Film Hub




The Men Of 'La Bare' Reveal What's Behind the 'Magic Mike' Fantasy

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With a sequel and a stage musical in development, we haven’t seen the last of Magic Mike. If you need another fix of rippling abs and gyrating hips in the meantime, look no further than La Bare, a new documentary directed and produced by Magic Mike star Joe Manganiello.

The film, which hit theaters this weekend, follows the dancers at a Dallas, Texas strip club. For those who have watched Magic Mike nearly as many times as I have, some elements of La Bare will feel very familiar. The costumes, the dance routines, even some of the characters of La Bare feel as if they were ripped from scenes of Magic Mike. [There’s a number with the guys (temporarily) in black raincoats with umbrellas, and La Bare’s elder statesman, Randy “Master Blaster” Ricks, bears more than a passing resemblance to Matthew McConaughey’s character, Dallas.]

In a case of life imitating art imitating life (Magic Mike was loosely based on Channing Tatum’s own stripper past), one dancer was inspired to audition to work at La Bare after seeing Tatum stripping on screen. He now goes by the stage name “Channing.”

“Watching how insane all the women went whenever Channing Tatum came up on stage, seeing how crazy they all got watching him was really inspiring,” La Bare’s Channing said.

We spoke to Channing and fellow dancer Axl about what they love about the job, what customers do that drives them crazy and how they interact with male customers. See what they had to say, AFTER THE JUMP…

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Film Review: 'Broken Heart Land' Weaves Unexpected And Tragic Tapestry Of Grief

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Broken Heart Land, an expectation-eschewing documentary from directors Jeremy and Randy Stulberg, begins with an all-too-familiar tragedy in the rural American landscape: the suicide of a gay teenager. From there it weaves a far different story than one might anticipate, opting for a complex exploration of a family struck by death and a town in the throws of an identity crisis. 

The setting, Norman, Oklahoma--home to the University of Oklahoma--is seen by many citizens as a bastion of liberal goodwill in one of the nation’s most conservative geographic regions. In reality, though, the town is largely inhabited by Christian conservatives and other folks who fall uneasily within a murky spectrum of political thought. 

BHL2Two such people, Van and Nancy Harrington, are the parents of Zack, a reserved guy who came out in high school, seemingly without significant fanfare and with ardent support from his family. We learn very little about Zack, save for his participation in the high school color guard; his sudden suicide leaves him even more of an enigma. Only when his grieving parents receive the coroners report do they, and the audience, find out that Zack was HIV-positive and had been treating himself with drugs bought on the street. It is a surprising turn of events within the film. One friend, overcome with emotion and unsure whether or not to speak on the matter, recounts the way that Zack finally told her, after over a year of hinting, about his status. The wound of his death is clearly still fresh for everyone involved, and this particular revelation throws them for a loop. The trailer, which we reported on previously, framed Zack’s HIV-status as the central mystery within the narrative, but its reveal comes early, both in the run time and in the mourning process. The film actually seems far more concerned with picking up the pieces and understanding just how great an impact Zack’s death had, particularly on his mother and rather surprisingly on small town politics.

BHL1Just before Zack’s death, he may or may not have attended the Norman town council meeting where an LGBT History Month proposal was discussed and voted on. The mystery of his attendance reflects the unknowable qualities of his personality, but it is no matter in comparison with the bigoted and disturbing diatribe unleashed by many of the town’s most influential conservatives, including Chad Williams, an assistant pastor of a local mega-church and an eventual candidate for town council. 

The dueling campaigns of Williams and an openly lesbian opponent form the backbone of much of the documentary, framed by the broken and embittered family at the center of the tragedy. Both Van and Nancy Harrington are self-proclaimed Republicans and supporters of the LGBT rights movement, an almost oxymoronic combination these days, and their understanding of politics is shaken throughout the film by national trends (see: the Tea Party) and the closer-to-home town council race. Nancy joins a Norman group called Moms Of Many (MOM), formed in the wake of Zack’s death. She learns about the representation of the LGBT community in politics, campaigns for Williams’ competitor, and, in a particularly tense scene, confronts the pastor after all of her LGBT-related questions are ignored at a debate amongst the candidates. Van is largely seen sitting on a couch at home, watching Fox News, and smoking a cigarette; the grief is palpable and nearly unbearable. 

Still, both he and Nancy traverse an arc, from disbelief and upset about Zack’s status (his keeping it from them more so than the fact that he was positive) to a state of sad but empowered motivation to create change. We eventually see them dedicate a bench in Norman to their son and march in an AIDS Walk in his memory. 

BHL3Ultimately the “broken heart land” of the film’s title seems twofold. It is a comment on the nature of grief and tragedy, rendered so vividly in the lives of the Harringtons, and it is an observation about the shifting, highly oppositional politics of a nation, and particularly the midwest. The Harringtons are a family awakened to their own faults, their political aspirations, and their beliefs. The same, unfortunately, cannot necessarily be said for Williams and others in the more conservative contingent. They stand behind a “we love everyone enough to tell them that they are wrong” facade, never owning up to what the filmmakers and the Harringtons come to believe: something, many things, must be wrong in a society where someone, Zack, would take his own life. LGBT inequality, non-comprehensive sex education, and perhaps even organized religion come under fire. While there is no conclusive reason behind Zack's suicide, beautifully-read passages of his tormented poetry and journals accompany nostalgic video footage throughout the film, giving prophetic voice to a young man no longer able to speak his mind.

Broken Heart Land is a powerful, unexpectedly political, and deeply sad documentary. At its center lies a teenager who could have lived a long, fulfilling life, given the support he deserved all along.

You can stream Broken Heart Land online at worldchannel.org, or catch it airing The World Channel through this weekend.


Alfred Molina and John Lithgow Play a Married Gay Couple in 'Love is Strange': TRAILER

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Back in January, after seeing a Sundance screening of Ira Sachs new film Love is Strange starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a just-married gay couple whose honeymoon is complicated when circumstances force them to temporarily separate, our film critic Nathaniel Rogers wrote:

Lithgow and Molina have great chemistry, never once feeling less than authentic or desexualized as elderly gay men with a forty-year history. Their lived in duet helps the film transcends the labels I've already placed on it here; it's a gay film, sure, but better than that it's a fully human one. Love is Strange has a lot more than just gay marriage with expansive ideas about aging, support networks and, brilliantly as it winds down, what the young gain from the old -- concerns that can't be reduced by sexual labels. It fully earned the copious tears and standing ovation that greeted its premiere here in Utah.

Now the film has a full trailer. Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

And if you missed the behind-the-scenes set shot of Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez in their cop uniforms that we posted last September, check it out HERE.

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Weekend Movie: Clint Eastwood's 'Jersey Boys'

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Erich Bergen, John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, and Michael Lomenda star in "Jersey Boys" 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 


‘I’m looking for sky blue and you’re giving me brown,’ a fey producer sighs when the Four Seasons are in the recording booth. They’re just going through the motions rather than livening up their material. He could just have easily been dissing JERSEY BOYS itself, Clint Eastwood’s needlessly dull adaptation of the Broadway smash. In truth the band’s performance in this scene isn’t appreciably worse than their performances elsewhere in the movie. If you can’t readily spot differences in inspiration and creative fire from one performance to the next, maybe there’s none to be found?

“Brown” isn’t quite the color of it, though. Clint Eastwood’s aesthetic favors underlit rooms, heavy blacks and washed out color. You’d think that aesthetic would change for a splashy musical but you’d be wrong. I mean, why shouldn’t a musical about a famous band with a gift for hooky pop gems look as depressing / dead-end as a drama about desperate boxers or a war film about an island massacre?

MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

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INTERVIEW: Directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White on Capturing the Human Heart of 'The Case Against 8'

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BY JACOB COMBS

“The Case Against 8,” the new HBO documentary about the legal challenge to California’s marriage equality ban, buzzes with the kind of dramatic tension a seasoned screenwriter might employ.  But Ben Cotner and Ryan White’s remarkable film has something no Hollywood film on Proposition 8 could ever hope for: the verisimilitude of reality. 

Thecaseagainst805The lawsuit against Proposition 8 was filed in May 2009; the case’s final resolution came on June 28, 2013.  During the four years that the case tangled and twisted its way from a San Francisco courtroom to the U.S. Supreme Court—and during the intervening year until the film’s theatrical release on June 6 and its streaming release on HBO this coming Monday—White and Cotner made a film that reminds us just how important the Prop 8 case and its accompanying trial were to advancing the conversation about marriage equality to where it is now.

During my interview with Cotner and White earlier this week in New York, one day before they jetted off to San Francisco, where their film opens the Frameline Film Festival tonight, one thing became abundantly clear to me: this is the kind of story that a documentary filmmaker dreams about telling.  And just as importantly, the two directors’ five-year journey demonstrates that one of the most significant aspects of the Prop 8 case—one which it is almost difficult to recall now, after so many remarkable LGBT rights victories—was that absolutely nobody had a clue how the case would turn out. 

Thecaseagainst802Yes, the challenge was intricately planned by the unexpected legal dream-team of Ted Olson and David Boies.  But when White and Cotner began filming, there was no telling how the case would resolve, or the several unexpected detours it would take from district court to the Supreme Court.  At first, Cotner recalls, he and White were amazed that AFER had even agreed to their request to film the case’s early development.  “Every day,” he told me, “we would show up and expect to get kicked out.”

They weren’t kicked out, but they weren’t sure they would end up at the end of the project with a film.  “It was really several years of us being completely nauseated by the idea that we’d put all this work into it without really knowing whether it would have an ending,” Cotner told me.  Because of that, the two filmmakers—both gay Californians themselves—documented every meeting they could, no matter how seemingly insignificant, for a total of some 6,000 hours of footage.  

But once Judge Vaughn Walker chose to hold a trial, the filmmakers’ entire calculus changed.  “The trial,” Cotner told me, “was what was historic about this case.  Growing up in Indiana, I never imagined I would be in a federal court where people were talking this rationally and articulately about these issues and examining the science behind it.”  Or, as White put it simply, “Trials are cinematic.  It made our film cinematic.” 

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After some legal wrangling, it was determined by the U.S. Supreme Court that cameras would not be allowed to record the Prop 8 trial in district court, meaning Cotner and White would have no footage from this most human part of the case to include in their documentary.  So they did something risky—“our Hail Mary,” White called it: they had the plaintiffs—Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo—each re-enact the testimony that they gave in the courtroom in January of 2010, reading directly from the transcripts of their own words.  “We both thought it was going to be a bad idea,” White told me.  “And they were all amazing.  Listening to each of them reread—everyone was just sort of captivated by them.”  Those in-studio reenactments form the heart of “The Case Against 8,” both figuratively and literally, coming as they do at the exact middle of the film.

Thecaseagainst802Of course, when the plaintiffs first spoke those words in San Francisco, nobody knew they would succeed before the Supreme Court—or even if the case would make it that far.  “It really wasn't until the Supreme Court granted cert,” Cotner said, “that we could say, OK, we know this is a 3-act film and it has an ending.  Whether it's a good ending or a bad ending, we know we have a film." 

But what ending would it have?  There were three possibilities: a nationwide pro-equality ruling (the big win), a decision on standing that would lead to the return of marriage equality to California but nowhere else, and a devastating anti-equality ruling that would grieve LGBT hearts from coast to coast.  “Any of those three outcomes were OK to us as storytellers,” White told me, “because they’re all a good ending”—from a filmmaking perspective, at least.

Luckily for the plaintiffs—and all LGBT Californians—the high court’s decision did bring marriage equality back to the Golden State.  And with the help of the Ninth Circuit, marriage returned in a most unexpected way: just two days after the Supreme Court’s ruling, more than 20 days before anybody thought it would.

Thecaseagainst807“I was in my car,” White told me, recalling the day.  “I got a text from someone at AFER saying, don’t ask any questions, just drive to the airport right now and go to San Francisco.”  And so he did, slightly miffed, because he and Cotner had received similar missives and dropped everything only to have nothing happen.  “It’s not going to happen today,” White remembers thinking, but then came the call that the court’s stay had been lifted.  “It was like an action film,” White said—their driver flew through the city, hopping curves and racing for City Hall, where White’s camera equipment set off every alarm in the security line and a sharp-eyed guard, recognizing the history of the moment, pulled White aside and said, just go.

Meanwhile, Cotner was in Los Angeles with two of the plaintiffs, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, fighting their way through traffic to a county clerk’s office in Norwalk.  When they arrived, confusion reigned in the office, and they were asked to step aside and wait, since the office had not yet received notice of the court’s lifting of the stay.  “That, after four years and all of the work that Paul and Jeff had put into this, was such a sucker punch.”  Incredibly, California Attorney General Kamala Harris was reached on the phone and personally instructed the Norwalk office to issue the marriage license—a phone call that Cotner and White were lucky enough to film from both sides, and one that shines in their documentary. 

Thecaseagainst806And then it was time for the weddings.  “It was one of those moments,” Cotner says, “where as filmmakers it’s just so hard to hold the camera.  Because you’ve grown to love these people and you’ve got to film this.  This is the only moment that you really have to catch, but it’s the one time you want to put the camera down and really just be there and be a part of it.”

“It was one of the best days of our lives,” White told me.  He and Cotner had expected they would have a full 25 days before the stay was lifted to plan for the couples’ weddings—and the logistics of shooting them.  In the end, though, he says it was a blessing that things happened the way they did: “I don’t think it would be as amazing of an ending if it wasn’t so rushed and frantic and confusing and then celebratory." 

In a way, “The Case Against 8” is just like, well, the actual case against 8: a high-stakes, multi-year project with no guarantee of success at the outset.  But even knowing the eventual outcome of the legal challenge, it’s impossible not to be moved by the way Cotner and White’s film shows us the abounding humanity of the case’s plaintiffs and of the lawyers who told their story.

As our interview came to a close, White shared an anecdote from the film’s Tuesday premiere in Atlanta, where he’s from.  At the after party, White’s best friend, who had brought his very conservative mother to see the film, came up to the director and burst into tears.  “My mom grabbed my hand from the very first frame of your film,” he told White, “and never let go.  And right when the credits started rolling, she turned to me and said, ‘I’ve been wrong about this.’”  White was gracious and humble when we spoke: “That’s not me or Ben,” he said.  “That’s Kris and Sandy and Paul and Jeff.”

Actually, it’s all of them.  The human story was always the secret weapon of the legal challenge to Proposition 8, and it’s the secret weapon of “The Case Against 8” as well.

The HBO documentary “The Case Against 8” will debut this Monday, June 23rd.

Check out the trailer, below:


Steve Martin Throws Cold Water on Gay 'Father of the Bride' Report

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Yesterday, Nikki Finke reported that a threequel of Father of the Bride was on its way, and that the new film would feature a gay wedding. Steve Martin, who was reportedly in negotiations, dispelled those rumors on Twitter:

"So excited to read I'm doing Father of the Bride 3 since I haven't seen a script or been offered the role!"


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