Published: 07/11/2013 | 0 Comments Posted
The 19th annual Philadelphia QFest runs July 11-22. Single tickets to regular screenings are $11; for info, call 267-765-9800 or visit qfest.com. Films screen at Ritz East, 125 S. Second St., or Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St.
Want to read more about QFest? Check out our cover story on the struggle between religion and gay identity.
Born This Way | B-
There’s so little information in circulation about West African homosexuals that the term itself seems like a contradiction: How can gay men and women exist in countries where expressing their sexuality is punishable by death? The sheer bravery of the LGBTQ activists in Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann’s documentary defies easy explanation, but the movie is too diffuse to shape that awe into understanding. Its superficial details are fascinating, but we don’t emerge knowing much more than when we started. —Sam Adams (Ritz at the Bourse, Sun., July 21, 2:15 p.m.)
Capital Games | D+
Deee-liciously bad, this cheesy romantic drama plays like a cheap, direct-to-DVD flick, complete with gratuitous nudity. Ex-cop Steve (Eric Presnall) is a cutthroat ad exec threatened by the arrival of cocky newcomer Mark (Gregor Cosgrove). They immediately, intensely loathe each other, but about 23 minutes into Capital Games, the two men — lost in the desert during a team-building exercise — start kissing, jerking and cuddling. But, they insist, they aren’t gay. Hmm. Mark is even engaged to a woman! Still, the guys conspire to be alone together, and when Steve puts on his old uniform to frisk Mark, he likes it — until he doesn’t. Hmm. These bi-curious/bisexual boys sure are bipolar! Will they end up together? One has to see the unintentionally hilarious final reel to find out. Full of WTF moments, Capital Games also features fabulous eye candy in the form of ex-baseball player Shane Keough as Mark’s gay roommate. —Gary M. Kramer (Ritz East, Fri., July 19, 9:30 p.m. and Sun., July 21, noon)
The Deception | C-
The gay deceiver in the modest but not unlikable low-budget drama The Deception is Chris Quinones (David Busse, stiff), a closeted politician running for an open Senate seat. Engaged to the moneyed MaryAnn (Anne Roser, shrill), Chris finds himself unexpectedly reconnecting with his hunky, troubled ex Devon (Jerry G. Angelo). In deciding what to do about his old-but-new-again lover, Chris is forced to choose between coming clean and dirty politics. The Deception is far too earnest to be truly forceful; its politics are more simplistic than savvy. In addition, there are some laughable sequences — and not just when the guys have sex in a hospital bed. Moreover, the constant use of Natalie Farr’s caterwauling to underscore the drama is grating. Despite its many, many flaws, there are some quaint flashbacks to Chris and Devon’s teenage romance, and Angelo, who co-produced, is an engaging screen presence. —GMK (Ritz East, Fri,, July 12, 9:15 p.m. and Sun., July 14, 2:30 p.m.)
The Happy Sad | C+
It is certainly refreshing that the young, attractive and affectionate characters in the melancholic comedy-drama The Happy Sad are sexually fluid. Sure, they have hang-ups about truth and trust in their relationships, but not about having sex. When Stan (Cameron Scoggins) and Annie (Sorel Carradine) break up, they each seek out same-sex partners. She begins an affair with Mandy (Maria Dizzia), while he hooks up with Marcus (LeRoy McClain). However, Marcus — who recently agreed with his partner of six years, Aaron (Charlie Barnett), to have an open relationship — unexpectedly develops feelings for his fuckbuddy. As the regrouping lovers expose their complications and flaws, The Happy Sad, which is based on a play by Ken Urban, feels increasingly stagebound. The characters are meant to be “real” in their display of annoying quirks, but they just seem phony. Except for Marcus: McClain injects The Happy Sad with the gravitas it sorely needs. —GMK (Ritz East, Sat., July 13, 7:30 p.m.)
I Am Divine | B+
In Pink Flamingos, Divine famously branded herself “the filthiest person alive,” and proceeded to prove it. In Jeffrey Schwarz’s endearing doc, however, we meet the winningly sweet, glamour-hungry man behind the woman behind the drag icon. The film begins as Divine’s life ends, at the moment of greatest triumph for the former Glenn Milstead, as the success of Hairspray promises unexpected mainstream success for the actor and longtime director John Waters. A massive heart attack on the morning he was set to begin a recurring role on Married with Children cut that momentum tragically short, but Schwarz traces Divine’s rise from a shy closeted kid in Baltimore to the ferocious persona that turned drag on its head. Waters has plenty to say, of course, but the most affecting interviews are those with Milstead’s mother, Frances, who touchingly recounts her initial rejection and ultimate reunion with her son. —Shaun Brady (Ritz East, Fri., July 19, 9:45 p.m. and Sun., July 21, 5 p.m.)
Interior. Leather Bar. | B
Those predisposed to view James Franco as a dilettante will find plenty of ammunition with his latest project, which aims to recreate the quasi-hardcore footage purportedly cut from William Friedkin’s notorious Cruising. But stick with it and it turns out Franco has something slipperier and more interesting in mind: What starts as a narcissistic featurette morphs into a character study of actor Val Lauren, whose discomfort with filling the role of Al Pacino’s possibly closeted undercover cop doubles Cruising’s view of uncontrollably fluid sexuality. The movie’s not indulgent so much as meta-indulgent, self-aggrandizing and self-critical in equal measure. —SA (Ritz East, Fri., July 12, 7 p.m. and Sat., July 13, 12:15 p.m.)
In the Name Of | B+
With various shirtless, muscled young men on display, there is a real homoerotic vibe at work in the Polish film In the Name Of. This tender character study concerns Father Adam (Andrzej Chyra), a gay priest who watches over delinquent boys and struggles to control his same-sex desires. Director Malgoska Szumowska deliberately never paints Father Adam as a bad man, just a flawed one, and Chyra makes his character’s anguish palpable. The plot thickens when Father Adam develops an attraction to a troubled boy, Lukasz (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz), and cultivates intimacy with him by teaching the youth to swim and later playing a game of seduction in a wheat field. When the priest’s queer bent becomes the source of rumors and graffiti, he debates whether he should flee the small town or stay. In the Name Of is certainly critical of the church, but this artfully made film is compassionate toward its characters, ending on an appropriately provocative note. —GMK (Ritz at the Bourse, Thu., July 18, 5 p.m. and Ritz East, Mon., July 22, 6 p.m.)
Invisible Men | B+
The Palestinian homosexuals in Yariv Mozer’s documentary are outcasts twice over. At home, they fear for their safety in a virulently homophobic culture — Louie, who serves as the movie’s main character, still bears a scar on his face where his father cut him with a knife. Sneak across the fence into Israel, and they’re fugitives. It’s a tragic plight, brought home by Louie’s perpetually sad eyes and palpable longing for home; he hires cabs to drive through Tel Aviv’s Arab quarter, then nervously whispers “speed up” as they drive by his family’s kiosk. Mozer doesn’t take his portrait much farther than stirring up sympathy — there’s little sense of how, or if, the political climate might shift in his subjects’ favor — but their deeply felt sorrow is itself an argument for change. —SA (Ritz at the Bourse, Tue., July 16, 9:15 p.m.)
The Rugby Player | B+
A heartfelt, life affirming portrait of United 93 hero Mark Bingham, The Rugby Player testifies to the fearlessness of its subject and the indomitable strength of his single mother, Alice Hoaglan. Bingham was a 6' 5," 250-pound gay man, gregarious at both work and play. Director Scott Gracheff’s documentary has his friends recounting how Bingham was idolized by almost everyone he knew, however, the film resists becoming an out-and-out hagiography. Instead Bingham is shown — through a terrific assembly of video clips and photographs — as an awkward teenager who loved heavy metal, joined a fraternity, played rugby, came out, and once was even fingerprinted for tackling the Stanford mascot. His infectious spirit comes across well here; viewers will be grateful to have learned Bingham’s story. While there are somber moments, including his mother’s touching visit to the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville, this appreciation of Bingham’s life is never overly sentimental or mawkish. —GMK (Ritz East, Sat., July 20, 5 p.m.)
The Secret Disco Revolution | B-
Only some of the interviewees in Jamie Kastner’s Secret Disco Revolution seem to agree with his contention that the much-maligned music had an underlying political agenda. And none of those include the performers themselves — Thelma Houston, Gloria Gaynor and KC (of the Sunshine Band) all respond to the question with slight confusion or even, in the case of the Village People, annoyance. Kastner himself undercuts the argument by framing the film as the tongue-in-cheek revelation of disco’s existence as a secret conspiracy for the “liberation of women, blacks and gays.” The joke quickly wears thin, but his argument that elements of racism and homophobia were involved in the trend’s rapid burnout is compelling, even if the diluting and “whitening” of music is hardly unique in music history (see: rock ’n’ roll). Minus the sociological overthinking, the film is an entertaining capsule of hedonism’s last stand before the conservative retrenchment of the 1980s. —SB (Ritz at the Bourse, Sat., July 13, 12:15 p.m. and Mon., July 15, 9:30 p.m.)
Tumbledown | C-
Half an hour into Tumbledown, the latest from ultra-prolific director Todd Verow, a title scroll appears, intimating that what we’ve been watching for the past thirty minutes could be interpreted differently by each of the film’s three characters. Given that over the course of more than 20 raw-verging-on-slapdash films Verow has rarely focused much attention on even the most basic rudiments of formal structure, the suggestion that he’s about to embark on a Rashomon--style exercise is worrisome. What follows isn’t quite that ambitious, though. Instead of different perspectives, Verow simply depicts the three separate strands of his intertwining story, a fairly banal thriller of obsession and bad decisions. The drama is aimed less at generating suspense than at providing excuses for the stars, including the director himself, to strip down and have at it in long, unbroken takes. As Verow’s character sets his handheld camera down on the floor to capture himself in action, it’s hard not to imagine the filmmaker taking the same careless approach. —SB (Ritz East, Thu., July 18, 9:15 p.m. and Ritz at the Bourse, Sun., July 21, 9:15 p.m.)
Valentine Road | A-
The 2008 murder of 15-year-old Larry King, a gay student who was shot twice in the head by a 14-year-old classmate, made national news and sparked widespread protest. But in Oxnard, Calif. — at least, according to Marta Cunningham’s documentary — the main reaction was to sweep the murder under the rug, and sympathies leaned less toward King than his killer. Using a gay-panic defense in the murder of a child is appalling, but the movie finds injustices on both sides; the prosecutor who charged King’s murderer as an adult chortles and all but rolls her eyes as she watches footage of him getting into fights in lockup. I can’t remember the last time a documentary moved me so deeply, or angered me so profoundly. —SA (Ritz East, Sun., July 14, 4:45 p.m.)
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