Ren Jender

‘Best of Enemies’: When Politics Was All About Men

Best of Enemies

Out queer writer Gore Vidal was prescient in discussing the danger of self-labeled “conservative” Republicans (“reactionary” has always been a better term for them). In 1968, as part of network news coverage of the political conventions Vidal debated William F. Buckley, the loathsome “conservative” stalwart… In their debates, Vidal describes Buckley’s rhetoric as “always to the right and almost always in the wrong.” The debates are the focus of Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s documentary ‘Best of Enemies.’

‘As I Open My Eyes’ to Sex and The Police State: An Interview with Director Leyla Bouzid

'As I Open My Eyes'

Two things that make Leyla Bouzid’s new film ‘As I Open My Eyes’ distinct from these other [portrait of the artist, coming-of-age films] are: the lead who resists family pressure by joining a band is a young woman and her parents have more to be concerned about than what the neighbors think. The action takes place in Tunis, Tunisia, in 2010, before the Revolution, so any kind of rebellion, even artistic, can draw the attention of the police and lead to arrest — or worse.

The Women Men Rescue (or Choose Not To): ‘The Witness’ and ‘Disorder’

The Witness and Disorder

Saving a beautiful woman from danger is such a pervasive male fantasy that right now, no matter where you are you could probably see an example of this trope by randomly flipping through channels or wandering into a multiplex. But what if the man was never able to save the woman? Or what if he has problems of his own that keep him from being a stereotypical hero?

‘Concussion’: When Queer Marriage in the Suburbs Isn’t Enough


The queer women we see in sexual situations in ‘Concussion’ are not cut from the same Playboy-ready cloth as the two women in ‘Blue’: one client is fat, another is an obvious real-life survivor of breast cancer and some of her clients, like Eleanor herself, are nowhere near their 20s anymore.

A Joyful ‘Mavis!’ Plus Q & A with Director Jessica Edwards

Mavis Staples documentary

Director Jessica Edwards includes plenty of the Staples’ less familiar music (which still sounds fresh and striking: I predict most people who see this documentary will quickly add a Staples Singer channel to their Spotify and Pandora selections) as well as photos and TV clips from their appearances stretching back to the 1950s. Although Pops had a smooth, clear voice, Mavis usually had the lead vocal even at the beginning. Like Amy Winehouse her style and virtuosity were already an adult’s when she was still a young teen.

‘Spotlight’ on the Wrong People


‘Spotlight’ isn’t the kind of film that just changes some facts (though I never understand “based-on-a-true-story” films that do so: if you’re going to fictionalize their lives why not fictionalize their names too?), it’s one where the most basic plot summary contradicts what happened.

A Compromised ‘Carol’


If only ‘Carol’ the much lauded movie from director Todd Haynes (adapted by Phyllis Nagy from Patricia Highsmith’s novel ‘The Price of Salt’) were as good as its trailer, a one minute ten second masterpiece of close-ups, pitch-perfect period detail and barely contained emotion.

Rewritten History: Affecting in ‘Brooklyn’, Not So Much in ‘Suffragette’


I was surprised at how enjoyable and skillfully made ‘Brooklyn’ is: I cried when everyone else did and gasped when the rest of the audience did too, but in spite of its excellent art direction and affecting performances the film is mostly hokum. New York in the 1950s is a place where no one the main character hangs out with smokes (when all of the men and the majority of women were smokers). Most of the characters barely drink (just one glass at Christmas) and, except for a child’s brief outburst at a family dinner table, (“I should say that we don’t like Irish people”) none of its white, working-class, ethnic characters have any problem with any other ethnic group.

’45 Years’: A Lifetime of Honing Talent


When we first meet her, Kate seems, like a lot of older women, serene in the unspoken knowledge that she’s at least a little too good for her unshaven, bumbling husband, Geoff (Tom Courtenay) who may or may not have the early symptoms of dementia.

‘The Danish Girl’ and ‘Youth’: Why We Need To Stop Giving White Guys Oscars


Another way for a male actor to win an award is to put on a dress and play a trans woman (see Jared Leto and ‘Transparent’) which explains why we now have ‘The Danish Girl’ in theaters, directed by Hooper and starring Redmayne as trans pioneer Lili Elbe. At least one trans woman has already pointed out how this film, like ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ before it, has scenes that could have been lifted from porn (not the best place to find versimilitude) but also how the script forces Elbe into the “tragic degenerate” trope, just like queer characters invariably were in the bad old days.

Trans Women of Color In a Theater Near You: ‘Mala Mala’ and ‘Tangerine’


Maybe sitting through years of shitty queer characters in films and TV has sensitized me, because, even though I’m not trans*, I often get a similar, sickly feeling about films and TV with trans* characters made by people who aren’t trans*, most recently the two (or maybe it was one and a half) episodes of the Emmy-nominated ‘Transparent’ I watched when (cis) people I respect raved about it.

‘3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets’ and the Aftermath in ‘The Armor of Light’


Marc Silver’s documentary ‘3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets’ which airs on HBO Monday, Nov. 23, won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance and is an attempt to remind us of the particulars in the shooting of Black, suburban teenager, Jordan Davis, on the third anniversary of his death.