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Venus Boyz (2002)
good idea, but not entertaining to watch
I love drags kings. I love the fabulously campy performances and the way they challenge traditional concepts of gender and sex. Unfortunately, I did not love watching Venus Boyz, an uneven documentary on drag kings with plenty of unfilled potential. How the director managed to make a movie so boring, unfocused and self-indulgent about a field with some of the best entertainers in the country should be one of the mysteries of the modern world. Venus Boyz's structure is simple. Combine footage of performances and minimally edited interviews with drag kings in and out of drag. The resulting film contains brief moments of humor and passing insights on gender deconstruction that are never explored fully--mostly because of the absence of an overarching story structure. Instead, viewers are treated to long interviews and voice-overs with both unattractive narcissistic kings and beautifully articulate gender benders. Venus Boyz will probably be most satisfying to viewers unfamiliar with or looking for an introduction to gender theory and the drag king phenomenon. As for me, I'd rather just go see a drag king show.
Treading Water (2001)
realistic portrayal of a lesbian relationship.
Treading Water is a slow-paced movie that's really a character-driven piece, not a plot-driven story. Think "Hiroshima Mon Amour" or "Snow Falling on Cedars". Whether you like that sort of thing or not will probably depend on your tolerance for the slow plodding scenes and quiet revelations that are typical of that sort of movie.
The basic story is this: the Christmas holiday is a catalyst for a lesbian couple and their extended family to come to terms with each other. Treading Water is a meditation on the problems that arise in family and romantic relationships when your self-image conflicts with your family's expectations. If you're looking for more of a lesbian romance, look somewhere else. At its core, Treading Water is really more about dealing with your family, not so much about the central lesbian relationship.
Mango Kiss (2004)
stylish and funny
This is definitely the best lesbian movie I've seen this year. It's witty, stylish, doesn't take itself too seriously, and refreshingly unsentimental compared to so many lesbian-themed movies. Great cinematography, cute editing and just generally high production values for what the DVD commentary said was a low-budget film.
If you have fond memories of the craziness of the roleplaying scene that was all the rage before genderqueer became the next big thing, you'll probably enjoy this movie.
If you're just tired of painfully boring lesbian movies with bad sound this will feel like a welcome vacation.
Plus, I now have a huge crush on the actress who played Lou (Shh, don't tell my girlfriend!)
one-dimensional, but a pleasurable change
Lower your expectations now, Luminarias is about as deep as the typical Hollywood produced romantic comedy. But unlike that mainstream fluff, Luminarias has a beautiful (and sexy) multicultural cast and quite a few fun and atypical romantic couplings: older women and younger men, almost every possible type of interracial relationship, rich women and poor men, and even a random gay relative. The main flaw--at times it seems that the movie is trying a bit too hard to counteract every stereotype in most mainstream romances. Considering how many stereotypes abound in say, a Freddie Prinze Jr movie, that's a lot to make up for in a low-budget film. Bonus points for including a woman-centered sex scene.
Monster's Ball (2001)
a beautiful movie, unfairly criticized
This was a beautifully done movie that was well worth the long drive into the suburbs to see it. Billy Bob and Halle's performances were great, which I expected, but so was the screenplay. The writing and the acting are definitely the stars of this show.
I imagine that the hoopla about there being too many coincidences in the movie is coming from people unfamiliar with the environment presented in the film. People in small towns run into each other. What a shocker! Perhaps this is because there are fewer prostitutes, restaurants and main highways in rural Southern counties than there are in L.A.
Ultimately, whether or not Monster's Ball rings true depends mostly on the viewer but I think it's one of the most realistic depictions of love and redemption that I've ever seen. To say that I loved it wouldn't be saying enough.