Friday, January 9, 2009

Wolfe panders again -- this time less to the body-worshipper than to the angst-lover

Nowhere near as accomplished as last years' delightful compilation of gay-themed shorts -- Available Men -- this year's selection from Wolfe Video is heavy on the angst (without being particularly incisive yet still remaining "preachy") and light on the humor/entertainment quotient. This is almost the exact reverse from last year, and it will probably pay off in considerably less satisfied customers. Even the title of this year's collection -- HE LIKES GUYS -- is a cliché that has no real bearing on anything at hand and is not even the title of one of the shorts (as was the case last year).

The feature gets off to a good start with Steam (not to be mistaken for the wonderful Ferzan Ozpetek film with a similar English-language title), a very short short that offers a great-looking body doing something that appears (and sounds) like fun. Accompanied by thoughtful quotes from the likes of Marx, Freud and a more current surprise guest, it should leave you with a smile. The smile will not appears again until the penultimate and best of the lot (in terms of sheer entertainment value), Waiting for Yvette, which stars an ace and notable cast, including Wendie Malick and Stephen Tobolowsky and offers laughs, provocations and more. Then comes the the finale, the funny and endearing Babysitting Andy, from Canada with love.

The five pieces that constitute the mid-section deliver all that angst that some gays, I guess, crave. This sort of thing can be worth dealing with if it can be provided smartly and meaningfully. And that's where this year's crop comes a cropper -- to some extent at least. Silver Road, from Canada, shows us the end of a summer friendship from which one of the participants would like more; Traces deals with the forever bug-a-boo of parental approval in a dark, sad manner; Just offers a twosome's quickie that leads to a nasty argument; Laundromat is a gay weepy that unites the younger set with the older; and the best of the lot, Seeing You In Circles, is a surprisingly sophisticated look at an attempt to restart an old relationship made up of two guys who just can't manage it. Directed by Sam McConnell and co-written by McConnell and Nick Citton with some flair, the piece wraps around itself interestingly without overstepping into the melodramatic.

Even the shorts that are rather obvious -- Laundromat being the worst offender, with Traces the most professional-looking, film-wise, of the lot (Waiting for Yvette also looks looks professional, but in a very television-y manner) -- are watchable and generally well-acted. It's just that this year, unlike last, the taste-level is a good deal less sophisticated.

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