Judge Brett Cullum is looking for someone a little heavier and hairier than Robin Williams.
Screw Goldilocks—these bears are doing it for themselves.
It's no surprise some gay guys want bigger, stockier, hairier men to drool over. The Bear Movement is well known, and has been documented by quite a few films over the years. My favorites have included Bear Cub, Bear City, and a subplot in A Dirty Shame. Bears have become pretty fashionable, and it doesn't seem quite the subculture of the gay community that it once was. The Internet defined them, and now they travel in packs in every major city. Bear Nation is a documentary from Malcolm Ingram who has staked his claim to fame as being a friend to filmmaker Kevin Smith (Clerks). This is Ingram's second documentary produced by Smith, following Small Town Gay Bar. His first film was moving and very well done, so I had high hopes for Bear Nation.
The film works when normal guys are allowed to talk about the whole bear phenomenon. Bear lovers will find these testimonies gratifying, because it's men talking plainly and simply about their love of the hairier sex. I wonder though if the only audience this feature will find are the appreciative, and why these people will need the explanations and affirmations. Could this reach a broader audience? This feels like a niche title that will find the people it's based on already understanding the subject. It serves as a celebration of the movement to objectify big and hairy, and that makes it fun.
Where I found Bear Nation tedious was when the celebrities showed up. Bob Mould of Husker Du and Sugar fame is a nice addition, because he is a rock singer who is openly out and a bear. I have no problem with him, and could listen to him talk all day. But why the hell is 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan in here?! Didn't he make a hideous mistake in his standup act by proclaiming he would kill his son if he were gay? I don't see any splinter of relevance by having him show up. Kevin Smith's interview is much better and he's very funny. But again, here is a straight guy who made a film about his crush on a lesbian with Chasing Amy. What stake does he have in this documentary? If he hadn't financed it for a friend I doubt he would be asked to be interviewed. It has no relevance, and feels like grandstanding just for the sake of inserting Kevin Smith.
Kino International's DVD release sports a crisp standard definition 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer with accurate colors. The documentary features many different shooting conditions, but for the most part it looks fine on your television. Sound is limited to a simple Dolby 2.0 Stereo (English) mix without any subtitles. Extras include extended segments with Tracy Morgan, Kevin Smith, and Bob Mould. Basically they took the most grating parts of the film, expanded them, and called it a bonus. The feature is the thing here anyway.
Bear Nation will entertain bears and their admirers. It could have trimmed up some of its run time to make it work better, and I would prefer the forty minute Logo television version. But here the full length feature is complete with Kevin Smith and Tracy Morgan chiming in along with the gay guys. It's worth a look if you like hairy men or want to understand the gay guys who do.
Guilty of trying to make Kevin Smith a reluctant gay sex symbol.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Kino Lorber
• Extended Interviews
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