D: Jennie Livingston (1991) with Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey,
Wigstock: The Movie
D: Barry Shils(1995) with RuPaul, Deee-Lite, Lady Bunny, Lypsinka, Crystal Waters
I admire anyone who can strut in six-inch heels. With a three-foot high wig. In a sequined evening gown. While looking like a fierce confection. Amazing. What is also amazing is the fact that drag has managed to survive this long, despite societal taboos and the relative dearth of large-size pumps. From the depths of deprivation, drag has managed to claw its way to the forefront of America's consciousness, so much so that some even invite a 6'6" queen into their living rooms every night. Paris is Burning, Livingston's documentary that chronicles the 1987 New York City drag circuit, illustrates the form's humble beginning. Peppered with definitions of classic concepts like "shade" or "reading," Paris also chronicles the clash between filthy rich and dirt poor during the tail end of the Reagan years, when voodoo economics were revealed to be nothing more than a couple of straight pins and a lump of clay. Drag, itself, was undergoing a metamorphosis. Old school queens who dressed like Vegas showgirls were slowly being replaced with those trying to blend into the world of high finance or the mythical land of Dynasty. Drag is going from satirical to serious, and Livingston, with her tough questions and no-bullshit profiles, captures it all. Then, of course, Madonna moved in. Voguing, also explained and chronicled by Paris, is suddenly, well, in vogue. Drag is now nice, dragged from the underground into the harsh light of day – only to be sacked and looted for the MTV generation.
"Daylight is not a friend of the drag queen," to quote Wigstock's Lady Bunny. You would never know it, based on the sheer frivolity of Shils' documentary about this annual New York City extravaganza. Drag has gone corporate and, while the additional revenue is not bad, some of the hard edges have been worn smooth and the old fierce attitude has been enveloped in a big, old hug. Wigstock no longer feels like a documentary; it is, essentially, a movie about the concert with brief moments of poignancy tossed in for color. It's hard to tell what was actually staged for Shils' camera and what spontaneously happened. While you do leave feeling all warm and fuzzy about our brothers in spandex, it is a rather soul-less take on a lifestyle that is anything but.
– Adrienne Martini
D: Steven Soderbergh (1997)with Spalding Gray
You know from the start that this is not your typical Spalding Gray video (there are now four in release). First off, as opposed to his typical man-behind-a-desk scenario, Gray's Anatomy begins with 10 minutes of other people's monologues, and the film continually cuts back to them as it progresses. Compared to his stage version, Gray has pared out about half of the original material regarding his wild search to cure a rare eye condition, a quest which led him from a Native American Sweat Ceremony to a Filipino psychic surgeon and beyond. The guts of the story are still there, but with Soderbergh's bizarro direction, you may have a hard time plucking them out. Yet, in spite of Soderbergh and the painful lack of an audience/laugh track, Gray's story is immediately compelling, proving that once again, a talking head can truly entertain an audience. And we are given a welcome relief from the usual Laurie Anderson cacophony with a smooth score by Cliff Martinez. While I've always felt this monologue was a bit disappointing due to its lack of a real ending, Gray's Anatomy makes for required viewing for anyone wrestling with a medical condition and the angst that surrounds it. Gray fanatics and neurotics in general are also encouraged to pick up a copy.– Christopher Null
Sony Playstation Electronic Arts/Blizzard Entertainment
Playstation owners who have completed all the missions from Command and Conquer now have something else to occupy their time. Real-time strategy games are far and few between on game consoles and Warcraft II (along with Red Alert) is among the best in the genre. The objective is simple: Commanding either the orc or human forces, the player fulfills a specific objective, generally annihilating the enemy. At his disposal are a variety of land, air, and sea forces, all of which require resources to produce. Managing the elements of production as well as overseeing military strategy are critical to achieving success in each of the increasingly difficult scenarios. Warcraft II is notable for its balanced play, excellent music, and pronounced sense of humor, and it's the game's unabashed love of fun that gives it the edge over Command and Conquer. The Playstation version of Warcraft II contains all of the original missions from its computer cousin, as well as the scenarios that round out the package. The single greatest criticism that can be leveled against this otherwise excellent game is the control, which relies on a Sony gamepad instead of a mouse. The Pop-up menus used in the Playstation version seem clumsy and time-consuming when compared to the control mechanisms in the computer game. Still, with a little effort, the player can master the control system and achieve adequate results. The scrolling is also somewhat choppy, but the graphics and music are otherwise nearly identical to the computer game. Warcraft II doesn't offer any multiple player possibilities, either, but the Playstation link-up cable was never a very practical prospect to begin with. Still, in all, Playstation owners who don't have access to a computer would do well to check out Warcraft II. It's bloody good fun. – Bud Simons