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Another Gay Movie

At long last, the gay community gets its very own coming-of-age sex comedy in the American Pie (a la) mode. Whether or not this intrinsically strikes you as some sort of victory, Another Gay Movie unfortunately incorporates all the worst attributes of the Jason Biggs/Shannon Elizabeth oeuvre, including gross-out secretions, "outrageous" situations masquerading as actual jokes and a smarmy pro-love message that coexists cynically with countless voyeuristic indulgences. (Shower-room stiffies and vigorous rump-riding montages take the place of boobie worship.)

It's summertime at San Torum High School — where absolutely everybody seems to be GLBT — and a quartet of queer pals have resolved to lose their anal virginity by Labor Day. The ensuing tiresome odyssey of near-pokings is enlivened by a precious few spurts of actual wit, including a novel twist on the cliché of the unsuspecting girlfriend who can't see that her boyfriend is a raging queen: This one is literally blind, cane and all. And Mitch Morris gives a gentle, incongruously tasteful performance as a bespectacled nice guy trying to hide his crush on his best friend. Otherwise, it's all shrill, intermittently nauseating assplay, rendered in day-glo colors that raise unfortunate memories of the unfortunate But I'm a Cheerleader. Hidden winner: actress Mink Stole, whose role as one "Sloppi Seconds" was cut in the editing room, and who is thus absolved of any guilt beyond a "special thanks" credit.

(11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 19)

— Steve Schneider

Camp Out

In the promo art for Camp Out, a group of teens with their arms around each other face a rudimentary cross that stretches into a sky of sunset-lighted clouds. The tag line: "Can you be gay and Christian at the same time?"

Oh Lord, I thought, save me from yet another teen horror film. These days, too many channels are filled with ungodly teen displays, few of which truly capture the adolescent condition. And on the gay front, I'm played out when it comes to films rife with sexualized stereotypes. (No more "in-the-ass" jokes, please.)

But, like all miracles, Camp Out struck me out of the blue with its innocence. Filmmakers Kirk Marcolina and Larry Grimaldi let their documentary — about a group of gay teens learning about themselves at a Christian summer camp — unfold naturally and sweetly.

Even from their clothing, we recognize the types: the rich, the poor, the persecuted, the spoiled, the studious, the playful, the rebellious and the misfits. They're all at this first-time camp in rural Minnesota with the blessings of their families and the seeming curse of being gay and Christian — two realities that seem not to coexist in society.

The footage moves painstakingly, as a gay pastor leads the youngsters through well-known self-healing exercises — expressing resentments, letting go of anger, going deep into issues of acceptance. We get to know the individuals quite well, so we can see the progression that's obvious in their words and on their faces. The joyous message? We can't change the world, but we can change our sense of how we fit into it.

The film is preceded by the short Available Men, a cute mistaken-identity romantic comedy built on strong characters and clever dialogue — like the good old-fashioned kind that included girls in the equation. You don't really miss 'em here, because, you know, people are people.

(1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19)

— Lindy T. Shepherd

50 Ways of Saying Fabulous

"The air's too thin on this planet, Lana. It's time to go home." Such is the cosmic double life of 12-year-old Billy (Andrew Paterson), a pudgy and plain mound of sexual awkwardness residing in the punishing dust of 1979 New Zealand. Convinced, at least partially, that he is Lana — a ponytailed, space-hopping TV femme fatale who wouldn't be Lost in Space — Billy joins tomboy gal-pal Lou in trying to stretch their shared sci-fi escapism over the gap of gender-concerned puberty. Lou loves rugby. Billy hates it. A series of sexual discoveries, bullying matches and indiscretions with strangers ensues, with often-indelicate results.

But the real story of 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous (the title is one character's father's euphemistic indictment of "poofters") is its childlike, openly insecure perspective. Stewart Main's adaptation of Graeme Aitken's novel of the same name bumps along wide-eyed, like a queer Stand By Me from down under, blue-ing up its spacey nighttimes and redding out its heated days with lush cinematography. Everything that happens within both time frames proves difficult: "It's OK as long as it's in the dark," Roy, the quirky new guy from out of town, assures Billy, just before a hand job in the shed. "Will it help me lose weight?" is all Billy can mutter in response. The closest thing to a realized adult in the script is Jamie, a hunky hired hand on Billy's father's land, whose crushworthiness temporarily sidelines Billy from his natural, if painful, development. A bumbling crescendo shakes everything back into a new center, though, as the principals seemingly travel light years to move forward just an inch.

(11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 20)

— Billy Manes

— Billy Manes

Loving Annabelle

A Catholic-school lesbian romance based on classic German cinema doesn't exactly sound like an explosion of unbridled good feeling. But neither is Loving Annabelle the cornucopia of cold-eyed titillation it occasionally threatens to become.

Tracing its inspiration all the way back to 1931's Mädchen in Uniform, the movie sets up sparks between a hot young poetry teacher (Diane Gaidry) and a new student (Erin Kelly) who arrives in her care bearing a liberated (and potentially liberating) attitude. Not yet out of her teens, U.S. senator's daughter Annabelle has already experienced one same-sex relationship and doesn't particularly care who knows it. Teacher Simone, however, is outwardly straight, accompanying her boyfriend on one unfulfilling date after another and then retreating to her quarters to pine over photos of a mysterious young woman in her past.

The few members of the supporting cast who don't understand the exact parameters of the dynamic that's unfolding here are beset by deluded self-interest, not (refreshingly) out-and-out stupidity. Nor is Catholicism presented as an unavoidable stumbling block to worldly understanding, thanks to the sympathetic portrayal of a priest turned in by veteran character actor Kevin McCarthy (star of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

With the telegraphed pairing-off of the lead characters delayed until very near the end of the 77-minute movie, you fear that writer/director Katharine Brooks (who will attend the festival screening) is building some absurd case that love conquers all. Actually, she's arguing the opposite, carefully erecting a precarious tower of hope, anxiety and infatuation to see what happens when reality arrives to push it over. The ultimate lesson is the opposite of an empowerment bromide: Just because you're gay doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

(1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 20) — SS

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