(*homocinematically inclined)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Reverend's Preview: Get Your Shorts Off


Temperatures are heating up in Palm Springs, so shorts are going on and coming off with abandon this month. Short films, that is. Approximately 325 of them will be screened during the 25th anniversary Palm Springs International ShortFest. It will run June 18th -24th at the Camelot Theatre, 2300 E. Baristo Road in Palm Springs.

As the largest short film event in North America, ShortFest programmers receive more than 5,000 submissions from over 100 countries around the globe. Those selected are screened in 90-minute themed programs. Films have an average running time of 15 minutes. ShortFest has to date presented more than 100 shorts that have gone on to receive Oscar nominations and/or awards.

Hundreds of filmmakers and industry professional plus 22,000 avid filmgoers are expected to be in attendance this year. According to organizers, “ShortFest is defined by a decidedly casual atmosphere and a taste for the unconventional.” The full film and event schedule as well as tickets are now available.

The festival has been hailed by USA Today as the best US film festival for short films. It has also long included LGBTQ-interest stories given Palm Springs’ significant LGBTQ population, and this year is no exception. More than 40 shorts of interest to our community will be screened. Here’s a rundown of several noteworthy offerings I was able to screen in advance:

Lavender, a provocative yet moving North American film written and directed by Matthew Puccini. Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) plays Arthur, one-third of a threesome, or throuple. A younger man falls in love with Arthur and his husband but is ultimately forced out in light of the couple’s preparations for a baby. There is little dialogue during the film but talk proves unnecessary as Puccini and his cast explore the characters’ emotional dilemma.

Floating (Flotando), a surreal sci-fi film from Spain involving a gay astronaut in a heavily-damaged space station. He receives an unexpected visitor, Elio, who is somehow able to survive in space without life support. This eerie but occasionally funny short boasts impressive production design and special effects, presumably on a fairly low budget.

Floss, by talented Chinese filmmaker Popo Fan, is a strange yet sensual tale of a gay man with a dental fetish. It is well-acted and beautifully shot, and a cute dog is involved. However, potential viewers with a fear of going to the dentist should definitely proceed with caution.

Bob & Dale, another beautifully-shot short that makes breathtaking use of its mountainous Colorado setting. The title characters are an older, longtime gay couple coming to grips with one’s advancing dementia. Sensitively written and directed by David Rosfeld, as well as movingly acted by Mark Hattan and Robert W. Smith.

The Cocoa Fondue Show, a comedic drag extravaganza. The title starlet, known from a stylish ad campaign for spray-on abs for men (or Sprabs), is prepping to film the pilot for her own TV series. However, Cocoa (played by Caldwell Tidicue, a.k.a. RuPaul's Drag Race season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen) finds her plans threatened by Lola, an imperious network exec played by drag legend Jackie Beat, as well as her arch-nemesis, the villainous, red-tressed Catastrawberry, assayed by another Drag Race alum, Ginger Minj, who I was able to interview this past Memorial Day weekend...

CC: It sounds like this is a busy weekend for you! You're currently in California but live in Florida, correct?
GM: Yeah, it’s been a whirlwind weekend, for sure! I was finishing up my Big Gay Cabaret tour so I was in El Paso on Friday, Salt Lake City on Saturday, and in LA for DragCon on Sunday.

CC: Wow! When did you first start performing in drag? Who were your early inspirations?
GM: I’ve been doing drag professionally for about fifteen years, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I used to wait for my mama to leave the house so I could put on her red high heels and black negligee and pretend to be the Wicked Witch of the East from The Wizard of Oz. I guess I knew it was “different” but it felt very natural to me. I loved that movie so much, I wanted to be a part of it and I thought she had the best (albeit the most brief) role because her shoes were so fabulous! As I got older and really started to think about drag as a serious art form, I wanted to emulate Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. They were the most glamorous clowns I’d ever seen and I wanted to be just like them.

CC: How did you get involved with The Cocoa Fondue Show? You are a hoot as Catastrawberry/Big Mama!
GM: My agent called me and said: “Hear me out! I know you’re on the other side of the world doing this crazy tour right now, but you just got an offer to do a short film opposite Bob (the Drag Queen). It’s a musical so you’d get to sing and dance, and they’ve written it with you in mind.” I didn’t even have to think twice! I grew up doing musicals and I hadn’t had the opportunity to really sing and dance in a long time, plus I really love working with Bob. It was a no-brainer.

CC: What was it like on set with all of you high-powered drag icons?
GM: FUN! We had such a blast making each other laugh. The energy in the studio was unreal! The crew was insanely professional and treated us so well, so being able to make them laugh so hard we had to cut was a huge triumph. It became a game between us to see who could get the biggest laugh break of the day!

CC: I understand The Cocoa Fondue Show might be expanded into a feature film. How has your experience been making feature films, including the Netflix hit Dumplin’?
GM: I was born and raised on a stage. My entire life was theatre when I was growing up. I never thought much about doing film because I didn’t like the thought of not taking the full emotional journey all at one time like you do on stage. What I learned very quickly was that film gives you a chance to mine the depths of every emotion and really fine tune your performance. I love that you get the opportunity to really think about it, go away, and come back with an even stronger perspective. I also really love the little oranges at every Craft Services table ever.

CC: You have done plenty of TV between RuPaul’s Drag Race and the awesome, animated Super Drags, also on Netflix. What was it like to voice the animated Lemon Chiffon? I assume you weren't in full drag while doing so. Was it a dramatically different process for you?
GM: Listen, I had no idea what it was like to do voice-over work. I had been told my whole life that I should get into it because my voice was so unique and expressive, but my life just took me other places at the time. When I got the call from Netflix asking me to be a part of the production, I said sure and hopped the next flight to LA. I was so nervous but I realized very quickly that voice acting is my favorite kind of acting! I rolled up in my pajamas, sat on a stool, drank coffee and watched cartoons all day! It really doesn’t get better than that.

CC: What advice would you share with any young, budding drag queens who may be reading this?
GM: Just do you! It sounds simple but it’s true. Take the little things you admire about other entertainers and find how they work within your personality. Don’t imitate, emulate! If you’re not being authentic to you, the audience will know and they’ll be denied that personal connection with who you are and what your perspective is.

CC: Any upcoming projects or other information you'd like readers to know about?
GM: There’s so much going on! I’ve got a couple more TV shows coming up, I’m finishing my solo show before setting off on a six-month national Broadway tour, and my new album is finally coming out in August! Go find me on social media so we can be friends and you can keep up with all my shenanigans!

The Cocoa Fondue Show, which will screen at ShortFest on June 20th at 7 PM, is colorful, stylish, musical and appropriately over the top.

For tickets, showtimes and more information on this year's Palm Springs International ShortFest, visit their official website.

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

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