By Jeff Walsh
"The Boys in the Band" is an impressive movie if only for the fact that it exists. The play came out in 1968, the same year as the Stonewall Riots in New York City, which is considered the birth of the modern day gay rights movement. The movie followed two years later, using the off-Broadway cast, and is now celebrating its 40-year anniversary.
I have to say, this movie holds up really well, and there is good reason to watch this to see where we've made progress as a community and possibly where we haven't. But that's for viewers to decide. I'm more interested in the narrative itself.
The movie starts out with Michael preparing to host a birthday party for his friend Harold. While Michael is preparing for the party, his old college roommate Alan calls. Alan is in New York City on business and urgently needs to see Michael. Michael is caught between worlds, with a bunch of loud gay friends set to arrive, and his former roommate (who doesn't know he's gay) needing to talk. Michael also assumes that Alan is gay, and wonders if he's finally going to admit it. They make plans to quickly get together, but then switch to lunch the following day.
By Jeff Walsh
"Ready? OK!" is about a 10-year-old boy named Joshua who, more than anything else, wants to be a cheerleader. He practices routines with the girls, talks to his family about how cheerleaders always work together (unlike the wrestling team the school makes him play on), and is raising money to go to a cheerleading camp.
Of course, Joshua's 10, so the movie isn't about him being gay or coming out, just being different. If anything he's the only character in the movie who's OK with who he is. His mother, who is the main character in the movie, is harried by a job she doesn't like, a brother who drifts around, a mother who enjoys taunting her, and has no time for herself. When her son is getting into trouble cheerleading, or showing up to school in a dress, she barely seems to register what is happening, just that she has one more thing on her plate to handle that day.
The movie was well-acted and looks good, but it doesn't seem to have much to say, really. Plus, it seemed to have a lot of "indie movie grab bag" going on. The gay neighbor who believes in the kid and tries to encourage him. The packrat homeless brother who can't get his life together. The stern nun who only follow the rules. The clueless, diva who does horrible stand-ups for the local TV station. You never get the sense that all of these things solidify into one movie.
By Jeff Walsh
"Pedro," which airs on MTV and LOGO tonight (April 1) is the story of Pedro Zamora, a Cuban-American who found out he was HIV-positive at age 17, and took his desire to speak out to a huge audience as a member of MTV's The Real World. He died in 1994, several hours after the season finale ended.
The movie itself was a strange flashback for me, since his story was so urgent to me at the time and so many of the scenes from that season are burned into my memory. So, it was somewhat strange seeing actors portraying people I knew from a reality TV and recreating famous scenes. At first, it almost seemed like the movie could star Pedro himself, but then the story becomes bigger than his brief time on the show, and we learn about his life before The Real World.
By Jeff Walsh
Howard Bragman is in a lot of Rolodexes in Hollywood. He's often the person you hope you don't have to call. His clients have included the family of Monica Lewinsky during the Clinton scandal, Isaiah Washington when he was accused of calling T.R. Knight a 'faggot' on the set of Grey's Anatomy and, on the flip side, he helped prep Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger before they did media interviews for Brokeback Mountain, knowing they would be asked a lot about taking on these gay roles.
In his new book, "Where's My Fifteen Minutes?," Bragman boils down his years of experience into a gameplan that anyone can use to be mindful of their public perception and how to manage that perception. And it's not just for people who want to be novelists, musicians, and actors. Bragman says everyone has a public perception anymore, and what you post on Oasis, Facebook, in e-mails, and in person shapes that on a regular basis.
The one example that we discuss toward the end of our interview is how Oasis, being online for more than 13 years, has had many people who were newly out and proud teenagers a decade earlier, who are now in their late 20s and early 30s, and writing me because their teenaged ramblings here would be accessible to future employers and co-workers. This usually leads to me scrubbing their last name from previous entries.
Bragman has also done a lot of work on gay rights, so we get his thoughts from a PR perspective on what the gay community has to do in the wake of Proposition 8. Here's what we said:
By Jeff Walsh
I already reviewed this movie when it first premiered in San Francisco, and reading it again months later, it still sums up my thoughts on this movie. I wanted to like it as much as the first, but it just didn't happen.
My only addendum is that a gay movie that lampooned other gay movies, as the original did, seemed to give it more resonance than one with references to The Brady Bunch, beach movies, and other more traditional fare.
When I saw it, it didn't even have end credits, but now sports a Perez Hilton song and video called "The Clap." I also think there was a visual effect added whenever Jasper zapped the other Jasper's balls, but otherwise, it's the same movie I saw, so just read the original review for movie information. My review is of the uncut theatrical edition, but I can't imagine anyone would buy another else anyway.
I grin as the first chords of the new Indigo Girls album echo in my room, meeting the sunshine and dancing. The song is Digging for Your Dreams. It takes me a few days after getting Poseidon and The Bitter Bug to learn the words, but the music is so beautiful, and their harmonies are breathtaking.
The Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, play an eclectic mix of folk and country. I own 10 of their albums, and iTunes seems to have a different genre listing for each of them. Some are rock, some folk, others country, or alternative, or even pop.
Over the next week, I listen to nothing but the new album.
There is a melancholy air to the songs, as many of them are about looking back and finding mistakes.
Semi Precious Weapons have provided the soundtrack to my life for more than a year now, when I first heard their single "Magnetic Baby" after Perez Hilton loved the track and posted it on his site.
Finally, the band is out touring the country on their debut album, "We Love You," which is an amazing collection of garage glam gems that show how much talent is behind the first impressions you might get based on seeing Justin Tranter, the band's lead singer. He tends to like his eyes lined, his hair platinum blonde, and his heels high.
Before the band's recent in-store gig at the Apple Store in San Francisco, Tranter and I headed over to a quiet tea place to do the interview. While Market Street lined with people in advance of the St. Patrick's Day parade, Tranter and I weaved through the crowd. You could see people checking him out in his ripped T-shirt, suit coat, heavy-eyelined eyes, black and grey striped panty hose, and high, high heels the whole way there.
But Tranter was just a delight to talk to, and a great performer a half hour after we spoke. I even got to sing one of the "I've been magnetic since I was a baby" lines when he held the mic in my face.
We chatted about the band, labels (both the record kind and the sexuality kind), the music scene, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Lady Gaga, jewelry, and a lot of other topics over a quiet lunch. Here's what we said:
You can win a signed copy of 'We Love You' by Semi Precious Weapons. It's signed by all four band members.
And the winner is... Biohazard.
By Jeff Walsh
"I Dreamt Under The Water" isn't an easy movie to love, because you never really get a sense of the motivation of the main character, Antonin, yet the whole movie follows him. So, a whole movie without empathy isn't my favorite thing.
The movie starts with a charismatic singer, Alex, Antonin's straight crush and friend. Alex is heavily into drugs, and his descent pushes Antonin to seek comfort in the underbelly of Paris, with gay sex with groups of men in parks, drinking, drugs, and the requisite prostitution.
We see Antonin on several of his tricks with the sadness and empty expression that accompanies all gay movie prostitution, whether sleeping with seniors or aggressively spanking a naked john as he scrubs a kitchen table.
By Jeff Walsh
"Boystown" is one of those movies that are impossible to resist. It's just a perfect Almodovar-inspired Spanish farce that's delicious from beginning to end.
A real estate agent has a dream to turn a section of town into a perfect gay neighborhood with high-end shops and nice restaurants. The only problem is all of the elderly residents still living in his future gay mecca don't want to sell their apartments to him, so he starts killing them.
Rey and Leo have a fractured relationship with a lot of problems, although at the core they are drawn to each other and there is tenderness and love obviously flowing between them.
When one of the recently-killed elderly residents leaves her apartment to Rey, who always did odd jobs for her, he doesn't sell the flat to the real estate agent/killer, but instead moves his mother, who hates Leo, into the flat. She gets to say the best, nastiest lines in the movie.
By Jeff Walsh
"Back Soon" is both the name of the movie as well as the simple text of the note Logan's wife left for him, before she was killed by a drunk driver, the one he keeps in his pocket and kisses when he thinks about her. He decides he needs to sell their house to move on, since this one overflows with memories.
He sells his house to Guillermo, someone with a bad relationship with his girlfriend, who's putting his life back together in a different way.
And such is the dilemma of gay cinema, because you know there are two male leads in a possible embrace on the DVD box, so it becomes more of a question of how or why will something will happen between two seemingly straight guys. But I'm not giving any of that away.
By Jeff Walsh
When I first posted that Spencer Duhm was the openly gay contestant on this season of Survivor, I didn't know that his strategy in the game was to not tell anyone. Each week, I'd watch wondering when it would come up. It never did.
Last night, after 15 days, this 19-year-old University of Florida student was voted off. If you watched the show, it seemed like his weak performance in a physical challenge was the reason, but in this interview, he says more was going on behind the scenes.
Here's what we said:
Hey Spencer. I just watched the show this morning and didn't realize we were going to be talking so soon. It's interesting, because when you were first on the show, I put a notice up on the site that there's a young, gay contestant this season, then as I'm watching the show there was no reference to it, so I figured maybe they're just not using that storyline yet. Until last night, I never realized that no one knew…
It was a conscious decision of mine going into it. I get flak for this, because people say 'Oh, everyone's really accepting…' But I'm thinking, in a social game, people will find any reason to get rid of somebody and I was good friends with all the guys on the tribe, so I don't want some subconscious thing… I mean, I was ona tribe with a bunch of people from the south, and I come from the south, too. I'm not bashing people from the south. It's a known fact that sometimes Southerners can be a little less open-minded to homosexuality, so I first see my tribe and I got people with the belt buckle and the boots and everything, and I'm like, OK, it might not work out in my favor to tell everybody that I'm gay. So if they don't ask me, I'm not going to sit there and offer it up. And they never asked. I felt there was really no upside, and there could be a downside.
By Jeff Walsh
"Clandestinos" is a Spanish film that goes down a different path than a lot of gay films. Three boys break out of juvenile prison and flee to Madrid, where Xabi, the leader of the three, tries to make contact with the leader of a Basque terrorist cell. The other two boys don't know as much about the mission from the start, but one of the boys eventually helps him practice making bombs in an abandoned apartment, with the goal of doing something public and visible to bring the cell leader out of hiding.
To fund his terrorist exploits, Xabi robs johns that pick him up in a shopping mall. One of his johns, from whom he stole money and a gun, is a cop, who doesn't take being robbed easily and tries to track him down.
By Jeff Walsh
"Dog Tags" is an interesting movie, in that it plays with a lot of parallel structures without sacrificing a satisfying story. The movie starts with Nate getting his head shaved by his fiancee before his recruiter comes to pick him up.
Andy is younger and trying to find his way in the world. He comes from privilege and is rebelling with his black clothes and eyeliner. In flashback, we see the guy he's still trying to get over, a soldier wearing dog tags.
Nate joined the Marines to have a better life for both her and his mother, who all share a run-down house together. Between boot camp and being sent to war, Nate goes to buy her a ring. As he's walking down the highway towards the city, he gets picked up by a guy who tells him the ring store requires you to put half down, but if he needs some money...
By Jeff Walsh
"3-Day Weekend" puts the premise right in the title, a group of gay friends spend all of their holiday weekends in a beautiful cabin. But, since it's been the same guys telling the same stories for so long, they decide to mix it up, and every gay guy invites a single gay friend up for this weekend.
The movie tries to beat you to the punch quickly, though, mentioning this is like the set-up for "Love! Valour! Compassion!" before the audience thinks it. Of course, it's always dangerous to mention a good, similar movie, since that means you're setting a bar you better be able to clear.
Of course, we get a lot of archetypes invited. The computer geek someone works with. The centered, connected naked yoga teacher. But the biggest head turner is the last invited guest to arrive, the sex worker. Introductions aren't necessary with him, as three of the guys surprisingly call out his name at the same time when he walks in. It's almost like a sword-swallowing Breakfast Club.