Tag Archives: gay rights

Capsule film reviews: Four LGBT movies from the USA

‘Moonlight’
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2016
Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout.
Grade: B+

Photo courtesy of A24.

“Moonlight” is a groundbreaking film — the first film with an all-black cast and the first LGBT film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Can’t deny that. But, while “Moonlight” is a well-composed film with great acting, I can’t help feeling disappointed after months of buildup. As a film, it’s good, and I’m happy that it’s been so well-received by mainstream audiences because we do need more diverse representation in cinema. But as a gay film, it’s really nothing special. The plotline is predictable, and this story… it’s been done. Maybe not this artfully, but it’s definitely been done. It’s broken into three distinct chapters, which represent three stages of one man’s coming-of-age. “Little” shows Chiron’s (Alex Hibbert) childhood years, where he seeks refuge from school bullies and his drug addict mother (Naomie Harris) with a mentor (Mahershala Ali) who tells him that it’s okay if he’s gay. Next up is “Chiron,” which depicts Chiron’s (Ashton Sanders) teen years and the problems that amplify therein. Finally comes “Black,” which shows Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) as a miraculously-ripped grown man who is still haunted by his first (probably only?) love. The movie I would have liked to see would focus on Chiron as an adult and really develop that character — a tough, intimidating drug dealer in Atlanta who has had just one sexual experience (with his high school crush, Kevin, years ago). Flashbacks to his childhood and adolescence could help flesh out his background, but a central narrative to come back to would have given the movie a lot more direction.

‘King Cobra’
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2016
Director: Justin Kelly
Starring: Garrett Clayton, James Franco and Christian Slater
Genre: Crime, Drama
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A

Photo courtesy of IFC Midnight.

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I inexplicably was for this movie. Gay porn, murder, and an all-star cast including the cute male lead from Disney’s “Teen Beach Movie.” That’s all I need in entertainment, really. “King Cobra” is based on the true story of Brent Corrigan (aka. Sean Paul Lockhart), played in the film by the dreamy Garret Clayton. Corrigan is infamous for his successful career in gay porn that began when he was well underage. (Spot the Brent Corrigan reference in my review of “Schoolboy Crush” here!) “King Cobra” chronicles Corrigan’s ascent to pornstardom and his struggles to escape from the grasp of the Cobra Video studio and its lecherous owner Bryan Kocis (called “Stephen” in the film and portrayed unnervingly by Christian Slater). When Stephen refuses to let Corrigan out of his contract, rivals from another porn studio (Keegan Allen of “Pretty Little Liars” fame and James Franco) plot to do whatever it takes to get Stephen out of the way so Corrigan can perform with them. I would say this movie is about 85 percent gay porn, 10 percent murder and 5 percent plot development, which is the perfect equation for any movie. It’s campy and creepy, and if you’re into that, you should definitely watch “King Cobra.”

‘Tangerine’
Release Date: July 10, 2015
Director: Sean Baker
Starring: Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Karren Karagulian
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Rating: R for strong and disturbing sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout, and drug use.
Grade: A+

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

“Tangerine” is phenomenal, and it’s just the kind of offbeat buddy/revenge comedy we totally needed in our lives. The film received major buzz following its premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival because the entire thing was (amazingly) filmed using only iPhones — particularly impressive considering how cool the cinematography is and how well it captures this Hollywood neighborhood. But even more remarkable is the engaging storyline. “Tangerine” follows two trans women who work the streets near the iconic Santa Monica and Highland Donut Time shop: Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), fresh out of prison and on the hunt for her cheating boyfriend Chester (James Ransone), and her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor), who just needs to make it to her big singing gig at Hamburger Mary’s that night. The day’s adventure is thoroughly entertaining, and the glimpse into the lives, friendships and relationships of the characters is really wonderful. I even equally enjoyed the subplot that follows Razmik (Karren Karagulian), a married Armenian cab driver and frequent customer of Alexandra’s. Other background characters are portrayed by real-life Instagram stars and Viners found online by director Sean Baker (a lot of the film’s kinetic soundtrack was sourced from Vine and SoundCloud as well). In the end, “Tangerine” is a compelling film that proves big-budget frills aren’t necessary when you have charismatic characters and a unique story to tell.

‘Blackbird’
Release Date: April 24, 2015
Director: Patrik-Ian Polk
Starring: Julian Walker, Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for sexual content, language and some drug use – all involving teens.
Grade: D+

Photo courtesy of KBiz Entertainment and Tall Skinny Black Boy Productions.

This movie is… really not what I was expecting. With stars like Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington topping the bill and a strong story to work with about a gay black teenager growing up in Baptist Mississippi, I expected “Blackbird” to be a solid and impressive melodrama. Much to my surprise, it’s actually quite goofy. Campy, even. Which is — at times — enjoyable (I liked the high school drama club preparing to present a gay version of “Romeo & Juliet”), but — at times — very stupid. Julian Walker is not at all convincing or compelling in the lead role of Randy, and Kevin Allesee as Randy’s older love interest Marshall gives me the creeps every time he appears onscreen. The strange subplot about Randy’s missing younger sister is unnecessary and seems added on as an ill-conceived afterthought. But worst of all, the entire film is spoiled in the final moments when Randy dreams up a “vision” that tells him the exact details of the entire rest of his life. Whose idea was it to end the movie like that? Because it’s absolutely terrible. I don’t know what happened, but I feel like “Blackbird” was a really wasted opportunity.

RPDR’s Kim Chi slays Seoul debut at SKRT in Itaewon

“One day, I would love to be able to perform in South Korea and actually have people come out to see me.”

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Kim Chi performs at SKRT in Itaewon, Seoul on Sept. 24. SCREAMfmLondon

About an hour before doors opened at the Itaewon nightclub SKRT for Mad Bambi’s third drag ball in Seoul, the line already stretched down the block and around the corner. By 11 p.m., the line had grown beyond the fire station at the nearby intersection, down the street and out of sight. Forty-five minutes after the doors opened, tickets were sold out.

Seoulites walking past would stop and stare at the huge crowd. “What is the line for?” they would ask.

“We’re waiting for Kim Chi,” we’d respond. They would continue to stare.

“All these people are waiting in line for some kimchi?”

“No, this person on the poster is Kim Chi, a man who dresses as a woman.”

“…That’s a man?”

The attraction of the evening was, of course, Kim Chi — an anime-inspired, conceptual drag queen and runner-up on season eight of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Born in the USA but raised in South Korea, Kim Chi has a special place in the hearts of Korean fans who turned up en masse to support her debut on the Seoul drag scene.

I’ve never been to such a crowded drag show. I missed half the voguing waiting in line out front, and strained to see over the crowd during the opening performances of local queens Nikki Ashes, Charlotte Goodenough and Cha Cha.

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Kim Chi performs for fans at SKRT in Itaewon, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Finally, Kim Chi arrived onstage to the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon,” twirling her red skirt and tipping a wide-brimmed hat. Kim is a queen known for her incredible looks and makeup talent, so it was a thrill to see her work up close as we all sweated and danced together to the DJ’s tunes that ranged from Lady Gaga and Beyoncé to their K-pop equivalents HyunA and CL.

Kim Chi spoke to the audience in both English and Korean, expressing her joy and gratitude for the warm reception. During her set, Kim performed English and Korean lipsyncs, as well as her RPDR trademark song, “Fat, Fem & Asian,” which is a tongue-in-cheek response to the marginalization of anyone fat, femme or Asian in the gay community.

It was very exciting to see Kim Chi’s triumphant return to Seoul after her rise to stardom on RPDR. It was exciting to see such an excellent turnout despite South Korea’s less-than-accepting stance on homosexuality.

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Seoul’s gay pride parade this June. SCREAMfmLondon

At the annual gay pride parade in Seoul every summer, religious protesters surround the event, preach over loudspeakers and occasionally try to put a stop to the Pride events. In previous years, Christian groups have laid down in the street to stop the parade and, last year, attempted to prevent the event from even receiving its permits from the city.

But the Korean LGBT community carries on, with role models like Kim Chi paving the way. Her drag is captivating and cutting-edge, and she never shies away from her Korean heritage. On “Drag Race,” Kim Chi stood out from previous Asian contestants for not simply joking about racial stereotypes but instead embracing her Korean roots and using that connection to her full advantage. One standout moment came when Kim appeared on the main stage in a beautiful traditional hanbok as a tribute to her mother.

Kim Chi’s sold-out performance at SKRT is hopefully a sign of more good things to come.

Live: ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Battle of the Seasons

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Willam, Detox, Michelle Visage, Pandora Boxx, Ivy Winters, Carmen Carerra, Sharon Needles, Alaska Thunderfuck and Manila Luzon perform in “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Battle of the Seasons. Via Pandora Boxx/Facebook

On Feb. 6, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Battle of the Seasons brought eight performers from the reality television show, as well as host Michelle Visage and RuPaul himself, to Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles for a phenomenal display of theatricality.

Individually, Willam, Alaska Thunderfuck, Pandora Boxx, Sharon Needles, Detox, Manila Luzon, Carmen Carerra and Ivy Winters all took the stage to show off their individual talents at least twice.

Interspersed between performances were videos of the stars backstage and on the road, as well as promotional material from the sixth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which will premiere on Feb. 24. The entire event was incredibly seamless and professional. But with a lot of dick jokes.

While I would deem the whole evening a success, some performances stood out more than others. My jaw actually dropped in awe at Ivy Winters, who juggled gigantic knives while wearing a tall, silver-horned helmet and walked on stilts to Little Mix’s “Wings.”

Alaska wowed me with her singing talent and impressive vocal range during an impassioned cover of Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” (a nod, perhaps, to announcing the breakup with longtime boyfriend Needles late last year), as well as her original song “Ru Girl.”

Detox and Willam were fantastic as usual as two thirds of DWV (missing fellow drag queen Vicky Vox, who has not appeared on “Drag Race”) while performing their parody songs “Chow Down (at Chick-fil-A)” and “Boy is a Bottom.” Detox, especially, is not a bad rapper, and her black light shoes were fantastic, although her solo numbers were considerably less interesting. Willam, however, looked amazing, performed flawlessly and had a commanding stage presence throughout. But, of course.

And Needles, my personal favorite and the fifth season winner of “Drag Race,” was as hilarious, creepy and sexy as I’ve always dreamed she would be. For her first number, she was carried onstage in a coffin before launching into “Call Me on the Ouija Board” from her 2013 album “PG-13.”  It’s a really, really great goth-pop song with a catchy hook, smart lyrics full of tongue-in-cheek references to classic horror movies and a super polished sound. I actually haven’t stopped listening to it since. In the song, Needles declares, “I’ll be your Carol Anne, / I’ll be your pentagram. / Let’s dabble in the black arts.” Onstage, Needles picks up a dollar bill that was thrown at her and takes a few bites out of it before throwing it back.

Fun aside, there was also talk about the growing popularity of the show and its increasing influence on creating “drag queen society,” which is not entirely an exaggeration. The show and its contestants appeal to a wide range of audience members, reaching many underrepresented demographics. The wide appeal of fun, kitschy drag queens has allowed for stars that use the platform for political advocacy.

Carerra, who came out as a transgender woman after competing on the third season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” has since become a very public proponent for transgender equality. In January, she appeared alongside “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox on Katie Couric’s talk show to speak about transgender issues, and last year, an online petition aimed at persuading Victoria’s Secret to have Carerra as its first transgender model gathered around 45,000 signatures.

Luzon, also a competitor from season three, has been pretty involved in AIDS awareness since appearing on the show. She and other “Drag Race” alumni appear regularly in public service announcements on Logo TV promoting safe sex and HIV testing.

Fittingly enough, the Battle of the Seasons show took place just as I’ve been following another story of drag queen activism unfolding overseas. On Feb. 1, Irish drag queen Panti Bliss spoke (amazingly effectively and eloquently) about gay rights and oppression in Ireland. Shortly thereafter, a video of the speech garnered such international attention that it has been discussed everywhere from Ireland’s houses of parliament to Russia, where anti-gay legislation was famously passed in 2013 to prohibit “propaganda” in support of “non-traditional” sexual orientation.

All of this just makes me feel like there should be way more drag queens occupying political office.