets up taking Sahil with her and runs away from a man. Sahil assumes the man is a boyfriend or husband, but he turns out to be her brother Babloo. Sahil and Babloo get into a fight leading to both of them being arrested. At the police station the policemen reveal they love Sahil’s father’s writing, but think his writing should be marketed as a sleeping pill.
At this point viewers might be tempted to write off both men, but Sahil will be shown to be more complex and deep down a good person in contrast to Babloo who serves as the biggest antagonist in the film. He has flaws and some of his actions are condemnable, but he has surprising strengths and a bravery that nobody including him initially sees in himself.
Upon returning home Babloo announces that Sweety has a Muslim boyfriend and tells their father she should be forbidden from leaving the house. Their father Balbir Chaudhary (Anil Kapoor) agrees telling Sweety that he had dreams of being a chef (and is constantly chased out of the kitchen with the warning that he will “turn into a woman”), but instead chose the socially acceptable job of owning an undergarment factory. The argument is clearly that if he could give up his dreams to be acceptable to society she can do the same thing. Of course, the fact this film is classified as an LGBTQ film gives the audience a hint that Sahil isn’t the one who has caught her interest.
Sweety is a woman, who in her own words, “lived in her diary”. She realized at an early age that she was different from the other girls. Unfortunately, the other kids soon realized it and she became an incredibly lonely person. She is an artist and her drawings include one of two brides, a drawing that is shown several times during the film. Both actresses do an excellent job at portraying a woman who feels separated from the world and people and afraid of the consequences of being her true self. Without Ahuja’s performance the film would not have worked.
Meanwhile Sahil has decided to write a play and have it performed in Moga, Punjab hoping to woo Sweety. He decides to use locals as actors and sets up an acting class.
This gives Chatro (Juhi Chawla), a caterer who considers herself a great actress and is initially introduced as annoying Sahil in her pushy attempt to get him to cast her, a chance to show surprising depth and she finds a kindred spirit in Balbir.
Probably the most complex character is Balbir. Although his actions are controlling it is clear that he loves his daughter and it pains him to see her in pain. Flashbacks show how much he adores her and is proud of her. The film gives him quite a journey as he struggles not only in handing the news of his daughter’s relationships (even if one never really existed), but his own struggle between doing what is expected and following his heart.
Although the story follows many of the structural elements of a romantic dramody it has a freshness to it and one that is not simply a matter of the love story being between two women rather than a man and a woman. The film tries to strike a balance between realism and its genre. In general it succeeds although there are a few moments that feel less than realistic.
The acting is exceptional as is the chemistry. I found myself really caring about the characters and changing my views about them as we learn more about them. With one exception the characters all show growth throughout the film and have both strengths and flaws.
The production values are excellent with the cinematography, consuming, music, and sounds being partially good. Some of the most emotionally affecting shots focus on a teenage girl who has no dialogue and is not given a name.
There is more physical affection shown been the women than I expected and we can see how happy they make each other. My one complaint about the film is that I would have liked to have learned more about Kuhu (Regina Cassandra).
There is a small subplot about a betting ring in which the bets are about people’s personal lives.
Depending on where you live the film might be available on Netflix. It is already on my “films to rewatch” list.
Chapter 77: Lez Bomb
This chapter reviews the film lesbian film "Lez Bomb".
Laura plans to come out to her family before her girlfriend arrives for Thanksgiving dinner. These plans are interrupted by family dramas and her male roommate Austin inviting himself to their Thanksgiving dinner.
The film fits the standard romcom structure complete with the family dramas that vary from the conventional to the ridiculous. The film clearly had a low budget, but that only increases the realness and intimacy of the film. With modern camera phones it could almost be a home video.
Before I get into my criticisms of the film I want to acknowledge that humour is subjective and the film is set in a rural culture that is not my own. I have met people from small rural towns in the US, but I have never spent more than a couple of days in one which is not enough to be able to judge how well it is represented. It is quite possible that this film will be more appealing to those who currently live in or have lived in an area similar to the one shown in the film.
Unfortunately, the film has three major problems. The first problem is a common one in stories with straight couples, but less common in LGBTQ films. The problem is that the film expects the audience to just accept that Laura and Hallie are a couple we should want together without giving us much cause to route for them beyond the fact they are lesbians. Although I could sympathize with some of Hallie’s frustrations, Hallie did not appear to even make an effort to think about anyone other than herself or try to connect with Laura’s family. It is clear that she is attracted to Laura, but I never could buy that she actually cared about her as a person.
The second is that selfishness and self-absorption problem was true of all the characters except for Laura and in a few moments her mother. Thus, I had trouble caring what happened to them.
The third issue is I think the viewer is supposed to dislike Austin, but the fact he black made him one of the more sympathetic characters and there were several moments where I found him the most sympathetic. A father giving a threatening lecture to his daughter’s boyfriend (even if Austin isn’t actually her boyfriend) is a standard romcom cliche (which is a worrisome attitude as it is), but when it is a white man threatening a younger black man it has a very different feel and any possible humour is erased. Nor is a white man chasing after an innocent black man particularly humourous. There is another subplot that I got the impression was supposed to be funny in which Laura’s younger rebellious cousin keeps touching him and trying to get him to make-out with her making him uncomfortable that was definitely not funny considering how many white people fear that black men are "a threat" to white women and girls. Although he is the adult and she is the teenager, he is the one who is in the vulnerable position and in danger if any of the relatives think he is encouraging her in any way (which he definitely is not doing).
The general premise is similar in some ways to a much better film I previously reviewed “Jenny’s Wedding”. Depending on where you live "Lez Bomb" might be available on Netflix
Chapter 78: The Pass
This chapter reviews the sports themed film "The Pass" starring Russell Tovey and Arinze Kene.
Netflix recommended “The Pass” and certainly a film about homophobia in sports that starred Russell Tovey and included an interracial relationship had its appeal.
At 19 years old Jason (Russell Tovey) and Ade (Arinze Kene) are sharing a hotel room the night before their first game. They are hyped up and their banter, wrestling, and goofing off turns surprisingly intimate. That "pass" ends up having long-term consequences for both of them. Although they are both screwed up by the knowledge that their attraction to each other (and to men in general) is considered in oppositon to their dreams of being star footballers, Ade's coping mechanisms and self-awareness is slightly better (and his behavior less violent) than Jason's extreme disconnect.
The acting is brilliant and sadly I think it is probably realistic in its portrayal of homophobia in professional team sports (in this case football or in US English soccer) including internalized homophobia. It is also realistic for the highly sexualized banter between the men and their comfort in walking around nearly naked. The crass way in which a successful male athlete treats women is sadly also realistic, but it is unpleasant to watch.
This being said it is a hard film to watch and if you are easily triggered you probably want to skip it as the last third or so of the film includes a lot of upsetting material including some really disturbing non-con. Part of the reason I am including the film in this series is because the Netflix description is sanitized and the film is not rated. Internalized homophobia can make people do some really horrible things.
If you are interested in homophobia in sports and can handle the material is worth watching, but it is far more brutal than I expected.
I should also note that it includes black face. It is filmed in such a way as not to condone it and the same scene includes what could be called white face, but it is something I know will make some people choose not to watch the film.
The film is based on a play and depending on where you live it might be available on Netflix. It was nominated for a 2017 BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for writer John Donnelly and director Ben Williams.
Chapter 79: Yes or No
This chapter reviews the 2010 Thai film "Yes or No".
In “Yes or No”, a very feminine university student Pie is initially uncomfortable with her tomboyish roommate Kim. She asks to change rooms arguing that she is not prejudiced, but doesn’t like tomboys. A tomboyish looking administrator informs her that if she is not prejudiced then it shouldn’t be a problem sharing a room with a tomboy. Pie takes advantage of being a senior and uses tape to draw a line across the room telling Kim to stay on her side.
Despite herself the barriers start coming down between them especially after a storm knocks out the power and it turns out that Kim in scared of the dark. There is a cute moment after Pie has lit a bunch of candles where they use their hands to make shadows of birds on the wall. Kim isn’t completely comfortable with herself or her feelings for Pie, but she is more self-aware than Pie.
Initially I was annoyed that the film seemed to be using tomboy as a term for lesbian, but Kim's Auntie does point out that some girls who look like tomboys aren’t lesbians and some girls who are lesbians do not look like tomboys. Although Kim is presented as a tomboy (butch might be the more accurate English translation) she also has some stereotypical feminine qualities such as her love of cooking.
Pie’s childhood friend who wants to be her boyfriend P'van(1) is presented as obstacle and is unlikeable, but it is clear that Pie mostly uses him as a shield. Another student, the pushy Jane is presented as a possible love interest for Kim, but Kim is clearly only interested in Pie.
Kim’s family is a lot more accepting that Pie’s mother, a fact that P'Van tries to use to his advantage.
The film follows the standard cliches and yet it works. The film is made for a Thai audience and viewers who are not familiar with the culture might be put off by a couple of the scenes that differ radically from western cultures, but overall it is one of the more accessible films for a western audience.
The film is rated PG, but there are several scenes where it is up to the audience to decided whether more happened off-screen.
The film is in Thai with subtitles being available. I got the impression at several points that the subtitles might not be 100% accurate in translating the exact meaning or otherwise running into translation issues. For example at one point Pie says that she is going with "Boy" (Boy is capitalized) which sounds like the ultimate "no homo". He doesn't get a name and the only thing that matters is he is a boy. However, I know there are Thai names that are similiar so I wondered if that might be more accurate to the actual dialogue. If anyone who speaks Thai wants to offer their thoughts it would be appreciated.
Depending on where you live the film might be available on Netflix. There are two sequels available "Yes and No 2" and "Yes and No 2.5".
1. The subtitles list his name as Van. The Wikipedia article lists it as P'Van. Between the two I am guessing that the Wikipedia spelling is more accurate, but again I would love to hear from anyone who speaks Thai. Also according to Wikipedia it was the first lesbian film made in Thailand. Since the film was made Thailand has become the first country in Asia with marriage equality.
Chapter 80: Elisa and Marcela
This chapter reviews the film "Elisa and Marcela" based on the real life story of Elisa Sanchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibeas who married in Spain in 1901.
“Elisa and Marcela” is about a life-long lesbian romance in Spain during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The film focuses primarily on the early days of their relationship as students and during the period when Marcela presented as a man and changed her name to Mario in the hopes of avoiding the gossip and violent reactions of people around them and so she could marry Marcela. Although she was able to marry Marcela she was never fully able to pass as a man and the deception caused even worse problems.
The film is filmed in black and white and very much an arthouse film. It is well acted and it neither shies away from their sexual attraction nor uses it for exploitation. The actresses have good chemistry. The story does not shy away from the prejudices and hatred directed at Elisa and Marcela, but it is still an uplifting film.
Unfortunately, the leisurely pace of the film is so slow that it starts to lose focus and feels rather plodding. Also, there are many scenes that are distractingly dark. I don’t mean dark as in depressing, but dark in that it is so minimally lit that it throws one out of the film as the viewer becomes more focused on straining to see what is going on rather than letting themselves be carried away by the story. In some cases the shadows and fancy camera work enhance the story. In other cases it serves as another distraction.
Regardless of these weaknesses it is a decent wlw film and is you enjoy arthouse films it is worth checking out. The pace picks up during the second half of the film.
It is based on a true story about Elisa Sanchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibeas who were married in in Spain in 1901.
What happened in regards to the marriage is a spoiler, but it is well worth looking up after you have seen the film.
Depending on where you live the film might be available on Netflix.
Chapter 81: Mario
This chapter reviews the 2018 sports themed film "Mario".
Mario is an excellent sports themed Swiss film about a gay football player Mario Luthi (Max Hubacher) who finds himself caught between his sexuality and his growing attraction to his teammate and his dream of playing professionally.
Mario’s new agent Peter Gehrling (Andreas Matti) who warns him that the team is impressed by him, but that he will need to keep working because it isn’t a guarantee he will be offered a contract. It is clear that although Mario clearly loves football he is also being pushed by his father Daniel Luthi (Jurg Pluss) who was never able to play professional football and is vicariously living his dream through his son. The agent makes it a point to have Mario answer his questions rather than letting his father do the talking for him.
A potential challenger to Mario’s chance of getting a contract is a new player from Hanover, Germany, Leon Saldo (Aaron Altaras) joining the team.
After his first practice Leon is criticized by several players including Mario for being focused on himself rather than the team and hogging the ball. On a bus ride Leon responds to Mario’s criticism by telling him not to worry because Leon thinks Mario is talented and it will be the two of them that will advance.
When the team wants Mario to share rooms with Leon and be closer to the stadium Mario’s father objects, but Gehrling suggests that the team might be considering having them both advance and wants them to get acquainted and comfortable with each other so they will be more effective teammates.
Leon’s behavior towards Mario has been one of definite interest since they first met, but that interest temporarily fades after Mario enthusiastically greets his best friend Jenny (Jessy Movavec). After Mario clarifies that Jenny is not his girlfriend and they aren’t having sex, Leon’s interest resumes and he makes a move. Mario appears not to reciprocate, but when Leon starts to apologize Mario kisses him back.
Both men are aware of their sexuality, but know that being anything other than 100% straight threatens their future in football. Despite their fears their attraction and feelings are strong enough that they begin a relationship, but it becomes clear that although they are both falling in love with each other Leon is more comfortable with his sexuality and their relationship than Mario.
The film is well acted and the production values are good. The story is very realistic about the challenges LGBTQ players face in team sports in general and football in particular. Public image counts for at as much as it does in the entertainment industry. Outwardly, the teams don’t want to appear homophobic and many in the business do not care whether or not Mario and Leon are gay and together, but sponsors and fans do and the teams are beholden to both. Mario and Leon, like all players, are potential commodities. Mario’s father is the only character who is personally homophobic.
Although I was surprised at some of the script choices they all made sense. Looking back you could see where the story was going if you look at the characters’ early choices and their personalities and values. Everyone goes on a journey. Everyone has to choose between less than ideal options.
The film does not hide Mario’s and Leon’s sexual attraction and actions, but it makes it clear that for both of them it is based on love rather lust. The actors have good chemistry and they commit fully to playing their characters (which sadly doesn’t always happen in LGBTQ films). Although many viewers will ultimately identify with or support one or the other both the script and performances allow the viewer to see both their perspectives and the fact that they are in a difficult situation.
All the main characters except for one are shown to be complex with positive traits and negative ones. They have agency. They make their own choices and deal with the consequences of the choices. Sometimes those choices lead to happiness. Sometimes there is a cost.
Edited to add: I would like to thank itandwonder on Tumblr and Shirasade on AO3 for pointing out that Young Boys, the current Swiss football champions, allowed their logo and facilities to be used. Sadly, sports team often refuse to allow anything connected to them to be used in LGBTQ films.
I will also be posting a spoiler review as this film brings up a lot of important material in the later parts of the film. Also, it reminds me in some ways of two of my all-time LGBTQ films.
For US English substitute soccer for football.
Chapter 82: Life in the Doghouse
This film reviews the documentary "Life in the Doghouse" about a gay couple that runs an animal rescue.
"Life in the Doghouse" is a generally uplifting film about a gay couple, Ron Danta and Danny Robertshaw who run a dog rescue (Danny and Ron’s Rescue) from their home. (It should not be confused with the 1962 British comedy film with the same title.) At the time the documentary was made they had rescued over 10,000 dogs.
I was a little hesitant about the documentary because I know that although people who run animal rescues are generally well-intentioned the conditions vary. Granted this is a documentary, but it took time to show and explain that they had a staff and how they kept the dogs and areas where the dogs would be safe and clean.
The documentary is more about them rescuing and helping rehabilitate the dogs than it is about them being a gay couple. I am including it in this series because there are brief discussions about them being a gay couple in the southern US and how it affects them and because it is nice to see a documentary featuring a gay couple in which the focus is not on them being gay.
The older one Ron was married to a woman before coming to terms with being gay. After his divorce Danny helped him move on.
I would recommend the documentary for recommending or watching with family members, friends, and other people who like dogs, but are not generally open to watching films with LGBTQ characters. It simply treats being gay and two men being a couple as being as normal as being straight and a man having a wife. It is also a documentary that could be appropriate for younger viewers than most of the films I have reviewed as part of this series.
However, I do want to warn viewers that it has a couple scenes addressing the fact that dogs who aren’t adopted in shelters are often killed. There is a distance shot of body bags with dead dogs being loaded into a truck and taken to a mass grave.
Ron clearly has no patience with men who won’t have their dog neutered because they see it as a threat to the dog's masculinity.
Chapter 83: Yes and No 2: Back to Me
This chapter reviews "Yes or No 2: Back to Me" the sequel to a previous film I reviewed "Yes or No".
After graduating from university Pie’s and Kim’s relationship is tested when they choose internships in different parts of Thailand. Kim decides to do her internship on a farm in Nam, in the north of Thailand, as she was an agricultural major and Pie decides to do hers at a fishery in the south.
As with “Yes or No” Kim is presented with another possible female love interest, Jam, another intern at the farm and Pie is presented with a possible male love interest Vongkoa at the fishery. The film also continues the tendency from the first film to have the love interests be surprisingly aggressive. Granted romcoms aren’t my usual genre and maybe the issue is in the translation, but at times it came across as over the top.
Despite the progress Pie made during the first film in accepting her sexuality she still isn’t 100% comfortable with it nor with Kim’s tomboyishness. Kim’s weakness is her tendency to enjoy having a woman interested in her and encourage it despite her relationship with Pie. I did appreciate the fact that they were both responsible for the problems in their relationship.
The film isn’t as good as the first one and it would have been nice to see them being happy together before the drama and stress to their relationship started, but it is still worth watching.
Chapter 84: Girl
This chapter reviews the Belgium film "Girl" about a young transgender woman.
In discussions with people about gender I have noticed that even people who are fine with adults transitioning are often opposed to teenagers doing so fearing that “it is just a phase” and worrying that they will make the “wrong” choice and be unable to reverse that choice. “Girl” is a Belgium film based on a true story about a transgender teenage dancer who is determined to have the surgeries and hormone treatments to become a young woman.
The film contains a warning about the graphic material including self-harm in the film. Considering the topic there is a lot of focus on physical looks and bodies. Although it can be justified in a film in which the main character is in the process of transitioning I think there was more than there needed to be to get the point across. I would not recommend this film to anyone who has body issues and/or eating disorders. She pushes herself hard- probably too hard- at dance and there are some glory scenes involving the injuries this causes her feet.
The film can be hard to watch at points. It is a very depressing film and there were several points during which I considered not finishing it.
I am including it this series because it seems realistic and really shows how hard it is to feel one has been born into the wrong body. (I am not trans so I can't speak from personal experience.)
Chapter 85: Mario (SPOILER Review)
This chapter reviews parts of the film "Mario" that would be considered spoilers. I recommend seeing the film before reading this chapter.
I really liked that they tried to keep Jenny and Gehrling sympathetic. It would have been easy to make them the scapegoats for Mario’s and Leon’s unhappiness. It is clear that Gehrling cares about Mario and even as he is encouraging Mario and Jenny to pretend to be a couple he hates doing it. I loved his disgust at the photo shoot although part of it might have been his guilt at telling Jenny that she wouldn’t have to play Mario’s “wife” again and that is exactly the role she is playing. This being said he does benefit from Mario continuing to play football so him doing what he can to keep Mario playing football isn’t 100% altruistic.
It turns out that Mario’s mother’s line about most people ending up doing what they are second best at- at least that is according to subtitles- turns out to be foreshadowing. Mario could be argued to be the exception as he is very good at football, but in his case he seems to end up doing the thing that is second in terms of what makes him happy and it is clear from the final shot that it is not enough.
The photoshoot was an excellent and realistic scene, but not a pleasant one to watch. The comment that their readers were most interested in him and his girlfriend rather than his athletic accomplishments was on point, but as someone who has spent her life having to constantly convince male sports fans that I am watching sports for the sports and not “the cute guys” that attitude annoys me.
The most depressing thing is that the only one who ends up happy is Mario’s homophobic father who dismissed the very idea of Mario being happy as if it was irrelevant. It is clear that Mario loves football, but so did Leon. The film left me wondering if Mario would have made the choices that left him depressed and emotionally cut off from everyone if his father hadn’t been so determined to live out his own dream via his son. The line in which his father tells Mario he is proud of him disgusted me.
When Jenny asked Mario if it was really over for him and we see Mario going to see Leon I expected a happy ending. It was set up to one. Instead the audience is shown a realistic one. Initially I was disappointed.
I asked myself what I would consider to be a happy ending for these characters. In my view them being together, out, and having successful football careers, but might not be realistic at this point in time. For Mario a happy ending would be him and Mario together, but staying in the closet. I’m not sure Leon going back in the closet is really a happy ending even if it means being with Mario. I think Leon’s ideal happy ending would have been similar to mine, but since he thinks it isn’t realistic he seems to be getting a “happy enough for him” ending.
Ultimately, the film follows a common structure in LGBTQ films and it is a sad one because we are seeing Mario’s story. If we were seeing Leon’s story (or Joel’s for that matter) it would have played differently.
Some mistakes can’t be undone. It is clear that although Leon has moved on to a new partner it was still hard for Leon to tell Mario that it could never work between them. But Leon was right. Ultimately, they had to make painful choices because being in the closet or being out of football may have been their only realistic opinions. With so much money riding on the marketability of players teams were not going to take a risk of fans and sponsors finding out a player was gay.
Although it would be healthier for Mario to move on, he really is in a difficult position. He could discretely find men to have sex with him, but finding a man he loves and who loves him and is willing to stay in the closet is more difficult. He spends much of his time surrounded by football players. Finding one who would be willing to take the risk to be with him, but comfortable in the closet is tricky especially as Mario and the other player would have to trust each other and be able to handle the fear of being outed. If the potential partner was outside of football he would have to get to know them well enough to trust them without letting them know that he is gay and attracted to them while figuring out if they were attracted to men. Unfortunately, gay players have to worry about the person they are with being tempted to gain attention by outing them or even some ill-advised bragging. With high definition phone cameras and centralized and searchable social media it takes work to stay in the closet when one is in “the public eye”. Jenny could have turned out to have a gay friend who she had already "vetted" as being trustworthy and could have found a way to descretely find out if they found Mario attractive, but whether he could have lived with the reality of being in the closet with an "in the public eye" football player would still not be resolved.
Had Mario been shown as happy- even if only for a moment- in the final shot the question of whethere it was a happy ending for Mario could be debated. But the final shot makes it clear that in Mario's case getting what he thought he wanted most in the world doesn't end up making him happy.
Chapter 86: Yes or No 2.5
This chapter reviews the film "Yes or No 2.5" the last part of the "Yes or No" trilogy. I recommend seeing both "Yes and No" and "Yes or No 2: Back to Me" (especially the first one) before reading this chapter.
In many ways “Yes or No 2.5” is the strongest film of the trilogy. It relies heavily on the first film and somewhat on the second one it shouldn't be the first one you watch, but it has the strongest plot, the best acting, the most chemistry, and the most emotional impact.
After being disappointed with “Yes or No 2” I debated watching it and the choice to have the earlier parts of the film largely focus on a different “love interest” pairing did not increase my enthusiasm. Fortunately, the new pairing did grow on me and Pie (now referred to as Prim) has a larger part and some of her best material in the later parts of the film.
Although Pie and Kim were together at the end of “Yes or No 2”, they split up off-screen before the start of “Yes or No 2.5”. They have managed to avoid each other for a while- based on subtitles the timeline is questionable- until they find themselves neighbors in their respective flats. By coincidence their flatmates also have a history together. There are flashbacks in the film explaining things that happened between the films.
Pie shares a flat with Fa and Wine (Kim) shares a flat with Pii. Fa has a crush on Pii, but Pii rejects Fa insisting that they should remain friends and sisters (they aren't biological ones if anyone needs reassurance). Instead she pushes Fa into a relationship with Wine only to realize that maybe she has feelings of her own for Fa. Wine is not over Prim. Prim appears to be over her, but still ends up taking care of Wine when she is sick.
There is no attempt to make Prim’s boyfriend remotely likable. He has lines about being possessive of things that belong to him in reference to Prim. Even if she was straight I- and I am guessing most viewers- would want her to get as far away from him as possible. Nevertheless, she has resigned herself to her family’s beliefs that women should have relationships with men rather than women.
Wine makes a real attempt to move on from Prim. Fa has some personality traits that are similar to Prim, but she is honest and speaks about her feelings. Of all the characters she is ultimately the one who is most comfortable with her sexuality and attractions.
The film fixes a cliche that drives me nuts in romance films and, thus, makes the film more realistic. Please note that realistic does not necessarily mean depressing. Depression is not a foregone conclusion in life. Unlike many romance films the ending is not rushed which makes me think this is probably the last film in the series.
The overdramatic style at times in the first two films has been replaced with a maturity. The characters are adults with adult responsibilities and choices. Despite the maturity level of the film there is if anything less physical affection than in the first two films. Love is risky and each character must decide whether it is worth the risk.
Chapter 87: My Beautiful Laundrette
This chapter reviews the excellent film "My Beautiful Laundrette".
"My Beautiful Laundrette" is justifiably considered a classic in queer cinema. Despite the fact it was released in 1985 and Margaret Thatcher has not been Prime Minister in decades, in many ways it still feels contemporary. The anti-immigration attitudes, homophobia, and sexism of the 1980’s have not disappeared and some days they seem to be louder than the voice calling out for acceptance, human rights, and the dignity of people regardless of demographics. I like to rewatch films I saw years ago before posting my review and I kept prioritizing new films. A few minutes into it I regretted having waited so long to rewatch it as it is an excellent film.
The basic story is a simple one. The young ambitious Omar Ali’s (Gordon Warnecke) father Hussein Ali (Roshan Seth) was a respected and well-known journalist in Pakistan, but his disappointment with British society and the death of his beloved wife has caused him to turn to alcohol. His entrepreneur uncle Nasser Ali (Saeed Jaffrey) promotes him to work at his launderette and Omar convinces him to let him manage it in the hopes of finally making his father proud. In order to accomplish his goal he enlists the help of a childhood friend he has recently reconnected with Johnny Burfoot (Daniel Day-Lewis).
Johnny is a former National Front member and the clash between Omar’s Pakistani family and Johnny’s fascist friends drive the story. At times the film feels as much about a meditation on sexism, racism, anti-immigration prejudices, and homophobia as it does a story about a launderette, but this is not a bad thing.
Although the film tells Omar’s story a lot of screen time is dedicated to his Nasser and his mistress Rachel (Shirley Anne Field) and Omar’s family and friends in the Pakistani community. Tania Ali (Rita Wolf), Nasser’s daughter, is a strong woman who fights against the role her family, particularly Nasser, wants her to play. Much of Omar’s trouble within the Pakistani community comes from Salim, who deals in drugs, and is initially impressed by Omar, but turns on him after Omar fails at a task Salim gave him.
Although most of the screen time is dedicated to male characters, the female characters are well-written and allowed to display both strengths and weaknesses. In fact the willingness to give the characters strengths and weaknesses and show how they are shaped by their circumstances, but at the same time overcome (or don’t overcome) them. I was particularly impressed with the film making Rachel more sympathetic than I would have expected her to be and being willing to show Tania’s flaws.
The film is brilliantly acted with particularly notable performances by Warnecke, Day-Lewis, Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth, and Shirley Anne Field.
It tends to irritate me when young male actors are compared to James Dean, but there really is a James Dean quality to Day-Lewis’ performance. He brings an incredible presence and dedication to a challenging role. The film wouldn’t have worked without him subtly given Johnny complexity and having the right chemistry with the other characters.
I mention his performance first because it is the more showy one, but in many ways it was Warnecke as Omar who had the harder job and gives a performance that is the type that is sadly often ignored by critics and during awards season. He has the biggest arc over the course of the film and has to Warnecke has to juggle the confidence of youth against his own life experiences with racism, betrayal, and having to become his father’s caretaker at such a young age.
The film is a gutsy one that I am not sure could be made now. I plan to do a spoiler review chapter, but I will say that it undermines a number of the underpinnings of racism, sexism, and homophobia. There are definite servasive elements to the love story- because the film does not hide their desire for each other, but their relationship is based on friendship and love against the odds- between Omar and Johnny. There is a wonderful reversal of the usual double-standard between straight and gay couples and it felt satisfying to see the shoe on the other foot.
The one downside is the technical quality of the film. It was original intended for television (and 1980’s television at that) so despite the upgrade the technical quality is at times subpar. Despite this Oliver Stapleton’s cinematography is excellent. It generally stays out of the way as it should, but in rewatching the film I noticed a number of creative camera choices that really enhance the story. There is also an incredible shot of Johnny’s face merging with a reflection of Omar’s face.
The locations in South London really set the tone and atmosphere for the film.
The film has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay by Hanif Kureishi and nominated for Best Film for the US National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. Daniel Day-Lewis received a Best Supporting Actor Award from the U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.
In 2018 it was announced that Pakastani-American actor Kumail Nanjani will co-write and star in a television version based loosely on the original. Hanif Kureishi and Stephen Gagham will serve as executive producers.
Chapter 88: Holding the Man
This chapter reviews the excellent film based on Tim Conigrave's memoir with the same title "Holding the Man".
Holding the Man is based on the memoir with the same title by Timothy Conigrave (Ryan Corr) focusing largely on his relationship with his partner John Caleo (Craig Scott). Most of the film takes place during the 1970’s and 1980’s in Australia. It is one of the films regularly seen on “Best Queer (or LGBTQ) Cinema” lists and as a result I starting watching the film with very high exceptions. Initially I found it disappointing until I let go of my expectations and simply watched the film.
The two met as college students in Melbourne, Australia. Tim was primarily interested in theatre and John was more focused on sports. Tim falls for John almost immediately, but John is hesitant even to pursue a friendship with Tim and initially unwilling do anything remotely romantic/sexual with him. Finally, John starts to return Tim’s feelings, but both face struggles with the homophobic attitudes around them.
The film cuts to 1985 and Tim interviewing an AIDS patient Richard for a play he is writing. It is at this point that the film takes an even darker tone as AIDS will play a huge role in the rest of the film, but as with the earlier parts of the films there are happy moments in between the sadder ones.
At this point the film bounces around the timeline. The year is shown between each time jump, but some of the jumps are a bit jarring.
As with an increasingly number of films focused on mlm the film criticizes the machoism that is common in many cultures not just in terms of homophobia, but also the other ways in which it makes it difficult for men to be mentally healthy.
The film’s greatest strength is the acting and the chemistry between Corr and Stott. It is common with LGBTQ films to either be all about sex with only a vague hint of a plot or at the other extreme shy away from showing sex scenes. It isn’t a problem that there are films at both extremes, but “Holding the Man” is one of the rare films that has a number of intimately filmed sex scenes while still being a very plot driven film.
John is the type of gay man that the general public tends to forget exists and is less often featured in LGBTQ films. His quieter role is also a harder acting challenge.
Corr does a great job of showing a gay man that has several characteristics of the stereotype without ever feeling like a stereotype. Combined with the script he is shown as a fully realized human being.
Both actors were completely committed to their roles and during filming they would go out as a couple including holding hands in public. (Corr identifies as straight, but Stott is openly queer.)
The fact that is based on the writer’s own life and experiences makes it that much sadder. Unlike “The Normal Heart” and “The Band Played On” the film focuses on the personal story more than the politics and medicine. There is a place for both types of stories in LGBTQ cinema.
The films an emotional roller-coaster, but it is worth the journey.
Chapter 89: Moonlight
This chapter review the excellent 2016 film "Moonlight".
Stylistically “Moonlight” fits the standard model for a Best Picture Academy Awards Oscar winner. Content wise it was a surprising choice not only for its queer content, but for its examination of African-American culture masculinity.
Moonlight tells the story of Chiron Harris (played as a child by Alex Hibbert as a teenager by Ashton Sanders and as an adult by Trevante Rhodes) and is divided into three parts with each part focusing on one period of his life. The first part “Little” deals with his childhood and his relationship with his father figure Juan, his mother Paula (Naomie Harris), his friend Kevin Jones (played as a child buy Jaden Piner, as a teenager by Jharrel Jerome, and as an adult by Andrew Holland), and Juan’s girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae). The second part “Chiron” focuses on his teenage years. The first two parts show the people and attitudes that shaped him into becoming the man we see in the third part.
In “Little” we learn that his father figure was not his biological father, but a drug dealer Juan (Mehershala Ali) who tries to prepare Chiron for the realities he will face as a black boy and then man. Chiron’s mother Paula (Naomie Harris) is furious when she finds out that Chiron has been spending time with Juan seeing him as a bad influence, but she is also an addict. During Paula’s and Juan’s argument Chiron encounters the homophobia that will shape the rest of his life. The audience is also introduced to his friend Kevin.
The second part shows that the bullying has continued with Terrel being the main bully. In contrast to in “Little” this time the attacks are more personal and we can see Chiron’s feelings of loneliness and betrayal.
The writer Barry Jenkins has a keen understanding of human nature and the way children and teenagers can be shaped by situations they are not emotionally ready to really understand. In terms of dialogue it is a minimalist film, but that tells the story just as well and in some cases better than words.
The film’s style includes a lot of lingering shots making sure that the audience never forgets the surroundings that are themselves characters in the film.
The soundtrack generally stays out of the way, but it does its job and fits the story.
“Moonlight” is a beautiful film, but not always an easy one to watch. The immersive experience makes it more emotionally intense than many more angry films.
Although “Moonlight” belongs on lists of LGBTQ films it is not the LGBTQ content that is the biggest theme of the film. Instead the major theme is African-American masculinity. (I specify African-American rather than the more general black because although not everyone who is black in the US is the decent of slaves the African-American culture is influenced by the history of slavery and Jim Crow laws.) Some elements are similar to any group that is lacking in privilege and other elements are unique.
The film is based on a semi-autobiographical play that was never performed titled “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” written by Tarell Alvin McCraney who felt compelled to write it after his mother’s death from AIDS. Barry Jenkins met with him and the resulting screenplay reflects their similar upbringings.
The film holds a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As stated above it won the Oscar for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It also won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture- Drama, and received four BAFTA nominations including Best Film. It appeared on numerous Top 10 films of 2016.
Chapter 90: We Were Here
This chapter reviews the documentary "We Were Here" about the LGBTQ community in San Francisco (specifically Castro) during the worst years of the AIDS crisis.
“We Were Here” is a documentary about the effects of AIDS on the LGBTQ community in San Francisco (specifically the Castro area). The documentary is composed of interviews, news clippings shown on screen, and archival footage. The percentage of archival footage is higher than in most documentaries.
The documentary starts out on a lighter note with a discussions about Castro during the pre-AIDS era. The documentary lists AIDS as having arrived in Castro in 1976. In the past I have seen the dates for AIDS arriving in the US to be between 1979 and 1981.
The documentary is an excellent one, but it is hard to watch at points. There are personal stories of seemingly healthy strong gay men getting sick and dying within a week. The interviews are with people who survived the worst years of the AIDS crisis and there is a brief discussion about survivors who were not able to move on afterwards (essentially PDSD). The video footage and interviews show the medical realities of the diseases the men with weakened immune systems from the HIV virus including sores, wounds, oxygen tents, and extreme weight loss.
The homophobia of the period is shown, but the primary focus is on the feelings of loss.
There are a few heartwarming moments. There is an uplifting section focused on lesbians donating blood, caring for sick men, and doing their part to draw attention to what was happening.
Most of the interviewees are white men, but the archival footage and newspaper clippings show men of all ethnicities.
Chapter 91: 4th Man Out
This chapter reviews the film "4th Man Out".
"4th Man Out" is a dude bro romcom featuring a gay man as the main character. It is a genre that I usually avoid, but I was curious to see how changing the sexuality of the main character changed the film.
The fact that the main character Adam (Evan Todd) is gay means that although the film includes homophobia that homophobia is condemned rather than used as a punchline or shown by the use of anti-LGBTQ slurs. Unfortunately, the film does not do as well at undermining the sexism that is common in the genre although judging by trailers for other films in the genre it is still better than most of the films.
The plot is simple. Adam struggles with whether to come out to his casually homophobic and womanizing friends Chris (Paker Young), Ortu (Jon Gabrus), and Nick (Chord Overstreet). After some initial awkwardness his friends, particularly Chris try to support him by finding him "the perfect man". As this is a comedy you know that is not going to go smoothly.
His struggles are made worse by his family and the community's reactions. The cake of the Virgin Mary seemed over-the-top, but fit within the style of the film.
Although it is a VERY different film than Brokeback Mountain it has some scenes that are classic conservative movie patriotic small town USA. Despite Adam's fears he ends up continuing to fit into that world after some of the people around him have learned that he is gay, an appreciated subversion. (It isn't my culture, but it is the culture of some LGBTQ people who rarely get to see themselves represented even in LGBTQ films.)
The film gets better as it goes on and has an interesting character arc for one of his friends, but for the first half I was forcing myself to finish it. On the other hand it is nice to see a gay main character being supported by his "very straight" friends and the film does have a heart. It is also well-acted. Todd did a good job at showing the nervousness and fear combined with determination, but it often felt especially during the early parts of the film that he was being overshadowed by the other characters. It was hard to tell how much was the script and how much was the performance. Young did a good job with a character that had more complexity than viewers are initially led to believe. Gabrus and Overstreet were convincing as casually homophobic friends who were trying to change to support their friend, but didn't quite get things right.
The film was clearly low-budget, but that actually worked to the film's adventage as it made it feel more real.
Chapter 92: Transformer
This chapter reviews the Canadian documentary "Transformer" about a transgender woman JanaeKroc as she goes through her journey to present herself to the world in the way she has always seen herself. Janae Kroc's birthname was Matthew Raymond Kroczaleski, a competive bodybuilder and powerlifter, who in 2009 set the world record in the 220 pound (99kg) weight class with 2,551 pounds (1246 kg).
"Transformer" is a 2017 Canadian documentary about Janae Kroc, a competitive bodybuilder, on her journey from being viewed by most people as a man through the medical and personal changes as she transitions to reflect the woman she had always been.
After being outted she decided to tell her story before someone else did through the documentary. Her sons had known she was transgender since they were young and not only accepted her, but were proud of her. A couple of her close body building friends also support her. Unfortunately, most of the other people in her life, including her parents, were less supportive.
The documentary deals with her struggles with the fact that body building and exercising is something she loves and she has a masculine side that she hesitates to give up. Also, in contrast to Caitlyn Jenner (who I know almost nothing about) her body type with large bulging muscles makes it harder for her to pass as a woman.
One of the most inspiring parts is her participation in judging and advising other transgendered body builders.
The documentary does not hide from transphobia nor the pain it causes her. Nor does it shy away from showing her insecurities and personal struggles.
The documentary won the audience award for best Canadian documentary and emerging filmmaker award at the 2018 Queer North Film Festival and the Canadian Screen Award for Best Editing in a Documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards.
Chapter 93: Antomy of a Love Scene
Two actresses who had chemistry on-screen and off-screen are called back to refilm a love scene shortly after breaking up in real life. Making things worse there are problems with the film and the director is having her own problems with her real life relationship.
I had a mixed view of this film. It has some real strengths, but also has some weaknesses. How much you enjoy the film is going to depend on your tastes in films so I am listing some of the strengths and weaknesses below being as non-spoilery as possible.
The film’s greatest strength is it is a film made by women and with a ‘woman’s gaze’. This is particularly notable during the film’s sex scenes which shows sex a woman might actually enjoy as opposed to the male fantasy so-called lesbian scenes in too many ‘lesbian’ movies. The film also does a good job of showing what it is like to work on a low budget film where actors and actresses do not have trailers and a ‘difficult actors’ can really affect the set. As in real life the fictional film crew is mainly men and without a word shows why some actresses do not like doing sex scenes. The two lead actresses (Sharon Hinnendael and Jill Evyn) have good chemistry. The film addresses the issue of when actors get lost into their character so that the actor and character begin to blur. You can feel their tension during the fighting and cold scenes and their comfort with each other during their happier scenes. It reminds me of films I saw during my independent film snob phase.
The pacing especially early on is slow and if you don’t have an interest in how films are made you probably won’t get through the first 20 minutes. Most of the film covers their pain at being in each other’s presence after a breakup and trying to be professional and portray two-people in love. There is also a subplot (related to the main one) that involves the fictional director and her partner. I found that storyline less interesting.
Warning: I don’t think the main couple’s relationship was abusive, but some of the verbal fights in the film may be triggering for those who have been in abusive relationships. I don’t know what to say about the ending for reasons that spoil the ending.
Chapter 94: TJ LeRoy
This chapter reviews the film "TJ LeRoy" based on the autobiography by Savannah Knoop about playing the part of TJ LeRoy in a well-known literary hoaxes.
TJ LeRoy is based on the autobiography "Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT Leroy" by Savannah Knoop. Writer Laura Albert wrote two books "Sarah" and "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things" using the pen name JT LeRoy and the personae of a young gay man who bent gender norms. When the books became popular and people wanted to interview LeRoy Laura Albert (Laura Dern) asked her sister-in-law Savannah Knoop (Kristen Stewart) to play the role of TJ LeRoy. Initially, it was a one-time things for a photoshoot, but the deception ended up lasting six years.
Women have been writing under masculine sounding names for centuries. The problem of male writers being taken more seriously and treated with more respect has not disappeared. J.K. Rowling was told to use her initials to obscure the fact that she is a woman. An old-school science-fiction and fantasy fan once told me that probably a quarter to a third of science-fiction and fantasy stories that are credited to traditionally male names (or gender ambiguous) were actually written by women and I have seen comments by older fans saying similar things. I should admit, however, that although I heard about the TJ LeRoy deception I didn't closely follow it nor have I read the books so I am limited in my ability to judge how closely the film fits the facts.
The film opens with Knoop arriving in San Francisco to stay with her brother Geoffrey Knoop and sister-in-law Laura Albert. It is clear immediately that her style is more androgynous than feminine. Playing JT LeRoy may have challenged her to explore parts of herself that she would not otherwise have explored, but it is clear that playing a gender bending man is less of a challenge for her than it would be for many women.
Initially Knoop is hesitant to play the role and over-critical of her "performance", but as time goes on and the perks increase she starts to enjoy playing the part. Conversely, Laura is initially enthusiastic to the point of pushy both in convincing Savannah to play the role and reassuring her that she is doing a great job, but as Savannah's JT LeRoy's star rises and Laura is increasingly pushed aside she becomes bitter and angry.
As the film is based on Knoops's book, Knoop comes across as much more likable and a much better person than Albert. Dern gives an excellent performance as the eccentric and clearly unpleasant at times Albert. Kristen Stewart does a great job of showing Knoop's insecurities, confusion, and over the course of the film growing confidence. I enjoyed the film more than many reviewers judging by the 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but it did drag at times.
The cinematography and set designs set the scene and combined with costumes and make-up are critical for selling the story.
I am not only including the film in this series because of the gender bending elements (Knoop now identifies as gender non-conforming and uses they/them pronouns), but because of the wlw content which I thought was well-done.
Chapter 95: My Beautiful Laundrette SPOILER Thoughts
This chapter includes SPOILER thoughts about the previously reviewed film "My Beautiful Laundrette".
The film sets up for a violent confrontation and it ends with one, but in contrast to many such culture clash/family clash stories it does not end with death.
Despite being set in the 1980's AIDS does not play a role in the story.
I love the fact that it has a happy ending for most of the characters.
I love the double-standard being turned on its head with the straight (adulterous) couple Nasser and Rachel dancing fully clothed while the interracial (non-adulterous) gay couple Omar and Johnny are having sex.
The scene in which Omar's reflection merges into Johnny's face is such a beautiful moment and one that must have been a practical nightmare using the tools available for a low budget (originally planned for television viewing) film.
It isn't the only 1980's film in which a gay couple has a happy ending, but it is one in which most of the characters have a happy ending.
"I am a professional businessman, not a professional Pakistani," Nassar tells Johnny. I love that line as it encapsulates the attitude that people of colour who have internalized colonialist and racist attitudes tell themselves even though in the eyes of most British ancestry Brits he is still Pakistani and no amount of success in business will change it. The man who let himself be seduced by the promise of money, power, and social acceptance ends up losing of the things he valued. It is reasonable to assume that financially he will be ok.)
I love the fact that Hussein Ali gets his chance to show that although his personal choices can be called into question, his criticism of British society is accurate. It is Nassar who in the end seeks him out.
I loved the fact that Tania Ali was allowed to be a complex character. She was a strong woman, made good arguments, and stood up for herself without being self-absorbed. At the same time I liked the film showing her hypocrisy at criticizing Rachel for being a woman living off of a man even as she was living off of her father and her plan to break away from her father involved her telling Omar and Johnny she needed their financial help. In the end when she does leave she does so doing what she said women should do and not live off of men.
The chemistry between Omar and Johnny (or since it is chemistry perhaps the actors names should be used Warnecke and Day-Lewis) was incredible.
Both Warnecke and Daniel Day-Lewis were completely convincing in their roles, but I thought Day-Lewis sold the attraction a bit more. This is not a criticism of Warnecke as one can easily argue that due to personality, cultural background, and being a minority Omar would have been less comfortable with outwardly showing his sexuality. This interpretation also adds poignancy to him coming up behind Johnny and kissing him on the back of his neck where anyone walking past could see them.
Daniel Day-Lewis ad-libbed both Johnny neck licking Omar and Johnny taking the swig of champaign and spitting it in Omar's mouth.
Salim was my least favourite character even though Nassear is probably objectively just as bad.
There was clearly a romantic/sexual relationship between Omar and Johnny, but based solely on what was on-screen I have never been 100% sure about their sexualities. Interviews made it sound like them were intended to be gay and I never really bought that Omar was attracted to Tania (admittedly, a pairing that grossed me out). With Johnny I was never 100% if Johnny was simply generally charming or if he was bisexual. Ultimately, it doesn't matter for the story, but I am curious about other viewer's interpretations.
Chapter 96: The Pink Mirror
This chapter reviews the Indian film "The Pink Mirror". I have included a spoiler note in the comments at the end because of some of the material.
"The Pink Mirror" (Gulabi Aaina) is an award-winning 35 minute dramady about two two transexuals/drag queens(1) Bibbo (Ramesh Menon) and Shabbo (Edwin Fernandes) and their younger assistant Mandy (Rishi Raj) trying to hook up with Samir (Rufy Baqal), an attractive actor who is working as a driver. The film packs in a lot of material for such a short runtime. The opening scenes are a bit over-the-top, but, the second half turns more serious and ends up having more depth that expected without losing its celebration of life and self-made families.
The repartee and competition between the drag queens is witty and enjoyable and their younger assistant's awkwardness is realistic. "The stud" never really shows a personality, but their interest is more in what he represents than him as a person.
The production values are of a cheaply produced older film, but since the costumes and camera work are the parts of the production that really matter this doesn't harm the film.
I don't know how accurately the film presents the community in India. The romantic dramady genre can get away with inaccuracies for the sake of the story.
There is a SPOILER in the notes that I am including because it is something many people might want to know before watching it.
The film is in Hindi so I am relying on the English subtitles.
According to Wikipedia the film is still banned in India.
1. Some sources list the characters as transexuals and others as drag queens. Since both are English terms and the film is not in English I am not sure which one is correct (or more correct).
2. SPOILER: The younger assistant is described in secondary sources as a teenager. His exact age isn't clear from the film. He looked like he was probably an adult, but since actors are often older than their characters this isn't proof. I have always found relationships between minors and adults unhealthy and creepy, but I will acknowledge that a minor having a crush on an adult is realistic. I know I am not alone in preferring to avoid films with such content so I will note that the material we are shown is the assistant trying to attract Samir and we aren't shown physical scenes of Samir reciprocating.
Chapter 97: Margaret Cho Stand-up: Psycho
This chapter reviewed a filmed performance of Margaret Cho's stand-up routine "Psycho".
The taped performance of Margaret Cho: Psycho assumes that the audience already has some knowledge about her so I am going to start with some background on her life. Cho is a Korean-American actress, writer, and comedian. She starred in a show about a Korean-American family, "All American Girl" during the early 1990's. Unfortunately, the studio was uncomfortable with the material and the show didn't do well. There would not be another show about an Asian-American family on US television until "Fresh Off the Boat" aired in 2015. This stand-up routine includes some of her experiences as a consultant on this show. Cho grew up largely in San Francisco during the 1970's and 1980's. Many of her friends were gay and as a teenager saw what AIDS did to the LGBTQ community.
Psycho starts off with a discussion about racism, the entertainment industry, and how not to be an ally the POC communities. Some of it will make some people uncomfortable, but she makes some good points one of the most important being a critic of whites (since she is American I am using the term) who feel they are "helping" by explaining to people who are POC how in interact with their culture and telling them when they should be offended rather than allowing them the agency to make up their own minds.
The rest of the show is focused largely on relationships and sex. Cho describes herself as bisexual although she has stated that pansexual might be more accurate. When she was younger she thought she was gay, but when she got older she discovered that she sometimes enjoyed having sex with men. (She married a man, but they divorced.) Most of her routine is about being LGBTQ and the LGBTQ community. It is stand-up and she remains fully clothed, but there is a lot of very frank discussion (and body language and gestures) so be aware of that going in.
As with the earlier parts about racism some of it will make some people uncomfortable and/or they will disagree with her, but she makes a lot of good points. There is a hysterical part about her friend being a victim of autocorrect that led to some repartee with one of the men in the audience. The part about how one defines one's sexuality and how it relates to specific sexual activities makes some good points. Do you have to like every act in order to honesty use a particular label?
I recommend this film not because I agree with everything she says, but because she makes some good discussion points and does so with humour.
Chapter 98: Set Free: Simon Amstell Stand-up
This chapter reviews Simon Amstell's stand-up routine "Set Free".
Simon Amstell's comedy is quieter, less polished, darker, and focuses on more realistic awkward situations than the previous LGBTQ stand-up comedians I have reviewed. It is also British. He is Jewish. He is a gay man. He is less likely to offend people, especially those who are reading a collection of LGBTQ reviews, than many comedians, but I suspect that some people will not 'get' his humour. (To be fair there were times when I didn't find parts particularly funny either which surprised me a bit as his film Benjamin is quite funny.)
There are some parts that are specifically about being a gay man, but at other times the fact he is a gay man isn't the focus, but it infuses his experiences. This normalizes the LGBTQ experience as it treats it as being only part of a person's identity.
If you are someone who finds second-hard embarrassment uncomfortable this is one you may want to skip. He does not shy away from his own awkwardness and mistakes nor does he treat them the way many comedians do and breeze through them before you have time to really feel the emotions.
I am not qualified to judge the humour that focuses Judaism. I am familiar with some factual information about Judaism, but do not feel that I am the best person to judge Jewish humour or how someone who is Jewish relates to Judaism.
Amstell calls out the hypocrisy of misogyny and the use of the word cunt as an insult. I should have written down one of the exact quotes as I was watching it, but it was along the lines of "thanks for the womb, now burn woman". Depending on your views of what constitutes feminism you may find his views on women feminist, a type of feminism that you dislike, or well-intentioned, but incomplete. However close his feminism matches up to your feminism he is clearly thoughtful on the subject.
I don't think this is a "love it or hate it" stand-up routine, but it might be a "love it or bored" one.
Depending on where you live it might be available on Netflix.
I have a backlog of films to write up reviews and post. At the rate I am going it may be a while before I am able to post a review of his film "Benjamin" as it is a good film, but one that will not be a quick one to write-up and I am doing both a regular review and a well-marked spoiler review.
Chapter 99: Tell It To the Bees
This chapter reviews the film "Tell It To the Bees" based on the novel by Fiona Shaw.
"Tell It To the Bees" is a beautifully made film based on the novel by Fiona Shaw. Lydia Weekes' (Holliday Graigner) marriage and her life is falling apart. After her son Charlie Weekes (Gregor Selkirk with the adult voice overs being by Billy Boyd) is injured during a fight at school his cousin Annie Weekes (Lauren Lyle) takes him to the local doctor Jean Markham (Anna Paquin). Jean shows Charlie her bees, tells him that one can tell their secrets to the bees, and gives him an empty book to use as a journal.
Lydia finds the books and angrily storms over to confront the doctor only to be surprised that the new doctor is a woman. Jean invites Lydia to have tea and the two talk while Charlie spends time with the bees. The women slowly become friends.
It becomes clear that Lydia's problems are not only marital, but financial and when they are evicted they move in with Jean. (I am using first names in this review as there are too many Weekes to use last names.) There is clearly sexual tension between them, but it is clear that both of them, particularly Lydia, are hesitant to take the next step.
Not surprisingly any rumour of a relationship between the two women will cause problems with other people in the town.
The atmosphere is dreary and the colors are desaturated for much of the film as is befitting a small Scottish town during the 1950's. The acting is exceptional and the chemistry between Jean and Lydia (or Paquin and Granger as it is the actresses creating the chemistry) is quiet rather than electric, but works for the story. The lighting is low and often the edges of the screen are nearly black. This is not a criticism as the story is very specifically fit within a specific atmosphere.
Both the script and the actor Gregor Selkirk did a great job of making Charlie Weekes feel like an actual kid.
The film's weakness is its pacing as there are moments when allowing a scene to be savored the relationship evolve slowly becomes tedious. I found it forgivable considering the film's other strengths, but if you are not used to the style of filmmaking it may be a slog to watch.
I do want to warm viewers that the film includes brief non-con (not between Lydia and Jean).
Chapter 100: Hedgwig and the Angry Inch
This chapter reviews the 2001 film "Hedwig and the Angry Inch".
Even though "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is set in "our world" the film has a fantasy feel that goes beyond simply being a musical. The energy of the story is better suited for live performances, but film is a more accessible and cheaper medium bringing the story to a wider audience.
The film stars writer, director, and producer John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig. The story starts off with Hansel Schmidt, a "girly boy" in East Germany during the Cold War becomes engaged to Sergeant Luther Robinson (Maurice Luther Robinson) who promises to help him leave East Germany. As marriage equality did not exist, Hansel undergoes a sex change operation. Unfortunately, the surgeon screws up and Hansel is left with a one inch penis, hence, the angry inch. Despite the botched surgery Hansel moves on with their life as Hedwig, their mother's name, and joins Robinson in the United States.
Hedwig's relationship with Luther falls apart and Hedwig finds solace in music only to find new struggles particularly in her new relationship with Tommy Speck/Gnosis.
The details of the of the plot are not, however, the main story, but rather it is an exploration of sexuality, gender, and identity. I have seen debates about whether it technically qualifies as a transgender story considering Hansel chose to have a sex change operation for a marriage that was in part to get out of East Germany. Either way there are certainly elements that fit the transgender and non-binary experience.
The role of traditional femininity and whether it should be embraced, reviled, or a more nuanced attitude among gay, bisexual, and queer men is also a major theme in the film.
The film is brilliantly acted. A wise production choice that allows for the best use of the available budget is to have the more realistic scenes appear slightly cheap and the spend most of the money on the more fantastic scenes. I was not a fan of the animation, but they are not objectively bad. Make-up and costuming also deserve praise for helping to shape the story.
As is to be expected of a musical, the music is one of the highlights of the film. It is also an intregal part of the story as for Hansel/Hedwig music is a integral component of their life.
Chapter 101: Stonewall Forever
This chapter reviews the documentary "Stonewall Forever".
This is an excellent 22 minute documentary on the LGBTCenterNCY's YouTube channel about Stonewall and the early years of the LGBTQ liberation movement in the years that followed it. Utilizing interviews with surviving members of the riots, interviews with current younger activists, and archival footage it does an incredible job of setting the scene for the riots, the riots, and capturing the divides within the LGBTQ community.
It is unrelenting about calling out racism and prejudices within the LGBTQ community against transgender people and drag queens along with the lack of acknowledge of intersex people. It includes the footage of Silvia Rivera being booed on stage by a mostly white LGBTQ audience.
The documentary is focused on Stonewall and the cuts to 2019 so it does not cover AIDS.
This video is freely available to view on YouTube at https://youtu.be/GjRv7dJTync
Chapter 102: Rafiki
This chapter reviews the exceptional 2018 Kenyan film "Rafiki".
Rafiki is an exceptional Kenyan film written by Wanuri Kahiu and Jena Cato Bass and directed by Wanuri Kahiu about a love story between two young women, Kena (Samatha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva). The acting is phenomenal and the actors defy handle the ability to convey their characters' emotions and thoughts without the help of dialogue. The script is impressive finding a great balance of dialogue versus silence while giving the main characters complexity and allowing them to stay in character even when making choices that will surprise the audience.
The 'happy moments' are shot with lighting, camera angles, and colors that fit within the Kena's and Tiki's feeling that they wish their moments together were "real" because the world outside considers their relationship immoral. The real world harsher moments are shot and framed with very realistic documentary style.
We are introduced to the story with the town gossips laughing at the fact that Kena's father's John Mwaura (Jimmy Gathu) new wife is pregnant. It is clear that they take pleasure in hurting both Kena and her mother. Her mother has clearly not gotten over Kena's father leaving her. When Kena's father suggests that Kena be the one to tell her mother that his wife is pregnant it sets up for being an unsympathetic character.
We see Kena and another young woman, Ziki, noticeably glancing at each other. During a conversation between Kena and Blacksta (Neville Misati), a close male friend- we learn that most of her friends are men- we learn that the woman Ziki is the daughter of the man Kena's father Peter Okemi (Dennis Musyoka) is running against in the upcoming election.
After Ziki's friends tear down Kena's father's posters Ziki goes to "apologize" to Kena which involves asking her if she wants to do something. After the town gossips make nasty comments loud enough for them to hear that go off on their own to get to know each other. Ziki says that she wants to travel and meet people who have never met someone from Africa before. Kena points out she is far from the 'typical' Kenyan girl. Ziki makes it clear that she has no intention of being like her parents and being 'typical'. When Kena says she plans to be a nurse, Ziki challenges her that she is smart enough to be a doctor or surgeon.
The relationship that develops between them is romantic and sexual, but ultimately based on an underlying friendship and desire to support each other becoming their best selves. There is a real selflessness to their love.
Not surprisingly their friendship is viewed with suspicions because their fathers are political opponents and any hint of their relationship including a sexual component will cause problems for them,
The love story is beautiful, but one of the most impressive parts of the film is that it allows most of the characters to be complex. Characters who are "good" in one situation are bad in other ones. This dichotomy extends to religion where a sermon about generosity of heart is implied to be a factor in Ziki asking on what is functionally a date against the use of religion throughout most of the film as an instrument of violent homophobia.
There is a male character that I would considered to be confirmed as gay although it is never directly stated. Either way it is clear that most of the other characters think he is gay.
The film is in English and Swahili with subtitles available. "Rafiki" is the Swahili word for friend. The film is inspired by Ugandan writer Monica Aracelies de Nyeko's Caine winning short story "Jambula Tree".
Chapter 103: Macho
This chapter reviews the Mexican film "Macho".
Macho is a 2016 Mexican dramady about a "gay" fashion designer who is actually a womanizer. The plot description sounded unappealing to the extreme, but after I saw a review comment about it featuring "complex sexuality" I decided to start watching it. It is a mixed bag and the comedy and drama don't always mesh well, but it does have its merits.
The film beings with Evaristo Jimenez (Miguel Rodarte) being filmed for a documentary about his life. Unfortunately, for him the documentarians are determined to cover his entire life which is about to go off the rails. After being worried that he is about to be ousted as a straight man after he has built an empire on being a gay man, his assistant suggests he needs a public boyfriend. Not surprisingly he doesn't tell his boyfriend that the relationship is only for his image. He reacts badly when his boyfriend kisses him, but later admits that he felt something sending him into a panic about his sexuality.
There are some good parts about internalized homophobia (and biphobia) and fear of having your view of yourself shattered. This is ultimately the film's greatest strength.
It was nice to see a film acknowledge the way the LGBTQ community is used for profit by companies and people who don't actually care about people who are LGBTQ, but then it is taken to the point of parody for comedy.
It has an annoying number of of male-gaze male/female sex scenes that are exploitative in terms of the women.
Chapter 104: The Saint of 9/11
This chapter reviews the documentary "The Saint of 9/11" narrated by Sir Ian McKellen.
Due to the prevalence of homophobia among people who identify as religious the LGBTQ+ community has an uneasy relationship with religion. Every time I write a review of a film for this series that includes religion I find myself treading carefully on how to address it. This biographical film probably has a limited audience and I debated including it, but decided that it had enough material that would be of interest to some LGBTQ film fans and who have an interest in the stories about the worst years of the AIDS crisis.
The "Saint" in this case is Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan (Roman Catholic) priest and the New York City fire chaplain on 9/11/2001. Sadly, he is most widely known for his death and the picture of firefighters carrying his body from out of the rubble of the World Trade Center. Along with the religious content this documentary includes extensive footage of the 9/11 terrorist attack and some footage of the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
The documentary is narrated by Sir Ian McKellen and is produced by Equality Forum. The film condemns the Catholic Church's homophobia and response to AIDS, but it does not condemn believing in God or religion in general.
Father Mychal Judge was gay. He was closeted the firemen as he felt knowing he was gay might make them less comfortable around him. He was not "out" to the general public, but he was out to friends and presided at Masses for LGBTQ+ Catholics as a member of Dignity USA, a Catholic organization that focuses on LGBTQ+ rights. Since he was a Franciscan (a religious order) the Bishop couldn't stop him.
During the worst years of the AIDS when most people were afraid to touch those who were HIV positive, he worked with St. Clair's hospital, the first New York hospital to have an AIDS ward. The story of food being brought to the patients on trays by people dressed in multiple layers of gloves and masks is absolutely heartbreaking. In contrast to most of the people working in the ward he would embrace HIV positive people. He presided over funerals for those who had died of AIDS and told parents they should be proud of their gay sons.
This being said it is a documentary about a man. The fact he was gay and help and comfort he provided for people who were LGBTQ is not the only thing covered in the documentary. It also covers his childhood and how it formed him. It covers his work in helping the homeless including sometimes literally giving them the clothes off his back. It covers the fact he was a recovering alcoholic and how he helped other other alcoholics and recovering alcoholics.
Besides the archival footage and Sir Ian McKellen's voiceovers the film includes interviews with some of his friends.
If you don't know the significance of the date 9/11 two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, one plane crashed into the Pentagon, and one plane crashed in a field. It was the worst terror attack in US history.
Chapter 105: Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom
This chapter reviews the documentary "Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom" that is available for free on YouTube.
This short documentary covers the Philadelphia Ballroom scene from 1989-2019. The documentary is a combination of interviews and video clips. Some of the material overlaps the material in "Paris is Burning" about the Ballroom scene in New York, but as there are only a few overlap years between the two documentaries (and the difference between Harlem and Philadelphia) it has a different take. The interviews are primarily with House founders and a tribute a woman, who sadly died before the documentary was made, but had shaped the community. According to the other House founders younger members do things the way they do often without knowing that they are following her example.
The documentary is conscious of the fact that the history of those who were there is being lost and is in some ways a plea for someone (or someones) to take over the archival duties and make sure that the history isn't lost.
The documentary also makes the point that the Philly Ballroom scene reflects not only queerness, but specifically black queerness.
The documentary is available for free on YouTube at https://youtu.be/t6EaBvrV6QI.
Chapter 106: Gayasians
This chapter reviews the short documentary "Gayasians", featuring interviews with five LGBTQ Asian-Americans.
"Gayasians" is a short documentary that tells the stories of five LGBTQ Asian-Americans and how their cultures affect how they view themselves, the reactions of family and friends, and how they feel in relationship to the larger LGBTQ community. Of course, there is not one "Asian culture" nor are there consistent attitudes towards being LGBTQ so it was nice to have several interviews with people from different couples and different parts of the LGBTQ community. Still, I did wish the documentary was longer as it still only showed a small segment of the Asian LGBTQ experience. Part of it may have been difficultly in finding people willing to participate in the documentary.
The stories do a good job of showing the challenges of intersectionality. One of my favourite stories is when an Indian transman talks about how he had always suffered from shame for being the "queer one" in the family, but after coming out to his family he heard all these stories about things his parents and other relatives had done that were considered scandalous. His family had never viewed him as the embarrassment he thought they did and he was able to be more comfortable with his place in his family.
The weakness of the film is its technical quality particularly when viewed on a high-definition device.
Chapter 107: The Talented Mr. Ripley
This chapter reviews the 1999 film "The Talented Mr. Ripley".
"The Talented Mr. Ripley" is a psychological thriller set in the 1950's about Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), a young man who uses his talent for mimicking and music although with the ability to make other people believe his lies to charm himself into wealthy society. The film was written and directed by Anthony Minghella and is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel.
The film opens with Ripley being recruited by Mr. Greenleaf, who mistakes him for one of his son Dickie's (Jude Law) Princeton classmates, to travel to Rome at Mr. Greenleaf's expense to convince Dickie to return home from Italy.
While waiting at customs Ripley meets Merdith Logue (Cate Blanchett) and introduces himself as Dickie. They only talk briefly, but the encounter will come back to haunt Ripley later in the film.
Ripley's awkward way of introducing himself to Dickie and his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow) is not auspicious, but his persistence and musical talent soon intrigue Dickie. Upon learning about Ripley's errand the two work together to trick Mr. Greenleaf into funding their comfortable life in Italy. Marge finds herself pushed aside in favour of Ripley. Dickie is also carrying on an affair with one of the local women.
Ripley is having the time of his life, but things grow tense after Dickie finds Ripley wearing his clothes and pretending to be him. Ripley tries to laugh it off and the friendship continues although Dickie is weary. It becomes clear to the audience that Ripley's attraction to Dickie is partly sexual.
After Dickie sees a consequence of his hedonistic behavior he decides to ask Marge to marry him and suggests he and Ripley go their separate ways after one last trip. Dickie rejects Ripley during the trip and Ripley's violent reaction and consequences set the stage for the rest of film.
The film has a lavish feel and Dickie shot in a way that makes him resemble a cross between a "Greek god look" and a Ken doll. If you like jazz the soundtrack is excellent.
The weakness of the film is the script which relies on too many coincidences and conveniences. It is hardly a positive view of homosexuality- Ripley's romantic overtures towards women are for convenience in contrast to his clear attraction to men-, but if the viewer considers societal attitudes towards homosexuality in the 1950's the internalized homophobia it could cause makes the Ripley's actions plausible. Unfortunately, that isn't really addressed and the audience has to do that work.
Several of the characters display incredibly sexist attitudes towards women. It fits with their personalities and the time period. As with everything else the film itself does not take a moral position on the sexism.
The middle drags at places at 2 hours and 18 minutes the film could have cut out 10-15 minutes.
I saw the film several years ago, didn't like it, and expected it to have aged badly. It was better than I expected it to be and if you have an interest in psychological thrillers and repressed homosexual desire it is worth a watch. It isn't a classic, but neither is it brilliant.
The film was released in 1999 and, like Mr. Ripley, reflects its time. The relationship between being LGBTQ and "a monster" is something that was historically explored when openly writing LGBTQ characters was not an option. (I am not personally a fan, but this is not the first story that seems to play with that idea.) To set the film in context Sir Ian McKellen won an Oscar for playing James Whale, the director of Frankenstein, in the 1998 film "Gods and Monsters".
Chapter 108: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This chapter reviews the film "The Perks of Being a Wallflower".
The film opens with Charlie (Logan Lerman), who was recently discharged from a mental health hospital starting his first year of high school. During his English class he is presumably the only student to know the correct answer to the teacher, Mr. Anderson's (Paul Rudd) question, but instead of raising his hand and getting out of an upcoming quiz he writes the answer down in his notebook. It quickly becomes clear that he is introverted and uncomfortable around his classmates.
His home life is clearly a mess and his family provides him with little emotional support. His older sister is in an abusive relationship. It is also clear that despite being discharged from the mental health facility he is not mentally healthy.
During his wood shop class the camera spends a noticeably long time on one of his classmates, a senior named Patrick (Ezra Miller), making it clear to the audience that he will become important as the film progresses, but he and Charlie do not really interact until Charlie attends a school American (NFL) football game. Patrick is more extroverted and comfortable with himself than Charlie. Shortly afterwards Patrick stepsister Sam (Emma Watson) joins them. Charlie starts to relax and Patrick and Sam invite him to a party afterwards.
At the party Patrick introduces him to two girls who seem uninterested until Patrick says it is Charlie's first party and pretty much orders the girls to spend time with him. Patrick and Sam provide Charlie with the emotional support he desperately needs and he starts to start connecting with them and the rest of the group. Unfortunately, even having a group of friends isn't enough to prevent his mental health problems including disjointed flashbacks and black outs. It is clear that he has repressed memories.
He develops a crush on Sam, but seeing mostly horrible relationship examples in his life he doesn't handle it well. One of the themes of the film is "we accept the love we think we deserve". My biggest issue with the film was Charlie's treatment of the female characters and sense of entitlement. It is a unconscious or, perhaps in some cases conscious, attitude that is common in straight cis films and is something I often see in LGBTQ films that include straight cis romances. His mental health issues can explain it, but it is up to the viewer to decide whether they excuse it.
I have seen the film frequently listed under LGBTQ films, but after watching it I questioned whether it really belonged under LGBTQ films. The main character is straight and cis. The main "love interest" storyline is straight and cis. This being said I think it can be classified as under LGBTQ films as Patrick is the character who is most comfortable with himself. He isn't defined by being gay, but it is an important part of his identity. His relationship with his boyfriend, the quarterback of the football team Brad (Johnny Simmons) isn't tacked on, but has relevance to the plot and one can argue that it is the healthiest relationship in the film. Often LGBTQ supporting characters are used to show the "open-mindedness" of the main straight character, but Charlie seems to be genuinely comfortable with Patrick without the film treating it as if Charlie deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for being accepting. It is a film that viewers who normally wouldn't watch a specifically LGBTQ film might watch, especially with Emma Watson having a large role, and would see an LGBTQ character being treated as a human being.
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and the characters acting in it play a large role in the film and it is one of the classics of Queer Media. Unfortunately, it felt like the film tried to minimize that element at times.
Normally, I try to warn for things that would be triggering for fans, but in this film it involves a major spoiler. I will list it in the end notes so if you want to remain spoiler free skip them.
Charlie was abused by his aunt. Most often abuse is shown with men abusing women or girls, but I commend the film for showing that women can be the abusers. Abuse within families is something that is rarely seen in films despite the fact it is more common than most people realize and, although it is underreported, appears to be true across cultures and other demographics.
Chapter 109: The Danish Girl
This chapter reviews the film "The Danish Girl" based loosely on Lili Elbe (previously known as Einar Wegener), a transgender woman, and Gerda Wegener.
For films based on real people or events the film can be judged by its strength as a film (pacing, acting, production values, etc) and its historical accuracy. This is a film that does a far better job as a film than it does in terms of historical accuracy. The film is technically based on a novel of the same name, but according to Tom Hooper more historically accurate (1).
Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) is a painter in the early 20th century. We see her painting a portrait of a man and commenting on men's hesitation to allow themselves to be viewed "with a woman's gaze". The sexism she faces is further shown when her work is dismissed by a gallery owner who does not appreciate her "women's gaze". When one of her female model's is late she asks her husband, Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) to pose for her in female attire. He agrees to do so and afterwards starts expressing an interest in both women's clothes and increasingly in femininity. When she comments that he looked pretty, he replies that he was always pretty and she just hadn't noticed.
Lili is just as in love with Gerda as Einar. Her comfort as Lili is not based on the desire to have sex with men, but on wanting to be woman.
Although she is initially enthusiastic and encouraging of having him pose for her as "Lili Elbe" and her paintings of him start attracting positive attention his increasing desire to "be" Lil Elbe causes tension in their marriage. He continues to love her just as much, but she is conflicted.
In terms of its merits as a film it is a good one. The story allows the characters and their relationships to really develop and evolve. I appreciated the fact that from the moment we are introduced to Einar Wegener there are hints of his possible femininity. In an ideal world Gerda would have been fully accepting of her husband's desire to become a woman, but the society she lives in- and the vast majority of societies today- still largely adhere to the idea that biological sex automatically correlates to gender identity.
The acting is exceptional. Eddie Redmayne has the ability to completely inhabit a character so completely that you really feel as if you are watching a documentary rather than a somewhat fictionalized film. Vikander is also great as Gerda, a challenging role in which she must be both sympathetic at times and someone we disagree with at other times. Redmayne and Vikander have excellent chemistry. You can really feel the love between Lili and Gerda even when Gerda struggles to handle the change from a husband to a wife. The supporting cast is also good with talented actors including Ben Whishaw, Pip Torrens, and Amber Heard.
The crew also did a great job. The costumes are beautiful, but also serve the story. The lighting adds to the moods of scenes. The location choices help set the move.
One of my few criticisms of the film itself is it felt like it had far more female nudity (and for a male gaze) than necessary. Gerda is naked a lot more than Einar/Lili and I don't think the film justifies the need for the double-standard.
Despite Eddie Redmayne's excellent performance there is an argument to be that a trans woman should be played by a trans actress.
The number of historical inaccuracies goes beyond the necessity of turning the story of real people into an interesting film. This is unfortunate as the real story of Lili and Gerda is one that should be able to hold an audience's attention. The motivation seems to be prioritizing a love story between Lili and Gerda rather than explore them both as a couple and as separate individuals. This did a disservice to both Lili and Gerda as both are interesting separate from their relationship. I can't help wondering if part of it was to make the film more appealing to a straight cis audience as the film never fully lets go of showing scenes with Lili looking morer like Einar than Lili.
Most of the changes are spoilers so I won't list them, but relationships are created that did not exist. Relationships that did exist are ignored. Real people are replaced with fictional counterparts that sort-of serve the same purpose, but still diverge from the actual person. I don't understand why they decided to change important details about the film's ending.
I recommend "The Danish Girl", but encourage viewers to also take the time to look up the "real" story about Lili and Gerda both as a couple and as separate individuals.
1. I haven't read the novel so I can't offer my opinion on how it compares to the films in terms of historical accuracy.
Chapter 110: Dear Ex
This chapter reviews the Taiwanese film "Dear Ex" narrated in part by a teenage boy who is caught in the middle of an inheritance battle between his mother and his recently deceased father's male partner.
"Dear Ex" is an emotionally intense film partly narrated by a teenage boy Cheng who is caught in the middle of the fighting between his mother San-lian (Hsieh Ying-xuan) and his recently deceased father's Zheng (Spark Chen) male partner Ah Jie (Roy Chiu) over Zheng inheritance. The film opens with him witnessing them fighting over both him and the inheritance money before showing him in a psychiatrist's office. He has been dealing with his feelings by beating people up , but despite the psychiatrist assuring him that everything he says is confidential he clearly doesn't trust her nor does he want to talk about his feelings.
Even though he is the main character the film includes numerous scenes where he is not present showing the point of view of both his mother and his father's partner.
His mother blames Ah Jie for turning Zheng gay and destroying her family. She is determined to prevent Jie from getting the inheritance that Zheng left him. She clearly sees herself as a woman wronged and is frustrated that she has always in her view been a good person and can't understand why bad things are happening to her. She is even more upset that her son would rather live with "the enemy" than her. The film tries to make her sympathetic, but it clear that she is falling about and too consumed with bitterness, betrayal, and anger to really be a good mother although she does make an effort to continue to provide him with the practicalities (healthy food, a cleaner environment, etc).
Jie says he is fine, but it falling apart and prone to the same fits of anger and lashing out as San-lian. He is mourning the death of the man he loved and a man who loved him. He doesn't want Song living with him and tries to get him to go home to his mother. His life is the theatre and he is particularly passionate about an upcoming production. He is immature in many ways and his home is exceedingly messy to the point it is probably a health hazard. He tries to do the right thing at times, but is no more equipped to be a functional parent than San-lian.
The acting is exceptional and it is clear that the actors immersed themselves in their roles. As the story unfolds the characters and their stories prove to be complex and experience growth as they go through the painful grieving process.
The production values are on the cheap side, but serve the story particularly the costuming and set design. The biggest weaknesses were in the lighting and at times the framing of shots. Periodically, an element of a shot such as a doorknob will be shown not in photo quality, but as a sketch. It is a style that can work well, but in this film I found it more distracting than artistic.
The film is a Taiwanese film and I am relying on the English subtitles. I can't vouch for their complete accuracy, but they seemed to fit the scene and didn't have the disjointed feel of some subtitled films. Netflix and Wikipedia disagree on some spellings. The film was selected as the Taiwanese entry for the "Best International Feature Film" at the 92th Academy Awards.
"Dear Ex" is a good film, but it is not easy viewing. Despite the fact that the narrator is a teenager it is a mature film that probably has more emotional resonance for adults who have experience with long-term relationships and loss (whether by death or rejection).
Chapter 111: Benjamin
This chapter reviews the excellent 2019 film "Benjamin" a sweet film about an career-obsessed filmmaker and his developing relationship with a French musician.
"Benjamin" opens with two men arguing in a scene that is more cringe-inducing than interesting. Fortunately, the shot pans out and the audience can sigh in relief that the scene is part of the title character, Benjamin Oliver’s, film "No Self,". Benjamin (Colin Morgan) is stressing over the film and arguing about the editing. He wants more scenes with the monk.
Benjamin’s first film was a success and his entire sense of self is tied up in his career and need for affirmation from those around him and the audience. Unfortunately, he is filled with self-doubt, most of the people he surrounds himself with have very little substance, and he has an unstoppable motormouth.
His closest friend is Stephen (Joel Fry), but Benjamin admonishes Stephen not to touch him even in a "how are you, bro" manner. He poses for an uncomfortable and unnatural looking photoshoot while answering questions from his publicist Billie (Jessica Raine) with nillistic answers including suggesting that he should have died after his last film.
The film’s tendency to gently and at times not so gently mock the independent film culture and industry continues throughout the film. Much of that criticism and mocking comes during the scenes with Harry (Jack Rowan), Billie’s boyfriend, a pretencious actor whose artistic ideas are incoherent and ridiculous.
During a night out with Billie and Stephen they listen to a French musician Noah (Phénix Brossard) and his band. Benjamin is clearly interested in Noah, but we learn during his conversation with Stephen that he is jumping fifteen steps ahead. Despite a cringe-inducing introductory conversation, Noah returns Benjamin’s interest, later revealing that Benjamin is his type, and the two begin a relationship just as Benjamin’s film is about to be screened at the BFI (British Film Institute) London Film Festival.
Despite Benjamin’s obvious attraction to Noah and the sweetness of their developing relationship, he clings to his need for the film to do well, his tendency to say the wrong things to cover up for his terror at being vulnerable and having to deal with his feelings. Despite his difficulty in staying quiet he is incapable of genuine communication.
The fact that the love story is between two men, Benjamin and Noah, is relevant within the story because of the construction of masculinity and what it means for relationships, vulnerability, and the importance of a successful career rather than because of homophobia. The audience might bring the backdrop of homophobia into their viewing of the film, but the film itself isn’t interested in it. I would love to hear from anyone from France or who has lived in France about whether Noah’s character was a realistic French gay man or if he was simply an English writer’s imaginary version of a French gay man.
His friend Stephen is having his own problems, but neither Benjamin nor Stephen seem to know how to help each other. At times the film is an examination of masculinity and how it can inhibit any type of human connection. The characters might be free of homophobia, but most are not free of gender roles and "what it means to be a man" in a society that discourages men from being emotionally aware.
Describing an LGBTQ+ character is relatable to non-LGBTQ+ audiences is tricky because it can easily be done in a way that minimizes the character’s importance to LGBTQ+ audience and how much the character’s experiences are shaped by being LGBTQ+, but Benjamin has characteristics that are relatable regardless of gender or sexuality. His chosen coping mechanism including eating ice-cream and watching YouTube videos are ones that are common across demographics. His fear of intimacy and vulnerability are fears that also cross demographics.
The acting is exceptional and the chemistry between the actors are spot on. Colin Morgan is tasked with carrying the film as the film is in many ways a character study and Benjain is given by far the most depth. He knows when to hold a stare or an awkward silence for too long or take a ridiculous amout of time to find a water bottles on a store shelf. Phénix Brossard does an excellent job considering the script doesn’t give him as much depth. He is the only character who seems truly comfortable with his emotions and knows who he is as a person. His singing performances are particularly beautiful. Joel Fry is heartbreakingly believable as a man that it struggling far more than he wants to let on. Jessica Raine makes Billie’s mental instability believable without overplaying it. Jack Rowan does a convincing job of playing the unlikeable, clueless, and self-absorbed Harry.
The production values serve the story. The costumes give the audience insight into the characters. Ironically some of the best costume choices were having characters wear unattractive, unappealing, badly fitted clothes to show their emotional state. The camera work is great especially in handling the intimate scenes and giving awkward scenes the most impact. The music fits well within the film particularly the songs Noah sings.
The film has a few weaknesses. The transitions between scenes is sometimes jarring. I often think that a film should have been cut by 10-15 minutes, but at 82 minutes I think this film could have added in another 10-15 minutes. There were times when the lighting choices were questionable and drew more attention to themselves than to the story.
It is an excellent film, but one that might be a love it or be bored by it. It does assume that the viewer has an interest in filmmaking and the industry as well as a gay romcom (although the comedy is often in scenes that have nothing to do with romance). It is a thoughtful film and surprisingly emotionally effective for a film that by LGBTQ film standards appears less harrowing than the majority of LGBTQ films.
1. I previously reviewed one of Simon Amstell’s, the writer and director of "Benjamin", stand-up routines. The stand-up has a sequence that is almost straight out of the film.
2. I put off posting my review in the hopes that the film would get more international distribution as I like to be able to suggest legal ways to see the films I review. There is a Region 2 DVD available. There are legally available clips of the film available on YouTube.
3. Ironically, the film “Benjamin” was also screened at the BFI London Film Festival and, thankfully, received better reviews than "No Self".
4. I think the character’s full name is Harry Birch, but it isn’t listed on the DVD, IMDB, Wikipedia, nor the distributer’s (Verve Pictures) site.
I plan to write a spoiler review as several people on both AO3 and Tumblr have asked me to review “Benjamin”.
Chapter 112: The Queen
This chapter reviews the 1967 documentary "The Queen".
"The Queen" is a 1967 documentary about a national US Drag Queen competition. The documentary has historical merit in that there are few documentaries about the Drag Scene pre-Stonewall, but although the racism in the documentary's focus can be explained "attitudes of the era" it does not excuse it and it greatly reduces the usefulness of the documentary.
The documentary does emphasize community and it features the "how they do it" (finding dresses, doing make-up and hair, etc) parts of a drag show. These are the documentary's strengths. The show looks like it is patterned after a beauty pageant, but I have limited knowledge of beauty pageants. The portion where they are in leotards with ribbons listing Miss [US State, US City, River?] definitely has a pageant origin. There is more music and singing than in other drag and ballroom documentaries. The musicians all appear to be black, but are in so much shadow that I cannot be 100% sure.
From everything else I have read, seen, and heard Ballroom and Drag shows in the US were largely by and for POCs particularly African-Americans and in some places Latin American. To confirm that my previous impression was accurate I checked the Ball culture wikipedia article (the article that came up when I searched for Drag Ball) and the source links.
The poor technical quality of the film and low-light meant there were a few cases in which I literally could not tell a person's race and ethnicity especially if they were only shown for a second, but the vast majority of the close-ups, conversations, singing, and behind-the-scenes portions were focused on whites. Wide shots and miss it if you blink shots show blacks and if one watches carefully one can see that blacks do appear to make up a significant part of the community.
I should note that the whitewashing of the Ball scene goes beyond "looks". The tone, attitude, and mannerism both on and off stage are different. The men presented themselves in a way that reminded me of the way male characters who were implied to be gay and bisexual and villainous during the "Hays Code" era were presented. This is not the way most presented themselves in other sources that more heavily featured African-Americans and Latin Americans.
I should note that the pronouns used for the Drag Queens is always "he".
If you are a completist this documentary might be worth your time as the behind-the-scenes conversations take place during the time period rather than looking back at it, but please also watch documentaries that give a more accurate picture of the history of Ball culture such as "Paris is Burning" and "Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom" (the later is available for free on YouTube).
Chapter 113: Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish
This chapter reviews the Indian film "Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish".
"Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish", an Indian film about a sex worker Juhi (Manisha Korrala) who hires a struggling lyricist Debu (Rajit Kapoor) as care for her son Kaku (San Naval) who has special needs, surpassed my expectation.
The film begins with Debu, who was recently dumped by his boyfriend Sameer, despite for work as he is having trouble selling his songs. Juhi has her own troubles as the maid she hired to take care of her son is neglecting him and she is getting less and less work. She initially is resistant to having Debu care for Kaku, but relents when he tells her he is a lyricist. This, of course, does not mean he is trustworthy, but Juhi is hardly the first person to give someone the benefit of the doubt when they learn that person works in the entertainment industry.
Kaku is confined to a wheelchair, non-verbal, and communicates mainly by banging a cup against his chair. Juhi initially seems to enjoy seeing Debu struggle to take care of him. However, Debu throws himself into caring for Kaku and making the house look like a home. We see Kaku start to smile and Debu helps him acquire some basic skills. I will note that there is thankfully no unrealistic miracle in which Kaku is magically running around or anything. He genuinely has special needs.
Debu starts writing songs that most people would interpret as love songs (such as running in the rain), but are really for him about carrying for Kaku.
Juhi confronts the Sallu (Makrand Deshpande),man who arranges her clients and complains about how he is prioritizing other women over her. He replies that she is too old for "this work". She decides to break ties with him and starts trying to find work on her own with limited success. She also grows jealous of the bond developing between Kaku and Debu. Despite the fact she states early on that she is fine with Debu being gay she keeps insisting that if he hasn't tried having sex with a woman he doesn't actually know whether or not he would enjoy it.
Debu, meanwhile, does not approve of Juhi working as a sex worker and tries to get her to present herself in a more refined manner if she is going to continue to work as a sex worker. Juhi argues that she is only selling her body. Some people sell their souls. The film eventually "takes a side" on the issue of Juhi working as a sex worker. Some people will agree. Others will disagree. I will only say that it shows the complications of her choices.
There are periodic moments of angst during the film, but it has a happier tone than most LGBTQ films. The production values are good enough to convey the story. Debu is portrayed in a very stereotypical manner, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. There are gay men who are comfortable doing domestic work and it nice to see a gay man bonding with a kid as homophobes think that gay men are a threat to boys.
My biggest issue with the film is a major spoiler so I am not including it in my review.
I am relying largely on subtitles so it is possible that I am missing some of the subtleties of the original.
Chapter 114: Benjamin SPOILER review
This chapter is a SPOILER filled review of the film "Benjamin". I posted the non-spoiler review a few chapters ago. I recommend skipping this one until you have seen the film.
It is common for romcoms to have a couple get together, break up, and then get back together having fixed the problems in their first attempt at a relationship. This film has two break-ups which increases the angst, but it adds to the realism. It often takes more than one try for people to change their behavior especially if something happens (in this case his ex-showing up) to trigger a relapse.
I loved the cat serving as an actual character In the film although I did find the cat staring at Benjamin and Noah as they made out a bit unnerving.
Benjamin laying his head on the director's lap really shows that he is touch starved despite the fact that shortly afterwards we hear him telling Stephen not to touch him. It was also incredibly unprofessional.
The juxaposition of Benjamin and Noah and their interactions the morning after they had sex versus Billie’s and Stephen’s interactions was great for showcasing the contrast between the shallowness of Billie and Stephen verses the potential for a real relationship between Benjamin and Noah.
It was technically consentual and the film doesn’t make a huge deal out of it beyond that it clearly isn’t what Benjamin wants, but scene in which Harry is sexually aggressive to use Benjamin as an experiment for having sex with a man and then dismisses him afterwards is demeaning. Benjamin may as well have been an inanimate object for the way Harry treated him and the fact Benjamin hangs around with him and Billie again after the second break-up really shows Benjamin’s feelings of self-worth (or lack of it). We only see the morning after with Billie and Stephen, but there is a parallel in that she treated Stephen almost as an object. It found the later interesting as it is common to see a man treat the person they had sex with as an object, but it is less common to see a woman do it. Sadly, there are still male actors who won't do this type of scene. I had a mixed view of a Amstell's stand-up (reviewed in a previous chapter) and loved this film, but in both cases I liked the way he tackles gender roles.
“Meet the parents” or in this case “Meet the parent and step-parent" scenes are often cringe inducing, but calling over your ex is a possibly the worst idea I have ever seen. Paul certainly knew how to play to Benjamin’s insecurities. Benjamin handled the situation badly from the beginning, but after his ex voiced what was clearly Benjamin’s greatest fear it really wasn’t surprising that he fell back on his self-protective tendencies.
I have to ask, “How long are Stephen’s showers?” Benjamin had time to sleep, take a bath, call several more times, and get to Stephen’s home between the time he first called Stephen and when he broke Stephen’s window. It was an overreaction, but considering Stephen’s mood and behavior the last couple of times he saw Stephen I can see why Benjamin would worry. One could assume that Stephen heard the message, “Call me back. My hair is growing,” and realized Benjamin was on something so he ignored it and was only showering when Benjamin called him several times the next day, but the film doesn’t make that clear. This isn’t necessarily a problem as it can provide an extra laugh.
The scenes with the monk in “No Self” didn’t work at all. The scenes with the monk in “Benjamin” worked for the film. Despite Benjamin's interest in Buddhism he doesn't do a very good job of actually applying it in real life situations for most of the film. He often does the exact opposite of Buddhist teachings. Benjamin's complete hypocrisy in telling Noah that external validation isn't everything was a great scene for showcasing his lack of self-awareness at times. These aren't flaws in the film. They are strengths as most real life people fail to live up to their ideals.
Benjamin is socially awkward and at times cringe-inducing, but sometimes he seems to be the only reasonable sane person in the room such as his reaction to the paper interpretive dance scene.
I know the film is called “Benjamin”, but I wish they had added a bit more depth to Noah. He is the supportive sometimes boyfriend who can also stand up for himself and could leave for France at any time. The conversation the morning after their first night together when he talked about Noah's manager added to our knowledge of him beyond Benjamin, but otherwise he remains a bit of a cypher.
It didn’t occur to me until I went to write this spoiler review, but there aren’t any on-screen sex scenes and the make-out scenes are very tame. In hindsight this surprises me a little in a film about intimacy and which the relationship is at the center of the film and yet it works. It shows what we need to see for the story. I do wonder if that plays into the fact this film despite good reviews from major publications and easily availablity in the UK and some other European countries it doesn’t seem to have inspired as much discussion and mentions as I would have expected (1).
When I first heard about the film I thought it would be one I would have loved during my university years. I would have enjoyed the love story, but would have been disppointed with the ending as he prioritizes a romantic relationship over his career. Granted his career is in trouble after “No Self” bombed at the BFI London Film Festival. It is only after having been part of the “rat race” career life that I can really understand why he made the choice. My practical side still thought, “Wait a minute-”, but I could enjoy the ending. On a practical note considering the people he worked with before either don’t want to work with him or he doesn’t want to work with starting over in France could work out for the best. (The film was made and released when getting out of Brexit was still a possiblity. If it was real and took place today the ending would have felt even less practical.)
Colin Morgan has a good range. The only similiarties I can see between his Benjamin and his Bosie in “The Happy Prince” (which I previously reviewed) is they are both gay, English, and played by the same actor. The personality, body language, accent, and everything else are completely different.
1. The UK is no longer part of the EU, but has not moved geologically and it still uses Region 2 DVDs.
Chapter 115: Welcome to My Queer Bookstore
This chapter reviews the short documentary "Welcome to My Queer Bookstore".
"Welcome to My Queer Bookstore" is a 19 minute documentary about Gin Gin's Bookstore located in Taipei, Taiwan directed by Larry Tung. The film was released in 2009 to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the bookstore opening. According to the documentary Gin Gin Bookstore was the only bookstore dedicated to the LGBTQ community in the Chinese-speaking world (1).
The bookstore has the advantage that unlike the few other LGBTQ establishments it was open during the day and besides books it includes things such as sex toys. A large part of the bookstore's focus is on information particularly health, safe sex, and other information relating to sexual activity and gender roles. One of their best selling items are sports bras for butch lesbians who want their chests too look flatter so they are more comfortable in traditionally masculine clothes. This made it sound like they might be used as both sports bras and binders.
The documentary is largely uplifting despite the fact it does not hide from the challenges the bookstore has faced including the owner being sued and convicted by a biased homophobic judge. The owner called a press conference and fundraised over twice the fine so he donated the second half to charity.
There are multiple montages of photos with happy LGBTQ+ people and couples including Pride Parade photos.
Most of the documentary is subtitled, but the interview with the doctor is in English. I want to note since it isn't necessary a given from the title, but it does include explicit pictures and sex toys and the doctor's interview is in front of an explicit picture. I am guessing that the documentary- especially with the double-standard for LGBTQ+ content- would get an R rating.
The technical quality is a little grainy on a high-definition device, but I would classify it as a hidden gem.
1. There are over 100 languages spoken in China. As the bookstore is in Taiwan I checked Wikipedia for stats on languages spoken in Taiwan and officially Taiwan is multilingual. Mandarin is the primary language used in business and education with Traditional Chinese being the primary writing system, but 70 percent of the population also speak Hokkien in addition to Mandarin. The documentary discusses magazines imported from Hong Kong.
"Welcome to My Queer Bookstore" is available to view for free at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG743S90aq4.
Chapter 116: Strike a Pose
This chapter reviews the 2016 film "Strike a Pose".
"Strike a Pose" is a documentary about the back-up dancers in Madonna's "Blond Ambition World" Tour in 1990. The documentary is composed of footage from the tour, interviewers, and the remaining dancers meeting up again on the 25th anniversary of the tour.
The description makes it sound like a fluff film and the dancers do not shy away from talking about the fun parts of the tour, but it also features discussions from some of the men about dealing with the reality of the AIDS crisis. Most of the dancers are MOC (Men of Colour). The documentary also honours one of the dancers Gabriel Trupin who died of complications from AIDS. The documentary includes what the other men did with their lives after the tour was over.
The dancers featured in the film are Kevin Shea, Calton Wilborn, Luis Xtravaganza Camacho, Jose Gutierez Xtravaganzanza, Salim Gauwloos, and Oliver S. Crumes III. ose Gutierez Xtravaganzanza was active in the New York Ballroom scene prior to the tour.
The documentary does is not a "must see" one, but it does a good job of balancing the serious issues of AIDS and people being exploited in the entertainment industry against young men enjoying fame and having fun. For those who find AIDS films that feature only angst too much to emotionally handle this is easier viewing. The documentary is also noteworthy for not defining the men solely in terms of their HIV status nor sexual orientation, but showing them as fully realized human beings.
The film is a Belgian-Dutch documentary, but it is in English. The documentary won the Best LGBT Film at the Key West Film Festival and the Best Queer Film of the Year 2016 at the Merlinka festival.
Chapter 117: A Single Man
This chapter reviews the film "A Single Man" based on the book of the same name by Christopher Isherwood.
"A Single Man" opens with a shot of a car crash and a man's bloody face. Another man bends down to kiss the man and wakes up. He has been dreaming of his partner for sixteen years Jim (Matthew Goode) who died eight months earlier. Once awake George (Colin Firth) begins to narrate his day including talking about his depression since Jim died. As he packs his briefcase for work he puts a gun in it. He is intending to commit suicide that night.
He receives a phone call from his friend Charley (Julianne Moore) in which she tries to cheer him up. He goes to the school he works at and teaches his class focusing on two students then returns to putting his affairs in order.
As his day continues the audience sees him coming into contact with people who could give him a reason to stay alive, but his depression and pain over Jim's death has consumed him to the point that he might be too far gone to change his mind.
There is a disjoined quality at times to the vignettes of his day, but it captures his mental state as a man who believes he is doing things for the last time.
The film takes place in California in 1962. According to my research his relationship with Jim would have been been illegal. Consensual sex regardless of gender between adults over 18 wouldn't be legalized until 1975.
Despite the sad subject matter the film was not unrelentingly depressing and at times easier viewing than several of the other films I have reviewed for this series.
The film is brilliantly acted. Firth does a great job of showing a man who is absolutely shattered by the death of a partner and hurt that other people want to minimize the relationship he had with Jim.
Besides the actors mentioned above there are several canon length appearances most notable by Lee Pace as Grant Lefanu and Jon Kortajena as Carlos.
The film is directed by fashion designer Tom Ford who also financed the film himself. Not surprisingly attention was clearly paid to make the fashion fit the era and the characters. The colours, lighting, and saturation variations during the course of the film were beautifully done to show George's mental state. For most of the film the scenes are largely in desaturated sepia. During the moments when there is hope that he will choose life the colors become more saturated and at times are almost in technicolour. There is a dreamlike quality to both some of the flashbacks and even some of the scenes that are in real time. It has a similar quality to Tom Haynes' "Far from Heaven" and it works even better in this film.
There are a few sequences in which men's bodies are objectified. This is not a criticism as male bodies are rarely shot that way especially in films where female bodies are not also shot that way. It is artistically, but it is definitely sensual and sexual. The film does not hide from the fact that George is a gay man nor the fact that Jim was the love of his life.
I have seen this plot structure used before with straight couples. It is nice to see it used for a gay couple and despite the sadness it contains elements that are common in mythological epic romances.
The film is based on a novel of the same name by Christopher Isherwood.
The film won the 66th Venice International Film Festival award the Queer Lion, the Grand Prix from the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics, Outstanding Film- Wide Release at the 21st GLAAD Media Awards, and the AFI (American Film Institute) Film of the Year. Firth also received a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice International Film Festival, and was nominated for a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guide, and Academy Award for Best Actor.
Chapter 118: The Infamous T
This chapter reviews the documentary "The Infamous T" about Jonathan, a young gay black teenager, as finishes school.
"The Infamous T" is a documentary that follows Jonathan, a young black gay teenager, as he finishes school and starts his first job. Much of the focus is on the intersection between being gay and black.
Jonathan grew up being homeless and moved 29 times. Most of the times he lived with family or friends, but he also lived in several shelters. At the beginning of the documentary he moves in with a host family through an organization that matches LGBTQ youth in precarious situations with host families. The decision was made to give him a stable environment to finish school if his mom lost her housing again. The host family is white and while they showed him love and support he did not completely fit in with them just as he didn't completely fit in with his family.
The documentary features snapshots of his life and the people close to him talking about him. We see him in school, at home, and with his friends. There are a number of segments of him dancing.
This is a good documentary, but it feels a bit choppy at times as large parts of his life are missing. That could be out of respect for his privacy, the budget, or time restraints. The documentary also has the feel of a home movie.
The 30 minute film is directed by Melissa Koch and is available for free on YouTube at https://youtu.be/_UvnXLMKf6Y
Chapter 119: Enraged by a Picture
This chapter reviews the short documentary "Enraged by a Picture".
"Enraged by a Picture" is a 2005 South African documentary by Zanele Muholi showing her photography of black lesbians and the reactions of viewers to those photographs. Despite some technical deficiencies it is an excellent documentary.
Although the photographs are of black lesbians some of the photographs are about black women's sexuality with no explicit reference to their sexuality. The photographs are well-shot to convey a narrative. Some of the photographs feature partial nudity and one is of a rape victim a few days after she was raped. The photographs were not taken to be shocking or make people uncomfortable, but some people regardless of gender identity and/or sexuality might be uncomfortable with some of the photographs.
The documentary shows a few of the negative reactions which are largely religiously based, but focuses more on viewers who were interested and/or enjoyed the photographs.
The documentary is 14 minutes long and available for free and not region blocked on YouTube at https://youtu.be/JLSMCBWDKSU .
Chapter 120: Michael Lost and Found
This chapter reviews the short documentary "Michael Lost and Found" that features clips of a reunion between the real Michael Glatze and Benjie Nycum.
"Michael Lost and Found" is an 18 minute documentary about the real Michael Gratze and Benjie Nycum meeting for the first time in years as a result of the film "I am Michael". In contrast to "I am Michael" this documentary is more from Benjie Nycum's perspective, but tries to be respectful toward Michael Gratze.
It is clear that the conversations between them was longer than the clips shown, but it is probable that some of the conversation was private and not for public consumption. Michael's wife Rebekah Fuller is present for most of the documentary, but mostly stays quiet. I don't know if that was an editing decision, if she felt that this was really between Michael and Benjie, or if she is generally quiet. It did leave the impression of the wife who largely silently supports her husband, but for the previously stated reasons that may not be the reality of their marriage.
Both Michael and Rebekah left their Bible College and Michael is now a pastor at a small non-denomination church. He still insists that he is heterosexual and loves his wife, but he has become less hateful towards anyone with different opinions. He states that in his relationship with Rebekah he was horrified to see her devalued as a woman and so ashamed of her body and herself in a way that he had never seen before. He criticizes "The American Christian Machine" for being about control. He wants his church to be a safe place for everyone, but at the same time he retains homophobic attitudes.
Benjie for his part mostly misses him and hopes he is healthier and happier. He stands up for himself and his scientifically backed up beliefs, but he isn't filled with anger.
Chapter 121: I am Michael
This chapter reviews the film "I am Michael" about former gay rights activist Michael Glatze.
"I Am Michael" is a biographical film based on Michael Glatze (played in the film by James Franco), a former gay activist. I saw what could be considered to be a sequel in some ways to the film in the form of excerpts of a conversation between the real Benjie Nycum and Michael Glatze. I thought I had reviewed it, but it seems I never posted it. I tried watching this film shortly afterwards and couldn't get through it, but I always had in the back of my mind that I should go back and watch and review it. The fact that Zachary Quinto, an actor who was out at the time the film was made, had a major role gave me some reassurance that the film itself might tell the story in a tasteful manner.
The film opens with Michael as an out-and-proud gay activist who is in a long term non-exclusive relationship with Bennett (Zachary Quinto). In time they become a threesome with Tyler (Charlie Carver) joining in the relationship. After moving to San Francisco they co-found a magazine Young Gay America. Influenced by homophobic incidents such as the murder of Matthew Sheppard they travel across the US to meet with LGBTQ teenagers. In doing so they come across who believe that being gay is a choice and a sin.
Michael's father died of a heart attack when he was thirteen and after health scares and panic attacks he fears he may suffer the same fate as his dad and die young. This leads to him becoming interested in religion and he explores multiple faith paths during which he renounces his homosexuality.
In terms of the technical elements of the film it is well-done. The acting is good. The crew did their jobs. The basics of Michael's story in the film are the same as in real life.
Although the film is called "I am Michael" Bennett is given a large role and his perspective (backed up by facts) is giving his fair share of screen time.
People do think they are 100% gay and then realize they are bisexual/queer/pansexual or otherwise not 100% gay, but the film strongly implies that he is a gay man forcing himself to try to be heterosexual. The film does not condone (although it does not completely condemn) the attitude that sexual orientation is something you can pray away. It is an upsetting story. It is one that is based more on the desire to belong than scientific facts. It is, unfortunately, based on a true story and Michael Gratze is far from the only person who has wondered if religious faith could make the heterosexual.
My knowledge of Mormonism and the Bible Church Evangelical Christianity is limited so I can't judge how accurately it is portrayed. If those who have more knowledge of these faith traditions and would like to share their views I would love to hear input on how well it is accurately portrayed.
Chapter 122: My Brother... Nikhil
This chapter reviews the Indian film "My Brother Nikhil" based on the real life story of Dominic d'Souza.
"My Brother... Nikhil" is framed as a documentary about Nikhil Kapoor (Sanjay Suri), a young man who had a promising future as a champion swimmer and local hero in Gao, a coastal region in India. He jokes about it not being his fault that women are falling for him. He sets up his sister and best friend Anamika (Juhi Chawls) with the man who will become her husband Sam. His parents, Amita Rosario Kapoor (Lillete Dubey) and Navin Kapoor (Victor Banerjee) are proud of him. His close friend Nigel D'Costa (Purab Kahul) is also his secret boyfriend.
Shortly after celebrating a swimming championship his father turns his attention to marrying him off. Nikhil is not interested in the woman, but has trouble telling his family his reasons. An unexpected call from his doctor reveals that he is HIV positive and when his status becomes publicly known his life as he knew it falls apart.
The film deals with homophobia and misinformation about HIV and AIDS. It was known by the time that it couldn't be transmitted by casual contact or being in the same room. (Watching the film as CONVID-19 is spreading around the world- a disease that scares people and unlike HIV can be transmitted by casual contact- made it more intense viewing.) Fear can make people do horrible things. Some of them feel guilty about their behavior towards him, but others are fine with how they abused, mocked, beat him up, and otherwise hurt him.
The film is well-acted. It has a low-budget feel, but that is not a problem. The story doesn't need special effects are big budget scenes filled with extras. It is a personal story, I don't think it falls into the trap of the "straight savior", but I could see how some scenes could be seen that way.
Straight women are more likely to be accepting of gay/bisexual/queer/mlm than straight men. It was nice to see that Sam was supportive and comfortable around Nikhil, Nigel, and their relationship.
Despite the sadness of the story there are also joyful moments and it is ultimately an uplifting film. The characters are allowed to be complex and change. Characters are willing to work to make the world a better place. There was one choice that surprised me- maybe it is based on the real life inspiration- that made it less depressing than many AIDS related films. The film portrays homosexuality and gay relationships between men in a positive way. It is clear that it is an advocacy film that is meant to change minds both about homosexuality and HIV status.
I relied heavily on subtitles, but I didn't see any obvious errors.
Director Onir stated that the film is based on the life of a real person Dominic d'Souza, but includes a disclaimer for fictional content as a compromise with the Indian government i order to get permission to make the film.
Chapter 123: The Justin Fashanu Story
This chapter reviews the film "The Justin Fashanu Story" about the first openly gay football player who played in the UK, Canada, and the US.
For films about real people who were "in the public eye" the concept of a spoiler can tricky because many of the details of the person's life are already publicly available. This being said there are probably many people reading these reviews who have never heard of Justin Fashanu. I will try to avoid major spoilers, but I will say I debated whether or not to watch the film and whether or not to include it in this series. The film places both his good and bad choices in the context of his background as an orphan who was mostly raised by a white family and a black gay man who faced racism and homophobia both professionally and personally.
He played in football in the UK where he became the first black player to get a million pound transfer free, Canada, and the US (where it is called soccer).
The film is primarily interviews and footage of him interspersed with clips of actors playing him and sometimes him and his brother. The interviews are largely with family members, friends, and those who knew him professionally. The film is sympathetic to the challenges he faced in life.
The film also features historical events including showing clips of racism (National Front Members Marching) and homophobia (Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's infamous and horrible speech about "protecting" children from learning about homosexuality in defense of the damaging Section 28).
I found it irritating that the film spent so much time hammering in the fact that he cared about his physical appearance. I didn't find it that relevant to his story and it often seemed be used in place of really addressing the fact that he was gay. I am guessing the reason was also to present him as an attention seeker.
It is undeniable that he was a talented football player and it is undeniable that unfortunately football could be (and still can be) racist and homophobic.
In terms of the film as a film it does a good job. Some of the footage of him playing and interviews with him and those who knew him looks grainy when viewed on a high-definition device, but that is an unavoidable consequence of it being older footage.
The question of how accurately it portrays him and situations is more complicated especially since several people who were close to him say he remained an enigma to them.
This film is worth watching if one has an interest in professional sport's historic attitudes (and sadly often continuing attitudes) towards any sexuality other than 100% heterosexual.
Chapter 124: Laerte-Se
This chapter reviews the documentary "Laerte-Se" about a transgender artist.
"Laerte-Se" is a documentary about a transgender woman artist who started openly transitioning in her sixties. Her art reflects her feelings about being transgendered and is frequently featured in the documentary including an exibition showcasing 40 years of her art.
In contrast to many people who are transgender she chose to keep her birth name and was overjoyed to discover it is also used as a woman's name. Although she often refers to herself as a woman she considers gender to be a social construct and not a necessary one. She is also comfortable with her body. Much of her art and her photoshoots feature partial or total nudity. It is not always shown in a specifically sexual way.
The documentary is primarily interviews with her, but it also features her art often with voiceovers of her interviews and a few interviews with her family, co-workers, and others who knew her.
Her experience is shaped by her cultural background and age. It is rare to see LGBTQ stories that feature pensioners. She is politically aware and vocal about her views on a variety of subjects. It is likely that most viewers will agree with her sometimes and disagree with her on other things.
Unfortunately, there were a few points in which I wondered if the subtitles were conveying her exact meaning. It is not an "exciting and dramatic" film, but it is an interesting one and one worth checking out to hear a .
Chapter 125: Born Beautiful
This chapter reviews the 2019 film "Born Beautiful".
"Born Beautiful" opens with a drag queen, Barbs, getting ready while her friend Trisha offers her opinions. Barbs points out to her friend that she is dead, but her friend says it doesn't matter. A young man appears arguing that he isn't gay while moving and talking in a way that fits a gay stereotype. Finally he admits he is gay. Barbs wakes up and it has all been a dream. It is clear that she is struggling in the aftermath of her best friend's death.
The drag queens in her house earn their living by making up corpses as various celebrities. This probably doesn't help her state of mind. Humour is both cultural and subjective. The humour surrounding their profession will no doubt amuse some viewers and make others deeply uncomfortable. There is one joke that is blatantly racist, but the rest are a matter of taste. If you are comfortable with dark British and Irish humour you will probably be fine with most of the jokes.
She helps other queens get ready for the pageant. Mother Flora, who gets some of the best lines, comes in and criticizes Barbs questions while giving her own creative answers.
Things immediately go wrong. There are people protesting from a Christian gay conversion church, her boyfriend has stood her up, and another one of her friends dies. Feeling lost and miserable to breaks down rips off her wig, throws her clothes away, cuts her hair and decides that she is "Bobby" a straight man. At this point I considered turning off the film as I was not in the mood for another "gay conversion therapy film", but the film firmly condemns conversation therapy and her stay at their retreat only takes up a fraction of the film.
Even after reclaiming her identity as Barbs she still struggles with love and life challenges that are made more complicated by two suiters who are married. She makes some choices that are clearly bad ones. Going into the details gets into major spoilers, but along with the humour there are serious undertones about finding oneself after a major loss and what our search for love says about who we are as people.
In contrast to many Asian and Pacific Island LGBTQ films sex scenes are included, but they are shot in such a way that we only see the parts of the still clothed parts of the actors.
The film is largely in Tagalong. In contrast to most films the portions in English are also subtitled. The film isn't a classic, but is more lighthearted than many LGBTQ films and if the humour is your type a good way to relax for about an hour and a half.
Chapter 126: Night Star
This chapter reviews the South African film "Night Star" about two Zulu women.
Night Star is a South African film. Zulu culture traditionally bars women from doing household chores and requires seclusion except for their guide while they are menstrating (referred to as "going to the moon". The film is about a young woman, Ukuya Enyangeni, who begins to have erotic dreams about her guide, Amamqhikiza.
The film opens with Ukuya going to a building by herself. We then see Amamqhikiza sitting slightly apart from some young women who are gossiping about men. Amamqhikiza admonishes the women telling them that Ukuya is the only decent one among them.
It is an excellent film. The women have chemistry. The subtitles do not interfere with the experience of the watching the film because much of the story is conveyed non-verbally. The film is low budget, but is enough to convey the story without feeling cheap.
Western cultures tend to assume that every detail of every culture is open to their enjoyment (and at times appropriation). Based on the information I could find the film was made by someone who is familiar with the culture and it is done respectively in terms of showing a woman going to a moon.
Please note that traditional Zulu dress includes young women not covering their breasts. (I often post my reviews on Tumblr, but by accurately portraying Zulu cultural dress this film would be banned on Tumblr.)
The film is just over 13 minutes long and is available for free legally (via Frameline) on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1uDn2fYzCc
Chapter 127: A Secret Love
This chapter reviews the documentary, "A Secret Love" about the real life love story Terry Donahue, a former professional baseball player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II, and her long-term partner Pat Henschel.
"A Secret Love" is a documentary about Terry (full name Teresa) Donahue and Pat (full name Emma Marie) Henschel, two women who met while playing hockey and at the beginning of the documentary had been together for 65 years. Donahue had played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II. I should note that despite the title of the League Donahue is Canadian. The documentary also mentions that there were Cuban women in the league. It is hardly a secret that there are wlw in professional sports. This isn't something new. This has always been true.
Their love story is sweet. I was surprised at how many video clips and photos were featured of them together over the course of their lives together. They are really cute together and you can feel the comfort and love between them. During much of the documentary Henschel has had to take on a caretaker role due to Donahue's health and physical limitations.
There are also clips, sadly in poor quality, of Donahue playing baseball. Donahue wears a jumper reading, "There is no crying a baseball," a quote from a fictional film "A League of their Own" about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
A large chunk of the documentary times place in the present as they struggle with various health related issues and other challenges of getting older. This may the documentary a harder watch than I expected, but it is rare to find LGBTQ films that focus on people over 40 let alone pensioners. There is a definitely a need for documentaries such as "A Secret Love". Fortunately, Donahue's family is supportive of them, but it did show the strain caring for them and convincing them to make adjustments due to their age has on the family.
The documentary also focuses on the much more celebratory topic of them deciding to get married.
Chapter 128: Absence: No Fats, No Femmes, No Asians
This chapter reviews the documentary "Absence: No Fats, No Femmes, No Asians" about how intersectionality affects the ability to fit into any community and how being fat, Asian, and femme makes Esther Kim, the narrator, feel like a unicorn.
"Absence" is an experimental documentary. The style would be less surprising in an independent low-budget fictional story film than a documentary. If you are used to standard documentaries it might be a bit off-putting and uncomfortable.
As the title suggests it deals with intersectionality (how the different categories that we fit in can affect how we relate to each other). In this case it is how being an Asian, queer, feminine, and fat each affect how the narrator relates different communities and how she is viewed in these communities. There are far more documentaries and articles about racism in mlm communities, but far fewer about racism within the lesbian community.
Esther Kim, the narrator describes being Asian and fat in the LGBTQ community as being like being a unicorn in that there is nobody else like you especially in areas that are predominantly white. The image of the unicorn is frequently featured, but the most common images are close-ups of make-up and feminine costume accessories most notably peacock feathers.
The documentary can be viewed for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vig8CBQiFPI .
Chapter 129: Playing with Gender
This chapter reviews "Playing with Gender" an excellent primer about gender, how it differs from biological sex, and how people present it.
"Playing with Gender" is an excellent educational video to recommend to those who are confused by the differences between sex and gender and the ways people identify with and present gender roles, combine gender roles, or embrace difference gender roles in different situations.
The film is in black and white and is in the style of a 1950's educational video (or at least what I am many others who were born decades after the 1950's associate with 1950's educational videos).
The film opens with a man complimenting a woman on her cooking at what looks like a classic all-American 1950's picnic. One of the males and one of the female at the picnic admit they were more interested in a non-conforming gender role. The educator then takes them for a walk at the park. As they pass people who at a distance seem to be conventionally gender conforming to their biological sex, but often as we get closer we see that the person is breaking conventional gender roles. It also briefly references the fact that the idea that there are more than two genders and that biological sex does not determine genders has existed across history and cultures.
Some people who click on a link to read reviews of LGBTQ will find the discussion too basic, but it is a good short (7:24 minutes) film that is free and not region locked to recommend to someone who needs a good basic primer.
The film is American so I should note that football most likely means NFL football rather than what most of the world calls football which the US calls soccer.
The film can be watched for free on YouTube at https://youtu.be/M_4b72qgqNE
Chapter 130: Don't Erase My History
This chapter reviews the documentary "Don't Erase My History", an advocacy film for LGBTQ education in schools.
"Don't Erase My History" is an exceptional 2008 documentary that is composed of young LGBTQ interviewers interviewing older LGBTQ activists and interviews with the interviewers themselves. The youth interviewers were not only asked about their own experiences, but about what they took away from their interviews with older activists in terms of both knowledge about LGBTQ history and the person themselves.
The activists featured include Phyllis Lyon, the co-founder of The Daughters of Bilitus, a lesbian civil rights organization that was founded in 1955, and Jewelle Gomez, an award winning American author, poet, and playwright who is best known for writing The Gilda Stories and whose writing focuses on the experiences of LGBTQ women of Color (WOC) . The documentary is dedicated to Phyllis Lyon's wife, Del Martin. Lyons and Martin were the first lgbtq couple to legally marry in the US in 2004.
The documentary features several interviews with people who are POC or biracial and intersection along with "passing" are discussed. It struck me that in some social justice circles some of the interviewees would have been assumed to be white because they don't fit people's stereotypes about their non-European heritage. Jewelle Gomez is half-black and half Native American. The documentary also discusses gender identity not only in US culture, but the idea of "Two Spirits" in Native American cultures.
Pictures of marches, Pride, and other pictures from the time periods being discussed during interviews are sometimes shown instead of the interviewee's face.
In contrast to most LGBTQ history documentaries this one is ultimately optimistic. The documentary admits to its own limitations and explicitly states that it does not even begin to cover the diversity within the LGBTQ community. The film is an advocacy film for including LGBTQ history in schools.
The documentary can be viewed for free on YouTube at https://youtu.be/jyDvUShvvyM
Chapter 131: I Choose
This chapter reviews the short film, "I Choose" about a young gay black man in San Francisco and the older white women whose house he cleans.
"I Choose" is a short (11 minute) film about a young black gay man in San Francisco who takes a job working as a housekeeper for an older white woman. At first it seems to be a textbook case example of racism with the white woman ordering him around as if he were a machine and telling him to fix his attitude. Things start to change when he asks if the picture of a young man is her grandson and she replies the picture of of her. He reacts in surprise that she is a drag queen, she corrects him that she is transgender, and he doesn't see why the difference matters.
At 11 minutes the characters' evolutions feel rushed, but it is still worth watching. The acting is good and the differences in their generations is dealt with in a way that feels fresh with the added element of their own sexualities and gender identities. The technical quality is on the low side when viewed on a high-definition device, but for the story you don't need crystal clear video. As long as you can see facial expressions and body language along with hearing the dialogue that is enough to tell the story.
The film can be viewed for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3UVxzjUFUA
Chapter 132: Street Harassment: Non-binary Identities
This chapter reviews the short, but surprisingly effective documentary, "Street Harassment: Non-binary Identities", about the challenges faced by anyone who presents themselves outside of a binary view of gender.
At 2:29 minutes I assumed this documentary would be too short to review. I was wrong. The narrator Joss Jaycoff speaks about the harassment people who identify as non-binary and anyone who doesn't fit comfortably within the gender binary faces every time they are in public in contrast to the privilege of cis people who are usually unaware of their privilege. As he talks video clips are shown of people who are non-binary.
The production values are higher than I expected. As with many transgender and non-binary documentaries many of the people featured are people of color. The film speaks of the importance of allyship. There is also a note about the murder of George Floyd in the comments asking white people (Jaycoff is white) to be aware of the discrimination and using your privilege to help those facing harassment, discrimination, and violence.
The notes also link to a petition both in Spain and EU/Globally. The documentary is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF6qVO2WkEU
Chapter 133: Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts
This chapter reviews the documentary "Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts".
"Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts" is a documentary about drag queen, Trixie Matell (Brian Michael Firkus) that follows his stints on RuPaul's Drag Race and his own tour.
I should note that I haven't seen RuPaul's drag race, am not a fan of country music, and have limited knowledge of the US Midwest so I am not a member of the intended audience. Nevertheless, I watched it because sometimes films are accessible to people outside the intended audience. I assume that people who are more familiar with her and RuPaul's Drag Race will have stronger feelings about the documentary. Due to my lack of knowledge it took me a while to get into the documentary. I am primarily used to drag in terms of the Ballroom scene which is based on houses and largely for and by people of colour so it took me some adjustment to be get into his story. Ironically, the documentary ended up being a reminder for me not to assume someone's ethnicity by looking at them because he is half Native-American, specifically Ojibwe, and I had erroneously assumed he was of European ancestry.
Documentaries about tours tend to follow the same basic format and this one is no exception. There are clips of him performing, clips from RuPaul's Drag Race and his wins, and clips of his shows with other queens, scenes of him getting ready and talking about his life. There are also some cartoons shown throughout the documentary. As with most drag queens his style of humour is adult and can border on rude. I didn't have a problem with it, but more sensitive viewers might.
The production values are on the low side, but not in a way that negatively impacts the film. The pacing has some minor issues, but that might be less of an issue for those who are a fans. It is not an exceptional film for an "outsider", but it is worth watching if you have an interest in the wide scope of drag within the LGBTQ community.
Chapter 134: Before Stonewall
This chapter reviews the documentary "Before Stonewall".
"Before Stonewall" starts with the Stonewall Riots and then moves onto the events that led to it.
The documentary dedicates more time to lesbian relationships than most LGBTQ history documentaries.
The documentary shows the short period during which homosexuality in films was tolerated as long as it was limited and certain words such as "lesbian" were not used. I didn't time it, but it seemed that a higher percentage of the clips were from films and television versus real life in contrast to "After Stonewall". This is probably a reflection of the fact that increasing the revolution has been televised.
The documentary briefly covers the influence World War II had on US feminism and LGBTQ rights. Women gained financial independence, many moved to the cities, and they sent much of their time surrounded by other women without the watchful eyes of family members. Women who had relationships with other women could live their lives without being as concerned about persecution or being forced into marriages. The documentary briefly covers relationships between soldiers. Often other soldiers and commanding officers were willing to turn a blind eye to their relationships.
After World War II there was a strong conservative push in the US and the persecution was worse than before the war. During the 1950's drag and "camping it up" was common among men. The significant number of lesbians is acknowledged. Sadly, this era included police using any excuse no matter how flimsy (or untrue) to raid gay bars and arrest anyone in them.
The documentary covers the segregation of the era describing the Apollo which catered to not straight African-Americans in New York. As with "After Stonewall", the majority of people interviewed are white and racism within the LGBTQ community is barely mentioned. This can partly be explained by the times. Whether it is an excuse is another question. Either way it, sadly, lessens the completeness of this otherwise excellent documentary. Ironically, the documentary includes discussion about the fact the fight for LGBTQ rights became more militant during the 1960's as leaders were influenced by the fight for racial civil rights. It glosses over the fact that some of the leaders were black and involved in both civil rights movements.
Chapter 135: After Stonewall
This chapter reviews the documentary "After Stonewall" covering LGBTQ history after Stonewall.
"After Stonewall" is a good documentary for covering more in-depth information about LGBTQ history that is sometimes briefly addressed in other documentaries. Most of the documentaries I have seen skim over The Gay Liberation Movement and the arsons against LGBTQ establishments including gay churches in the 1970's. (In this case gay churches means actual churches with largely LGBTQ congregations. I am clarifying this because sometimes gay bars and other LGBTQ establishments are referred to as "gay churches".) The arsons directed against LGBTQ establishments is something that really should be covered more in LGBTQ history.
A long section is dedicated to AIDS and while most LGBTQ history documentaries at least touch on the impact AIDS had on the LGBTQ community, "After Stonewall" shows more clips from politicians and goes more in-depth into the negative way conservative Christianity played a role in the government's (both national and local) lack of interest in doing anything about men who weren't straight dying of AIDS.
Another one of the documentary's strengths is the large number of people interviewed. Some only answer one question or tell one story, but many appear throughout the documentary.
At first I thought the documentary was whitewashing LGBTQ history. As the documentary goes on more and more people of colour, particularly African-Americans, are interviewed and shown in the clips. In contrast to many US focused documentaries there is an interview with a woman of Native American ancestry who talks about intersection and her fear of the reaction within her community when she came out. Outside of a brief section on the divide caused by racism of white lesbians and women of color it doesn't cover the racism within the LGBTQ community, an omission that affects the completeness of the documentary. I still recommend it as it still covers a lot of history that is not covered or rarely covered in other documentaries.
The documentary is largely UScentric, but it does include a short section on LGBTQ communities around the world celebrating the 25th anniversary of Stonewall.
Chapter 136: A Tribute to Phyllis Lyon
This chapter reviews the 2020 documentary, "A Tribute to Phyllis Lyon: The Life and Times of Phyllis Lyon".
I recently reviewed "A Secret Love" about the relationship between Phyllis Lyons and Del Martin and had high expectations for the half hour documentary "A Tribute to Phyllis Lyon". The documentary is definitely worth watching, but it was clearly rushed due to her death. The documentary is composed of people who knew Phyllis Lyon including Jewelle Gomez and Joan E. Biren talking about their memories of Phyllis. The stories are touching and in contrast to "A Secret Love" some of them focus solely on Lyon after Martin died.
Much of the documentary focuses on their bravery and the hostility they faced for being out and proud. Gomez talks about her and Lyon bonding over being high femmes and how Phyllis showed that one could be a high femme and strong.
The first interview segment has some background sound issues. The last interview segment is as much about Lyon-Martin Women's Health Clinic and its need for donations to survive. I am not doubting the importance of the health clinic, but the segment's overly commercial style was a jarring contrast to the more personal feel of the rest of the documentary.
The film can be viewed for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/XK-Koa5pV24
Chapter 137: Disclosure
This chapter reviews the 2020 documentary "Disclosure" about the history of media portrays of characters who do not fit within traditional western gender roles that corrolate with the sex listed on their birth certificate.
"Disclosure" is an excellent documentary about people who do not fit western binary views of gender or break gender norms are treated. The documentary is nearly 2 hours and alternates between clips from various media and interviews with people who are transgender. In contrast to some documentaries, transgender people of colour, particularly black trans women and men.
It has been years since I watched "The Celluoid Closet"- which is on my list to rewatch and review for this LGBTQ+ films series-, but "Disclosure" is more intense and difficult viewing than my memories of "The Celluloid Closet". It is hardly a secret that gender bending on film is rarely treated respectfully instead being shown as a joke or something the audience is expected to find disgusting, but seeing one example after another makes the problem even more obvious.
Several of the actresses talk about being excited about playing a trans character only to discover that the character dies or turns out to be the monster the audience is expected to hate.
One of the most heartbreaking moments in when Zeke Smith talks about rewatching a movie during his transition that had been his favourite movie only to realize that the ending was a a long stream of non-stop transphobia.
I recommend this documentary both for those who are already interested in a film examining and critiquing the way society- in this case largely US society, but the US is hardly the only country with transphobia- and media reinforce the attitude that one should adhere to a binary version of gender and the gender that corresponds with the biological sex listed on a birth certificate and as one to recommend to anyone who thinks media does not affect how people view themselves.
The documentary is listed as being available on Netflix worldwide, but I don't know if that excludes countries with various anti-LGBTQ laws.
Chapter 138: Baby Steps
This chapter reviews the 2015 film "Baby Steps".
"Baby Steps" is an excellent film about Danny Lee (Barney Cheng), a young professionally successful Taiwanese-American, who is trying to find a surrogate to carry a baby for him and his boyfriend Tate (Michael Adam Hamilton) while navigating a strained relationship with his mother (Ah-Lei Gua).
The film opens with Danny visiting his mother in Taipei, Taiwan celebrating one of her friend's grandkid. When her friends ask Mrs. Lee about grandkids, she stops Danny from saying anything by insisting that he has had a lot of girlfriends. Danny looks annoyed, but stays quiet.
Danny returns to his home in Los Angeles. He and his boyfriend Tate might not technically live together, but it is clear as they celebrate their anniversary that Tate spends most of his time at Danny's.
Back in Taiwan, Mrs. Lee hassles Danny's brother Gary about his girlfriend, is rude to his girlfriend, and after Gary's girlfriend storms out, insists that Gary needs to find a good woman and settle down and get married. During the argument Gary tells her to let him live his life and lets slip that Danny is having a baby. Thinking that Danny has fallen in love with a woman, she flies to Los Angeles.
Once she arrives she immediately starts in her mind "helping" and in his mind sabotaging his attempts at finding an egg donor and surrogate. By western culture standards she might come across as overbearing, but her behavior is within the realm of keeping with traditional cultural values especially as she unexpectedly ended up raising her kids as a single mother. Just as she wanted her Gary to marry and have kids with a woman who has a good education, comes from a good family, and not have any "genetic defects", she wants both the donor and surrogate for Danny's kid to have the same qualifications.
It would have been easy to make her simple the "bad person", but there is an attempt to balance the conflict with the fact that Danny is perhaps too trusting and naive about both the surrogacy process and the realities of being a parent. She hurts several people in her attempt to keep up the lies and presence of Danny and her family being traditionally acceptable. Thankfully, she avoids the overused stereotypical racist "Dragon Lady" stereotype.
One of the film's strengths is the complicated and problematic relationship between Ma, Danny, and Ma's domestic helper Mickey (Love Fang). The position of "foreign workers" (the phase used in the subtitles) in Taiwan was an unexpected addition, but not a bad one. Usually the conflict and the question of who is right and who is wrong is between Danny and Ma, but with Mickey one can question both of them.
Although the story focuses on Danny and his mother, Tate is given more development than in many similar structured stories. In contrast to Danny's mother, his parents were busy with their jobs and people he considers his parents were his neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Lin. This was an interesting and natural way to have Danny and Tate be an interracial couple, but give Tate and better and more personal understanding of Danny's culture. He isn't just learning many of the cultural norms from Danny, he already knew them from his childhood.
Danny and Tate have good chemistry and Tate is believable as the boyfriend who is supportive and compromising, but also has some self-respect.
Although I enjoyed the film, it is made with the assumption that one has some familiarity with the culture clash. If you are only used to western cultures particularly more individualistic western cultures the characters actions might be frustrating or confusing.
The description for the film notes that members of the production team worked on Ang Lee's film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." I checked to see if any of them had worked on Ang Lee's earlier film "The Wedding Banquet" which I reviewed earlier in my LGBTQ films series and some of them did work on them. There were some stylistic production elements that reminded me a bit of the "Wedding Banquet", a film that is almost 20 years old, but, ironically, feels much less dated than Ang Lee's later film "Brokeback Mountain".
Chapter 139: The Watermelon Woman
This chapter reviews a remastered version of the excellent 1996 film "The Watermelon Woman".
I had high expectations for "The Watermelon Woman" and the film surpassed them. The premise is a simple, but intriguing one. Cheryl (Cheryl Dunye) a young black lesbian aspiring filmmaker, is looking for an idea for a film when she comes across a 30's black actress known as "The Watermelon Woman" in a film she "rented" through her job at a video store.
In the 1930's black actors and actresses often weren't listed in the credits and not surprisingly information about them is significantly harder to find than their white counterpart actors and actresses. Cheryl does not allow the challenges to deter her and her search for information on Fae Richards, real name of "The Watermelon Woman", borders on obsession.
Her search is both helped and hurt by her from and co-worker Tamara and love interest Diana. As her search continues she (and the audience) see more and more similarities between Fae and Cheryl.
The film deals heavily with racism both in terms of Fae's and Cheryl's lives. It isn't just overt racism that Cheryle faces, but numerous cases of microagressions. The interactions between Cheryl, Tamara, their boss, and their friends has a realism that emphasizes the importance of having people writing about their own cultures and experiences.
Just as there is a double-standard between sex and other intimate scenes between straight cis and LGBTQ couples, there is often one that tends to play it "safer and tamer" with interracial couples. This film was mercifully free of this double-standard.
The film's one weakness is, unfortunately, a very noticeable one. The film is from 1996, low budget, and although it was remastered the technical quality quality is subpar. Obviously, material from the 1930's is looks even worse on a high-def device.
Cheryl Dunye also directed the film. The film was awarded the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film at the Berlin International Film Festival and Audience Award for Outstanding Narrative Feature at L.A. Outfest.
The film received funding from the US National Endowment of the Arts. Sadly, it was included with the in the list of lesbian and gay themed films that was used by Republicans to challenge the way the National Endowment of the Arts distributed grants and was successful in forcing the NEA to restructure. (Source for information on the contraversy: The Watermelon Film on Wikipedia)
Chapter 140: Drawn This Way
This chapter reviews the short documentary "Drawn This Way".
"Drawn This Way" is a 40 minute documentary about queer characters and queer coding in comics and animation. The documentary covers very early comic when queer coding was allowed if it was only hinted at, the period when it was banned, and in recent years the inclusion of queer characters in comic and animation for kids and those for adults only.
The film alternates between short clips and information and banter between the hosts Andrew Cheng and Cara Connors. The film dedicates much of its time, not surprisingly, to criticizing Disney for its less than stellar history of how it excluded queer character completely or treated queer coded characters badly. The film also spends an amount of time on the DC universe. "My Little Pony", anime, and "The Little Mermaid", are also included. Unfortunately, the clips were so short that if you aren't familiar with the source material and, thus, the context for brief scenes it is sometimes hard to see the queer coding if you don't have the context. The queer coding for Ursula in "The Little Mermaid" is given a full-expansion, but most of the other clips were provided with little or no discussion. (This might have been a copyright issue.)
The film covers "The Seduction of the Innocent", a report given to the US Congress about the "dangers to children" in comic including LGBTQ implied characters (Wonder Woman as a lesbian and Batman and Robin being boyfriends are referred in the film), interracial relationships, and any illegal substances (hilariously read as clips of hallucinating Dumbo are shown). The Hays Code is also briefly addressed.
The documentary, unfortunately, has its weaknesses and ones that can't be justified under copyright laws. The banter feels unnatural at times and relies on stereotypes that are not universally familiar within the LGBTQ community let alone among individuals who are LGBTQ. The feel is relatively unpolished and cheaply produced. This would be less of a problem if it was not for its other weaknesses. This is probably worth watching if you have an interest in queer characters in comics and animation. If I did star ratings I would probably given it 2 1/2 or 3 out five stars.
Chapter 141: Queerama
This chapter reviews the British documentary "Queerama" which features interviews, media clips, and other queer representation over the decades.
Having reviewed a lot of US LGBTQ documentaries recently, it was nice to review a British one. "Queerama" is described as clips of LGBTQ history set to music. In actuality many of the clips had dialogue both from real life interviews and from films and television.
The majority of the film focuses on older LGBTQ history and most of the film is in black and white although it does include a short portion on AIDS and moving into more recent (and positive) LGBTQ history. It does not hide from the challenges faced by people who are LGBTQ, but it is less intense than many documentaries in part because of the music which is often upbeat.
Some of the editing is amusing including short clips that look essentially like gifs edited in a way that makes them more overtly sexual. The documentary strikes a good balance on neither hiding the sexuality in LGBTQ identity and relationships nor making it just about sexuality. Parts definitely fit within erotica, but there are other parts that are focused more on companionship and subtle affection.
As a Sherlock Holmes fan, I was not entirely surprised to see "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" directed by Billy Wilder featured both due to the scene in question (which is a spoiler, but shown without dialogue so watching it won't spoil the film) and Wilder's later comments. I was more surprised to see a Holmes and Watson scene from Rathbone Holmes (Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce). It also surprised me that only the angst scenes in "Maurice" were featured without including happier scenes.
I highly recommend this documentary as the visuals tell the story quite well and the interview clips are good choices. I will note that one woman interviewed believed one could "cure" homosexuality. I should also note that several interviewees had good retorts for homophobic questions.
Chapter 142: Mucho Mucho Amor
This chapter reviews the documentary about astrologer Walter Mercado.
"Mucho Mucho Amor" is a documentary about Walter Mercado, a famous and loved Puerto Rican theatrical astrologer, whose shows aired in dozens of countries before he seemingly disappeared. The documentary's teaser is about finding out what happened to him. Netflix classifies it as an LGBTQ documentary and recommended it to me. I hesitated as I don't "believe" in astrology and it sounded tabloidish, but the brief trailer showed Lin Manuel Miranda and it looked like it might be less intense than some of the films I have watched recently.
The film spends very little time discussing his sexuality and/or gender identity and largely to include quotes of him ducking questions about it, but it is blatantly obvious that he defied traditional gender roles and ones that are sometimes rigidly enforced in Latino cultures. I can understand the sentimental value in the memories of watching a show with a family member or friends. I can understand the pride and inspiration in seeing someone "like you" on television (whether because he is Puerto Rican or because of his mixing of masculine and feminine attributes) when you aren't used to seeing yourself represented. The documentary includes a Puerto Rican quote along the lines of "When you can see something you don't ask questions" in reference to his sexuality and gender identity.
I was not familiar with Mercado before watching the documentary, but I could see his attraction. His readings that are included in the documentary were positive ones and many could be summarized as "believe in yourself and be the best version of yourself". He contributed several interviews to the documentary and the other interviewees generally have a positive view of him (family, former agent, etc). At times it felt like a "how to guide" on how to draw and hold people's attention and affection.
As for fans of Lin Manuel Miranda his segments are short, but sweet. It is clear that his awe of Mercado was genuine.
I am guessing this documentary for better or for worse will draw a stronger reaction for those who were or are fans of him and/or believe in astrology. As an "outsider", I would classify it as an interesting watch if you want something lighter than most LGBTQ films, but not a must-see film. I would love to hear from anyone who is/was a fan of him.
The film is in a combination of English and Spanish. I wasn't following the subtitles closely, but they seemed to be reasonably accurate.
Chapter 143: The Half of It
This chapter reviews the coming of age film "The Half of It".
When I first saw the summary for "The Half of It", I assumed that the (American) football player would be the gay character and the girl, Ellue Chu, helping him would be straight. A girl helping her gay friend and then getting a crush on his friend is a trope. Luckily, I was wrong and the film was much better than I expected.
The film takes place in the northwest and the setting is essentially a character in the film. The cinematography and pacing reminded me more of a British film than a US one. The feel is similar to "God's Own Country", one of my favourite LGBTQ films. It is a quiet film with less dialogue than I expected especially as much of the communicating is done via texts.
Ellie's (Leah Lewis) mother is dead and she has taken to doing her classmates homework in exchange for money to help pay the bills. Her father is barely functioning and it is clear that she has had to grow up too fast and has taken over many of the household responsibilities. A shy football player, Paul (Daniel Diemer), offers to pay her to write letters and text his crush Aster (Alexxis Lemire). Ellie pretending to be Paul and Aster bond over their love of literature and art. Unfortunately, when Paul and Aster go out on a date Paul finds himself struggling to make conversation so Ellie offers to tutor him on literature and art.
The acting is also excellent, especially by Chu, who carries the film. The story seems simple, but also very original. The story is focused on crushes, love, and romances, but ultimately family and friendship are equally important.
A surprising number of scenes take place in a church including a hysterical one involving a confessional. Ellie is a talented musican and despite not believing in God is a musician at the church the characters attend.
There are moments of humour that offset the more melancholy tone of much of the film.
The casualness with which racially charged comments are directed at Ellie has statics to back it up in the real world. The film is written and directed by Alice Wu. It can make a real difference when the writer and director are writing about a culture they understand.
Chapter 144: In My Shoes
The chapter reviews the documentary "In My Shoes".
"In My Shoes" is an excellent if dated documentary about youth with LGBTQ parents. I specify dated because at the time the documentary parts of the United States had marriage equality, but many parts would not have marriage equality for several years. The film was uploaded to YouTube in 2013, but it doesn't state when all the interviews were conducted.
Each section of the documentary focuses on a youth, most of them in their mid-teens, talking about their families. All of them love their families, but they talk about the hostility and bullying many have received from their peers and teachers. As I suspect many of the people reading are aware, even when marriage equality is a reality anti-LGBTQ attitudes and bullying children with LGBTQ parents does not end.
It was nice to see that one of the couples included a trans man especially in an older documentary.
The technical quality of the documentary is subpar, but that doesn't detract from the film.
The documentary can be viewed on YouTube for free and without logging in at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJZak3efDuI .
Chapter 145: The Birthday
This chapter reviews the short film "The Birthday" based on the poem of the same name by Christina Rossetti.
"The Birthday", based on a poem with the same title by Christina Rossetti, is a 16 minute film about two close friends, Ron(Vivian Jung Chang) and May (Yung Ching Chiu). Ron is in love with May, May is aware of Ron's feelings, but does not appear to share them deciding to move to Berlin. This causes Ron to start to spiral into despair.
The film is in Mandarin with English subtitles available. Unfortunately, the subtitles are smaller than normal subtitles and are often placed on gravel between train tracks and other backgrounds that make them hard to read. Fortunately, much of the film does not require subtitles. Also, much of the dialogue is in poetry form and it not really necessary as the you can get the gist without catching every word in the subtitles.
The film is beautifully shot and packs in a lot of emotion for such a short film. Without giving away spoilers it includes a short upsetting scene involving pills. The chemistry between the actresses is good and the viewer can see the longing that May has for her friend. The thought of a separation between them is unbearable.
The film made the Cannes Shortfilm Corner, Frameline Official Selection, Being Queer Film Festival official Selection, German film festivals including Lesboisch Schweule Filmtage Hamberg Official Selection, along with several other selections at various film festivals.
Chapter 146: 50 Years Legal
This chapter reviews the documentary 2017 documentary, "50 Years Legal" celebrating the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales. (The law was extended to Scotland in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982.
"50 Years Legal" is a 2017 documentary celebrating 50 years since male homosexual activity was legalised in the England and Wales under the Sexual Offenses Act 1967 which legalised homosexual acts on the condition they were consensual, the men were over 21, and in private. The law was extended to Scotland by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 and Northern Ireland by the Homosexual Offenses (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 as a result of the European Court of Human Rights case Dudgeon v. United Kingdom.
The documentary features historic clips, but is mostly composed of interviews. The interviewees are primarily people in the entertainment industry, politicians, and activists. Since it is celebrating the legalisation of male homosexuality most of the interviewees are men, but there are women including trans women included. Not surprisingly the politicians willing to be shown on camera are primarily Labour party members.
It should be noted that although male homosexual activity was legalised in a narrow way in 1967, thousands of men were still arrested for "gross indecency". The police would send the younger and best looking officers to the areas where men who were attracted to men hung out in the hopes of getting them to chat them up at which point the men would be arrested. It also remained illegal for men to show affection to other men in a manner that could suggest they were attracted to each other.
The documentary covers both the advances of the 1970's and the setbacks when AIDS hit the UK. Another setback in LGBTQ rights was already starting in 2017, but is not covered. As with virtually all LGBTQ+ documentaries in the UK, Margaret Thatcher's horrid "protect the children" defense of prohibiting any "promotion" of LGBTQ+ acceptance in schools is included.
If you are familiar with LGBTQ history in the UK the general points will not surprise you, but the more people who tell their stories the more depth is given to a subject. Human beings, no matter how much we may want to think we are always logical, are often more moved by stories than statistics.
The interviewees and clips feature those who are very well know such as Sir Jacob Jacobi, Sir Ian McKellen, Peter Tatchell, and Justin Fashanu to those who may not well know outside of the UK.
Although the focus is on male sexuality, there are also brief interviews and clips about lesbians and women's sexuality.
This is an excellent documentary and one I highly recommend especially for those outside of the UK. It is also a relatively uplifting one which is something many people need during our current situation.
Chapter 147: Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson
This chapter reviews the documentary "Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Martha P. Johnson" which is available to view for free on YouTube.
"Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson" is composed of an interview she gave on June 26, 1992 with the executive director and interviewer Larry Mitchell and numerous interview clips with people who knew her including other Stonewall veterans.
The documentary captures the essence of Marsha P. Johnson as a person in a way that few documentaries achieve (and I have watched a lot of biographical documentaries over the years). The events of her life are covered equally well in other documentaries including, "The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson" which I also recommend, but this documentary provides insight and stories that capture who she was as a human being and make it clear why she was often referred to as St. Marsha.
The documentary spends a lot of time explaining and describing how she got the flowers she wore, why they were important to her, and how central they were to her identity and how people related to her. Her friendliness without an agenda and generosity are also covered. She gave people particularly transgender and transvestites both emotional and physical support. She would ask for money or goods, but often immediately give them to other.
The documentary goes into her relationship to her dead father and her religious beliefs which included "covering all bases" by going to religious services for different religions and denominations.
Her interview clips are largely uplifting, but she does not hide the fact that she faced a lot of hostility and harassment from some people including numerous unfair arrests.
Obviously, the technical quality of the interview and some of the older clips is poor due to the technology available at the time especially for low-budget filmmaking, but it does not negatively impact the film.
At the time of the documentary the cause of her death was unproven. The documentary, "The Death and Life of Martha P. Johnson" covers the investigation into her death so a few minutes at the very end are outdated.
The documentary can be viewed for free and without logging in thanks to the Frameline YouTube channel at https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/Bo0nYv9QIj4
Chapter 148: Envisioning Justice
This chapter reviews the short documentary, "Envisioning Justice".
"Envisioning Justice" is a documentary about trans activist Pauline Park. The documentary is equally focused as her identity as a trans woman and as a Korean-American.
She and her twin brother Mark were raised by a German-American family in Milwaukee. and she did not meet a Korean-American adult until she was an adult. Her mother (adopted) mother worked as a waitress in a Chinese restaurant where they would eat once a year. It was one of the few times she saw an Asian-American adult. As a result she feels she is too Korean for American society and not Korean enough for the Korean-American community,
Her brother Mark is gay and came out shortly after she came out. She initially identified as gay rather than trans because gender identity was not something that was openly discussed. She started experimenting with wearing the clothes that fit her "true self" until that became how she always presented herself. In contrast to many trans people she did not take hormones or have surgery as she doesn't feel she needs them to be a woman.
The documentary is a combination of her stage work narrating her life, interviews with her, and interviews with her brother Mark and friends. One of the things that is emphasized is how effective she is an a trans advocate both within the LGBTQ+ community and within the larger US society.
The documentary can be viewed for free on YouTube without logging on the Frameline website at https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/sYyesXze6k0 .
Chapter 149: Lingua Franca
This chapter reviews the film "Lingua Franca".
"Lingua Franca" tells the story of an undocumented Filipino immigrant, Olivia, who works for an older woman who is no longer able to care for herself and ends up starting a relationship with the woman's grandson Alex. Olivia is transgender, but that is not the focus of the film. Instead the film focuses largely on her immigration status and how it affects her. I still think it belongs in the LGBTQ films series because having a trans character who is not completely defined by being trans is refreshing.
The basic story is good and the film does have a fresh feel to it. The acting is also good. People who are LGBTQ are often particularly vulnerable under western countries' immigration processes and it was good to see a film that focused on it. The characters are neither desexualized nor is their sexuality exploited for the viewer's pleasure. For those who are not already familiar with the realities of how many Filipinos work abroad to send money home to their families that element will may elicit the most emotional response.
The film has some pacing problems with many of the earlier portions moving at a glacial pace. Olivia held my attention and her friendship with fellow a fellow transwoman Trixie is sweet. Although it is classified as a romance ultimately it is her full story. Alex is presented as a nice person, but one who is in desperate need of getting his life together. It is possible to make such a character appealing, but it was difficult to warm up to Alex as his only appealing quality seemed to be that he liked Olivia.
The story is a relatively dark one and that is reflected in the lighting. Unfortunately, at times the lighting was so dark that I was having to strain my eyes to see what was going on. Otherwise the location and set choices fit the story.
This is the type of story that needs to be told. I have seen it told with gay characters, but it has not been told as often with a trans character.
Chapter 150: Queer Son
This chapter reviews the documentary "Queer Son".
Queer Son is a documentary focused primarily on parents in the New York chapter of PFLAG telling their stories about how they relate or related to their queer sons. A few of the queer sons are interviewed briefly, but most of the documentary is focused on the parents, primarily mothers. Despite the fact that most of the talking is done by heterosexuals it fits within LGBTQ+ films as members of the LGBTQ+ community all have parents (or parental figures) who did or did not (and do or do not) accept them.
The documentary was surprisingly honest with many of the parents admitting their ignorance and in a couple of cases initial rejection of having an LGBTQ child. Some of the parents come across as unlikeable in the early interviews although they all came to accept their LGBTQ children and, obviously, agreed to be part of the documentary. There are also discussions with parents talking about how their cultures view homosexuality and how their churches view homosexuality.
One homophobic "Christian" family is interviewed. They claimed that they would raise their daughter in such a way that she wouldn't be a lesbian. Oddly, they site the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights in defending their homophobia. I checked and confirmed that none of these documents mention homosexuality, heterosexuality, or anything indicating sexual orientation.
The documentary is several years old, but it, unfortunately, remains relevant as many parents are still not initially accepting of their children being LGBTQ+.
The documentary can be viewed for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/zQO86qZflTk
Chapter 151: Almost Love [Sell By]
This chapter reviews the film that is alternately titled as either "Almost Love" or "Sell By".
"Almost Love" is a romcom about a group of New York friends in their thirties dealing with career issues and relationship drama. Adam (Scott Evans) is a painter, who earns money by painting paintings that are signed by the woman who pays him. He and his boyfriend Marklin (Augustus Prew) are having problems in their relationship. Cammy (Michelle Buteau) has discovered that the Henry (Colin Donnell), the man she has been sleeping with, is homeless and freaks out. Haley (Zoe Chao) is in an unhealthy relationship with Henry, a young man for whom she is writing university admission essays. Adam's close friend Elizabeth (Kate Walsh) is having her own problems with Damon (Chaz Lamar Shepherd)
In contrast to the traditional trope of a gay character or gay couple being the used for humour and the straight couple(s) being taken seriously, Adam's and Marklin's relationship is the healthiest (although it still has problems) and is taken seriously in contrast to the women's relationships which rely largely on humour. Although the exact details of the women's relationship dramas are relatively fresh, they still have a formulaic feeling. Adam's and Marklin's relationship problems aren't completely original, but they are naturally done and still have a freshness to them. Both actors did a good job of making the relationship believable and it was nice to see a drama in a gay relationship that isn't about homophobia (external or internalized). It is drama in a relationship that happens to be between two men.
Buteau gave a great performance and her storyline was the most interesting and entertaining of the three women. She made sometimes ridiculous situations believable. The "ha ha ha he is homeless" jokes got old and felt a bit tasteless, but the film managed to stay within the realm of romcom believability. Had I known how Haley's relationship would be shown I might have skipped the film. The film did acknowledge the unhealthy nature of it, but I couldn't find any humour in it.
On a non-romance note, Adam is struggling with his career choice to paint pictures that are signed with another person's name. Elizabeth strongly encourages him to expect better of himself and get credit for his work. Her cheerleader attitude is helpful for his career rut, but I found it irritating when it came to her romantic advice for him. Her relationship with Damon was given so little screen time that I had trouble having any emotional investment in what happened between them.
"Almost Love" is neither a great film nor a bad one. Compared to a lot of LGBTQ films it is relatively light viewing. If you want a lighter film with some good performances and a reversal of how gay versus straight relationships are often treated in media, I recommend it.
The film is also listed "Sell By" on IMDB.
Chapter 152: Love, Ltd
This chapter reviews the short film "Love Ltd" about a brother and sister coming out to their family at a dinner party.
Helen (Michelle Ingkavet) and her brother Victor (Emil Lin) decide to come out to their parents during a dinner party. Once everyone has settled down for dinner Angela who is in a relationship with Angela, a friend who her mother describes as "like family", starts trying to make her announcement, but is continuously interrupted by her mother (Lynne Bolen) who keeps asking nosy questions about people's social life. During the argument Victor comes out and their mother does not take it well. Helen points out that their mother has gay friends, but her mother explains that it is different because they are friends rather than family. It is clear that the dinner party is not going to be as smooth as anyone planned.
The short film covers a lot material for a short film. The film is low budget and several years old so it looks a bit grainy at times on a high-def device. Fortunately, the story does not require a polished look and the almost old school home video feel adds to the intimacy. It is always nice to see a POCs not only in front of the camera, but behind the camera as it adds authenticity to the story.
The film can be viewed for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/eyGmuXhosXA
Chapter 153: Saving Face
This chapter reviews the excellent Alice Wu film "Saving Face".
"Saving Face" is an excellent film written and directed by Alice Wu. It is more adult than her more recent film "The Half of It" and in some ways an even stronger story.
Dr. Wilhelmina "Wil" Pang (Michelle Krusiec) is a respected doctor, but her mother despairs about her not dressing feminine enough and her lack of a boyfriend leading her mother to match her up with every Chinese-American man she can find who is from a "good" family. Wil is a lesbian and does not even attempt to hide her annoyance at her mother's matchmaking attempts particularly when she finds herself attracted to Vivian (Lynn Chen), a dancer, the daughter of one of mothers in her mother's group of friends.
Wil's life becomes even more complicated when she returns home from work to find her mother sitting on her doorstep having been kicked out by Wil's grandfather for having gotten pregnant without being married. Her mother refuses to tell anyone the identity of the father. Wil tries to help her mother by setting her up on dates, but all of them end in disaster.
Meanwhile Wil's and Vivian's relationship progresses, but becomes strained because of Wil's refusal to acknowledge Vivian as her girlfriend in public. Vivian is has her own problems with her desire to do modern dance and her parents pressuring her to do the ballet, a more traditional form of dance.
The conflicts between traditional Chinese values and the lives many of the characters live is realistic and seamlessly integrated into the story. The chemistry between Wil and Vivian is excellent. You can easily feel the attraction and at times the frustration between them. The sex scenes are realistic and non-exploitative while still being sexy.
Although the film focuses heavily on romance, the characters also have their own personal story arcs.
The film really shows how complicated, contradictory, and difficult intersection can be when you feel you are being asked to choose between two fundamental sides of yourself. It also shows the importance of a filmmaker who understands the sexual orientation and culture of the characters and gets the "little things" right. It also shows how someone who is familiar with a culture can navigate stereotypes not by simply doing the opposite or relying on them, but by knowing how to use them and subvert them.
Wil's primary source of support through all the drama in her life is her neighbor Jay (Ato Essandoh), a young black man, who is not only there for her, but also willing to be a source of support for her mother. Her mother's anti-black racism is shown in a way that the film condemns it, but her mother's comments are horrible and I wanted to give viewers advanced warning.
There are clips throughout the credits so don't stop watching as soon as the credits start.
The film is in English and Mandarin (with subtitles).
The soundtrack is good, but never overpowers the story. The cinematography and costumes fit the story. This film definitely deserves a spot on a best lesbians films list and for that matter on a general great films list. I highly recommend it.
I may also do a spoiler review as several of my reasons for giving it such positive reviews involve spoilers.
Chapter 154: State of Pride
This chapter reviews the documentary "State of Pride".
"State of Pride" is one of the more optimistic LGBTQ documentaries I have watched for this LGBTQ films series. This is not to say it is free of sad stories nor of the challenges people who are LGBTQ have to deal with and the continuing fight for equality. It is also one of the rare documentaries about the community in general that doesn't either ignore or minimize the contributions of LGBTQ people of colour in LGBTQ history nor focus primarily on the white, maybe raised Christian, but not religious, and US and/or Europeancentric LGBTQ experience.
The documentary explores what LGBTQ Pride means to people currently living in the US including those in small towns in the south and mid-west and San Francisco.
There is a discussion of whether or not there should be one Pride for everyone who is LGBTQ, separate Pride events (Black Pride, Trans Pride), or both types of celebrations.
During the San Francisco section there is a in-depth interview with an Arab and Muslim gay man and the contrast between his experiences in San Francisco versus his earlier experiences in the Middle East. He also talks about his complicated feelings about embracing pride celebrations when so many people not only can't celebrate pride, but live in constant fear of violence and death.
I have watched documentaries that cover the challenges faced by Evangelical Christians and Catholics who are LGBTQ, but I think this is the first time I have seen an in-depth look at the challenges faced by Mormons who were raised LGBTQ and have family members that are still part of the church.
It was nice to see that people of colour, particularly blacks, without feeling like tokenism. There was a segment on black drag queens and trans women talking about the challenges they face and the murders of so many of their fellow trans women of colour. There were also interviews with black members of the community who had different experiences including being a leader in the San Francisco LGBTQ Pride Weekend. The San Francisco segment also mentioned the Compton Cafeteria Riots that occurred years before Stonewall.
The documentary is a YouTube original and can be viewed for free at https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/_J48BIRaG7A
Chapter 155: Saturday Church
This chapter reviews the 2017 film "Saturday Church" about a teenager who finds support in an otherwise hostile environment in the Ballroom scene.
"Saturday Church" tells the story of a 14 year old boy, Ulysses (Luka Kain), who finds refuse in the Ballroom Scene from the bullying he endures at school and the hostility from his Aunt Rose (Regina Taylor) at home. Ulysses father's recent death results in his conservative and very religiously Christian Aunt Rose taking care of him and his younger brother while his mother Amara (Margot Bingham) is working. Aunt Rose chastises him, and even turns violent towards him, to "cure" him of behavior that she does not consider appropriately masculine including not sufficiently asserting his authority over his 8 year old brother and wearing his mother's shoes arguing that his mother is a failure for allowing him to be himself. His younger brother is happy to be the "good kid" for Aunt Rose.
Ulysses momentarily escapes his situation by picturing himself in music video sequences, a tendency that increases once he discovers his love of vogueing.
While hanging out "alone" on the pier one night he listens to several LGBTQ people sparring with each other. They notice his interest and Ebony (Mj Rodriguez) invites him to "Saturday Church". He hesitates, but decides to join them. "Saturday Church" turns out to be a place for for young LGBTQ people to eat, dance, sing, and participate in Ballroom drag performances. He finds friends who understand him and a potential love interest in one of the group, Raymond (Marquis Rodriguez). Church and Christianity are shown as both oppressive in Aunt Rose's homophobia and as a positive as the "Saturday Church" name is because it is actually a church reaching out to help LGBTQ youth.
The film does not hide from showing the reality and challenges of being LGBTQ, particularly if one isn't gender conforming in the way they present themselves. There is a sexual scene that isn't quite non-con, but is definitely uncomfortable to watch especially considering his age. Sadly, it is a reality that some LGBTQ have to deal with in real life. The film has some great performances and the actors have the appropriate chemistry. Kain's performance. The family dynamics of Ulysses' family are specifically African-American and an example of blacks writing about their own culture.
Despite my interest in ballroom this is a film I was hesitant about watching, but it is one I conditionally recommend for the reason stated in the previous paragraph.
According to the end of the film "Saturday Church" really does exist as a support group for LGBTQ youth. The film was written by Luka Kain, Margot Bingham, and Regina Taylor.
Chapter 156: Carlos Alvarez: Playing with Fire
This chapter reviews the documentary, "Carlos Alvarez: Playing with Fire" about Chicano artist and activist Carlos Alvarez.
Carlos Alvarez was a Chicano artist, singer, and activist. His paintings and illustrations were in contrast to the accepted styles in the 1960's and 1970's. In my search for LGBTQ+ films finding films about Latinos/Chicanos/Hispanics has proved to be challenging and I welcome any suggestions for other films.
Alvarez early work was influenced by Walt Disney. The early parts of the documentary focus exclusively on his work as an artist with the main biographical facts being that he was from Mexico and came to the US and that he is dead. The documentary is largely interviews and archival footage inspired with samples of his work. There is a small amount of material putting various aspects of his life in historical context. It is accessible to those who are unfamiliar with his work.
As he grew older his work became not only more mature, but adult oriented. The film includes quite a bit of both artistic nudity and video nudity. Alvarez struggled with his sexuality as attitudes in the US in the 1960's were incredibly homophobic and the free love movement didn't always welcome people who were LGBTQ. He states in one audio clip that he is attracted to men and women. He frequented bathhouses. Some of his work shows two men together with devilish features no doubt a reflection of internalized homophobia. The "devil" appears in a lot in his work in general, but the documentary focused on those paintings during the section on his sexuality. His sexuality was not openly discussed during his time in New York, but neither was it hidden.
He returned to Los Angeles where he continued to be politically active including embracing communism. He saw art as a way of expressing his politics and activism.
The documentary finds a good balance between his art and activism. The documentary has a few pacing issues and in contrast to most films with pacing issues the problems are most noticeable during the later parts of the film. One of my biggest criticism is the treatment of his sexuality. There is a definite double-standard between how his attraction to women and relationships with them is portrayed compared to his attraction and relationships to men with the film clearly favouring his attraction to women. In that regard it reminded me of "Bohemian Rhapsody" although the problem was not nearly as bad. (Also since I am far less familiar with Carlos Alvarez than Freddy Mercury.) The documentary is primary sources, but they chose to include clips belittling his attraction to men and treating it as confusion.
The documentary includes references to childhood sexual abuse, addiction, and mental health including less enlightened mental health treatments.
Chapter 157: The Boys in the Band
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the 2020 film "The Boys in the Band".
"The Boys in the Band" (2020) is a film I watched out of a sense of obligation and familiarity with the talent of several cast members. Although I didn't know the exact story, I knew the characters had a lot of internalized homophobia and that the play and 1970 film have been criticized for showing gay men as miserable and self-loathing. To my pleasant surprise there seemed to be a subversive quality to the film. The script fit what I expected, but the performances gave it an added dimension.
A party gone wrong is a common premise for a film. Making a film about a birthday party that includes far more drama than expected plays differently when it a group of homosexual men and the dramas are about their sexuality and love interests. Michael (Jim Parson) hosts a birthday party for Harold (Zachary Quinto), a "friend" with whom he engages in a game of intellectual and emotional chess.
Michael has a boyfriend Donald (Matt Bomer) and during the first few minutes of his introduction seems comfortable being homosexual although not comfortable with aging nor being in debt. When Michael's friend from university Alan (Brian Hutchison) calls him sounding uncharacteristically distressed the audience quickly learns that Michael came out after university and continues to present a straight image with his university friends. Michael grudgingly invites Alan over for drinks, but immediately goes into a panic and asking his friends at the party which now includes Hank (Tuc Watkins) and Larry (Andew Rannells), a couple who is having problems in their relationship, Emory (Robin de Jesus), Cowboy (Charlie Carver), and Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington) to appear straight in front of his friend, something they do not wish to do particularly the flamboyant Emory who revels in the idea of making a heterosexual uncomfortable. Alan changes his mind and Michael starts to relax, but once the party is in full swing Alan stops by and Michael is unable to hide the fact he and his friends are all gay.
Michael takes Alan to his bedroom and tries to get him to tell him what it is that he urgently wanted to discuss, but Alan refuses to tell him. The party quickly starts spiraling out of Michael's (and everyone's) control.
The film sets up Harold with his valuing of the soul versus physical beauty and the fact isn't intentionally needling his friends to be the more sympathetic one and Michael as the villain, but Harold's attitude of superiority compared to the rest of the group and calmness as others suffered made the chess game between them feel more equal. In the end all the characters have their strengths and weaknesses (and viewers will no doubt disagree about whether some attributes are strengths or weaknesses).
The acting and chemistry between the actors are excellent, The repartee is partly well played. You really feel as if you are watching a group of friends and couples most of whom have known each other for a long time. The production values are what they need to be for the story. At times the delivery of lines and body language of the actors makes the homophobic (coming from internalized homophobia except for maybe Alan) makes it easier to watch than one would expect if you only saw the script (see End Note). This makes sense in that it is made for a 2020 audience and things have changed over the decades. I felt the change worked, but for some, particularly those who lived through the time when the play was originally set might find it lessens the impact. The racist dialogue although in character and "a reflection of the time period" still grated on me and there were times when the homophobia got to me.
I try not to let "real life" knowledge of the actors and production affect how I view a film, but it is possible that the fact that the actors are gay in real life affected my view of the film on a subconscious level.
I wrote "with the possible exception of Alan" because it is clear that the other characters are gay from their introductions. Alan is introduced as being straight.
Chapter 158: A New York Christmas Wedding
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the 2020 Christmas themed film "A New York Christmas Wedding".
"A New York Christmas Wedding" was much better than I expected. Christmas films have a reputation for being cheesy and although this one had a standard Christmas theme plot- I don't generally watch Christmas movies, but I have seen numerous trailers- it also had a surprising amount of heart and more happiness than I expected.
The film opens with Jenny and her fiancé David looking like a classic cute couple. We see Jenny at her job assuring a dog that everything will be fine. Then the dog stops breathing. Jenny questions why his owner wasn't there for his last moments and it is clear that she is very upset. She is told to go home and despite her protests finally concedes. She wants to put off dinner with the in-laws, but come dinner and she is seated at the table with them. The father seems decent, but the mother has taken over the wedding planning and makes several passive aggressive comments about Jenny until Jenny goes for a walk. We know from flashbacks that Christmas time holds bad memories for her.
During her walk she sees a man on a bicycle get hit and rushes over to him. He should be dead, but does not appear to even be bruised. She insists on walking with him to make sure he doesn't has a concussion and he convinces her to talk about why this time is so hard for her. He then assures her that by morning all her questions will be answered.
She goes to sleep next to David, but wakes up in her old neighborhood with her best friend Gabby who died 20 years earlier shoving clothes at her and telling her it is her turn to walk their dog. She is engaged, but to Gabby rather than David. While walking the dog she sees the same man who was hit the night before. Understanding she is confused about what is going on, confronts him, and doesn't believe his explanation that he is an angel and she has 48 hours in this alternate reality in which Gabby and her father are both alive. She insists that she be taken back to "reality" even after being warned things will be different. After finding out how different it is she accepts that she is "stuck" in this reality. Slowly she starts to adjust to it and after some very awkward moments becomes more and more comfortable with her and Gabby being engaged.
The film has a number of strengths. She is allowed to love David and Gabby. Whether she gets to choose and who she will choose is a spoiler, but she is realistically shown to be attracted to both men and women. You can feel the fact that no matter how comfortable her "real" life may appear to societal standards she is broken by the loss of people close to her. The alternate reality has much to tempt her and yet she still feels she belongs in "reality". The relationship between Jenny and Gabby is one of love, friendship, and sex and never feels exploited for the male gaze. It is also nice to see another wlw film that features an interracial couple.
The Catholic Church and particularly their priest plays a surprisingly large role in the story. Interestingly in our reality the church and the people in it are shown in both an oppressive role and a positive one. In the alternate reality everything is better for Jenny, but the church is still both a source of pain and joy. The alternate universe has some minor things that are different than in our world- and not just about sexuality, but could be jarring for someone who has been to Mass anytime in the last few decades.
The most polarizing element of the film- and one where I could understand arguments on multiple sides- is a spoiler, but I suspect it may be a love it or hate it for people who have lost someone close to them especially recently. I recommend this film, but could also understand how that element could destroy it for some viewers.
Chapter 159: Monsoon (2019)
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the excellent 2019 film "Monsoon".
I was excited about "Monsoon" from the first time I heard about it and it surpassed my expectations. It is not only a good story, but a beautiful film with each department doing their job in serving the story.
The film opens with Kit (Henry Golding) returning to Vietnam for the first time since his family left as refugees when he was six years old. He is clearly out of place and I loved the choice of not subtitling the Vietnamese that Kit doesn't understand giving audience members who do not know Vietnamese the same vaguely lost feeling that Kit has in these scenes. He sees his childhood friend Lee (David Tran) and friend's mother and while their meeting is clearly something everyone enjoys, it is clear that there is also tension. Their lives have taken such different paths that it is clear it will take time and conversations to bridge the gaps. Lee thanks Kit for the gifts, but it is clear that there is also tension and a feeling of inequality on the part of Lee and his mother. Much of the heart of the film comes from their attempts that regaining their friendship.
The story unfolds in layers with each piece of Kit's questions and the audience being slowly answered. At times it may feel like the questions take too long to answer, but there is a realism in the time it takes for Kit to tell us his story and for Kit to learn the parts of his story that his parents never told him. It fits the quiet tone of the film with surprisingly little dialogue and quiet voices with the main noises being that of traffic and trains. One of the questions I had was why he was raised in England instead of Australia, US, or other countries were most refugees from Vietnam ended up. The answer is brilliantly delivered. His regret at not asking and demanding answers from his parents before their deaths is clear. In London he may be seen as Vietnamese, but it is clear that in Vietnam he is very much an outsider.
Kit's sexuality is not told to the audience, but rather shown as he hooks up with men and tentatively explores the possibility of a relationship with Lewis (Parker Sawyer), an American clothing designer who is initially introduced as being in Vietnam to "exploit cheap labour" or "contribute to their growing economy" depending on one's perspective. Like Kit, Lewis has his own unspoken history and is potentially a good match for Kit with the chance of equality in the relationship. Originally the character of Lewis was intended to be white, but making the character black was a smart choice for many reasons. Storywise it meant talking about the Vietnam was from an African-American perspective which has not been given air time as much as the perspective of whites in the US. There is, unfortunately, a lot of anti-black racism in many Asian and Asian immigrant in western countries communities and having a relationship between an Asian man and a black man is wonderful to see on-screen.
He also strikes up a friendship with Linh (Molly Harris), a tour guide whose family makes Lotus tea.
There are nice "little touches" such as a French man on the train assuming that he doesn't know or barely knows English by speaking extra loudly and slowly.
I know Golding addressed being a straight man playing a gay man, but going into the film I did wonder why they couldn't cast a Vietnamese actor. Obviously, the practical money-driven answer is Golding's starring role in "Crazy Rich Asians. One of the privileges "white" actors have is that an actor who is Irish can play a Russian character. An actor that is English can play an Italian character. It is hard enough for Asian actors to make a living at acting because so few parts are open to them. The Henry Golding I saw in "Crazy Rich Asians" did not look like he would be convincing as Vietnamese. The performance, hair and make-up made it work, but I can understand anyone who had trouble with the casting choice.
The film was written and directed by Hong Khaou, who previously made "Lilting" a film I plan to review at some point. He is Cambodian rather than Vietnamese and the countries have not always had the smoothest relationship. He intentionally tried to distance himself from the film, but admits that some autobiographical elements are in the film.
Chapter 160: Seoul to Soul
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the documentary "Seoul to Soul" about a gay Korean-American and his journey towards being proud of himself and his identity.
"Seoul to Soul" is a documentary about a Korean-American, Wade, who is getting his life together. Wade was born in Seoul, Korea, but abandoned by his parents. Six months later he was adopted by a white Morman couple who, according to him, tried to be good parents, but their Morman beliefs became a problem when he realized he was gay. Seeing the pain he was causing his mother, he had his father drop him off in San Diego with $200 in his pocket.
The documentary tells his story about the prejudices he has faced as an Asian gay man and the choices he made as a result. It is critical of both Mormanism and the LGBTQ community's racism. It is a personal story. The production values are low and the technical quality (color, resolution, etc) are subpar, but the important part is the very personal story that is ultimately one of hope.
I recommend this film and particularly to those who have struggled with addiction or are close to people who struggle with addiction. He doesn't sugar-coated it nor his recovery and the challenges or act as if recovery means "everything is perfect now". The 18 minute documentary is available for free on YouTube https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/I1gkBHsJyYo
Chapter 161: Tracks
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the short film "Tracks".
For the first half of the film, I thought that the title tracks referred to music tracks, but railroad tracks are also a recurring theme in the film. Julie (Tasha Villard) has a difficult family life that is made harder by her mother's (Kemba Gossier) attitude towards homosexuality. She has learned to put on a tough exterior and her body language and attitude are of someone in full self-protection mode. I contrast Tasha (Erica Burns) is outgoing and more comfortable with her sexuality although to around her grandmother (Maryel Epps) who is usually shown as angry and yelling.
As the two become closer they start to form a real connection, but it wouldn't be a film is everything was immediately happily ever after. Not surprisingly, the challenges to their relationship come from outside forces- their families and general attitudes towards lesbian relationships.
With the exception of one minor character, whose whiteness stands out and marks her as an outsider in the culture, the cast is all black. The film does not try to tone down cultural norms to make it comfortable viewing for non-blacks nor does it seek to portray the black community as filled with fully virtuous people.
It is an older low-budget film and the technical quality is subpar, but that doesn't affect the telling of the story. The ending surprised me not because the story didn't set it up fairly, but because it was so different from the other films I have found on the Frameline YouTube channel. As with many of the films on the Frameline channel it was explicit at times although the lighting issues meant that you don't actually see that much.
I recommend this half hour film. It ca be viewed for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/5eJkpSdwJYk
Chapter 162: Your Name Engraved Herein
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the excellent Chinese film "Your Name Engraved Herein".
"Your Name Engraved Herein" is an excellent Taiwanese film, but more intense than I expected. The intensity makes sense for a story about identity and first love set against the backdrop of political changes and the excellent acting helps carry the story. The characters are allowed to be complex and change in unexpected ways.
The main character Chang Jia-han, also referred to as A-han, (Edward Chen) has an intense homoerotic friendship that clearly crosses the line from best friends to boyfriends with his fellow student Wang Po Te (Jing-Hua Tseng), usually referred to as Birdy. Birdy is more social and outgoing. He seems aware of his feelings for A-han, but his desire for acceptance and ability to pass as straight lead him to give into the pressure to have a girlfriend and be "acceptable". A-han is more reflective and contained, Chen did some brilliant non-verbal acting, but often chooses not to pass as straight even when the school goes co-ed and the band teacher allows both boys and girls to be in the same class.
Stories set in schools often have the "inspirational teacher" and Father Oliver (Fabio Grangeon), the band instructor fills that role. At first I was concerned he might fall into a white savior role, but his role is quite complex and his backstory explains his sometimes contradictory attitudes and advise to A-han. I appreciated that the film didn't make their relationship sexual, but more of an adult helping a student with whom he had a lot in common with as a young man.
The film spends a surprising amount of time allowing A-han's and Birdy's relationship to grow and for them to be mostly happy together before the drama between them begins. When the drama begins it because intense with violence coming both from those around them and between them. It is clear to the audience why it isn't safe for them to be together or be honest. At first his girlfriend Wu Ruo-fei, usually referred to as Ban-Ban (Mimi Shao), seemed like an annoying plot device, but we get to see how the situation ends up affecting her.
The film has more sex and discrete nudity than I expected considering how tame Taiwanese and films that want distribution in many East Asian countries have to be to get around censors.
Unfortunately, a lot of the film's strengths are spoilers, including a character choice that I thought was genius and is something rarely shown in queer cinema. "Your Name Engraved Herein" is an excellent film, but an intense one with violence and a some sexual scenes that are uncomfortable to watch. I am not surprised that it has been nominated for and won several awards.
Chapter 163: Tears of the Goddess
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the short film, "Tears of the Goddess".
"Tears of the Goddess" is a fantasy film about a young woman remembering a forbidden relationship that she had during the Cultural Revolution in China as she goes to pay respects to her mother. Most of the films takes place near Luga Lake, which according to legend is filled with the tears of the Ge Lamu goddess and the lac is also known as the lake of love.
The main character wears western style clothes during both the real life and fantasy sequences, but her partner wears a traditional and formal Chinese clothes and hair style. The film has almost no dialogue with the soundtrack being composed of music and the sound of rushing water. As the title suggests it is a sad film and one that includes violence and other upsetting topics. The technical quality of the film has not stood the test of time, but it is clear that the crew did their jobs well and would have been a beautifully shot film with more recent camera equipment.
The film has its merits, but I wouldn't recommend it to those who are easily triggered.
The film can be watched for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ9xibAv9S0 .
Chapter 164: Wish You
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the sweet Korean romcom "Wish You".
"Wish You" is a sweet and uplifting romcom about a singer and musician Yoon Sang Yi (Sang Lee) who finds himself serving as a recording studio guardian to another talented singer and musician Kang In Soo (Kang In-Soo). The situation becomes complicated when his feelings for In Soo conflict with his job as a studio representative. It is a type of film that the LGBTQ community has been denied until recently.
Yoon Sang Yi, whose life revolves around music, is walking when he hears Kang In Soo performing his music. It is clear that he is impressed. In Soo's best friend Choi Min Seong (Baek Seo-Bin) not only is clear devoted to his well-being, but shows his support by uploading his music to YouTube. Yoon Sang Yi watches his videos on YouTube and immediately becomes a fan to the amusement of his co-workers.
As with most romcoms the film occasionally stretches believability with tropes that rarely happen in real life such as the main character getting a chance to share rooms with his crush favourite singer, but fantasy has its place especially in dark times. The spectre of homophobia always lingers in the background as the studio staff discuss the need for marketing him, but does not have the same oppressive or violent presence as most LGBTQ films.
The film had far less angst than I expected. Having watched some very angsty films recently, it was a breathe of fresh air. Unfortunately, the angst felt a bit manipulative rather than organic. The main challenge for most of the film is whether Sang Yi will get past his awkwardness. The only warning I could give this film is if you have problems with second-hand embarrassment you might find yourself cringing during some of the early scenes. This a great film to watch after a stressful day or anytime you just want to relax.
The production values are good. Outside of the music they do not really draw attention to themselves, but they serve the story. The music draws attention to itself, but since it is a film about two men connecting over their love of music that is to be expected.
I recommend this film for some sweet LGBTQ light-hearted fun.
"Wish You" is a Korean film with English subtitles available and depending on where you live it might be available on Netflix. I get the impression that some of the subtitles might miss some of the subtleties and would love to hear from anyone who is fluent and has seen the film. The subtitles list the character as "Kang In Su", but IMDB lists it as "Kang In-Soo".
Chapter 165: The One You Never Forget
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the short film, "The One You Never Forget".
This film is a brilliant example of telling a good story and making the audience care about the characters in a very short amount of time. The film opens with parents greeting their seemingly moody son before he gets ready for a school dance. The parents discuss their own memories of dances before the mother leaves after ordering the father to get a picture of their son and the girl he is bring as his date. Of course his date isn't a girl.
What follows is a believable story about family. It is still rare to see these stories and even more rare to see it told about a black family. I highly recommend this film. It can be viewed for free on Vimeo and is the same quality in terms of acting, production, and story as films on the paid streaming services.
It can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/288610484
Chapter 166: Kapaemahu
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the exceptional animated film, "Kapaemahu" that tells a Native Hawaiian story in its original form after it was supressed for centuries about four visitors from Tahiti who were neither male nor female, but both male and female and brought the gifts of healing to the people of Hawaii.
"Kapaemahu" is an exceptional award-winning animated short film that I highly recommend particularly since the history and culture of Native Hawaiians continues to be suppressed and misrepresented when it is told to make it more "acceptable" to western audiences.
The documentary tells the story of four visitors who where neither male nor female, but a combination of both and bought their healing skills fo Tahiti to people of Hawaii. It covers a lot of material for such a short film and has a very polished and truthful feel to it. The choice to make it animated really serves the story and adds to the emotions impact.
Not only should the story be told, but the animation and every technical part of the film is excellent. The narration is in Kapaemahu, an ancient Hawaiian dialect, with English subtitles available. The chanting is also traditional chants. If you click on the distributor's page you can watch behind-the-scenes material including additional information about Mahu and the suppression of Hawaiian's language and culture and how such stories are viewed versus how they are viewed in Western cultures.
The film is narrated by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu whose life story as a Mahu is told in a film I previously reviewed, "Kuma Hina".
The fim can be viewed for free on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/channels/lgbtqvoices/502313188
Chapter 167: My Neighbor, Miguel
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the biographical film, "My Neighbor, Miguel".
"My Neighbor Miguel" is an excellent short documentary about 72 year old San Francisco artist Miguel-e Gutierez Ranzi. The documentary covers both his artwork and personal stories particularly the ones focused on the darkest days of the AIDS crisis. It does not hide from the pain of his experiences, but he is a surprisingly happy person although maybe that is partly because he doesn't know why he is still alive decades after testing positive for HIV. It is rare to find happy LGBTQ films and even more rare to find ones that feature anyone over 30 let alone over 70. There was a surprising amount of archival footage and archival footage that of drag events that I had not seen before. One of his favourite forms of art is designing drag attire and accessories.
Please note that some of his artwork and the footage is explicit for those who have concerns about their surroundings when viewing films.
I highly recommend this documentary.
The 13 minute documentary can be viewed for free on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/channels/lgbtqvoices/472722698 .
Chapter 168: Pride (Yann Horowitz)
Chapter by astronbookfilms (galaxyture)
This chapter reviews the short film,"Pride", about (white) South African skateboarder Yann Horowitz.
There are a number of films titled "Pride". This one is about Yann Horowitz, a (white) South African skateboarder who kissed his boyfriend in his excitement after winning the Vans Park Series African Continental Championships in 2018. Skateboarding like many sports can be very homophobic. I realized that he was gay when he was 10 years old and he does discuss his sexuality and LGBTQ rights in South Africa, but more screen time is given to his life as a skateboarder.
It is rare to find sports related LGBTQ films and particularly documentaries and this one is worth watching. The only real negative was some of the fancy camera, which made some sense for the skateboarding clips, got to be a bit distracting. The style reminds me a bit of a music video and for a significant portion of the film there is no dialogue. It straddles the line of showcasing his muscular physical appearance without feeling completely exploitative. He is also clearly comfortable and his skateboarding skills are undeniable.