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Boy Culture (2006)
Sexy AND talented cast deliver
The acting in most gay movies is TERRIBLE, so I was pleased to stumble across Derek Magyar's performance in "Boy Culture". The character he plays is extremely sexy (mostly because he is guarded almost to the point of being completely unavailable). The character "X" is a high priced male hustler with a very select client roster. "X" appears to the outside world to be a hardened, almost heartless, shell of a human being, but the audience is privy to his innermost thoughts. Through this internal dialog, we learn that "X" is "saving himself" for someone who loves him, and has convinced himself that he is secretly in love with his roommate played by the talented young actor Darryl Stephens of LOGO's Noah's ARC. If Derek wasn't a gifted actor, the character "X" would not have been likable (and the audience wouldn't have cared what ultimately happened to him). But, because Derek IS a talented actor, with above average material that borrows from a classic play, the audience is given the opportunity to invest in what happens to "X".
The story unfolds through sexy dialog that is believable enough if the audience is willing enough to suspend belief long enough to buy into a more serious, and sexier, gay version of "Pretty Woman." If you let out a little groan at the comparison, be aware that both of these films owe a debt to George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion". While "Pretty Woman" follows a more predictable, and commercial path with the prerequisite Hollywood happy ending which owes more to "My Fair Lady" than Shaw's original play, "Boy Culture" is actually closer to the spirit of "Pygmalion". Gifted character actor Patrick Bauchau, best known for playing the character of "Sydney" for four years on the television series "The Pretender" plays Gregory Talbot, the rich "sculpture" who is intent on molding "X" into his creation. The story appears to follow predictable paths at times, but is actually more complex than what the jaded viewer may expect. Thankfully, the characters in this story often display traits of nobility that elevate them above what they appear to be if only given a cursory inspection. While this film borrows from "Pygmalion," it doesn't steal; it veers away from the known story arc to find its own path.
With sexy dialog, the conveyance of raw emotion through his eyes, and a male beauty that rivals the sexiest Titan porn stars, Derek Magyar delivers a performance that is more than worth the average ticket price (a rarity these days to be sure). He emotes a type of vulnerability without giving up his pseudo-macho hustler persona. His character establishes early on, that he is unavailable (symbolically placing his jacket on the empty seat next to him, showing that he will allow no-one to get too close). He is very acid tongued to anyone who tries to remove that "barrier" and get too close, but it is obvious he is doing this in order to protect himself from harm. He pushes people away with "humor" based in a need for self preservation. He prays often (humorously enough he owns a religious Madonna icon the Catholic version, not the pop-star) asking for forgiveness. It is easy for the viewer to grant this forgiveness since "X" is actually a very passionate, albeit damaged, character.
If this movie were a wide release Hollywood drama with heterosexual characters, Derek's performance would be a star making role. Although this film is unlikely to become a blockbuster, hopefully it WILL eventually find the audience it deserves. It has the potential to become a gay cult classic, and audiences that discover this small film may well begin to follow this talented cast to other projects. Without spoiling the ending, I found this film to be both unapologetic and hopeful. Considering the lack of gay cinema that offers either of these outcomes, I am delighted to recommend this film. I go to movies to escape and be entertained, and I found this film to be very entertaining escape on multiple levels.
Ugly Betty (2006)
The return of the feel good television series!
This series is part soap opera, part prime time drama, and part situation comedy, and all the parts mesh together beautifully. "Ugly Betty" is based on the Columbian telenovela "Yo soy Betty, la fea" - ("I am Betty, the Ugly"), and it offers one of the few shows on television that prominently feature Latin men and Latinas as integral members of its cast. Its multicultural cast could have played into various ethnic and sexual orientation stereotypes. Instead, the writers of the show smartly avoid forcing characters to fit into flat, two dimensional archetypes. Viewers who watched the pilot may assume they know the basic personalities of the principal characters, but the first impression offered by that initial outing is definitely misleading. None of the "villains" are completely evil and the "good" characters are not presented as flawless paragons. People on this show are permitted to "grow" and change, and that is what makes the show so engaging and addictive. For example, Vanessa Williams is ambitious, and although she is not above doing despicable things in order to advance her career, she is shown performing acts of kindness towards her daughter that will endear her to many viewers of the show. "Betty," played by Latina-American actress America Ferrera, has a boyfriend, but is still tempted to date another man she has met in Mode Magazine's accounting department. This situation adds sexual tension, chemistry, and plenty of humor. The quality of the writing, and the depth of the characters who seems to expand and develop with each episode, allows the cast to give great performances which range from over the top melodramatic explosions to nuanced character studies. If you haven't seen this show, do yourself a favor and download it on itunes so that you can watch it from the beginning (without commercial interruptions). It offers a fun escape from a real world that takes itself far too seriously.
The Trip (2002)
Standout writing and acting make "The Trip" worthwhile
"The Trip" is one of the best romances I've ever seen. After a seemingly endless barrage of horrible gay films, I was actually taken aback by how good this film turned out to be. The story features well written, witty, and humorous dialog that moves the plot line believably through the years that the story encompasses. The performances are uniformly good, but Larry Sullivan is a real stand out as Alan Oakley. His performance lends credibility to the character he is portraying as he grows through landmarks of history (gay historical landmarks in particular). After purchasing this film on DVD, I did an Internet search and was disappointed that this gifted actor has not done more films. Wake up Hollywood! Sullivan is pleasing to look at, talented, and has a certain magnetism that draws the viewer into the story. The enormity of his appeal is hard to describe, but I have no doubt that the right vehicle would make him into a major star. Other stand outs in the film are Steve Braun (who reminds me a lot of a young Brad Pitt) who does an excellent job as Alan's gay activist lover, and Sirena Irwin as Beverly (a woman just slightly ahead of her time). Veteran actors Ray Baker and Jill St. John give substantial supporting performances, and Julie Brown gives a memorable quirky cameo performance as an 80's Madonna attired receptionist. Alexis Arquette plays "Michael" a slightly stereotypical funny slut (a year working as a bartender in a gay bar taught me that there are many people who are this "over the top" in real life). Overall, I recommend this film not as an excellent "gay" film, but as an excellent film in general.