Serbis: Movie Review

By Jeff Walsh

"Serbis" is not a gay movie. We should get that out of the way up front. This movie from the Philippines mainly concerns a family struggling to make ends meet in a run-down movie theater.

The Pineda family have court cases, pregnancies, and other family issues going on. All of the struggles they are going through doesn't leave them much time to deal with the fact that their "adult only" movie theater isn't attended for the movies they show, but is actually a meeting place for male prostitutes (serbis) and their gay clients.

I thought the movie was well done, but a bunch of interlaced stories stretched across 85 minutes doesn't leave much time to get too invested in any one story. I'd almost have preferred one family story and more investment, but as with any movie from another country, it's always interesting just seeing how people live their daily lives elsewhere.

Schoolboy Crush: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

"Schoolboy Crush" is a campy, over-the-top melodrama that doesn't aim for realism but, once you get past that, it's always a fun ride.

The first scene in the movie is a sex scene between a young man and a younger male prostitute. We learn very quickly that the man who hired the boy is a high school teacher at a very exclusive all-boys academy in Japan. And there's a new student arriving in the middle of the semester. You guessed it, the teen prostitute.

The two spar throughout the movie, with the boy wanting the teacher to hire him again, or does he actually have feelings for him? The boy's nerdy roommate wants to be part of his life, but is romantically interested, too? Even other boys at school seem to want him sexually… I guess what you hear about everyone being gay at these private schools is true. Even the bully seems equally attracted to and repulsed by the new boy.

Out of the Pocket: Book Review

By Jeff Walsh

It's rather amazing that I went to every football game in high school, because I was in marching band, but never learned the rules or found it interesting. I just remember that the timer seemed to stop far too often for my taste.

So, when I got a copy of Bill Konigsberg's "Out of the Pocket," a novel about a gay high school quarterback who's outed in his senior year, I wasn't enthusiastic. Even the title, while I could contextually understand it… I don't even know if it's an actual football term and, if so, I won't be able to tell you if a player is out of the pocket in today's Super Bowl, unless I hear an announcer actually say it.

In any event, the book is the first from award-winning sports journalist Konigsberg and a welcome addition to the world of gay young adult fiction. The novel is about star quarterback Bobby Framingham, whose life is exactly on its intended track. Colleges are considering him for scholarships. He has a kinda-sorta girlfriend. A supportive, but somewhat distant family. But he decides he can't take it anymore and he has to start being honest, until he finds out the hard way that a little bit of honesty can take on a life of its own.

Konigsberg follows Bobby through being outed and its aftermath through leading the team to their championship playoff. The novel shows how coming out challenges friendships, families, and even the person who comes out to embrace life fully.

Out of the Pocket: First Chapter

Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg

Chapter 1

I was in the closet with Tamara Muncie.

It was dark and cramped and a hanger was poking me in the back.

"So," Tamara said. I could hardly see her, but I could hear her voice, her slightly asthmatic breathing. Her face was inches from my chest. "What do we do now?"

I chuckled, because it was all so ridiculous. Outside I could hear the laughter and shrieking from the party, the bass line of what sounded like a Gnarls Barkley song I liked.

When one of the cheerleaders said we should bring back "seven minutes in heaven," a game we played in, like, seventh grade, Martin Somers, one of my teammates, said, "that's so gay."

I'm here to tell you. It's the opposite of gay.

Contest: Win a copy of "Out of the Pocket"

Hey there, football fans! Hello? Anyone?

Just kidding.

If you read the review above and want to check out the book, one lucky winner will get...

CONTEST UPDATE:

First place winner: A signed, personalized copy of the book! sent to you from the author himself.

Second place winner: My review copy of the book. It's not brand new, but it was only read once, by me. :-)

Whoever wins first place will need to give me the name they want the book personalized to, and their address, so i can send that off to the author.

Winners selected, and notified by pm. If the winners don't write me back with where to send the book before March 6, I'll pick another winner.

Oh, and the girls taking me to task in my review will be happy to know we had one male winner and one female winner for this contest.

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During the move I also upgraded the site to the latest version of Drupal, so if there are any issues that cropped in, please let us know about them.

In The Heights: Broadway Review

By Jeff Walsh

"In The Heights" seems like a Broadway show that shouldn't exist. A show about relationships, family, and community without an ounce of cynicism that tells heartfelt stories of Latino immigrants living in Manhattan? How is this even onstage, let alone winning Best Musical for 2008?

After nearly two years of anticipation, I finally got to see "In The Heights" on Broadway in December. Months of "Abuela" and "Piragua casting reality show parody" YouTube videos, and watching heartwhelming videos the cast made with a 10-year-old fan, and listening to the cast recording on my iPod was a lot more information than I usually have before seeing a show. I usually wait to get the cast recording after a show.

So, it was a bit strange to finally enter the theater on 46th street, and see the songs come to life, the dialogue that never existed on my iPod, the dancing, and… I just can't recommend it highly enough. To see show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda onstage as Usnavi surrounded by the amazing vision he has given to the world was a true gift.

Contest: Win The Tudors on DVD!

We're having a contest! With 10 lucky winners!

The complete second season of the hit show THE TUDORS is now available in a 4 disc DVD set! Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars in this great set including all 10 sexy season two episodes and exclusive special features - pick it up on January 6th from Showtime and Paramount Home Entertainment.

For more information on The Tudors, go to http://www.sho.com/site/tudors/home.do

Winners have been notified via private message.

Also, starting with this promotion, winners have one month to claim their prize and send me their address. Too many non-users joining just to enter contests and never come back to find out they win, and I'm not tracking people down who don't use Oasis anyway. So, users have until February 11 to claim their Tudors DVD.

Ciao: Movie Review

By Jeff Walsh

"Ciao" begins simply, as we see an e-mail exchange between two men concerning Mark, who recently died.

Jeff is Mark's best friend. After Mark's death, he has been taking care of wrapping up the loose threads of Mark's life. It is during that period that he sees incoming e-mail from Andrea, an Italian guy excited to be visiting America soon, especially since he is coming to see Mark for three days in Dallas, Texas.

Jeff has to tell Andrea (who Mark never told him about) that Mark died in a car accident and, after several back and forth exchanges, Jeff says Andrea is welcome to still visit Dallas, if he wants. So of course, he does.

The movie, which opens in San Francisco and Berkeley today, doesn't delve into any wild flights of fancy. The two don't fall madly in love, or anything else predictable. Most of their time together is awkward, since they are both strangers and solely united by death and sustained by small talk.

Milk cast and crew: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Wrapping up the Milk coverage (the movie opens in a lot more theaters this Friday), here is the transcript of the press conference with the cast. The interview includes quotes from screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, director Gus Van Sant (both pictured here), and actors Sean Penn (Harvey Milk), Josh Brolin (Dan White), James Franco (Scott Smith), Emile Hirsch (Cleve Jones), and Allison Pill (Anne Kronenberg).

This event took place the day after the movie's premiere in San Francisco at the Castro Theater. It's important to note that this all took place before election day, so all references to Prop 8 were before the results were known. Another thing that's interesting is that the audio sounded fine to the press in attendance, but the actors seemed to have difficulty hearing us ask our questions, so sometimes the answers don't quite match the questions.

Once again, this was a roundtable interview, so there were 40-50 press people there for a 60-minute event. I ended up asking two questions (both marked with a *): the first question of the entire event and, later, although I knew I didn't really have any use for this question or answer, I really thought the parallels between Prop 6 in the movie and Prop 8 now were striking, in that you can see that we didn't earn from history and were repeating the same mistakes. So, I got Black and Penn to comment on that in the hope that some of the other press might write that story. I have no idea if anyone did.

It was a pretty low-key event, very relaxed and fun. Also, whenever I write (laughs), it was typically the whole room and most of the panel laughing, and not just the person being quoted laughing at their own joke.

OK, a lot of interview coming at ya, so enough out of me. Here's what we said:

Harvey Milk's friends: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

Many of the actors in Milk didn't just have to play a role, but portray people who were not only still alive but often on the shooting set. The night I was an extra in Milk's crowd scene (the one where Sean Penn as Milk has a bullhorn saying 'I know you're angry. I'm angry, too.') Emile Hirsch was onstage as Cleve Jones. As he and Sean were filming the scene, the crowd would chant things like 'Gay rights now!' and such. In between takes, you'd hear a bullhorn asking Cleve if any other chants were popular at that time, and the real life Cleve Jones would go over to the crew, and give them ideas, which would then be incorporated into the movie. So, at every step of the way, some of the real life people behind Milk not only helped Dustin Lance Back with the accuracy of the script, but they were still there on set, making the film as accurate as possible.

I got the chance to sit down with three of Harvey Milk's friends (shown in this article with the actors who play them in the movie).

Cleve Jones, played in the movie by Emile Hirsch, worked on Harvey's political campaign and later founded the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Anne Kronenberg, played in the movie by Allison Pill, started as Harvey Milk's campaign manager for his election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. This was the beginning of a long career in politics, and she now services as deputy director for administration and planning of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Danny Nicoletta, played in the movie by Lucas Grabeel, worked as a clerk in Harvey Milk's Castro Street camera shop, and is still a photographer in the city. At the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone last week, Nicoletta wasn't there to speak. He was shooting pictures of it for the local press.

This interview was another roundtable, and not me sitting down personally with all three. My question has an asterisk before it, if you care, but what they had to say was interesting enough that I felt it needed to be captured here.

Here's what we said...

Diego Luna: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

I recently got the chance to attend the press junket for Milk in San Francisco, where I got to talk with people who knew Harvey personally and the people involved with the movie. But I have to admit, the person I was most interested in talking to was Diego Luna, mainly because I'm a big fan of 'Y Tu Mama Tambien,' so when I got the chance to join his press round table, I was totally there.

So, this is a bit different than normal. It wasn't a 1:1 interview (there were like 9-10 press interviewing him at the same time, my questions start with a *). Luna isn't gay. But I think 'Milk' is such an amazing, important film, I'm bending my usual rules on that stuff. Who might show up next answering my questions in Oasis? Sean Penn? James Franco? You'll have to tune in to find out...

It was interesting watching Luna answer the questions, which often turned their own corners, and were never on the brief side. The press were told not to dominate the interview and let everyone get their turn to ask a question, but it was clear early on, there was no chance in hell everyone would get a question in at the pace he was answering.

But since his answers were so heartfelt, eloquent, and explored his passion for art, community, and this movie, here it all is...

Milk: Movie Review

By Jeff Walsh

"Milk," the new Gus Van Sant movie, tracks the modern gay rights movement from its birth responding to police raids on gay bars in the late 1960s, through the sexual revolution of the 70s, until the assassination of the first openly gay elected official, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, in 1978.

Living in San Francisco, the aura of Harvey Milk hasn't diminished. Looking up on Castro Street, near his camera shop, a fake window is painted with Harvey Milk leaning out and smiling. The portrait reminds us how far we've come, the price people paid for the freedoms we now enjoy and take for granted, and whether we're on the right path for our future. A rainbow flag flies a block away at Harvey Milk Plaza. In our City Hall, a bronze bust of Harvey Milk was added this year, on the 30th anniversary of his death.

So, Harvey Milk is an icon as well as a constant presence. I was 10 years old when he was killed, but over the years, I've developed a mental image of Harvey and I was hesitant to have this long-planned movie possibly ruin it. I needn't have worried.

"Milk" captures so much of what I find iconic about Milk, but also makes him more human and accessible at the same time. Closeted until he was 40, Milk moved to San Francisco, grew out his beard and became part of the counterculture and gay community. He opened a camera shop on Castro Street as the area was shifting from its Irish-Catholic roots to the gayborhood that (largely) still exists today.

Were The World Mine: Movie Review

By Jeff Walsh

"Were the World Mine" is the perfect wish fulfillment movie musical for gay youth once the only openly gay student at a homophobic all-boys school finds a magic potion that makes people fall in love with the first same-sex person they see. Hello there, straight crush…

The film, which opens in San Francisco, Berkeley and New York City this week (see the online schedule for future cities), is a joyous, heartwarming romp inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In the movie, Timothy (Tanner Cohen) is the classic gay outcast: picked on at gym, bullied in the locker room, with a crush on an athlete that he knows will go unfulfilled. He's out to his mother, and has supportive friends, but that doesn't make him feel less alone.

The school is putting on the Shakespeare play, and Timothy is cast as Puck. He has musical, choreographed daydreams starring the same boys who pick on him. Things really get going when, inspired by the play, Timothy follows a recipe for Cupid's love potion that appears within the pages of his script and a purple flower from his dream follows him back to the real world. He quickly discovers that anyone sprayed by the flower falls in love with the first person of the same sex they see.

Were The World Mine: Cast/Director Interview

By Jeff Walsh

I recently got the chance to sit down with actors Tanner Cohen (Timothy) and Zelda Williams (Frankie) and director Tom Gustafson from the new gay youth indie Shakespeare musical, Were The World Mine. The three were in San Francisco promoting the film in advance of its release in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City this week (see my review here).

We had a pretty fun discussion that touched on everything from the origin of the film, Cohen's reticence to label himself, trying to sing outdoors without inhaling insects, and we finished up talking about Zelda's famous dad, Robin Williams.

Here's what we said:

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