"Gay Power," a historical book by David Eisenbach, does what it says it will do. Starting with the Stonewall Riots in 1969, it covers the gay rights revolution -- its victories, its losses, what sparked new energies and what sent us back to our closets, until 1980. Going into close details, it covers the beginning of an era. To most of us on this site, it is what led up to the world we know. In the 300-and-some pages of this volume, just about everything is covered.
Still, it left something to be desired. As a nonfiction reader, I've seen textbooky books before, and this is one of them. It left me wondering about the people behind the decade explored. I saw the what, the when, but there was very little 'who.' I wanted to feel what it was like. It's my history. Who wants to be detached from their past?
The view of "Gay Power" also seemed narrow... halfway through I started to wonder, did they have transsexuals in the '70s? While lesbians were mentioned (though not as much as they could've been), I missed the transsexuals altogether. Before the reader is the face of the beginning of a still-moving revolution... but where is the body, where are the complexities?
Having watched many gay-related movies, Keillers Park felt as though I had already seen it. We have a closeted gay man, Peter, who's engaged to a woman, and ends up being propositioned by a gay man, Nassim, in a park, they have sex and fall in love. Peter's fiance "discovers" that he's gay when he tries to penetrate her from the behind, because that is, apparently, a sure giveaway. Straight men NEVER have anal sex with women! Of course not...
It seems as though you're supposed to feel bad for the Peter, but he comes off as a bit of a jerk. The only thing that makes you feel bad for him is the fact that his family disowns him for being gay. Other than that, he isn't exactly likable. Though, as far as the story goes, it's hard to tell if it's an intended distaste or poor character writing.
I wouldn't call this movie entirely unoriginal, however. On top of this story line there is a shred of originality. The overlying theme is a murder mystery, and you're plagued with the question of whether or not Peter murdered his lover.
When I chose to review Lesbian Sex and Sexuality, I had no clue what it was about other then the obvious -- lesbian sex and sexuality -- but what that really entailed and meant I hadn't the foggiest idea. This two-DVD set is a documentary of six different episodes that address different areas and subjects of lesbian sex and sexuality:
Porn Today: Pushing the Limits which is all about the lesbian porn industry and how it has and is continuing to evolve. In it they talk to a couple of the major porn directors.
For Your Pleasure: Erotic Dancers follows 3 erotic dancers through their daily lives and looks into the lesbian club and bar scene.
The Evolution of Erotica is a history lesson on the printed and video lesbian industry. It goes back to the roots of lesbian porn and was very interesting.
By Jeff Walsh
Mika stormed through San Francisco again on Tuesday night, toward the tail end of his ongoing tour supporting his amazing first album, "Life in Cartoon Motion." This was his second time in our fair city, and I was also at his first go-round at The Fillmore back in June.
As you would expect, the show was completely sold out and, as you'd also expect, the set list included his entire debut album, as well as a few new songs and his seemingly obligatory Eurythmics cover. Last time he was here, he played Sweet Dream (Are Made of This), but we got "Missionary Man" this time around.
By Jeff Walsh
Nina's Heavenly Delights is a Scottish Asian story about an Indian cooking competition, but the universal themes will satisfy the most discerning film lover's palette.
Over the opening credits, we see a very young Nina and her father cooking together, and witness the passion he brings to cooking. The movie begins as Nina returns home to Glasgow upon learning of her father's death. Her childhood friend Bobbi, who dreams of performing in drag in a Bollywood movie, picks her up at the airport.
Nina Shah moved to London after some family altercation, and there is obvious tension between her and the family she left behind. The Shahs have an award-winning Indian restaurant called The New Taj, of which a young woman named Lisa now owns half after Nina's father had lost half of the business as part of a bet.
As the story moves on, we find out that every member of the Shah family has a secret involving a hidden love, and each of them keep it hidden because of family obligation.
By Jeff Walsh
"Kurt Cobain: About A Son" (now playing in select theaters) is sort of an oral autobiography played over a Pacific Northwest travelogue. While Kurt narrates his growing up, interest in music, and reaction to fame, we see scenes of the cities he talks about. It is definitely an interesting presentation, in that there is no title up front mentioning Cobain, barely any photos of him during the entire film, save for some live concerts where he's hard to make out, and only a handful of portraits at the very end. Theater-hoppers who show up to this movie late won't know what the hell's going on, with a disembodied voice talking about growing up, while visuals of a lumber yard and other assorted segments show underneath.
I'll come right out and state upfront that I am a huge Nirvana fan. I heard Nevermind when it debuted on the local college radio station, rushed out to buy it the next day, and bought the only copy the store had in stock, a month or so before it would start getting airplay. I got to see them live two nights in one week on their In Utero tour, the week before they recorded their famous Unplugged set. I even have a Kurt Cobain "action figure" on my Amazon wishlist. So, when I heard this movie was edited from more than 25 hours of audio interviews Cobain did with Michael Azerrad for his book "Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana," I was more interested in when an audiobook of those interviews would be made available than in the 90-minute movie.
By Jeff Walsh
"Glue" sort of defies every pigeonhole you try and put it into, yet still leads to a rewarding experience. It probably helped that I had no clue what I was putting on, just popped the DVD in and hit play.
The characters fill in pretty quick right from the start. The lead is Lucas, a gangly but cute boy who listens to the Violent Femmes and sings in a band with his hot, hunky friend, Nacho on drums. At this point, my mind starts to assemble what lies ahead... OK, here we go, Lucas is gay, and has a crush on Nacho... but then we meet Andrea, a mousy girl that wears glasses. I try and fit her into my mental version of the movie, that she's sort of Lucas's fag hag, or that she and Lucas both fancy some Nacho, but then why does it seem that Lucas is flirting, too? Who likes who in this thing?
Eventually, I gave up trying to predict things and let the actual movie happen, which is a good thing because the focus and clarity I kept trying to force on the movie never happened. As much as I prattle on about not labeling your sexuality, it was sort of interesting to see it in effect. Lucas and Nacho had a definite physicality between them, at times it seemed homoerotic, other times just familiar. By the movie's end there are a lot of lines and labels crossed, but it's a satisfying journey.
By Jeff Walsh
Naked Boys Singing is coming out on DVD just in time for the holidays, so if you weren't aware you still have time to adjust your gift lists. Alternatively, it makes for a good item to put on your own list if you want that extra shove to make your Mom ask you directly.
Now, I just reviewed this movie back in September, so little has changed since that time. The bulk of the review is there.
However, the DVD also includes a documentary on the making of the movie that plays almost as long as the movie itself. It was actually an interesting watch, just to see the insanity they put themselves through to make it. You learn that the movie was shot in less than four days, that some cast members didn't know they planned to film in front of a live audience, and also cast members freaking out about doing the nudity (which you'd never suspect from seeing the finished product).
Nathan and Maggie have many things in common: they are both in their 20s, they both have boyfriends, and they both have a weird, complex love for one another.
Nathan is a writer who gets an assignment to write a travel article about Napa Valley and its romantic hot spots. He invites Maggie to go with him.
On the way, the two stop to visit Maggie's best friend and ex-boyfriend. While Maggie is inside making dinner with her friend, Nathan is outside making "friends" with her ex.
After catching up with old friends and making some new ones, the two continue on their travels. Maggie tries to reconnect and get closer to Nathan, but he seems to keep her at a distance.
By Jeff Walsh
Live in Cartoon Motion is a perfect document of Mika's quick rise to fame. In a world of YouTube celebrities, gossip playing a bigger role than talent, and further examples of ADD culture, Mika actually made his name with infectious tunes, a fun live show, and of course, playing the "is he or isn't he?" game with the gay press. (I think the prancing around onstage and sheer bombast of his songs answers the question.)
The DVD features a live concert taped in Paris, an hour-long documentary as Mika travels through Europe, all of the music videos off his first album, and three songs performed acoustic. Seeing that he only has one album to his credit, the Paris show is pretty similar to the show I saw in San Francisco, building up to "Grace Kelly" and closing with the naughty-sounding bubblegum pop of "Lollipop." The concert is almost as much fun on DVD as it was in person. He really throws himself into the songs and projects such amazing, fun energy onstage.
Seeing as Mika was sick and having throat problems while they were filming the documentary, presumably for the Paris show, and when I saw him in San Francisco, it really makes me wonder how good his concert would be if he were feeling well. If this is him on a bad day, it certainly makes you wonder.
By Jeff Walsh
Eternal Summer is a Taiwanese film that explores the friendship of straight-laced Jonathan and the more rebellious Shane. They are first paired off by a teacher in grade school, with the hope that Jonathan will serve as a good influence. Ten years later, that pairing is still in effect as the two near the end of their high school years.
Everything changes when Carrie, a new girl in school, appears and goes after Jonathan. He doesn't return her romantic feelings, and we start to realize we are in what is very familiar territory on this site: the straight crush. Rebuffed, Carrie ends up going after Shane instead, which only intensifies Jonathan's longing and clarifies Shane's feelings for Jonathan. Are they shared? Will it work out? Can't say.
What I can say is that the movie really takes time to breathe and build big drama out of small moments. Motorcycle rides with Jonathan holding onto Shane don't advance the plot all that much, but we all have some idea how much they mean to Jonathan.
By Jeff Walsh
Reading "Michael Tolliver Lives," the latest installment of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series (though the author decries such classification), something is amiss.
Now, truth be told, I'm a bit of a drama queen. So, when I moved to San Francisco more than 11 years ago, on my first day in town I bought a trade paperback version of Tales of the City at A Different Light, the gay bookstore on Castro Street, and started to read about the city as I was first discovering it myself.
Then, I was reading about a city that no longer existed, with the sexual revolution pretty much dead and the ravages of AIDS having hit urban areas pretty hard. But, there was still magic in those books and you can still see some of that magic when you look hard enough. (If you want to cheat, go to a gay bar here during gay pride, tourists drop their guard about how amazing this place is much easier than the embittered locals.)
The series painted a picture of an amazing city, a group of friends, and over the course of many books, we saw their lives intertwine, separate, and change direction. The series was never more than Maupin's simultaneous diary and love letter to the city. So, reading this latest entry, there are too many things that I know are about Maupin, and it was too hard to rejoin the world of Michael "Mouse" Tolliver on this journey.
By Jeff Walsh
The Life of Reilly is a new film based on, well, the life of Charles Nelson Reilly, who is largely known for his voluminous game show appearances in the 1970s although he did have prior success as Broadway performer and television actor.
I was fortunate enough to see Reilly perform this show, then called "Save It For The Stage," in San Francisco. It was one of those shows where it probably went more than two hours, but if it hit four you'd never even look at your watch. He was an engaging performer working off a rich life with a loose script and clearly in his element. The show was also the first time Reilly ever publicly discussed his not-so-secret-but-never-confirmed homosexuality.
The film actually captures Reilly last performance of "Save It For The Stage," and the last time he appeared onstage before his death this past May. The film is a bit uneven, though.
By Jeff Walsh
"Dear Lord, please take away these feelings. You know which ones. In Jesus' name I ask you. Thank You. Amen."
Paul writes these words on a slip of paper, folds it, and puts it into his God Box. The maple box has the Serenity Prayer carved into its top, and a place into which you slide your prayers, giving them up to the Lord.
In Alex Sanchez's new novel, "The God Box," Paul is a Christian high school senior trying to avoid confronting his sexuality. He has a long-time girlfriend, belongs to Bible Club at school, and wears a red "What Would Jesus Do?" rubber wristband at all times. When he wakes up from a sex dream, presumably about a boy, he pulls back the band and snaps it against his flesh.
When he sees Manuel for the first time in homeroom, it's no surprise that Paul is going to have a sore wrist in no time. The new kid in school, Manuel has both his ears and his left eyebrow pierced and, over lunch with Paul and his friends, casually asks if this school has a GSA. When they ask if he's gay, he just says "Yep."
With most series, I find the second book usually isn't quite as good as the first. But with Paul Ruditis's DRAMA! series, that is not the case. Everyone's A Critic is definitely better than the first book.
The characters are exactly the same as before: Bryan the gay guy; Hope the goth; Sam the poor over-achiever; Alexis and Belinda the evil step-sisters; and Holly the evildoer.
The school year has ended but, at Orion, school doesn't end when summer begins, a mandatory two-week theatre camp for all drama majors makes the school year last a little longer. Normally they put on a play, do a few acting drills and help the soccer players. This year Hartley Blackstone, a famous Broadway director, is using these two weeks as an audition for his summer apprenticeship, which would mean some of the best actor training available and having many doors opened for the future. The catch is there are only two spots available: one male and one female.
By Jeff Walsh
As a Rosie O'Donnell fan, I tore into my review copy of "Celebrity Detox" as soon as it arrived. Prior to her joining The View, I would only watch when I liked one of the guests or I'd occasionally read along with the subtitles on the TVs at the gym. Upon her arrival, I set the show to tape every day on my TIVO, watching the opening "Hot Topics" segments over breakfast and usually deleting the rest.
Her charm has always been her lack of a filter. Of course, when she had her own show, she still had one big filter: the closet. She only came out right at the tail end of her successful run. But, it seemed once she came out, she couldn't be bothered with any filters anymore. Whatever she thought, she said.
"It has always been of absolute importance to me to speak my mind, for better or for worse," she writes in the book. "Because I don't actually have a choice. It's my mind. It's not a car I can trade in for something slicker, or smoother, or sweeter. It's all I have to offer."
Which is what she serves up, as anyone will learn upon reading "Celebrity Detox." It is almost charming to see such an unedited manuscript be published, as you get to see her thought process flit from one random thought to another throughout the book. The book certainly has the feel that it wasn't overly-polished or edited, that we are getting Rosie's take on things and not in the abbreviated cryptic prose she favors on her blog.
By Jeff Walsh
It's hard for me to review the Oprah Winfrey-produced touring production of "The Color Purple" without starting at the end and working backwards.
I should point out that since this musical is based on a 24-year-old novel by Alice Walker and a 22-year-old movie by Steven Spielberg, I will be making no attempt to write around "spoilers." If you don't know the story, and don't want to, stop reading.
I don't know that I have ever seen a more compelling musical to trumpet atheism than "The Color Purple," though it is packaged as a spiritual show. The final words sung in the show are "Look what God has done. Amen."
To which the only rational response could be: If that's God, you can keep Him.
By Jeff Walsh
My first exposure to Noel Alumit was seeing him onstage, performing his one man show "The Rice Room: Scenes From A Bar" that explored the lives of gay Asian men. His second show "Master of the (miss) Universe" explored his gay identity as well as the world of beauty pageants. In between those two shows, Alumit became an accomplished novelist.
His first novel, "Letters to Montgomery Clift," has young Filipino protagonist Bong Bong Luwad searching for his mother. As he goes through hardship, Luwad begins to interact with dead movie star Montgomery Clift as a coping mechanism, writing him letters, seeing him appear during periods of crisis, and even making love to him. The character expresses his innermost thoughts to Clift, but not to the people in his real life. Until Luwad finds out what happens to his parents, who disappeared during the Marcos regime after sending him to America, he seems unable to move forward with his life.
His second novel, "Talking to the Moon," shows the effect of a hate crime on a Filipino family in Los Angeles. The book is based on an actual incident where a Filipino postman was killed, although Alumit's book uses the notion of a hate crime as a jumping-off point to explore how tragedy affects a family. The rotating narrative shows the courtship of Jory and Belen Lalaban, as well as the relationship of their son Emerson to his Taiwanese boyfriend, Michael. The story explores how the family moved from the Philippines because they were "cursed," and examines the fragile tendrils that keep people connected to one another.
Alumit also maintains a blog, The Last Noel, which tracks his eye through the literary world, his writing process, and his life.
I recently spoke with Alumit about his career to date, his exploration of the gay Filipino experience through his performance and writing, and what inspires him as an artist. Here's what we said:
by Jeff Walsh
Wow, I was completely surprised by the Filipino movie "The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros," which stars a 12-year-old as a very feminine gay boy (trans girl?). It is such a charming movie, although the sexuality/gender identity of Maxi is really one element of this multi-faceted story.
Maxi is pretty much running the now-motherless household that also includes his father and two older brothers. He cooks, cleans, patches up their clothing, but more like a spunky housewife than Cinderella. His sexuality is just part of who he is, although his brutish family do refer to him jokingly as female, although given his outfits, hair accessories, and demeanor, he definitely seems more like a girl than a feminine boy.
Maxi lives in a poor part of Manila, where his father sells stolen cell phones in their stand on the street as well as running betting pools and other illicit things.
by Jeff Walsh
In "Times Have Been Better," Jeremy is a 33-year-old, successful banker who is moving into a new loft with his boyfriend. To mark the occasion, he decides to finally tell his parents that he's gay.
Unlike most movies where the gay character and his journey would be the main focus of the movie, Times Have Been Better shows how Jeremy's revelation rattles the very foundation upon which the family relationships have been built. Once the family members get a taste of honesty, they start questioning their own lives and the relationships they maintain out of convenience.
His mother and father almost stop talking to one another. His mother befriends her bitter queen of a co-worker and rejects the friendships she's maintained for years. His father cringes at every question about his son's sexuality, and at the homophobic comments his friends make that never bothered him before. And his brother finally gets undesired attention now that the successful, older brother in whom the family had rested their hopes isn't seen as impervious anymore.