Thursday, July 23, 2015

Film Review: Amy

Synopsis (courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes):

Despite just two albums to her name Amy Winehouse is one of the biggest music icons in British history. With a voice oft described as a combination of Billy Holiday, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, Amy Winehouse was a pop star with soul; a once in two generational musical talent whose appeal crossed cultural and demographic boundaries. But while her music made her a star, her chaotic personal life stole headlines.

My Review:

Only one word can describe Amy: devastating.

I'd even go so far as to say that it's truly one of the most heart-wrenching music documentaries that you'll ever see. I left the theater unsure of how to feel. Essentially, it was like mourning for her all over again, having this immense sadness for a remarkably talented and musically gifted woman who left this world far too soon, and who left it so tragically, at only 27. On my way back home, I passed by the bookstore where I was those many years ago where I first heard the news of Amy's death. I remember overhearing somebody at the Borders saying to somebody else: "I just got the news that Amy Winehouse died." And that person's response: "That's so sad, but is anybody surprised?"

While Amy was living, anybody could have predicted what would be her untimely fate. Throughout the documentary, there are chilling undertones of Amy herself predicting how she'd end up if she ever were famous. Sadly, she was right. Most of Amy does focus on this increasingly downward spiral of Amy's drug addictions, eating disorders, and alcohol abuse, but at the root of it all, it's about the one thing where Amy had a medium to express all those demons: her music. You'd be hard pressed not to smile, be touched, and smitten by Amy's voice and marvel over her gift of not only the singing, but the songwriting. These scenes of course juxtaposition alongside the romantic relationships that would inspire some of those gorgeous and personal self-penned lyrics. The documentary also jumps back and forth from that to her upbringing as a rebellious child who struggled with depression, the eating disorder, and coming to grips with her parent's being flawed, captured in nostalgic and endearing home videos. Against those odds, despite all of Amy's troubles,  it's pretty incredible how Amy was clearly one of those talents who was born to do what she'd end up doing, being a jazz singer, and nothing else. Even by jazz standards, she exceeded all expectations, being compared to Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Dinah Washington. Those are pretty big shoes to fill, and Amy was a natural. Not only that, but what a personality, what a character! Troubled, yes, and as she'd often say throughout the documentary, "I'm messed up in the head." Her art imitated her life and vice versa, which is why Amy's music did ring so true and why the world loved her. She was so human, yes her voice was otherworldly, but this was someone who was refreshingly real. But that came with a price.

Amy is not for the faint of heart. While it is about the lady and her music, watching this documentary is very much like watching a ticking bomb ready to explode at any time. We see her at her worst, at the worst state that a person could possibly be when hitting rock bottom. That was how it was in real life, which makes it more chilling and pretty frightening that all this happened to someone who was far too vulnerable, who needed so much help, who had many opportunities to get help, who tried, and could have succeeded, but...sadly, we will never know what Amy would have become if she survived. As an Amy Winehouse fan, this film will break your heart. Even if you aren't or weren't a fan, it will make you angry, and wonder, whose to blame? Amy's father, Mitch? The drugs and alcohol alone? The media and paparazzi? The world who essentially got every piece of her until she was nothing left? Or is it only Amy to blame for her downfall? We will just never know. The documentary won't answer those questions. It's not bias at all, not pointing the blame at anyone. If anything, it's only giving us the raw reality of what was Amy Winehouse's world. Amy is as honest and controversial as she was, showing us just about everything that we already knew, as well as some things that we never saw before until now. It's all oh so painful, bittersweet, and terribly sad. We lost a tremendous talent and one unique person. I can only hope that Amy, wherever she is, that her soul is resting in peace. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

LGBT Movie Review: Gerontophilia

Synopsis (courtesy of Amazon):

18-year-old Lake discovers he has an unusual attraction for the elderly. Fate lands him a job at an assisted-living facility where he develops an intimate relationship with Mr. Peabody. Upon discovering that the clients are being over-medicated to make them more manageable, Lake weans Mr. Peabody off his medication and helps him escape, resulting in a road trip that deepens their bond.

My Review:

This is basically a gay version of Harold and Maude. Obviously, no movie of this ilk can be any darker and charming than the classic, but Gerontophilia does spin its own tale of a May/December romance that is poignant, sweet, and intimate as it is dark and at times disturbing. This movie has two major flaws: the lead, Pier-Gabriel Lajoie, is gorgeous, but he can't act, and secondly, Lake and Mr. Peabody's love story wasn't quite so believable. Lake confesses that he does fetishize over 80-something year old men, but then the story tries to turn into a love story, but that balance doesn't quite work. Mostly, it seemed like the fetish took over all of what could have been a much more romantic, deeper, and sweeter love story. The sex is more implied, however, and their intimacy is tastefully romantic. And when it isn't about the sex, I did buy their general bond, but not the love story. This film was surprisingly well-done at tackling a subject matter that most would find "ick." Yes, there is that creep factor, but NOT because of the extreme age gap, but because of Lake. This is called a "romantic comedy," but there's nothing comedic about it, the film is far too serious. I liked this, but only wished that Gerontophilia could have focused less on the fetish and more on how, against the odds, the men bonded and formed a deep romantic and sexual relationship. All in all, this film was surprising, has its flaws, but still truly refreshing and engaging.

Friday, July 17, 2015

LGBT Movie Review: Were The World Mine

Synopsis (courtesy of Amazon):

If you had a love-potion, who would you make fall madly in love with you? Timothy, prone to escaping his dismal high school reality through dazzling musical daydreams, gets to answer that question in a very real way. After his eccentric teacher casts him as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, he stumbles upon a recipe hidden within the script to create the play's magical, purple love-pansy. Armed with the pansy, Timothy's spirit soars as he puckishly imposes anew reality by turning much of his narrow-minded town gay, beginning with the rugby-jock of his dreams. Ensnaring family, friends and enemies in this comic chaos, Timothy forces them to walk a mile in his musical shoes. The course of true love never did run smooth, but by the end of this moving musical comedy of errors, the bumpy ride comes to a heartfelt conclusion. With vibrant imagery, a first-rate ensemble. 

My Review:

Everything about the general idea of this story is cute, entertaining, and clever. The movie doesn't quite deliver, though. Does it have an amazing cast? Well, they are all very good looking, but the acting is pretty bland and none of them can sing. This is a gay musical fantasy, but the plot is paper-thin, surprisingly slow-paced, confusing, and all over the place. It tries too hard, and it's not always fun to watch. It goes from amusing to ridiculous quickly, and the film spirals out of control and loses itself, really. It's also too long for the type of story it is; it drags on, and on. I also wasn't a fan of the way the film relied a whole lot on gay stereotypes and made all (yes, ALL) the adults homophobic and bigoted. I wanted to like this film because it has a lot of my favorite things: sexy men, Shakespeare, and a musical,'s a mess. A cute and mildly amusing mess, but still a mess.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

LGBT Movie Review: Bear City


Set in New York's gay "bear" scene and taking a cue from the popular HBO franchise "Sex and the City," BearCity follows a tight-knit pack of friends experiencing comical mishaps, emotionally sweet yet lusty romantic encounters and a cast of colorful, diverse characters as they gear up for a big party weekend. 

My Review:

Now this is one refreshing, fun, and sexy movie! The synopsis sums up Bear City in a nutshell, but it's something much more. I felt like I was watching a movie that featured people I know or have known in the bear community. It showcases the bear community in a hilarious light as it also does in a serious one. The sex scenes are pretty hot and raw, but it's the relationships that really have the most punch. I bought every character, every scenario, and every relationship. It was so real to life, which made enjoying this film even more natural and instant. Is the acting the greatest? Not the worst, but not the best either. If anything, it's just...natural, like watching average guys on screen. Is there much of a plot? Not really. It has the feel of a sitcom or a TV series more than it does a movie, but that's okay. The most endearing quality about this movie most of all is that it doesn't pander to its audience, and it doesn't hinge on gay/bear stereotypes. It's true to life, in its many diversities. If you are familiar with the bear community and the bear world with all its colorful and wonderful muscle bears, daddies, cubs, otters, and much more, you'll feel at home, and also get a lot of chuckles out of it with its bear community innuendo and snarky jokes. If you aren't familiar with the scene, you'll still get something out of it. You'll learn, laugh, and have a good time. And get turned on. Seriously, this movie is HOT. All the men in this are sexy, proudly hairy, chubby, horny, and kinky, without apologies, which sums up the community at large (no pun intended there). And at the heart of it, there really is a sweet story and a lovely, positive message to be found in Bear City. I went into this movie with no expectations, but I'm sure blown away by this, and I hope you will too.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

LGBT Movie Review: I Am Divine


Packed with great interviews and clips, this dynamic, fun and often poignant portrait of the legendary Divine brings to life a complex understanding of John Waters s favored muse Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, from his humble beginnings as an overweight, teased Baltimore youth to internationally recognized drag superstar. Interviews with John Waters, Ricki Lake, Tab Hunters, Mink Stole and more! BONUS FEATURES- Commentary with Director/Producer Jeffrey Schwarz, Producer Lotti Phariss Knowles and Mink Stole, 30 Minutes of Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer.

My Review:

I Am Divine is truly a pleasure. It's so loving and endearing, to go back in a time when only one queen was America's first, original drag superstar, and that was the big and beautiful Divine. Divine was more than a drag queen, and more than a character. Behind Divine, there was a warm, professional, sweet man, and this documentary gives us that glimpse of the man, as well as the woman that would become him. What makes this documentary oh so relatable is how honest and real it is, giving us an all-or-nothing look into the chubby kid that was bullied and misunderstood who would one day take over the underground drag world by storm. The documentary also lovingly explores the vernacular drag ball scene, the late-1960's drug scene, The Cockettes, and all the artists, actors, writers, fellow queens, transvestites, lesbians, and gay men who embodied that free-spirited era. Even when the documentary ventures into the dark side of Divine's fame, it's still oh so loving, warm, and honest. Even in Divine's flaws, we love him, and forgive him. Divine was one of those rare unique performers that was applauded for being so daring in an anarchistic way, but then at the same time, nobody was more human than Divine, even in his eccentricities, vulnerability, and bizarre persona. If you love Divine, you'll be in love with her even more after watching this documentary.