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Best Gay Books of 2002

The good news is that the number and quality of queer books published each year by increasingly mainstream publishers seems to continue to grow. The bad news is that independent gay bookstores continue to struggle. All won’t be lost if the community’s historic bookstores close down, but a large piece of the queer social fabric will be forever irreplaceable. So while picking up some of the year’s best books, why not buy them at Creative Visions or Oscar Wilde instead of at a chain store. The following favorites didn’t necessarily garner the most press this year, but they are quite wonderful nonetheless. Comments (2)

Curtain Call

BURN THIS It would be nice if there were more to think about during Lanford Wilson’s much heralded revival of Burn This than Ty Burrell. But when a play is so ploddingly plotted, the mind is going to wander. And it might as well wander to the eye candy. Not that Burrell is only eye candy and can’t act. He can. Comment

Hustler Reek

HUSTLER WHITE James Franco is "Sonny". Nicolas Cage is currently making headlines for a) divorcing Lisa Marie Presley and b) his excellent work in Adaptation, Spike Jonze’s follow-up to Being John Malkovich. It must be his year, because he’s ending it by making his directorial debut with Sonny, without question one of the darkest, most depressing films of the year. It is also completely riveting. This story of a New Orleans male prostitute is at times a bit too violent and emotionally lugubrious for its own good. Nonetheless, it is truly hard to resist the intense, sex-filled plot and the superb performances of the cast. Comment

Keepin’ It Real

“In gay culture, there is a lack of role models,” says Danny Roberts, host of Boys Briefs 2, a video/DVD of short films about gay teenage lust. Best known for his stint on the New Orleans edition of MTV’s The Real World, Roberts, however, has worked hard to fill this void. Contacted by Picture This! Entertainment about hosting Boys Briefs 2, Roberts accepted the opportunity it provided him, what he calls “a test run for future projects.” The episodic introductions, which were filmed at Laguna Beach, California, feature the occasionally shirtless Roberts sunning it up on the beach, despite having the flu on the day of fil Comment

La Vida Loca

Early Hollywood star shined brightly and gay By Jay Blotcher When André Soares, the author of Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro, the masterful new biography on the silent film idol, calls […] Comment

Man’s Man

MACHO MAN Fernando Maneca dances at HERE. Videotaped interviews of people answering the question, “What is a real man?” separate the live sections of Fernando Maneca’s Just Like a Man, seen at HERE Arts Center (December 12-22). Men, women, and a little boy who gets tangled in his own thoughts, don’t really answer the question but express their personal opinions about men. In between, Maneca dances and tells, as the subtitle of this extended solo states, “personal anecdotes, confessions, and other tall tales.” Guest choreographers choreographed some of the vignettes. Not only does Maneca dance he also wrote some of the Comment

Premieres and Prioresses

CRYING NUNS John Dexter''s Dialogues des Carmelites. Of uncommon interest at the Met was the house debut in Lucia di Lammermoor of Annick Massis, December 6. Previously heard hereabouts in some Met in the Park Lucia performances and as an admirable Giulietta to Vesselina Kasarova’s wayward Romeo for Eve Queler, the accomplished French soprano proved a charming and thoughtful interpreter. The voice is a shade light and tended to get lost in the duet with Enrico (Anthony Michaels-Moore, whose snarly edge worked better here than in previous Met assignments) and in the Sextet (when she had to compete with, among other things, the truly ghastly sounds emitted Comment

Two Dimensional Gays

LOVERS ROCK Midnighter and Apollo''s wedding. Gay bashings, outings, and domestic partnerships are not usually mentioned alongside colorful costumes, muscled superheroes, and powers beyond those of mortal men. But these controversial subjects are being tackled more than ever inside the pages of superhero comics. Storylines revolving around gay issues are gaining widespread attention inside and out of the comic book community. “I always wanted to be Wonder Woman’s little brother,” said Phil Jimenez. “Growing up, I wanted to be the only little boy on the island [of Themyescria, Wonder Woman’s all-female home]. A breastless Amazon.” Jimenez recently came as c Comment

Unforgettable

GRAND DAME Trisha Brown''s sentimental, post-modern dance. Whether intentional or not, many of the dances presented over the last twelve months have evoked the events of September 11. Perhaps this has less to do with the specifics of the event itself, and more to do with the universality of death and the stages in which we deal with it and its aftermath. Perhaps for those of us who witnessed, survived, and remember… the significance of those themes has become charged. A reference to 9/11 is still so immediate that it produces an instant connection with the audience. The eleven dances cited below did not necessarily use September 11 as source material or “inspirati Comment

Woman in Control

“What makes this book unique is that there has never been a novel written about a woman who is erotically attracted to the idea of gay male love,” says Juliet Sarkessian, author of Trio Sonata. “But the fantasy of straight men [being turned on by] lesbians is fodder for every sitcom.” Sarkessian hopes her beautifully written book will help reduce this homophobic double standard. The book, published this month by the Southern Tier editions imprint of Haworth Press, tells the story of the erotic awakening of Janna, a young, straight woman, whose life transforms when she meets Alex and Phillip, a gay couple. For Sarkessian, a lesbian, these characters—partic Comment

Women Make Movies

CLARRISSA Meryl Streep is a modern Mrs. Dalloway in The Hours. Try, if you can, to forget all that’s been said about The Hours. Let the accolades for Meryl and Julianne, Nicole, Miranda, and Ed roll away. Block out the buzz about Golden Globe nominations, Kidman’s prosthetic nose… Forget about it, if you can, and walk into the theater with an open mind. The Hours is a film that unravels its secrets slowly, rewards it’s viewers with subtlety. The film is much more than you’ve heard, because it is so much less. It is quiet, still, and ennobling. The Hours is also sweet, very sad, and surprisingly complicated. The Comment

Solo Effort

ENDURANCE Adrian Brody stars in The Pianist. There’s a pivotal moment in The Pianist when its protagonist, celebrated composer, pianist, and Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), is called upon to give a singularly crucial, command performance. Discovered hiding in the parlor of an abandoned house by a Nazi soldier, the starving, feeble Szpilman is ordered to play a nearby piano. Summoning his final reserves of strength and courage, he pours every last bit of torment, desperation, and fear he’s been carrying for five agonizing years into a stirring rendition of Chopin’s Ballad ‘No. 1 in G Minor, Opus 23.’ Nerv Comment

American Original

Trisha Brown is one of the most influential choreographers of our time. A principal revolutionary associated with the legendary Judson Dance Theater—a group of artists who challenged the restrictions of institutionalized art and its set of standardized rules. She paved the way for a new generation of dance and performance. Ms. Brown has been honored by foreign governments for her groundbreaking artistry and ongoing contributions to the lexicon of dance; many of her works are considered masterpieces. Her living legacy was clearly on display at John Jay College, December 2–14, especially during an evening of repertory works from Brown’s oeuvre. Set and Reset, which premiered in 1983, is a se Comment

Bad to the Last Drop

Blood curdling awful; biting funny Comment

Blow Job

John Rechy biographer sucks up to his subject Comment

Dead or Alive

Posthumous fame for East Village underground icon Comment

Fathers and Sons

The Man I Might Become is a profound anthology of autobiographical essays by 28 gay writers regarding their relationships with their fathers. Covering a wide spectrum of regional, ethnic, and socio-economic family structures, the stories presented are humorous, frequently tragic, and thoroughly provocative in dissecting the clash of ideals and priorities that ripple within families. Edited by Bruce Shenitz, an editor at Out magazine, the stories presented in The Man I Might Become are primarily centered during the 1950s through the early 1970s. For the writers, being able to come out openly during this time put them on the forefront of the gay liberation movement, providing a se Comment

Foolish Sun

Eric Piepenburg HARD KNOCK LIFE Fool the Sun Sinks I once reviewed a show called Tiff and Mom: I Know Who You Did Last Summer, a late-night Halloween sketch comedy/musical review at a tiny Chicago theater. […] Comment

Friendly Fellers in Florida

Carl Hiaasen territory hijacked in gay detective tale Comment

Moody Blues

SMOKER ONLY : stars Leonardo Brezicki and Pablo Razuk A hypnotic and complex character study, Smokers Only is an exquisitely filmed drama about two aimless youths drawn to each other in the Argentine night. This haunting film—leisurely paced, and episodically structured—boasts a seductive yet seedy atmosphere that pulls the viewer into its dreamscape. Reni (Cecilia Bengolea) is a suicidal singer in a band who feels her life lacks meaning and purpose. One night, she spies Andreas (Leo Brezicki), a bisexual hustler turning tricks with various men in the city’s ATM vestibules. Reni finds Andreas intriguing, and after watching him participate in several of these highly e Comment

Santa vs. Anna

Paula Tushbai If Santa Claus listened to DJ Junior Vasquez’s Anna Nicole Show remix and watched Anna Nicole’s Holiday Special, he’d say: “No presents for Anna Nicole Smith! Cause […] Comment

St. Joan of Bethlehem

I knew as soon as they walked in the door they weren’t going to last very long. About two minutes before the curtain rose on Christmas With the Crawfords, the hilariously naughty anti-holiday spectacle that’s the theatrical equivalent of a Big Gulp of spiked eggnog, a family of four—mom, dad and two young kids—walked in and took their seats in the back. Sure enough, about ten minutes later, when an eight-foot-tall Shirley Temple—a living drag queen’s nightmare in a polka dot dress and enough crinoline to cover Manhattan—walked on stage, the horrified quartet ran out of the theater faster than you can say “Refund.” It was alternately amusing and t Comment

The Callas Divide

Opera queens are of two camps (as it were) on the subject of legendary opera diva Maria Callas. Twenty-five years after her death, a mention of her name is sufficient to polarize any group of opera lovers. Her detractors liken her voice to some unlistenable amalgam of those annoying NYC taxicab announcements and the soundtrack to a PETA film about inappropriate animal experimentation. Furthermore, they find her dramatic interpretations to be overwrought posturings thatcannot quite conceal her shaky technique. Those of us on the other side of this dispute liken her voice to well-aged balsamic vinegar: dark, complex, and richly mellowed, but retaining sufficient acidic pungency for moments of dramatic intensity. Her int Comment

Tower Power

MIDDLE EARTHILINGS: Elijah Wood and Sean Astin. I realize I may be the only person on the planet who feels this way, but Lord of the Rings 1: The Fellowship of the Ring did not blow me away. Yes, the first part of Peter Jackson’s epic was sweeping, and monumental, and visually stunning, but I found it somewhat monotonous—and even tedious—in its pedantic commitment to its literary source. Despite wonderful performances and great special effects, it was a bloated affair hampered not only by a frustratingly linear story, but also by a lack of drama. Happily, The Two Towers improves upon its predecessor in every regard, with even greater performances, b Comment

Voices Worth Celebrating

The vocal recital, which calls on totally different gifts and appeals to generally different tastes than staged opera, is regularly proclaimed an endangered species. Sometimes presenters have been hauling out "celebrity appearance" type of programming, with famous recording star divas and divos trotting through well-known chestnuts before turning to arias with piano. Fortunately, besides some excellent singers still devoted mainly to the recital format (Tully headlines Christoph Prégardien, March 9, and Matthias Goerne, April 12), there remain some singers equally adept at both art forms. New York heard three of them in the last few weeks (and would have heard another had not Sandr Comment

Water Drops

EXTRAVAGANTLY MINIMAL Tan Dun''s Water Passion at BAM. What was I, an upstanding citizen (heck, the king) of my own, very gay universe doing in the middle of Brooklyn listening to a reenactment of Jesus Christ’s bloody crucifixion at Christmastime? Even worse, what was a Chinese, Communist Revolution-surviving, Academy Award-winning composer (Best Original Score: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)—and Buddhist!—doing creating a two hour-long musical composition (for lack of a more nuanced word) about Christ’s death and resurrection? These are the kinds of questions that wrapped their way around the synapses of my mind while listening to the exquisite Water Passi Comment

We Are Family

The Aluminum Group | Happyness Wishing Tree Ignore the top 40! Modern pop music can be smart. The first in a planned trilogy of albums, Happyness showcases Chicago gay siblings John and Frank Navin’s abilities at creating damned fine songs that exalt classic AM radio pop yet forge ahead with poetry, style, and postmodernism. Think Steely Dan and Burt Bacharach having a cocktail at a deco hotel bar with Radiohead and Tortoise. Having emphasized electro-tinged postmodern on their last album (2000’s Pelo), this time the sublimely queer Navins strike a much more accessible balance, largely self-producing while they’re at it. In fact, Happyness pretty much t Comment

Zero Hour

MAN BITE Ed Norton stars in Spike Lee''s latest Director Spike Lee’s preoccupation with the events of 9/11 first becomes evident during the opening credits of 25th Hour, which spotlight the infamous “Towers of Light” that emanated from Ground Zero at the end of last year. From there, 9/11 is everywhere; not simply alluded to, but prominently highlighted in numerous moments of hats-off, hands-over-heart gravity: lingering shots of a shrine to fallen firefighters, glimpses of Osama bin Laden “Wanted” posters, a tirade on the evils of Al Quaeda, and, most conspicuously, a histrionic overhead shot of Ground Zero, accompanied by bombastic swells of dramatic music. & Comment

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