August 22, 2014

The MPPA Gives Another "Instant R" To A Film With Gay Leads

Today my friend and colleague Ira Sach's film LOVE IS STRANGE opens in New York and LA. This festival favorite, which has received some amazing reviews (and awards buzz too!), is about a mature gay couple played by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. Yet, once again, the MPAA slapped an "instant R" on the film due to the fact that the lead characters are gay. Earlier this year, it happened with another friend of mine's movie G.B.F., which had no explicit sex or nudity but also centered its story on a character who happened to be gay.  

Predictably, there has been yet another outcry over this persistent problem, both on Slate and other entertainment sites. There's also a great essay on where the critic Stephen Whitty sizes Ira's film up against other offerings this weekend that are also rated R, like Frank Miller's SIN CITY sequel and JERSEY SHORE MASSACRE(!). Both feature a lot of nudity and explicit gun violence and somehow they have the exact same rating as a story about a gay couple and their families?! The MPAA is truly getting absurd with this sort of classification that equates the simple fact of homosexuality as shocking as the violent and sexually exploitative material of these two unabashed B-movies. 

With gay marriage becoming more common and now legal in a third of the United States, I think it's safe to say that the general public would not find this sort of story that shocking. Even more ironic is the fact that those under 17, who recent polls and studies show have a greater understanding and acceptance when it comes to LGBT issues, are actually banned from seeing the film due to it's restrictive rating. So the question is when will the ratings board stop this sort of institutional inequality when it comes to films with gay content and characters? Hopefully soon as they seem more and more out of touch with the reality of American audiences today.

August 21, 2014

A Land Of Lost Movies In Midtown Manhattan

There was a surprising and somewhat disturbing story in the TIMES arts section today about DuArt film labs collection of "lost movies". The lab, once a mainstay in the NY indie film world, worked with many filmmakers back in the days when one actually made films--on celluloid, with sprockets, chemical baths, and all that 20th century photochemical jazz.

However, after they stopped processing film a few years ao, they realized they still had something of a film problem in that there were thousands of unclaimed negatives in their possession that filmmakers or the companies that made these indie films in the 70s, 80s, 90s left behind.The good news is that the lab's founders have hung onto these materials because they just can't bear to throw them away knowing they are someone's artistic work. The bad news is many filmmakers don't even know that they have film in their storage facility.

So to try and get these films to their proper owners or to a proper place for archiving (like the Library of Congress of the Academy in LA), they have started working with IndieCollect, a archiving clearinghouse started by a former producer who is trying to get these films out of limbo. I encourage other filmmakers to seek out DuArt's collection as I went through this process myself last year, tracking down my first feature I THINK I DO to a Technicolor vault out in the Valley and getting it to the UCLA Film/TV Archive in Los Angeles, via Outfest's Legacy project. The negative for my short POOL DAYS was a bit easier to track down--it was under my bed! But still it got sent off to L.A. as well where it was properly archived.

August 7, 2014


One of the best documentaries I've seen in a while is opening Friday. It's called THE DOG and it's about the real life guy who robbed a Brooklyn bank on a sweltering summer day nearly 40 years ago, the story of which became the basis for Sidney Lumet's classic DOG DAY AFTERNOON. John Wojtowicz was the man behind the crime that gripped the city that August and ended up having a hold on him for the rest of his life too. What's just as fascinating about John's story is his life leading up to that moment, particularly how he was involved in some of the protests of the nascent gay rights movement, including a wedding action at City Hall caught on video in the early '70s.

The film was directed by two good friends of mine, Frank Keraudren (here on the left) and Allison Berg. I've known them both for quite a while, Frank since we were students at NYU film school!  Frank also he worked with me as the editor of my first feature I THINK I DO.

As they developed this film painstakingly over the course of 10 years, I've been privileged to see it grow and change as they followed "The Dog" (how John refers to himself) around New York,  dealt with his crazy voice mails (some featured in the film), and went through various edits of the film. The final version which I saw before it headed off to the Toronto Film Festival was really moving in its depiction of this unique man's life. Whether you know DOG DAY or not, I can't recommend this film enough as it really captures the life of a true New York character.

THE DOG opens here at the IFC and Lincoln Center tomorrow August 8. And other theaters around the country this fall. Check it out!