With an appropriate explosion of humour and colour, this documentary traces the life of a fiercely individualistic actor, digging beneath the surface to explore both his origins and his legacy. And frankly, it's about time someone documented the iconic cross-dressing performer Divine, who died at age 42 in 1988, just as his career was leaping into the mainstream. The fact is that this man completely changed music, theatre and cinema.
Born in Baltimore, Glenn Milstead played dress-up as a child and was routinely beaten up in school. He could never pass as a normal kid, so he never tried. Fortunately, at 17 he met John Waters and found a group of people who were outcasts like him. Waters renamed him Divine for his film Roman Candles, and the name stuck. Divine spent time in San Francisco developing the character while performing with the legendary Cockettes, then took the New York stage by storm and launched an international recording career., He also continued to rise in the ranks of cinema actors with performances in Waters' classics Pink Flamingoes, Female Trouble, Polyester and the award-winning Hairspray, which crossed-over into mainstream success and led to a non-drag role as Uncle Otto in the hit TV sitcom Married... With Children. He died of heart failure in his sleep the night before taping his first episode.
Filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz (whose previous film Vito documented the life of gay-rights activist Vito Russo) gives the movie a lively pace, as a wide range of colourful people talk about their experiences with Divine through the years, including his mother Frances Milstead who reunited with her son later in life. There's also extensive footage of Divine talking about himself in interviews he gave around the world throughout his career. Combined with extensive clips, backstage video and personal photographs, the film is a remarkably complex portrait of a talented artist who was excessive in everything: food, drugs and love. But he was also fiercely disciplined when it came to his work.
Continue reading: I Am Divine Review
Pecker (Edward Furlong) is a happy-go-lucky teen who loves to carry his camera around town taking quick snapshots of the types of characters who have been populating Waters's films since the '70s. He even lives with some of them: his thrift-shop owning parents (Mary Kay Place and Mark Joy); his foul-mouthed sister Tina (Martha Plimpton), who works as a sassy bartender at the local gay bar; his eight-year-old sister, the hopelessly sugar-addicted Little Chrissy (Lauren Hulsey); and his totally wacky grandmother Memama (Jean Schertler), who cooks and sells pit beef sandwiches on the front lawn when she isn't distracted by her statue of the Virgin Mary, which speaks to her saying, "Full of grace! Full of grace!" Memama doesn't realize that she's actually the one saying it.
Continue reading: Pecker Review
After its elegant opening credits -- in which a real rat is served cooked on fine china and picked-at by an unseen diner while the actors' names are displayed -- the movie degenerates (yes, even further!) into the gross-out nether reaches of cinema. We are introduced to the insane, rich housewife Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole), who, with the aid of her enormous maid Grizelda (Jean Hill), kills Peggy's hapless husband. The two go on the run, ending up in a bizarre "town" called Mortville, ruled over by a fat "queen" named Carlotta (Waters regular Edith Massey) and populated with the largely naked, mostly lesbian women and men dressed in leather pants.
Continue reading: Desperate Living Review
"But I'm a Cheerleader" is pure camp, from its often hammy acting to its candy-colored ambience to its plot about an in-crowd high schooler whose panicked suburban parents pack her away to retreat where sexually tilted teenagers are supposed to be "cured" of homosexual tendencies.
A social satire with a John Waters-inspired bent, the picture casts caustic Natasha Lyonne ("Slums of Beverly Hills") deliberately against type as a peppy-under-peer-pressure cheerleader who eats tofu, listens to Melissa Ethridge and is so indifferent to the drooling advances of her hunky super-jock boyfriend that her friends and Bible-beater family hold an intervention and confront her with the fact that they all think she must be a lesbian.
In spite of cheer-like protests, Lyonne is sent to a group home called True Directions, where effeminate boys in baby blue shirts and ties, and butch girls in crisp, pink Donna Reed attire are inundated with antiquated ideals about sex roles and encouraged to dry-hump inmates of the opposite sex by a staff of heavily in denial "reformed" gays.
Continue reading: But I'm A Cheerleader Review
Tracey Ullman is so perfectly attuned to John Waters' brand of lasciviously trashy comedy, it's a wonder that she hasn't worked before for the shamelessly silly provocateur.
In the uproarious "A Dirty Shame," the writer-director lets the caustic comedienne cut loose as Sylvia Stickles, a frigid, uptight working-class suburbanite who becomes an insatiable sex maniac after getting bonked on the noggin in a car accident.
After shocking her hitherto frustrated husband (played by singer Chris Isaak) with tongue-wiggling come-ons and liberating her trampy, triple-Z-cup stripper daughter (played with bimbonic irony by real-life A-cup Selma Blair) from the bedroom where she'd been padlocked away "for her own good," Sylvia joins other concussion-born libertines as a disciple of a self-proclaimed sexual evangelist (amusingly uncouth Johnny Knoxville). All of this helps set the stage for an absurdist battle against a band of spitefully self-righteous local prudes for the soul of their Baltimore neighborhood.
Continue reading: A Dirty Shame Review
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