The Cinesexual gay movie reviews & more Mon, 13 May 2019 01:01:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Cinesexual 32 32 131549299 film notes: Panquecito Fri, 10 May 2019 16:00:41 +0000 Still from PanquecitoPanquecitoWritten & Directed by Chucho E. Quintero20 mins, México, 2017 In my perfect world, we’d get a new short from Chucho E. Quintero every couple weeks, as long as they’re as fresh and funny as Panquecito: an affectionate, gay-hookup sexcapade that ends in a proud selfie, of sorts. Me! I wrote that blurb for Chucho. …

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Written & Directed by Chucho E. Quintero
20 mins, México, 2017

In my perfect world, we’d get a new short from Chucho E. Quintero every couple weeks, as long as they’re as fresh and funny as Panquecito: an affectionate, gay-hookup sexcapade that ends in a proud selfie, of sorts.


I wrote that blurb for Chucho. I don’t know whether he’s published it anywhere or not.

It doesn’t begin to explain what I find not only entertaining but also valuable about Panquecito, his latest short now available for free on Vimeo. Watch also at the end of this post.

In both aspects it’s more successful than 95% of the gay short films you’ll find there or on YouTube, and as good as any of the good ones you’d watch on the Boys on Film omnibuses — which is to say better than most of them.

Rhythms of speech

Quintero has told me that he’s a big fan of Chronicle and Attack the Block, two of my favorite features, as well. Comparing them to Quintero’s own Six Pack and Panquecito it’s not hard to pinpoint at least one thing what he likes about them. The characters in all four speak in community-specific speech patterns, vocabularies, and rhythms. Some of these elements are micro-specific, in the cases of Chronicle and Six Pack.

That is, these two specific communities of friends talk to and relate to one another idiosyncratically and perhaps with diction and styles that might be opaque to those outside the group if they existed IRL, unless of course you take the time to point a camera and create a narrative around them. Then the interpersonal, intracultural dynamics become more clear and a lot more interesting. Then the vernacular enlivens stories you want to watch and lives you want to follow.

I consider Quintero a good film writer for those effects alone. If you consider part of a writer’s job to observe and record; and then somehow translate, transcribe, dramatize, and play back those moments of intimate communication between characters (in Quintero’s case, the characters are always friends), reconstituting them for the purpose of a narrative film but also to in some sense preserve their time, their context, and their values — and within all that, their value to us — then Quintero is one of our most important gay chroniclers right now. To be thoughtful about it, I’m not sure we have another one.

Panquecito for me is so far the quintessence of what he is up to in this regard. It feels like a quickly posted but detailed and lively update from a specific Mexican gay male milieu which many in his audience will have no direct knowledge of but which is conveyed with such affection and joy that we might want to join in.

But he takes this chronicling mission farther by connecting the speech patterns and movements of his characters with the soundtrack and onscreen 8-bit graphics using formal tactics that deepen an understanding and appreciation of the sexy conversations — negotiations really — we’re hearing and watching.

He uses these rhythms and beats to make the jokes even funnier. More than just a bonus, these rhymed, syncopated, harmonized details establish tone, character, a sense of place, all at the same time, and executed in a deceptively tossed-off way that, rather being distracting, feels precisely tuned to the lived-in aesthetics and found mise-en-scène.

This is the closest Quintero’s come to formalism in any of his films (there are similar formal experiments in the digressive segments within Velociraptor). Even the way his characters talk to each other in Panquecito sounds more constructed and directed than the more naturalistic, sometimes improvisational scenes in Velociraptor.

Mediated Music

Deconstructed music provide the soundtrack for Panquecito, combining human humming, wordless vocalizing, clapping, finger snaps, breathing, etc., timed to the visuals.

For instance, after a brief close-up of a chat screen that introduces two important characters about to hook up, the title character is shown in his orange underwear in front of a mirror. In the foreground, frame-left, he’s shot from mid-torso. In the mirror, not in focus, it’s an almost full-body shot.

He turns toward the camera so that he and we can look at his belly. He pats and drums his fingers around his navel. The syncopated soundtrack coincides with these movements so precisely that for the first few microseconds we might think the sounds are diegetic — produced by Muffin’s actual fingers.

I asked Chucho to explain his unique explorations in sound for Panquecito, emphases mine:

First of all, I like contrasts. I learned that very recently, I like having opposite forces working against each other (in music, in camerawork, sound, acting, etc), so instead of going for the expected, I’d try to find more strange or unconventional pairings. For example, in Velociraptor, since the film is centered around a geek who likes comic books and it’s about the Apocalypse and all these sci-fi elements, it was sort of expected to have an 8-bit soundtrack like the one we had. But for Panquecito (another film about a geek who likes Roger Corman and comic books), I knew I didn’t want that anymore, even though I used some video game graphic elements, using video game music was out of the question. So we went with something that was almost a cappella, even kind of tribal, instead of going with something geeky.

What I talked with Isaí Flores Navarrete was that I wanted to sort of build sounds on top of sounds, so he started with a full theme with a bunch of different sounds for the ending, and then he’d deconstruct it until it was just clapping or a single note or sound for the beginning, that way, as the movie progresses, the music gets more complex.

And here he explains more about the uses these sounds are put to in the film:

I also wanted to experiment with making music and sound be a part of the main character’s thoughts and emotions, like, the music wouldn’t be just decorative but it’d actually speak FOR the character, so it’d be tense or in a hurry or very horny and chaotic, depending on the scene.

Chucho the Formalist

Similarly, Quintero continues to experiment with modernist, reflexive modes of storytelling by violating linear time and diegetic space. Early on, as Panquecito is getting ready for the guy he invited over in the chat, two of his previous near-tricks enter the doorway next to him, giving their excuses why they can’t fuck him. 8-bit visuals frame the guys’ faces as they demur.

The film provides this background information within the scene itself, marking it off as non-diegetic via the layered 8-bit graphics and sounds, as well as lighting. Velociraptor clearly demarcated the borders between the linear narrative moving forward and the stylistically divergent digressions that show previous time and different places and spaces.

[Writing this I’m reminded how the camera movements, the pans and dollies, in the films of Julián Hernández, also move us outside of linear time and space and then back again, or how the camera tracks a character who is also moving in and out of linear time and space which Hernández’s constitutes as emotional, erotic spaces, as well. I’ve haven’t written about these formal aspects of many of Julián Hernández’s films yet, but they are particularly striking in El cielo dividido and Rabioso sol, rabioso cielo]

Still from Panquecito

As usual, Quintero’s narrative tactics communicate in layers.

  1. There’s the surprise of new characters entering the scene; we realize it’s a kind of flashback or trepidatious reminiscence through the use of the 8-bit graphics
  2. The graphics themselves are reflexive and funny (an inverted storm cloud around a trick’s head and torso).
  3. The tricks’ lines are funny but also shallow. They commit our sympathetic identification with Panquecito by showing his past failures alongside his self-conscious preparation for the next date.
  4. The soundtrack’s rhythms intensify Panquecito’s nervousness and anticipation. But Quintero has revealed something else about Panquecito: sure, he struck out before but he’s still out there, trying to make a connection, working hard to get laid.

All of the above contribute to the intensity and joy of the film’s final, explicit money shot.

Sexual positivity

A hilarious but also kind of cruel competition between Panquecito and his roommate lies at the center of the film. The roommate knows Panquecito’s trade and at first manages to steal him away. Eventually though, Panquecito manages to get back in there and the action, albeit elliptical — the visuals are vague; that special soundtrack is not — becomes a three-way.

The tone here is playful but not mocking. Each character stakes his claim on the sex and although we’re probably rooting for Panquecito, there’s a refreshing evenness and lack of judgement expressed through the humor and especially through the ecstatic imagery.

Finally, I can think of no recent film with an equivalently bold, sexually explicit (and self-reflexive) image delivered with such pride and satisfaction. The grin on Panquecito’s semen-splattered mug belongs there, has been earned, and belongs to this character — the triumphant resolution of his story — and to us and our stories.

That is, if we’re open to the film as we should be, that grin will be answered by our own — a recovery of our own self-worth.

For me that frame also represents a challenge to gay cinema: Are your films this pro-sex, this pro-gay, this unashamed?

If not, why not?

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film notes: Giant Little Ones Wed, 10 Apr 2019 08:26:21 +0000 Giant Little Ones - last shotI loved this artful post-gay high-school film from Canada, starring a wonderful Josh Wiggins as questioning Franky and Kyle MacLachlan as his newly gay dad.

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Google Summary, with a comment from me:

Franky Winter and Ballas Kohl have been best friends since childhood. They are high school royalty: handsome, stars of the swim team, and popular with girls. They live a perfect teenage life – until the night of Franky’s epic 17th birthday party when Franky and Ballas are involved in an unexpected incident [an under-the-covers blowjob and probably some diddling] that changes their lives forever.

Giant Little Ones poster

Giant Little Ones
Written and Directed by Keith Behrman
93 min, Canada, 2018

When I enjoy a more or less conventional movie as much as I’ve enjoyed Keith Behrman‘s Giant Little Ones, I always watch it again to make sure I’m right, not just because I want to double the pleasure or repeat a great experience.

No, I watch it again because I’m suspicious.

I’m not used to liking anything so much that’s digested so easily. Movies aren’t food to me. In some ways they’re what going to church is like for religious people. So I wonder if I’m ignoring my buttons getting pushed and therefore not thinking critically. As a writer about movies I tend to be cautious.

Have I been duped? Am I sap for liking this so much?

Some other films I’ve felt this way about have been: Attack the Block, Lifeguard, Pump Up the Volume, and The Philosophers, also known deceptively after its theatrical run, if it even had one, as After the Dark. The latter is considerably less conventional than the rest and more or less an art film albeit a seemingly universally misunderstood one.

They are all good art, as far as I’m concerned. But also they are by and large sarcasm- and condescension-free, which is a relief and these days, acts of resistance.

What’s an Art Film?

I’ve always liked Jim Emerson’s definition: An art film teaches you how to watch it. Whereas we already know how to watch a genre or conventional film — what to pay attention to and how — an art film provides fewer familiar handholds.

I now comfortably consider all those films among my favorites without second thoughts. Attack the Block is a pop masterpiece.

Giant Little Ones‘ form follows high-school coming-out drama closely, with a few important and purposeful squiggles outside the lines. But it’s within that form and the expert execution of its conventions that the film surpasses any other similar genre picture I can think of, outside of Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade, which manages to render mute all other teen high-school dramas as adult propaganda. GLO is a much better film than Love Simon, for instance, the solipsism of that film’s character perfectly reflected in the pandering plot moves.

The mechanistic and awkward (and inoffensively manipulative) third act of Love Simon contrasts with the continuing small surprises throughout Giant Little Ones. The films foils any rote expectations of pat conclusions or resolutions: a non-binary approach if I’ve ever seen one. A line from Kyle Maclachlan’s Ray Winter, the gay dad addressing his son, the questioning lead character Franky, encapsulates one of the film’s central ideas effortlessly:

“I suggest you just pay attention to who you’re drawn to and not worry about what to call it at this point.”

Maclachlan delivers this line, which reads drily on the page, with a subtle warmth and compassion. This conversation occurs near the end of the film, where genre expectations require reconciliations. But it’s the details that brought us here and the content of the father/son conversation itself that distinguishes GLO’s trajectory from the competition.

Franky ends up alone in a shot you can see as the featured image of this post. He looks content, almost joyful, rather than self-satisfied.

Like a stoic, his reconciliations are with himself and only incidentally with the people around him. He hasn’t cleared all his obstacles away — his best friend who drunkenly sucked his dick that night and then betrayed him still won’t talk to him — but he’s answered his obligations to himself and his own values by returning the bike he’d stolen from Ballas along with a dogtag necklace.

Like many of the props in the film, the necklace doesn’t clearly represent any one thing although it’s suggestive. How any single viewer might see it depends on the angle you’re looking at it.

Ballas loses the necklace early in the film in the room where Franky and Ballas had their sexual encounter. Franky’s mom finds it eventually and hands it over to him. By this time he and Ballas are estranged, Ballas having misrepresented what happened between them to his girlfriend and to the school at large eventually; so Franky withholds from Ballas until the moment shown in the still above. He’s left it hanging on the handlebars of Ballas’ bike which he’s also been withholding for much of the film, as revenge for Ballas’ trashing Franky’s bike.

So what’s he returning with these objects? What’s he saying? Is he saying he’ll love Ballas forever?

Maybe that’s one of the things he’s saying. Since the necklace was originally given to Ballas by his girlfriend, maybe Franky is reminding Ballas of his own obligations or maybe what he stands to lose. Maybe the dogtag’s inscription is a question, or a challenge.

There are a few other exchanges of objects, bodies, and experiences throughout the film, and they ask for, presage, or initiate connections and transitions, changes in state; and the film is full of them. The bike and necklace exchange is just one.

The hilarious scenes between Franky and his friend Mouse present two versions of a concealed phallus. In one scene, Franky questions Mouse about her bulge. In a later scene, after asking Franky to evaluate her strap-on, she enjoins him to share his bulge and penis with her, as a kind of hands-on demonstration of a male-gendered body, and a tiny lesson in the blind nature of physical responses.

She also takes the opportunity to evaluate it:

  • It looks smaller than I expected,.
  • OK, Franky, I need to touch your thing.

Young actor Josh Wiggins is especially good in this scene, as his character tries hard to be supportive of his friend Mouse, to go above and beyond really. His performance throughout the film, here and in the scenes with Franky’s dad, is so attentive, detailed, and authentic, I will be surprised if I see a more impressive turn this year.

These exchanges and encounters with objects facilitate the grace and elegance of the film’s narrative structure — mapped out, it would look like a series of looping paths connected by bridges. In that scene, it’s a phallus: a sock-cock in one scene, a strap-on in another. It’s not hard to imagine that Mouse is taking the piss here out of Franky, who’s declared, I’m not gay! at least three times, and yet in that open conversation with this dad it’s clear he’s not quite sure about that.

Ballas gives Franky a flare gun for his birthday. They shoot it off while biking around the neighborhood drunk. Later, early in the morning, under the covers, something else goes off.

In the film’s final scene, Franky shoots off the flare gun by himself, although two important people in his life see it, both Ballas and Ballas’ sister Natasha, whom Franky is now involved with.

  • Ballas in the pool - Still from Giant Little Ones

Ballas’ response as he treads water in a pool, comes soon after discovering the return of his bike and necklace.

He’s as ambivalent and troubled as he was in the school’s hallway when Franky confronts him, giving him the opportunity to come clean, to do, say, something, anything.

This interaction occurs after the disturbing, penultimate scene in which a drunken Ballas kicks the shit out of Franky.

This scene takes places in the parking lot of the convenient store. It echoes an earlier scene which also turned violent and also featured homophobic language and behavior.

In the earlier scene, a group of drunk assholes in a car ridicule Ballas and Franky. They call them “boyfriends.” The confrontation becomes a bonding moment for the boys as they resist the bullying behavior of the assholes. The boys douse the dudes with their Slurpees.

Ballas punches two of them and slams a car door on another. Then the boys get on bikes and escape. Later, they’re under the covers together, softly gasping, almost as if this confrontation had planted a suggestion in their minds.

Two important questions precede the violence between Ballas and Franky, both asked by Franky:

  • “What the fuck is wrong with you? What are you so afraid of?”
  • The first punch thrown.
  • “Ballas…what are you doing?”
  • Ballas has no answer, just another punch.

Franky’s hoarse and anguished question broke my heart. He’s appalled at Ballas’ behavior, at the cruel inversion of their love for another, which is still there in that question and in Ballas’ over-the-top but not uncharacteristic violence.

I appreciated that in the next scene Ballas gets interviewed by the cops, with non-diegetic sound and droning music. Eventually, his sister Natasha pauses at the doorway into the room and watches. So many American movies treat violence between friends as no big deal. Giant Little Ones shows us legal, moral, and emotional consequences, emphasizing the latter. Natasha’s expressions are unreadable but they aren’t obviously judgmental regardless.

Shortly after the scene with the cops, another transformation and transition occurs. Franky stands in front of mirror, evaluating himself, and it’s not just his appearance. The fight and its physical and psychic impact motivates this assessment. He decides to change his look but the way the scene is lit and shot makes it feel like a spiritual transition in the form of a material ritual.

This is the film at its most expressive and intimate, as facilitated by cinematographer Guy Godfree. Again, an ambient soundtrack accompanies this scene rather than diegetic sound. Imagine how the buzz of hair clippers would affect the way we receive and perceive what we’re shown.

Notice also how, despite the cramped location, there’s a foreground, middleground and background to these shots. The focus shifts to draw our attention but the size or shape of out-of-focus objects or parts of Franky’s body draws the eye back and forth across the frame. For instance, in the close-up profile of Franky shaving, we’re offered as loci: an ear, the curl of several strands of hair, a highlighted shoulder, the shadowed curve of an arm, an eye slit, the outline of a nose.

Then a clump of hair falls just a bit in front of that nose but the focus remains fixed on Franky’s face. Godfree has composed these shots exquisitely and in a subtle balance of forms and shades, with far more curves and circles. Most of the film’s other shots are full of squared-off blocks of blue-toned light and darker blue shadows, as you can see in most of the stills above.

In these shots, the tones are still dominantly blue but differentiated by the subtle Caucasian pinkish beige of Franky’s skin and the muddy whites of the walls.

Now that I’ve watched the film a fourth time, I’ve had the opportunity to appreciate, not just the film’s formal patterns in the narrative but also its style. This is an art film, after all.

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two notes & a tweet collection on: Logan Fri, 15 Mar 2019 05:21:51 +0000 LoganLogan is well-calibrated for the most part but often for the wrong reasons.

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First Note:

Because this film comes from Hollywood, and because former indie director Mangold is a sell-out, there’s some hypocritical handwringing about murder and violence in this franchise-ending (?) tale of redemption and death, with even more invitations and opportunities for us to look in awe upon all the believable gore, slashings, stabbings, and decapitations, and cheer on the war cries of a beast-like group of multi-culti, but murderous, children.

Thanks to the detailed and committed character work from, and rapport between, Stewart and Jackman, however, it is a bit more than that, but not much, and it only becomes more than that when they just talk, but that does not happen for long, and stops altogether when Professor X gets a claw in the chest from Logan’s clone. Death of the Father, and all that.

Professor X in Logan

I enjoyed most of it, however, and went along for the well-paced ride, happy to indulge the inner, tortured, hounded, and misunderstood outsider within me, just as the X-Men comics and a couple of the movies have always intended. Or at least I enjoyed it until the kitsch at the end, in which Mangold’s apparent touchstone for the whole project, the schmaltzy and morally jejune Shane, makes a second appearance in the form of a full quote from a bilingual, technologically engineered killer-kid at a gravesite. If it had been Rio Bravo, we might be getting somewhere.

Film review of Logan, X-Men movie

Second Note:

Logan is probably the best superhero movie derived from Marvel comics, although Into the Spider-Verse might inch past it once I watch it again. I’m also pretty fond of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Logan is without a doubt the best X-Men movie, although that’s not saying much.

On this second watch, I enjoyed even more the touching rapport between Logan and Charles, near the top of both actors’ movie performances, for what that’s worth.

But Mangold doesn’t take his violence seriously enough. The Shane quotes, ugh, make that clear. Yeah, I loved the movie as a kid, too, but then I grew up and discovered Hawks, Ford, Mann, Boetticher, and hell, Peckinpah. Mangold apparently did not?

But the Western references are all wrong. What’s really depicted gruesomely is this: War. Revolution. It’s torture, human experimentation, minority persecution, atrocities on both sides. And Mangold quotes Shane? Twice? That’s not only a serious artistic failing but a moral one, as well, which is why every penetration of a human body by Logan’s claws is at least in medium close-up. Soak it all in, folks, there’s more where that came from. But it’s also why the last 5 minutes or so of the film, including Logan’s rather pointless death, feel so shallow and bathetic. It’s the sort of ending one gets from someone who doesn’t know shit about war (the majority of us) and hasn’t deigned to think about it (something a great artist is supposed to do if it’s his subject). So we’re treated like gullible recruits.

Logan is well-calibrated for the most part but often for the wrong reasons.

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film note: Spring Breakers Wed, 06 Mar 2019 20:30:08 +0000 Short review of Spring BreakersI 'll have to watch it again before I make up my mind fully but this is the most fun I've had with a Harmony Korine film in a long time.

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Spring Breakers
Directed by Harmony Korine
94 mins, USA, 2012


Originally published on Letterboxd, Aug 27, 2013, with no likes.

Google summary:

College students Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are short of the cash they need for a spring-break trip, so they rob a diner and head down to Florida. However, the police soon break up the party and arrest them. The curvaceous quartet are unexpectedly bailed out by a drug dealer and aspiring rap artist named Alien (James Franco). Soon after, three of the four gal pals decide to join Alien in a life of crime.

I ‘ll have to watch it again before I make up my mind fully but this is the most fun I’ve had with a Harmony Korine film in a long time. It’s not as funny or as weird as Gummo (which is out of print?), which I love, but it’s more disciplined stylistically and the performances are clearly performances rather than jokes played on non-professional actors and our own ideas of how such folks should be treated or portrayed. The actors inhabit modern pop culture archetypes, including bimbos, which you can be offended about or not (Korine doesn’t care) and none more so than Franco as the pleasure-principled wigger.

The whole film is a ritual, a bacchanal, dedicated to money, over-indulgence, sex, dancing, drugs, flesh, complete with a high priest (Franco, who’s a scream), temple prostitutes, orgies, communal dancing (twerk!) and drinking, raids on rival tribes and finally, sacrifices.

It’s not just a film of a ritual — young college-age America’s pilgrimage to the beaches and hotels of the Southern coastal US — it is the thing itself, or at least it makes an attempt to be. Like Kenneth Anger’s Invocation of my Demon Brother, the ritual takes place again when it’s projected or watched. All that explains the repeated incantations and sound effects, like the gun-cock, in the soundtrack, the slo-mo, the visual rhyming, the ecstasy on the faces, the bursting neon colors and blacker blacks, the speeches & exhortations, the failure of the Christian to endure the ritual, to have the right kind of faith — this is a pagan joint, y’all — and the final, final message of Spring Break Forever.

Girl chokes a hot muscular boy in Spring Breakers
Choking a hot muscular boy on spring break

Let a thousand midnight showings bloom.

Spring Breakers’ reputation has gotten worse over time and I’m not sure the reason for that. It could be puritanical reactionary responses from intellectuals such as this one from Jonathan Rosenbaum. Inexplicably, and without any real explanation, he describes the film as being “crossed with kiddie-porn.”

Because boobs in bikinis?

Forgive me, but even without looking at the women in the film for proof, aren’t they all college-age? I don’t get it.

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film note: C.O.G. Wed, 06 Mar 2019 18:57:31 +0000 C.O.G. gay film review by Rick PowellI haven't read the David Sedaris "essay" this film is based on, or if I have I've forgotten it, but I have read Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed By Flames. My overall impression of Sedaris is that, although funny, he is barely able to conceal his misanthropy and that he likes things nice 'n' tidy. A little too tidy, particularly in that last collection in which every piece ends like a key entering a lock, whether it opens the door or not.

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Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez
92 mins, USA, 2013


Originally published on Letterboxd, September 22, 2013, with no likes.

Summary from Google Search:

Determined to suppress his homosexuality, a college dropout (Jonathan Groff) heads to Oregon, takes a job picking apples and, ultimately, finds religion.

I haven’t read the David Sedaris “essay” this film is based on, or if I have I’ve forgotten it, but I have read Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed By Flames. My overall impression of Sedaris is that, although funny, he is barely able to conceal his misanthropy and that he likes things nice ‘n’ tidy. A little too tidy, particularly in that last collection in which every piece ends like a key entering a lock, whether it opens the door or not.

Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez pares down the misanthropy, although there are a couple characters here who are truly awful and who function primarily so that the privileged, well-educated main character, David, can get his comeuppance for being, well, so privileged, educated, and also tone-deaf and clueless. They are like jokes played on David, that turn into tragedies but then lessons on the road to his becoming a real boy. It’s all very mechanical and unbelievable, as is the idea that no one watching could figure out what the film’s acronym stands for long before it’s revealed. I guess we’re supposed to laugh at David because he didn’t but I just face-palmed.

The best thing about COG is lead Jonathan Groff, who is not at all the beaming, scheming insincere closet case he played on Glee, but whose gentle and low-key delivery of punch lines and reveals, none of which are very funny or revealing, shows that he has some sympathy for the character — I didn’t — and also for the script. If he’d been less subtle the mechanics would have felt even more forced.

Not sure how I got through this without I fast-forwarding.

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Film Link: John Waters discusses Frank Tashlin’s The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) Sat, 02 Mar 2019 18:49:39 +0000 Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can't Help ItIt’s no surprise that this nutty and energetic Frank Tashlin-directed Jayne Mansfield vehicle is one of John Waters’ favorites. He’s very good at observing its ironies (“Camp is for rich people!”) and its establishment inversions. He also extolls the virtues of Deluxe Color over Technicolor, but not after misidentifying the color process that was used. …

Film Link: John Waters discusses Frank Tashlin’s The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) Read the whole post »

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It’s no surprise that this nutty and energetic Frank Tashlin-directed Jayne Mansfield vehicle is one of John Waters’ favorites. He’s very good at observing its ironies (“Camp is for rich people!”) and its establishment inversions. He also extolls the virtues of Deluxe Color over Technicolor, but not after misidentifying the color process that was used.

I hope that, like me, you’ll immediately put The Girl Can’t Help It on your watchlist. That Amazon link is to a compilation DVD that also includes Tashlin’s great, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

“In Albania, is anything so bad it’s good?” “I think of Jayne as Babs the Monkey.” Little Richard was “…the King of Rock ‘n Roll, and the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll.” “The Chuckles; what happened to The Chuckles…?”

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film note: De terça pra quarta Wed, 31 Oct 2018 18:33:50 +0000 Two boys kissing on the streets of a city in Brazil from the short film Tuesday OvernightI loved this underseen gay-themed short film from Brazil which depicts the unexpected meeting of two teen boys on the nighttime streets of a large city.

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De terça pra quarta
English title: Tuesday Overnight
Directed by Victor Costa Lopes
13 mins, Brazil, 2015

This short film opens with: a few seconds of black frame; underneath the black the sound of a bus pulling up, stopping, and moving off. Cuts to: A boy running to catch the bus but missing it, late in a large city in Brazil. Eventually he’s glad that he did.

film review of De terça pra quarta

The nightime streets of an unknown city feature as the exclusive setting for De terça pra quarta. As foreigners coming into this viewing cold we would not know the exact location but I did some searching and discovered it was shot in Fortaleza, the 10th-largest city in Brazil at 2.5 million people. The film’s last frame also names the city and date of production: FORTALEZA 2015.

Brazilians and others who live in Brazil might recognize it right away, of course, as Brazilian and not say, estadounidense or French. But anyone who has ever been on the streets of a modern city at night, lit by those awful sodium lights with shades of sickly yellow-green, would recognize the look in a general way. The film keeps us on those streets, lit by that light, for its entire length, and that sameness helps keep us in a particular place.

It’s not the case with all movies, of course, but in general many of the movies I value most locate themselves somewhere that feels true — or that trues a feeling — even if that idea of “place” can be a temporary one, a concept of place constructed inside a character’s head, one that’s effected by a change in physical and/or geographical location.

Off the top of my head and from a film I revisited recently, think of how the teen characters in The Breakfast Club transform their school generally and a library detention session specifically into a site for rebellion and unexpected connections and how this transformation changes their relationships. In that case, the change in the characters’ concepts of place, of belonging, in themselves, aspires for something utopian.

Just before I began writing about this easy-to-like gay-themed short from Brazil, I watched William Wyler’s The Big Country. Contained in its title and gracefully emphasized in nearly every frame, this 1958 Hollywood Western stars the California landscapes as much as it does Gregory Peck and Jean Simmons, maybe even creating a more lasting impact than the stars themselves.

In a penultimate fight scene between Peck’s character McKay and Charlton Heston’s character Leech, the vastness of the landscape points out the futility and vanity of their human-male struggles and rivalries, the scene shot as it is quite a distance from the action.

More than the look, however, the feel of the empty streets in De terça pra quarta evokes a sense of breaking the daytime rules of being outside the normal flow of daytime activities. In this flow, under these lights, on those streets, anything can happen, or anyone.

The characters walk in the middle of the street, with few vehicles or humans in sight outside of the cast, which in the case of De terça pra quarta is a group of mixed gender, early-20-somethings wheat-pasting posters for a university play called Vagabundos.

(An end credit thanks the people involved with Vagabundos for “significantly contributing” to the film. I couldn’t find online any information about the play but since the English translation for the word is exactly what you’d expect, we can assume some similarities. I like the secondary definition that Wiktionary provides: a person on a trip of indeterminate destination and/or length of time.)

Sometimes the characters appear together, sometimes alone, sometimes paired off, but all, when moving, are often shot from behind in varying distances from the film plane and with everything in frame more or less in focus. I’ve mentioned this style of framing and shooting a few times.

Most of the film shots are long shots or medium-long shots, although the short’s most significant images are medium shots that cut to close-ups of the film’s main couple, the boy who missed the bus (whose name I couldn’t determine since there are two unnamed male characters in the film), and Renan, the shaggy-haired, brown-skinned boy in the wheatpasting group of friends who ends up being very happy that he did.

After a series of tracking shots following the various characters as they move through the streets — in them we see the two boys eventually pair off — Renan moves to paste up a poster while the other boy waits for him, leaning up against a wall, a half-smile on his face. He’s waiting for something, and by now we’re waiting, too.

The poster keeps falling off the very dirty wall and finally, impatiently, the other boy pulls on Renan’s shirt to gather him close; and they kiss, for quite a long time, too.

The sequence cuts from a medium shot to a close-up just after they switch places, panting, slobbering, getting more passionate, with Renan up against the wall instead of the other boy. This is exactly the sort of surprise that a night, a space, a place, an outside flow like this can facilitate, or least boys like these hope for it.

Renan steps back from the kiss, breathing hard, and with wonder looks at the other boy, whose skin shades lighter and who’s out of frame now; then he breaks into a laugh and smiles.

film still from the Brazilian gay short film De terça pra quarta or Tuesday Overnight

The slogan on his shirts says:

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

It’s worth completing that quote from Einstein:

For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination encircles the world.

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film note: Dallas Buyers Club Sun, 23 Sep 2018 22:45:59 +0000 Dallas Buyers Club, a capsule reviewI'm glad this movie talks about a time period that most people, even most gay men, have forgotten, it's still too bad that this kinda dry vehicle will get seen more than any of the worthy documentaries about the response to the AIDS crisis, such as Voices from the Front, How To Survive a Plague, We Were Here and United in Anger.

The post film note: Dallas Buyers Club appeared first on The Cinesexual.


Originally published on Letterboxd, Jan 04, 2014

Note: Before I saw the film I didn’t know who the real Ron Woodroof was and so wasn’t aware of the film’s possible attempt to erase at least one aspect of his sexuality or create a new one.

I’ve added some relevant quotes about that issue at the bottom of the review.

Dallas Buyers Club
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
117 mins, USA, 2013

I’ve never seen a better or less showy performance by Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodruff, a homophobic rodeo electrician who contracts HIV from unprotected sex with an IV-drug-using prostitute and ends up becoming a kind of treatment activist. (One of the film’s insights I appreciated is a reminder that all treatment activists were necessarily self-interested.)

A great deal of the sense of authenticity in the character must of course come from McConaughey’s startling physical transformation that has already happened before the narrative begins, both in the character’s life and in the actor’s but also in the PR leading up to Oscar buzz.

Jared Leto is no less impressive as Rayon, Woodruff’s cross-dressing HIV-positive partner — business partner, as Woodruff stresses at one point — and director Jean-Marc Vallée is pretty savvy to feature the bodies of these two straight Hollywood men in the ways that he does, otherwise I guess a mainstream audience would find it hard to focus.

Other than Rayon’s boyfriend, everyone else seems pretty healthy, so there’s no real sense of communal emergency here, which is how I remember that time period. No matter how many times Woodruff shouts, People are dying!, only his own oncoming death matters very much.

Leto’s Rayon is around primarily so that his death can affect Woodruff. ACT UP gets a sidenote via a news broadcast covering the protest at the FDA during which nearly 200 people were arrested for civil disobedience but is referred to only as “activists.” Jennifer Garner, as the mostly superfluous Dr. Eva Saks, hears that, sighs and switches off the TV.

So while I’m glad this movie talks about a time period that most people, even most gay men, have forgotten, it’s still too bad that this kinda dry vehicle will get seen more than any of the worthy documentaries about the response to the AIDS crisis, such as Voices from the Front, How To Survive a Plague, We Were Here and United in Anger.

Notes on Ron Woodroof’s sexuality as depicted in Dallas Buyers Club

From The Huffington Post:

William Waybourn, the former president of the Dallas Gay Alliance, knew Woodroof well from volunteering together and running in the same circles in Dallas. He told HuffPost Live’s Ricky Camilleri that the movie’s depiction of Woodroof as a heterosexual who struggled to be around gay men is at odds with everything Waybourn knew about Woodroof.

“I never saw the straight side of Ron. That’s what was the most surprising part of this whole movie,” he said. “He worked in a gay center, he was surrounded by gay men, and as far as I know, had relationships with gay men. I can’t tell you exactly what his sexual orientation was — or anyone’s — but he certainly had no problems being around us.”

This Slate article sums up the sexuality controversy well. Craig Borten, the original screenwriter, says that:

During [his] three days of interviews with him, Woodroof introduced another woman as a girlfriend, repeatedly said homophobic and racist things, and made repeated and graphic references to anal sex with women, according to the press agent. As for the question of whether Woodroof was bisexual, the press agent says it never came up.

Perhaps the most significant and telling fabrication was the fact that Woodroof didn’t ride rodeo and never told anyone how he contracted HIV, something that most admit. In the film, he gets it from a prostitute whom he fucked in a trailer at the rodeo. Because good cinema?

Someone asked a question about this issue on Quora.

Finally, in this Daily Beast article, journalist Bill Minutaglio, who was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News and interviewed Woodroof, says only that he didn’t witness Woodroof express any homophobia at all.

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Short Reviews of 9 Gay-Themed Movies Sun, 09 Sep 2018 20:33:17 +0000 Greek Pete gay movieMost of these gay-themed movies are worth a look. Just don't expect any masterpieces.

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Wild Side
2004 Directed by Sébastien Lifshitz 110 mins

Sébastien Lifshitz‘s elegant and melancholy relationship study utilizes elliptical editing patterns that double-back on the film’s main narrative — the daughter of a transsexual woman returns home after several estranged years to take care of her dying mother — thereby slowly and non-judgmentally providing the occasionally salacious details of the ménage à trois that nestles like an egg — fragile but protected — in the middle of this movie about beginnings and endings.

Wild Side is every bit as affecting as Lifshitz’s well-loved Presque rien, but here, instead of showing the limits of love, the wholly counterintuitive effect is an almost utopian prophecy of where it’s possible to go in the world, and with whom, no matter where or how you started out, with what body parts and with what sort of parents.

2011 ‘Stadt Land Fluss’ Directed by Benjamin Cantu 88 mins

In this beautiful little film the relationship between two teens on an agricultural complex south of Berlin develops so slowly and with a couple false starts that by the time they do kiss for real, take their shirts off and start laughing, you know exactly why they do.

It’s a very well-earned relief but not as much of one as the final shot, which seems like an echo of Hettie Macdonald’s more upbeat Beautiful Thing. We don’t get enough movies about loneliness really and what it feels like to finally make a connection.

2013 Directed by Christian Martin 89 mins

Less uneven in tone than its predecessor, Shank, if also less satisfying as drama, this sequel suffers from its director’s penchant for not knowing when to quit, with plenty of over-the-top situations, bizarre behavior from its underwritten characters, unbelievable scenarios, unconvincing milieux as well as unmotivated violence, unpleasantness, and a flat performance from the lead.

Gay street punk Cal from Shank, not so fresh from getting raped by his criminal mentor and best friend in the last movie, returns to London from wandering Europe to find his mum dying of cancer. What else? He falls in, somehow, with a hustler who’s involved with some Fagin-like pimp and drug dealer. The couple eventually has sex, even though Cal resists the hustler’s advances at first, because rape trauma, and eventually they try to escape their sordid existences after being forced to engage in a bloody fist fight in their underwear at gunpoint for a client. As everybody does, you know.

Whereas Shank’s characters, even the bad ones, came off as more or less human, if terribly fucked up, there’s very little evidence of humanity in this movie. There’s nothing sexy about the central relationship, either, which is I suppose the real reason why anyone wanted this movie made in the first place.

1998 Directed by John Huckert 102 mins

The execution of this serial killer/cop procedural/coming out story is so amateurish and provided so many ironic laughs that for the first 30 minutes I thought I was getting camp. But then as the story cemented and the ideas coalesced, I realized it was more a Larry Cohen movie from the 70s than a John Waters one: in the taut screenplay; the brutal, gory and pointed shots of murders; and the serious attention given to the similar psychologies of cop and killer.

That doesn’t mean I never laughed again but it did mean I paid a lot more attention.

Ode to Billy Joe
1976 Directed by Max Baer, Jr. 105 mins

Director Max Baer, Jr (Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies) delays almost forever any climax, sexual and otherwise, in this teenage Southern melodrama from 1976 by keeping the sexuality mostly suggestive and at a slow, slow boil.

The narrative is helped along by some snappy and sometimes comically over-written dialogue (scripted by Herman Raucher, who also wrote the screenplay for Summer of ’42) between the title character, played by a gloriously cute and sweaty Robby Benson, and his love interest/beard, played by a sweet and innocent-looking Glynnis O’Connor.

If you know the Bobbie Gentry song the movie is based on, don’t think that tells the whole story. The movie is pretty ballsy for the 70s (it was a hit even) and not only kept my interest but the poignant coda moved me, as Bobbie Lee decides to leave home rather than give away Billy Joe’s secret. Suitcase in hand, she encounters Billy’s one-night stand and has a very adult conversation with him on the bridge — that bridge — on her way out of town.

2008 Directed by Till Kleinert 35 mins

More odd than creepy, this is still a pretty effective and rather old-fashioned German horror short shot in 16mm that borrows imagery, setting, and the occasional plot suggestion from Deliverance, Children of the Corn, and Wicker Man, just to name a few touchstones.

A thirty-something real estate investor stops at a farm in rural Germany hoping to buy up cheap property. He runs into a skinny, sweaty, smirking, shirtless twink working on some farm machinery and realizes he may be in the market for something else.

Derivative in a broad sense but inventive and a little bit sexy in its details, the story certainly pays off better than most mainstream horror flicks three times its length, particularly the funny and surprising reveal and a twist or two. Good use of silence, and ahem, Dutch angles. Available on a compilation of gay shorts called Boys On Film 2.

The Third Sex
1957 ‘Anders als du und ich (§ 175)’ Directed by Veit Harlan 91 mins

This is more a historical curiosity than it is a film to recommend on its own merits so I won’t rate it.

Klaus is a handsome, not-quite-18 West German youth whose parents become worried about his possible homosexuality because of his friendship with another boy, Manfred, who is gay, and because he’s been hanging out with an older gay sophisticate, the ephebephilic art dealer, Dr. Boris. They concoct a plan to encourage their live-in maid, the majority-age Gerta, to seduce Klaus in order to turn him into a real man. The father also reports Boris to the police but the tables get turned on him and his wife.

Didactic and tedious in spots, particularly when some doctor talks about homosexuality and in the extended courtroom scenes, there’s also some deliberate humor and camp as well as some unintentional laughs. Finally, although Klaus is saved from Dr. Boris’ clutches, it’s the petite bourgeoisie who get it in the end. For the late 50s, this was strong stuff, on any continent.

The US titles are Different From You and Me and Bewildered Youth.

Greek Pete 2009 Directed by Andrew Haigh 75 mins

Andrew Haigh’s tender and sometimes poignant portrait of a London rent boy is notable mostly for its style — a heavy emphasis on selective focus, even in close-ups; a drifting handheld camera that often shoots through objects and architecture and manages to suggest both intimacy and distance; a muted, real-world color palette that emphasizes the documentary aspects of his story. All of these elements Haigh would go on to perfect and expand upon in his masterpiece, Weekend.

What this fictionalized documentary lacks that Weekend doesn’t is suggestive dialogue. Although I don’t think the film is any longer than it has to be, and it’s pretty short, Pete and his friends really aren’t that interesting to listen to. So some scenes meander and linger for no good reason, particularly the Christmas dinner sequence.

The reconstructed scenes with Pete’s johns also stick out from an otherwise convincingly realist milieu. Still, Pete himself is charming and open and his scenes with his unmotivated drug-obsessed boyfriend ring true. I just wish that Haigh had made Pete’s big triumph near the end of the film feel a little less blatantly hollow, but maybe that’s because I identify a little too strongly with rent boys.

2008 Directed by Naoto Kumazawa 115 mins

This film seems to exist solely to present as sublime objects of beauty the smooth, lithe bodies and little Speedo-bulges of adolescent Japanese male divers. More power to it because it’s convincing. Yet the almost complete sublimation of any overt sexuality is the weirdest thing about it, at least from a Western perspective.

Oh, but there is this scene, reprised twice, in which a group of boys de-Speedos a young lad in front of his favorite diver and causes the star to botch the maneuver as he dives.

“Did he see it? Did he see it?” the lad wants to know, grinning madly, not sure whether to be embarrassed or not, or for what. I wasn’t sure whether or not to be embarrassed either.

“You sure like Tomo, don’t you?” his friends ask.

“I sure do!”

And I’m sure an old-fashioned semiotician or psychoanalyst could have some fun with this; I was drawn in while at the same time being utterly confused and often bored. Some nice crane shots of the diving tower though and apparently these boys are real divers.

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film note: The Canyons Sun, 09 Sep 2018 19:23:58 +0000 Although visually dazzling in spots, this empty and pretentious film is a lot less risky than director/writer Paul Schrader thinks it is.

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The Canyons
Directed by Paul Schrader
99 mins, USA, 2013

Originally published on Letterboxd with no likes.

Not to pile on, but it’s embarrassing watching Schrader try to lend weight to Bret Easton Ellis‘ characteristically silly, stilted & self-important script: tracking shots following characters for no other reason I can see other than to cite better directors, bombastic electronic soundtrack accompanying a tame & banal “orgy” scene (because getting a blow job from another guy is the craziest thing that can happen to a straight stud), oddball, unmotivated framing foregrounding LA traffic — watch for the looming UPS truck — and on. Lindsay Lohan & James Deen acquit themselves better than expected but the whole thing is just, well, so dumb, if occasionally visually dazzling.

Maybe Paul Verhoeven should have directed?

This is risky filmmaking for people without passports who have never had anything happen to them, or else its overloaded pop-culture self-reflexivity is supposed to flatter its middle-class audience:

I’m important! I get your references! Let’s snort some blow!

Want to see a movie that much more honestly and artfully depicts Empty LA and a real fucked-up but interesting character, then watch Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. It fails in some ways, too, but it’s not dumb.

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