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New DVDs feature jaded men, fresh beginners

'Beginners'

The best movie of 2011 (and possibly the best "gay" movie ever by a straight filmmaker), "Beginners" has a way of staying with you long after it has faded from the screen. Written and directed by Mike Mills ("Thumbsucker"), it's based on his personal experience with his late father coming out as gay following the death of his wife. "Beginners" takes a non-traditional approach to telling a non-traditional story and succeeds on every level. It's the kind of movie that has the power to have you laughing out loud one moment and wiping tears of sadness from your eyes the next.

Oliver (Ewan McGregor) is an artist with serious relationship issues, afraid of repeating his parents' mistakes. He has just come to terms with his father Hal (Christopher Plummer in an Oscar-worthy performance) coming out in his 70s when he learns that Hal is dying of cancer. Shortly after Hal's passing, Oliver meets actress Anna (Mélanie Laurent), who could either be the best possible thing for him or the worst.

Sensitive, artistic and poetic, Mills handles the subject matter with grace and a unique sense of humor. It's well worth watching Oliver, Hal and Anna (and Hal's dog Arthur) navigate their way through the challenging landscape. DVD bonus features include commentary by Mills and a "making of" short.

'Making The Boys'

This documentary by Crayton Robey fills in the blanks about the classic gay film "The Boys in the Band" and its creator Mart Crowley. 

Crowley takes viewers back to his childhood and later to Roddy McDowell's beach house during the summer of 1965, where he mingled with McDowell, Sal Mineo, Jane Fonda, Julie Andrews, Lauren Bacall, Natalie Wood, Anthony Perkins, Judy Garland, Rock Hudson and others. We follow Crowley from his job as the late Natalie Wood's assistant to his first attempt at screenwriting – the script for "The Bette Davis Show" sitcom pilot.

The doc focuses on the rise of gay culture and awareness during the pre-Stonewall 1960s, paralleled with the story of the original stage production of "The Boys in the Band" (including the casting process). Interviewees, including Robert Wagner, Michael Musto, Andy Cohen, Dan Savage, Ed Koch, Marc Shaiman, Paul Rudnick, Edward Albee, Michael Cunningham, Cheyenne Jackson, Larry Kramer, "Boys in the Band" director William Friedkin, and cast members Laurence Luckinbill and Peter White, trace the play's trajectory from stage to screen. What comes through is a respectful homage to one of the most important and controversial pieces of contemporary gay theater and cinema, and its impact on society at large, as well as the cast. DVD bonus features include the "missing scene," additional "Malibu '65" footage and more.

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