Saturday, May 16, 2009

Film on the brain: Four queer movie reviews...

I've been meaning to write reviews on a few movies I've seen lately. The four films below represent a wide gamut of what's currently being put out there by queer or queer-friendly filmmakers, ranging from sharp and thought-provoking to mindless and amusing.

First up, Outrage, which I managed to see during the recent Hot Docs festival in Toronto. Directed by straight filmmaker Kirby Dick, this extraordinary feature documentary shines a light on many closeted, mostly Republican U.S. politicians and other politicos who have found success by scapegoating other gays and lesbians, or at least remaining indifferent to their cause. Many of you have likely heard the names before: Larry Craig, Mark Foley, former New York mayor Ed Koch and many others...

One name I hadn't heard before seeing the doc is current Florida Governor Charlie Crist (pictured right). Watching the numeous clips of Crist in the doc, the assertions are made all the more obvious. The filmmaker interviews two separate sources who claim Crist's former boyfriend once told them about their relationship. Crist, a longtime bachelor, of course, has been a vocal opponent of equality for gays and lesbians since becoming governor of Florida. His opposition to same sex marriage is said to have been a determining factor in the recent 62% victory banning equal marriage in that state's constitution (it needed 60% to pass.) When Crist was running for governor in 2006, he suddenly revealed a female fiancee. After being elected, their relationship came to an end. In 2008, when Crist's name was being bandied about as a possible running mate to John McCain, Crist suddenly came up with another woman who agreed to marry him. They tied the knot in December, just in time for Crist's campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Kirby Dick has claimed in interviews that he's got ample proof on every politician he outs in the film. Most of that info. comes to light before the final reel. He doesn't do so to embarrass them, but to instead expose their hypocrisy. One interviewee in the film compares the terrible, anti-gay voting records of these closeted politicians with young closeted gay men, who tend to be the most outwardly homophobic to try to seem as "straight" as possible. There's no doubt this film is a public service and should be required viewing. I also hope it puts to an end any talk of Charlie Crist running for U.S. President in 2012. Truly Crist fits the bill of a politician who's willing to say and "be" anything in order to win higher office.

Patrik, Age 1.5 was the opening night screening at Toronto's Inside Out festival on Thursday. It's the polar opposite of Outrage, profiling a mostly happy same sex couple living in Sweden seeking to adopt a little baby. Due to a bureaucratic mix-up, the men think they're about to adopt a child aged 1.5 years named Patrik. When the real Patrik, aged 15, with a troubled history, shows up on their doorstep, all hell breaks loose. I loved it!

No doubt Patrik, Age 1.5 represents the "coming of age" of queer cinema, in which gay men's lives not only begin to strongly resemble their straight counterparts, but queer cinema itself becomes very PG-rated and family friendly. There's no nudity in this flick, just sweet, well-rounded performances and many predictable, yet satisfying plot twists. It's feel-good film at its best and definitely deserves a watch for those looking for light, untroubling entertainment.

Two other queer films I saw recently are definitely not family-friendly.

Casper Andreas' Between Love and Goodbye, filmed in New York and starring Simon Miller and Canadian Justin Tensen as ill-fated lovers, could be described as the feature narrative polar opposite of Patrik, Age 1.5.

French immigrant and wannabe actor Marcel (the stunningly hot Tensen, the blond on the right) is madly in love with his boyfriend Kyle (Miller), a wannabe musician who plays gigs around the East Village. In order to stay in the U.S., Marcel fake marries their lesbian friend Sarah (Jane Elliott), and it looks like happily ever after is about to begin. Unfortunately, Kyle's troubled transsexual hooker sister/brother April/Cole (Rob Harmon) reappears after a year out of the picture and needs a place to crash. Eventually, sis gets in the way of our two lovers and high drama and much angst ensues.

For most of Andreas' flick, the melodrama works, with frequent flashbacks to various stages of the boys' relationship, showing early passion and love giving way to resentment and deterioration by the end. I was quite taken with the film's theme exploring how a relationship can strangely turn from beautiful to ugly, and the non-linear script highlighted that devastating contrast. Plus the frequent nudity by the two incredibly hot leads certainly spices things up.

But Andreas loses it at the end, torturing us with a terrible conclusion that not only undoes his entire theme but also undermines his characters. I felt cheated. It had been a decent movie up until that point and all I could ask was, 'Why didn't anyone with an ounce of writing talent stop Andreas from leaving this dumb ending in the final cut?'

Stiff Luv, by Toronto director Adrian Keats, is a quirky comedy filmed in the manner of John Greyson's Lilies (i.e. all parts, male and female, are played by male actors, mostly in drag.) That's where the similarities with Greyson's 1996 masterpiece end as Stiff Luv is slightly amateurish, yet not lacking in charm and gusto.

The silly story centers mostly around Liz, played by Sean Kaufman entirely in drag, as she conspires to cover up the death of her fiance. The ultra low-budget flick tries to be a gay slapstick comedy. On that front, it works occasionally, with several laugh-out-loud moments including the hilarious open bar at the funeral home! Why haven't more real funeral homes opened their own?

But the acting is uneven. Some of the drag performances were stunning to watch, while others were not as impressive (sadly I'd have to include the two leads in the latter). Adrian Keats, himself, who shows up near the end as 'Alice Big,' is truly impressive and tears up the scenery in a role reminiscent of Terence Stamp in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Too bad he/she didn't show up earlier. I also really liked the hilarious 'Brian Arser' character played by Bartholomew Sammut, and all the actors playing the male characters were quite cute. Overall, Stiff Luv is watchable and funny, but probably could've used a few more screenplay drafts before proceeding to principal photography.


Skinny Dipper said...

This isn't a movie. I am recommending a fictional book for students in grades seven to ten called Stitches by Glen Huser. You can Amazon it to get more information. I will ask if teachers in Alberta and elsehwere should notify parents before they start reading this book to their students or have the students read it themselves. One year, I did have some of my grade-eight students read this book. Not all of them like it. However, it was a great book for discussion.

Queers On Screen said...

whats great about this film is the 80% of the actors are actually queer as well!