Film/Arts/Satire*
(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Reverend's Preview: Super Heroes to Be Honored at Vanguard Awards



Four real-life superheroes will be honored at the Los Angeles LGBT Center's 49th annual gala Vanguard Awards on Saturday, September 22nd.  The event will take place at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.


The members of this extraordinary quartet are Grammy-winning singer, philanthropist and actor Ricky Martin; film and television producer, writer and director Greg Berlanti; Robbie Rogers, accomplished athlete and producer (as well as Berlanti's husband); and philanthropist Ariadne Getty. Previous honorees include Miley Cyrus, Jane Fonda, Elton John, George & Brad Takei, Neil Patrick Harris & David Burtka, Jesse Tyler Ferguson & Justin Mikita, Wanda Sykes and Lily Tomlin.

One of the nation’s premier LGBT charity events, the Vanguard Awards brings together more than 1,200 of the region’s most important leaders and influencers in the civic, corporate, entertainment, and philanthropic communities to celebrate this year’s inspirational honorees for their unwavering support of the LGBT community and their dedication to creating positive change in the world.  Guests enjoy cocktails, dinner and entertainment along with a not-to-be-missed silent auction.

“Our honorees fully embody strength, compassion, and resilience. They set the stage for what will be an amazing and inspiring evening,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean.  “At a time when threats to the well-being of the LGBT community happen almost daily, this event will be a celebration of our collective humanity and commitment to building a world where LGBT people thrive.”


Recently nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the FX Drama Series, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Ricky Martin needs little introduction.  He continues to soar in his third decade as a leader in the entertainment industry.  Since his first solo album release in 1991, Martin has appreciated a worldwide fan base, sold over 70 million records, and has won multiple Grammy awards.  In 2004, he founded The Ricky Martin Foundation, an organization dedicated to denouncing and exposing global human trafficking that enslaves approximately 30 million people.  After the catastrophic Hurricanes Irma and Maria of Puerto Rico in 2017, Martin was compelled to start an initiative to revive his homeland.  The Ricky Martin Foundation organized the Puerto Rico Relief Fund, which has raised almost $5 million to date.

Ariadne Getty is a lifelong philanthropist dedicated to serving disenfranchised populations.  She is the President and Executive Director of the Ariadne Getty Foundation, which since 2004 has partnered with non-profit organizations worldwide to improve the lives of individuals and communities through large-scale investments and social activism.  In addition to financial contributions, Ariadne donates her time and energy to causes she supports.  As a member of GLAAD’s Board of Directors since 2016, she works tirelessly to inspire and motivate others to better understand and accept the LGBTQ community.


Golden Globe-nominated writer, director and producer Greg Berlanti is the force behind several of the most inventive and acclaimed works in film and television, including multiple interpretations of classic DC Comics superheroes.  He is best known for his work as executive producer and co-creator of The CW’s Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Riverdale and Supergirl.  Berlanti's numerous upcoming television projects include Lifetime’s straight-to-series thriller You; the live action versions of DC Entertainment’s Titans and Doom Patrol; The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina for Netflix; God Friended Me and The Red Line for CBS; and the recently announced Batwoman series for The CW.  Berlanti will soon make television history with a total of 14 scripted series on the air at the same time.  His most recent feature-film directorial project is this year's critically-acclaimed gay romance Love, Simon.

Berlanti's husband since 2017 is television producer and former professional soccer player Robbie Rogers.  He is best known as the first openly-gay male athlete to compete in a top North American professional sports league.  Internationally, Rogers represented the US Olympic Team in Beijing in 2008.  He published his memoir, Coming Out to Play, in 2014 and was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.  As an LGBT advocate, Rogers currently works closely with charities such as GLSEN, championing LGBT issues in K-12 Education, and serves as an Ambassador for The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative.  He and Berlanti will co-produce the upcoming TV series All American, to debut on The CW in October, 2018.


Together, Rogers and Berlanti are the proud parents of a 2-year old son, Caleb. We love being married and being dads," the couple replied when they recently took time out of their very busy schedules to answer a few questions. "Caleb reminds us every day how much we love him. Watching him grow up has been special for us both and one of the greatest things about our wedding was having him there to be a part of the festivities."

I asked them what the Vanguard Award means to them, individually and as a couple. "First and foremost, we are both honored to be in such good company; many of the past individuals who have received this honor are inspirations to us both," they replied. "Secondly, the LGBT Center holds such an important and special place in our hearts and we are so grateful to everyone who works so tirelessly to support this important organization."

Berlanti and Rogers are looking forward to their first TV co-production, which will be premiering this fall. Gay viewers will likely find much to appreciate in it, especially since Berlanti's other series prominently feature LGBT characters. "We both individually try to make our shows as diverse as possible," they said, "and we feel extremely lucky to be working together on new projects such as The CW’s All American, which tackles many aspects of self-identity and love."

Since 1969, the Los Angeles LGBT Center has cared for, championed and celebrated LGBT individuals and families in Los Angeles and beyond. The Center's nearly 700 employees today provide services for more LGBT people than any other organization in the world.

Tickets for the September 22nd event are now on sale here. For the latest news and information, follow @lalgbtcenter on social media and join the conversation using #VanguardAwards.

Preview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Reverend's Preview: Everyone’s a Friend at QFilms 2018


 

A friendship that lasts 25 years or more is a treasure, and so is a 25-year old LGBTQ film festival. Long Beach’s QFilm Festival has been drawing friends new and old to its tantalizing annual line up of great LGBTQ movies since 1993. The 25th anniversary, 2018 event will take place September 6th-9th at the historic Art Theatre located at 2025 East 4th St. and the neighboring LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, both on Long Beach’s renowned “Retro Row.”


Qfilms remains Long Beach’s longest-running film festival. It annually presents narrative features, documentaries and short films that embody the rich diversity and experiences of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities. More than 1,500 people attend each year to savor a mix of West Coast, Southern California and local premieres as well some of the most acclaimed features on the film festival circuit. Numerous filmmakers and cast members of the films to be shown will be present for audience discussions after many screenings. Festival events include nightly parties, Sunday brunch, and opportunities for attendees to meet and mingle with filmmakers, actors, critics, and other industry professionals.


The 2018 QFilm Festival will open at the Art Theatre the evening of Thursday, September 6th with the Long Beach premiere of The Advocate Celebrates 50 Years: A Long Road to Freedom. This acclaimed documentary about the pioneering LGBT publication is narrated by Laverne Cox and features music by Melissa Etheridge. It will be preceded and followed by an Opening Night party for all pass- and ticket-holders at the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, located directly next door to the Art Theatre.

Two engaging, biographical feature films will have their local premieres the night of Friday, September 7th. Wild Nights with Emily is an irreverent exploration of the famous poet Emily Dickinson, brought to vivid lesbian life by the hilarious Molly Shannon. It will be followed by Mapplethorpe, the eye-opening and sexy life story of controversial gay photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (well-played by British actor Matt Smith of Dr. Who and The Crown fame). A festive party for all attendees will take place between screenings at The Center.


Friendship is the potent subject of two memorable men’s features that will be making their Southern California premieres during Qfilms 2018. Mi Mejor Amigo (My Best Friend) is an award-winning coming of age tale from Argentina. Lorenzo is a quiet teenager who lives with his parents and younger brother. One day, a family friend’s son named Caito moves into Lorenzo’s home. Lorenzo soon finds himself with an unexpected secret to keep, added responsibility, and an intimate friend who will expose him to new life experiences.

Just Friends(Gewoon Vrienden) (Southern California premiere) is a delightfully off-kilter love story between two young men from very different backgrounds. Unfortunately, the idiosyncrasies of their parents threaten to keep them apart. When we first meet handsome medical student Yad, he has quit his hard-partying life in Amsterdam and moved home to a smaller Dutch city to live with his Middle Eastern mother and father. To their dismay, he settles for a temporary job in domestic care, working for a bubbly elderly woman named Ans. Like a mischievous Cupid, Ans slyly introduces Yad to her dashing and sexy grandson Joris. Their connection is immediate but Joris is dealing with his own set of family problems, including an overbearing mother who is addicted to plastic surgery and who has never fully dealt with the messy end of her marriage to Joris’ late father. Don’t miss Just Friends and Mi Mejor Amigo, and bring your friends/amigos!


Several other strong narrative and documentary features will screen on Saturday, September 8th and Sunday, September 9th. These include Kiss Me! (West Coast premiere), a French comedy in which a lesbian serial romantic crushes on her new obsession; Man Made (Long Beach premiere), a fascinating, award-winning documentary focusing on transgender bodybuilders; Transmilitary (Long Beach premiere), another award-winning documentary about trans service members who challenged the Pentagon; The Heiresses (Southern California premiere), the subtle but intense story of two Paraguayan women from wealthy families who risk all to be together; Shakedown (Long Beach premiere), a skillfully-crafted glimpse into the history of Los Angeles’ African-American lesbian club scene; and Every Act of Life (Long Beach premiere), an inspiring look at the life of out Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally.

In addition, QFilms 2018 will boast several extraordinary short film programs between Saturday and Sunday including "Men in Briefs", "Women in Shorts", and "Queer & Trans Shorts". The shorts lineup will include the Finding Home series featuring three stories of LGBTQ asylum seekers seeking refuge throughout Los Angeles. Jury and Audience awards will be given to worthy feature and short films in a number of categories.

All net proceeds from Qfilms and related events benefit The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach and its numerous, important community outreach programs. For more information, visit the QFilms website.

Preview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Dearest Reviews: That Was Then, This Is Now


 

Gay cinema, then and now.


Buddies:
Long before Philadelphia (not to mention Longtime Companion, Parting Glances and even An Early Frost) there was Buddies, the 1985 independent drama that was the first narrative film about AIDS. If you've never heard of it, let alone seen it, that's probably because it has never been released on home video in any format... until now. Thanks to a company called "Vinegar Syndrome", this forgotten classic has been restored and is now available as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack no less (perhaps you'll want to give the extra disc to your own "buddy").

Written and directed by Arthur J. Bressen Jr. (an early gay porn auteur of the "arty" variety), Buddies follows a by-now familiar formula (most recently seen in last year's BPM: Beats Per Minute) of pairing a sympathetic yet naïve young gay with a slightly older, slightly wiser/jaded gay man living with AIDS. David (David Schachter), a volunteer from the local gay center, has been assigned as a "buddy" to Robert (Geoff Edholm), who has been basically abandoned by everyone in his life and is now wasting away, alone, in a hospital bed. Initially antipathetic, their relationship evolves into a deep, even intimate, friendship, although David (and we, the audience) know how this will all end.

A buddy picture

Even restored, there is no hiding the fact that Buddies is a product of its time. The 80s were a watershed period for American indie film in general and early queer cinema in particular, and truly independent examples from this era all have that scrappy "do it yourself" feel to them, as Buddies certainly does. The dialogue can be a tad too theatrical and the acting a bit unpolished at times, and certain technical aspects leave a lot to be desired (let's just say that the set decorator latched on to the fact that David is a typesetter and ran with it... into the ground).

Yet despite its short-comings, Buddies does deliver dramatically, and the film's emotional coda packs a particularly powerful punch. A lot of Buddies feels familiar, but one must remember that it did it first, and now, finally, we are all able to see it. (8/10)


Love, Simon
At the time of Buddies, one would never have imagined a gay teen romcom, let alone a gay teen romcom distributed by a major Hollywood studio and advertised as a gay teen romcom on prime time network television. Oh, and also be a box office hit. But this is 2018, and there's a lot of things we never could have imagined thirtysomething years ago.

The gay teen romcom in question is Love, Simon (directed by Greg Berlanti, of Broken Hearts Club and 3/4ths of all superhero shows on TV right now fame), now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Simon Spier (a winning Nick Robinson) seems to have the perfect life. Loving parents (played by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel)? Check. A close knit group of supportive friends? Check. A girlfriend? Yeah, about that... See, Simon also has a secret: he's gay. So when another closeted gay student at his high school anonymously posts an online confessional, a curious Simon begins an email correspondence with this mystery boy he only knows as "Blue".

The kids in the hall

Things get complicated though when, as he is developing feelings for his digital pen pal/potential boyfriend, yet another student (Martin) sees Simon's messages to Blue and blackmails Simon into setting him up with one of his besties (Abby). (Theater Nerd Rant: Simon does this by setting up Martin and Abby on a "date" to practice their lines for the school musical, which is Cabaret, wherein Martin plays the Emcee and Abby plays Sally Bowles. This is, of course, bullshit because the Emcee doesn't have any dialogue outside of introducing the musical numbers. End of Theater Nerd Rant.)

Simon spends the bulk of the film (which is based on Becky Albertalli's YA novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda; thank god they changed the title) in crisis mode, trying to suss out the true identity of his little boy Blue while simultaneously scrambling to keep his secret a secret, screwing up most of his other relationships in the process. Does it all work itself out, culminating with a swoony romantic clinch at the top of a Ferris wheel at the school carnival? Well yeah, of course it does, but considering all the times we've seen straight characters in the same scenario, it's nice to finally see not just a "happy ending" for this charming crowd pleaser, but a "Hollywood happy ending". (7/10)

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.