Reviews

Hair: Broadway Review

By Jeff Walsh

I was interested to see the wildly-popular revival of Hair on Broadway because I think the gay and hippie movements are intertwined, as both really got started in the late 60s. While the history of the gay rights movement links the Stonewall Riots to the death of Judy Garland, as they happened during the week of her funeral, to me it's always seemed like the culture was already shifting sexually, spiritually and culturally in ways that demanded that homosexuality express itself more naturally.

In the 40-odd years that have passed since Hair first played Broadway, hippies have become a bit of a cultural joke, but a lot of their legacy is still with us: the sexual revolution (including LGBT acceptance), health food, drug culture, expanding consciousness in other ways such as eastern religions, and of course, the music.

So, it is interesting to see Hair through that lens in its current revival, as a snapshot of a huge cultural shift. Of course, if you could care less about any of that, you'd still be in luck, since it's just a fun time capsule of a show brought expertly to life with an exuberant young cast.

Mika: Concert Review

By Jeff Walsh

Mika's recent show at the Fox Theater in Oakland, supporting his new album "The Boy Who Knew Too Much," started on the wrong foot. Well, more accurately, Mika ended his show in Los Angeles the night before on the wrong foot, which had him a bit hobbled in Oakland, where he spent a lot of time on one leg, and using a flourescent-enhanced crutch to stay off his left foot. I've seen enough injured performers on concert already (lead singer of The Kaiser chiefs jumping around in a leg cast, and Pink recently avoided her aerial work due to a shoulder injury) to not think twice about it, but for some reason, it sort of deflated my experience of a Mika concert.

Mika concerts are parties. The music is upbeat. The crowd is ready to dance. And the glue holding it all together is Mika, who sets the tone.

So, watching Mika try his hardest to dance around, with his injured leg actually buckling out from under him at times, it sort of set me off. He was doing his best to make sure we were having fun, but you see that he was pushing himself into that role, as opposed to previous shows where it was completely effortless and natural. It just wasn't fun watching someone in pain trying to create a huge party vibe.

Interestingly, if you closed your eyes, it was a normal Mika show. His leg didn't affect his voice or energy in that regard, and his vocals and band were great.

The New Twenty: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

"The New Twenty" is a movie about a group of college friends who live in New York City. When the movie starts, we see them posing for a picture on their graduation day from college. After that we jump ahead a few years and see how they are growing up and apart.

There are two gay guys in the group of friends. One is an overweight guy who continually gets rejected on Internet sex sites. And the other is an Asian guy who starts falling in love with someone HIV positive. Most of the story revolves around the one friend who is starting a business and how that affects things.

For me, the movie just never grabbed me and made me interested in any of the characters, plots, or subplots. So, it wasn't that the movie was bad, inasmuch as it was just… there.

Finding Me: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

"Finding Me" is an interesting movie to watch, because most of the time I watched it, my verbtaim thoughts were soon repeated back to me. The main character of the movie, Faybien, starts off as an aimless guy who has no academic interests or a good job. But, we see him phone a friend when he sees Lonnie, a hot guy that often appears at his bus stop. In the call, he is excited to see the guy there again and decides he needs to finally say hi.

It's only after that point that the character keeps going in circles, where he keep deciding what he wants in life. But that's where it got amusing, because when the character would frustrate me and I'd think 'What is this kid's problem?', one of the characters in the movie would say 'What's your problem?' Later, I'd think, he needs to do something already and stop thinking everything through so much. Then a character would say 'You need to just go for it.'

So, on one hand, I guess I really understood how taxing it is to be Faybien's friend, but I don't think that was the point of the movie, which is really about him getting over his homophobic father, his dead mother, and other issues, and finally decide how he wants to live his life. But since you sort of know it's the only clear path, and the one he's likely to take before the credits roll, it takes him a long time getting there.

A Jihad For Love: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

As it starts, "A Jihad For Love" has a familiar feeling for anyone who's ever seen movies about issues of sexuality and spirituality. We learn that the only reference to homosexuality in the Qur'an is about Sodom and Gomorrah. And that, though not part of the Qur'an, several Hadith (sayings attributed directly to Muhammad) directly condemn homosexuality. So, we're in familiar ground here, in a debate that continues about how to rectify sexuality and spirituality.

From the beginning, if you interchanged the words Qur'an and Bible, it would seem to make a lot of the same arguments with which many Americans are familiar. But as the film plays on, the familiarity washes away. People are imprisoned. Their backs bearing the marks of 100 bloody lashes. They leave their home and wait as refugees seeking asylum from a country they love, families they miss, and a religion that is still an important and meaningful part of their lives.

Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma isn't out to poke holes in Islam, or quote scripture back and forth with scholars (in fact, every scholar in the movie without fail just says homosexuality is wrong). But he is clearly interested in showing the depth of purpose that many gay Muslims feel, and the disconnect that causes with their culture. Sharma is also showing many sides of Islam, but none resembling the Al Qaeda caricature we usually see.

The Boys In The Band: DVD Review

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.

Ready? OK! : DVD Review

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.

Pedro: Movie Review

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.

Another Gay Sequel: DVD Review

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.

Indigo Girls - Poseidon and the Bitter Bug: CD Review

By bulldyke

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.

Justin Tranter of Semi Precious Weapons: Interview

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:

Back Soon: DVD Review

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.

Clandestinos: DVD Review

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.

3-Day Weekend: DVD Review

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.

Teenage Angst: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

"Teenage Angst" is an interesting movie, but not really a gay one. This seems to be a trend lately. Hopefully one that ends soon.

I mean, sure, cute teenaged boys in uniform at an all-boys school form an exclusive club. One boy is made to stand naked in front of the rest to be able to attend. They skinny dip together. They are often nearly naked with their bodies draped over one another. And, you know, that's delightful and all. There's a sexual tension that is definitely present in the encounters with the boys, and no women around. It could go in an interesting direction.

But none of them are gay, closeted, have a gay uncle. There's no gay story at all. Nothing. So, the question is... is gay subtext enough? Considering I have a stack of DVDs on my desk, I'd have to say no.

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.

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.

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.

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