Tag Archives: transphobia

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.

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Drag roundup: Trannyshack LA at The Dragonfly

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Toxic Waist performs at The Dragonfly in Hollywood. SCREAMfmLondon

It was my birthday, and a drag queen clocked me in the head with a cauldron during a dramatic reenactment of “The Silence of the Lambs.” So, that happened.

Trannyshack LA was the scene of the aforementioned cauldron incident. For the record, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intentional; she was just generally throwing a cauldron, and my head was in the line of fire. Story of my life.

Since 1996, Heklina has hosted Trannyshack, a regularly-occurring drag event in San Francisco. It’s become a relatively big deal over the years, and the event occasionally takes the show on the road — to LA, for instance.

On May 31, Heklina emceed the event at the Dragonfly Bar in Hollywood. It was one of the last of her events to use the name “Trannyshack” before making the switch over to “T-shack” (at least in the interim). She addressed the issue onstage, explaining that the ultimate point of her show was to be inclusive, and that includes eliminating language that makes others feel oppressed. Although the use of transphobic words has been a divisive issue in the drag community in the past few months, Heklina handled it professionally and with a good attitude. Right on.

As for the show, it was pretty tame (save Toxic Waist, who closed the evening with a great Leatherface-in-a-jockstrap number during which the audience was sprayed with fake blood).

My favorite act was Devan M., who performed a high-energy routine in a “Phantom of the Opera”-style half-face mask and cape. I really appreciate the added androgynous factor of bearded drag queens such as Devan. The trend of wearing facial hair while in drag has been gaining momentum recently, likely influenced by RuPaul’s phenomenal hair and makeup artist Mathu Andersen and by Conchita Wurst, the Austrian drag queen who won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.

More traditional drag performances came from Ambrosia Salad and Killer. The “traditional” element of Ambrosia’s act being the lip-sync to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” not necessarily the sexy Jesus backup dancers nailed with glittery blood to “YOLO” crosses. Killer brought out a great long-form Judy Garland impression, and there can never be too much Judy Garland.

Also impressive was Cupcake Canne, who performed a “Black Swan”-themed routine entirely on pointe. Although it’s really difficult to see anything that takes place low to the stage at a drag show because everyone in the crowd is about 20 feet tall in gigantic heels and hair.

The special guests of the evening were rapper Cazwell and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Manila Luzon, who joined him onstage for their duet, “Helen Keller.” Cazwell performed “I Seen Beyonce at Burger King,” which is somehow the weirdest, catchiest song in existence. (My favorite verse is “She was looking around for some customer service. / I walked up to her, made her security nervous. / She said, ‘How much for a case of beer?’ / I says, ‘Girl, are you drunk? I don’t work here!’”).

The rest of Cazwell’s set was okay. Meaning, he played “Ice Cream Truck,” and it was the first time I’ve listened to that song without watching the accompanying video. I’m not sure that song should even exist separately from the video.

All head injuries aside, I’m really glad I attended. I feel like this is a pivotal time for drag, and I’m excited to watch the evolution of mainstays such as “the club formerly known as Trannyshack.”