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Reviews for December 26th, 2008


Directed by Ron Davis and Stewart Halpern.

This lively documentary follows five out fifty-two men as they compete for the 34th Miss Gay America. According to the rules of the pageant, the men aren’t allowed to go through surgery or to use female hormones such as estrogen to look like women. They can dress, put on make-up, stuff their bras, wear wigs and sing like a lady during their live performance. There’s a combination of footage of the five contestants preparing for the show and performing in it along with intimate interviews with each them and their family members and/or teachers. Will you root for Carl Glorioso (a.k.a.Victoria DePaula) or David Lowman (a.k.a. Coti Collins)? Or will the winner be Robert Martin (a.k.a. Chantel Reshae), Anthony Brewer (a.k.a. Alina Malletti) or the plump-and-proud-of-it Victor Parker (a.k.a. Victoria Parker, a.k.a. Pork Chop)? They each deserve to win, so you’ll probably be rooting for all them for different reasons. It’s amazing how much work they put into preparing for the pageant and how passionate they feel about it despite that, as one contestant aptly observes, it’s not something that give them credit on a job resumé. They explain how they continued to perform in drag no matter what other’s thought of them---in fact, Victor Parker even got booed off the stage in his first performance where he wore his mother’s clothing. Another contestant admits that each Miss Gay America pageant serves as a learning experience for him to perfect his performance. It would have been interesting to further explore what learning experiences he’s referring to, though. In a somewhat funny scene, Victor’s mother drags his younger brother to watch the pageant and you can sense that he doesn’t want to be there. Early on, he even admits that he’s uncomfortable about his brother being in a Miss Gay America pageant because of the word “gay”, but he doesn’t know how to explain why the word “gay” is weird to him. The relationship between him and his older brother could easily be explored in a separate documentary. There are also some interesting behind-the-scenes interviews with the pageant’s judges who explain what they’re looking for from the contestants. Fortunately, co-directors Ron Davis and Stewart Halpern keep Pageant focused on the contestants and the pageant itself which makes for a diverting and uplifting experience for the audience. Please be sure to stay for an additional scene after the end credits roll.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1.
Released by Wolfe Releasing . Opens at the Cinema Village.

Waltz with Bashir

Directed by Ari Folman.

This deeply moving and captivating documentary focuses on Ari Folman’s struggle to remember what events that had precisely occurred during the June 1982 Lebanon War which he had served in as an Israeli soldier. During that war, Israeli soldiers invaded and attacked Beirut, Lebanon. Nine days before he was to become President of Lebanon, Bashir Gemayel was assassinated, which set forth the Christian Phalangist Militia attacks on the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. During the time, the Israeli soldiers stood and watched without putting an end to all the violence against the Palestinian refugees, including innocent civilians. Folman wants to grasp those events in detail while trying to sort out the visions that he still has in his memory. Are those visions merely hallucinations or did they actually happen? The truth is there, somewhere, but it’s hidden under a lot of repressed grief, regret, anger and, above all, confusion that fogs Folman’s and other soldiers’ minds. It’s quite riveting and fascinating to watch as he interviews fellow soldiers to try to get closer to the truth by asking listening to their own recollections and comparing them with his own so that he could, hopefully, piece them all together in the end. Folman also serves as the film’s director and includes absolutely gorgeous animation that combines 3D effects along with 2D effects. There’s somewhat of a dreamlike, hypnotic effect to many of the flashback sequences which, along the poignant musical score, helps to immerse you into the scenes, especially the many powerful war scenes. A particularly unforgettable scene occurs when Israeli soldiers slowly walking ashore from the Mediterranean Sea while fireballs explode around them. The only non-animated sequence shows up at the very end with actual footage of the Lebanese victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, but even those feel quite resonating. At a running time of only 87 minutes, Waltz with Bashir manages to be a visually stunning, haunting, emotionally enthralling and mesmerizing documentary from start to finish.
Number of times I checked my watch: 0.
Released by Sony Pictures Classics. Opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

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