Reviews: Howling at Dinner While Coming Out

Howl - James Franco steps into the shoes of famed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in this star-studded biopic centered around Ginsberg's poem "Howl" and the widely publicized obscenity trial that followed its publication in 1957.

(rent/buy) I knew nothing about Allen Ginsberg going into this movie, so it was very educational. It was also well balanced between educational and entertainment. It wasn’t a documentary, but the film is grounded in reality. I would definitely say this is worth a watch, as not only do you learn about the poet, but about important decisions the court made in regards to literature.

Ristorante Paradiso - (11 episodes) Ristorante Paradiso follows the protagonist, Nicoletta, as she comes to Rome from the Italian countryside and becomes an apprentice in Casetta dell'Orso, a restaurant owned by her mother Olga's new husband, Lorenzo, and meets its colorful staff.

(rent/buy) This laid-back anime is a nice watch, although if you’re looking for action, go elsewhere. It’s very much like a slice of life series, where we learn about the different characters in the restaurant, their history, and the growth of the lead character. There are some dark moments, but nothing too heavy (or that is too heavy for too long). Generally a nice, gentle story.

Also, if you’re looking for homosexual subtext, there isn’t much. It’s all very heteronormative, although there are a few hints and open-ended events. This isn’t a bad thing, but I do like some handsome men who want to woo other men. But generally this series was so laid back and focused on other things (even when romance was the focus) that it wasn’t bothersome.

Coming Out Stories - In this Logo reality series, gay men and lesbians go through the process of coming out to their families, friends and neighbors. Each episode features the story of one individual and the challenges and thrills of his or her coming-out story.

(rent) This is probably not a series to watch all in one sitting. Much like most reality TV, the drama is amped up (although considering the setting, not that much). There were eight (I believe) episodes, and while each brought different unique qualities, many of the same feelings/issues were raised. These were of course valid, but watching them all in one night made them feel repetitive.

I didn’t really take much from watching this show, although your mileage may vary. What I found most interesting was the look at how culture and LGBT issues cross, such as in the individuals who were Korean, Jamaican, or Filipino. Mainly it made me think of my own quirky coming out. Also, many of the individuals felt pushed to tell a family member because that family member was ill and probably going to die soon. It obviously amped up the drama for the story, and it definitely pushes the idea that we all run out of time, but mostly it showed me (or stressed to me) that we are all on borrowed time, so live happily. After all, if they can’t accept you, that’s their loss.

Save Me - When young gay man Mark (Chad Allen) hits rock bottom, the well-intentioned Gayle (Judith Light) and her husband, Ted (Stephen Lang), welcome him to Genesis House, a Christian haven for men like Mark to seek shelter and get on the right path -- the straight path. But problems arise when Mark's mentor, Scott (Robert Gant), becomes too intimate, prompting Gayle and Ted to face some uncomfortable realities about love, salvation and human sexuality.

(rent/buy) I think what I really loved about this movie was that it didn’t use a horrible, evil place for Genesis House. Instead, Gayle and Ted run a house for helping. The people there can leave at any time. They want to be there. Of course some feel obligated, and there’s some issues, mainly with family making people attend, but generally they are a nice house that brings people to God rather than forcing or brainwashing.

The relationship between Mark and Scott is lovely and for the most part not physical, which I think is a perfect balance for how Mark begins the movie. The lack of physicality allows their closeness and love to really blossom, which is my other favorite part. Although I didn’t necessarily feel chemistry between the two men, I definitely felt a depth of caring that seemed to go beyond basic chemistry--aka, love. It was lovely and sweet, although some moments were very hard-hitting, relating to drugs and suicide attempts.

A Time to Leave - At the height of his career, a gay fashion photographer suddenly faces terminal cancer in this French drama helmed by Francois Ozon. When Romain (Melvil Poupaud) learns he has little time left to live, he decides to tell only his beloved grandmother of his condition, pushing away everyone else in his life -- his parents, his sister, even his lover. Refusing chemotherapy, he struggles to accept his fate and make the most of his precious last days.

(rent) I didn’t even remember adding this to my queue, so I was surprised I had something so potentially depressing on my list. In many ways, this film wasn’t as sad as I was expecting. Yes, it had elements of melancholy, but it was more introspective than drag you in the dirt depressing. By the end, I felt accepting of the main character’s demise, as I think the viewer is meant to be. This is something worth watching, but I think only fans of artsy films will truly enjoy it.

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