One could go into an entirely tangential essay with regards to the title of this gay-themed short film collection its audience baiting and simultaneous unfortunate connotations that do a disservice to the films collected herein, but it is in such a situation where Shakespeare’s standby of “What’s in a name?” is most apropos.
Eschewing that angle the seven films herein for the most part handle themes facing gay men in society but also frequently plays with these tropes be they narrative, societal and frequently both. While most of the shorts are American-made, which means the inclination will be to be more comedic in tone there are still very valid points and observations being made through many of them.
And illuminating the diversity within a given “minority” segment of a population is one of the many boons that targeted fiction can have, especially if there is a universality to the story-telling. Whether or not the film, short or feature, crosses over to a more mainstream viewing, is nearly incidental.
These films follow gay men of different walks of life, in different relationship stages and brings up varied truisms regarding society. To be more specific both Bald Guy (Skallaman), with its very quirky treatment of a story of a parents’ shame and Unanimated (Desanimado), the story of a cartoon character in a live-action world; present very humorous allegories which underscore the absurdity of homophobia by transposing the aversion to other attributes which are equally innocuous or irrational to fear.
Both Spooners and Housebroken take humorous looks at rather standard situations. Spooners hilariously plays up societal inclusionary over-eagerness making a mattress purchase for a couple more uncomfortable than it should be. Housebroken seems like its going to the overly-outlandish as commonplace which are the waters that Queer as Folk liked to swim in, but the payoff is a refreshing and hilarious twist.
The best thing this collection of shorts has to offer is variety. It goes from quasi-farcical and vaguely surreal comedic concepts to more down-to-earth serio-comic treatments of concerns both large and small. Alaska in Drag tells a fish-out-of-water story told through the eyes of a newcomer to an Alaskan town meeting a black gay co-worker; which incidentally features one of the best retorts to faith-based homophobia I’ve seen. Sabbatical treats an unusual relationship decision with temporal suavity and devoid of histrionics. Lastly, in a fashion not dissimilar to Housebroken, P.D.A. deals with the very common hot-button in relationships of public handholding and thoroughly examines it before reaching a humorous resolution.
Similar to an anthology film, a shorts collection will have hits-and-misses, or better yet peaks-and-valleys. This collection has closer to the latter and is better than its title would have you believe.