21 March 2012

Movie Review: All Boys

If I were to give this documentary a grade, I'd give it a D- or 60%. I thought there were two choices the director could have gone: gratuitous pandering to the prurient interests of views by showing lots of skin clad young men having sex OR could have been a clear Frontline (US, PBS) or A Year in the Life (UK, BBC) style documentary that was in-depth. Instead, it did neither. There was gratuitous pandering and there was some scratching of the surface.

It's redeeming quality for its lack of comprehensive or concise historical narrative of Eastern European gay porn or its concise critical analysis of the material causes and conditions that drive the market for Eastern European gay male porn, is that it tries to focus on some of the young men who act in the videos.

I watched this because my introduction to gay porn was through Bel Ami's Lukas Story 2. Yes, it was my first view of filmic gay pornography. If you have the time and the interest, it may be worth the watch, just understand that its lack of focus or direction seem to be turn offs.

14 March 2012

Movie Review: David's Birthday

The production value of this film is comparable to some of the best indie styled Hollywood films coming out these days, kudos to the cinematographer! This is another one of those films where I did no prepping and just watched.

We have a successful psychoanalyst Matteo and his wife Francesca, who are sharing a summer vacation estate in an Italian beach resort somewhere with their friends, Shary and Diego. The movie starts with the group watching Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde. This sets the stage for anyone familiar with the opera that we will shortly be entering the realm of Schopenhauer melancholy. In any event, Shary's brother Leonard is seated at the opera across from them and she makes contact with her brother who has been out of town.

Everything is normal until Shary's son shows up to have summer too. Instead of the young child he once was, now he is an underwear model played by Brazilian actor/model Thyago Alves.

Thyago meet YJ, YJ Thyago.

And now Matteo finds himself completely and utterly swept up into a frenzy over David -- and not in successful psychoanalyst kind of way. Matteo is highly conflicted but uncontrollably attracted to David. He tries to repress these desires and as we know, the psychic energy goes somewhere and returns in even stranger forms (he rapes his desperate wife, he gets pissed at the pub and humiliates himself and his wife and friends, etc.,).

Leonard eventually drops in and begins to casually observe what is going on between Matteo and David around the same time that David starts offering overtures back to Matteo.

This film now holds the spot for the most artistic non-porn masturbation scene I've ever watched.

I wouldn't ruin the movie by telling you the ending but I can say that the slowness that sometimes attends to the film is worth the last 15 minutes (if you're not into well down non-prof jerk off scenes or Brazilian models).

13 March 2012

Movie Review: Unsolved Suburbia

This movie is hilarious. If only it had about 20 more film minutes and another $20-50,000, it would likely have been the next indie film to break through. The production value is at a minimal and perhaps this is a film students senior project. But its like a teleserye in one hour. I would say this is the middle class Mexican-American version of Gregg Araki's Totally Fucked Up.

The story revolves around sometimes gay, sometimes straight high school senior Marty and his seemingly totally gay but self-professed straight Jake. Marty has a boyfriend and a girlfriend who find out about each other so they decide to have a three-way relationship. Jake is a peeping tom and a total tsimosa and so the whole murder mystery plot that would be otherwise totally contrived actually seems to work. Unlike other gay teenager movies, most of the hot guys are not white Americans but Mexican Americans. The movie simply suffered from budget limitations.

This also gives a fascinating ethnographic look into middle-class Mexican-American communities in southern California. For only having to commit an hour to it, I think its worth the watch if you can find it. Gay cinema is definitely lacking in murder mystery movies.

12 March 2012

Movie Review: Kickoff

I could have sworn there was another European movie about a gay football team and after I watched this movie, I realized there is. The Icelandic Eleven Men Out. Anyways, this is not the deepest or well directed movie ever made. It's actually, in some ways, ethnographic. It shows working class Brits exploring the theme of masculinity and sexuality through the lens of bottom tier football clubs. Because I was expected something like Eleven Men Out, I was surprised when 75% through the film, I realized we would only be watching one highly contrived football match.

But I didn't mind it. It was funny and interesting to see how British working class culture works in such situations. I don't think that was the intent of the movie, but it worked out just the same. This is a romantic comedy, of sorts, so its suitable for a not too heavy date night type viewing situation, but will likely be most interesting to those that are interested in an ethnographic snapshot of British working class society.

11 March 2012

Movie Review: Judas Kiss

Aside from the fact that Charlie David is not the best actor, I was surprised to really enjoy this film. The slick Hollywood production value didn't hurt it either. I hadn't read any reviews or summaries of the film before watching it so it was a pleasant surprise.

The story is quite simple, failed moviemaker Zach Wells fills in for his friend at his alma mater's film festival. He has a fling with a student who turns out to be a contestant in the film festival. The next day, he learns that the contestant is actually a past version of himself and begins the conscious struggle with his past.

For whom does the grail serve?

When I think about all of the things I've done in my life, I see many places where I could have alleviated my own suffering by doing something different. I had no one particular life changing event where a future me could have returned to to alter the past. All of the fortuitous events occurred along side the unlucky, premeditated ones -- entangled and entwined -- like the results of geological processes in the various substrata of my life. I feel that the act of returning to the past to "change" something would be a repudiation of my present life and so although I ruminate at times about how things may have been different had I showed more empathy here or restraint there, I am contented with the life I have and accept its foundations. Or at least, to learn to accept the foundations -- including the shadow -- of my present life.

This is definitely a cuddle up movie on a wet in-doors night and a refreshing "magical realism" type movie like Were the World Mine to the canons of gay and lesbian cinema. Definitely a movie to watch.

08 March 2012

Movie Review: Humpday

I had no idea that this movie was an entry in Cannes, until I was looking for the above movie poster. I would say that his movie is part about masculinity and sexuality as it is about relationships and life-partner relationships.

In short, the movie begins with Andrew showing up at Ben's house at an ungodly hour from Mexico City where he has been a goatherd or something like that. They have this weird homosocial thing going on that apparently shadows as one-upmanship. Andrew has Ben come to this lesbian like sex commune house party where they get him drunk and stoned. They begin discussing how they will be making erotic art films for the local amateur porn festival and Andrew is trying to figure out his own creation for the fest. Ben suddenly suggests that he and Andrew have sex on camera saying its not gay, it's beyond gay. It's not porn, it's an art project. The homosociality turns much more openly aggressive until eventually Ben's wife finds out about the plan --- oh did I forget to mention her?

The last fifteen minutes of the movie are highly conflicted and painful to watch -- in a good way -- when the two main actors make it to the hotel room where the will film their submission to the festival. If you've ever had unrequited love, entanglements with a gaytripper, etc., I wouldn't miss this film -- even if the beginning is a little slow and the cinematography awkward.

07 March 2012

Movie Review: Eating Out 4, Drama Camp

This will definitely not make it into the canon of classical queer cinema. However, I understand the need for B-movie type romantic comedies for young gay men who have not watched every gay film ever distributed commercially.

This movie is on that list on B-movies. It's like an after school gay TV special with an overwhelming amount of non-pornographic demonstrative nudity to titillate the young minds who would most benefit from the simple plot and the adolescent problems the various actors work through in the movie. A touch of sweetness overpowered by the need to have make out scenes.

It happens that this movie will be screening at Queeriosity Palace on March 11. Check Lexuality for more details.

06 March 2012

Movie Review: Straight

I can only thank the film maker who kept this movie to an hour. Anyone who has become entangled in the love life of a straight-identified macho working class guy can relate to this story -- no matter how poorly executed the movie came out -- you will find some resonance with this story.

Here is a loose description of the plot: there are three players in the story: Jana, who is Catholic, David, who is Jewish, and Nazim who is Muslim. Jana dates David to rebel against her conservative parents meanwhile David is entangled with Nazim. Nazim also appears to have some entanglement with Jana as well.

(City Buoy meet Eralp Uzun)

Unfortunately for the story, the director couldn't decide whether it ought to be a realist or formal movie and got stuck doing both. However, this movie was so clearly about Nazim that his acting was able to salvage enough of the movie to make it bearable.

This movie only works if you've ever been entangled in the drama of the straight identified macho guy. Otherwise, this movie is to be skipped.

03 March 2012

Movie Review: Right by Me

I would say this movie, based on the book by Alex Sanchez, has a similar theme to the Manay Po movies except it is not told through the story of three half brothers but through three classmates. In the movie, we have a jock (Ek), a nerd (Nat) and a flamboyant gay (Tat). Ek questions his sexuality but refuses to give up on his girlfriend. Nat becomes Ek's tutor and something more than just friends looks imminent. Meanwhile, Tat has a crush on his best friend Nat and is frustrated by Nat's attachment to Ek. As Ek's sexuality becomes clarified, things get move complicated especially when Ek shows up to a gay youth group that Nat and Tat go to. I am not a big fan of the coming out genre -- but I think this romantic comedy did a good job.

I think some Western audiences may not appreciate the classical Southeast Asian melodrama that is worked through the film. So for those in that audience demographic, caution. Everyone else, this is definitely a date night movie.

02 March 2012

Movie Review: Fleeing by Night

The movie begins with an elderly Chinese man in New York recounting a story: While China is in the throws of a world war and civil war, Ying-Er, the daughter of a theater owner, is cheered up by the arrival of her penpal friend Shaodung from America -- who she assumes has come to propose. But there is a bit of a deception. He hasn't been studying finance in New York but has become an accomplished cellist studying at Julliard. The theater has been showing an opera "Fleeing by Night" and its famous actor-singer is Lin Chung. Suffice to say, Shaodung is captivated by Lin Chung and his voice and through a very complex and multilayered series of developments, the elderly gentleman turns out to be Shaodung.

This movie provides a rich example of how love can help bring the shadow into consciousness when our ego consciousness cannot make a direct relationship. This movie is definitely a tragedy but one worth watching with your significant other because it celebrates, it is tragedy, the possibility of a life worth living.

01 March 2012

Movie Review: Summer Vacation 1999

It has been at least since the summer of 1999 that I've seen this film but the Emo Blogger's Challenge reminded me of it and since it effected me so much I thought I'd write a review. This was one of the first foreign Asian gay movies I ever saw -- shared through an available copy on an original VHS.

In Romanji, 1999 Nen no natsu yasumi, here is a summary of this original emo tale:
Summer has come and most of the students in a Japanese boys' school have left -- that is except for three: seniors Kazuhiko and Naoto and junior Norio. They have no families or their families don't want them so they remain at this school alone. There is a depressed tension between them and we discover that months earlier, a class mate Yu has killed himself. Norio faults Kazuhiko for the death because Yu was in love with Kazuhiko but Yu's meek introversion prevented a meaningful relationship. Kazuhiko is mean to Norio because of his fault-finding. Nevertheless, the unconscious speaks and Kazuhiko suffers nightmares. This tension is amplified when a new student, Kaoru, arrives early for the fall and looks exactly Yu. In fact, the only difference other than name between the two seems to be that Kaoru is the cunning extroverted version of Yu.
A fascinating rumination on the nature of love and the shadow produced in 1988 envisioning a future that is now 15 years in the past.