26 November 2015

Movie Review: The Last Straight Man

This movie ended up being a huge disappointment. The plot is simple. Lewis is a closeted gay man throwing a bachelor party for his "straight" best friend and secret crush, Cooper, the night before Cooper's wedding. Twenty or more minutes into the movie, on that special night of nights, Lewis and Cooper awkwardly end up sucking each other off. They then end up hooking up every year on the eve of Cooper's wedding anniversary. If this had occurred over a series of weeks or months, it may have been believable, but the year of gap made it hard to suspend disbelief.

Then there were all of the questions about how can someone like Cooper live in a marriage in which he has no feeling or intimacy or deep care for his wife and then meet up with his best friend for an annual night of what appears to be the most feeling/pleasurable night of the year in his life. Very sad. Unfortunately there is no character development and I almost got the vibe that this was a poorly executed fantasy of a gay guy. Anyways, I skipped ahead at a few points because the dialogue and pace was too slow.

24 November 2015

Movie Review: No Night is Too Long

This was a well written movie. I'm surprised I had never heard of it. It's like a gay Hitchcock film. In short, Tim is a promiscuous gay college student who ends up hooking up with a lecturer from another college named Ivo. They enter into some kind of relationship and in his senior year, Ivo admits to Tim that he's in love with him. Tim then cheats on Ivo at some point and then tells Ivo who hits him. Ivo lectures on a boat cruises in Alaska during the summer and Tim pressures Ivo to take him along.

As Tim prepares to meet up with Ivo for the cruise, he is marooned in some remote hotel and meets a woman named Isabel with whom he sleeps. He falls in love with Isabel. Anyways, Tim joins Ivo's boat cruise but gives him the cold shoulder and refuses physical intimacy with Ivo. Tim tells him that he doesn't love Ivo and regrets coming along. At some point Ivo breaks open the door to Tim's cabin and rapes him. Then, the passengers on the cruise take a day tour on little boats to a remote and uninhabited island. The passengers are given free time to explore while Tim and Ivo argue in a secluded rocky cliff area. Tim discloses that he met Isabel and is in love with her and the only reason why he continued with the plan to join the boat cruise was so that he could get to the end destination and take a plane to find Isabel. Ivo goes ballistic with that news, a struggle ensues, Ivo is knocked against a jagged edge of the cliff. Tim leaves him for dead, joins the last little boat back to the cruise boat and hides Ivo's safety vest, etc.,. I'll leave the ending for your own enjoyment in watching the film but you'll be shocked, a number of times.

If Hitchcock were alive in 2002, he might have just made this film. It was a surprise in that it was a suspense film that avoided some of the pitfalls of coming out narratives or similar. The gay theme was subtle. It's study of human nature and emotions was convincing all the way to the end.

22 November 2015

Movie Review: Wild Horses

I didn't hear about this movie at all. In fact, I'm still not sure how it ended up in my queue to watch. I mean, James Franco is ... well ... James Franco. But I still don't recall anything about this movie before I put it in the DVD player.

Anyways, this is a gay movie. James Franco plays a gay guy and the whole movie is about his relationship with his father set in borderland Texas. Gay is not the only theme in this movie. It has lots of relevant social and emotional themes that weave themselves around the the conflict between James Fraco and Robert Duvall. Has all the interesting aspects: murder, shame, reputation, guns, drug runners, dirty cops, everything. It's definitely an interesting character study about regrets in life and what could have been set in pastoral southern Texas. Definitely a nice cuddle up date night type movie. Oh and did I mention, James Franco is in it? Loved the bar brawl scene the most.

20 November 2015

Book Review: Sex and the Church

Kathy Rudy is an American professor of women's studies at Duke University. This was her second book. The book deals with the intersections of feminism, political history, theology and homosexuality.

I've reviewed several books that deal with Christian conservatism and homosexuality: How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism, God Hates Fags, Recruiting Young Love, The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology, Straight to Jesus,  and God v. Gay?

I've also mentioned it in passing in a number of other book reviews and movies reviews. Didi Herman's The Antigay Agenda, which came out around the time of Rudy's book traces how fundamentalists starting in the 1950s picked homosexuality as a particular evil that needed addressing. She then traces how it accumulated interest until it was a major plank of the political Christian conservatism.

Sex and the Church goes a step further and gives a fairly good explanation for how homosexuality was picked out of all the evils of the world for special consideration -- from history, theology and patriarchy.

After she has completed that tour of history and theology, she then takes aim at the shortcomings of liberal mainline Protestant denominations for holding theologically indefensible positions.

I found her chapter on Christian community, gay community and the family to be interesting. Her aim at the nuclear family may have been helped by a more historical materialist analysis of it -- but this is really a small criticism for what otherwise is a tour de force.The only underdeveloped aspect of the book would be the issue of intimacy avoidance in gay communities and how that connects with her theology of intimacy

All in all, it's a fascinating read. I'm only sorry it took me 20 years to find it and read it.

The version I read was in English at 176 pages paperback published by the Beacon Press (June 30, 1998) with an ISBN-10 of 0807010359. The least expensive version I found online was at amazon.com.

18 November 2015

Movie Review: Front Cover

Now going into this movie I had no idea this was going to be a romantic comedy/drama. I was led to believe the movie was about Ryan (played by Korean-American Jake Choi above) as a gay Chinese-American fashion designer who hates his Chinese-ness. Well, that is in there. He does male fashion spreads and then enters, Ning (James Chen) who is a famous Beijing-based Chinese actor trying to make a splash in the American market.

James Chen as Ning

Ning requested a Chinese fashion consultant after firing his first fashion consultant in American who was not Chinese. Immediately there is a tension between Jake and Ning. Jake dislikes Ning because he's Chinese. Ning dislikes Jake because he is too American, or as Ning says Jake is a like a Panda. Jake and Ning are able to work together, just barely, until Ning changes out his shirt for Jake's pajama-like top and Jake finds himself checking Ning out and Ning finds Jake checking him out also. Ning immediately changes clothes and says Jake is fired. Jake's boss demands Jake do whatever it takes to get Ning's account back. 

Jake goes to Ning's apartment and explains to him that he is gay but that he's a "potato queen" and that he has no attraction to Chinese men and Ning need not feel anxious. So from there, we somehow end up with this:

The movie deals with the problems and struggles of the shadow in the diasporic psyche. It's a great movie that will continue to help Strand Releasings shake off its reputation for distributing low budget poorly made films. The only criticism was whether this movie was only conversing with the diaspora or if there is a role for the Middle Kingdom in the hidden treasurers that Ryan finds.

16 November 2015

Movie Review: How to Win At Checkers (Everytime)

When I read the description of the film, I was under the impression that we'd be watching a film about a transgender showing the boys how to get out of the Thai military draft. But the movie had nothing to do with that at all. The movie is about two brothers -- Ek and Oat (the two pictured on the right). In my mind, it is the story of Ek, the older gay brother, but told from the viewpoint of Oat, the younger brother.

Ek is 21 years old and Oat is 11 years old. Motherless, their father died in an industrial accident leaving them with his sister, their aunt. Ek and Oat are poor although the house they live in with their aunt was owned by the father subject to debt to the local black market money lender. Ek works for that money lender at one of his gay bars in Bangkok. Ek is dating Jai who comes from a much wealthier family.

So one of the threads is the beautiful and happy and normal relationship that Ek has with Jai. Aunty is against the relationship, not because its gay, but because Jai is from a different class than Ek. She warns him that it will end badly.

In Thai life, young men who are 21 must submit to a lottery system that drafts a portion of them into the military for compulsory service. The process is public and ritualized and the idea is that its up to fate. Pull "black" and you're safe. Pull "red" and you're drafted. But behind the formalities and the rules, Oat discovers that Jai and his family have paid the local money lender bribe money to ensure that Jai is not drafted.

At the draft, Jai and the moneylenders son are called by the military officers to get out of their place and go to the back of the queue. Ek pulls "red" but as the lottery gets to the back of the queue, only "black" remains and so Jai and the moneylender's son are safe.

I'm avoiding mentioning much of the excellent story that is written. It really is told from the perspective of 11 year old Oat and while at first you are lured into his world, to see if from his eyes, by the end you are crying his tears.

This is definitely worth watching. I was informed that the Thai government has submitted it to the Academy as its entry into the Oscars this year.

14 November 2015

Movie Review: I Am Happiness on Earth (Yo soy la felicidad de este mundo)

I'll be very honest. I liked parts of this movie a lot. Actually, most of it was quite interesting all around but the hetero/bisexual Almodóvarian sequence in the middle was interesting but misplaced. I also noticed the parts that were most interesting to me included those parts of the story that included Alan Ramirez -- pictured above in navy blue briefs.

Ramirez plays Octavio. He is not the main character in this film. Rather, he is the "first" boyfriend of the main character we are introduced to. But I identified with his character. He plays hard to get for about 2 seconds and then is madly in love with his pursuer only to have the pursuer lose interest. He is a dancer and has a very, very well defined dancer's body.

It's a bit disappointing that the main character goes onto other things in the film and also that the movie itself rambles into an Almodóvarian sequence. The cinematography was splendid even in that awkward sequence. But I wish the movie had been about Octavio and his life, not the main characters.