04 December 2015

Movie Review: Snails in the Rain (שבלולים בגשם)

There was something about this movie that made me think the director wrote the whole thing to leer at the lead actor, Yoav Reuveni. Yoav plays Boaz, a linguistics major at a Tel Aviv university in the late 1980s. He lives with his girlfriend and works after school. Everything is alright until he starts receiving short, anonymous love letters from another man. Now, if you ever wonder whether it is the external object or the internal feeling that really animates life, this movie definitely takes a position.

 I recall writing love letters to this classmate of mine in high school. And I always felt that he had an ambiguous sexuality and that to explore his homosexuality had the feeling tone of a fate worse than death. That being said, in my adolescence, I wasn't so sensitive to that, so I wrote him poetry. After the first one, if any of my friends delivered the poem to him, without looking at it he'd ask if it had come from me (as opposed to a girl). They would reply yes and then he'd chaotically rip it up to shreds with such force and effort and precision that it obliterated the writing completely. He did that every time. It was as though to see what was written would unleash something that must not be unleashed.

Anyways, Boaz reads these letters. He comes to expect them. And then he starts to look at every man around him as though its a possible author. This only intensifies something long simmering in him -- that is, his own homosexual feelings. His girlfriend is sensitive to this and so his emotional wobble disrupts their normalcy. We learn that during his compulsory army service, his homosexual feelings also broke through at one point.

I was disappointed with the end, big time. Korean double suicides feel more authentic than this. Although as I age, I have come to realize that life is not drawn only in black and white -- even if I feel one puts themselves in such a situation, black is much more preferred.

02 December 2015

Movie Review: Boulevard

In my own thought processes, I harbor romantic notions surrounding the midlife coming out drama. This movie does not disappoint. It is fortunate that Nolan Mack (played by Robin Williams in his last on-screen performance) does not have children and so the damage that is done in a debilitating cruelty that Nolan and his wife have done to each other for decades and that they didn't drag a bunch of other souls into the depths.

Nolan Mack is a middle aged loan officer at an American mid-West bank. He is married to Joy who is some kind of scholar/writer/academic and hausfrau. He goes about his highly habitual life -- lacking in spontaneity or joy. One night he takes a different street home after running an errand to the store and he ends up going to hooker/hustler lane. He practically runs over a young hustler who ends up "getting in." From there, he has made contact with the dark, repressed depths of his unconscious and from there spontaneity, feeling and everything else he's bottled up for 40 years comes roaring into his life breaking everything in its way.

There was an additional feeling layer woven into the story by the knowledge that Robin Williams suffered from depression and had killed himself. It threw the feeling part of the story into deeper relief that the character will be redeemed but the one playing the character not. A story of redemption is outlined by the truth of tragedy.

30 November 2015

Movie Review: Thanatos, Drunk (醉‧生夢死)

The characters in the title of this film together represent an idiomatic expression in Madarin that has somehow been translated into Thanatos, Drunk. But the component parts are: drunk, alive, dream, death. I think this accurately and clearly describes the film. The movie has some create cinematography (and skinematography) but for what it gains in these formal aspects of film making, it suffers in a clear, easy to follow narrative. 

The movie revolves primarily around Rat, the younger brother, of two son of a hostess. They live in the slums on the outskirts of Taipei. Rat works at the market and has a crush on a mute female prostitute. His older brother, Shanghe, had temporarily migrated to the United States to be with his boyfriend but that plan failed and he returned and works in gay-related entertainment jobs. He works for a distribution company that distributes foreign gay films and eventually we learn he also makes his money as a strip dancer at a gay club. Not to make anything too easy,  

They also live with their female cousin Da-xiong. She dates "brother Shuo" who works in the male escort for rich old women industry. Rat who exhibits austic behavior idolizes "brother Shuo." The movie actually starts to develop into a somewhat coherent narrative near the end when it starts to become clear that "brother Shuo" who sleeps with women for a living and is dating female Da-xiong is not just gay but might have something for Shanghe.

I guess this can be considered Taiwan's contribution to the third world's poverty porn genre. It mixes both gay life with poverty in a new and unique way. I left the movie depressed. But the main male actors are all very handsome so it wasn't a complete loss. But I'd watch it on DVD as opposed to in a theatre.

28 November 2015

Movie Review: Queens and Cowboys

This is a documentary about the American West and Midwest and gay people who stay in these non-urban areas of the United States. From the average age of participants, it appears that the gay rodeo scene developed as a rural alternative to urban gay life in the age of AIDS in the United States. There is a segment about how "gay" cowboys are rejected by the dominant rodeo association(s) and that rodeo staff at the gay rodeos who contract to work each rodeo they work at, were shy to be identified on camera because the non-gay rodeo managers will refuse to hire them.

It's an interesting take on the real life between urban gay America and Brokeback Mountain. One of the things that struck me was the discussion about how gay rodeos are in decline because the membership ages but does not recruit enough younger people. It reminded me of Robert Putnam's discussion of "social capital" in the United States. More people bowl in the United States than before, but bowling league membership has declined. Putnam argues that civic engagement in the United States suffers as people become more isolated and less social.

Without getting to much into Putnam's argument, the notion of doing gay rodeo would seem to be eclipsed by the increase in digital penetration in rural America. All of the risks and limitations of identifying with such a group are eliminated when interactions are limited to chatrooms and hook up apps.

I thought the documentary was very information. I learned a lot about the United States and people in the West and Midwest.

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.