Born many ways: Pandrogyny, art porn and the son of Cher at the Portland Queer Documentary Film Festival.
(willamette week) Vocally gifted master of flamboyance Johnny Arias proves that performance art can, in fact, be bearable. He’s playful where others are pretentious, and Arias argues that his decades-spanning career has reached a new high thanks to his collaboration with puppeteer Basil Twist. These two represent the redheaded stepchildren of theater, embracing oversexed spectacle and adding only a little substance. Together, the two craft a world that allows a Bettie Page-esque Arias to belt Zeppelin while strapped down under the watchful gaze of discombobulated extraterrestrials. Arias and Twist’s winking sense of humor carries not only their resulting marionette-bedecked burlesque, but Arias itself. Director Bobby Sheehan competently gives us the back story on the art and craft of Arias; it is Arias and Twist whose mutually gushing passion for performance makes the film a success.
You can’t choose your parents, but if you could, appointing gay icon Cher your materfamilias seems like a safe bet if you happen to be transgendered. Chaz (born Chastity) Bono is here to challenge that assumption in front of what appear to be reality TV crews. As Chaz undergoes profound hormonal and physical changes, Cher finds time only to grace David Letterman with her half-hearted thoughts of acceptance for her erstwhile daughter. So we can thank Cher for the star power driving this film, because while Becoming Chaz relies too heavily on family photos of a girlish Chastity to elicit the audience’s disbelief about the female-to-male transition, Chaz’s bare-chested honesty and openness about his relationship with partner Jennifer communicate foremost how necessary—if graphic—the endeavor can be.