Joseph B. Vasquez, 28, wrote and directed "Hangin' With the Home Boys," a comedy-drama about four young men who live in the South Bronx and meet on a Friday night to do the town. The film is much like "American Graffiti" and other rites-of-passage movies, but in this case, the characters are ethnically diverse. Two are black, two are Puerto Rican, and one of the more interesting things about the film is that its characters are largely free of racist attitudes.
Some racist attitudes are there, but they are handled with surprising tact.
"The film isn't done with bitterness," said Vasquez. "I don't believe in hitting people over the head. The film is more subtle than most that deal with this theme, and I've caught hell because of that.
"If you try to make films that are politically correct, they say nothing," said Vasquez. "I try to do what I know, and I know these guys."
Vasquez became interested in movies at the age of 12 when he began doing Super-8 films. He graduated from City College of New York, found work doing commercials, became a film editor, then was offered the chance to do a low-budget movie about the Bronx gangs. The result was "Bronx War," which drew the attention of New Line Cinema, who asked Vasquez to do a commercial film on the same subject.
"I told them I was working on a script about four guys who live in the South Bronx," he said. "The characters are really composites of people I knew."
The film cost $2 million, which today is less than peanuts, so it has already paid for itself with foreign and cable rights.
"But I would like to see it do well in theaters," said Vasquez. He was raised in Spanish Harlem by his grandmother. He only met his mother twice. "I bumped into her on a stairway," he said. "I didn't really want to see her. She had given me away, and I couldn't deal with that. She had a serious drug problem. I saw my father about every two weeks. He was into drugs and alcohol. He was all screwed up."
In "Home Boys," one of the four principals wants to go on to higher learning, and his friends put him down for it.
"That really goes on," said Vasquez. "Guys I knew would say, 'You still into that film crap?' "
His next film is about a Jew, a black and an Hispanic who are friends until something goes wrong, then all the hate words come out. "I guess you're not going to like that," he said.
"Hangin' With the Home Boys" opens here on Friday.
If "Carousel" is done well enough, the ending will get to you, leave you a little choked up, and the Petrucci Dinner Theater version does that.
The dancing is, well, fair, but the show moves along anyway, and the principals are excellent. Among them are Steve Cramer as Billy Bigelow the carousel barker, and Holly Shockey as Julie Jordan, the sweet young lady who falls in love with him.
Paul F. Gebhardt is Jigger Craigin, the villain who persuades Billy to join him in a payroll robbery, and Dawn Christine Bennett has first go at singing "When You Walk Through a Storm," one of the prettiest songs every written.
There are other winners in this score, among them "If I Loved You." And if you're big on long, overblown numbers, there is always "Soliloquy."
Cramer is ideal as Billy, and Shockey is sweet at Julie. They also have good, strong voices. So do Jane C. Boyle as Carrie, friend to Julie, and Gebhardt, who also plays the heavenly friend who welcomes Billy to Heaven.
"Carousel," which first appeared in 1945 on Broadway when World War II was still in swing, will remain at Petrucci's through Jan. 5. It's always nice to hear the Rodgers and Hammerstein score done this well.
Ever heard of David Heavener? You will. He has written, directed and produced a film for Hemdale called "Prime Target." He also stars in it. In the cast, getting below-the-title billing, is Tony Curtis. The film opens in Los Angeles later this month. No word on when it will play Baltimore, but if it doesn't, the cassette will "debut sometime next year" on Hemdale Home Video.
Michael Feinstein has done another recording in his "Songbook Series." This time, it is the songs of Jule Styne ("Gypsy," "Funny Girl"). It is called "Michael Feinstein sings the Jule Styne Songbook," and he is joined, at the keyboard, by Styne himself, who is now 85.