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Friday, October 20, 2006

OpenCam: My review for This Week In Texas.


While chat rooms might feel like familiar territory for many gay men, thrillers aren’t familiar territory for many gay movies. In fact, thrillers often feature gay villains and gay stereotypes. OpenCam might include a gay villain—considering that the entire cast seems gay—but it also rises above stereotypes.

After giving up on a lasting relationship, Manny (Andreau Thomas) spends much of his time trolling a chat room for gay men in Washington, D.C. That distraction often keeps him from his artwork, and from his best friend, Maurice (Ben Green). Maurice obviously wants their friendship to go further, and his emotional openness sometimes gets a bit scary.

An attempted robbery causes Manny and Maurice to cross paths with Hamilton (Amir Darvish), a detective who later asks Manny to help him solve a series of murders. The murders not only involve the chat room Manny cruises but also involve people he knows. As it turns out, several of Manny’s acquaintances seem suspicious.

Amir Darvish creates an intriguing hero—seductive, dangerous, and concerned. However, Andreau Thomas is the star, giving Manny enough faults to make at least one of his acquaintances want to kill him but enough charm to make audience care what happens to him.

Writer/director Robert Gaston keeps taunting viewers by making certain characters seem like the obvious culprit but then planting doubts about the killer’s true identity. Gaston moderates the pacing by focusing on the relationships between the characters, while interspersing scenes of danger. He also makes good use of shadows and light, especially in scenes where a character on the Web cam obviously receives an unexpected guest.

Sex and nudity play an important role in the film, but the emotional conflicts and the growing sense of danger make it even more engaging. A little bit of humor even sneaks in now and then, usually from sarcasm, but also from some playfully romantic scenes between Hamilton and Manny. The soundtrack features an enjoyable mixture of dance music and alternative rock, with artists such as Warren Cuccurullo (a lead guitarist for Frank Zappa, Missing Persons, and Duran Duran) and 2005 Outmusic Award Nominees Keyth Lawrence and the Purple Circle.

Without giving away any of the ending, something apparently happens between two of the characters that doesn’t quite show up in the film’s concluding scenes. Maybe it’s implied and I just didn’t catch it, but it seemed distractingly missing. That is my only complaint about the entire movie, though. OpenCam is sexy and suspenseful.

Read more about this movie at OpenCamMovie.Com.

--DuaneSimolke.Com, author of The Acorn Stories, Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, Holding Me Together, and New Readings of Winesburg, Ohio.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

This is entry #250 for this blog! Thanks for reading!

It looks like some great book-to-movie adaptations are coming to theaters, like Running With Scissors, Flags of Our Fathers, Eragon, The Prestige, and James Bond: 007: Casino Royale.

I’ve recently updated the following pages: The Return of Innocence: A Fantasy Adventure and DuaneSimolke.Com: Canada.

Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema: My review for This Week In Texas.

Vito Russo's 1981 book The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies explored how movies portray gays and lesbians. That book led to the documentary The Celluloid Closet, from directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. While both incarnations of The Celluloid Closet remain ground-breaking and essential, Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema focuses mostly on gay films, made from a gay or gay-friendly perspective.

Of course, only a few such films were widely available when Russo wrote his work. Now gay movies line the walls of video stores and the shelves of many gay homes. We just needed some kind of map to help us navigate those movies.

Directors Lisa Ades and Lesli Klainberg provide that map with this exciting new DVD. Though their 82-minute feature sometimes feels a little too brief and rushed, Ades and Klainberg carry the readers through important events in gay history and how those events impacted gay cinema. They also look at how changing attitudes, the popularity of film festivals, the advent of affordable DVDs, and many other changes made gay films a much larger market. If Ades and Klainberg create a sequel to this documentary—and they should—they might also examine the impact of gay TV networks and gay-owned film companies; of course, it might take a few more years to see that impact.

The entire film relies on a high-speed mixture of interviews and film excerpts. The resulting documentary is relentlessly informative and often amusing. Comments from Gus Van Sant, John Waters, Wilson Cruz, Guinevere Turner, Peter Paige, Alan Cumming, and many others in the film industry not only show why these films matter so much to gay viewers but also help trace the evolution of gay cinema. From obscure films to Brokeback Mountain, Ades and Klainberg help viewers see the importance of gay-themed movies. The DVD’s extras include even more interview footage, grouped thematically; my favorite of those features is “First Gay Movie Memories,” with the interviewees telling how particular gay scenes affected them.

Fabulous! succeeds as a gay cultural study, as a reference to help viewers decide which movies to buy and rent, and as an entertaining look at film-making. Even the negative portrayals this film examines will help inform film-lovers. Ades and Klainberg prove that queer cinema is as amazingly diverse as the queer community that supports it.