Frameline 2009: Our short, opinionated takes on several featured Frameline flicks
The Lollipop Generation (G.B. Jones, Canada, 2008) To truly appreciate G.B. Jones' decades-in-the-making solo follow-up to her 1991 queer punk classic collaboration with Bruce LaBruce No Skin Off My Ass, you probably have to be a fan of Doris Wishman. Jones is on record as a major admirer of the woman behind Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965) and the Chesty Morgan vehicle Double Agent 73 (1974), whose singular directorial style had no need for dramatic momentum, synced-up dialogue, or sensible camera angles. (In a scene with dialogue, Wishman was more likely to lavish close-ups on nearby furniture than on the humans involved.) Lollipop Generation skewers the lust for youth at the rotten core of pop culture through its look at a loose gang of candy-licking teen and preteen trick-turners and the suckers who would like to prey on them. The cast includes writer Mark Ewert and Calvin Johnson, but Vaginal Davis steals a sizeable portion of the movie by throwing her all into a molester role in a sequence that shifts back and forth between Super 8 and video. My favorite aspect of Lollipop Generation is Jones' eye for funny or dirty signs or landmarks, from giant smiling balls on the sides of freeways to sites with double entendres for names. By placing what story there is within this framework, she creates her own world with no need for special effects. (Johnny Ray Huston) 10:45 p.m., Roxie.
Making the Boys (Crayton Robey, USA, 2008) Whether you adore it as a nostalgic, pre-HIV throwback or despise it for its self-loathing and slew of gay stereotypes, The Boys in the Band was revolutionary for its time as the first play to revolve around a homosexual circle of friends and to present an honest examination of the gay community. In director Crayton Robey's compelling and insightful new documentary, Mart Crowley, the playwright of Boys, recounts his days rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood elite as a burgeoning screenwriter only to be cast aside after a failed Bette Davis pilot and a film deal fell through. New York theater proved to be his salvation as he struggled with perceived personal and professional failure as well as alcoholism. With nothing to lose, he bravely penned Boys, secured the producer from Edward Albee's equally controversial Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and released it off-Broadway on April 14, 1968 to commercial acclaim. Robey interviews both Broadway and Hollywood mainstays such as Albee, Terrence McNally, Robert Wagner, and Dominick Dunne, who reflect on the impact of Boys, for better and for worse, and its role in challenging mainstream opinions of homosexuality as a mental illness and in jumpstarting the gay rights movement. In the middle of the film, I started wishing Robey had interviewed more of the cast of Boys. After all, they were the ones who experienced the highs of being in an exciting and subversive new play as well as the lows of later being essentially blacklisted from Hollywood. Then it dawned on me that five of the nine original cast members of Boys have since died from AIDS. Ultimately though, their cause to validate the gay community's presence in society is forever immortalized with the legacy of Boys, the play that Vincent Canby hailed "a landslide of truths." (Laura Swanbeck) 7 p.m., Victoria. Also Mon/22, 1 p.m., Castro.
Greek Pete (Andrew Haigh, U.K., 2009) A deadpan serving of real-life drama, this night-and-day portrait is a 21st-century update of Andy Warhol's Flesh, the 1968 movie that made Joe Dallesandro a star. In Flesh, Dallesandro is a hustler named Joe in New York. Here, Peter Pittaros is an escort named Pete in London. In Flesh, we see Joe school comparatively naïve and weak street corner boys on the tricks of rough trade. Here, Pete is a responsible breadwinner in comparison to his drug-spun chicken boyfriend. Both Flesh's Joe and the title character of Greek Pete hang with trannies, though Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis are more camera-ready than Pete's goth gal pals. But whereas a strange optimism radiates from Flesh, which is understandably too smitten with its charismatic star to knock the hustle, Greek Pete has a strong undertow of melancholy. Its sadness doesn't stem from a moral tut-tut stance about whoring but from a sense of modern emptiness that haunts Pete whether he's with friends, alone in his apartment, or watching footage of himself winning a competition that's the male escort equivalent of Miss America. Well-shot and anchored by a performance that's just deep and ordinary enough to remain compelling, Greek Pete isn't just easy meat. (Huston) 10 p.m., Victoria. Also Tues/23, 2:30 p.m., Castro.
Training Rules (Dee Mosbacher and Fawn Yacker, USA, 2009) Homophobia in sports is, depressingly, still an enormous issue. But compared to the macho world of the NBA, you'd think that women's college basketball would be a comparatively safe realm for queer players. In the case of Penn State, you'd be dead wrong. For 27 years, coach Rene Portland intimidated and harassed players who were lesbians and those she thought might be lesbians, or who had lesbian friends. As players from past teams recall (often through tears), Portland was an outspoken homophobe who revoked scholarships as she pleased and made basketball a joyless pursuit for those she targeted. In 2006, former player Jennifer Harris, a star athlete and standout student, sued the school for discrimination. Though Harris can't speak at length due to the terms of her settlement (and of course Portland, who resigned in 2007, did not agree to an interview), Training Rules is an eye-opening document, exposing not just the ugly truth about one coach, but a systemwide crisis that those in power (athletic directors, the NCAA) have been painfully slow to address. (Cheryl Eddy) 3:30 p.m., Castro
City of Borders (Yun Suh, USA, 2009) Forty-five minutes away from Middle Eastern "gay mecca" Tel Aviv lies Jerusalem, ancient religious center and, unfortunately, bastion of equally time-tested attitudes toward homosexuality. Many Tel Aviv gays don't even see the point of living, let alone fighting for rights, in Jerusalem. Yet Jerusalem's sole gay bar, Shushan, was one place where Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, mingled as equals. Yun Suh's documentary focuses on a few diverse patrons, plus Shushan's owner Sa'ar Netanel, who became Jerusalem's first openly gay elected official (as a city councilman) on the same day it elected its first ultraright Orthodox mayor. He endures routine death threats, Gay Pride parades attract violent protest, and the other principals here have their problems and flaws too: lesbian couple Samira and Ravit try to stay together despite major cultural differences; Palestinian youth Boddy fears he'll eventually have to leave for his own safety; Adam, an Israeli activist since being queer-bashed, doesn't see any ethnical conflict in building a house on occupied territory with his boyfriend. Borders is a vivid snapshot of a gay rights struggle that is still very much an uphill slog. (Dennis Harvey) 7 p.m., Roxie
Patrick, Age 1.5 (Ella Lemhagen, Sweden, 2008) Freshly settled in suburbia, gay couple Goran (Gustaf Skarsgard) and Sven (Torkel Petersson) are eager to adopt a child or at least Goran is, with Sven reluctantly caving in. But when against the odds they're informed a native-born boy is available, a misplaced bit of bureaucratic punctuation means they get not the 18-month-old toddler expected but 15-year-old Patrik (Tom Ljungman). He's a foul-tempered foster home veteran who makes it clear he's no happier cohabiting with two "homos" than they are with him. Nevertheless, they're stuck with each other at least through the weekend, allowing a predictable mutual warming trend to course through Ella Lemhagen's agreeable seriocomedy. While formulaic in concept, the film's low-key charm and conviction earn emotions that might easily have felt sitcomishly pre-programmed. (Harvey) 7 p.m., Castro
Prodigal Sons (Kimberly Reed, USA, 2008) When Kimberly Reed (who studied film at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University) set out to make Prodigal Sons, she was probably pretty certain the doc would be deliberately self-focused. The film's first act takes place in Helena, Mont., at Reed's 20-year high school reunion amid former classmates who remember Kimberly Reed as Paul McKerrow, a football star who was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" (and, indeed, a success she has been; though she alludes to a difficult period during her transition, she's clearly arrived at a happy and confident place in life). But Prodigal Sons is plural for a reason, and not because of brother Todd (who happens to be gay). Instead, it's adopted brother Marc who is given to terrifying rages as a result of a personality-altering brain injury; remains eternally resentful of Kimberly's high school-era smarts and popularity; and (as is shockingly discovered) the grandchild of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth who becomes Prodigal Sons' focus. He is the most heartbreaking figure in an intimately personal (sometimes uncomfortably so) film that's ultimately about identities lost and found. (Eddy) 7:30 p.m., Castro
Off and Running (Nicole Opper, USA, 2009) Teenager Avery, an African American, was adopted as an infant by a single white mom, who soon afterward meets another single white mom who had recently adopted an African American baby boy. Before long, a family (nicknamed "the United Nations," especially after a Korean child joins the mix) was formed. A track star who dreams of running in college, Avery loves her moms, but she's curious about her biological parents. She knows she's from Texas and was originally called Mycole Antwonisha, facts that hint at a cultural experience far removed from her upbringing as a Brooklyn Jew. After a few letters are exchanged with her birth mother, Avery is crushed when the woman mysteriously ends communication. A profound identity crisis ensues. "It's like something really traumatic happened to her, and nothing did," Avery's caring if clueless adoptive mother says. But Off and Running suggests otherwise. The doc may not speak for every adopted child's experience, but it's eye-opening nonetheless, and is blessed with a subject who is sensitive and articulate even in her darkest moments. (Eddy) 2:15 p.m., Roxie
Pop Star on Ice (David Barba and James Pellerito, USA, 2009) Yay, Johnny Weir! If you don't share my sentiments about the sassy, sparkly, outspoken (but not on-the-record out) figure skater, then you might want to skip this documentary, which was filmed over a two-year period and offers an up-close-and-personal (like, you see him in a tanning bed) look at the three-time national champ. Or maybe not, actually haters might come around after realizing how hard he's worked to achieve his ice-rink dreams, born after watching Oksana Baiul win Olympic gold on TV and learning to skate (at the ancient age of 12) on the frozen-over cornfield in his Pennsylvania backyard. Competition footage backs up claims by longtime coach Priscilla Hill (with whom he breaks up over the course of the film) and others of Weir's extraordinary talents; backstage clips and off-the-cuff interviews establish the fact that he's one of the sport's most fun personalities, probably ever. Weir pouts, jokes, struts in a fashion show, speaks in a Russian accent, discusses his collection of furs, and lands quadruple jumps with ease. Gay or (ahem) nay, he's clearly 100 percent comfortable with who he is. (Eddy) 11 a.m., Castro