Monthly Archives: December 2019

“Conditionally Accepted: Christians’ Perspectives on Sexuality and Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights” by Baker A. Rogers— Mississippi Christians and Homosexuality

Rogers, Baker A. “Conditionally Accepted: Christians’ Perspectives on Sexuality and Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights”, Rutgers University Press,  2019.

Mississippi Christians and Homosexuality

Amos Lassen

“Conditionally Accepted” by Baker A. Rogers explores Mississippi Christians’ beliefs about homosexuality and gay and lesbian civil rights. It looks at whether having a gay or lesbian friend or family member influences those beliefs. We know that beliefs about homosexuality and gay and lesbian rights vary widely based on religious affiliation. Despite having gay or lesbian friends or family members, evangelical Protestants believe homosexuality is sinful and oppose gay and lesbian rights while mainline Protestants are largely supportive of gay and lesbian rights and become more supportive after getting to know gay and lesbian people. With Catholics there is a greater degree of uncertainty and a conditional acceptance of gay and lesbian rights; clear differences between conservative and liberal Catholics are evident. We see here that conservative Christians, both evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics, hold a religious identity that overshadows their relationships with gay and lesbian friends or family. Conservative religion is a deterrent to the positive benefits of relationships with gay and lesbian people. 

Rogers gives us a textured analysis of perceptions of gay and lesbian citizens living in one of the most conservative parts of the country and does so through a well-organized, engaging, and compelling investigation. His analysis is both critical and sympathetic.

“UNKEPT SECRETS” (“Moisserim”)— Abuse

“UNKEPT SECRETS” (“Moisserim”)

Abuse

Amos Lassen

Dalit Kimor’s “Unkept Secrets” shows what happens to a Jewish Orthodox woman and mother of eight who leads a quiet life, finds out one day, the admired rabbi, teacher of her sons, has been sexually abusing them since their Bar-Mitzvah.

Ornit, a 42 year-old ultra-Orthodox woman, had to face this and against her will and became a hero overnight. She and her children, Yankie and Mandy, sued the offender, and endured grueling legal proceedings. They also had to cope their community that defended the Rabbi, and they were proclaimed “Moisserim” (informers). The victim, who dared to air the dirty laundry in public faced shunning.


Genendi, (42), is married and a mother of three. 18 years ago she spoke out loud about being raped by her father, a famous rabbi, when she was a little girl. Since then, none of her 11 siblings or mother have spoken to her. She was shunned by her extended family for the secrets she did not keep.

Ornit and Genendi are assisted by Shana, a 29 year-old ultra-Orthodox woman, who works in a global Jewish organization. These victims become empowerment for other Orthodox people in the battle against sexual offenses in the community. They will no longer remain silent.

“Gay Like Me: A Father Writes to His Son” by Richie Jackson— A Love Letter

Jackson, Richie, “Gay Like Me: A Father Writes to His Son”, Harper, 2020.

A Love Letter

Amos Lassen

Award-winning Broadway, TV and film producer Richie Jackson looks back on his experiences as a gay man in America and the progress and setbacks of the LGBTQ community over the last 50 years. Joshua, his son, born through surrogacy, came out to him when he was eighteen and Richie was 50.  This is what caused Jackson to reflect on his experiences and share his wisdom on life for LGBTQ Americans. Richie celebrates gay identity and parenting, and a powerful warning for his son, other gay men and the world. Jackson takes us on his journey as a gay man coming of age through decades of political and cultural turmoil. 

Joshua lives in a seemingly more liberated America, and Jackson shows how far we’ve come since Stonewall — the increased visibility of gay people in society, the legal right to marry, and the existence of a drug to prevent HIV. However,  bigotry is on the rise and it is ignited by a president who has declared war on the gay community and is the cause of a good deal homophobia. The Supreme Court has a conservative tilt and is poised to overturn equality laws. Jackson writes  that being gay is a gift but that the GLBT community’s gains are in jeopardy and cannot not be complacent. 

Jackson gives us a rallying cry in this personal exploration of our uncertain times and most troubling questions and profound concerns about issues as fundamental as dignity, equality, and justice. 

This is a blueprint for our time that explains what it’s like to be gay in America and an angry, proud, fierce, tender cultural manifesto that will stand the test of time. It is also a powerful letter of love from a father to a son. Jackson shows us what it means to be a parent and what he says reminds us that being open to love and making it the central focus of our lives lets us find and ‘use our deepest inner wisdom.” 
We are reminded of the journey we have taken and that we must share this with those coming up and coming out. Using his own  experiences growing up gay, he talks to his son about family and friendship, sex and relationships, anger and citizenship.

“In the Full Light of the Sun” by Clare Clark— Three Berliners

 

Clark, Clare, “In the Full Light of the Sun”,  Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2019.

Three Berliners

Amos Lassen

Berlin in the 1920s is  hedonistic and experiencing political turbulence. It is a city of seedy night clubs and wonderful art galleries, home to millionaires and mobs who are storming bakeries for bread, a rationed commodity. Emmeline, a young art student; Julius, an art expert; and a mysterious dealer named Rachmann find themselves caught up in the amazing discovery of thirty-two previously unknown paintings by Vincent van Gogh.

“In the Full Light of the Sun” writer Clare Clark explores the trio’s complex relationships and motivations, their hopes, their vanities, and their self-delusions. The paintings are fakes and each of the three Berliners are in their own ways complicit. Their stories are a cautionary tale about of the aspirations of the new Germany and a generation that is  determined to put the humiliations of the past behind them. This is a novel about beauty and justice, and the truth that may be found when our most treasured beliefs are revealed as illusions. 

We read of the decadence of Weimar Berlin and the impending Nazi menace through characters’ experience struggles filled with intrigue. Clark fictionalizes the Wacker affair in her story story about art, artifice and authenticity. Politics, love and art offer no certainties, and the ground constantly seems to fall away as the characters walk upon it.

The book is very well-written but not an easy read for those not familiar with the times – social, economic, and political – as well as the intricacies of the art trade. Nonetheless, “In the Full Light of the Sun” is oe of my my favorite books of 2019. We really see Nazi Germany as it begins to rise and how quickly things got bad for Jews. This is not a happy book, it actually was quite hard to read at times because of its subject. Telling the story through the three characters works beautifully.

This is not a novel for everybody. It is literary fiction, and although it has elements of historical fiction. Those who love books that move fast and are heavy on plot, rather than characters and atmosphere, might find this a slow read

“THE CATEGORY IS….. MEXICO CITY”— Cultural and Gender Identity

“THE CATEGORY IS….. MEXICO CITY”

Cultural and Gender Identity

Amos Lassen

Revry’s newest original anthology docuseries, “The Category Is” explores how the vogueing scene and ballroom culture has evolved beyond New York City and shapes queer communities throughout the world. The first season, “The Category Is…. Mexico City”highlights the “House of Mamis” and examines themes of cultural and gender identity, LGBTQ discrimination in Latin America, and self-expression and advocacy through dance.  We get a look at the flourishing Mexico City ballroom scene, the episodes showcase a chosen family of dynamic queer performers including house mother, Mendoza; trans-activist, Negraconda; dance enthusiast and dreamer, Ponyboy; and more.

The show’s creators explain that voguing is something in the United States that feels exciting and something to marvel. The reality is that voguing “has always been raw and about family.” Traveling to Mexico City to film a voguing house that goes by the name of House of Mamis. It was inevitable that this story about these beautiful humans had to be told. “We both are Latinx filmmakers who have always been othered, yet we have a strong love for the Latina Mother and what she represents in a household.” So immediately, when they were invited into their spaces (the subculture), they were welcomed by the glue of the house, House Mother Mendoza, who has the holiness of a saint but the presence of a warrior. Crammed into a tiny apartment were 7-8 Mamis. Some were painting their nails, others were smoking by the window and a few were preparing food for the house. We saw a cozy ecosystem.

It is quickly apparent that Mexico City is truly a queer epicenter. In the America\ca, voguing is a sport, it is lucrative and sadly it is very binary. In Mexico. Young people leave their small towns and come to Mexico City to join houses and live authentically. There is no living to be made off voguing and drag. We see the young people here in brilliant spaces like museums and opera houses, places that once held the attention of kings and queens now give space to trans women and gay boys “that love a good heel.” It is the mission of the filmmakers with this series is to show how a group of very different people can come together and save each other, nurture one another’s talents and give them with something they never had, all  the while being authentic. Mexico City on the surface is very traditional and a proud place, but if you go looking down the smaller streets, you will find a familiar beat and extravagant dancing and mind blowing energy with faces of glitter welcoming you into some kind of paradise. 

 

 

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“IMPRISONED”— A Prison Drama

“IMPRISONED”

A Prison Drama

Amos Lassen

Paul Kampf’s “Imprisoned” is the story of  Daniel Calvin, a warden (Laurence Fishburne) who frames an ex-con with whom he has a tragic history.

Calvin, the retired former warden of the local prison, decides to revisit his former place of employment just before the aged structure is due to be demolished, which prompts and he remembers events that took place years earlier. When he was still the prison’s warden,  he first encountered Maria (Juana Acosta), the proprietress of a nearby café. Even though she lectures him on the evils of capital punishment, Daniel is clearly attracted to her, and he makes his interest known. His real motivation for wanting to get close to her is more insidious. Her fisherman husband Dylan (Juan Pablo Raba) is an ex-con who has turned his life around. Dylan has a history with Daniel, who becomes determined to make sure he’s sent back to prison where he can get revenge.  

Dylan is sent back behind bars and faces Daniel’s wrath. Fishburne, unfortunately, cannot  make his credible. What we see is a melodrama about a man wrongly convicted of a crime and a plea against capital punishment but as an afterthought.

The real meat of the story is all of its twists and turns. The whole tale is told in flashback. We learn that Dylan accidentally shot and killed Daniel’s pregnant wife during a robbery. He served his time, but Daniel doesn’t think it was enough. He wants to see Dylan punished and sets out on an elaborate scheme to get the man back in prison and the death sentence.

Daniel abuses his power and seems to get a perverse joy in executions and we see this even before the plot against Dylan is set in motion, when he stalks the couple, gets a family member involved in framing the man, and essentially rapes Maria in an attempt to get under Dylan’s skin.

Once Dylan’s in prison again, the plot becomes a race against the clock. Maria lobbies the governor (played by Esai Morales) to halt executions, and Daniel repeatedly tries to break Dylan’s spirits, while also covering up his own misdeeds. The film seems to not care about capital punishment as anything more than a plot device.

“EDGE OF THE AXE”— A Slasher Classic

“EDGE OF THE AXE”

A Slasher Classic

Amos Lassen

Spanish cult filmmaker José Ramón Larraz’s slasher classic, “Edge of the Axe” has been released on Blu-ray for the first time ever.

The rural community of Paddock County is rocked by the exploits of an axe-wielding psychopath in a black trench coat and mask. As the victims pile up, the authorities try to keep a lid on the situation, while computer whizz-kid Gerald and girlfriend Lillian attempt to unmask the killer before the town population reaches zero.

This is the story of an exterminator, an axe murderer, a computer nerd, the women that love them, and the tangled web of murder between them In broad daylight, on a busy street, the slasher wals into a car wash and plants his axe through a lady’s windshield while she drives through. In a car wash, no one can hear a scream.

Soon after, a girl finds the head of a pig in her bed. This sets the stage for the story set somewhere in rural California.

The computer nerd, Gerald, falls in love with moody Lillian, who thinks the killer is her cousin Charlie, whom she accidentally injured years before. Other subplots revolve around Gerald’s gold-digging friend Richard, who wants rid of his wealthy, older wife and cheats on her with another woman.

Director Larraz manages to create some tension from time to time but the film peaks with the opening scene at the car wash and its climax comes when all of the red herrings are eliminated with a contrived motive.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative

  English and Spanish language versions of the feature

  Original uncompressed mono audio

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack

  Newly translated English subtitles for the Spanish soundtrack

  Brand new audio commentary with actor Barton Faulks

  Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues

  Newly-filmed interview with actor Barton Faulks

  The Pain in Spain – a newly-filmed interview with special effects and make-up artist Colin Arthur

  Image Gallery

  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Amanda Reyes

“NIGHTHAWKS”— Gritty and Surreal

“NIGHTHAWKS”

Gritty and Surreal

Amos Lassen

Chace Crawford is Stanley, a Midwest transplant who is introduced into the New York nightlife scene by his affluent, calculating roommate Chad (Kevin Zegers). However, the neon club lights mask a wealth of deep, dark secrets.

 Stan is  sensitive,  naïve and a romantic who doesn’t realize there’s a precedent in place— that of a secret society of self-proclaimed degenerates and a mysterious band of mask-wearing millennials known as the Nighthawks. The drama is about an elitist secret society in New York City that tries to dissect a crime recently committed against one of its own. Stan agrees to play wingman to Chad.

They embark upon an exploration of glittering New York nightlife, whose darkest secrets are held captive by the Nighthawks, a group of artistic and influencer-hopeful millennials. The evening becomes increasingly surreal as it continues into an interrogation of mysterious past events, with Stan caught in the middle.

Written, directed, and produced by Grant S. Johnson, “Nighthawks” has twists and turns and breaks some rules with how it’s narrated and with its dream sequences. There are dark themes that take us on a journey.

“BLACK ANGEL”— A Film Noir from 1946

“BLACK ANGEL”

A Film Noir from 1946

Amos Lassen

“Black Angel” directed by Hollywood veteran Roy William Neill (is an underappreciated film noir treasure. When the beautiful singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling) is killed in her chic apartment, the men in her life become suspects. Martin Blair (Dan Duryea), her alcoholic musician ex-husband is dealing with a broken heart; shady nightclub owner Marko (Peter Lorre) has been sneaking around her place, and Kirk Bennett (John Phillips) is the adulterer who found Mavis’s dead body and fled the scene. When Bennett is convicted and sentenced to death, his long-suffering wife Catherine (June Vincent) joins the heartbroken pianist Martin Blair to uncover the truth…

The film has a suspenseful narrative, strong performances and wonderful cinematography. The DVD is a wonderful restoration with several new extras.

The film opens with an elaborate tracking shot up the side of a high-rise into Mavis’s apartment. We learn that Mavis has been augmenting her income via blackmail. The police arrest Kirk Bennett one of her blackmail victims who had recently ended an affair with her and despite his pleas of innocence, Kirk is found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to die.

His wife Catherine (June Vincent) stands by Kirk throughout this. She never wavers in her belief that he is innocent. As Kirk awaits his execution, Catherine decides to conduct her own investigation and enlists the help of Mavis’ ex-husband, Martin, who reluctantly agrees to help. Catherine and Martin suspect the involvement of Marko. To collect more information on the mysterious Marko, Catherine and Martin go to work as a singing act at his club Rio’s.

There is a clever twist that may not come as a surprise for discerning viewers. The film provides a pretty good clue right from the outset and the twist negates a large portion of the movie, a tactic that you may find oft-putting.

Duryea is excellent as is Peter Lorre as Marko, who is also involved in the steamy plot as the prime suspect the couple target. The cast, handsome production and the atmospheric, film noir-style direction by Neill come together to give “Black Angel” an attractive urgency.

The brilliant script by Roy Chanslor is taken from a Cornell Woolrich novel, The low-budget film has a stunning simplicity and is an excellent character study .

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  Brand new restoration from original film elements by Arrow Films

  High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

  Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  New audio commentary by the writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode

  A Fitting End, a new video appreciation by the film historian Neil Sinyard

  Original trailer

  Gallery of original stills and promotional materials

  Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp

“Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader” edited by Jamie Townsend— 30 Years of Steve Abbott

Abbott, Steve. “Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader”, edited by Jamie Townsend, Nightboat, 2019.

30 Years of Steve Abbott

Amos Lassen

Bay Area luminary Steve Abbott was prolific in poetry, fiction, collage, comics, essays, and autobiography for thirty years. His works include including underground classics such as “Lives of the Poets” and “Holy Terror” and there are joined here by rare pieces of treasured ephemera, and previously unpublished material that become a survey of Abbott’s multivalent practice, as well as reinforcing his essential role within the contemporary canon of queer arts.

Abbott could be philosophical, sensuous, angry, humorous, sarcastic, and candid. He was never maudlin. He was not just a man of memory and of moment. “Beautiful Aliens” contains poetry, prose, and essays and it proves that Abbott’s voice lives on. Abbott wrote with a complex sympathy; he was sensitive to the shifting culture of the late twentieth century.