Monthly Archives: January 2012

“RESTLESS”— Van Sant Gives Us a Girl, a Boy, Death and Love


Van Sant Gives Us a Girl, a Boy, Death and Love

Amos Lassen

“Restless” is the story of a terminally ill teenage girl, Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) who falls for a boy, Enoch Henry Hopper) who enjoys going to funerals. Enoch is restless with living as is Annabel. Enoch became interested in death when both his parents and the life he once knew died. Annabel has cancer and does not fight her illness and is fine with spending the rest of her days studying nature. Then they met each other.

Unconventional boy meets unconventional girl. We have not had such odd characters on film but they are so far removed from everything that it is difficult to understand them. Our characters are two people in limbo who are somewhere between life and death. Enoch’s parents were killed in a car crash which almost killed him as well but he is alive and healthy but has dropped out of life. Annabel is full of life as death closes in on her—she only has three months to live. Both of them exist in that area between life and death but in different ways. They need each other—one has to learn to return to the living and the other has to be ready to die with honor.

Then there is Hiroshi, Enoch’s imaginary friend who is a ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot from the Second World War and he roams nowhere land. Everything in the film is hidden in a world that is not real. We, however, see their world as real and these two people roam around each other before they come together. They fall in love for the first and for Annabel, the only time. Hopper and Wasikowska turn in excellent performances and throughout the film is the feeling of impending death. The film is a dance with death which is actually a dance with life. Enoch and Annabel hold onto each other and learn the meaning of life.

Van Sant tells us an unconventional story and he does so conventionally. The story is sensitive and tender and deals with what teens go through and what it means to mature. He is able to create a mood that is deep but never becomes melodramatic. Van Sant has spent a lot of his career telling us about the younger generation and he handles death in a creative manner.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “LOVE NEVER DIES”— The Sequel to “Phantom”

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Love Never Dies”

The Sequel to “Phantom”

Amos Lassen

We have to wait until May to see this on DVD but I was lucky enough to get an advance look. This is a recording of the live theater performance at the Adelphi Theater in London. The staging is spectacular and the performances are excellent. The score is sheer brilliance however I doubt if the public will take to it as they have to the score of “Phantom”. There will be those who will say that this show was written to cash in on the success of its predecessor and when it opened the reviews were lukewarm. Andrew Lloyd Webber then reworked the show mostly during its Australian run and what we have now is not really a sequel but a story that uses some of its characters.

The original London production was generally regarded as a failure and that is not what we see here. This is an all new, completely re-imagined and reconceived production with a new concept and new direction and a new cast. In fact, it does not even resemble the Australian production.–Things You Don’t Know But Should–Things You Don’t Know But Should


Let’s talk about Amazon. Com–things you don’t know but should

For those of you who do not know, I was one of the top 40 reviewers of Amazon when I left in December. This is significant in that I was the only person in the top 100 that reviewed GLBT books and movies but, of course, not everyone was happy with that and I am no longer posting on Amazon. I think it is very important for us to know that Amazon DOES NOT care if we do business there or not so I urge you to take your business elsewhere and support out independent GLBT business like the local bookstores and

I have recently learned some interesting facts about Amazon that I want to share. Since Amazon is so large and powerful they are not policed by any of the net protectors such as net nanny, etc. This simply means that Amazon can see what it wants and there are no stops top anyone seeing whatever on their site. Did you know that Amazon also sells porn and sex toys and those pages are open to all?

Small children can buy porn on Amazon-check out these links:

These items are in Amazon’s inventory and are available for immediate shipment to whoever orders them, regardless of age. Additionally the film below is so offensive that other companies have refused to carry it yet even a small child can buy it. There’s a scene where a woman is abducted, raped and a coke bottle is forced into her vagina – among many other rape short films – it’s a collection of short films about rape.

Let’s have a look at Amazon’s sex toy store which they call their Sexual Wellness Store. Maybe I am naïve but I did not know that butt plugs, vibrators, handcuffs, sexual furniture, etc. have anything to do with sexual wellness. Let’s call a dog a dog and not give it a fancy name. How about an 11 year old ordering a butt plug?

Amazon is the largest sex toy retailer in the US. Does that shock you? Imagine the joy that a 9-year old girl can get from reading all about dildos. Look what you can buy at without an age check.


“Legalize Gay: The Civil Rights Movement of a Generation”

A New Documentary

Amos Lassen

We have been struggling for equal rights for years now and now public opinion seems to be moving in our direction. Now we share our fight with straight allies and in “Legalize Gay”, documentary film maker Christopher Hines gives us a look at the struggle with both the successes and the failures. What we see here is the courage and convictions of the new activism as they campaign—sometimes in places of hostility so that we can be rewarded by receiving the rights we should have—the right to marriage, on discrimination in athletics and at work, sex education and inclusive college campuses.
“Legalize Gay” follows several young activists “as they put their words into action”: 

“I believe I am responsible for any history I am a part of” said Hudson Taylor — an All American college wrestler who wore the HRC equality symbol on his head gear and started Athlete Ally to end LGBT discrimination in sports
“We are willing to fight for it, we have the energy and we feel we don’t have anything to lose” said Jeshawna Wholley — who brought the first LGBT pride to a historically black college and was honored by President Obama.

“When young people speak up, it makes the possibility of change even greater, said Daniel Sparks, a student in Parma, Ohio, who shook up his school district with a campaign demanding the teaching of same-sex relationships in sex-education classes.

“People coming up to me now and saying ‘I really respect you and you’ve made change some of the perceptions I had,’” said Daniel Hernandez, who came to the rescue of U.S. Congresswoman Gabbie Giffords during a shooting rampage in Arizona.

“There were people who wanted my family not to exist,” said Zach Wahls, the son of a lesbian couple who grabbed national headlines when he spoke before the Iowa House of Representatives against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“It’s a sense of justice, it’s a sense of fairness,” said Brian Sims, the first openly gay college football captain who is running for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

“I’m advocating that you accept anyone who is different from you, and give them the respect they deserve,” said Miss New York Claire Buffie, the first contestant in Miss America’s 90-year history to make LGBT equality her platform in the competition.

“I don’t care if two men are madly deeply in love, and are happy, because that’s what life is all about,” said British rugby player Ben Cohen, who started his Standup Foundation to combat bullying.

“Legalize Gay” also captures the energy and passion of an annual event called “Camp Pride” – a boot camp of sorts for young activists, giving them the skills and support to promote equality on college campuses, including speakers such as Mara Keisling, founding executive director, National Center for Transgender Equality. “We are just at the point now to get into people’s mindset that they also have a gender identity,” Keisling said. “These kids are still the pioneers.”

Other featured experts and commentators:

Robin Brand — deputy executive director, Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, national organization dedicated to get LGBT candidates elected to public office.

Beverly Guy-Sheftall — founding director of the Women’s Study Center at Spellman College, the most prestigious black women’s college in the country.

Troy Price — executive director of the LGBT advocacy organization “One Iowa”

Patrick Davis — president of Davis Brand Capital, a gay-owned branding company behind some of the most successful product marketing campaigns in the country.

Judith Pindell — director of public policy, AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland.

This is a movie that we should not only want to see but that we must see.

“MARRIED IN CANADA”— Seven Stories

“Married in Canada”

Seven Stories

Amos Lassen

“Married in Canada” is a new documentary that follows seven love stories which show why getting married is so important for same=sex couples in America. The states they live in the United States prohibit their marriages yet the people involved show us why it is important and worthwhile to overcome the obstacles they face. The couples went to Canada to marry but once they returned home to America, they are no longer considered legally married. We see their marriage ceremonies and see why the days they married are the most important days in their lives. From what I understand this is the first film to explore out of the country marriages and the consequences and it concentrates on the fight for equality.

“THE ISLAND”— A Strange Man

“The Island” (“Ostrov”)

A Strange Man

Amos Lassen

This month’s selection from Film Movement, “The Island” is set in North Russia in a small Russian Orthodox monastery where an unusual man lives and confuses his fellow monks with his strange behavior. Those that visit the island believe that he has healing powers, can exorcise demons and is able to see the future.

The film opens with the Second World War and we see a German destroyer escorting a small coal transporting barge. The two man crew is hidden under the coal. Anatoli is forced at gunpoint to give up the other man and then to kill his mate and the captain. He is left to die in an explosion but he survives it and is rescued by monks. We move forward to 1976 and see Anatoli working at the monastery. He is very odd and he performs some wild tricks in which we see his insight into unworldly things. People come to the island seeking him and regarding him as a holy man.

This is a powerful film and we see the essence of a human being here who remains with us long after the film is over. Father Anatoli has a mission and when he achieves it he dies. He is prepared for death and through him we see the strength of man that resides in his essence. The film shows us the difference between a religious person and one who is a member of a church institution. Father Anatoli (Pyotr Mamonov) is an unofficial Orthodox monk who is said to have the power to heal. He is, like all of us, a study of contradiction. On one hand he is a prankster, on the other, a fervent worshipper. His devotion is explained in the opening flashback where Nazis ordered him to murder a comrade. Then we movie onto a look at matters of faith—the relationship between guilt and the wish to do good.

Anatoly is regarded as being able to predict and to heal but it is important to remember that this is what others say about him. He lives in the boiler room, rarely washes or changes his clothes, he is disruptive during church services and he plays practical jokes on the other monks. His character is drawn from Russian tradition where the “holy fool” holds a place. The “holy fool” is a man of bizarre behavior and this opens a deeper truth that is part of the more devout monks’ dedication. Anatoli lives with no luxuries and this is an embarrassment to the others. When he gives advice, he demands some kind of sacrifice.

The gorgeous cinematography adds to the bleak life that Anatoli leads. During the course of the film, we face the issues of sin, faith and redemption. These are heavy ideas that are quite complex. The pace of the film is quite slow and there is repetition but these are for a distinct purpose which you will feel.

We learn that Anatoli suffers with guilt from a sin that he committed years ago and the reason he rarely leaves the coal room is part of his repentance. He feels that the sin has stained him and he stays unkempt as a way of acknowledging his sin. He will not die and he believes that God washed him up on the shore of the island years ago and he is basically a saint who was once a sailor. He hopes to be cleaned by reason.

The film seems to me to be a study of forgiveness—not just of others but also of oneself as we see that man’s isolation is also geographic as in Anatoli. Director Pavel Lounguine uses imagery as symbol here and in doing so chides us to awaken to ourselves—to who we really are.


“Man 2 Man: A Gay Man’s Guide to Finding Love”— A New Documentary from Christopher Hines

“Man 2 Man: A Gay Man’s Guide to Finding Love”

A New Documentary

Amos Lassen

Christopher Hines who gave us “The Butch Factor” and “The Adonis Factor” has a new documentary about finding love. “Man 2 Man” is an exploration of man’s search for love, to finding Mr. Right and to keeping him. Hines looks at why gay men want long-term relationships but sometimes cannot make them work. Using interviews with psychologists, authors, matchmakers and couples, Hines asks the questions and the major one is “Are you looking to get laid, or are you looking to fall in love? “

We see several guys as they try every way they can to find their soul mate. We also hear what stops gay men from finding love that lasts. Uriel, a 28-year-old says that he to learn to be himself and to be there for someone else and to be free. Salvatore from San Francisco says, “Understanding the work and commitment required, as well as the rewards, of a long-term relationship is important for many gay men. Gay men’s standards are way, way too high. They watch too much porn, said comedian ANT, who gives his humorous take on gay men and relationships. They want a Nordic Latino”.

We also meet “ Patrick Perrine, founder of the gay relationship site,; Alan Downs, psychologist and author of Velvet Rage: Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man s World; Will Mahan, a psychologist and therapist in Atlanta, GA; Joel Simkhai, founder of the Grindr phone app, and Jonathan Crutchley, co-founder of the gay male dating site, Manhunt”.

The DVD consists of the 60 minute documentary and extras that include a guide to looking for a long-term relationship, a featurette, “Learning to Love”, tips for dating and hints for tough love by gay comedian Ant.

Images of Occupation at Sundance— “5 BROKEN CAMERAS” Tells Human Story of Life in West Bank

Images of Occupation at Sundance

‘5 Broken Cameras’ Tells Human Story of Life in West Bank

Two Eyes, ‘5 Cameras’: Director Emad Burnat got his first video camera to film his son. It would up opening an unusual candid window on Palestinian life under occupation.

courtesy of sundance film festival
Two Eyes, ‘5 Cameras’: Director Emad Burnat got his first video camera to film his son. It would up opening an unusual candid window on Palestinian life under occupation.


By Abra Cohen

“The Forward”

Published January 31, 2012, issue of February 10, 2012.

Selling out a screening or getting a standing ovation at Sundance is hard enough for a seasoned filmmaker, let alone for a farmer from the West Bank. But director Emad Burnat, from the village of Bil’in, brought Park City, Utah, to its feet with his debut documentary about his family’s life beyond the security barrier and amid Israeli settlements.

Shot from his own perspective, “5 Broken Cameras” is a refreshing change from documentaries with political agendas that reverberate throughout. Instead of an embedded political message, the film focuses on one person’s reality and his child’s vantage point. There’s no escaping the situation, but Burnat, who ends up filming his village’s non-violent response to Israeli settlement building and construction of the security barrier, begins his documentary by explaining that he actually bought his first video camera to film his son, who was born in 2005.

Over the seven years of filming, Burnat used six cameras, five of which were destroyed. The life and death of each camera has its own distinct chapter in the film.

Co-produced by Israeli Guy Davidi, the film gives the majority of airtime to Burnat; however, footage of Israelis from all walks of life joining villagers from the West Bank in non-violent protest is one of the most powerful parts of the documentary.

Burnat has a way of constantly juxtaposing joy and pain. Footage of army aggression and village protests sits alongside happy family events, footage of his son, Gibreel, and his patient and brave wife, Soraya. In between bursts of occasional gunfire, he captures the innocence of Gibreel’s childhood. The child’s laughter, first words and intimate family moments illustrate how life continues even in challenging times.

One of the main characters in the film, Phil, is a village leader and charismatic big brother to the children in Bil’in. Young, broad-shouldered and full of hope, he has a following of young boys who look up to him. Phil, a Palestinian, is always pushing for peaceful resistance, even as grenades and tear gas are lobbed and rubber bullets fired at the villagers. It is important to see another, less publicized side to the resistance — a non-violent approach. At points during the film, it is hard to imagine how Phil maintains dedication to peaceful resistance as progress seems non-existent and Israeli military incursions are continual.

While viewers who have knowledge about the West Bank may be aware that non-violent protest is not the norm, the point of Burnat’s film is to represent his experience, from his point of view. The film’s goal is not to show whether the rationale for the barrier and checkpoints — to reduce bombings — has been vindicated.

Instead, the audience witnesses the progression of the villagers’ anger as little seems to change for the better in Bil’in. Indeed, things get ever worse as the IDF enforces laws that are not explained to the villagers.

Burnat and Davidi focus on youngsters in Bil’in rather than on hardened villagers that audiences often see in documentaries about the West Bank. This approach offers a glimmer of hope when hope seems fleeting. Instead of seeing enraged Palestinian children as rock throwers on the road to extremism, the film suggests that the children in the village are committed to a non-violent approach to resistance. In “5 Broken Cameras,” the kids carry banners in protest, and in one scene Gibreel hands an Israeli soldier a symbolic olive branch as he passes through the barrier. This illustrative scene depicts not only the positive interaction between two people, but it shows as representative interaction between Palestinian and Israeli that is deliberately not violent.

As the documentary progresses, we witness Gibreel’s growth from a baby to a sensitive boy. He and the audience become aware of what is going on around him, and the physical separation between the Arab and Jewish West Bank is seen through the eyes of a child. He sees the division between two populations, not just a line to separate two lands. The disturbing image of young boys with peyes and tzitzis playing in beautiful apartments in settlements that peer down at Palestinian children in semi-permanent shacks sticks with the viewer. Men dressed in suits and black hats throw violent punches at Burnat as he films. It is hard not to share a sense of frustration.

While the film focuses on peaceful demonstration and a non-violent approach to Palestinian protest, “5 Broken Cameras” lacks explanation as to why Israeli soldiers entered the village of Bil’in in the first place. The trade-off in offering an individual perspective is that the film does not show the broader clash of systems that has led to terrorism, on the one hand, and Israeli incursions and searches, on the other. Throughout the film, viewers see uniformed IDF soliders launching grenades and tear gas at villagers during what look like non-violent protests. The villagers are understandably upset, but the lack of context undermines any larger claim for justice.

Nevertheless, “5 Broken Cameras” subtly reinforces hope for peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians, a much needed belief when peace seems far-fetched. The co-production of this film, combined with the portrayal of Palestinian children and villagers who resolve to accomplish political change through peaceful means, can only strengthen even a discouraged viewer’s resolve to achieve peace. As Burnat says: “It takes strength to turn something negative into something positive.”

“Tricks and Treats: Twenty Tales of Gay Terror and Romance” by Michael G. Cornelius— Good Horror Storiess

Cornelius, Michael G. “Tricks and Treats: Twenty Tales of Gay Terror and Romance”, MLR Press, 2012.

Good Horror Tales

Amos Lassen

Just out from MLR Press is a collection of twenty gay horror stories. If you are looking for a fun read, give this a look. We have unseen forces in a bathroom stall, a flying giant squid, zombies and a cannibal. However the real thing to be afraid of is falling in love. Lock the doors, turn on all of the lights, sit back and enjoy.


“The Cinderella Effect”

A Modern Fairy Tale

Amos Lassen

I just heard about a new short film, “The Cinderella Effect” and then I watched the trailer and it sounds wonderful. Set in Hollywood of today, we meet a hopeless romantic who is looking for love.

““THE CINDERELLA EFFECT” is a gay-themed short. It is a musical romp into that very possibility. Randall Grimm has arrived in Los Angeles in search of his very own happy ending. Within moments of arriving, however, Randall is thrust into the very high-pressure networking atmosphere of a local LGBTQ film festival that his friend insists on attending. Awkward and out-of-place, Randall holds fast to the notion that Hollywood produces its very own happy endings. Soon, he imagines the high-pressure after-party to become the all-too-familiar royal ball of a fairytale; the cynical partygoers adopt the characteristics of evil stepsisters, and Prince Charming exists in the body of a Hollywood Leading Man. However, no Cinderella story can exist without a Fairy Godmother, and Randall’s deconstructs his happy-ever-after notions so he can discover that the only thing real in Hollywood is the ‘FINAL REEL’ of whatever genre we write for ourselves. Full of original songs, tongue-in-cheek humor, and classic film genre staples, THE CINDERELLA EFFECT is that rare Hollywood love-story that invites its audience to love Hollywood just as much as its two love-struck characters do”.