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Malcolm Ingram
Writing Credits:
Malcolm Ingram

Small Town Gay Bar offers an intimate look at the gay bars that dot the Bible Belt, offering safe-haven and solace to patrons who often face prejudice in their communities, keeping their gay identities under wraps to family and friends.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 76 min.
Price: $24.95
Release Date: 8/7/07

• Audio Commentary with Director Malcolm Ingram and “Principal Technical Officer” Scott Tremblay
• Introduction with Director Malcolm Ingram and Executive Producer Kevin Smith
• “Chatting with Kev” Featurette
• “A Conversation with the Folks of Tupelo” Featurette
• One Cut Scene
• “The New Owners of Rumors” Deleted Scene
• “Selling of Rumors” Deleted Scene
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Small Town Gay Bar (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 17, 2007)

When Small Town Gay Bar arrived on my door, I feared that it would be a melodramatic soap opera kind of drama. Instead, it turned out to be a documentary that looks at… small town gay bars. Bar takes us to tiny Shannon, Mississippi to meet the folks who hang out at Rumors, the only gay bar in the northeast part of the state.

Bar starts with a general look at the area and some reflections on the bar and its inhabitants. Matters broaden into darker issues when we hear about the July 2004 brutal murder of Scotty Weaver, a gay man apparently killed due to his lifestyle. We learn more about that and its aftermath. The film then visits defunct gay bar Crossroads and takes us on a tour of other former night spots. Eventually it returns to Rumors and shows the evolving status of gay bars in the area.

Comments come from Shannon Mayor Bill Curtis, Rumors owner Rick Gladish, Rumors show director Jim “Alicia Stone” Bishop, drag artist Jack “Baby Holiday” McCrory, Jack’s sister Cindy Sartin, DJ/Jim’s partner Geoff Kates, Scotty Weaver’s mother Martha, Scotty’s brother Lum Weaver, anti-gay crusader Reverend Fred Phelps, Crossroad owner Charles “Butch” Graham, ex-stripper Jackie Cox, ex-bartender/stripper Terry Capps, American Family Association president Tim Wildmon, former Rumors DJ Charles Smith, and various unnamed bar patrons both straight and gay.

Here’s what we learn from Bar: 1) gay people like to be able to express themselves without fear of retribution; 2) many Southerners aren’t accepting of gays. The film makes sure we know these concepts, as it beats us over the head with them through its short running time.

Will any viewers feel enlightened by either premise? I doubt it, especially because Bar maintains a much higher sense of identification with the first side than with the second. The movie exists to promote the “gays are people too” side of things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not sure how much we need a flick with that point, though. Given how much the gay culture can be seen in current media, I don’t know if efforts like this do anything other than preach to the choir.

The unfortunate inclusion of Phelps confirms that sentiment. If Phelps didn’t exist, gay causes would invent him as a way to stir up the troops. He’s a hateful, fringe nut bag, and I don’t like the way Bar leaves us with the impression that he speaks for a more mainstream culture. Why does Bar give Phelps so much screen time? Because he helps establish the continued antagonism toward gays and reminds us how nasty Southerners are. The involvement of Wildmon and his oppressive AFA contributes to this as well, but Wildmon’s not as incendiary as Phelps.

Hoo boy, if you want to subscribe to the inbred hick view of Southerners, give Bar a look. All of the anti-gay locals appear like they come from a single viewpoint – though to be fair, most of the gays don’t look much better – and they come across as incredibly narrow-minded rednecks. If gays get any acceptance from straights, you won’t hear about it here. Bar likes to reinforce negative stereotypes about heterosexual Southerners and never opens up any other notions.

To be honest, Bar feels like a real missed opportunity, mostly because it can’t focus on one topic. The title sure leads one to believe it’ll concentrate on Rumors and its regulars, but once it launches into the Scotty Weaver murder, it goes off onto many tangents.

And why exactly does the film discuss Weaver at all? Go back to Educational Point #2. Tragic as it may be, the murder has very little to do with the film’s theme. We hear about it to stir up more emotions about how horrible those damned Southerners are. It also allows us a reason to get comments from Phelps; his presence makes little sense, but he’s good copy.

To succeed, Bar really should have concentrated on Rumors and left it at that. If we’d really gotten a good feel for the bar and its patrons, the movie could’ve offered more than a few hackneyed points. Bar could have become an interesting sociological portrait. Follow a few specific bar denizens, let us get inside their lives, and really see how the scene works in small town South – that would’ve been a potentially interesting documentary.

Instead, Bar tries far too hard to work as propaganda. It provides a one-sided view of its topics without any remote form of depth or objectivity. It throws easy targets at us and feels more like an attempt to reinforce preconceived notions.

Why bother? Do the filmmakers think anyone who sees Bar won’t already believe that Southerners hate gays and work to ostracize them? I guarantee that straights who see it will already be sympathetic to the cause, and gays will just take it to heart as confirmation of their own biases. That feels hypocritical to me. The movie whines that straights view gays as a monolithic force of negativity but it rarely manages to portray heterosexuals as anything more than hate-filled bigots.

Look, I certainly don’t defend the bigots of the world. Wildmon, Phelps and their ilk are hateful and evil at worst and painfully misguided at best. I wish they didn’t exist to cause pain in others. I simply don’t like that the movie is so relentlessly one-sided in its portrayal of its subjects.

Maybe Bar will prove enlightening or helpful to someone who views it. Perhaps whatever good it does might compensate for all the negativity it unleashes. However, I doubt it. Reinforcing one stereotype while you decry another just doesn’t cut it. Add to that clumsy, disjointed storytelling and Bar turns into a mess.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

Small Town Gay Bar appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Even for an indie flick like this, I’m surprised when we don’t get an anamorphic transfer. Not that I’m sure it would’ve helped, as the image showed its low-budget roots.

Shot on video, the movie looked okay but no better than that. Sharpness was erratic. Close-ups provided decent delineation, but anything wider tended to be moderately soft and fuzzy. Some edge haloes contributed to that, and I also noticed a bit of shimmering and jagged edges. In terms of source flaws, I saw a few specks but nothing else interfered.

The film went with a natural palette that seemed adequate. Though the colors displayed acceptable clarity, the tones never seemed particularly lively or dynamic. Blacks were a little too dark, while low-light shots appeared somewhat dense and thick. Given the film’s origins, I thought it looked okay, but that was the best I could say for it.

In addition, the Dolby Stereo 2.0 audio of Small Town Gay Bar seemed mediocre. Music dominated the soundfield and displayed passable stereo presence. Some elements spread to the sides, though a lot of the information stayed focused on the center. Still, the music opened things up a bit. Effects were more centered. Though they meshed with the sides at times, they didn’t do much to create a feeling of the settings.

Audio quality was decent. Speech could be a little thin, but those elements usually seemed acceptably natural and concise. Music demonstrated adequate vivacity, while effects seemed fine. They never came across as particularly dynamic, but they weren’t distorted or problematic. This was a lackluster track, though I must admit I didn’t expect anything more from this sort of flick.

When we head to the set’s extras, we find an introduction with Kevin Smith and Malcolm Ingram. In this five-minute, and 32-second clip, executive producer Smith and director Ingram lead us into the film. Of course, the chatty Smith dominates as he tells us how he got involved with the flick. We also learn a little about the flick’s creation and some aspects of Ingram’s personal life. It’s a funny way to get into the picture, especially when the pair chat about what Smith’s tastes would be if he went gay.

We hear more from Ingram in an audio commentary. Along with “principal technical officer” Scott Tremblay, we get a running, screen-specific track. The pair discuss various challenges involved with financing and other aspects of making the film, different goals for the flick, musical selections, and the onscreen participants.

Outspoken and entertaining, Ingram dominates the chat. If you’ve heard commentaries with Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier, this one feels much the same. Ingram offers plenty of honest thoughts about everything required to make the film as well as the state of gay America and connected topics. He refers to Will & Grace and Queer Eye as minstrel shows and ever declares his utter hatred for the current Pope. Tremblay acts as a balance, but make no mistake: this is Ingram’s show.

And he makes it a good commentary. I think he’s off base at times and seems a bit hypocritical to me, as he decries the TV series I mentioned but happily embraces various stereotypes here. I was also disappointed he didn’t better address criticism of the film. For instance, he alludes to thoughts that the movie goes astray when it leaves Rumors and digs into the Scotty Weaver murder. However, he doesn’t rebut those ideas; I really want to hear why he thinks that material fit the film. Even without those elements, though, this is a consistently lively and informative chat.

For more from Smith, we head to the five-minute and 53-second Chatting With Kev. Smith and Ingram talk together about Kevin’s involvement in the flick. This acts as an excuse for them to joke around with each other. We get some good details about why Smith backed the film, but “Chatting” is worthwhile mostly for amusement value. Smith’s always entertaining, so putting him with his gay doppelganger adds to the enjoyment.

Next comes the 16-minute and 47-second Chatting with Editor Scott Mosier. Another prime member of Smith’s View Askew team – though usually a producer – Mosier chats with Ingram about how he became involved with the project, his work on the flick, and various challenges. This is a more serious discussion than the one between Ingram and Smith, so it offers less entertainment value. Nonetheless, it’s informative and interesting to learn about Mosier’s side of things. I don’t buy their attempts to convince us they made an unbiased flick, though.

A Conversation with the Folks of Tupelo goes for nine minutes, six seconds. It involves a group discussion with the gay citizens of Tupelo as they talk about being gay in the South. Most of this just echoes notes found in the film. We don’t learn anything new here, as we just hear more about how difficulty it can be to be gay in the South.

One Cut Scene lasts 58 seconds. Called “Willie Washington at Rumors”, this segment shows an African-American local as he discusses… well, you got me. I guess it conveys that Southern gays aren’t racist, since he mentions he can’t go into some straight bars but the folks at Rumors are fine with him. He’s too incoherent for it to make much sense.

The final two components look at the titular nightclub. The New Owners of Rumors goes for one minute, 32 seconds, while Selling of Rumors runs one minute and four seconds. These act like deleted scenes, as they give us a little more info about the changing reins at Rumors. These clips don’t tell us much of interest about the participants.

A few ads open the DVD. We find clips for Dante’s Cove, Shock to the System, C.R.A.Z.Y., and Wild Tigers I Have Known.

Small Town Gay Bar wants desperately to provide some profound point about the nature of gay culture in America. Unfortunately, it does little more than rehash a couple beaten-to-death stereotypes and it never becomes anything fresh or intriguing. The DVD presents average picture and audio as well as a collection of good extras. I can’t find much to champion in this film, unfortunately, as I think it’s kind of a mess.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0555 Stars Number of Votes: 18
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