Archive for category GLBT film

A Note on Reviewing

A Note on Reviewing

Amos Lassen

Now that i have entered a new website, I thought I would share my thoughts on book reviewing and react to several comments I have received. I have been asked several times how I select the books I review. My selections are based on two sources. I have been reviewing for years now so publishers send me review copies. There is also the option that I use that if I see a book that I think looks interesting and I have not received a free review copy, then I buy it and if  it is worthy of a GOOD review, I report on it.

I have also been asked why I never give a bad review or if I do I balance it with good points. My purpose in reviewing is to incre4ase awareness of a larger world. If a book does not deserve a good review, I choose not to write about it. My ultimate purpose is to get people to read and if I write about book that has no redeeming value I defeat my purpose.

The other remark that I have received and I have expected it is “Why am I so “hung up” on the Jewish gay issue. There are several reasons for this but by and large it is because I am Jewish and gay and know what I went through reconciling that. It is not a question of being a Jewish issue, it is a religious issue and I have tried to make my reviews read so that any religion or minority group can be interchanged with the word “Jewish” and what the books that I review say can apply to any situation, any minority, and any religion. I am sure some think, “there he goes again with that Jewish business” and to some degree you are right. Just substitute yourself for the word “Jewish” and I think you will understand what I am trying to say. I have also been awarded a grant to write a book about growing up Jewish and gay in the South so quite naturally I spend a lot of time reading books about the subject. My reviews are an exercise for me to voice my opinion and if you feel they do not apply. Just skip over them.

Books for women? I know I have not written much here but I have finally begun to receive books on the subject, so stay tuned. I have a review I am working on now and hopefully there will be more in the future. In the meantime let me just say keep reading.

I have had one major disappointment. I am in contact with many authors and publishers and when I see raw talent, I will go above and beyond so that people are aware of the author. Recently I met a new vibrant young author, a poet who had just self-published his first book. I felt that people had to get to know him and I pushed that book like I have never done before and quite naturally the writer and I became good friends–or so I thought. I introduced him to many, many writers via facebook and other means. I wrote to people I know and told them that they had to read this book and I even went as far as to name it number one on a list I prepared for Lambda Literary Foundation. Shortly afterward my life hit a crisis with the infamous Amazon affair and I really needed a friend. Where was he? Nary a word from him yet his book continued to climb to the tops of many lists and he did so well that he opened his own press and managed to get a nice group of writers to publish with him. We are were scheduled to have lunch to discuss the rift between us when he decided that he had to go away for the weekend and was never heard from again. His poetry recently appeared in major publications and he won a place on the American Library list for which I nominated him and so on and so on. Am I bitter? I guess I am a bit but I learned that when someone writes a book and wants me to review it, I will but I will never go out of my way again and then get slapped for it. We all have our day and his will come.

On a positive note, I am currently moving over 5000 reviews of GLBT movies and books to this site so be patient. This will be the official archive of my reviews. Thanks for reading.

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“VELVET GOLDMINE”–glitter and glam

“Velvet Goldmine”

Glitter and Glam

Amos Lassen

“Velvet Goldmine” is impressive in the way it includes Oscar Wilde, his philosophies about art and his fascination with music. Even though Wilde is not a character in the film his presence is felt throughout. He is referenced throughout.

Curt is both a composite of Iggy Pop and Wilde—he is an artist as he creates music and Brian Slade is Dorian Gray. He throws his entire persona out there and into his music and traps himself into his own being. Because he has trapped himself, he leaves no room for growth. When he is pseudo-shot, he is arranging his own future. His sham death liberates him and secures him a place in history. He was controversial and bared all in his work and this is what deprived him of longevity. His popularity undoubtedly would have paled and he eventually would be forgotten. If he had changed, everything about him would have changed and he would be regarded as having sold out. By inaugurating his death, he guarantees himself an eternity.

This is not just a film—it is an experience. “Velvet Goldmine” has a sense of erotic innocence and therefore becomes a triumphant motion picture. It explores the effect of glam and the way it influenced the world view toward homosexuality.

There were two instances of a vivid evocation of gay life. The first is when the narrator is watching Slade on TV and he announces that he is a homosexual. The narrator fantasizes about pointing to the TV in front of his parents and saying “That’s me”. The second comes when the narrator buys his first Brian Slade album and a magazine with an article about Slade. He uses them as material to masturbate over.

The glam rockers changed the world when they brought to the world images that had been unthinkable images at that time. By doing so they eased life for gay men—they created a language that made it easier to explain ourselves to others. Their music can hardly be separated from the gay aspects of it.

The movie is stunning to watch and the imagery stays long after the movie is over. Sure, it is a surreal view of glam rock but so what? It is entertainment. It may be over the top and campy and excessive but it works beautifully.

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“V’AHVTA” (“THOU SHALT LOVE”)–new Israeli prize winning gay film


New Israeli Gay Film—a Prizewinner

Amos Lassen

I have just received word about a new Israeli prizewinning film, “V’ahavta”. This sounds like a film that we are all going to want to see. Directed by student director, Chaim Album, it depicts the struggle endured by an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva (a school devoted to the study of sacred texts) student who is forced to sublimate his homosexual tendencies in a society that is by and large intolerant. He ultimately comes to understand that to struggle is useless and accepts himself as a gay religious man and makes peace with his creator and himself.

From what I have read, “V’ahavta” mirrors the filmmaker’s own life. The significance of the title is something many will think about. The word “v’ahavta” means “and you shall love.” It is also the word that starts one of the prayers that religious Jews utter everyday, “And you shall love, the Lord, your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.

Album is thrilled to have the award for best feature film made at the Ma’ale film school for two reasons—the nature of the film is controversial and the fact that he was given the chance to make a film that is so close to him. The movie, he says, is deeply personal and intimate. Reflecting on his decision to come out he says that midway through his studies he decided to either leave the school or make the film. Album stresses the importance of bringing the topic of homosexuality up for discussion in an ultra-Orthodox society because the issue has not been discussed freely.

One of the problems he faced in making the film was that he had no assistance with the production, When he tried to find locations to shoot the film, doors closed quickly and he encountered fear and ignorance about the subject. The film which deals with faith and religion is not sexual but still he was refused help wherever he tried. He ultimately had to build all of the film’s locations himself.

Even with many hostile reactions, no one walked out of the film when it was screened. Most told Album that after seeing the film that they felt more tolerant and with more understanding about gay life.

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British Class

Amos Lassen

“Things to Do Before You’re 30” is a hilarious movie abounding with cliché and several touching moments. It revolves around a football team which ahs been playing together for twenty years and is about to play its 500th game. They guys on the team have been together for the entire life of the team and each has his own problem. It is tastefully done and at tiles is outrageous. You can’t help but laugh and enjoy yourself.

At the beginning I thought I was going to be watching another of those childish, but very funny, “American Pie” movies with stupid characters, lots of sexual jokes and not much more. I was surprised, quite pleasantly, to find that it is a serious film about life and the decisions we make as we get older.

In 1983 Atlantic Greenwich was organized as a football team. In 2003 the team was still playing with the same players who, of course, are older. All of them have changed a great deal but they still have football that unites them. All of them had decided to leave the team, but, because it is the 500th game, they decide to play together this one last time. Naturally there will be a multitude of problems especially after they have discovered hw they want to spend the rest of their lives.

It is the well-written script that keeps everything together and has the movie progresses it becomes more and more interesting.

Billy Piper is the standout actor and even though the movie is slow starting, save the opening scene in the locker room when the naked men are visited by a girlfriend of one of the guys. Yet when it finally gets going, you cannot help but allow yourself to be drawn it. There are a lot of characters so it takes a while to get everything established.

The closing scene is very moving and it helps us understand what keeps all of these characters together.

I am a big fan of British cinema and so I was not hard to please with this film. I can’t help but wonder why it hasn’t received a larger release. It is not perfect but it is the kind of movie that warms the heart and sounds the nature of male bonding. I have to say I recommend it and urge you to try to find a copy. (I got mine from Netfilx).

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Pure Camp

Amos Lassen

There is something about drama queens. They manage to get themselves into all kinds of situations and they can be extremely tiring. “The Young, the Gay and the Restless” (Ariztical) has more than its share of drama queens and they are fun. This campy satire on television soap operas with grabby friends and deceitful relatives is just fun.

Victoria Gaylord is very rich. She also has an illness that cannot be cured and she invites all of her relatives to come to her home and share her last few days. Little does she know that they are planning to take over her wealth. This comedy has so many twists and turns that sometimes you feel you need a road map t keep everything—shall I say—straight?

  • Quite honestly I  expected this to be a really bad movie. The original screener I received from Ariztical would not play on my DVD player or my computer and I took this as  a sign that the movie wasn’t worth my time. I was very much in error. I found myself laughing aloud several times. This is a real gay comedy. To make it more believable and to resemble a soap opera, there are a few straight characters thrown in for balance.  Everything about the movie resembles soap—the acting, the editing, the sets and the film work.
  • I can’t say the acting is memorable aside from being memorably bad. And the script needs work. For a movie like this, you have to take it for exactly what it is—a spoof, a satire. But to write a good satire is not easy and that is what bothered me the most. I saw so much that could have been improved and I saw the seeds for a really funny movie. Instead we get a fun movie that is occasionally funny. It is too bad that those occasions are when it is not supposed to be funny.
  • But there are good things in the movie as well and you may have to search for them. I have read several reviews but I have yet t read one that in some way did not slam this movie, I am not going to slam it, I had a good time with it because I knew what I was watching. As silly as it was, it is an attempt t broaden gay cinema and to me that is very important. Every movie can’t be a “Brokeback Mountain” and every comedy is not “Another Gay Movie”. I say that we have to give newcomers a chance and although this is a movie that is far from perfect, it is a start and everyone deserves that.

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“THE WOLVES OF KROMER”–a gay allegory


A Gay Allegory

Amos Lassen

There is something about werewolves that holds an interest for gay men and First Run Features has provided us with a DVD to satisfy that interest, “The Wolves of Kromer”. “Wolves” is a modern day fairy tale fueled by themes of lust, greed and murder. Two separate plots mesh together to provide a suspenseful mystery which is filled with intrigue. A mysterious murder, committed by two old maids, is the backdrop for the movie. They frame local wolves (who are really local models) and this arouses the interest of the fundamentalist religious zealots and this propels a group of strange and bizarre characters to come forth and what results is a very unique fantasy film which is very odd.

The story of werewolves is an allegory for the gay experience but what is hard to decide is whether this is a horror film or a drama or is it just plain fantasy?

In the beginning of the movie is a scene in which two young men, dressed shabbily, are sitting in a forest; there is something supernatural about them, their nails are pointed and sharp but otherwise they look perfectly normal. As an older woman passes where they are sitting she is aghast at the sight of them and runs as if she had seen real wolves. The two young men, Gabriel and Seth, are regarded by the townsfolk as wolves. To us who are watching the movie and to themselves they look like handsome young men. This is obviously the set up for the fantasy. Do we see them as others see them or do we see them as we want to? Suddenly we notice that they are carrying stuffed wolf tales and we are led to believe that the director is showing us to actors pretending to be wolves.

There is a lot to interest the viewer and to keep him intrigued in the movie. I have read where some critics have tossed the movie aside as a silly diversion and I take issue with that. I think it takes several viewings to really understand what is going on. I agree that the wolf get-up looks silly; seeing young men dressed in fashionable clothes which are fashionably torn is a bit much. However, the facts that they have long nails and pointed ears make them look like wolves to a degree. They are unshod and shirtless but they wear ratty fur coats and live as outcasts in the woods and have to resort to petty theft in order to get food to eat and cash t play arcade games with. When the wolves are accused of killing the old lady the movie begins a rapid shift.

The allegory between the wolves and homosexuals is very clear—they are both outcasts and regarded as pariahs in society. It may take a great deal of patience to understand the film fully but it is a film worth seeing and thinking about. It is not a usual kind of film because you are forced to think about what you see but that is what I find enjoyable, so much more enjoyable than watching fluff.

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“THE WITNESSES”–very French


“The Witnesses”

Very French

Amos Lassen

Like many French films, this is narrated by one character (in voice over), Sarah who is writing the main character’s life story. The plot deals with love in all of its varieties and guises, about gaining self-happiness and about how AIDS destroys. It takes place in the 1980’s when we first learned about AIDS and it shows beautifully how the characters in the film deal with the disease. The movie is never maudlin or sad, it is like life—it just keeps going on.

The movie deals with the life of Manu, a young gay man who moves to Paris. While there he meets an older man who falls in love with him, Adrien. Manu is not looking for love; he wants friendship. Adrien has a good friend, Sarah, a new mom and her husband, Mehdi. They have an open relationship and allow each other to have sex with others. Mehdi is taken by Manu and the two begin an affair.

What happens in the rest of the movie is better not said but let me say that this is a movie to watch for. It is important because it dares to look at AIDS in a different way and it explores so many different facets of love. However what it really does is let us know how devastating AIDS was. I think sometimes we tend to forget that all that we have today was won for us by so many people that we lost to the terrible disease and we need to be reminded. More so, we are still not free from the horrible consequences of such a terrible blow to the human race.

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“THE WINDY CITY INCIDENT”– home to Olympia


“The Windy City Incident”

Home to Olympia?

Amos Lassen

“The Windy City Incident” soon to be released from Ariztical Entertainment seems to be a film of little value—that is on first viewing. Rewatching it changed my initial opinion that the movie is not much more than meaningless fluff. A great movie it is not and actually it is not much of a movie except for providing 71 minutes of fun and laughs

The plot centers on Chanel Puget, a drag queen, who lives in peace and quiet in Olympia, Washington. The only thing that is a bit odd about Chanel’s existence is that she (he) is frequently bothered by ghostly dreams. In one of the dreams Chanel is ordered to travel to Chicago and even though his (her) boyfriend argues against the trip, Chanel follows the dream and heads for the windy city of Chicago. In order to support himself and pay rent, he works the streets.

Everything was going fine until one evening while dropping in at a drag bar, Chanel’s past history crashes into the present time. Mysteries suddenly show signs of being solved and we learn that Chanel’s body and soul have become a vehicle for vindictive apparitions. What does this mean? You will have to watch the movie to find out. The viewer is the only one who knows if and when Chanel will make it safely back to Olympia or remain in Chicago forever possessed by Ant, the dreaded ghost.

Sounds preposterous? It is but it is not meant to have any great meaning or give a sincere moral lesson. I think the object of the movie is to simply have a good time. There is a lot wrong with this movie but there is also a fun time to be had. Sit back, enjoy, groan every once in a while but it is great sometimes to forget who you are and just relax.

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“THE TWO OF US”–better late than never


“The Two of Us”

Better Late than Never

Amos Lassen

Finally out on DVD is “The Two of Us”, one of the most controversial film ever screened on British TV. It was well worth the wait. “The Two of Us” is the story of two school boys from Brighton Beach who fall in love and then openly confess their feelings for each other. When it was produced two versions were made of the film—one gay and one straight. Both deal with young love and its ramifications. Considering it was made in 1987, it is quite graphic and has a gay kiss—something rarely seen at that time.

The movie is beautiful in its sensitivity. The two boys are young and innocent and good looking. Matthew is a recent graduate and Phil, his best friend is a bubbly senior. Phil knows he has strong feelings for Matthew but he also has feelings for his girlfriend. He is taunted at school and both boys are harassed and tormented by families, friends and authorities. The two finally defiantly proclaim their love but Phil’s indecision as well as his bisexual bent cause indecision and their relationship takes a while to develop. But develop it does and the two young men  give us an uplifting look at love and romance and a glimpse into the world of young men we rarely get to see.

This is far from the movie it could have been but we have been tempered by what we see on the screen today. After “Queer as Folk” almost everything else looks mild but “The Two of Us” is to be applauded for what it does portray. Above all it shows us to remain true to oneself.

Jason Rush and Lee Whitlock are perfect as the boys. Not only are they convincing as actors it is easy to see how they fell in love. As a piece of our past this is a film that must be seen and to see it is to understand how little movies like this pave the way for what we have today.

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“THE TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS”–interestingly far-fetched



Interestingly Far-fetched

Amos Lassen

“The Twilight of the Golds” (Genius Entertainment) is controversial by its very nature. It is the story of a young couple who discover through genetic testing that their soon to be born child will be gay. Sounds preposterous, does it not? So does the film seem to be until you watch it. Boasting an all star cast, this original Showtime movie stats Gerry Marshall, Faye Dunaway, Brendan Fraser, Jennifer Beales and Rosie O’Donnell, it will have you thinking long after you finish viewing it.

The movie opens at a happy family party at the soon to be grandparent’s home (Marshall and Dunaway). Suzanne Stein (Jennifer Beals) and her husband Rob have a secret which they can’t wait to tell but the peaceful evening get together is broken by the animosity the parents show toward their gay son, David (Fraser). When he remarks that his lover sends his regards and remarks that he would have come had he been invited. It is here that we see how deep homophobia runs in the family.

Mixing high drama with comedy, we allow ourselves to relax only to be jolted back into reality later in the film. David’s father tells hi, that he thinks his son is sick and diseased (because he is gay) and that had they known he was gay before birth, they would have had him aborted. What is so hard to see in this film is the plausibility (or lack of) in the subject matter. Even an assumption that there is a test to show signs of homosexuality before birth seems a tad ridiculous.

The whole idea behind the film is both fascinating and disgusting at the same time. If indeed it will be possible, sometime in the future, to know the sexuality of an unborn child. I wonder what we have to gain from that. What does that do to the color scheme for boys and girls? Will we adopt anew color for gay children? It seems ridiculous but as foolish as it seems, good acting makes it extremely interesting.

Jennifer Beals puts in am amazing performance as Suzanne Gold, a woman who has a very difficult decision to make. The main problem I had with the movie, and mind you all, I liked the film very much, is whether the movie is really about the son, David or the unborn baby. We feel David’s pain and anguish over his family’s non-acceptance of him. But what about Suzanne and Rob—are they willing to have a baby that will turn out like David? If he is indeed gay, will they be able to love him or should they just abort him and save him a life f pain? When David realizes that the only reason that his parents grant him the iota of acceptance that they do because they know they cannot change him, he is crushed but manages to hold himself together. But when he learns that if they could have prevented his birth altogether, they would have, he becomes distraught. Suzanne adores her brother but is she willing to have a child like him?

The subject matter is incendiary. What if we could know about the sexuality of a child before birth? Would we want to know? Today it is not so bad but imagine this issue twenty years ago or in a place where homosexuality is punishable by death.

Should Suzanne and Rob bring a child into the world after having seen the way David had been treated?-especially by Suzanne’s own parents. David is the center of the film and eventually it is he who shapes and helps his sister make her final decision. This movie gets excessively heavy in the second half but even with that heaviness, I found so much to like here. It did what few movies do these days—it made me think and even though I will never be in a position that s similar to the one presented here, it made me wonder what I would do if I were.

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