Tag Archives: gay

The Gay Community Needs to Embrace the Cult Movie “Ben & Arthur”

Sam Mraovich as Arthur in "Ben and Arthur"

Sam Mraovich as Arthur in “Ben and Arthur”

In a couple of days, one of the local Chicago theaters will be presenting its yearly screening of Mommie Dearest to a (no doubt) enthusiastic crowd. Wire hangars will be handed out and I’m sure there’ll be plenty of laughs galore with Frank Perry’s infamous film.

That film was released over 30 years ago. Since then, there hasn’t been any film released that could qualify as “midnight movie” material that approached a gay sensibility–until Ben & Arthur.  Both Cracked Magazine and Rotten Tomatoes have urged readers to pick up on this movie and make it a cult sensation. I agree. Not only is the time right for this movie to fill theaters with enthralled partying fans, it has the makings of being one of the greatest midnight cult movies ever, rivaling even cine-phenomena like The Room and Troll 2. Seriously. And the gay community should be front and center in pushing this wild movie for the following reasons:

1. Exploitation movies are generally straight-based.

Let’s face it: exploitation movies are usually made to appeal to horny guys who like lots of firepower and babes. Ben and Arthur has plenty of gunplay and horny guys (on the screen, at least) with one of the leads looking good with his shirt off (hence the promo picture). There’s the added bonus of a wrestling tussle between Ben and his wife. In fact, B&A is meant to be, in part, an action film which is part of the fun, especially when the movie looks as though it was shot over the course of a weekend.

2. Its main theme of gay marriage rights is still relevant today and probably will be for a while.

Produced in 2002, Ben and Arthur deals primarily with gay marriage, which–at the time–was only legal in Vermont via civil unions.  Ten years and eleven state legislative passages later, gay marriage looks increasingly possible for the entire country. The controversy, however, seems destined to hang on while significant opposition continues. This helps keep the movie fresh thematically and even when it passes all 50 states, Ben and Arthur can be viewed through a nostalgic lens, just as I do with movies from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

3. The movie is on the level of anything Ed Wood could have mustered, so it has perennial entertainment staying power.

Ben and Arthur is not just about bad acting or bad writing. Everything
about it is bad, no exaggeration. Out of focus cinematography, actors flubbing lines with no second takes, non-existent continuity, horrible sound mixing–there are no instances of competency apparent during any minute of this film.  Robert Altman said that movies are meant to view more than once and each viewing of Ben and Arthur provides an audience with a newly discovered flub. It’ll easily take several viewings to catch them all. This makes it a rarity, even among bad movies.

4.  Ben and Arthur is one of the most subversive gay-themed films ever.

Sam Mraovich’s film is meant as an earnest plea for the plight of those LGBT folks who want equal marriage protection and, by extension, full civil rights. Fair enough. However, the movie goes completely off the rails and becomes sanctimonious when it excuses such actions as domestic violence, arson and murder. Arthur comes off as one of the most hilariously unpleasant and incompetent characters in the history of gay-themed films. He incapable of taking the proper steps to help protect his new hubby and is, in general, a whiny insensitive asshole. Other characters are lying, murdering charlatans, but he is definitely the worst of the lot. Instead of using sentimentality (a fatal flaw in so many bad socially-minded gay features), Ben and Arthur tries becoming ambitious and eventually becomes unnecessary brutal. It’s a civil rights film, a romance, a revenge picture, an action film, a religious allegory, a fetishistic film, an erotic thriller–and fails at all of them.

So if you’re looking for camp value, you’ve got it. If you want a movie that is misogynistic, homophobic and insulting to religious persons and still hilarious to watch with a bunch of “enhanced” friends. You’ve got to take this movie to heart. It’s one of the greatest cult sensations in recent years.

You can make history with us tonight by attending the first-ever Ben & Arthur interactive screening. Tyler Pistorius, Demetra Meteris and I will be on hand for all the running commentary madness and hilarity.

Bring the following: YOUR CELL PHONE, NEWSPAPER, STUFFED CAT, SUGAR PACKETS

Tonight at midnight at Facets Multimedia
1517 W Fullerton
Chicago, IL 60614
http://www.facets.org
Admission: $5, FREE with Facets Membership. Get one here.

Lew Ojeda

10 Little Known and Little Seen Film Goodies from the Land of Queerdom

Zachariah–that other gay Western

I had been so busy during Pride Month with other projects (including preparing for a move to The Underground Multiplex Studios) that I had to put off this post originally intended for Pride Month. But what the hell, every month is Pride Month for me, so we can remember the accomplishments of the LGBT community and do some major celebrating anytime. Part of the festivities involves taking in movies to reflect on our lives or challenging us to think and grow in ways we hadn’t before.

But for every Brokeback Mountain and Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, there are plenty of other movies that get overlooked. After finding a list online of the best gay-themed movies (I’m figuring a lesbian film reviewer can come up with a good counterpart to my list), I decided to offer a list of terrific gay-themed movies that should impress your friends (and lose other ones).

1. Save Me

This was among my top ten films of 2007 and not only do I stand by this, the movie seems even better and more relevant today. Out actor Chad Allen plays a sex and drug addicted wild partier whose out-of-control life comes crashes down. His Christian brother enters him into a faith-based rehab house with the best intentions, but the recovering young man challenges what works and what doesn’t in the ex-gay production factory. Allen and Judith Light, who plays the operator of the ministry, give excellent performances (the latter giving an Oscar-caliber one) thanks in part to very good writing of Robert Desiderio, Craig Chester and Alan Hines. This film along with the better known Latter Days are probably the best films I’ve seen taking a fair-minded stance on the conflict between the gay community and its religious detractors.

2. Ben and Arthur

Swinging way over to the other side of why you should watch a movie, Ben and Arthur is a hilarious cinematic mega-disaster and a cultural phenomenon waiting to happen (just like The Room). Cracked Magazine practically begged its readers to make this the next great cult movie and with good reason. When a film is ballsy enough to have Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” as its opening theme and give the same person eleven credits, you know you’re in for something special. Sam Mraovich directs, writes and stars in (eight credits left) this dimly lit, atrociously edited VHS home movie about a gay couple longing to get married. Arthur (Mraovich) wants to marry Ben, but complications ensue when his Christian brother, the flamboyant Victor, is booted from his church over objections to the gay sibling. Because of the ongoing controversy of same-sex marriage, promoting this movie as a cult fav may seem a bit premature, but the gay community needs a time-tested beer and weed laugher for the midnight movie crowd. This is the one, folks!

3. The Gay Deceivers

If this 1969 gaysploitation movie from Fanfare Films seems familiar, it’s because Adam Sandler stole the basic idea for the dismal I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Despite being made four decades earlier–when homosexuality was still technically treated as a mental illness–Bruce Kessler’s comedy still holds up as one of the most gay-positive comedies of the era.  Kevin Coughlin and Larry Casey play two straight friends desperate to stay out of the Vietnam War draft, so they play gay to attempt avoiding combat. Tailed by suspicious military officers, they deepen the charade to the consternation of their family, friends and fiancees. The gay ghetto actually looks like a neat place to live and the neighbors, if not stereotyped, are at least a lot more pleasant and lovable than the boring straight ones.

4. The Meatrack

The Meat Rack is a sort of more downbeat version of Midnight Cowboy (as if that movie weren’t a bummer enough). With its seamy underground 16mm grainy look, you can almost smell the poppers.  A bisexual hustler named J.C. goes through the daily/nightly grind of male and female tricks for bucks in the seedy parts of San Fran.  When he saves a girl from an old coot photographer’s lecherous fate, they partner up in a low-rent love affair.  Director Michael Thomas lays on parent bashing flashbacks and a long scene involving violent transvestites armed with a camera. If you’re an admirer of Jim Jarmusch’s  early work, you should see this.

5. Best Friends

Not once during this entire film are the words “gay,” “homosexual,” “queer” or even “faggot” ever mentioned, but rest assured this is definitely a gay film. In fact, this might be the most closeted gay film made before Top Gun. Richard Hatch (“Battlestar Galactica”) plays Jesse, a once carefree single man now engaged to his sweetheart. His best friend Pat (Doug Chapin) returns from a stint in Vietnam ready to resume the wild days of boozing, barring and balling chicks with his old buddy. With Jesse’s fiancee and Pat’s latest conquest in tow, the guys decide to cruise California in a Winnebago. The friction between Jesse and Pat, however, intensifies as the latter seems determined to have Jesse dump the future ball and chain and get back to the business of casual fucking. Despite the tagline “She Became the Ravaged Victim of a Century of Revenge!”, this entire movie has nothing to do with a ‘she.’ Best Friends is about a homoerotic obsession based on Pat’s deeply ingrained need for Jesse’s sexual satisfaction, but under Pat’s terms. It makes for a truly unusual 70’s road movie.

6. Raging Hormones

Dedicated to Divine and Edith Massey, this low-budget Florida lensed comedy is one of the very few John Waters’  inspired films that looks as though it could have been made by the master himself.  Della Hobby stars as Bev Broadhurst, the trailer-park dwelling queen of the local supermarket. Her greatest wish is to get her son Peter (Topher Hopkins) into state college by urging him to save up money through summer employment. Unfortunately, her neighbor Sally (Darlene Demko) is a cougar on the prowl and latches onto the horny Peter for kinky games. Meanwhile, Bev’s daughter gets the eye of a douche bag with a penchant for gals below the legal age limit. It’s a giddy blast of bad taste fun for the whole dysfunctional family.

7. Zachariah

Far out, man. John Rubenstein and a very young Don Johnson star in this psychedelic western that’s basically a rock musical with some cowboys and horses running around.  Zachariah (Rubenstein) tells Matthew (Johnson) he’s looking for “a friend” and brags about his shiny new gun received in “a plain brown wrapper.” They join a gang of bumbling outlaws (the 60’s rock group Country Joe and the Fish) before deciding to cut out on their own. Facing troublemakers quick to call them “faggots,” listening to Elvin Jones and Doug Kershaw perform, and having a fling with Belle Starr (Pat Quinn) make for subplots in this whacked-out movie. However, the main story is the handsome duo’s friendship gone sour. These guys are the least rugged Western heroes in film history and the closing scenes sealed the deal on its homoeroticism for me. Besides, Zachariah was co-written by The Firesign Theatre, who were masters of subtext in audio comedy recordings. To believe they did not intend a gay tone to this movie would be folly.

8. Whole New Thing

There have been gay-themed coming-of-age movies created by the truckload, but I assure you, this terrific Canadian feature (which made my Top 10 in 2005) is like no other you’ve ever seen. Aaron Webber plays Emerson, a home-schooled teenager who’s brilliant when it comes to English studies and Humanities, but is lagging far behind in math. Aggravating the problem is his dad’s descent into depression, so Emerson is enrolled in a local public school where he becomes infatuated with a sympathetic teacher.  Whole New Thing is one of the few movies I’ve seen where the balance of a truly gifted, intelligent student’s knowledge and the confusion of  his sexual attraction is given the introspective respect it deserves.

9. Shiner

The next four words are going to lose some readers: I hate Fight Club. In fact, it’s one of the few movies I’ve ever walked out of, and I did so before a single punch was thrown. Thirty minutes in, I couldn’t take any more of the incredibly stupid, self-indulgent irritating characters. (And, btw, if the cancer joke towards the beginning of the movie was directed towards women with breast cancer instead of men with testicular cancer, that movie would have boycotted). Whew! Okay, now that I’m finished with that, I can direct you to Shiner, which intertwines a few stories revolving about the fetish of punching the hell out of each other for sexual gratification. Yes, this movie comes out and declares it. None of this coy subtext bullshit, these characters blow their loads over body blows. It’s intentionally unfocused, cheap, seedy, funny and raunchy just as it should be with this topic. It’s another film that pissed off the gay community which completely overreacted to this movie as it did to my final choice…

10. Frisk

Many people walked out of festivals disgusted with Todd Verow’s strange masterful film based on a dark gay novel by Dennis Cooper.  A young gay man named Dennis grows up with kinky fantasies that grow darker as he gets older. He writes fantasy letters to Kevin, a former lover, implying he may have committed murders, but has he or is he just stringing Kevin along for more twisted visions and a receptive reader?  Verow, who also directed Little Shots of Happiness and Vacationland, remains one of the most underrated gay filmmakers working today, in part because he has the audacity to remain outside the Here!/Logo world of tepid swill.

If you want to know more about gay-themed movies you should see but haven’t, check out Facets Night School’s lecture on Myra Breckinridge presented by Dominick Mayer and The Underground Multiplex with plenty of fun and frolics. If you’re not in Chicago, you’ll be able to tune in to “Cinematrocities” for the lecture soon after.

Is Your State a Member of the “First Cousins, But Not Gays Marrying Club?”

At Cafe Press, if you want to buy it.

By now, you’ve heard the news that North Carolina and Colorado are the latest states to hate the gay.

But what if you’re porking your first cousin and want to have a baby, you know, just like the Bible commands? I mean, you don’t really want to waste that seed, do you? And abortion, of course, is out of the question.

So where in the United States can you safely have your 5-armed, 3-legged, curly-Q tailed horned infant free from the evil intrusions of the “guvmint” but still make sure those evil kwarrs can’t marry and ruin your blissful lives?

TUGM is here to provide you the answers:

Alabama
Alaska
Colorado
Florida
Georgia
North Carolina (but no “doublin’ up”. They have standards, donchaknow)
South Carolina
Tennessee
Virginia

The states listed above are–let’s face it–not very likely to give gays marriage protection any time soon.  The following states also allow for first cousins to marry:

California
Connecticut
District of Columbia
Hawaii
Maryland
Massachusetts
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Vermont
Ooh, some of the states above allow for same-sex marriage. I’m sure this moral conflict will cause great consternation for Preacher Bob when he marries his first cousin in Alabama and carries on a faithful tradition.

Apparently, some denominations allow for three-ways

At least the following states have the good sense to tell first cousin couples, “you can get married, but you ain’t poppin’ out any Rosemary’s babies”:

Arizona
Illinois
Indiana (first cousins, once removed)
Maine (may require genetic counseling)
Utah
Wisconsin

Some other states allow for half cousins or adopted cousins to marry or not at all.

So to those saying no to gay marriage, but okay with cousins shacking up: you’re looking dumber than an offspring of a sibling marriage.

‘The Onion’: Gay Bullied Teen in ‘Satire’ Invented ‘Like All Other Gays’

Gay rights groups today are asking the satirical magazine The Onion to apologize for what they perceive is an insensitive joke regarding bullying. However, a representative of the satirical news magazine stated today that the gay teen serving as the center of the controversial article was “completely invented,  like all other gays.”

News editor Tess Tossterohn made the statement while talking with TUGM at Sidewinders, which she described as an “all-male club of married men enjoying each other’s company.”

Asked about the controversy, Tossterohn replied, “We took every effort to make sure this satire was fair and balanced. The Onion compiled the advice of such diverse groups as NOM (National Organization for Marriage), PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays), Exodus International, The Catholic Church, The Mormon Church, GOProud. We really went the distance.”

She also added that The Onion had no plans on making apologies, as the child posing in the article was in no way harmed. “He (the actor) didn’t even know what a faggot was. We were the ones who called him that 43 times to get him to convey the mood captured on camera. His character was completely invented, like all other gays and this article will simply be a phase he’s going through.”

“If he wasn’t affected by this, we don’t see how anyone else could be.” she said.

Lew’s Guest Post on “In Our Words” Blog

Hey, all!

I have an entry in Nico Lang’s very fine blog In Our Words, ranting about Hollywood’s portrayal of gay main characters in high-profile films after Brokeback Mountain. Head on over there and give it a read.

Lew