Washington City Paper

12-21, 2001

Index of Films

10/12, Friday
10/13, Saturday
10/14, Sunday
10/15, Monday
10/16, Tuesday
10/17, Wednesday
10/18, Thursday
10/19, Friday
10/20, Saturday
10/21, Sunday

Print Version



News at 11
Reel Affirmations Festival


Out in the Arts I
Ross Bleckner: Remember Me, Barbara Wolf's 54-minute profile of the prolific painter, draws strength from its charming, gifted subject. Wolf examines the remarkable range of Bleckner's 30-year career, capturing him interacting with his proud parents, addressing art students, and holding forth at gallery openings and charitable events. As unpretentious and eloquent as he is talented, Bleckner illuminates the themes of his canvases, which fuse abstraction and representational imagery, and proves to be delightful company: a serious man with a twinkle in his eye. Wolf's documentary is bound to impress viewers familiar with Bleckner's work as well as those experiencing his paintings for the first time. By contrast, Out of the Closet, Off the Screen: The Life & Times of William Haines, produced by filmmakers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey for American Movie Classics, trashes one of Hollywood's most intriguing lives. The Virginia-born Haines ventured West in the '20s and quickly became a popular silent-screen star. But his refusal to conceal his relationship with his lover, Jimmie Shields, led his boss, MGM's Louis B. Mayer, to cancel Haines' contract, thereby ending his career. Encouraged by his friend Joan Crawford, Haines then became a successful interior decorator and continued to live openly with Shields until the former actor's death in 1973. The filmmakers apparently lacked sufficient funds to obtain permission to excerpt Haines' movies, and the few brief, scratchy clips they include offer no evidence of Haines' lively performances in such films as King Vidor's 1928 Show People. Even worse, contemporary actors are dragged in to participate in stiff re-creations of imagined moments from Haines' and Shields' lives, and the obligatory talking heads pop up to praise the actor's principled decision not to lie about his sexual orientation. In an attempt to glorify Haines as a pre-Stonewall poster boy, the filmmakers gloss over both his contempt for the gay-liberation movement and his role as court decorator for the reactionary Reagans, Bloomingdales, and Annenbergs. Haines deserves a more thoughtful documentary than this shallow, maddeningly repetitious piece of hack work.
--Joel E. Siegel

At noon at Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes, 814 7th St. NW.

Julie Johnson
Made last year for the now-bankrupt Shooting Gallery Films, this is the sort of well-meaning but unpersuasive little film that gives Amerindie cinema a not-so-good name. The title character (Lili Taylor, of course) is a high school dropout and Hoboken housewife who's suffocated by life with her cop husband and their two close-minded kids. One day, she admits to her best friend, Claire (Courtney Love, of all people), that she has a secret vice: She buys popular science magazines, even though she doesn't understand them. "I don't wanna be stupid no more," she declares, and soon she's ejected her hubby, signed up for adult education, and been certified a math prodigy by her benevolent teacher (Spalding Gray, for chrissakes). Julie also inspires Claire to leave her own oppressive spouse, move in with Julie, go back to school, and begin an affair they've long secretly fantasized about. Claire's rebellion doesn't endure, however: She doesn't like being called a "dyke," doesn't want to study, and misses her old life. Director Bob Gosse apparently thought Claire's backsliding would balance the idealization of the title character, but Julie is never credible.
--Mark Jenkins

At 1 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

A Union in Wait
After almost 20 years of togetherness, Wendy Scott and Susan Parker decided to have a "union" ceremony at Wake Forest Baptist Church's Wait Chapel. The two women carefully decided against using the word "marriage," but their plans became controversial anyway. Wake Forest University banned the observance, and people quickly chose sides. As usual in documentaries like this, the principal characters are interesting, but it's their antagonists who are luridly fascinating: One protester explains that "fag" is a Biblical term; another blames the whole controversy on that "filthy dyke Maya Angelou." (On the other side, gay-marriage supporter Andrew Sullivan sounds almost as hysterical.) When the ceremony finally happens, Scott and Parker defuse the tension with comic schtick. The most powerful moment in Ryan Butler's 47-minute documentary, however, comes earlier: To protest the decision the university ultimately retracted, Scott and Parker's supporters quietly covered the chapel's steps with flowers.
--Mark Jenkins

At 2 p.m. at Goethe-Institut.

On the Bus
Dustin Lance Black's On the Bus, a queer Road Rules, was originally intended as a half-hour documentary to be disseminated by a now-defunct Internet subscription service. Director Black has compressed 20 hours of video footage into a 111-minute cinéma-vérité account of six young gay men who venture to Black Rock City, Nev., for Burning Man, an annual gathering of 20,000-plus uninhibited celebrants. The 20-something cast, handpicked for the voyage, include an Olympic diver, a porn star, a model, a composer, the film's producer, and the director himself. Had he chosen more interesting and articulate companions, Black's documentary might have been more compelling, but this nosegay of vacuous, bickering slackers has little on its collective mind apart from vaguely formed career ambitions (which they do nothing to realize), drugs (mushrooms and Ecstasy), and, of course, getting laid. On the Bus is so crudely made that Black frequently resorts to subtitling the garbled soundtrack, and his images aren't much clearer. Asked at journey's end what the trip has taught them, the participants fail to arrive at conclusions more profound than "Nobody is alone" and similar bromides. Campier than a Metrobus ride, but nowhere near as suspenseful or edifying.
--Joel E. Siegel

At 3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

True-Hearted Vixens
"We can be rough, and we can show boobs!" proclaims one of True-Hearted Vixens' interviewees. But choosing whether to deal sacks or sell sex isn't the only dilemma for the 80 athletes of the fledgling Women's Professional Football League (which is sponsored, much to the players' dismay, by Hooters). The Minnesota-based organization's male owner has a history of shady business deals, fan support is in the bored hundreds, and the pay for each participant is one-quarter of 1 percent of the inaugural season's total profits--which turn out to be no profits at all. But despite the endless fourth-and-long obstacles, the gridiron stars of Mylene Moreno's documentary keep punting, passing, kicking--and beating the living hell out of each other. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes uplifting, but at all times entertaining, the film focuses primarily on the two-team league's two best players: Jane Bolin, a 24-year-old political consultant with linebacker skills, and Kertria "Moochie" Lofton, a 33-year-old full-time athlete and two-sport star who wants to be wide receiver one week and a shooting guard for the Women's National Basketball Association the next. Boy-crazy at the beginning of the movie, Bolin provides True-Hearted Vixens' juiciest drama when she falls for another WPFL player. ("I've never felt this way about a woman before," she says.) And the best athlete in the whole film might just be Lofton's sad-eyed daughter, Ashley, whose own budding b-ball career is put on hold while her determined mother tirelessly pursues her football and hoop dreams.
--Sean Daly

At 4 p.m. at Goethe-Institut.

Queen of the Whole Wide World
This documentary explores the world of Los Angeles' annual Queen of the Whole Wide World Pageant, which started in 1989 to raise funds for those suffering with HIV/AIDS. Director Roger Hyde's film features glitzy sets, over-the-top costumes (Miss France is the Eiffel Tower), lots of ego wars, and a cameo by Linda Blair.

At 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

This documentary follows six Boston residents through three years of their battles with HIV/AIDS.

At 6 p.m. at Goethe-Institut.

Km. 0
One sizzling summer day, eight people make plans to meet at Kilometer Zero, the spot in Madrid's Puerta del Sol that marks the symbolic center of Spain. With so many assignations planned for the same place and time, some confusion inevitably results: The film student who's just arrived in town mistakes a hooker for the actress he's supposed to meet, a gay passer-by happily pretends to be the man a flamenco dancer contacted via e-mail, and the displaced computer date ends up going for a drink with the sexually inexperienced, soon-to-be-married guy who arranged to visit the hooker. Even the people who connect as intended are in for a surprise: A middle-aged woman becomes convinced that the gigolo who's just entertained her is actually her long-lost son. Don't expect Almodóvar-style outrage from Yolanda Garcia Serrano and Juan Luis Iborra's easygoing farce--it's too gentle to use actual incest as a punch line--but as it draws more characters into its orbit, it does include both a woman who goes for a man in a uniform and her teenage sister, who wants Sis' fiancé. You can't always get what you want, but this comedy tries its best to accommodate both characters and viewers.
--Mark Jenkins

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Best of the Fest
Each year, Reel Affirmations compiles a program of what its selection committee deems the finest short films screened at the festival. Two selections stand out from the nine shorts chosen this time around. Jean-François Monette's Take Out, a 38-minute Canadian short, poetically depicts the erotic frustration of a closeted high school student working part time as a chicken-delivery boy. Concealing his sexual impulses from his classmates, he's drawn to a chummy older customer living alone in a lavish home. When he finally works up the courage to make a move, he discovers that he's misread the man's signals. Martirio, another Canadian film, by Claudia Morgado Escanilla, is a languorous, stylized fantasy about twin-sister trapeze artists trapped in a mysterious house where their fates are manipulated by their epicene father. Most of the remaining selections are comedies, including Bare, by Australian directors Deb Strutt and Liz Baulch, in which a gay male couple accidentally witnesses a lesbian tryst; Boychick, by American Glenn Gaylord, a Jewish joke about horny high-schooler trying to dance his way into a hunky classmate's heart; and Queer Things I Hate About You, by Canadian Nickolaos Stagias, an assemblage of still photographs and printed texts that mocks conventional wisdom about gay people. Two American animations, Michael Trull's Preemie: The Premature Baby and Q. Allan Brocka's Rick & Steve: The Happiest Couple in All the World (Episode 3), are weakened by forced gags and crude execution. Bargain Lingerie, by Spanish director Teresa Marcos, wistfully depicts a little girl's fascination with women's breasts, and Tom Clay Jesus, an American film by Hoang A. Duong, intriguingly presents three variations on a one-night stand between two horny young men.
--Joel E. Siegel

At 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

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