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Monday, January 29, 2007

Available Men: 7 Hilarious & Sexy Gay Short Films: my review for This Week In Texas.

Short film collections often deliver a mixed bag of good and forgettable movies, along with a few initially enjoyable shorts that end way too abruptly. However, this collection satisfies throughout. All seven features involve gay men and display a unique sense of humor.

Available Men, directed by David Dean Bottrell (15 minutes). Richard Ruccolo (from the adorable romantic comedy All Over the Guy) is one of four men who pair off in the wrong way. Two of them are gay men looking for their blind date, while Ruccolo is an agent who thinks he’s meeting a screenwriter but instead sits down with one of the gay men. The results are hilarious and would be fun as a one-act play. Jack Plotnick, always great in his roles as witty gay men, gives another funny performance while listening to the screenwriter talk about expectations. This short’s director, David Dean Bottrell, recently appeared in several episodes of Boston Legal as an uptight, murderous peeping tom.

Straight Boys, directed by Dave O’Brien (15 minutes). I love the drama The Conrad Boys; Nick Bartzen, one of that movie’s stars, appears here as a college student with a jealous girlfriend and a doting gay roommate. Despite some mild violence and conflicted emotions, Straight Boys delivers an enjoyable slice of light-hearted comedy.

Hello, Thanks, directed by Andrew Blubaugh (8 minutes). Using classified ads and voiceovers, Blubaugh gives a funny look at gay dating. His character’s struggle to define himself propels the fast-paced humor. It gets a little too fast, though, and most viewers probably won’t be able to read all of the ads without hitting the pause button a few times.

Tumbleweed Town, directed by Samara Halperin (8 minutes). I usually dislike animated films. However, this odd feature from 1999 keeps my interest—except during the slow dance, which seems to last longer than the film’s eight minutes by itself. Halperin animates action figures and other toys, subverting icons of heterosexual masculinity: trucks, truckers, cowboys, country music, etc. Halperin’s hyper-masculine action figures kiss, snuggle, and have sex with each other. It’s so goofy and irreverent that it works.

The Underminer, directed by Todd Downing (6 minutes). In an unusual approach to adaptation, author and performance artist Mike Albo portrays two different lead roles, in a film based on his book of the same title. Albo is loveable in one role, but both hilarious and annoying in the other…that of the title character. The “underminer” throws out back-handed compliments, spiteful judgments, or passive aggressive whining, every time he opens his mouth. The results are hilarious and should lead to a feature-length adaptation of the book.

Irene Williams: Queen Of Lincoln Road, directed by Eric Smith (23 minutes). The only documentary in the collection, this film initially seems misplaced. It focuses on an elderly woman who loves to design her own brightly colored clothes. Eric Smith immediately becomes enamored with her, and follows her around with his camera for ten years. Despite the focus on Irene’s flamboyant personality, Smith always shows her in a positive light, while also giving an unusual look at friendship between a gay man and a heterosexual woman. Not surprisingly, this short received ten film festival awards, as well as the PlanetOut Short Movie Award for Best Documentary.

Sissy Frenchfry, directed by JC Oliva (30 minutes). Also not surprisingly, this scrappy little gem received the Grand Prize Winner of the 2006 PlanetOut Short Movie Awards. The always engaging Leslie Jordan (Sordid Lives, Will & Grace) plays Principal Principle, at a school that also features a stunning drag queen, openly gay football players, plus-sized cheerleaders, and a gay icon named Sissy Frenchfry. Miss Coco Peru (Trick) also makes an appearance. A newcomer introduces homophobia to a gay-friendly school and turns Sissy’s world upside down. But Sissy won’t give up. This campy satire provides an uplifting ending to a collection of funny gay films.

--Duane Simolke, author of The Acorn Stories and Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure.