by Joshua T. Dies
With an impressively star-studded cast, a bevy of awards and a commendably diverse offering of films, Available Men is a collection of short films hot off the 2006 queer film festival circuit. The DVD, which hit local shelves January 30, features Emmy winner and Nashville-favorite Leslie Jordan, the oh-so-hot Richard Ruccolo of All Over The Guy fame and drag diva Miss Coco Peru. They and others appear in a variety of 15 to 30 minute award-winning films that range in topics from a bind date with a twist of mistaken identity to the Queen (of Lincoln Road that is). I usually find these collections of film festival highlights to be trite and condescending (black-and-white, out-of-focus, half-naked poorly-lit waifs that are usually depressed, homicidal or psychotic – what fun!) but this smart assortment manages to surprise me with every film.
The first short is the title piece Available Men. Two gay men named Steve and Robert are set to meet up on an anxiety-ridden blind date while a desperate agent who happens to be named Rob races to the same bar to meet the hot new screenwriter in town Stephen in the hopes of landing a new client. A hilarious case of mistaken identity in turn becomes a life-changing event for all involved in this sidesplitting comedy from director David Dean Bottrell. The short stars Richard Ruccolo as the frenetic agent and gay cult icon Jack Plotnick, who voices the gay video game hero Zander on Comedy Central’s Drawn Together.
Next up is the slightly more realistic but slow-moving Straight Boys. Following that is a surrealistic celebration of personal ads entitled Hello, Thanks. TumbleweedTown is a stop-motion animated tale of love in the Texas desert – think Robot Chicken meets BrokebackMountain.
The last three shorts were my personal favorites starting with The Underminer. The six-minute feature directed by Todd Downing stars New York performance artist Mike Albo in an adaptation of his best-selling book about a master of passive-aggression. Irene Williams: Queen of Lincoln Road is the true gem of the collection. Eric Smith filmed this documentary about his nine-year friendship with an eccentric fashionista in Miami. The final short is the hilarious and inspiring Sissy Frenchfry. The film features Leslie Jordan and Coco Peru, and tells the story of Sissy Frenchfry, the much loved gay high schooler who suddenly has to fight for the title of student body president against a homophobic, sexist but loaded newcomer.
This is truly a fantastic compilation with plenty of familiar faces and a bounty of laugh-out-loud moments. And with most of the films registering at 10 to 15 minutes long, they fit conveniently with my new 15-minute attention span (curse you Adult Swim!). While some of the releases from Wolfe Video have been a bit sketchy in the past, this one is definitely worth a look. You can find it at OutLoud, local retailers, or at www.wolfevideo.com.