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David Lewis’s

TLA Releasing

Starring:: Jacob Newton, Derek Villanueva, Dylan Vox, Kevin Held, Stephen Matzke, Bonnie Marion, Katrina Sherwood, Sophia Revelli.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

The immense appeal of the lead actor in David Lewis’ comic Texas coming-out movie, Longhorns, is the main reason to see this too-oft-told tale.

Jacob Newton is quite a find. He’s sexy, adorable and an exceptional actor to boot.

He plays Kevin, a seemingly straight, college boy from the Lone Star state who finds himself attracted to openly gay Cesar (Derek Villanueva). Sparks fly and the boys romp their buns off. Unable to deal with his feelings, Kevin runs away for a weekend with his butch buddies, including the uber-hetero Steve (hilarious Dylan Vox) who Kevin occasionally blows. Kevin returns to school and must deal with his feelings for Cesar.

Lewis sets his film in the early 80s and nicely uses that era’s music. He also has a way with showing off his actors (pun, intended) in the sexiest manner—which is always welcome in gay-themed films. The key issue I had with the film is that the scenes are sometimes amateurishly shot.

Ultimately, Longhorns is a flawed but admirable film that argues for love and acceptance.

The DVD is definitely worth a look and includes one particularly revealing Deleted Scene that shines a light on Cesar’s character and should have been kept in the cut.

Crayton Robey’s
Making the Boys

Featuring: Mart Crowley, William Friedkin, Edward Albee, Terrence McNally, Tony Kushner, Carson Kressley, Peter White, Laurence Luckinbill, Dominick Dunne, Cheyenne Jackson, Larry Kramer, Dan Savage, Robert Wagner, Paul Rudnick.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
A First Run Features Release

The Boys in the Band was a seminal moment in gay theatre. The documentary, Making the Boys, is an important piece of gay history as well as an entertaining film. The DVD is the perfect package.

The play represented the very first time gay men were presented, in any medium, as ordinary—if heavily flawed—human beings just trying to get through the muck known as life.

Making the Boys is an impressive chronicle of the playwright, Mart Crowley, and his groundbreaking play. The pic pulls no punches when it comes to analyzing whether the stagework happened to be in the right place at the right time or whether it’s actually great. Robey gives us a pretty comprehensive overview of the making of the play, the reactions and the almost-immediate backlash at a time when the gay rights movement was just cutting its teeth. The film explores whether Boys was damaging to the gay movement.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Mart Crowley, the docu is a must-see--from his early beginnings rubbing elbows with the rich and famous before he was either--through his deep friendship with Natalie Wood to the story of how and why he sat down to write The Boys in the Band to his inability to write anything of substance afterwards.

Robey smartly gives the viewer a contextualization of what it was like to be gay in the 1960s and how things began to change in the 1970s. He also mixes in a contemporary view of gay life by showing us a slew of spoiled queens who have no notion of queer history and no seeming desire to know about it.

The play opened in on April 15, 1968, received glowing notices and was the talk of the theatre community for years. But by the time the faithful William Friedkin adaptation was released in 1970, things had changed and many turned its back on the work.

There’s much wonderful footage in the doc including some home movies taken at (closeted gay) Roddy McDowall’s parties, moments from the original stage version as well as 8mm snippets of Crowley doing the town.

Crowley is featured in a lot of the footage and is pretty honest about assessing his own career. One of the most eerie and heartbreaking realities of the Boys story is that most of the cast lost their lives to AIDS in the late 80s and early 90s. The rest were never quite able to rid themselves of the stigma of being in the original cast of a “gay play.”

Crayton Robey’s absorbing documentary is given a good DVD treatment even though there could have and should have been more extra features! The transfer is impressive as is the sound quality.

What we do get in bonus features are a too-few short segments (3-4 minutes each)

‘The Missing Scene’ is all about the kiss that never was.

‘Dominick Dunne’s Hollywood’ features Dunne’s honest musings.

‘Malibu ’65’ has some decent Roddy McDowall party footage.

‘A Perfect Match’ chronicles how the film got off the ground.

‘Relationship Time with Dan Savage’ is all about Savage’s views on monogamy.

Viewing the film again I was struck by just how important it is sometimes to be the first at something. Crowley achieved that and Making the Boys does as well. Both are significant.

Steven Williford’s
The Green


Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Starring: Jason Butler Harner, Cheyenne Jackson, Julia Ormond, Illeana Douglas, Bill Sage, Karen Young, Chris Bert.

Screenplay, Paul Marcarelli, from a story by Paul Marcarelli & Steven Williford

Wolfe Video

I appreciated The Green more the second time I saw it mostly for the effective performances and the admirable narrative.

Michael (Jason Butler Harner) is a gay English teacher at a private high school in suburban Connecticut. He and his partner, Daniel (Cheyenne Jackson), recently left NYC so Michael could “see green.”—his first mistake (one of many, this writer says with an admitted small town prejudice.) Michael mentors a troubled, low-income student named Jason (a surly Chris Bert) and when Jason’s scholarship is threatened because of failing grades, Michael gets too involved and is accused of misconduct and immediately suspended.

Soon the very people who purported to be his friends have turned against him and he finds himself battling for his job, his reputation and, possibly, his freedom.

One of the key problems with The Green is how unbelievably people react to news and events. For instance the way Michael and Daniel’s relationship is threatened feels terribly contrived. Most of the townies are very one dimensionally drawn. Michael’s continuously behaving unprofessionally made me wonder how he ever became a teacher in the first place. Finally, Jason disappears--for plot purposes--for such a long spell and we are given so little initial background that by the time he returns we just don’t care that much.

There are, however, many good reasons to see The Green, beginning with Jason Butler Harner and Cheyenne Jackson who both deliver moving, powerful performances. Julia Ormond steals every scene she’s in as a tough-as-nails lesbian attorney and the fabulous Ileana Douglas steals the remaining scenes as Michael’s ailing friend and colleague. Good thing the two women never really share the frame otherwise I’d have no idea where to look.

The Green is to be commended for wanting to address important themes dealing with false accusations and homophobia and the dialogue is smart and sharp, I just wish the story were less cliché and predictable and the ending had less of a ridiculous feel about it.

The DVD looks and sounds wonderful. On the home screen we get a really ideal sense of the distance director Steven Williford is trying to created with his framing.

Bonus extras are pretty slim and include a compelling trailer and five mostly inconsequential deleted scenes that run under one-minute each. There is a slightly longer cut moment that should have been kept in the film, featuring Jackson, that deals with lies and judgment.

The Green is worth a look for what it attempts and for the stellar cast.





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