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 2017-02-22
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


  WINDY CITY TIMES

Knight at the Movies: Vito; Me @ the Zoo; film notes
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times
2012-07-18

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Throughout July, HBO is running two fascinating queer-themed documentaries that, on the surface, have nothing in common. Nor could the subjects of these two films—provocative Internet sensation Chris Crocker and legendary gay and cultural activist Vito Russo—be more different. Yet both documentaries illuminate the impact that one individual can have on society at large and taken together, both movies have an odd but compelling symbiosis.

The Russo film, simply titled Vito, gives us a portrait of a defiantly, openly gay man who had a tremendous influence on shaping today's queer culture while the Crocker film, named Me @ the Zoo, shows a gay individual who—by embracing his innate queerness—has shown his own brand of ferocious bravery. Crocker has experienced both the positive aspects of Russo's legacy and the backlash against all things queer that is still endemic in large parts of American society Russo rallied against.

We know the importance of the history of gays in cinema thanks to The Celluloid Closet, illuminated so beautifully in Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's 1995 documentary. Now at last in Vito, out director Jeffrey Schwarz's new documentary, we meet the visionary responsible for the groundbreaking 1980s bestseller that was the basis for that film. But Russo, as Schwarz's documentary quickly reveals, was much more than a gay cultural visionary—here was a man who literally was also a gay cultural Zelig. From the 1969 Stonewall Riots to co-forming ACT UP in the mid-'80s, Russo was in the thick of the action. More importantly, each step of Russo's thought-provoking and unapologetic evolution became part of his rallying cry for gay men everywhere.

Schwarz's movie (which premieres July 23 on HBO and screens throughout the month) is basically told in three acts: that of a personal gay-rights pioneer; a film and cultural groundbreaker; and finally, an AIDS activist fighting up to his own untimely death from the plague in 1990. Through archival footage—much of it of Russo himself—and interviews with family members and close friends, many of them well-known queer celebrities (Lily Tomlin, Armistead Maupin, Larry Kramer, et al), Schwarz builds a portrait of a man who refused to accept societal constraints in any aspect of his life.

Although I appreciate the profound impact Russo had on the lives of queer culture through his activism and personal passions, it is as a film writer via the seminal Celluloid Closet—a 10-year labor of love—where Russo has most resonated for me (it's the reason I became a film critic) and the sections of Schwarz's movie detailing Russo's struggle in creating the book and reveling in its triumph once it was published were highlights.

Vito is a no-brainer for queer audiences to embrace as an important addition to the queer film canon. This is also true of Schwarz's last movie, the documentary portrait of '70s gay-porn star Jack Wrangler. In both films Schwarz discovers men who just happened to be queer and whose indomitable spirits simply overrode anything in their respective paths. This affirming spirit, if given the chance, will surely resonate with straight audiences as well.

The young Chris Crocker—the gay man who is the subject of HBO's Me @ the Zoo, helmed by Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch—apparently shares with Russo and Wrangler the same refusal to curtail or hide his innate queer sensibility. Crocker, who lives in tiny Bristol, Tenn., with his grandparents, became an Internet sensation in 2007 when his impassioned, tearful "Leave Britney alone!" video plea defending criticisms being flogged at his idol, teen sensation Britney Spears, went viral.

Crocker, who identified at the time as female, already had a large Internet following after years of posting videos of herself online in performance while espousing various pop-culture enthusiasms and displaying her wacky and distinctly girly-girl personality. While detailing the interesting and phenomenal popularity of YouTube (the film is named after the first video uploaded to the site by one of its co-founders) and its cultural omnipresence (Warhol was right—everyone is famous for 15 minutes) Moukarbel and Veatch flesh out Crocker's bittersweet background.

Home-schooled after being subjected to years of anti-gay bullying and being the product of a teenage pregnancy, Crocker resorted to the Internet for entertainment and fantasy release—a behavior deeply inculcated in the disenfranchised segments of gay culture. At times, the film is reminiscent of Jonathan Caouette's 2003 Tarnation—another portrait of a lonely, emotionally fraught gay youth who utilized a camera as a shield and an act of self-defense.

The fallout and bitter backlash that accompanied Crocker's Britney video—a development the filmmakers detail—is one of the more disturbing aspects of the movie, along with Crocker's apparent isolation. (The homophobia that greeted the video is shown to be front and center, without apology or remorse.) However, there is also a toughness of spirit here, a hardened determination to be true to self at any cost no matter how many disappointments and dashed dreams abound. The sudden fame—and its even more sudden withdrawal—that Crocker has endured is very winning. By the film's end, Crocker seems adrift without real direction but his determination to not tamp down his queer persona or be bullied is tremendously admirable—and are things one suspects both Jack Wrangler and Vito Russo would have been very happy to see.

Film notes:

—With Farewell, My Queen, director Benoit Jacquot gives us an intimate look at the final days of the reign of Marie Antoinette through the adoring eyes of one of her ladies-in-waiting. The film, which opens exclusively at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St., on Friday, July 20, goes a step further than previous examinations of this notorious historical period by adding a lesbian undertone to the proceedings. The film is subtitled. www.landmarktheatres.com

—The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in director Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy, also opens this Friday but wasn't screened in time for Windy City Times' deadline. However, with hunky Christian Bale back in the title role joined by Tom Hardy as the evil Bane and Anne Hathaway suiting up as Catwoman, gay men and action enthusiasts of all stripes will most likely want to check out what promises to be one of the summer's biggest blockbusters.

—For alternative fare on Friday, July 20, the More for Gay Men LGBT group is hosting a screening of the queer-themed 2007 romantic drama (surfers in love!) Shelter as part of the Center on Halsted's ongoing CENTERscreen series. The 5:30 p.m. event includes a social hour, post-screening discussion and light refreshments, and takes place in the Michael J. Leppen Theatre at the Center, 3656 N. Halsted St. www.moreforgaymen.com

—The Music Box, 3733 N. Southport Ave., is bringing back its enormously popular Sing-A-Long Mary Poppins 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, July 21-22. This event allows both the young and young at heart to enjoy Disney's 1964 supercalifragilisticexpialidocious musical classic that won Julie Andrews the Best Actress Oscar as the magical nanny and brought Dick Van Dyke screen immortality for his "so-bad-it's-good" cockney accent as Bert the chimney sweep. www.musicboxtheatre.com

—Personal PAC presents a free, educational screening of Iron Jawed Angels, the 2004 HBO film that stars Hilary Swank and Anjelica Huston and details the struggle for women's voting rights at the turn of the 20th century. The screening will take place Monday, July 23, at Facets Multimedia, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave., at 7 p.m. Emmy-nominated screenwriter/author Jennifer Friedes will be present at a post-screening discussion. Seating can be reserved by emailing kinzlee@personalpac.org .

Check out my archived reviews at www.windycitymediagroup.com or www.knightatthemovies.com . Readers can leave feedback at the latter website.


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.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

'Moonlight' dominates Indie Spirit Awards 2017-02-26 - The LGBT movie Moonlight swept all five awards it was up for at the 32nd annual Film Independent Spirit Awards, held Feb. 25 ...


Gay News

Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation does tribute video on her 85th Birthday 2017-02-23 - Los Angeles - February 23, 2017: In honor of what would have been Elizabeth Taylor's 85th birthday on February 27th, The Elizabeth Taylor ...


Gay News

Kevin's Room notes 15 years of Black HIV/AIDS awareness 2017-02-22 - National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Feb. 7 saw a celebration of the 15th Anniversary of the release of the film Kevin's Room. The ...


Gay News

Academy Awards Sun., Feb. 26 2017-02-22 - Drink in the glitz and glamour of the xxth Annual Academy Awards this Sunday. Among the many viewing options around town are: —Sofia ...


Gay News

Entertainment news: 'Moonlight,' Colton Haynes, 'In-Betweens,' Abby Wambach 2017-02-21 - The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) recently honored Moonlight with its Visionary Award at its Greater New York Gala, On Top Magazine ...


Gay News

Human Rights Watch plans Kiki screening, panel Mar. 10 2017-02-16 - The Human Rights Watch Chicago 2017 Film Series, in partnership with Black Cinema House, presents the film Kiki on Mar. 10, followed by ...


Gay News

AIDS film kicks off Legacy LIVE series 2017-02-15 - The Legacy LIVE Series for 2017 kicked off on Feb. 5 at the Alphawood Gallery with a screening of the rarely seen, award-winning ...


Gay News

NUNN ON ONE Queen Latifah wishes on a 'Star' 2017-02-15 - Queen Latifah rules the entertainment kingdom; she acts, wries and is even a label president. Also, she was the first hip-hop artist ...


Gay News

TELEVISION Gender non-binary actor set to star on 'Billions' 2017-02-15 - Performer, writer and director Asia Kate Dillon will be debuting in the groundbreaking role of Taylor on Showtime's Billions this season. Both Dillon ...


Gay News

Streaming service benefits Equality Florida 2017-02-14 - It's been revealed that hoopla digital—a Netflix-like service that partners with libraries across North America—will be the first digital service to bring IDW'S ...


 



Copyright © 2017 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.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

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 produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.