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.
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.
By Jeff Walsh
"Tru Loved" is a new gay youth movie that suffers from existing in the world of obvious expectations. It's nothing new, though. When a young, idealistic teacher joins the staff of a rough school with hard-to-reach kids… or a romantic comedy has two leads who begin the movie hating each other… you sort of know what's going to happen. So, when a young high school athlete enlists other people to defend his closet… well, it would be unexpected for the same character to be closeted by the time the end credits roll.
This movie got a lot of unexpected publicity when Roger Ebert gave it a negative review, only to mention at the end of his piece that he stopped watching it after only 8 minutes. This revelation led to a heated discussion on his website. I do have to say that Ebert did make a lot of incorrect assumptions based on what happens in the first eight minutes, but he had no way of knowing that the film would do things in its beginnings that wouldn't continue throughout. There is a dream sequence of the gayest high school ever, followed by a black and white 50s sitcom version of family life, both of which might lead you to believe there was going to be a lot of similar scenes inserted throughout. But Ebert didn't stick around to realize that the rapid succession of these things in the beginning wouldn't be consistent or followed up for the rest of the movie.
By Jeff Walsh
"Camp Out" is a documentary that follows a handful of gay Christian teens attend the first summer camp exclusively designed for them. Many of the teens feel pulled between the gay community and the God community, with each demonizing the other on a regular basis.
All of the kids are in their mid- to late-teens, and out to their parents. One of the girl's mother was very enthusiastic about the notion of a summer camp where her daughter could explore both spirituality and sexuality.
"You can have both those two together? That's awesome!" she says.
Like any reality show or documentary, narratives begin to form between the kids. There are crushes, friendship, bonds, and situations in which people aren't uncomfortable. This ranges from gay guys who aren't very comfortable doing sports activities to one of the boys feeling uncomfortable by a game of Truth or Dare.
By Jeff Walsh
Bangkok Love Story is a fun, highly stylized gay movie from Thailand that certainly swings for the fences. Everything about it plays for maximum effect. It's sort of a Brokeback Mountain set in the underbelly of Bangkok.
Cloud is an assassin hired to kill Stone, a police informant, but he doesn't pull the trigger. In a gunfight, the two escape handcuffed together and Stone nurses Cloud back together and falls in love with him. (The gay angle isn't really evident before that happens, but if there wasn't a gay angle I wouldn't be writing this, so you know it's coming anyway). Their relationship takes a turn when Stone gives Cloud a bath on a rooftop in downtown Bangkok, which turns into quite a charged, erotic scene on the rooftop.
But nothing about Bangkok Love Story is subtle. Cloud's mother has AIDS, and his younger brother Fog is HIV+, both from his stepfather. Cloud is married, but cannot deny his love for Cloud, who freaks out after their sexual encounter and cuts off contact.
By Jeff Walsh
The last time I reviewed Spring Awakening, it was a week into its Broadway run. Since that time, it went on to become a runaway hit, netting 8 Tony Awards (including Best Musical) and recently started its national tour in San Francisco.
Reading my old review again after seeing the touring production on opening night, my issues with the show remain. It hasn't lost any of its intensity and the songs are very familiar to me, but the dual nature of the show still never really gels to me, but I like both halves enough to still consider it a nice night out. Since I haven't really changed my mind on the show, you can read that original review for the show details and such.
The only other issue I had with the show are nothing new when seeing a touring show after first seeing the original cast on Broadway. When the people on the cast recording match the people you saw onstage and visualize when you're listening to the CD, it is always odd to see these "other" people saying the same lines, wearing the same clothes, and singing the same songs. That's nothing new with this show, and only happens when you strongly identify with the people you saw first perform the roles.
By Jeff Walsh
For their sixth album, the appropriately-named "Sicks! Sicks! Sicks!," The Kinsey Sicks are in great form. If you need a gift for someone slutty that also likes musicals, look no further.
It's no secret I love the Kinseys (just look around the site), but the new album really shows the amount of polish, work, and fun they continue to deliver on such a consistent basis.
"Sicks! Sicks! Sicks!" will be a treat to fans who like sex-positive ditties ("Be A Slut," "It Isn't Easy Being Easy"), cosmetic-surgery themed Britney Spears covers ("Botoxic," listen to that track below), and plentiful show tune parodies ("Send In The Clones," "Trixie," "Fisters," "Beaver Hair," and "Provincetown" (possibly the only recorded parody of "Urinetown"?)). The CD also features songs from the amazing "I Wanna Be A Republican" DVD, in their audio-only debuts ("All The White Places," "We Arm The World").
Many of the tracks were recorded live, and show how little is lost when the girls move from the studio to the stage. If you can see them live, you should. But if you can't, you should at least check out the CD.
There's a reason The Kinsey Sicks are America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet. If you don't know it, "Sicks! Sicks! Sicks!" is a great way to find out why.
For all your Kinsey concert dates and merchandise needs, visit their website.
Sample Track: Botoxic
By Jeff Walsh
Donna Summer opened her recent show at the Paramount Theater in Oakland with "The Queen Is Back," a song off her hooky, fun album "Crayons," the disco diva's first in 17 years. In the song, Summer namechecks some past hits and sings about herself in third person for some unknown reason: "So many years ago, on the radio, she crept into your soul and loved to love you."
Since this is a youth site, we should probably take a step back and mention that Donna Summer was one of the biggest stars of the late 70s and early 80s, at the height of the disco era. Her hits include "Love to Love You Baby," "I Feel Love," "Macarthur Park," "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls," "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)," "On The Radio," and "She Works Hard for the Money." Her era happened before even *I* was a teenager and, had my then-divorced mother not start going out dancing and such in the disco era, I'd probably have even less clue about her.
If you don't know Summer, it might be worth your while to check out some of her old hits (my faves are "I Feel Love," "MacArthur Park" (crazy lyrics and all), "Hot Stuff," and her duet with Barbra Streisand, "No More Tears." Or you can check out her latest album, "Crayons."
By Jeff Walsh
"The Houseboy" opens with three guys curled up in bed. Two are a couple, and third, younger guy is the extra they keep around to have fun with. Nick is going to watch the house while the couple goes to visit their families over Christmas. As they are leaving, one of them mentions that after the holidays, it might be time to get a newer, younger model in the new year.
Nick is bored alone and starts hooking up with strangers, both online and people he meets while walking around. All of the experiences are empty, devoid of the intimacy and caring he desires, but are exactly what he agreed to before the encounters.
He starts telling his tricks that he's going to kill himself on Christmas and let the couple find him dead when they return home. Rather than empathy, his tricks just want to continue getting dressed and out of there. Who could blame them?
By Jeff Walsh
"Save Me" is an independent movie opening in theaters in September, and it is the first production from Mythgarden, the production house started by openly gay actors Chad Allen and Robert Gant.
In the opening scene we see Mark (Allen) doing drugs, drinking, and having hot vacant sex with a hot vacant guy -- bottoming and bottoming out. The next morning at check out time, the motel owner finds Mark on the motel room floor, having overdosed.
He wakes up in a hospital room, screaming at his brother and yelling at his mother, who is in the hospital hallway, but unable to even come in the room and look at her son. They pay for him to spend two months at Genesis House, a Christian-run "ex-gay" ministry that can also handle his sobriety issues (they use the same 12 steps to cure people of their sexuality anyway).
At the center, Mark encounters Scott (Gant), another "ex-gay" at the live-in center run by Gayle (Judith Light). I won't spoil the details, but anyone whose ever seen a movie before can figure out where this is going, not that it makes the journey any less interesting to watch.
By Jeff Walsh
"On The Other Hand, Death" is the latest Donald Strachey mystery starring Chad Allen (playing now on the Here! Network). But if that's not enough to hold you, a fourth installment called "Ice Blues" is coming out in September. As a fan of the first two Strachey movies, these two have the same fun charm as the earlier outings.
In "On The Other Hand, Death," Strachey investigates the story of an older lesbian couple. One half of the couple (Margot Kidder) is a high school guidance counselor that is a target of harassment since coming out to the school, and the couple is also being harassed for being the only people not willing to sell their home as part of a huge deal to bring a large store chain to their sleepy suburb.
There are other interconnected subplots involving both sides of the lesbian couple's story, but the Strachey stories make it pretty easy to swallow and a fun time. The director really loves putting a lot of classic noir nods throughout the movie, which always make it enjoyable.
Chad Allen is the key to making these work, though, which is evident in that this is the third of four Strachey movies that has been filmed (out of six that are planned) with him in the lead role.
By Jeff Walsh
Whoa. I just finished watching what is considered the first “true gay film in Korean cinema,” and if this is how they mark their entrance to world cinema, they are more than welcome to make as many gay movies as they want.
The movie, “No Regret,” apparently shocked Korean audiences when it was first released, and the movie comes out in New York and Los Angeles at the end of July, and in San Francisco at the end of August (check website to see when more cities are added).
Similar to the gay Japanese movie “Boys Love” that I recently reviewed, this is a movie that doesn’t have that cultural take on an old story feel to it. It is a modern, worthwhile movie that depicts the characters’ lives in Seoul, but the emphasis is on story above all else.
Sumin leaves the orphanage where he grew up and goes to Seoul, where to help pay for his studies and cost of living he has to do factory work as well as a second job as a driver. One night, he has to drive Jaemin home. Jaemin is slightly older and rich, and also interested in more than a ride home.
By Jeff Walsh
"Holding Trevor" is a film that takes a look at the patterns we find ourselves in in life, and whether or not we can break free of them. In the movie, Trevor is trying to put a big chunk of his past behind him, namely his best friend turned boyfriend turned junkie. The movie starts as he is taking his ex to the hospital after an overdose.
Trevor spends a lot of time with his roommate Andie and their promiscuous musician friend Jake until he meets a hunky doctor named Ephram who offers him a new path.
The movie follows more of an emotional arc than a story arc, in that we are mainly watching characters live their lives and seeing how everyone’s life has more complexities than we want others to know about. In an age where people are constantly hanging out, always connected and sharing their lives, when Trevor is stressed, he drives through the car wash and screams as the car is being soaped down. And when Andie gets big news, she also keeps it a secret.
By Jeff Walsh
If you loved the raunchy, politically incorrect fun of “Another Gay Movie,” you’re in luck, they made a sequel. “Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild” picks up where the last movie left off, this time sending its horny quartet off to spring break.
I have to say, as a fan of the first movie, it was initially disconcerting that a majority of the main roles were recast. I hadn’t seen the original for a while, so instead of connecting the dots, I just thought I had really forgotten the first one. There were jokes that, in retrospect, were explicitly there to clue you in, such as agents not wanting their clients to do two gay movies in a row. But for whatever reason, it took me a while to figure it out. Having read this, you won’t suffer the same fate.
At spring break, the gay clothing optional resort has a “Gays Gone Wild” contest, where everyone gets a unique rubber stamp and whenever you sleep with someone, you stamp their card and whoever gets the most stamps on their headboard-shaped card wins. The main competition for the boys is a group of Jaspers who are modeled after the trio in “Heathers.” While the first movie stayed focused on mainly parodying gay movies, the sequel takes a broader approach (which makes sense, given that they hit every major gay movie last time). So, it is a bit harder catching all the references since you don’t have as much perspective where they’ll be coming from.
By Jeff Walsh
"Almost Infamous" is the new documentary about The Kinsey Sicks from the same people that brought us the amazingly well-shot and entertaining "I Wanna Be A Republican" live concert. The movie recently had its world premiere at the 32nd annual San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival.
It's really two movies in one. The first half sets up the history and back stories of the group and its current and former members, whereas the second half is where it becomes the drag queen equivalent of Metallica's "Some Kind of Monster," where we see the group dealing with the strain of being a touring group about to have their own show in Las Vegas.
I've been a fan of the group for years, so seeing their history was more of a flashback for me than an educational experience. The only San Francisco show I didn't see was their first time singing publicly at Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro (and, stupidly, the shows they shot for the first movie). But the documentary team got to dig in deep and really introduce us to the boys behind the Kinseys. We get to meet their families, and see how Irwin Keller's mother is the inspiration for Winnie, learn that Ben Schatz (as the lawyer who drafted Clinton's AIDS policies) gave Bill a copy of their first Dragapella CD the night before he was impeached giving him a good laugh during a serious time, and how Chris Dilley and Jeff Manabat had to fill the heels of the members who came before them.
"If You Believe In Mermaids... Don't Tell" is a new novel by A.A. Phillips that would be a welcome addition to the bookshelf of anyone from ages 9-12. After that, it'd still be an easy quick read, but probably too easy and quick, even for a good story. That said, I can't recall ever reading a book that is specifically about not really fitting into a gender. I think this book could help people who are dealing with gender identity issues but aren’t necessarily transgender.
Todd is a pre-teen boy and for years his father has been pushing him into sports camps every summer, and putting him on sports teams during the school year. When Todd informs his father that this year he wants to hang out by the community pool and dive all summer his father does not accept this as a reasonable way to spend the summer.
His father strongly believes that boys are meant to play sports and diving is not a sport. Todd is handed a stack of sport camp brochures and is made to choose one. However, slipped in between the brochures for sports camps is a brochure to nature camp. Todd chooses the nature camp because even though bugs gross him out he believes that anything is better then a sports camp. Besides, the nature one looks promising with the hopes of a decent lake where Todd can practicing diving.
By Jeff Walsh
"A Four Letter Word" is a new gay independent comedy playing select theaters (check their website for the release schedule) and, while I didn't hate it, it certainly seemed like it lacked the cohesion that could have made it a better, more enjoyable movie.
But, let's start with the basics. Luke is a sex-friendly, quick-witted hottie who wakes up after a night of bar-hopping in a pile of naked strangers -- clearly not the first time this has happened. He works at Gayborhood, a sex store in NYC's gay Chelsea district with his co-worker Zeke. Luke is a free spirit who happens to meet Stephen, who challenges him to question whether he really could give up his life of random sex with strangers and settle down. There is also a cute young interracial couple, Peter and Derek, who are making the big transition of moving in together. On top of that, Peter's boss, Marilyn, is engaged and maniacally planning her wedding.
Those are the stories in a nutshell. If you don't quite see the relationships linking the first three characters to the latter three, I didn't either and I saw the movie twice. There are some scenes where you see them all interact, but even then they never gel as being all one large group of friends. They're just funny lesser stories to cut to in between telling Luke's story.
By Jeff Walsh
"Boys Love" is a Japanese movie that doesn't need much translation. A lot of foreign movies require you to make assumptions about what life is like there in addition to the story that's actually being told, but Boys Love is a very modern film set in Japan, but with a universal, relatable story.
Mamiya is a young shy editor at a magazine whose first assignment as a writer is to interview teen model, Noel. Over the course of the interview, Noel makes a sexual play for Mamiya. Again, what could have turned into an angsty quest to determine his sexuality is avoided, and we only know Mamiya is drawn to Noel. Sexuality is a huge element to the film, but a largely unspoken one.
Noel (Takumi Saitoh) handles his role well, since it seems like it would be easy to find fault in the role of someone in the spotlight that exudes charisma. It would be easy not to buy into the conceit that this person would not draw such attention in real life (then again, I still think that about Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, I don't get what the fuss is about). Whereas Mamiya (Yoshikazu Kotani) seems like it would be the easier role, playing the shy, non-famous journalist.
By Jeff Walsh
Two groundbreaking gay comics are out this month with new specials. Jason Stuart: Making It To The Middle (airing on here! TV) and Suzanne Westenhoefer: A Bottom On Top (airing on LOGO, and available on DVD) are two examples of gay standup pioneers still doing their thing. Both filmed their specials away from the traditional gay cities, both have acts that largely deal with them being gay, but on many levels they couldn't be more different.
Stuart comes across as very caring, down to earth and nice in the interview segments during his special, but onstage that's all gone. His act was just too ADD and superficially gay for me (the ADD thing is saying a lot for a comic, since they all tend to go from one topic to another, often without any transition). It just seemed more like a lot of interplay with the audience, mincing and quips, "brokeback" moments with a cute guy in the front row, and a frenzy and rush that never lets up. But that pace also robs us of getting to know Stuart better.
Westenhoefer, on the other hand, goes onstage without much of a script, and most of her show is improvised. But, she just seems so calm and natural onstage, just letting the stories unspool, but always bringing the funny at regular intervals.
By Jeff Walsh
"Shelter" is a sweet story of a young artist/surfer in southern California. Zach (played by Trevor Wright) works low-paying jobs, juggles his schedule with his sister to take care of her 5-year-old son, and when he's not doing those things he either works on his art of goes surfing. The movie opens in limited release, including San Francisco and Berkeley, this weekend and will debut on the here! Network next month.
Zach and his girlfriend have been in an on-again, off-again relationship. He doesn't see any way out of his entire situation, despite his dream of going to art school, which his sister dismisses as more trouble than its worth. Things change when he runs into his best friend's older brother Shaun (Brad Rowe, who you might remember from Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss), who is staying at his family's beach house for a while.
The two have chemistry together and, after a few beers, kiss one night. Things progress on a subsequent meeting. Eventually, Zach's sister has a problem with her son being around Shaun because he's gay, and this is before she even knows that he and Zach are dating.