Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker

April 19, 2021

The first thing you need to understand about the remarkable documentary, Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker is that the title itself seems to have been censored. Named for David Wojnarowicz’s incredible art piece created in 1984, the asterisks inserted remind us we can’t seem to publish certain words in the media, which is absurd because they are words and they exist. Wojnarowicz was gay. He used the title ironically. And ironically the film is now being marketed and reviewed as simply, Wojnarowicz. I don’t have a problem with a softer touch to get the word out, but anyone interested in a film about David Wojnarowicz’s art is not going to be offended by the asterisked words fuck, faggot, or fucker. They will immediately understand. And those who are new to his art will get it after experiencing his work within the remarkable documentary created by Chris McKim. I am especially angry at the cowardly and always two steps behind New York TImes who gave a glowing review of the film only using David’s last name and identifying the title piece as “a still from the documentary,” instead of using the name. Fuck You, NY Times Faggot Fucker.

I have loved David’s work for many years. It speaks to me specifically as a gay man and intimately as a gay man who has survived AIDS. He was self-taught until he met friends and lovers who inspired him and his art. He took all the trauma he experienced as a child and poured it into his work. And when AIDS reared its ugly head, he used his art as a call to arms. He was angry about homophobia, he was angry about the rich and our complacent society. My favorite quote from David which appears in the film is, “I’m not gay as in I love you, I’m queer as in fuck off.” But as that anger and rage fueled his creative energy, he also had relationships – friendships and love affairs with many people. And as his work became increasingly noticed, he struggled with his hatred of capitalism and the need to survive. The film goes on to say that as many East Village artists became known to uptown buyers during the 1980’s, David and his former lover and dear friend Peter Hujar seemed to be the only two in their circle who didn’t court the money. David died when he was 37 in 1992 due to complications from AIDS. I can’t help but wonder what he would have done had he been given more time. But damn if he didn’t create an amazing body of work in less than 20 years. One of the best things about the film is the high def detail of his work. Toward the end of his life, his work became more sophisticated. To quote Dennis, my movie buddy – “more finished.” There was a roughness to his earlier collage work which I love. But his later work focused more on painting and beauty. I am in awe of his life and his work as an artist. He lived life on his own terms and did what he needed to do to heal from his childhood wounds. He also used his platform to discuss injustice on many levels. If you are unfamiliar with his work, the documentary will be a great introduction. If you know his work, you’ll be blown away at the detail and care the filmmaker takes to present David for today and for generations to come. 5 out of 5.

Wojnarowicz: F*ck You F*ggot F**ker is currently on the indie film circuit and is available to stream for a rental fee on Kino Now.

Learn more about David Wojnarowicz’ Whitney exhibition.
Peruse The Estate of David Wojnarowicz.
Browse The Peter Hujar Archive.

David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992), Fuck You Faggot Fucker, 1984. Four black-and-white photographs, acrylic, and collaged paper on Masonite, 48 × 48 in. (121.9 × 121.9 cm). Collection of Barry Blinderman. Image courtesy Barry Blinderman, Normal, Illinois, photograph by Jason Judd

Reel Charlie’s favorite Wojnarowicz.

Secrets & Lies (Blu-ray)

April 18, 2021

Criterion re-released Mike Leigh’s spectacular 1996 British film about identity and family, Secrets and Lies this year on disk. The remastered Blu-ray certainly does it justice. Is this Leigh’s finest achievement? Other Leigh favorites include Mr. Turner, Another Year, Happy-Go-Lucky, Vera Drake, and All or Nothing. An incredible cast including frequent Leigh collaborators Brenda Blethyn, Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, and Ruth Sheen, with Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey), Claire Rushbrook, Elizabeth Berrington, Michele Austin, and Lee Ross. Balancing out Blethyn’s manic, shattered into pieces performance as Cynthia, we find Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s character Hortense not only the central figure to this roller coaster ride of a film, but the only sane, together character in the bunch. For an extra treat, the Blu-ray has a 2020 interview with Jean-Baptiste where she admits to filming all of her scenes out of order and with redacted scripts. It wasn’t until the screening did she realize the film orbited around her Hortense. Having the actors perform in a world where they are unsure of their place in the hierarchy of their own lives. Sounds like real life? Sounds like the genius of a Mike Leigh film. And what do I say about this outstanding filmmaker? He’s an actor’s director, a visionary, a collector of minutia, and an examiner of everyday people. Secrets & Lies stunned me the first time I saw it years ago and 25 years later continues to be a towering example of the finest in British cinema. Not only from the 1990’s, but in film history. 5 out of 5 for this must-see favorite.

Secrets & Lies currently streams on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max, and is available newly remastered on disk from Criterion or find it at your public library.

White Squall

April 17, 2021

Finally got around to watching the 1996 Ridley Scott action and adventure on the high seas drama, White Squall, or as I like to call it, White Boy Squall. It’s 1960 and Jeff Bridges’ Skipper runs a school for young men who want to learn discipline and cooperation. The vehicle is the sailboat and the school is the ocean. As you can imagine, mistakes are made and tragedy strikes. Some mistakes are irreversible. Lessons are learned. Scott’s film is well-crafted and formulaic in a good way. There should be a sub-genre for these kinds of films – White Squall and The Perfect Storm. Sea-Action? Oceadventure? In any event, White Squall gets a 3 out of 5.

White Squall streams on various platforms for a rental fee and is available on disk from your local library.

Unfortunately QAnon has adopted a slogan from this film. From CBSNews,

Their rallying cry is “where we go one, we go all,” a line from the 1996 Jeff Bridges sailing adventure “White Squall” that they misattribute to President Kennedy.

The Codebreaker

April 15, 2021

The Codebreaker

PBS’ American Experience: Season 33, Episode 1, The Codebreaker focuses on the work of cryptanalyst Elizebeth Smith Friedman touching on Al Capone, a Nazi spy ring in South America, and the beginnings of the National Security Agency (NSA). All the while no one in her family knew anything about what she did. She took her secrets to the grave. Fascinating investigation into a hard working genius who helped her country in a time when women were not appreciated for their intellectual contributions. 4 out of 5.

The Codebreaker can be found streaming on PBS’ Passport and available on disk from your local public library.

Media Shelving: My Collection’s New Home

April 14, 2021

I finally, finally splurged on actual media shelving for my DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K collection. I am so happy I took the plunge. I love the accessibility of the shelving, having all those disks at my fingertips. Special thanks to Boutique Blu-rays with Elliot Cohen for pointing me in the right, affordable direction.

Getting On: Seasons 2 & 3

April 13, 2021

Getting On is one of those series that keeps getting better each and every season. Based on the U.K. series, this American remake ended after season 3. It’s the most amazing combination of profound and absurd. One minute Alex Bornstein is doing Lucy-style sight gags, the next some delicate life-affirming moment transpires. I said it in my review of Season 1, Niecy Nash really bowled me over. The depth of her acting surprised me. She not only held her own with powerhouses Bornstein and Laurie Metcalf, she stands out as the one character with heart and purity. She’s always trying to do what’s right for the patients while the rest of them wrestle with their egos. Getting On turned out to be a surprise treat for me. 4 out of 5 for this endearing gem.

Getting On currently streams on Pluto TV, HBO Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Muriel’s Wedding

April 11, 2021

How is it possible I have never reviewed P.J. Hogan’s classic 1994 Aussie buddy flick, Muriel’s Wedding? It’s on my 100 Favorite Films list of all-time. The film launched the careers of both Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths. It’s got a crazy perfect ABBA soundtrack and makes me laugh out loud while subtly exploring the issues of bullying, isolation, self-esteem, fitting in, healthy sexuality, and female friendship. It’s an ode to the buddy movie genre with Collette’s Muriel and Griffiths Rhonda proving that no matter the ups and downs, no matter what happens in life, you can always count on your best friend. Joyous, hysterical, soul searching… in the midst of a supposedly mindless rom-com, Muriel’s Wedding dares to ask the question, “is a life best lived in a fantasy or bolding anchored in reality?” That’s truly what makes this sophisticated film stand the test of time. Easily a classic after 25 years. Love, love, love Muriel’s Wedding! 5 out of 5.

Muriel’s Wedding currently streams on Hulu and Amazon Prime and is available on disk from your local public library. Come on Criterion, come on Kino Lorber… someone put this perfect film out on Blu-ray!

One of my favorite lines from the film:

Prime Suspect: Series 6 (take 2)

April 9, 2021

The penultimate series of Prime Suspect takes Jane to Scotland Yard and Bosnia to solve a ten year-old crime and two current day murders. Click here or on the image to read Reel Charlie’s updated review of this incredible police procedural – the best of its genre.

B.A.R. film coverage through 50 years, part 1 (Bay Area Reporter)

April 8, 2021

Amazing article about the impact of gay film critic, Terry Allan Smith’s contribution to cinema. Not only reviewing LGBTQ films, but looking at more mainstream films through a queer lens. From Bay Area Reporter,

“The editors felt in the area of in-depth commentary on homosexually-relevant films, there is too little being published. In the Establishment news media, the often-present homosexual critic, paranoiac about exposing himself, is the most destructive of all: dismissing the homosexually-relevant film as trash, or if he finds it impossible to deny its obvious quality, scrutinizing it until he finds a flaw, however miniscule. For this reason, it is the policy of the Bay Area Reporter to devote its film column to this much neglected area.”

Smith continued: “However, there are films, which, though they have no direct homosexual relevance, are relevant indirectly, relevant by association with relationships common to both the homosexual and heterosexual ways of life. It is my own personal policy to review only those films which I feel are worth discussing in depth in the hope such reviews might whet the appetite of you, the reader, and motivate you into becoming you, the viewer.

Read Part 1 the full article at Bay Area Reporter.

Breaking Fast

April 7, 2021

Mike Mosallam’s light and breezy gay male Muslim rom-com, Breaking Fast shatters a lot of barriers while maintaining a perfect formula which should make LGBTQ and ally film fans looking for easy going rom-coms happy. The film is so squeaky clean, the two leads don’t kiss until the very last moment of the film. It’s chaste in a very 21st Century kind of way ala “I want to get to know you before anything else happens.” And why shouldn’t gay men have their niche of these silly rom-com delights? Haaz Sleiman and Michael Cassidy play the would be lovers falling in love while “breaking fast” during Ramadan. It’s nice seeing moderate Muslims portrayed with care as well as a few moments questioning the need for any kind of organized religion in the lives of people who are hated by the religious right of all faiths. Although this film did not amaze it, I believe it will speak strongly to viewers who want a sweet and innocent gay male rom-com as well as viewers yearning for an intersection of religion and sexuality in their lighter fare. 3 out of 5.

Breaking Fast currently streams on Amazon Prime and is available on disk from your local library.

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