As I noted when the delightful documentary The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls played at Chicago's Reeling Film Fest last fall: Who wouldn't fall hard for a movie that documents the extraordinary life of former farm girls turned country-western-folk superstars Down Under who just happen to be twinsand lesbian, to boot? Leanne Pooley's entertaining movie is the increasingly rare queer-themed movie that's actually getting more than a one-week engagement in Chicago ( continuing its theatrical run through May 31 at Facets ) . Rarer still, the Topps are performers whowith equal parts talent, verve and witty timinghave broken down cultural barriers left and right in their homeland without apparently breaking a sweat.
Now it's been 25 years. Jools and Lynda Topp, who hail from New Zealand, started out on a dairy farm performing their infectious "little bit country, little bit rock-n-roll" tunes in the hinterlands, eventually working their way toward the bright environs of Sydney and beyond. Along the way the duo created a batch of comedic characters that became sure-fire crowd-pleasers and led to their own television show. We not only see the Topps performing these characters in concert, Pooley gives us the added bonus of charming interviews with them. The arsenal of the Topps include Ken and Kenthe sheep farmer and the TV sports caster ( which they perform, natch, in male drag ) and the high falutin' society ladies, among others.
In between the concert and character shenanigans, we also follow the gals ( and their girlfriends ) around their daily lives of writing, rehearsing and performing on what seems like a truly charmed existence. The duo's passion for a variety of illustrious causes ( from queer sexuality to the political ) has only increased their popularity and when Jools survived breast cancer ( the one moment where the film seems to head temporarily for the deep waters ) , family, friends and seemingly the entire Australian nation supported the sisters.
Although it's a tad on the long side, this chronicle of Jools and Lyndawho call to mind the Roches and, when in full voice, dueling k.d. langsis effervescent and just about irresistible. It's a terrifically welcoming, feel-good film and another reason why 2010 was the year of the lesbian movie. See it and get happy. www.facets.org
Call for entries: Amplify and the Red Hot Organization, two non-profits dedicated to fighting the AIDS epidemic are sponsoring Red Hot + US, a national film competition for students aimed at "addressing HIV/AIDS through a contemporary lens." For over 20 years, the familiar "Red Hot +" song compilations featuring a raft of mega pop stars has helped to elevate awareness. Now, these two organizations are seeking young artists and filmmakers to put their own experiences with HIV and AIDS through a contemporary lens for a new generation. Deadline for submissions is August 31. The winning entry will receive a $2,500 cash prize and a trip for two to New York City to participate in World AIDS Day. In addition, the first 50 entries will receive a complimentary copy of the DVD "Dark Was the Night." Contest rules, submission forms and further information at www.redhotand.us
Recent DVDs of note: Facts of Life star Mindy Cohn and a bevy of hunky, nearly nude guys star in Violet Tendencies, the latest urban dramedy from the motivated team of queer director-producer-actor Caspar Andreas and writer-producer-actor Jesse Archer. Cohn, delightful and moving, plays the worlds "oldest fruit fly" who suddenly decides that her own love life needs to take priority. The film, enlivened by Cohn's winning performance, did well on the festival circuit and is just out on DVD via the self-distribution route. It's worth the support of the queer community so grab a copy today.
Speaking of nearly nude hunks, there's no more guilty pleasure on TV than HBO's sultry, audacious vampire/supernatural, gay-in-all-but-name series True Blood from queer writer-producer Alan Ball. Now all 12 episodes of hot, hot, hot season three are here on DVDcomplete with the usual cast of regular hotties, queer characters and the addition this season of the enticing plot line surrounding the maleficent King of Mississippi ( played by out actor Denis O'Hare ) and Theo Alexander as Talbot, his 600-year-old boytoy, as well as the burgeoning romance of Lafayette ( Nelsan Ellis ) who producers had the good sense to give a boyfriend ( named Jesus no less ) after all he'd been through the previous two seasons. There's also Joe Manganiello as the sexiest werewolf this side of Taylor Lautner. Also, there are plenty of extras on the five-disc set to tide us True Blood fans over until the next season kicks off Sunday, June 26.
Those that love the music on Glee but aren't thrilled with the sometimes schizophrenic plotlines of the show ( you know who you are ) will be happy to bring home the DVD Glee Encore, which features just the music numbers from the show's first season and skips all the weekly melodrama high jinks. Highlights include the Gleeks warbling and dancing everything from showtunes to rap. No doubt a compilation of season two will follow.
Check out my archived reviews at www.windycitymediagroup.com or www.knightatthemovies.com . Readers can leave feedback at the latter website.