Almost Precious (Film Thoughts: Joe Bell)

So here’s the conundrum. There are so many good things going for ‘Joe Bell’ that I can’t help but root for it – it has a screenplay by the tandem of Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry (they did this little thing called ‘Brokeback Mountain’) and film is expertly directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. And I have to admit, I weeped a couple of times during the film, and I was especially moved by Reid Miller’s performance as Jadin, the gay teenager who took his life because he was bullied by his classmates. And the message, of course, resonates, and will always be timely and important. I mean, all these elements should add up to something special.

But… the stench of Mark Wahlberg permeates. This is a star vehicle for him, designed to elicit sympathy, a redemption vehicle seemingly from his racist past. And I may have been able to get past that if he were good, but he isn’t. He tries subtlety but I did not see any depth there. As a matter of fact, I did not feel anything from him, and I found it such a waste of effort. This could have been any actor’s piece, and it would have worked infinitely better.

So – did I like the film? Yes, in a lot of ways I did. I am begrudgingly recommending it despite its bad central performance, and just wish for what might have been.

Love Letters Straight From The Heart (Film Thooughts: The Last Letter From Your Lover)

I will always be in the mood for soapy melodramatic romance pieces, and on a Summer Saturday night, Augustine Frizell’s ‘The Last Letter From Your Lover’ is exactly what I am looking for. It has everything I want: glamorous period piece sets, fashionable wardrobe, fab women and cute guys, and a swoony love story that will make you fall in love It will make you yearn for something while munching on pop corn. It’s a modern day Douglas Sirk extravaganza, and you don’t have to think too much about it. And it is very well acted, so even if things are a little on the ‘can you believe it’ side – there’s an abundance of issues here, like amnesia, car accidents, missed messages – you can just shrug and believe. And Callum Turner’s smoldering turn makes me warm on the collar, if I have to be honest. So what are you waiting for ? This is the perfect Netflix and Chill flick.

Where’s The Bacon (Film Thoughts: Pig)

I can say with extreme confidence that Michael Sarnoski’s ‘Pig’ isn’t the movie that you thought it would be – whatever it is that movie in your mind. I had misgivings about it before I knew anything about it, because I thought it was one of those action revenge films (akin to ‘John Wick,’ which I never saw by the way) but what we have here is a unique drama of loss, of rumination of life, and what might have been. It’s a film that is difficult to describe, and how you react to it will probably vary as well. But I bet it will move you in ways you will mot realize. It is one of those films that I frankly did not know how to fully comprehend, but the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated its many layers. There’s a lot of subtlety here – in fact, there is too much subtlety and that is where its beauty lies, and in the center is a nuanced performance by Nicolas Cage. He will break your heart.

The Tweets Are Alive (Film Thoughts: Zola)

A good story is a good story, and most of the time it’s the best foundation for a good movie. The story of Janicza Bravo’s ‘Zola’ comes from a tweet, and that is also its biggest gimmick, and I have to admit I was intrigued as I am not really a big Twitterer and have no idea what it is (was) A series of tweets was posted in October 27, 2015 by A’Ziah King and she sold the rights to her tweets. (She later said she embellished parts of the story) I do think the story is pretty basic and unimpressive, but teh film is more interesting, and entertaining.

It’s because of the screenplay, written by Bravo with Jeremy O Harris (who wrote Broadway’s ‘Slave Play’) The tale comes to life vividly, and the words and dialogues have a distinct style. The story moves at a brisk place but never feels rushed, and even though there is a familiarity to the plot, you can never tell what is going to happen next. Add to the mix fantastic performances, especially by Riley Keough and Taylor Paige and what we have is a great summer road trip movie that’s edgy and sexy (if a bit too male gaze centric for my taste)

So far, this is my favorite summer movie for 2021.

The Laws Against Us (Film Thoughts: The Legend of The Underground()

For the month of June, since it is Pride month, every film I wrote about has been a gay film, or a film with some kind of gay sensibility. So I think it is just fitting that i close out the month with a film that evokes the spirit of why we should celebrate Pride. Giselle Bailey and Nneka Onuorah’s ‘The Legend Of The Underground’ is about gay men in Nigeria. Nigera is still one of those countries with serious anti-gay laws. If you get caught ‘being gay’ there, you could be subject to fourteen years in jail. But, really, what does ‘being gay; constitute? In the documentary, we see, among others, stories of men who were arrested after being accused of being in a ‘gay party.’ There was a viral video with one of the accused saying, ‘what did I do? I did not get caught (sic).’ The grammatical error may have been pronounced, but the oppression is as clear. The trials of the men arrested was delayed – obviously, the prosecutors have a flimsy case – and it shows the corruption that permeates in the country,

It’s a very involving watch, and makes you realize that in some parts of the world, lives are stake just because peopel want to be themselves. You realize no one is free until everyone is free.

Die Again (Movie Thoughts: The Obituary of Tunde Johnson)

Ali Le Roi’s ‘The Obituary of Tunde Johnson’ has good intentions – it tells a story of a gay American-Nigerian teen who gets killed by police – but somewhere gets lost in the translation. Or in the way the story is told. It uses the ‘Groundhog Day’ format and the narrator here recounts day after day the events or what happens to Tunde. But somehow, in the end, teh film becomes z message about the young man’s closeted white boyfriend, and you say what the hell (I actually did not mind as much because the boif was cute) Surely a lot of people will say, ‘that’s now what I signed for,’ and they wouldn’t be wrong.

Dear My Dear (Film Thoughts: Dear Tenant)

I saw ‘Dear Tenant’ at this year’s Frameline, San Francisco’s Gay and Lesbian Film festival. Cheng Yu-chieh’s film is one of the main films of the festival, and I was happy to support it. And the film starts out well, with a big question in the plot waiting to be answered. In the middle of the whole story is a gay love story, and the film builds its premise around it. The film has great technical aspects – it looks great on screen and is acted well – even if its ‘big reveal’ is a bit underwhelming. But it’s an interesting enough eatch, and establishes Taiwan as a great spource of modern LGBT+ stories.

Up On The Roof (Movie Thoughts: Made In Rooftop)

It seems like Koreans are making strides everywhere – music, fashion, movies. I mean, they even won a Best Picture Oscar. So when I had a chance to watch a gay film, ‘Made in Rooftop,’ I jumped at the chance. A lot of people described this film as fun and charming, so I went in with high expectations. It is directed by Kim Joo-Kwang Soo, who is openly gay.

It’s a cute movie, but kind of ordinary. I liked the character of Bongsik (Ji Cheong-shin) who is kind of a Gen Z free-spirit, one of those social media influencers who make a living off just being who they are. The plot is pretty run-of-the-mill, though the change of tones can be a bit jarring. I also thought there wasn’t much balance in the two stories. The whole film is entertaining enough. If for anything, it gave me a little glimpse of gay life in South Korea, and I really appreciated that.

Call Luca By Its Name (Film Thoughts: Luca)

Reasons why ‘Luca’ will be forever compared to ‘Call Me By Your Name’

1.       The two movies are set in Italy about two male friends who pal and bike around and have awakenings together. In both films, same male characters are hiding a secret from the world.

2.       Is Luca named after Luca Guadigno, director of ‘Call Me Your Name?’

3.       Doesn’t Luca look like a young a pre-teen Timothee Chalamet?

4.       Luca is voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays the Elio-like character in ‘We Are What We Are,’ which is a HBO series also set in Italy, and is directed by … guess who?

Seriously, though. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. You know why? This film has a nice, simple, relatable human story that anyone can understand, and more importantly, feel. Some of these cartoon films are so fantastical when, really, you just want a story that hits your core. The film more than satisfies in that department. I fell in love with the characters, and shed a tear or two. It’s really all I need. 

At The Ballet (Film Thoughts: Firebird)

Peter Rebane’s ‘Firebird’ is a sweeping romantic war melodrama, the kind you think they don’t make anymore. It’s lush, sentimental, and thrilling, and it’s a gay love story for the ages. It has triumph and heartbreak. For my money, it’s the perfect movie for Pride Month.

It’s also the true story of Sergey Fetisov, based on his memoirs ‘The Story of Roman.’ It tells his story, the story of his love affair with his new lieutenant. Tom prior stars (and also co-wrote the screenplay) as Sergey and he is magnificent here, with his leading man looks and soulful eyes. You can feel the pain in his eyes throughout the film and in the most poignant ending scene, expresses all the film’s emotions wordlessly. I feel he is destined to be a big name.

Some might not like the overt sentimentality of the film, but I didn’t mind it. Sometimes you just need a weepy love tale, and this one fits the bill. There is a sequence here when Sergey first sees Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird,’ and the scene made me weep in its sheer beuaty and honesty. I hope this gets a wider release and fans discover it.