I’m gonna make you love me


Brian Belovitch contemplates a life well-lived.

(2019) Documentary (Bernstein DocumentariesBrian Belovitch, Michael Musto, Nelson Sullivan, Andy Anderson, Tabboo, Gabriel Rotello, David Belovitch, Jim Belovitch, Gloria, Jeffrey Belovitch, Todd Belovitch, Sheila. Directed by Karen Bernstein

I’m gonna make you love me, which had its World Premiere a few days ago at DOC NYC (and will be playing there again shortly), covers the fascinating life of Brian Belovitch, a man whose life has taken him to a wildly diverse array of places and lives. He for many years came out as a transitioning woman and lived as an Army wife for several years, hosting Tupperware parties in Germany as Natalia.

Following the dissolution of that marriage, he returned to New York City as club performer Tish in the 80s, one of the most famous club and lounge performers of the time. He went through the rigors of local fame (and in New York that can be truly intoxicating) with the drug addiction that sometimes accompanies celebrity, which in turn led to an HIV-positive diagnosis and deep depression.

Brian came to the conclusion that life as a woman wasn’t really what he wanted and so for the second time in his life, he came out, re-transitioning back as a gay male. These days, he’s married to Jim, pushing 60 and for the first time in his life, truly comfortable in his own skin.

There is plenty of archival footage of Brian’s days as Tish, both performance video as well as home movies. Tish’s friendship with journalist/raconteur/rock star Michael Musto helped expand her notoriety but it seemed that her career was beginning to run out of gas, which was part of what seemed to lead to the depression that Brian suffered from.

We hear from several of Brian’s siblings – he had seven – and there is varying degrees of acceptance among them. I know from first-hand experience it’s not an easy thing always to accept that someone you knew as one gender has become another; it takes time to let go of the person that was and accept the person who is. Some, sadly, are never able to do it; as I said, it’s hard but not impossible unless you are bound and determined not to accept that person’s transition. Although Brian seemed fairly devoted to his mother, their relationship was certainly complicated; she wasn’t very supportive of him and there appeared to be some emotional abuse going on. Brian as a young teen frequently ran away from home.

Brian himself has one of those personalities that just fills a room whenever he’s in it. He is proudly – even defiantly – gay and there is no mistaking his sexuality for a moment. He is a great storyteller, and boy does he have a ton of stories to tell! Bernstein could have just sat him down in a chair, turned the camera on him for an hour and a half and she would have had an entertaining movie.

Where the movie fails is in continuity. People that are important to Brian – like his only friend as a teen, Paul whose mother Gloria he is still close to – fall out of the narrative. Brian alludes to Gloria “losing” him, but that’s not spelled out. Did he pass away? Or did they have a falling out? Something similar also happens with Natalia’s husband David; he just fizzles out of the story. It would have been nice for the filmmakers to spend a few moments just explaining what happened to these people who at one time were important to Brian’s life.

Other than that, the story is a fascinating one. Jim describes his relationship with Brian thusly; “I try to be a rudder for him. Brian is all sail” and that seems like an apt way to characterize him. Brian is larger than life and while Jim is much more laid-back, the affection between the two is without question. There’s more love between these two guys than in a lot of hetero relationships I’ve known. They are poster boys for why gay marriage is a necessary right, one which still remains under threat given the conservative nature of the Supreme Court these days.

But I digress. I wouldn’t say this is essential viewing; it’s basically the story of one guy and while it’s a fascinating story, it isn’t a story that will change your life except maybe to help you realize that it is never too late to change your life completely. Not every life we choose for ourselves is the one we were meant to lead; Brian Belovitch is living proof that the most important thing when it comes to choosing a life is that you choose the one that makes you happy.

REASONS TO SEE: This is a story about a very different journey.
REASONS TO AVOID: A lot of story lines are left dangling.
FAMILY VALUES: The thematic content is very adult; there is also some profanity, brief nudity and plenty of graphic sexual references.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Brian works today as a drug abuse counselor; Jim works as a botanist.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/11/19: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet: Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: XY Chelsea
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT:
The All-Americans

Crown Vic


I guess that’s why they call it the blues…

(2019) Cop Drama (Screen MediaThomas Jane, Luke Kleintank, Josh Hopkins, David Krumholtz, Bridget Moynihan, Devon Workheiser, Scottie Thompson, Emma Ishta, James Andrew O’Connor, Shiloh Verrico, Alex Morf, Gregg Bello, Bernard David Jones, Hannah McKechnie, Chris Jarrell, Bruce R. Leader, Kathryn Schneider, Ginger Graham, Elizabeth Oddy, Marilyn Toro. Directed by Joel Souza

 

Since the days of Dragnet and “Just the facts, ma’am,” the way we view cops have changed. Once upon a time, they were our knights in blue, friendly neighborhood protectors who made sure that “To serve and protect” wasn’t just a motto. These days, cops are often viewed with suspicion, particularly by minorities and with some justification. Cops have become fallible and human; and not always admirable. We see the sensational failures rather than the neighborhood heroes. Both views are extreme. Neither is wrong.

Ray Mandel (Jane) is a 25-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department as a patrol officer. He has been given the task of being FTO (Field Training Officer) to a wet-behind-the-ears rookie, Nick Holland (Kleintank). Nick is idealistic, just out of the academy, newly married with a baby on the way. His somewhat hysterical wife calls him at regular intervals, terrified that something will happen to her baby daddy out there on the mean streets of Los Angeles.

In the course of a single night, the grizzled veteran will impart the wisdom of cops since time immemorial to his young protégé – “Trust in your equipment,” “If someone looks guilty, watch ‘em. If someone looks innocent, watch ‘em closely!!” The rookie soaks it all in but quickly discovers that things aren’t so cut and dried out on the streets. He may be riding in a black and white, but things certainly aren’t that way out there (see what I did there?) in the neighborhoods of El Lay, particularly with a trigger-happy pair of robbers on the loose as well as a detective whose ‘roid rage is about to explode into something much worse, as well as personal matters that will keep both the men in 20-Lincoln-14 on their toes.

Those who have been mesmerized by cop procedurals on TV (going back to the aforementioned Dragnet and up through such classics as Adam 12 and Starsky and Hutch up through more modern iterations which have been largely the province of the movies like Colors and End of Shift) will find familiar territory here. The film is set up as a series of vignettes that range from brutal and violent to dark comedy. Generally, Ray and Nick react pretty much the same way to each situation; Ray tells Nick to stay in the car, or behind the protection of the squad car’s door, and Nick essentially doing as he’s told.

The opening sequence depicting the robbers violent escape from a bank is shot creatively from the inside (and the side mirror) of the getaway car. It’s kinetic and works really nicely; sadly, the rest of the film isn’t quite as innovative. In fact, there’s a good deal of cliché going on here. It isn’t a terribly realistic depiction of the day-to-day life of patrol cops – but then again, it’s not meant to be – and at times credibility is stretched to the breaking point.

Much of what makes the movie a worthy rental (or viewing if it’s playing anywhere near you) is the performance of Jane as the world-weary Ray. Ray has nothing left but the job but he hasn’t lost all hope just yet. He still believes that he is making a difference, and that’s what sustains him. Jane is one of the steadiest actors around today; you won’t go wrong seeing one of his films.

This isn’t a breakthrough film by any stretch of the imagination. It ploughs familiar territory and doesn’t really do much beyond the opening sequence to make any sort of mark. Still, those who like cop films are going to be satisfied with this. It’s well-acted, well-plotted and keeps the viewer’s interest going throughout. A lot of much more heralded films can’t necessarily say the same.

REASONS TO SEE: The audience interest is kept up nicely. Jane does a solid job as the mentor cop.
REASONS TO AVOID: A little bit on the cliché side.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of profanity, sexual references, scenes of gory violence, brief full nudity and some drug use.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Crown Victoria was discontinued as a model in 2011. It has been replaced on most police forces by the Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus and/or Chevrolet Caprice.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/11/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 64% positive reviews: Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Training Day
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
I’m gonna make you love me