Among witty observations, erotic visuals and contagious dance tunes, these selections have one message in common: find your own truth and follow it.
A Man’s Man
With a name as recognizable as his homoerotic images, visual artist Tom of Finland (aka Touko Laaksonen) is an LGBTQ icon. The legendary artist’s life is the subject of Dome Karukoski’s biopic “Tom of Finland.” The film revisits pivotal moments of Laaksonen’s life — as portrayed by Pekka Strang — from his time as a World War II soldier exploring his attraction to men (and the influence the military had on his artwork) to his worldwide success as an artist. In doing so, it also traces Laaksonen’s complex artistic development after the war. Living with his sister Kaija (Jessica Grabowsky), who gets him a job as an illustrator at the ad agency where she works, he begins to secretly draw provocative pictures of muscled men — in an out of uniform. Besides sharing an apartment, the siblings also share romantic interest in a gorgeous gay dancer they take in as a boarder — Nipa (Lauri Tilkanen). Ultimately, the men fall in love (despite Kaija’s best efforts), and Nipa becomes an especially powerful influence, encouraging Laaksonen to continue creating while seeking out ways to share his art. Their romance is one of the most charming elements of the story, while it’s sense of history reflects the changing views regarding homosexuality throughout the 20th century. Tom of Finland is screening as part of the OUTshine Film Festival’s Fort Lauderdale edition. For more information, visit outshinefilm.com.
Award-winning gay writer Tim Federle, returns with “Life Is Like a Musical: How to Live, Love, and Lead Like a Star” (Running Press, 2017), a self-help book/memoir that lives up to its titular claim. Federle, who describes himself as “perhaps the most prototypical snarky gay teen who ever lived,” incorporates personal anecdotes from his theater career over 50 quick chapters. “Your dream role will likely change a few times, but the fun happens on the way to creating it,” he quips. Additional insights include, “confidence is overrated and courage is underrated,” “being gracious is an easier skill to master than being brilliant,” “never get so self-serious that you turn down the chance to break into song” and “dance like everyone’s watching, soon they actually will.” Federle extols the virtue of unbroken eye contact and being a “nodder, not a yawner,” as well as having the “audacity to belong in the room.”
Featuring the soaring falsetto vocals of Jimmy Somerville, along with Steve Bronski and the late Larry Steinbachek on keyboards and percussion, Bronski Beat first caught listeners’ attention with the groundbreaking dance single “Small Town Boy.” That track, one of the most powerful coming out songs ever recorded, was on the band’s seminal 1984 debut album “The Age of Consent.” Somerville departed shortly thereafter, but Bronski kept his namesake band going on and off for years. It’s been two decades now since we last heard from them, but Bronski Beat is back with two new members for the double disc re-recording and expanding of “The Age of Reason” (SFE/Cherry Red). New lead vocalist Stephen Granville does an admirable job covering Somerville, and there are also new tunes, such as a cover of Sylvester’s “Stars” and the tribute track “Flower for Dandara,” written for murdered trans-woman Dandara dos Santos.