DVD Gift Guide

garyBy Gary Kramer

Holiday shopping? It is not always easy to find the right DVDs to suit everyone’s tastes. Here are a few suggestions to purchase or request.

For the romantically inclined (and a nice film to watch on New Year’s Eve):

Leather, directed by Patrick McGuinn, is a lovely, gentle, and extremely satisfying romantic drama set in the Catskills. When his father dies, Andrew (the hunky Andrew Glaszek) takes his partner Kyle (Jeremy Neal) “back home” where he reunites his childhood friend, Birch (Chris Graham). In the isolated rural setting, the two old acquaintances measure past experiences against their present situations. The set up provides a great crucible for drama, and the characters — who become empowered over the course of the story — really grow on viewers because they take time to explore what they have, what they want, and whom they desire. The film looks fantastic too, with some grainy 16mm photography as well as artful lighting and composition, and a fine mood-inducing soundtrack. But it is the performances that really make Leather so enticing. Glaszek imbues Andrew with palpable mix of toughness and vulnerability, and both he and Graham play off each other well. What’s more, they look comfortable together, and not just when they are sans clothes.

For documentary lovers and the politically minded:

Kuchu

An inspiring documentary about LGBT activists in Uganda, Call Me Kuchu chronicles the late activist David Kato, who fought for liberation, and against violence and discrimination towards LGBT individuals. Call Me Kuchu chronicles the battle Kato and other gay rights activists wage against their oppressors. This includes a legal fight Kato and a lesbian activist named Naome initiate against Giles Muame for his publication Rolling Stone, which “ignores the rights of privacy in the interest of the public” and publishes the names, addresses, and photos of LGBT folks, calling for their hanging. Interviews with Maume, where he casually discusses his anti-gay agenda, are downright chilling. But it is what happens after the verdict that makes this powerful documentary so important.

For folks with dysfunctional families:

Out director and co-writer Ash Christian’s dark but, at times, sweet comedy Petunia features the various members of the titular-named family clan grappling with romantic and sexual dysfunction. The parents Felicia (Christine Lahti) and Percy (David Rasche) are discussing divorce. Their son Michael (Eddie Kay Thomas) marries Vivian (Thora Birch), who it is soon revealed is pregnant, possibly by Michael’s sex-addicted brother, Adrian (Jimmy Heck). And then there is Charlie (Tobias Segal), the Petunia’s gay son who is practicing abstinence — until he meets George (Michael Urie) and falls in love. The guys’ romance is charming, but it too hits a major snag. Christian’s film may feature unhappy characters, but viewers will become engaged in their heartfelt stories as the eccentric characters struggle to find love and happiness as they deal with sex, family, and over-sharing.

For viewers with short attention spans:

Green Briefs is the latest gay shorts compilation by Rob Williams’ Guest House Films. The focus here is on family. Pride asks if a son can stop hating his father, who threw him out of the house years ago but who now has dementia. Their interesting reunion occurs during a gay pride celebration. Shabat Dinner has two teenagers coming out to each other when their families come together for a meal. Kimchi Fried Dumplings has a gay son returning home with his partner and encountering a sticky situation. Rounding out the collection are two very earnest, and rather amateur, shorts: The Commitment, about an interracial gay couple hoping to adopt a child, and The Symphony of Silence, which addresses bullying and a gay teen tormented by his brother.

For film snobs and/or Fassbinder Aficionados:

Early Fassbinder is a collection of five films, made between 1969 and 1971, by the late, great gay German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The box set includes his first three features–Love Is Colder Than Death, a gangster tale; Katzelmacher, a drama about xenophobia; and Gods of the Plague, about a man released from prison. The other two titles are The American Soldier, about a hit man, and Beware of a Holy Whore, about the making a film that might never get made. For fans of Fassbinder, or those unfamiliar with these works, this handsomely packaged Criterion box set is a must-have.

For the International Mystery set:

Blood on the Docks is a French adaptation of the Faraday detective novels by the British crime novelist Graham Hurley. This two-season, four-part DVD features Jean-Marc Barr as the detective, a weary cop, but one not without integrity. In Angels Passing, he solves the mysterious death of a pregnant 15 year-old girl. In White Lines, Faraday takes on a ring of drug dealers. Season 2 is even better with the series’ best entry, a tricky whodunit entitled One Under, and Blood and Honey, a complex story about immigrants, prostitutes, and a real estate deal. Made for European TV, these compelling police procedurals should satisfy viewers who appreciate Prime Suspect and other cop dramas of that ilk. The stories are intricate and interesting, even in the European TV-movie format.

For teens and the young at heart:

Monster Pies is a sensitive Australian import about two classmates that unexpectedly fall in love. Bullied Mike (Tristan Barr) slowly befriends newcomer Wil (Lucas Linehan) perhaps because he has a crush on the hunk. Bonding over a school project, the guys become close, and when Mike impulsively kisses Wil one night, Wil tells him that he likes it. Thus begins their clandestine romance that ultimately takes a surprising turn. Monster Pies is a bit crudely made, and clumsily acted, but it is a heartfelt drama about coming out and caring for others.

© 2013 Gary M. Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” You can follow him on Twitter @garymkramer.