It’s kind of sad that Madeleine Olnek’s Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks the Same is my first Ed Wood movie, but the experience was fun in this new incarnation. The title, however, isn’t that self-explanatory, only referring to an ad that one of the three lesbian space aliens (Cynthia Kaplan) have given out, their mission on earth is to get their hearts broken.
Shot in cheap digital black and white, the main focus is on Zoinx (Susan Ziegler) who finds her Jane (Lisa Haas), without telling the latter that her stay on Earth isn’t permanent, that Jane is only part of her mission to rid herself on earthling love. But while they’re together, their budding love, the banter of the spies watching the, and the aliens’ creative behaviour actually seems natural. 4/5.
For fear of sounding reductive, here’s a movie about relatively lower middle class people in German-speaking Switzerland. In Off Beat, Lukas (Hans-Jakob Muhletahler), a Zurich based rapper in his mid twenties, is literally going down while his brother Sami (Manuel Neuberger) takes his place in the music game. The relationship between him and older his manager Mischa (Domenico Pecoraio) gets sour when the latter wants Sami into the fold, made more complicated because of drugs, alcohol and the secret romance between elder brother and manager.
The film focuses on the melancholy within Lukas instead of getting more conventional storytelling done. And we know his is a sad movie because it is set and shot in eternal night/dawn/twilight. What the audience gets instead are rap-like narrations, exposing Lukas interior thoughts, his surprisingly convincing love for Mischa as well as thoughts about his fragmented family, especially about his father who never appears on-screen.
We also see Sami ignoring his older brother the way adolescents do, even when the latter is being publicly humiliated or being helplessly young within the adult world he’s thrust himself into. Or Mischa’s reticence in revealing his romance with Lukas, or not doing anything to mend the brothers’ relationship. Or Lukas, a character well performed by Muhletahler, starting rap rivalries like their North American counterparts do. Extras include the worst rap song and the four most creative interpretations of the anthem-like Beethoven’s 7th I’ve heard so far. A slow-paced yet convincing drama. 3/5.
Leading Ladies is a dance movie. Toni Campari is a sane young woman, routinely dealing with Sheri (Melanie LaPatin), her stage mom, mostly to Toni’s sister, Tasi, who has competitive ballroom dancing and man problems. She also has Cedric (Benji Schwimmer), Tasi’s dance partner who is gay despite Sheri’s denial. Toni’s world gets crazier when a series of family events lead her to meet Mona Saunders (Nicole Dionne), who’s about to get a crash course in dancing and dysfunctional families.
I don’t know if “So You Think You Can Dance” completists exist, but the two alums, LaPatin and Schwimmer fill in for that void. True, they have the same acting level as kids in high school, camping it up and all, but we know that those scenes are just big fillers for the zany dance numbers. Besides, there are truths within the second half of the cliché ridden script, like a heartfelt discussion between Toni and the heartbroken Mona about striving for their relationship or Tasi’s pregnancy rant. 2/5.
Renée is a documentary about the tennis player/eye doctor Renée Richards, who made a splash in the 1970’s tennis scene because she was born Richard Raskind. There are two threads in this documentary about transformation. The first being the forces, like transphobia, that’s stopping her from taking the top spot. The second are her friendships as both Richard and Renée. We see her in present day dealing with her fractured relationship with her son whom she abandoned and occasionally visits. Renée could have been about both instead of just about Renée, but looking back now, that possibility would have been too depressing, but this film nonetheless decides to show her contentment in changing into a woman. This is also a sports film, and there’s focus on her interest in sports as a man and her technique and flaws on amateur and professional courts, shown in colorfully restored footage. Also Contains short but graphic depictions of sex change operations. 4/5.
Playing before the documentary is a short film called “Love and Other Red Spot Specials,” about a male-to-female transvestite in Australia. I was expecting Chris Lilley.
- Op-Ed Columnist : Between Torment and Happiness (nytimes.com)
…how cringe-inducing Spider-Man 3 was, as Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) strut around the streets of Gotham City looking like Hipster Hitler. The girls he hits on know better, but the fictional superhero has still become less human. Peter becomes his own super villain, less sympathetic than the son (James Franco) avenging his father’s (Willem Dafoe) death or a new journalistic photographer (Topher Grace) younger than Peter. Why are all these people dudes?
I understand you were trying to be zeitgeist-y, with references to emo culture or the The Pick-Up Artist or to more serious, generational anxieties. Two of the villains’ names are Venom and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), both names could be read as Middle Eastern references. Or that there were many buildings falling down in this movie. Six years after 9/11, it didn’t seem too shocking or too soon, but I already mentioned this bloated, rough film’s other flaws.
The Advocate For Fagdom, about the life and work of Toronto film director Bruce LaBruce, is structurally a bad film. It uses clips of LaBruce’s films that discredits him as scatter brained. The interview subjects explain the provocateur’s work and doing so aimlessly, eventually going off into diatribes about an idea of queerdom and making LaBruce its main representative. A subject even audaciously claims that the shock audiences and actors get from LaBruce’s work is because male actors are more ‘shy’ about performing nudity and sexuality than their female counterparts.
Nonetheless, I just can’t write this movie off because LaBruce is essentially interesting. The POV footage of LaBruce’s hometown are raw and endearing. That there’s one subject who actually discourages LaBruce’s use of the latter’s experimental film influences. That John Waters talking censorship in Ontario is actually pretty funny. He also talks about the men in LaBruce’s early work with clips that surprisingly aren’t gratuitous. And yes, we probably share the same taste in men. The film is a good introduction to the man, which the only thing it needs to be. 3/5.
- Hot Docs 2011 (jwhyteappleby.wordpress.com)
You want me to knock an AIDS documentary? Fine, sometimes the end of the interview segments are slowed down before fading out, but that only happens twice. And of course, there was no mention of the hateful acronym GRID, but then this isn’t a pedantic regurgitation of the facts.
David Weissman’s We Were Here is interested in people. It lets its San Franciscan interview subjects begin at the beginning, Ed Wolf as a gay man who couldn’t fit into the cliques, Paul Boneberg continuing the spirit of the hippie era, artist Daniel Goldstein’s early days giving out flyers with Harvey Milk, Guy Clark as a flower shop owner, Eileen Glutzer taking her college feminist ethos and befriending gay men. They were frank and at times humorous about their perceptions about gay sexuality and activity, talking about it as a form of rebellion, an inevitable part of masculine wiring or simply calling it love between friends and boyfriends. Archive photos and footage is very helpful in many sections, showing for instance the big billboards for bath houses when they were still legal in the city, or general images of the men in the peak of their youth which are innately tragic.
The documentary also eases into the beginning of the AIDS crisis, coming into their lives rapidly. Strong young men were becoming sickly, filling up beds and dying days later. The five separate lives of the subjects become strung together through activism. Glutzer as a nurse braves wards with AIDS patients. Goldstein becomes one of the first affected by the outbreak and survives through medical flukes and emotional rough patches. The film bravely shows the men’s appearances change after being infected and veers into different questions and responses within and outside the community. As a young gay man, admittedly I still don’t realize the disease’s real effects. The film is more hopeful than depressing, showing creative ways in which the LGBT friendly community helped each other, but both sides of the coin still exist, and I should probably watch this documentary every day. 4/5.
- The Image They Left Behind (towleroad.com)
‘My purpose in coming here tonight was twofold. Firstly, I wanted to aid this young lady. Secondly, I was curious to see how a bunch of empty-headed nitwits conducted themselves.’
Gregory La Cava‘s My Man Godfrey takes satire over slapstick. The patriarch of the Bullock’s frustration with his family’s antics and lavish spending is delivered with sincerity. The titular dumpster hobo Godfrey’s (William Powell) mixed in with this craziness that always crosses the line, like Cordelia Bullock (Gail Patrick) trying to destroy whoever she doesn’t like. She especially finds Godfrey as a target, but not the same way we do – there’s eloquence in stinging the rich that makes us question his gruff demeanor. Cordelia, nonetheless, comments on the age difference between him and his love interest – her sister Irene (Carole Lombard). Often looking glamorous and elegant, like a blond Joan Crawford, Lombard kind of looks like a gangly woman-child in an expensive gown. It’s the curls. At least she is the reason this movie’s funny.
Cordelia picks Godfrey out of the dump near the Hudson river, she hides pearls under his bed accuses him of stealing, pearls go missing because he ends up stealing and hiding the pearls better than she can. He uses the pearls to turn the dump into a place that can accommodate both a night club and housing apartments, two institutions that won’t mix today. Godfrey, thus, invents gentrification avant la lettre, but unlike today’s version, he incorporates the poor into is urban vision by giving them work instead of simply turning them away.
- My Man Godfrey (1936) TIME TRAVEL, first class (boxofpuzzlepieces.wordpress.com)
Christoph Honore’s Man at Bath features cruelly volatile characters, focusing on a French gay couple falling out of love, mostly because Emmanuel (Francois Sagat) rapes his boyfriend Omar. Omar gives his boyfriend a week to move out of his apartment, which is convenient since he’s going to New York for film work with Chiara Mastroianni. The film then shows scenes of Emmanuel hooking to earn money to Omar picking up Dustin, a young Quebecois/Al Pacino lookalike to scenes when the couple are in the apartment. We’ll assume that it’s Emmanuel imagining his boyfriend in that space, both connecting sexually.
There are some good things. Like there’s no hint of subversion in Sagat’s emotionally versatile performance or that singing indie rock before sex is actually cool or Emmanuel having sex with three different guys in his soon-to-be ex boyfriend’s apartment might just be the best revenge ever. But are these characters depicted with distance or self-awareness? That could have saved the film, as well as some editing and organizing the plots from priority a, b or c. 1/5.
Before the main event, there was a screening of a short called The Lady is Dead, about a heavily made-up old woman watching LGBT men and women of all shapes, two of which are twinks who weigh exactly like my right thigh. 2/5.
I saw Steven Spielberg‘s Jurassic Park for the second time as part of the Toronto Underground Cinema’s first anniversary celebration last Sunday. They celebrated by showing the first twenty minutes about a documentary about their cinema, which featured my ass. That day was also James Mason’s birthday. This is important because Sam Neill looks like James Mason.
Above is Sam Neill with the tail of a CGI dinosaur. Half of the dinosaurs in this movie are real, the rest, excluding the first Brontosaurus, only look real. Correct me, but 90’s was one of those eras where if you wanted a dinosaur, a monster or a natural disaster on-screen, you had to make it and not draw it.
Dennis (Wayne Knight) has a snake-life face. He is hateful and is frustrated by Dr. John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) condescendingly low wages. Even if the latter pushes his employees, his intentions are good. He shuts down all the security systems and runs away from the fortress-like abbey Jurassic Park laboratories to smuggle some priceless Jurassic DNA out of the island, angering Hammond who knows nothing about Dennis’ foul scheme. Dennis runs through the poisonous forests, wearing an alluring yellow raincoat, gasping at any animal he might cross. Dennis tries to return to the fortress, only to be eaten by a dinosaur.
- Favorite Movie Scenes: “Welcome to Jurassic Park” (evsmoviezone.wordpress.com)
Observe and Report got a lukewarm reception at the box office mostly because of unfortunate timing – Warner Brothers released the movie about a mall cop three months after the Kevin Smith ahem, blockbuster vehicle Paul Blart: Mall Cop and suffered for it. Thankfully, Criticize This writer and Indefensible founder Andrew Parker and Exclaim!’s Will Sloan are ready to make us believe that this movie is a masterpiece. Seth Rogen won’t be at the Toronto Underground Cinema at both this Friday and Sunday screenings, but for us gays and girls who like our guys ‘Rogen size,’ Torontoist‘s John Semley will come to Friday along with CinemaScope’s Adam Nayman – unconfirmed – to trash the movie. I have no idea what size Mr. Sloan comes in. Then this Sunday, NOW Magazine‘s Norman Wilner will introduce, defend Observe and Report and show its similarities to another film showing at the Underground that night – Taxi Driver.
I have cheese factory duties on both screening times so I won’t get to see Rogen and his apparently career-best film performance. Neither will I see the great Celia Weston, nor apparently the greatest fight scene in an English language film, nor the longest full frontal scene ever – not a pun. Nor will I be there to snark that ‘I hate malls, I like boutiques better, I hate the suburbs, I live in Toronto.’ I will be there in spirit. Supporting cast includes Anna Faris, Ray Liotta, Patton Oswalt, etc. Both screenings start at 7PM. Proceeds go to the Organization for Bipolar Affective Disorder.
- Picks of the Week, April 9, 2009 (mrmovietimes.com)
ph. New Line
Did you know that I played Edna Turnblad (Divine) at a high school production of the musical version? In a Catholic school. We sang ‘Mama I’m a Big Girl Now.’ I had this guttural voice that I assume is from a Broadway production recording, not the fuller voice that Divine had. I also wore a moo-moo and A-cup rice boobs, undeserving of the fabulous outfits that Divine wore.
When I was watching Pink Flamingos two weeks or so, there’s a scene when Divine walks around in this predominantly black area downtown, their eyes at her, the division between race unspoken but obvious. I feel as if Hairspray bridges those two people, taking us back to 1963. Like the earlier John Waters film,this movie would depict a taboo, this time, black and Caucasian miscegenation, with psychological carnality. Its protagonist is a plus sized young woman, in this film she’s Edna’s daughter Tracy (Ricki Lake), has a best friend in love with a young black man and fighting someone skinnier and bitchier.
And of course, who can make a movie about racism so irreverently than Waters himself? There’s a guy holding a lynch rope in an amusement park scene. This movie also features the most endearing line reading of the word ‘Negro.’ Also featuring Debbie Harry, Jerry Stiller and Waters alumnus Mink Stole.
This post is a part of Nathaniel’s ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot‘ series.
Our generation has CGI, earlier generations of movies had whatever this is, green screen. In an early scene in W. S. Van Dyke‘s Tarzan the Ape Man, visitor Jane Parker (Maureen O’Sullivan), her father James (C. Aubrey Smith) and his young associate/Jane’s logically set-up boyfriend Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) happen to be around when African tribesmen are having a trading session. The trio come over to check out the African warriors, the two groups obviously shot separately. This is when contemporary snark comes in, like “As if MGM would let the white ‘actors’ and the black ‘extras’ breathe the same air, am I right?” or “How rude with their backs facing the audience!”
We can also overthink this shot as a metaphor for cinema, especially useful in racial binaries in cinematic spectatorship. The Europeans examine the Africans while the latter are oblivious to white eyes, take from that what you will. This can go two ways – first, the sheltered European might have a visceral reaction towards the images of difference in front of her/him. Softening the ‘capitalist exploitation’ angle, the movie makes Jane, a pre-code heroine, smarter than that, unhesitatingly approaching the human subject near her and asking for its meaning, assuming civilization in the African’s make-up and armour. Her father tells her that say, the decorations in the shields represent how many lions or humans the guy killed. She’s not fazed. But don’t worry, she’ll be in the same spaces the Africans but for real this time. She’ll also be doing a lot more screaming, but for other, more justified reasons.
Jane screams since discovering Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller) is more shocking than the Africans or the animals. Tarzan either represents civilization lost within uncultivated land or a critique of the British/turn of the century empires. What I mean by the latter is that Tarzan’s presence in Africa means that there have been other Europeans who have explored the same territory as Jane and her fellow English are trying to break into, and that the earlier Europeans succumb to wilderness. Now that Jane and Tarzan have found each other and he stops throwing her around like a rag doll, she finds it, inadvertently, her mission to (re)teach the English language to him. I’ve tried the erudition above, but we do need the Weissmuller shots if I’m blogging about the Tarzan movie, as well as to point out that despite of everything, his hair looks better than hers.
- Maureen O’Sullivan. She Jane! (thefilmexperience.net)
When Harry Met Sally begins with college age Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) talking about their unrefined views about Everybody Goes to Rick’s while their wigs are trying not to move. They eventually meet again twice and grow up to be more experienced – no, Harry becomes borderline jaded – when it comes to love, the two of them are a healthy mix of happy and sad whether they’re together or apart. And Sally infamous fakes the second best female orgasm ever. Did I miss anything else?
This movie is what would happen if characters in a Woody Allen movie didn’t read books, making screenwriter Nora Ephron pretty much ahead of her time. But that’s kind of unfair, right? Harry and Sally like movies and musicals. They’ve gone to the same university in Chicago, and so, we assume, do their friends. Even if some of them do have bad taste in stupid, wagon wheel Roy Rogers garage sale coffee tables.
‘I want you to know…that I will never want that wagon wheel coffee table.’
I worship the ground that Carrie Fisher walks on. When is she coming back to Toronto? Why is she not the more famous one in this trio?
Then Harry and Sally have breakup sex, he gets a little stalker-y, but if an ex-boyfriend ever sang on my voice mail, I’ll be tempted to answer the phone. Although Harry gets points off for wearing those white running shoes. What were the 80’s and early 90’s thinking? Anyway, I can’t wait for the sequel!
TV airings/film screenings of The 400 Blows are often preceded or followed by director Francois Truffaut‘s short film “Les Mistons,” where a group of mid-20th century rural French boys spy on a young woman, Bernadette (Bernadette Lafont), then her boyfriend Gerard (Gerard Blain) gets into the picture and spy some more.
For some reason, I never got the feeling that the kids really wanted to replace Gerard, as if Bernadette’s more interesting because she has a boyfriend and they start feeling guilty about their voyeurism when she loses him to the Algerian War. I’m more interested in the Algerians that Gerard might have electrocuted, but then there’s already a movie about that and I’m a bitch.
I saw The 400 Blows for the second time without subtitles which was brutal, except that I paid more attention to things like Jean-Pierre Leaud‘s acting tics as he plays Antoine Doinel. He quickly looks away while he’s talking to his mother, scornfully dismissing her. He’s not necessarily that cruel, telling her about his problems at school, a normal frustration for a child that she understands. Or when he’s being interviewed by one of the officials in the youth camp where he’s sent, talking about abortions and prostitutes with frankness or the occasional impish grin. Leaud’s Antoine seems more experienced in life than his character in Masculin Feminin. Director Francois Truffaut is lucky to have found him.
Or the camera work, like when a line of schoolboys get shorter and how half of the adults in the area are so complacent about this as well as towards Antoine’s antics. If only we were schoolboys in Paris too. Antoine’s predicament is unfair since everyone does what he gets repeatedly punished for. Kids should never be treated this barbaric – there’s a racially ambiguous child in this film being fed toothpaste – but how do adults act when a child does bad things again and again?
Or Antoine and his best friend’s costumes. The best friend wears a suit and tie while Antoine wears flannel. The rich one has the ideas and the poor one does the work, thinking their plans are foolproof. I can marvel at the film’s shot compositions while the ghetto side of me comes out and thinks ‘punk ass stillin’ a typewriter, yo!’ I used to meet older Antoines and hear their stories about starting theft under $5000 in middle school. It’s a relief that my generation isn’t the only one who are guilty. I also get angry when he’s being treated badly, but the music calms me, toning my range down to defenseless pity. Melodrama wouldn’t suit a film about Antoine – in spite of oppression he never cries, and he totally can pull that card since he’s young enough. Whether it’s the occasional home troubles, mixed in with happy moments or the downward spiral of the film’s last 25 minutes, the film doesn’t allow for those kind of heightened emotions.
This film is also why you shouldn’t go to theory-based film classes. The first text I got writes something about how Antoine’s final close-up is unsettling, which thanks for the spoiler – and yes, I’m a hypocrite. The ending doesn’t close the plot, but I don’t necessarily see that as unsettling as opposed to showing him as a representative to a generation. Truffaut made sequels for the film, but for now Antoine’s future comes to a stand still.
Back-ish! Last year, when I’m stumped with some of the movies I watched, I just left it alone, which means that at times I’ll forget that I saw Uncle Boonmee Who Recalls His Past Lives, a brain fart some of you might not relate to because apparently Boonmee‘s still rolling out in theatres. Not this year, just in case. But I’m still stumped so I’m combining the two French-y movies that I saw before going on vacation.
Certified Copy is the most fun I’ve had in a theatre for the past month or two, because it was the second emptiest theatre I’ve been to. I thought I was going to be alone, just like I was while watching Ballast when, these two women in their late 20’s came in, walked out when they found out the movie was in Italian, then I yelled, ‘It’s in English now!’ and they walked back in. We still couldn’t figure out whether Juliette Binoche and William Shimmell were together, frustrating one woman who was a Binoche fan – she’s only seen Chocolat. But it frustrated me more that the trailer gave the secret away. Think of this film as In the Mood for Love but the couple, on their day off, can’t dress and they’re more committed to make-believe, whether in love or having philosophical arguments. Like the book written by Shimmell’s character, it puts the facsimile of cinema into question. What makes their relationship less legitimate than ‘real couples’ in other movies? Why can’t people be comfortable and emotionally connect with friendly strangers? Directed by Iranian Abbas Kiarostami, this film is less almanac-y and more emotionally voluminous than his earlier work.
Of Gods and Men is its own brand of meditative. The first twenty-five minutes show the routine of French Trappist monks until terrorists kill a few Bosnian workers in the area. The movie then becomes a time bomb, disturbing its audience by showing the monks continue with their little duties, pretending that these attacks might soon pass. They can leave but worry that without them, the terrorists might graze the town that they’re based. When the abbey’s doctor keeps to the Hippocratic oath and heal one of the nice enough terrorists, it angers the Algerian government. Cue the personal tests, the infighting between the docile head Brother Christian (Lambert Wilson) and passionate Brother Christophe (Olivier Rabourdin), who eventually help each other in their spiritual troubles. There’s something beautifully sterile about the film’s compositions, making me think that it would have been just good if it was in black and white, one of the last scenes, showing the abbey covered in snow, reminiscent of White Ribbon. But colour it is, as we have to experience its immediacy, the film depicting North Africa in 1996.
- Movie Review: Certified Copy (blogcritics.org)
I didn’t get to see a lot of movies from Hot Docs this year because of scheduling conflicts and other cluster fucks. This is not a personal blog so I’ll just go right ahead and talk about the whopping two movies that I did see as a plebe.
There are many similarities between Who Took the Bomp – Le Tigre on Tour and The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. They’re both a part of the late night screenings this year, both about experimental musicians who do need to be properly introduced to the viewing public who may not know about the genres and the musicians, both refuse to be elegies by showing their own brand of quasi-hipster happiness.
The first scenes of Bomp are shaky, not knowing the balance between performed amateurism and the band taking themselves seriously enough, but these aspects of Le Tigre’s mission statement eventually merge. It’s like a Hello Kitty doll giving the finger, the film punctuated by the band performing its danceable tunes about feminism, LGBT visibility, etc. It seamlessly weaves through its characters equally showcasing each band member so it’s not just about lead vocalist/guitarist Kathleen Hanna, who has her long provenance. It’s also about the fans, like one who is memorably touched by Hanna’s kind words. 4/5. I should have given it a 3.
Ballad, however, is a film version of a shrine, showing home videos of a dominatrix/artist/musician Lady Jaye accompanied by voice-overs of her pandrogynous husband, industrial musician/artist Genesis P-Orridge. The dreamlike Lady Jaye can’t speak for herself, in her part within their strangest of couplings – they decided to undergo plastic surgery to look more like each other. But her image and Genesis’ voice is enough to make us feel the happiness of a person who finds his true love while on an impressionistic journey in finding his true self. 4/5.
Paolo says: back home. so lazy
Paolo: *i am so lazy
Friend: me too
F: but i have a hangover hence
P: is jetlag justified after two days? besides, I did vote three hours after I got off a fucking plane.
F: thats something to be proud of
F: what is your riding?
P: Don Valley West. I should have voted for Gay Rob.
- Jack Laytons delicate Quebec dance (theglobeandmail.com)
After the first five minutes of David Lynch’s Eraserhead, Henry’s (John Nance) short hem and white socks gives Michael Jackson sartorial inspiration. But seriously, this ‘beginning’ reminds me of the ending of On The Waterfront, but instead of the neo-realist working men going back to work, Henry, alone, goes on vacation. The shadows seem penciled in within this industrial urban setting, but the darkness will be more solid and the vacation ruined as the film continues.
This post is a part of Nathaniel Rogers’ ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot‘ series.
The ‘Seminal Television’ series will probably only be used for now until someone in “SNL” or on TV in general has sexy hair or a sexier hair piece. Or if any of my nice friends will watch “Mildred Pierce” with me in the comfort of their own home. I’ll bring alcohol!