Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-08-07
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Knight at the Movies: The Dog; The Giver; film note
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

On the sweltering afternoon of Aug. 22, 1972—when John Wojtowicz robbed a bank in Brooklyn, taking hostages and standing off with the police for hours—he entered the legion of New York's most memorable characters.

He also became a gay-rights pioneer, of sorts, when the motive for the robbery came to light: Wojtowicz wanted the money to finance a gender-reassignment operation for his lover, a trans individuals named Ernest Aron nee Liz Eden. Three years later, both were immortalized in the Hollywood firmament with Sidney Lumet's vibrant masterpiece of the incident, Dog Day Afternoon, which starred Al Pacino and Chris Sarandon as the star-crossed lovers, both giving Oscar-nominated performances in the process.

As incredible as the story of the robbery and its lively, disparate characters are, there is much more to this story than Dog Day Afternoon revealed. Now, in Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren's The Dog, courtesy of Wojtowicz himself, we get the whole enchilada. Talk about colorful! For starters, the short, pugnacious, unapologetically horny Wojtowicz seemingly spent a lifetime indulging his sybaritic pleasures, both female and male. At the film's outset, this self-described "pervert" claims four wives and 23 girlfriends, although it becomes clear that his use of the word "girlfriend" blurs traditional gender categories.

"Anybody can be straight but it takes somebody special to be gay," Wojtowicz proudly asserts as he takes us along on a tour of the West Village, revisiting his old stomping ground, which he began visiting for male sex when his first marriage went on the rocks in 1969 just after Stonewall. In the process, a history of the burgeoning gay-liberation movement comes to light as Wojtowicz—who was known in the community by his alias, "Little John Basso"—was a fixture at the Gay Activists Alliance dances and took part in various gay lib activities. It was during one of these social occasions in June 1971 that Little John first laid eyes on "Ernie," aka Liz Eden.

Jeremiah Newton, a friend of Ernie who was also close with Candy Darling ( and the producer of the excellent Beautiful Darling documentary on her ), recalls the obsession that Little John felt for Ernie, showering her with gifts and indulging her every whim. The two were "married" in a mock ceremony that was so lavish and realistically done it fooled church officials ( right down to the bridesmaids in drag ).

This astonishing retro footage is just one example of a film filled with such moments. ( Newscasts of the bank robbery and a rare talk-show appearance by Eden after her transition to female are also eye-openers. ) The cast of characters—which also include Little John's doting, tough but broadminded mother to his first wife Carmen to George Heath, his male prison lover—is nearly as fascinating as the main attraction.

That would be Wojtowicz himself, of course, who the filmmakers interviewed repeatedly over four years as he struggled with skin cancer ( dying in 2006 ). Once the camera turns, nothing deters the profane Little John, who exhibits gifts for self-aggrandizement second to none, and for making both mundane and sordid details tremendously absorbing. He's bizarrely gleeful as he recalls everything from the most salacious, amusing, hurtful and oftentimes depressing areas of his often tatty life history of which, not surprisingly, the robbery was the infamous highlight. Even that renowned incident, worked over in Lumet's film and two subsequent documentaries, elicits new details. ( For instance, the three would-be robbers went to a matinee of The Godfather before committing the robbery as inspiration. )

Fueled by a queer Scheherazade whose legacy is both outrageous and pathetic, Berg and Keraudren's The Dog is as entertaining as its central subject. It's available on VOD and iTunes.

Set in a utopian, though rather boring, pristine futureworld, The Giver is based on Lois Lowry's 20-year-old YA novel that has been a must-read for teens since it was first published. The story focuses on 16-year-old Jonas ( Brenton Thwaites ). Along with his fellow teens, Jonas is assigned a job during the Ceremony of Growth. Unlike his pals, who get the job of rocking babies in the nursery or other nondescript vocations, Jonas gets singled out to be the new receiver of memory.

According to the chief elder ( Meryl Streep, stern and overbearing in a gray hippie wig with bangs ), this one-of-a-kind job is the juiciest of positions. Jonas will work closely with the giver ( Jeff Bridges, who speaks as if he had a mouth full of marbles ) and will slowly receive all the knowledge of the previous world—the world that existed before it apparently mostly destroyed itself.

Soon, the memories ( which include learning to play the piano and an introduction to war and violence ) begin to mess with the rigid regulations that Jonas and everyone else lives by—rules degreed by the ruling council. When the giver, who is at odds with the chief elder, realizes that Jonas is out of control, he overdoses the young heartthrob with the entire data bank of memories at his disposal before encouraging him to escape. We know this is a fantasy—and a dated one at that—because not one of the memories that covers the gamut of human history includes a single example from LGBT history or a queer person.

At that moment, this vaguely enjoyable but rather pedestrian movie from director Phillip Noyce—a quasi-Pleasantville ( right down to the black-and-white world giving way to color as the forbidden knowledge is learned )—lost its rather tentative hold on me. Back home, I did the sensible thing and popped 1976's cheesy but fun Logan's Run into the DVD player and enjoyed a true sci-fi guilty pleasure—something I suspect The Giver will never have the distinction of enjoying.

Film note:

Bruce Campbell, king of the '80s horror B movies, is in town for Bruce Campbell's Horror Film Festival, which takes place Thursday, Aug. 21—Sunday, Aug. 24, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

The highlight will surely be The Evil Dead Marathon—screenings of Campbell's three best-known movies, the gross-out black comedy/horror films: Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. Campbell will preside over the screenings that are taking place Saturday, Aug. 23, at The Dome at the Rosemont Ballpark ( 34 Jennie Finch Way, Des Plaines ) beginning at 8 p.m. Advance tickets

Now available: The Best of Knight at the Movies: 2004-2014—a compilation book of more than 150 of my film reviews from a queer perspective for Windy City Times—is now available. .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Tituss Burgess, IMDb, Halsey, Stephen Colbert, 'Queer As Folk' 2019-08-21 - Quibi has greenlit Dishmantled—described as "a high-octane cooking competition that will literally blow your socks off," with Tituss Burgess ( Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; ...

Gay News

10 Questions with Vic Featuring Xabiani Ponce de Leon 2019-08-15 - It's hard to stand out as an actor during a film festival such as Outfest where over 150 films are screened within nine ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Elm Street,' 'Crime Story,' Tab Hunter, Lady Gaga 2019-08-14 - Gay actor Marc Patton is returning to the big screen, as himself, with the documentary Scream, Queen: My Nightmare On Elm Street, The ...

Gay News

Reeling LGBTQ film festival announces film line up 2019-08-12 - ( August 12, 2019 - Chicago, IL ) Reeling, the second-oldest LGBTQ film festival in the world and a beloved Chicago cultural institution ...

Gay News

UPDATE: Travolta to attend Wizard World Comic Con 2019-08-12 - This year's Wizard World Comic Con Chicago will take place Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 22-25, at Rosemont's Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River ...

Gay News

FILM Fawzia Mirza, Kathy Griffin and much more at Outfest 2019-08-06 - Founded by UCLA students in 1982, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit film festival Outfest celebrated 37 years of bringing LGBTQ stories to the screen. ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Comic-book heroes, Cara and Ashley, Chris Pine, Pride Summit 2019-08-06 - The animated character Aquaman was confirmed to be LGBT+ on the latest episode of Young Justice: Outsiders—the DC Universe's animated show about teenage ...

Gay News

Gene Siskel Film Center to present Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am Aug. 23-29 2019-08-06 - As a venue that celebrates all art forms and a public program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Gene ...

Gay News

Pride Films and Plays to produce A Man of No Importance 2019-08-02 - Chicago, IL - Pride Films and Plays will stage the first Chicago production in more than a decade of A MAN OF NO ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Lil Nas X, classic TV shows, Janelle Monae, NFL player 2019-07-30 - The country-trap smash "Old Town Road" ( by out rapper/singer Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus ) has broken the record for ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.