“Non-Love-Song”: A Review Thursday, Aug 28 2014 

If I were teaching my Lesbian and Gay Lit class this term I would show my students this 2009 short film, “Non-Love Song” written and directed by Erik Gernand

I think this short beautifully captures the experience of many young gay men: king of having an unrequited crush on your best friend and trying to let him know how you feel and who you really are while worrying about what would happen if he knew you were gay. At least that’s how I interpret the film — some viewers argue that straight guys have the same interactions. But I think the part where Josh asks what would happen if they meet up again in a few months and they’re different suggests the character’s anxiety about coming out and whether Alex will still be his friend. His defensiveness about Alex’s use of words like queer, faggoty, and gay further reflects this, I think. As does Alex’s assertion, “I know” when Josh tells him how much it bothers him. I think the emotion on the actor’s face when Josh asks, “Do you understand?” is especially poignant. 

I also like how the grittiness of the cinematography and some of the jumpy editing reflects the nervousness of the main character.  

And Alex’s line, “You won’t be different. Not to me” is just perfect. 

 

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Test: A Review Wednesday, Aug 27 2014 

Recently, PJ and I watched Test, written and directed by Chris Mason Johnson and starring Scott Marlowe and Matthew Risch. Set in 1985, it tells the story of the early days of HIV testing through the eyes of Frankie, a gay modern dancer in San Francisco. Here’s the trailer: 

AIDS movies can often seem cliched and preachy. What I like most about this film is that it avoids the preachiness while still getting it’s point across. While it isn’t a perfect film — I’m not sure it entirely captures the look of the early 1980s — it is nevertheless an excellent one. It really conveys the fear and indecision that marked the early AIDS crisis and testing in an era in which testing positive was usually a death sentence. Frankie explores such questions as whether an HIV diagnosis be misused to discriminate against gay men and whether gay men should stop having sex — was it even possible to stop having sex — in order to preserve their lives. I thought the dance scenes were also quite good, and there’s a little man-on-man action to spice it up a bit. 

I really liked this film and think it could easily make it onto my top ten films of the year. I highly recommend it. 

SotW: If I Were a Boy from Glee Sunday, Nov 24 2013 

A couple of weeks ago I flipped the channel briefly to see what was happening on Glee, a show I don’t watch much anymore, since it conflicts with Project Runway. The beginning of this video is exactly where I came in:

I wasn’t sure what had happened to lead to this song — I asked PJ later, since he watches Glee — but part of the beauty of this performance is that you didn’t really need to know what had happened to precipitate it. It’s moving and beautiful without any context.

A few years ago, Glee was on the forefront of depicting gays and lesbians on television. I’m glad that it’s continued that progressive tradition by depicting a trans character like Unique. Just as younger audiences have arguably learned greater acceptance of gays and lesbians by watching them on television, hopefully the same positive acceptance will come soon for transpeople. Orange Is the New Black and Glee are leading the way. Hopefully other shows will soon follow.

2013: The Summer of Gay Love Sunday, Nov 17 2013 

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months and just haven’t gotten to it. This past summer will be remembered for the landmark Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage. While that decision did not extend marriage rights to all 50 states, our nation is headed in the right direction, and I look forward to being legally wed to PJ in the not too distant future.

Gay love was also in the air this past summer musically. In many respects, it started with Macklemore’s “Same Love”:

I’ll admit that, at first, I didn’t pay much attention to Macklemore. But once I sat down and listened to his hit, I was really impressed with what he’s achieved: he’s captured the way so many younger people now think. It’s a beautiful video, and I think it paved the way for other music made by queer artists.

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Favorite Men of 2012 Monday, Apr 15 2013 

Earlier this year, I posted a few of my favorites of 2012  lists: favorite albums, favorite movies, favorite songs. One more that I’ve been meaning to post is a list of the men I started following online in 2012. Some of these have pages on Facebook that I liked. Others have YouTube Channels or Twitter feeds that I follow. And one or two are just men I now Google frequently!

In no particular order, my favorite men of 2012 were:

Andy Murray 

2012 was a breakout year for the Scotsman Andy Murray. He made it to his first Wimbledon final, won the Olympics, and then won his first grand slam tournament at the U.S. Open. I’ve liked Murray for a long time, but I LOVE Rafael Nadal, so I have to agree with tennis commentators who suggest that some of Murray’s success is due to Rafa’s absence. But when you get right down to it, Murray worked hard for his success and deserves all of the victories he scored last year. I just hope he’s able to keep it up and doesn’t fall back down to #4 by the end of summer. Tennis benefits when all four of the top players have a real shot at winning each tournament.

PJ and I got to see Murray play Federer in the semis of the 2009 Southern & Western in Cincinnati. Murray takes some heat from gay viewers, but I think he’s hot! He’s got the best legs in men’s tennis, and he’s competitive with Federer for best chest.

But more importantly than looks, he’s a great competitor on the court, and he’s fun to watch. I really do hope that 2013 brings him a lot of success (except for when he plays Rafa!).

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Good Boys: A Review Saturday, Aug 4 2012 

Last night, PJ and I watched the 2005 Israeli movie Good Boys, written and directed by Yair Hochner. It stars Daniel Efrat as Menni and Yuval Raz as Tal, two prostitutes in Tel Aviv who meet and then are hired to have sex together while their John watches. They then spend the night together, and both men feel that they’ve made a special connection to one another. They agree to meet up again the next evening; the movie follows their efforts to do so.

Here’s a trailer, of sorts:

Menni is clearly the more successful prostitute: he’s cuter that Tal and he dresses better, and the sign of his success is that he has regular clients rather than works the streets. But he still has problems, not the least of which is the appearance of a female prostitute he once slept with, resulting in a child. While Menni identifies as gay and has little interest in raising his daughter, he feels some need to make sure the two of them are safe.

Tal, on the other hand, lives hand to mouth and is constantly on the lookout for easy money. He’s not as cute as Menni and therefore takes more risks with his clients. Consequently, he’s in more danger as he works the streets.

Just before they’re supposed to meet up, Menni and Tal each meet another man. Menni runs into a younger hustler who has been beaten up. He befriends him and offers him a place to stay. The two then embark on a mini-quest to return Menni’s daughter to her mother or her parents. Tal picks up a trick in the bar just when he’s supposed to be meeting Menni. The trick turns out to be bad news, and film cuts back and forth between Menni’s efforts to find his daughter’s mother and Tal and Tal’s efforts to end his “date.”

Overall, this is an interesting, provocative movie. It seems to depict prostitution rather realistically — it doesn’t romanticize these men’s lives or work. The leads are both excellent in their parts, and I think we come to care for them and whether they’re going to make it or not. The movie is only about 75 minutes long, making it a short, but well-made little movie. It’s another good example of Israeli queer cinema.

Weekend: A Review Saturday, Nov 12 2011 

Last night PJ and I went to see Weekend, a new gay independent film about two men, Russell and Glen, who meet on a one-night stand and end up spending a weekend together. Here’s the trailer:

This movie has gotten great reviews, and we assumed we would have to wait until our trip to New York next month to see it, so we were really excited when our local art theater, The Athena, announced that it was showing here. It’s not a perfect movie, but I really enjoyed it — it’s far and away better than the average gay independent movie!

Tom Cullen plays Russell, a not quite fully out gay man in search of connection after spending the evening drinking and smoking pot with his best straight friends. Chris New plays Glen, an artist who politicizes his gayness by talking loudly about gay S&M while hanging out in straight bars and then arguing with the other patrons about it, for example.

As the two men spend the weekend talking, arguing, fucking, and partying, they begin to open up to one another as they’ve never opened up to anyone before. The most appealing aspect of the film is the emotional honesty that these characters have. You feel like you’re eavesdropping on real conversations. For example, Glen and Russell talk about their coming out stories. Both of their stories feel real and honest. These moments seem incredibly wise and insightful but not out of character — Glen and Russell are never wiser than men like them would be. I tend to like talky pictures; that’s definitely what I like best about Weekend.

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J.C. Leyendecker: A Book Review Sunday, Nov 6 2011 

After reading Hide/Seek, I became interested in illustrator J. C. (Joseph Christian) Leyendecker, so I looked around for a good book to read about him. Eventually, I settled on J.C. Leyendecker (2008) by Laurence S. Cutler, Judy Goffman Cutler, and the National Museum of American Illustration. This book is a wonderful collection of Leyendecker’s illustrations accompanied by excellent essays about the Golden Age of American Illustration, Leyendecker’s life, and Leyendecker’s distinctive work. I enjoyed reading (and looking at) it!

Leyendecker’s importance in the history of early twentieth-century American illustration can’t be overstated. He produced over 300 covers for The Saturday Evening Post and was one of, if not the, most popular advertising illustrators of the 1920s and 30s. His images became iconographic representations of sophisticated, urban American chic.

Leyendecker was also gay, and his illustrations often incorporate homoerotic imagery. I find the way this book discusses this element of his art to be very interesting:

Knowing that revealing his secret would threaten his popularity and success, Joe never came out of the closet…. He also attempted to conceal his sexual orientation in his work, which was often characterized by heterosexual female adoration for handsome males depicted in overtly erotic poses. Yet, ironically, he was the most manifest homosexual artist of the early twentieth century–a virtual hero–as his work clearly demonstrates to today’s enlightened audience.

To create such delicious illustrations, he smoothed oils on models’ muscles, enhancing the light reflecting on male surfaces he admired most: one model said that Joe always painted him in a darkened studio, with only candlelight highlighting the erotic qualities of his gleaming form. The gay subculture saw the irony in his work and appreciated the erotic images he lavished upon the world.

These homoerotic images appealed to heterosexual viewers as well, however. In a subtle subversion of heterosexual mores, unattractive men turned to them in their quest to be more appealing through the products being advertised. Sportsmen never saw the football players’ images as anything but manly, for they reveled in the enthusiasm created among the fans. College men, particularly Ivy Leaguers and prep school chums, were proud that their alma maters were highlighted. And most of all, women were drawn to Joe’s images, dreaming of intimacies with men who possessed “The Leyendecker Look.”

While Leyendecker was not publicly out, he did have a partner, Charles A. Beach (1886-1952), whose image is sometimes featured in Leyendecker’s work, as in this illustration, which is included in the Hide/Seek exhibit:

Beach is on the left. Beach is also the model featured in the book’s cover illustration.

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Hide/Seek: A Book Review Sunday, Oct 30 2011 

PJ and I missed the Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery earlier this year, so PJ ordered a copy of the catalogue. We’re going to have a chance to see the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in December, so I started reading the catalogue, which was edited by Jonathan D. Katz and David C. Ward.

This is the first time that I’ve read a book about an exhibit before seeing the exhibit. The book version of Hide/Seek is a great read, whether one ever sees the actual exhibit or not. In particular, Katz’s opening essay describing the exhibit and providing historical context for the works in it is a particularly fine essay.

For a couple of decades now, scholars have argued that before modern notions of sexuality became prevalent, “homosexuality” was coded as being effeminate and the penetrated partner in any sexual activity. Thus, a “heterosexual” man could have sex with a “homosexual” one without impugning his reputation as a straight man, provided he performed the masculine role of penetrating the gay man. Katz’s explanation of this theory is one of the best I’ve ever read.

Katz explains this concept in order to interpret George Bellows’s The Shower-Bath (1917):

He reads this image to explain why, even though it depicts an “obvious” homosexual in the foreground, it was an extremely popular. His reading is convincing, and it made me think about this period of American cultural history differently. This print is nearly contemporaneous with one of my favorite novels, Henry Blake Fuller’s 1919 Bertram Cope’s Year. Thinking about this novel in terms of Katz’s argument would be a very interesting way to approach the book.

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Eating Out: Drama Camp: A Review Saturday, Oct 29 2011 

Last night PJ and I watched Eating Out: Drama Camp, the latest in the farcical series of gay movies that specialize in the sexual hi-jinks of young gay men and their lady friends.

In this fourth installment of the franchise, Zack and Casey, the leading men introduced in the third movie, Eating Out: All You Can Eat, are still together but having some problems in the bedroom: Zack, played by Chris Salvatore, no longer seems interested in Casey, played by Daniel Skelton. These problems are compounded by their heading off to a drama camp, where temptations to stray abound.

Eating Out: Drama Camp is hilariously sexy and loads of fun! This is queer, bawdy humor at its best.

The third installment of this franchise seemingly sent the series in a new, much more interesting direction: the main characters were all played by gay men, the plot revolved around Casey’s efforts to seduce Zack, another gay guy, and it all added up to a lot of heart. While maybe it shouldn’t matter whether the actors are gay, I really liked that Skelton and Salvatore were out during their promotion of the movie. I was tired of some of he earlier movies’ stars efforts to distance themselves from the plots’ gay content. Likewise, I liked that All You Can Eat was about one gay guy chasing another openly gay guy. The is-he-or-isn’t he plot of the second movie wore thin for me. And I liked the combination of sexual humor, romance, and sentiment in the third movie. It all added up to a queer comedy made for and by queers, something I both admire and enjoyed.

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