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33 posts categorized "MOVIE REVIEW"

Apr 15 2016
Dancers From The Dance: A Review Of STRIKE A POSE Comments (0)

Unnamed(Collage by Matthew Rettenmund)


I was 21 when Madonna's Blond Ambition World Tour came to Chicago. I semi-slept out with my friend John in the freezing cold, scoring eighth-row seats the old-fashioned way: Luck.

We knew a lot about the show from the underground fan network that existed, courtesy of the USPS, prior to the Internet, and via foreign magazines that had published shots from the tour's opening in Japan. When I spotted some of Madonna's (gay!!!) dancers in the Water Tower, I followed them around a bit, coveting their tour jackets. We knew their names: Oliver Crumes (rumored to be having an affair with Madonna), Slam Gauwloos, Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn, Gabriel Trupin, Luis Camacho and Jose Gutierez.

John and I traveled to the venue on one of the nights before our show, the last in the area. Doing reconnaissance, we spied on the intoxicatingly well-stocked merch booths and even had a close encounter with Liz Rosenberg, Madonna's famous publicist. I asked if she was Liz Rosenberg. Yes. Can I have your autograph? Mine? No.

We left.

The morning of our show, I received a note from a friend at my dorm expressing sympathy over the gig's unexpected cancelation. I had not heard, and was devastated when I confirmed that Madonna had indeed canceled. My friend didn't believe me when I phoned him. I can still remember the haunted denial in his voice.

He never saw the show, and I had to train home to Michigan and buy a horrible scalped seat just so I could say I'd been there in person. It was worth it, as the tour was a work of art more powerful to me than anything I'd seen in a museum ... and I like museums.

MadonnaTruth_096PyxurzLuis, Slam & Jose in a scene from Truth or Dare (Image via Miramax)

A year later, Truth or Dare came out. It was the ultimate Madonna product and project, a film that in many ways both cemented her place in world popular culture as an icon, and that also, conversely, demystified her so successfully that she's never truly returned to the giddy heights of a moment when people craved to know so much about her that a documentary on her tour and touring company became the highest-grossing documentary of all time. (It is currently #17 on that list.)

I will never forget sitting in the theater, watching Truth or Dare. Every frame was giving me what I wanted—more information about Madonna, straight from the source. Unlike with films—Dick Tracy or Who's That Girl—there was no padding, just a full-on Madonna smorgasbord. It was like her celebrity pap smear, an R-rated X-ray.

I can't completely explain the feeling, but I recall feeling, well, stupid after the movie ended. It is a brilliant film, but it also reminded me at every turn that (1) I probably cared too much about Madonna, and (2) Madonna wasn't really as mysterious as previous music videos and photo shoots had hinted. I decided I would cool off on collecting Madonnabilia for a while.

Instead, I doubled down and wrote a book about her and haven't looked back.

Truth or Dare remains a cunning piece of entertainment, one that influenced legions of fans in a variety of ways, not least of which to embrace their sexualities and sexual identities, a side effect attributable less to Madonna than to her film's curation of her dancers' personal stories. Their names aren't on the movie poster, but they should be, because Madonna's dancers were a huge part of both the film's truth and its daring.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 6.35.08 PMCarlton Wilborn in a scene from Strike a Pose (Image by Ester Gould & Reijer Zwaan)


Twenty-five years after the release of Truth or Dare, Dutch filmmakers Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan have ballsily reassembled Madonna's troupe of dancers to find out what happened to them in the intervening years, providing the results in their documentary Strike a Pose, which is currently playing the Tribeca Film Festival and seeking theatrical distribution.

The film—funny, moody, melodramatic, revealing—nimbly piggy-backs on the notoriety of Madonna and Truth or Dare while establishing its own identity. Madonna is the sun, but the dancers are the planets explored in what becomes a universal commentary on the folly of youth, the power of dance and the fact that sometimes, when people disagree, nobody is 100% right.

Madonna-luisLuis is ready to makeup (Image by Ester Gould & Reijer Zwaan)

Following the release of Truth or Dare, three of Madonna's dancers sued her; Oliver and Kevin sought more money, claiming their agreement to be filmed was never with the understanding that it was for a feature, of which they'd be such a large part, while Gabriel claimed he was additionally wronged when Madonna insisted on including a scene of him kissing Slam in the film, which effectively outed him to his family before he was ready. The suit was withdrawn and settled for an undisclosed amount in October 1994. The tumult from the lawsuit is beautifully and fairly explored in the film, including touching scenes of Gabriel's still-grieving mother recalling her son's death from AIDS on December 15, 1995, just over a year after the lawsuit was resolved.

Other than the lawsuit, even big-time Madonna fans are probably in the dark as to what the boys—now men—have been up to since 1991. Strike a Pose reveals their struggles—with drug addiction, with HIV and (even more so) HIV stigma, with chasing the heady success they tasted on tour with Madonna—but also presents them as more than entertaining support. In Strike a Pose, the dancers' lives are fleshed out to include how they make a living, with whom they are in love, what they do for fun. In short, this new documentary presents them less as vessels for button-pushing and topic-addressing and more as human beings. 

It says something that Madonna's lack of participation in this project is never missed, although her visage is revisited via clips from the '90s. The subjects are sensationally forthcoming, but the filmmakers never sensationalize the material. It's like the opposite of reality TV because it has so much reality.

In Truth or Dare, the boys—without even seeing the big picture—helped Madonna express herself. In Strike a Pose, it's their turn to articulately express their own selves, and these are six selves to which a large number of gay men around their age and younger will relate.

Don't miss it, because while beauty's where you find it, it helps if you're seeking it out.

Catch Strike a Pose at the Tribeca Film Festival tonight, on 4/16, on 4/18 or on 4/24.

Mar 25 2016
6-PACK — RNC Tamps Down Trump Expectations + Sanders Sues DNC + Rallies Against NC Law + NYC's Historically Gay Julius' + Miles Teller Bares All + BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: Everybody Loses! Comments (0)

*widget boy cultureTrump will be denied nomination if he doesn't win it outright.

*widget boy cultureSanders, who wants to be Democratic standard-bearer, sues DNC.

*widget boy cultureFired-up rallies against NC's anti-trans, anti-gay law.

*widget boy cultureNYC gay bar Julius' tipped for landmark status.

*widget boy cultureThe movie worth seeing for Miles Teller's bare butt. (Work Unfriendly)

*widget boy cultureBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice apparently reeks.

Mar 21 2016
You Heard It Here First: DONALD CRIED Is Insanely Good Comments (0)

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 10.10.02 PM

My pal John dragged me to the New Directors/New Films screening of something called Donald Cried at the MoMA tonight, and it wound up being the best movie I've seen in forever.

It hasn't announced distribution just yet, but Donald Cried gave me the feeling I had when I saw Napoleon Dynamite (2004) and The Blair Witch Project (1999) very, very early on (the latter of which I saw at a tiny screening with a whole bunch of people who were convinced it made use of actual found footage).

The spiritual descendant of a favorite of mine—Chuck & Buck (2000)—Donald Cried stars Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 10.54.13 PMdirector and co-writer Kris Avedisian (pictured; image via Electro Chinoland) as the titular Donald, a well-intentioned but insufferable hometown loser who plagues his buddy (Jesse Wakeman), who is in town to settle his grandmother's estate.

Donald has the persistence of a crab louse, but is more painfully open-hearted than Lorelei Lee. His performance is a marvel, and the script is an awkward-fest of unexpected comedy and pathos.

Whenever this one comes around, catch it—it will make you re-think this whole friendship thing entirely.

Feb 15 2016
They Struck A Pose: Madonna's BLOND AMBITION WORLD TOUR/TRUTH OR DARE Dancers Reunite For Documentary Comments (0)

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.21.08 PMAs they are now: (Back) Salim Gauwloos, Oliver Crumes, Carlton Wilborn, Kevin Stea. (Front) Luis Camacho, Jose Gutierez (Promotional movie image © Linda Posnick)

Jose & Luis—two of Madonna's dancers from her iconic Blond Ambition World Tour—are seen in interviews conducted for a new documentary that covers the tour and the resulting doc Truth or Dare.

Yes, a documentary about the making of a documentary!

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.21.25 PMStea, the late Gabriel Trupin & Oliver Crumes (Promotional movie image © Lisa Guarnieri)

Strike a Pose, directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan, rounds up all of the surviving dancers (Gabriel Trupin died of AIDS more than 20 years ago) for what sounds like a candid, if not exactly combative, remembrance of Madonna, of a high point in her career and of how their lives as gay (and one straight) men changed due to immediate and international scrutiny.

Truth dare dancersJose Gutierez (Movie still via Strike a Pose)

Jose Gutierez remembers Madonna asking to see vogueing when auditioning the dancers:

She saw raw talent, she saw character ... young artist expression is the best. Spoke my mind—just like she did.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.34.16 PMLuis Camacho (Movie still via Strike a Pose)

Luis Camacho offers this pointed analysis of the troupe's effeminacy, as captured in Truth or Dare, a trait that at the time repulsed hetero dancer Oliver Crumes:

We carried our flamboyance as a warning. Yes, we have earrings on. Yes, we have eyeliner on. But don't mistake any of this [Laughs] for weakness.

Beautiful people arriving in Berlin!

Posted by Strike a Pose on Sunday, February 14, 2016

Can't wait to see this film, which just struck a distribution deal.

Click here for a positive review from a critic who saw the movie in Berlin. Check out the standing O the film received:  

An ongoing standing ovation here at the berlinale! What a special night! #worldpremiere #strikeaposefilm #blondambitiontour #reunion #berlinfilmfestival

Posted by Strike a Pose on Monday, February 15, 2016
Feb 13 2016
6-PACK — Miles McMillan: The Boyfriend + Skip ZOOLANDER 2 + Madeleine Albright Amends Membership Rules For Hell + Jeb So Desperate He's Using W + Madame No + Russell Tovey's Tight End! Comments (0)

PURPLE SEX by Jack Pierson for Purple Magazine @jackpierson9 @purplefashionmagazine @ozpurple

A photo posted by Miles McMillan (@milesmcmillan) on

(Work Unfriendly) extras here and here

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*widget boy cultureRELEASE THE CRACKHEAD: W campaigning for Jeb.

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*widget boy cultureRussell Tovey goes back into the closet.

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Dec 18 2015
Need To Know: Stuffed Stockings + Trump's Boner For Putin + 3rd-Degree Bern + Madonna Never Trussed Up Like A Turkey By Penn + Do You Need A Guy-Job? + MORE! Comments (0)

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*widget boy cultureMadonna swears—legally—that Sean Penn never laid a hand on her.

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Dec 16 2015
It's All Relative: New STAR WARS Is Light-Years Ahead Of Previous Sequels Comments (0)

Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-Rollie-Pollie-DroidMoving things forward, with a wink

Film-news-star-wars-the-force-awakens-second-teaser-trailer-drops2I was honored to be invited to attend a special press screening of Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens, at which I spotted Taran Killam & Bobby Moynihan, Whoopi Goldberg leaning over the back of her seat to chat with Jeffrey Tambor (I was dying to tell him I've loved him since The Ropers), Tamron Hall, Natalie Morales, Michael Musto and more.

But the real stars were up on the screen, and it was an unexpected treat to see the original Star Wars leads—Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher—reunited and given important roles in a sequel that for the first time since the fun of Return of the Jedi is worthy of a series that is inarguably the most beloved in Hollywood history.

Director J.J. Abrams has never been my cup of tea, but he certainly understood his task in making this rollicking installment, a movie that successfully, effortlessly mirrors the tongue-in-cheek goofiness, big-hearted moral center, charm, snappy dialogue, iconic music and unique visual flair of the first three films. Uncannily, in spite of advances made in the FX field, Abrams even delivers a movie that preserves the slightly creaky technology of those first classics—and why not? The originals reflected a time and place so insular from our own that a story picking up 30 years later should not reflect all the advances made in our own moviemaking recent history.

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