New Yorkers were mostly spared any real harm from Hurricane Irene, but it did provide a great opportunity for this TV-phobic Chelsea resident to catch up on some home entertainment viewing. (I can sit on the computer for 10 hours, but "make" me watch a DVD that came in the mail -- even something I "want" to watch -- and I will postpone it for months! Is it because it becomes an "assignment"? I don't know.) Started by finishing off Season 4 of "Mad Men" -- and what a season it was! Am so happy I'm finally up to date because it was very hard not having anyone to discuss the ending with. (SOMEONE talk to me!) Then caught up on this new season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." (Still funny, but you can see where the plot twist is going to come from within the first five minutes now.) From there, I caught three more movies in two days:
"My Big Break" is a documentary I have written about before, but that has finally been released on DVD in final edit form. I can't RAVE about this one enough. Aspiring filmmaker Tony Zierra was broke and had no prospects, so began filming his struggling actor roommates and their day-to-day activities of going on auditions and goofing off around the house. When three of the four quickly became rising stars -- Wes Bentley ("American Beauty"), Brad Rowe ("Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss") and Chad Lindberg ("October Sky") -- Zierra's film ("Carving Out Our Name") became a hot property in Hollywood, only to go up in flames when the guys' publicists decided the unpolished look at their lives could jeopardize their careers.
Zierra ended up destroying the film, but as the years went by he saw all three of his friends' stars begin to fade, so he revisited the footage and brought it up to date, which resulted in the riveting "My Big Break," the most brutally honest look at the dark side of stardom I've ever seen.
"I've watched fame swallow and spit out so many talented friends and Hollywood still continues to influence audiences around the world," Zierra told me "I wanted to get 'MBB' out there because I think it's important that people understand how things are behind the façade."
Ironically, the roommate who didn't "make it," Greg Fawcett, ends up being The Star of this one -- in a "role" that will leave you as incredulous as it does heartbroken. If reality TV shows were 1/100th as real as "My Big Break," no one would ever leave the house. My grade: A+
"The Adonis Factor" is Christopher Hines' followup to to "The Butch Factor," this time looking at gay men's obsession with muscle and beauty. Like its predecessor, it was a good idea that seemed like it could have been told in about half the time. Was also a little surprised that the "Adonises" being interviewed weren't, uh, a little more Adonis-y. Perhaps it's like the rich. Wealthy people would never talk about being rich, so we have nouveau "rich" (read: teetering on bankruptcy) "Real Housewives" doing the talking instead. My grade: C-
With the recent release of the West Memphis Three, I'd been dying to rewatch "Paradise Lost," Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's award-winning documentary about the prosecution of three nonconformist young men for the murders of three 8-year-old boys on questionable evidence. Like many others who saw the film in 1996, I was highly skeptical of the guys' guilt. But seeing it again -- knowing that they would ultimately be freed, if not completely exonerated -- made it all the more chilling knowing that these kids would spend nearly 20 years in prison for a crime it is clear they did not commit. (Even if you don't see it that way, you don't have to be a Casey Anthony juror to admit that there was ample reasonable doubt.) I'd kind of forgotten about the mystery man in the bathroom -- "Mr. Bojangles" -- and the blood on the knife of creepy stepfather John Mark Byers, who it turned out was a career criminal and police informant. Knowing that a possible link to stepfather Terry Hobbs exists -- partially the basis for their striking a deal to be released -- also cast a new light when watching him in the film, which is the gold standard for real-time crime documentaries, and the clear inspiration for many episodes of "48 Hours Mystery," "Dateline NBC" and the like. My grade: A+
Check out previous Homo Box Office posts HERE.