My first trip to Venice was memorable in many ways. But, I will forever remember walking past a Valentino store and just being entranced at what stood in front of me…behind a mere pain of glass. I wanted that dress behind the window. Why? Well, it was simply the most gorgeous material possession I had ever seen. And, after watching the documentary, Valentino: The Last Emperor, I find that I am not alone. There are people the world over that have fallen in love with Valentino’s designs and gift for creating beauty. The man, seen here as a perfectionist and a diva (if that word could be used for any man, it should be used for Valentino), just seems to know what styles, colors, fabric and design will make a woman’s beauty shine. His desire for excellence has paid off for 45 years, during which he has reigned as one of the premier (if not THE premier) woman’s fashion designer in the world. He focuses his designs on ONE thing…evening gowns…and has perfected the elegant, classic and fabulously stylish look. Any woman who possesses any imagination can visualize herself in a Valentino. And, in this movie, you get a little peek at how that international glory has not only been achieved…but been sustained for over four decades. Filmed with less of a history bent and more a “day in the life” spin, the documentary looks at Valentino’s 45th year in fashion…including the anniversary party and fashion show in Rome. His lifestyle, like his work, is the ultimate in style, but would we really expect anything else from someone who creates work that has the ability to transport us to another reality. He can be temperamental, but we expect that. He is demanding, but we understand that (could he really design the dresses he designs and NOT be showy?). He is not always gracious, but we over look that. Why? Because he is Valentino? No…there is more to him than that. As the documentary reveals, he has difficulty expressing his emotions to others, even those who are intimately close with him. We come to realize the reason Valentino is seemingly stingy on giving thanks is because, with his artistic temperament, he has trouble relaying expressions of gratitude. When he does, he gets overcome…he breaks down from all of the appreciation he has for his staff, friends and partner. He is an extravagant man on the outside, but inside, he is a sensitive soul. Anyone who is interested in fashion, interested in design or just plain interested in beauty should see this fascinating documentary.

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A fun film about some haphazard thieves who happen upon a small town in Texas and become attached to it and its residents. The thieves have just escaped from jail and the small-townspeople mistake them, through a series of misunderstandings, for a gay couple. Of course, this town is conveniently having a beauty pageant and, of course, who wouldn’t be better than the new gay couple to host the pageant. It is a completely entertaining, enjoyable film that will definitely put a smile on your face. Steve Zahn is used to playing quirky, unusual characters, but seeing Brit Jeremy Northam, who is used to playing proper, buttoned-up historical characters, as a wild “gay” crook is worth the popcorn right there!

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Once you start watching, chances are you won’t be able to stop! I mean, this show is truly addictive. Basically, it revolves around four gay friends in Pittsburgh… “friends” being the key word since, aside from the occasional experiment, they remain platonic. I would say the main character of the three is Brian Kinney, the self-obsessed ad exec who comes across as narcissistic but really will go to any lengths to help his friends. Aside from Brian, there is Michael—the most middle-of-the-road, Emmett—the most flamboyant, Ted—the most uptight, and Justin—the most innocent. They all go in and out of relationships together, talk about one-night-stands together, go through life crises together, drink together, workout together, etc. Also mixed in are Debbie, Michael’s wild and outspoken mother, and Mel and Linz, two lesbians who have a child fathered by Brian (and another one later on fathered by Michael). Debbie adds quite a lot of spice to the show, with her opinions on everything. But, the show is definitely spicy on its own with its graphic content. Leave it to cable (Showtime) to come up with something this controversial and ultra-contemporary.

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Blake Edwards’ directs this comedy about a destitute singer (Julie Andrews) who meets up with a gay, out of work nightclub performer, Toddy. He comes up with a plan for them both to be successful involving her changing her image from a woman to a man to a woman. Complications set in when she falls in love with a mobster (James Garner) who is homophobic and convinced she is a woman. Alex Karris steals all of the scenes he is in as Garner’s bodyguard who is coming to terms with his own sexuality in the midst of this whole mess. Definitely the best film from the husband and wife team of Edwards/Andrews.

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This is one funny film. It is not exactly politically correct and it is also not a perfect film (I just don’t like the son’s character) but all-in-all, it will make you laugh (most likely). A remake of La Cage Aux Folles, here director Mike Nichols weaves a comic web of intrigue, bawdiness, love, sex and scandal…all set in South Beach, Miami…one of the playgrounds of the world. Even though there is a great cast here including Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest, Robin Williams and Nathan Lane steal the show as gay lovers who own, manage (Williams) and perform in (Lane) a South Beach nightclub. Enter Hackman and Wiest as ultra-conservative parents of young lady who wants to marry Williams’ son. The fact that Hackman is a Republican senator involved in a sex scandal is not helping him feel more charitable. What happens? Well, you just have to watch and find out. But, I warn you, get your funny bone tuned!

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When you watch a film that, within the first ten minutes, makes you laugh so hard you can’t catch your breath, it’s a sign that it’s going to be a pleasant cinematic experience. This film, though, knows it’s funny…knows it’s WAY over-the-top…and knows that the audience is either going to love it or be offended by its touchy subject. This “touchy” subject matter deals with three homosexual men…one transsexual and two transvestites. They, for lack of a better term, are drag queens. They get a job to perform several hundred miles from home and accept it…finding a broken-down bus to get them there. As I said, this movie KNOWS it’s dealing with campy material and truly makes the most of it. These drag queens are flamboyant…outspoken…raunchy…not politically-correct by any means (can a drag queen be politically correct?). And the plot and the dialogue cater to this flamboyance. I would almost call this film a musical because of all of the production numbers…some “gay” films try to steer away from the stereotypical ideal that all gay men love dancing and performing, but this film not only doesn’t steer clear from musical numbers, it gives new meaning to the term “outlandish.” Yes, the subject matter is touchy so I guess I should “advise” some to stay away, but I think that it is a film that, no matter what your personal, political, or religious views are, you will still be able to find the humor in it. At least I hope so. My suggestion is that if you don’t like to laugh, just stay clear of this one.

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A powerful film that, being a child of the mid-70s, taught me what I missed about the gay rights movement. Set in San Francisco, Milk depicts the rise of Harvey Milk, a gay local store owner in a predominately gay area of San Francisco. When laws begin to get in the way of their freedom, Harvey and his large circle of friends protest and Harvey goes as far as wanting to run for public office. It takes some times, but he does succeed. Milk features a slew of excellent performances, mostly notably by Sean Penn, who shines here like he never did before, in my opinion. No matter what your politics, see this one for the cast and the wonderful work everyone does here.

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