Monthly Archives: February 2012

“SAINTS AND SINNERS”— Catholic, Gay and Getting Married

“Saints and Sinners”

Catholic, Gay and Getting Married

Amos Lassen

Of late there has been a lot of talk about gay marriage and I bet most of us do not remember what was going on about it in 2004. Edward DeBonis and Vincent Maniscalco had been living together for seven years and they decided that they wanted to get married. Both devout Catholics, they were only willing to settle for the “Holy Sacrament of Marriage” and they requested that the New York Times print their wedding announcement in the Style section of the paper. This was one of the first requests that the Times had had and the paper knew that publishing a Catholic gay wedding announcement would give the editors a good deal of controversy and there were discussions as to whether a gay union could be called a wedding and whether a gay couple could indeed be considered Catholic. We must remember that this took place at the very beginning of the trend toward legal acceptance of LGBT unions. The film looks at the social, political and religious aspects of same-sex marriage and how American society has been affected. What the film really focuses on is how these two men want their marriage to be in accordance with the Catholic sacrament of marriage. They had to fight to find a priest who would perform the ceremony as well as being the first Catholic couple to be featured in the New York Times. We become witness to how real people deal with the fight for acceptance. (I will not use the word tolerance because that is just a band aid).

This is quite a moving story in our fight for equal rights and we see firsthand how the Catholic church treats us. Neither of the men would consider marrying outside of the church as they were both devout and active members in it.

Abigail Honor has filmed this beautifully and the opening shots of Edward calling seven different Catholic churches in New York City prepares us for what we are going to see later. We then hear each man as he explains why he is doing what he does and feels that he has to. We hear their coming out stories and meet their families and we learn of the importance of the church in their lives. Then we hear of the wedding plans and the arguments over decorations, clothing and the reception and we see the importance of detail to them.

The men tell us about “Dignity”, the gay and lesbian Catholic organization that celebrates Mass in churches that are not Catholic and the parishioners are treated as second class citizens. We learn of their families and how Edward and Vince get into trouble with their home churches because of their activism in “Dignity”. They have real concerns and it is really something to see when it comes time for communion at their wedding when it seems that no one will partake. What we do not see is the other side—the divisiveness and the dissension but we are well aware that it is there. There is not a lot of drama but there is sensitivity and it is a beautiful look at a contemporary problem.

 

“SWINE”— Survival

“Swine”

Survival

Amos Lassen

I have great fun when I discover new talent and that is just what “Swine” is. Daniel Levitch brings us a post apocalyptic war story about a captain who betrays his men. Civilization in almost in total ruin and the survivors have to use their primal instincts if they want to stay alive. Everything has become quite wild and savage and survival is what counts for both the scavengers and the hunters. The warlords of the north united and have taken special care to conquer whatever stands in their path. They are not aware of a rebellion that is growing in the Outlands where a group of partisan have formed a movement, the “Vox Populi” and they plan to hold their own against the warlords. This is a short film coming in at 43 minutes and is divided into three chapters.

Chapter one introduces us to Vox Populi that emerges from hiding after discovering that there is a weakness in the ruling colonial garrison and they prepare to strike against it.

Chapter two introduces us to three concubines who escape the warlords and come to Vox Populi and sell them strategic information and chapter three shows us what happens within the resistance movement with an unexpected betrayal that threatens to destroy Vox Populi from within.

The warlords are led by Captain Erikson who is given the job of finding and killing those ho sympathize with the resistance but he is not ready to send his men on a mission that will probably fail. His opposite is Wallace who has lived her life as a survivor and she is quite strong and has a short temper. She is the surviving member of the original Vox Populi. Nixon had fought alongside Wallace during the first occupation from the north and he finds his family with the resistance movement. Wallace’s half sister Beck and she is not happy with the way things are going and she owes her life to Wallace who has protected her. She fancies Cahill, another member of the resistance who is not afraid to do what he has to in order to save his people.

I doubt many of you have seen anything quite like this film and it certainly will wake you up to the problems of living in a world that does not want everyone to live. The acting is excellent as is the direction and cinematography and the plot will keep you totally engrossed. The cast is quite large but things never get complicated so that you cannot follow. I chose just to mention a few of the cast and to do otherwise might spoil the viewing experience for you.

The movie is the result of a collaboration between friends who all went to film school together and they have come together to fulfill a dream. This is a low budget film but it is definitely not a poor production and if you did not know this you could not tell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“THE BOOKS OF JOHN”— Three Lives

“The Books of John”

Three Lives

Amos Lassen

“The Books of John” is not a new film and in fact it was released in 2007 and I reviewed it then. I went back to have another look and found my opinion had changed. It seemed very amateurish to me when I first saw it and it is to a degree but I have mellowed and saw things that I missed back then. Aside from that, I have always felt it was the job of a reviewer to encourage so hopefully this review will do just that.

The film follows the lives of three different people in the South. Frank McLean finds himself alone after the sudden death of his partner; Will, a party boy and friend of Frank’s is in an open relationship and he cannot understand why Frank has taken his lover’s death so hard and Caryn who has lost her love to Jen, Frank’s best friend because she did not come out to her parents and Caryn realizes that he has made a mistake by letting her get away. Then we have Trevor who is living in small town Alabama with his grandmother and he is her only family. Trevor’s mother died years before.

These lives all come together in the hopes of finding happiness and love. The actors are all amateurs and they deal with a really foolish storyline but I was touched by the efforts they put into the film even though some of the plot is ridiculous. Now I have read some really scathing reviews of this film and I want to say that it is not that bad. Some of the dialogue makes one groan and the scenes are very quick but by and large I found the film entertaining in its own way. It made me think about my life and where I am going and I won’t say anymore about the plot so as not to spoil it. Give it a try— I do not think you will be disappointed.

 

 

“An Unsettled Range” by Andrew Grey— Stories from the Range, Book Three

Grey, Andrew. “An Unsettled Range”, Dreamspinner Books, 2012.

Stories from the Range, Book Three

Amos Lassen

I have said several times that when I see name Andrew Grey on the cover of a book, I know that I am in for a good read. I have especially been fond of the “Stories from the Range” series and was really glad to get book 3 this week.

Liam Southard ran away from his abusive father and was taken in by two gay ranchers and he gains a new feeling about his sexuality as he begins to work on the ranch. He feels confident that his life is changing for the better but then Troy Gardener pulled a gun on him. Troy maintains that it was a mistake—he has been having a rough time; his marriage was in the process of dying and he has been living in an isolated cabin in the woods. He really wants to come to terms with Liam and he becomes aware that they have several interests in common. He soon realizes that he wants more than a friendship. Of course, just as things seem to be getting better, Liam’s father makes an appearance and a mining company threatens the water supply to the ranch.

I felt really bad for Liam when I think about how lousy his life has been. Troy looks like he might be the answer but he suffers from guilt feelings because his marriage is dissolving. Liam is there to help him feel better but he has his own issues. Andrew Grey manages to give us some important points here s he writes about how life is not always easy and shows how we are supposed to learn from the past. Liam realizes that thinking about his past life is hurting him and also his friends. It is all about acceptance and Liam feels that because he is gay, he is not accepted. His wounds are deep but he grows and we see that in the way that he and Troy are when they are together.

There are other characters that we have met in the other books that re-emerge here—Haven and Phillip, Marion and David and Dakota and Wally. Grey pulls everything together and I kind of felt that I was right there with the guys.

Grey writes beautifully and develops wonderful characters and he also has a great hold on romance. So take my word for it and get a copy and I am sure you will become a fan of Andrew Grey (If you aren’t already).

“Midnight in London” by G.A. Hauser— Opposites Attract

Hauser, G.A. “Midnight in London”, The GA Hauser Collection, 2012.

Opposites Attract

Amos Lassen

At 31 years old, Ted Mack is a nerd and he is getting ready to launch a new social network. He and his staff have been working non-stop to get it ready. Ted does not realize it but he has a fan—Kevin Moore who also works at developing websites. Ted Mack is Kevin’s idol and the two men meet at an IT convention in London and the attraction is amazing. Here we have a “straight” jock who worships an older gay dork. The romance starts with a kiss at midnight and both men’s lives change. They handle it beautifully, knowing that if this does not work they will always have midnight in London to remember.

Hauser combines hot sex with a love story and she writes it beautifully. I understand that her characters have appeared in other books that she has written but it is not necessary to read them in order to enjoy this novel.

 

“D’AGOSTINO”— A Very Strange Engrossing Film

“D’Agostino”

A Very Strange Engrossing Film

Amos Lassen

I had just finished watching Jorge Ameer’s newest film and honestly I did not know what to think about it except that it had totally pulled me in. So I played in a second time and found myself completely absorbed by it. It is quite basically a tale of horror which later becomes something else altogether so I suppose I have to say it is macabre to a point but it is so much more than that. Allen Dawson inherited an apartment in Santorini, Greece. He learned that his grandmother willed it to him but he had to go to Greece to take care of the property transfer. He discovers a human clone in the apartment and decides that it or D’Agostino (who he nicknames Diablo) is to become his new best friend even though the only human quality that the clone possesses is his appearance.

We learn that the clone had been on a transatlantic voyage from Italy to America when there was a crash and he had been left for dead. He had been commissioned by men with wealth and was to be used for organ transplants but he had been abandoned. In the meantime, Dawson learns of his inheritance and leaves his home which he had been sharing with his girlfriend and goes to Santorini where he finds the abandoned clone. Through Diablo, Dawson comes to learn more about himself as he decides to make the clone his best friend. Dawson also realizes that his relationship with his fiancée is a sham and that it is going nowhere and he is bored with and upset that he gets nothing out of it. He realizes that he is trapped in a sedentary existence and that his prospects for future happiness do not look good so when he receives news of the inheritance he knows that he has a chance to get away from his him-drum life and travels to Greece alone. He understands that his life has been little more than an obstruction but he is also not quite ready to deal with what he finds. He quickly sees that with his new property his outlook on life changes and then changes once again when he meets D’Agostino.

At first Dawson s befuddled by the clone and has no idea of how to deal with him but as the two interact we see that his state of mind becomes quite strange and he becomes both ruthless and cruel but as he gets to know the clone, we watch him become victim to his own moral perversion which later creates a reaction that causes him to fall victim to his actions. How and what that is will be something for you to discover when you see the film and regardless of what I say, there is no way to prepare the viewer for what he sees.

The version I was an unedited screener but I could still tell that the cinematography was beautiful and Greece of course leads itself to creating beauty on the screen. Yet when the film is dark, it is very dark. Hats off to the actors who play Dawson and the clone and to Ameer himself in his performance as the man who has been watching the property. I cannot say that this is a film I enjoyed but I can say that it is well done. Enjoy just does not seem the right word to describe it. If you get the chance to see this film, do not hesitate.

“February House” by Sherill Tippins— What a Gathering!

Tippins, Sherill. “February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof in Brooklyn”, Mariner Books, 2006.

What a Gathering!

Amos Lassen

I received a recommendation to have a look at this book and I am so glad that I did. A very strange group of individuals came together to live in a house and open a salon and while some of the characters naturally fit together, the fact that the burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee was with them is surprising. They took a run- down Brooklyn brownstone as a play to create and to perform an experience in communal living. There was always a party going on as these talents came together on the eve of the Second World War and they faced the crucial time together. Seven Middagh Street was the address that became the home to members of Bohemia and the members became the talk of New York. The main mover and shaker was George Davis, a flamboyant editor who had been fired by Harpers Bazaar and he brought along some of his literary friends to form a commune that became sheer chaos and convivial at the same time. Auden and Britten were busy writing an opera about American life; Carson McCullers had a crush on another woman and split from her husband; Paul Bowles wrote a ballet while his wife wrote a book and nursed her feelings for Auden; Gypsy Rose Lee was writing a novel. The three children of Thomas Mann turned up, Oliver Smith, the theatrical scene designer was there and their stories come together in this wonderful book by Sherill Tippins.

Of course there were disagreements—Bowles and Britten went at it over places for rehearsal as Auden became the house mother and responsible for collecting rent, etc. Finally the whole thing fell apart because of the egos of the residents.

The house took its name from the fact that many of those that lived there had February birthdays but this is where commonality stopped. I cannot imagine such a group living together in peace yet they did manage to do so for a while. Along with literary output came gossip and I suppose that is what makes this book so much fun to read. The parties sound wonderful and with a guest list that included Lotte Lenya, Salvador Dali, Thomas Mann, George Balanchine, Diana Vreeland and Aaron Copeland, they had to be great fun. Not everyone in the house was a genius but many were.

The address no longer exists but you can imagine the stories that the house could tell. A new expressway caused its demise and I bet it would have been great to have been a fly on the wall. It is hard to contemplate the amount of research that went into writing this book which, incidentally, is for the layman. It is very, very readable.

 

 

 

“Better” by Jaime Samms— Moving Forward

Samms, Jaime. “Better”, Dreamspinner Books, 2012.

Moving Forward

Amos Lassen

Jesse Turbul filed charges against his ex who he was put in prison. He then moved away trying to escape his past and meets Aadon, a law student at the librry and both men are drawn to each other. nHowever, things do not work well for them as both men have baggage. Aadon is dealing with guilt over his not being able to help his older brother who has had a rough time and Jesse is still dealing with his unhappy past. The only way a rel;ationship mght develop is if Jesse admits that he is brken and if Aadon agrees to help him to become better.

Samms gives us an emotionally packed novel. It deals with two men with baggage and how they deal with it.

Jesse’s relationship was based on brutality it seems. He was submissive to his dominant partner and he becomes broken. He survives the relationship and then meets Aadon whose brother, Ricky, is in rehab for drug abuse. We see right away that there is drama here. Both Aadon and Jesse are young and both have had bad experiences.

Aadon really wants Jesse and is determined to try to make it work but it just seems that Jesse cannot be fixed and he needs to face his past of abuse. Samms gives two very real and very broken characters and while I cannot identify with them, I am aware of others who can. Jesse does not seem to be able to confront his past and is stuck there. He and Aadon are both in states of denial, have heavy guilt feelings and they both are afraid.

Samms has drawn two fascinating characters and the secondary characters are also well drawn. However, before you decide to read this, be prepared for quite an emotional experience. I personally totally enjoyed it.

 

 

 

“UNCUT”— A Tale of Three Peters

“Uncut”

A Tale of Three Peters

Amos Lassen

“Uncut” is about three gay men named Peter – one, Cort, is writing the book about male circumcision, another, Koosens, is transcribing that book in a typing agency and is obsessed with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to the degree that draws attention of police office and Peter Denham, a self absorbed person.

Unfortunately the film has no plot and little structure as it looks at censorship, circumcision, copyright law and Pierre Trudeau. The movie is not totally bad and if you know the work of John Greyson, this is one of his early films. I came across it on a trailer that was part of his film, “Lillies”.

 The actors portraying the three Peters all deliver a solid performance and their commitment to their respective roles make this movie not a total disaster. By the middle of the movie we actually start to care about Peter Denham (D’Oliveira) who is not a bad guy after all, just a bit self-absorbed, and feel bad for him; about Peter Koonsens (Achtman) and his infatuation for Trudeau and about Peter Cort (Ferguson) and his obsession with abolishing circumcision.

The film is a mix of oddball obsessions — circumcision, copyright and Pierre Trudeau among them and is presented to us in a kind of anti-narrative fantasia.

These subjects and others — secret codes and the manipulation of the image — are “explained” in sometimes dubious narration mixed with authentic interviews, and there’s also a triangular story of romance and exploitation along the way. Greyson supplies the pieces but expects the audience to put them together.

Greyson uses a documentary technique throughout, interviewing artists and writers who’ve struggled with copyright laws and the narrative runs throughout has three men, all named Peter, who struggle with romantic conflict and their own obsessions. Some reviewers have regarded this film as genius and it is totally original. Basically it is a movie about foreskin, a Canadian prime minister and homosexuality – and it´s all really fascinating and good fun but it could have been so much more.

Watching a John Greyson film is not an ordinary movie experience—it is much more than that.  “The Making of Monsters” is a very funny short  musical short about homophobia in which Bertolt Brecht is played by a fish; “Zero Patience” (reviewed here), his feature-length musical diatribe against the media’s tackling of the AIDS epidemic in its earliest stage; “Urinal”, a feature in which prominent homos from throughout history–Frida Kahlo, Langston Hughes and Sergei Eisenstein among them–gather in Toronto to chat about sexual repression; and last year’s Genie award-winning “Lilies”, the play within a play within a movie based on the original stage work by Quebec scribe Michel Marc Bouchard.  If you love John Greyson you will probably like this film and I really wanted to like it but it just did not hit me the way his other films have.

“!WAR. WOMEN ART REVOLUTION”— The Definitive Documentary on Feminist Art

“!WAR. Women Art Revolution”


Amos Lassen

Zeitgeist brings us an incredible new documentary which brings to light the movement of feminist art, a topic that has not really been explored much on film. We get a look at the “most significant art movement of the 20th century”. Not only is it revelatory, the film is totally entertaining and educative.  Using interviews and conversations as well as material from the archives, we get a look at some wonderful art. The film has a wonderful score by Slater-Kinney, Wild Flag and Carrie Brownstein (“Portlandia”). The film was created by Lynn Hershman Leeson. She has been documenting the feminist art movement for the last forty years.

The movie is filled with passion and it is both funny and sincere and if I have a complaint it is that I wanted more. The woman in the film need to be paid attention to as they have helped to change the face of art in America. This is truly a film that you do not want to miss.