Flicks you may have missed in ’06

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Stay home and shop online with Netflix where the movies come by USPS or go classic with a trip to the local video store? With the deluge of GLBT films this past year, it’s likely that neither will showcase the more elusive best that the genre has to offer. Should you find yourself searching for a hard-to-find title to watch with your Valentine, the film’s Web site is always a sure bet.
 
20 Centimeters” or “20 Centimetros” stood out at the 2006 Outflix Film Festival as one of few Spanish language films (English subtitles). Marieta (Monica Cervera) is a working girl, working the streets of Madrid to pay for the excision of her twig ‘n’ berries. But her narcolepsy is more than just an inconvenience; it’s a curtain up on her Broadway-musical-styled dreams. A solid story supports the hysterically funny protagonist who falls to the ground, asleep, mid-conversation. More “happy to be” than “woe is me,” it’s clear that everyone involved had a hell of a time making this film. Don’t sit too close to the screen with this one folks, it ain’t called 20 centimeters for nothing—watch your eye.

TLA Releasing. A-

Watching Amber Benson in “Race You to the Bottom” begs the question…why was her delivery as “Tara" (Willow’s lesbian love interest on “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”) so clumsy and almost deliberately awkward? The number two clod of the Buffyverse (the first being Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn) makes a complete turnaround as Maggie, a sun-kissed belle vying for Nathan’s unwavering affection. Conveniently, Maggie’s boyfriend is unaware of the true nature of the relationship between the two BFFs. Nathan (Cole Williams) is more than satisfied bedding both Maggie and his boyfriend, whom he leaves behind for a wine tasting expedition in Napa Valley with Maggie. It’s a quirky little romance film made for the masses, light on the gay and not heavily hetero. Majestically beautiful Justin Hartley, now the Green Arrow on the CW’s “Smallville,” makes an appearance as a young husband easily uninhibited by Nathan’s masculine sensual side.

Here! Films / Regent Releasing. B+

Black, male, gay, and living in the South makes for a deadly combination in “Strange Fruit,” a valiant attempt to freshen up the prototypical race-related-tension-in-the-South film. After his childhood friend is lynched outside a gay bar with a discreet and ominous locale (the Louisiana swamps),  New York attorney William Boyals (Kent Faulcon) returns home to investigate the murder deemed a justifiable suicide by local authorities. Predictable characters (i.e. the bigoted sheriff and his cronies) and plot devices (a dramatic score to elevate suspense) paired with the untreated look of the film relegate it to oblivion. But, it is one of the year’s few GLBT films featuring an African American lead. Also noteworthy is the tremendous potential the story held.  A more contemporary script and healthier budget would do justice to the indicative title.         

Ariztical Entertainment. C-

Admittedly a gay take on the “American Pie” movies, “Another Gay Movie” is anything but. On the heels of “Adam & Steve,” it legitimizes gay farce as a standalone genre. Four high school friends don’t want to be among those of us who didn’t have sex in high school, so they go to amusing lengths to lose their virginity before starting college. Ripe with prop gags and queer quips, the only thing absent is a well-laid groundwork of responsibility (to school or otherwise) around which the antics ensue for the foursome. If you missed his role in “Luster” (2002) and you’re wondering what happened to the boy who got to kiss Leonardo DiCaprio in 1993’s “This Boy’s Life,” you’ll find him here as the eccentric flamer with a unique fashion sense.

TLA Releasing. A-

American representation of Hispanics in the media as thugs, hustlers and impoverished illegal alien laborers stands in stark contrast to “Queens,” a comedic story centered around five women who are brought together by their sons’ marriages to each other. The clans are put forth as posh and refined (though not intentionally), which would probably be a culture shock to those accustomed to an American image of the Spanish speaking community. Trivialities are inflated to make for dilemma as is common with light comedies, this one serving as a celebratory homage to Spain’s recent legalization of same sex marriage.

Here! Films/Regent Releasing. B+

Where are all the women!? That’s a question a lesbian might ask if she compared the number of male oriented queer films to the number of those with leading women. “What’s Up Scarlet" is a start at closing the gap. Sabrina (Musetta Vander), a homeless foreign actress, and Scarlet (Susan Priver), an uptight dating service entrepreneur, meet by happenstance. After a desperate Sabrina pressures Scarlet into providing what are to be temporary accommodations, the two develop a mutual attraction. Scarlet’s overbearing mother (Sally Kirkland) is a welcomed annoyance (if there can be such a thing) in Scarlet’s dry routine of off to work then home to the dog. Vander is commendable for her portrayal of a woman with nowhere to go, whose looks are so gorgeously exotic and desperation so palpable, that the two combined leave onlookers mistaking her for a con artist. Priver and Vander play extremely well off each other in what I consider to be award worthy performances. For those who wondered if a romantic comedy would work without the bumbling oaf or the guy with a heart of gold, here’s proof positive.

Producers: Susan Priver, Anthony Calderella, Jesse Berger, Randy Sinquefield. A-

Call Me Malcolm” was arguably the most thought provoking piece of the 2006 Outflix Film Festival in Memphis, due in no small part to the ongoing debate over gender expression even within the GLBT community. The documentary follows Malcolm, a female-to-male transgender person, as he travels the country introducing his new identity to old friends—and meeting new ones. Told through narration and a series of conversational interviews between Malcolm and others, including a seaside chat with Calpernia Addams over seafood, the film inadvertently compels audiences to examine their thoughts on whether wearing gender appropriate clothes and/or being anatomically correct are relevant to gender identity.

Producers: Joseph Parlagreco, Kierra Chase. A

Before you go off to make your own special movie of a different kind with him/her this Valentine’s Day, here are a couple more titles the two of you might watch over buttered popcorn and Welch’s sparkling juice:

"Small Town Gay Bar"
Producers: Andre Canaparo, Sarah Gibson, Kevin Smith (Exec. Producer). B+

"Chicken Tikka Masala"
TLA Releasing. B+