"Call it the ecstasy and the agony," begins Andrew Schenker in the L Magazine. "In honor of gay pride month, a pair of queer-themed docs hits New York theaters. Taken together, they serve as both a testament to how far gay rights have come and a sobering reminder of the provisional nature of those rights."
"Officially acknowledged as the first volley in the Gay Rights Movement, the Stonewall riots have taken on a kind of mythical stature," writes Keith Uhlich, reviewing Stonewall Uprising in Time Out New York. "As one of the introductory titles in this rousing though lightweight doc reminds us, few images were taken at or around the ratty Greenwich Village pub during those three days, when relentlessly persecuted gays finally fought back against law-enforcement oppressors. Coupled with the typically biased back-page reportage by the big newspapers ('Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad,' said the Daily News), the riots became an easy catalyst for queers and their supporters to harness the momentum of the event, springboarding out of the proverbial closet."
"Homo history is bifurcated pre– and post–June '69, evident in the titles of the documentaries Before Stonewall (1984) and After Stonewall (1999)." Melissa Anderson in the Voice: "Though questionably structured, the value of Kate Davis and David Heilbroner's doc Stonewall Uprising — based on David Carter's 2004 book, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution — is that it focuses on the during, assembling minute-by-minute recapitulations of those who were there, fleshing out a historical moment that remains surprisingly underdocumented."
More from Pamela Cohn (Hammer to Nail), Eric Henderson (Slant), Stephen Holden (New York Times) and James van Maanen. At Film Forum through June 29.
Update, 6/19: The AV Club's Scott Tobias notes that the directors "score a coup in getting testimony from the police officer who led the raid, a now-elderly gentleman who freely confesses the fear that rippled through his unit, and his regrets in having been on the wrong side of history."
"Over the past two decades, the activism-fueled anger that motivated the early 90s New Queer Cinema has seeped out of LGBT-themed film," writes Steve Erickson in Gay City News. "8: The Mormon Proposition brings it back to the table. Subtle as a sledgehammer, the film appears to have been made in a state of rage against Mormon homophobia."
"Diving into the grim irony of one group of Americans denying another group its rights under the guise of upholding American freedoms and ideals, director Reed Cowan locks on his goals of illustrating how the Mormon church played California politics like a fiddle, and how the church's homophobia has ruined the lives of its queer faithful," writes Ernest Hardy in the Voice, adding that the film's "flaws pale against what's illustrated, which is not just how Prop 8 passed, but the sordid, cynical workings of our political machine."
More from Michelle Orange (Movieline) and Keith Uhlich (TONY). Opens Friday, but as of this writing, closing arguments are being heard in the trial to overturn Prop 8 in the US District Court in San Francisco. For coverage, turn to Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News.
Updates, 6/19: "If hatred hasn't yet supplanted money as the mother's milk of American politics," writes Bill Weber in Slant, "together they're usually an unstoppable formula, as seen by the Mormon tactics of having bishops personally call on families to tithe a donation to the Prop 8 fund (under a scarcely veiled threat of expulsion), setting up a front group of right-wing activists to mask the hierarchy's involvement, and producing TV spots exploiting the presumed ruination of children in a society where some parents aren't straight. But the interest of what Lenny Bruce called 'Religion, Inc' in reactionary advocacy politics is hardly new, and even if the LDS campaign in California was the most lavish crusade yet (one anti-Prop 8 partisan compares it to 'Obama money' with no seeming irony), the vehemence of 8: The Mormon Proposition is obviously connected to the doc's principal creators' background in the church."
More from Chris Barsanti (Filmcritic.com) and Stephen Holden (NYT).
IN OTHER NEWS
Shocking news from Italy. "Peter Brunette, a film reviewer for the Hollywood Reporter and professor at Wake Forest University, died Wednesday morning at the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily. Brunette died of a heart attack suffered at the festival while on assignment for THR." Anyone who's followed Daily roundups over the years, particularly the ones gathering first-wave reviews from various festivals, will recognize the byline.
IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez: "Peter Brunette has written many books, including numerous examinations of individual filmmakers, including Roberto Rossellini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Wong Kar-wai. His latest, Michael Haneke, is the first full-length look at the Austrian filmmaker. Brunette also served as the editor for the filmmaker interview series of books at the University Press of Mississippi. He has also served as a commentator on numerous DVDs.... Brunette was working on a book about Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti."
"Sometimes I really don't understand the venerated phrase 'the long goodbye,'" writes Glenn Kenny. "A lot of Peter's friends had no chance to say any kind of goodbye, directly to him, at all. I am, of course, not going to get a chance to sit down to a dinner with him and wish him well on his journey after expressing my irritation that I won't be able to take pleasure in his always engaging, erudite, and warm conversation ever again. This is the kind of sudden, unfair passing that can make even an atheist angry with God, and at the same time drive him or her to prayer; the prayer being, of course, that Peter's spirit, so vital and so essential when he was among us, be at peace now. So long, brother."
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