TLA Releasing // 2003 // 88 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // October 21st, 2004
"Two Snaps and a circle!" -- Men on Film
Men's Mix One is a collection of award-winning gay short films, including Gaydar, Touched, and Burl's. It is a challenging title to review because it is made up of seven films that all have their pros and cons. It's a mixed bag, and maybe that's where TLA Releasing got the idea to call it a "mix." I'm sure they were referencing a mix tape, and not trying to pass judgment on the quality of the overall product, but it's ironically apt. One of the great challenges of gay cinema is to transcend itself, and become good for the sake of art rather than just being appreciated because it appeals to the gay community. Roger Ebert often says if you could take the leads in any given gay film and make them heterosexual, and the film would still work, then they are on the right track. Unfortunately, that will never be the case, because there are extraordinarily unique experiences that will never translate to a heterosexual lifestyle.
I say the best gay films show these unique experiences, and then temper them with universal emotion to appeal to everyone. There are films that should be aimed squarely at a gay audience, with no consideration given to whether it will be seen outside of that world. Gay shorts are prolific because...well...because they're cheap to make; and because there are so many gay film festivals and gay "video" bars, they are shown and seen with more regularity than most other shorts. They are almost always meant to be seen only by their target audience. Also, they can often tackle subjects a full length feature just can't -- topics like masturbation, or a barbershop in the Castro. These are gay films for gay men (there's very little here to interest a straight person or lesbian unless they find gay men a hoot). The short film is a way to preserve history for the community, and is also entertaining. And if it's not great, the very fact that it's brief helps you to sit through it. The best thing I can tell you about the collection here is they are all easy to sit through, and one is downright hilarious.
The films individually are:
A comic coming-of-age story about a little boy who has an epiphany when he meets a group of drag queens outside of a diner. It's sweet and uncomplicated, and includes both the pain of being caught in your mom's clothes, and having your dad try to "butch" you up with sports. Predictable, but most gay men will identify with it to some degree. Mark Hamill (Star Wars Trilogy) narrates.
(9 minutes, and a score of 85 for story)
Easily the lightning rod of the entire DVD. This short is about a middle-aged gay man who goes to a bar, meets a very attractive hot young guy, and takes him home. He's not all he appears to be. There are several plot twists that make this film alternatively a fantasy and a nightmare. It's the kind of thing I hate because of the implication that middle-aged men are somehow not attractive, and that straight men are somehow malleable in their sexuality. Okay, get over it! Brad Pitt is forty and married, move on...let's get over the stereotypes. This installment also enters Dr. Phil territory -- and that's another strike against it. Criminals and junkies do not have their problems solved by a hug. Blecch! This one is rancid and insipid. Easily the worst thing on the disc.
(25 minutes and a score of 25 for the story -- good acting and lousy script!)
* 10 Pesos
A techno-scored film showing the trail a currency bill takes as it keeps changing hands. Funny and fast for the most part, but hardly has anything to say. Will make you want to wash your hands after handling money, though. Did you know cashiers often test positive for cocaine when they are drug tested, simply because traces of the drug are found on so many bills?
(6 minutes and a score of 70 for the story)
* Safe Journey
A hustler breaks into a blind man's home, and they end up helping each other out. It's a bit of a stretch to buy the whole thing as plausible, but the appearance of Dennis Dun (Big Trouble in Little China, known as the "Asian guy" in many Carpenter flicks) makes up for any shortcomings. It's nice to see him again.
(15 minutes and a score of 85 for the story)
* Shaving the Castro
A black-and-white documentary about a barbershop that has been in San Francisco's Castro District since before it was a gay community. A nice view of how an Italian immigrant's business has blended into the colorful tapestry of the gayest part of the country.
(4 minutes and a score of 80 for the story)
Easily the stand-out of the entire disc! Very funny story about a guy who finds a ray gun (at a yard sale) that tells him who is straight and who is gay. The always hilarious Jm J. Bullock (Too Close for Comfort) and Charles Nelson Reilly show up for support, and a hissing cat almost steals the entire film. This flick could easily be shown to a wider audience and have everyone rolling in the aisles. Great stuff. I highly recommend it as the reason to rent or watch this collection.
(20 minutes and a score of 95 for the story)
* Masturbation: Putting the Fun in Self-Loving
A spoof of those educational health films everyone was subjected to in grade school. Very funny, and offers some unique ways to love your lever. Easily the most racy addition to the collection (the only entry with even partial nudity, though never truly pornographic). Oddly enough, this is the one that has won the most awards. Straight guys would appreciate the tips as well, I'm sure.
(8 minutes and a score of 89 for the story)
Overall the transfers are nice and clean, and the sound is up to the task. No extras are included, other than some assorted trailers for other movies from the distributor. The films themselves vary between widescreen and full frame. My advice is this: if you like shorts, then this is a very strong collection that reminds me a lot of the Boy's Life series.
Review content copyright © 2004 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Gay Film Festivals Listing