REVIEW: Do I Sound Gay?

5 12 2015

Do I Sound GayDavid Thorpe is not a professional (or at least an established) documentarian, so his debut feature “Do I Sound Gay?” has a few more rough edges than most films put out by a distributor like IFC. But given his background as a journalist, he gets to more answers than most.

In just 77 minutes, Thorpe’s film begins with a personal exploration of insecurities surrounding the sound of his own voice and opens a treasure trove of other issues. He starts from the beginning with how vocal cadences and intonations become an early target for bullying, forcing many children into a painful closet. While at this life stage, he also questions why so many speech therapy patients turn out to be gay (oh, societally constructed norms, at it again).

He then moves beyond just the what and moves into the why. Where does this voice – traditionally nasal, high-pitched with elongated vowels – come from? Why has it become such a key identifier for homosexuals? Why do so many, including those within the gay community, find it so repellant? How does it perpetuate stereotypes? Many answers are surprising, uncovering pockets of homophobia and even misogyny that deserve address and redress.

Thorpe does slightly fumble the ending, trying to make the jump from talking about the voice of a person to LGBT Americans finding their voice in culture. Sure, it’s a bit corny – though it hardly detracts from the fascinating points, both practical and philosophical, that Thorpe raises throughout “Do I Sound Gay?” B+3stars

F.I.L.M. of the Week (July 16, 2015)

16 07 2015

COGHad I not known “C.O.G.” was based on a David Sedaris story prior to viewing the film, my reaction would probably have been less enthused.  I would have chided it for being slight and meandering, simply jumping around a bunch of mini-stories without ever settling.

But because I knew, Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s “C.O.G.” made for a most enjoyable watch – enough so that it has earned my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  Humorist and essayist Sedaris (perhaps the single biggest non-film critic influence on my writing) has gifted the world with quite the treasure trove of stories to adapt for the screen, and this film marks the first out of the gate with his source material.  Alvarez, and actor Jonathan Groff as Sedaris surrogate Samuel, set the bar high for anything to follow.

Perhaps the highest praise I can lavish on “C.O.G.” is that it perfectly replicates the joy of reading Sedaris on the page.  (Yes, I said page because I’m old-fashioned and prefer the feel of paper running through my fingers.)  The sardonic wit and dry observational comedy flows effortlessly from the film’s two key architects as Samuel, fresh out of Yale, ships out to rural Oregon in order to encounter some real, salt of the earth humans.

He gets just that in his encounters with pickers at an apple orchard, factory workers, and some rather pious churchgoers.  Groff plays Samuel as a good-hearted person who cannot help but look down on the folks with whom he half-heartedly tries to integrate.  No matter the scenario, be it an unwanted advance by his affable colleague Curly (Corey Stoll) or an instructive message from devout Martha (Casey Wilson), we can see the wheels turning in his head that will eventually convert life into prose.

In some sense, the payoff is knowing that everything leads to what we see on the screen in “C.O.G.”  And given how well Alvarez keeps the observations and clever comedy in tact, it feels worth the time.

Random Factoid #487

27 11 2010

Yesterday, I finished David Sedaris’ “When You Are Engulfed in Flames,” well over a year after I first picked it up.  For some strange reason, last week I just had this insatiable mental impetus to devour a book.  I found Sedaris’ collection of hilarious essays nestled in my bookcase and decided to start over and bask in his humor once again.

The whole movie blogging gig really does keep me away from books.  As I wrote back in Random Factoid #352

I really do love to read, and I used to use my free time to do a whole lot more of it.  It’s such a therapeutic thing for me to do, and it’s great for building vocabulary as well.  I have a huge bookshelf in my room filled with shelves of books I haven’t read.  I really do intend to get to them some day, but it’s hard to find the time.

And reading is another thing that gets pushed to the side doing movie blogging (like TV, which I described in Random Factoid #259).  It’s so hard to resist the temptation to get the full satisfaction of watching a plot arc develop in around two hours in a movie, while it takes days and days to read through a book.  Reading a book has less immediate gratification, something I’m constantly told my generation has a problem with.

I feel compelled after reading a whole book of Sedaris that without him, the Random Factoid feature and the abundant humor (at least I hope) within might not be present at all.  I’ve certainly learned a lot about how to have a present and booming voice through his writing, and I certainly try to emulate through the Random Factoids the laughs I get from reading him.  These posts usually receive the most comments and feedback of anything I do on this site; I think it’s because I try to make this blog a very personal thing, and the Random Factoids are the least formal, most Marshall things I write.

So, what should you get from this post? 1) Thank David Sedaris, 2) Read David Sedaris, and 3) Keep reading me!

(For those curious, my reading craze is still going on.  I’m currently devouring George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and will then move on to either Jeffrey Eugenides’ “The Virgin Suicides” or Steig Larsson’s “The Girl Who Played With Fire.”)

Random Factoid #484

24 11 2010

I’ll go there again – another moviegoing pet peeve that I think I may have just realized bothers me.

PDA.  No, not the ancient name for Palm Pilots and BlackBerrys, I’m talking about Public Display of Affection.  Or, as I’ve heard it alternatively dubbed, public demanding of attention.

That second definition is exactly what it means to me when done in a movie theater.  When seeing “Harry Potter” for the second time, I had to squeeze in next to a couple very much in love in order to get four seats together for my entire family.  At the beginning of the trailers, his hand was on her kneecap.  Throughout the movie, I would hear a little giggle, and the hand would move up just a little bit.  By about halfway through the movie, that same hand was about halfway up her knee.

At that point, I was feeling fairly awkward that they were having a nice little moment and here I was trying to watch a movie.  I’d tell them to get a room, but why do that when we both paid $10.25 to sit in the same room?  I don’t think a movie, particularly “Harry Potter” in its first week, should send a message that it’s an appropriate place for some intimacy.  It should send the message saying, “I love you but I want to see what happens to Harry Potter for a few hours, so I’m going to disengage for 2 1/2 hours aside from a few trite comments every once in a while.”

All things considered, compared to crying babies and inappropriate laughter, PDA in a movie theater isn’t that bad.  But it’s still a nuisance.  Can’t everyone just be on their best behavior for two hours so I can enjoy a movie?

P.S. – I’ve had the idea after reading an excessive amount of David Sedaris that maybe I should turn all these nasty moviegoing experiences into some great book of humorous anecdotal essays.  Thoughts?