Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Guys Just Want To Have Fun

President Obama often refers to the "silly season" of politics.  But for some people, silliness is something to be enjoyed on a regular basis. Not everyone is up for deep thinking day in and day out. Some people just want to have fun.

Fun, of course, comes in all shapes, sizes, and variations. For some people, watching video clips of animals acting silly on You Tube can easily while away the time. Consider this bizarre game of tag between a dog and a hopped-up sheep:

This video of a bunny herding sheep quickly became a viral sensation.

And who can forget the LED-inspired extreme sheepherding video?

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Two popular advertising slogans always come to mind when watching a film by Q. Allan Brocka:
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
  • "If you got it, flaunt it."
The talented filmmaker who developed the Eating Out franchise of gay sex farces (as well as a series of stop-motion shorts for the Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All The World series on Logo), Brocka has developed two strong revenue streams with strong brand identities. His films deliver a happy heaping helping of bitchy repartee and musclebound hunks who, at the very least, are talented

Brocka has developed a loyal niche audience whose tastes he understands well. He panders to them blatantly with a frothy mixture of beefcake and bon mots. The results are delightfully sexy and often hysterically funny.

With Eating Out: The Open Weekend, Brocka rolls out a sequel to Eating Out: Drama Camp. The gimmick here is simple: While at drama camp, several characters won gift certificates for a free weekend at a gay resort in Palm Springs. After the romantic relationship between Casey (Daniel Skelton) and Zach (Chris Salvatore) experienced severe strain in Eating Out: Drama Camp, what better place to further test its limits than a glorified motel with lots of available and horny studs hanging around the pool!

Because Eating Out: The Open Weekend takes place in a limited geographical setting (great for a low-budget film), there are moments when it resembles a Feydeau farce complete with slamming doors and mistaken identities. Aunt Helen (Mink Stole) is briefly seen during a phone call.

A devout Republican sexhound named Congressman Piel is always up -- and eager to go down -- for a threeway. At the very least, Chris Puckett is much easier on the eyes than Newt Gingrich.

Zach's new boyfriend, Benji (Aaron Milo), has the lust-filled eyes of someone who has just come out and discovered that he can have as much gay sex as he wants (the old "kid in a candy store" syndrome). He may have met his match, however, in the character of Peter (Michael Vara), who went to school with Casey and, upon coming out, decided to major in slutty social work.

Two timely gimmicks form interesting subplots. The open weekend in Palm Springs contains a time-sensitive loophole in California law for same-sex couples to get married. Filled with puppy-like enthusiasm, Benji is eager to marry Zach who, to no one's surprise, can't make up his mind. Gay wedding vows get royally spoofed by a lesbian pastor (Nicol Paone) who is racing against the clock.

The most imaginative subplot, however, concerns the rivalry between Penny (Lilach Mendelovich) -- Casey's idiotic virginal faghag-in-training -- and Lilly (Harmony Santana) -- who is transitioning from a biological male to female status -- for the attention of Luis (Alvaro Orlando), the straight Hispanic pool boy who keeps flirting with them. Just when the action couldn't get more ridiculous, Penny and Lilly barge into Luis's room to find him hiding under the bed stark naked, terrified that once the girls learn about his "problem," they will never want to make love to him.

The problem (brilliantly spoofed by Michael McDonald and Mo Collins on MADtv) is that, after Luis was born with a tail, his religious mother refused to have it surgically removed, believing that it was a sign from God. It should surprise no one to hear one of the girls ask "Can that thing get hard?"

One doesn't watch a film like Eating Out: The Open Weekend expecting spiritual enlightenment or high art. It's pure popcorn entertainment aimed at the gay market with lots of eye candy to help boost sales. Here's the trailer

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Most documentarians have a clear idea of how they want to tell their story. Whether focusing on the financial triggers that brought about a global economic crisis or the natural beauty of a coral reef; whether exploring the movement to legalize same-sex marriage or attempting to explain the dangers of fracking, it's easy for them to storyboard their film as they aim to educate viewers and win sympathy for a personal, professional, or political cause.

Not all documentarians, however, are as skillful and/or well organized as Michael Moore and Charles H. Ferguson when it comes to tackling an emotionally-charged topic.  As a new documentary entitled California 90420 demonstrates, gathering footage of tornadoes and great white sharks is sometimes easier than getting a coherent statement from a dedicated stoner.

Directed by Dean Shull, California 90420 tries to show why the decriminalization of marijuana would be a major benefit to society. Whether marijuana is viewed through the eyes of a cancer patient named Amber or an educator working within 2010's Prop 19 campaign to legalize marijuana in California, there is little doubt that taxing marijuana sales could be of huge financial benefit to the financially strapped state's government.

In an interview with Jeffrey Jones for The Puffington Host, Shull explains the origin of his documentary:
"Steve Roberts and Colin Goldman were working on selling a TV pitch called 'Cannabis College,' but TV was not quite ready for 'Weed College.' The film was intended to be the human stories of four people first and foremost, and a glimpse into the sort of wild west world of weed that is existing in California.
Instead of the clinical procedural look of news specials, we wanted to have some grungy footage look like 16mm and others crisp HD. For some reason, it makes it feel like more of a journey. One of our subjects, Dale, purposefully had her press conference in front of a playground just to bring up the subject and address it head on. There was a little kid, about 13 years old, that saw us interviewing a potential subject in an alley. He came up to us and tried to sell us his weed, but quickly biked away when I lifted my camera and tried to get him to be in the documentary."
Poster art for California 90420

Even if Congressman Ron Paul insists that the war on drugs has been a total failure, many of the people who enact our nation's laws remain sadly misinformed about marijuana and hemp. Some are also under intense pressure from law enforcement lobbyists.

But where there is failure, there is also opportunity. Today, more than 88,000 residents of Colorado have medical marijuana identification cards. With millions of pot-smoking baby boomers enrolling in Medicare, the time may be ripe for a generation of American stoners to bring the full lobbying force of the AARP to bear on the issue of decriminalization. 

Without doubt, the most memorable personality interviewed in California 90420 is a 21-year-old "4:20-something” party girl who goes by the name of "Ix." Wildly enthusiastic about the benefits of smoking weed, she can be seen in the following clip describing a course she would like to see added to the curriculum at Oaksterdam University

California 90420 takes care to explain the different approaches some states are taking to legalizing marijuana. Washington's ballot measure, I-502, would create a legal change in the way state law regards marijuana while Colorado's measure would amend the state's constitution.

As I watched California 90420 I often found myself thinking of documentaries by the religious right which focused on sensationalist and provocative footage of drag queens and leathermen taken during gay pride parades. As earnest as those seeking to decriminalize marijuana may be, sometimes their exuberance while high becomes their worst enemy onscreen.

One's response to California 90420 may very well depend on one's usage of marijuana. Here's the trailer:

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