Peripheries (Short Film Thoughts: Query/Daddy)

I wanted to write about two short films I saw recently, both biot quite pointedly LGBTQIA related, but…

First is Sophia Kargman’s ‘Query’ is about two young men who have been friends since they were eleven years old. The short happens in a course of a day when in the beginning the two men starts talking about sexuality and relationships. Their conversation gets very specific, and you can sense the two characters are very comfortable with each other. By the second half of the film, that comfort is tested when one of them suggests they kiss – will it be a big deal or not? Will it change their relationship? The answer lies in one’s interpretation, of course, but this short is effective in making people question what they think they believe in.

Both actors – Justice Smith and Graham Patrick Martin have good chemistry and you believe the both of them.

I also believed Dylan Sprouse as a male prostitute in Christopher Copolla’s ‘Daddy.’ He gets hired by an older man who just lost his wife. So Sprouse dons a pink dress and has dinner and dances with teh character of Ron Rifkin. You see it’s loneliness that brings the two of them together, and by the end you can see how the transaction has played out.

I commend Sprouse for taking a role like this, which is a little risqué for his teenybopper pretty boy image. I just wish there was a little more characterizations to both characters. But the short film effectively shows what it sets to do.

Acrobatic Hearts (Film Thoughts: L’acrobate)

Rodrigue Jean’s ‘The Acrobat’ is definitely a movie you will either love or hate, and to be honest, my feelings vacillate between the two. It’s a story of two men who unexpectedly meet, and their relationship becomes intense quickly. But their relationship is cold, perfectly matched to the old Montreal weather where it is set. These two people hurt each other to show their affection, or is it the other way around? The director doesn’t make it clear.

Parts of the film are hard to watch – there is explicit sex, but it never feels like pornography. There are scenes that made me wince, while others touched me. I don’t know really if I could relate to the relationship between the characters, but I can certainly relate to their personal stories – one has to take care of his sick mother. To be honest, there are parts I really don’t know if I understood. There are feelings shown here between the two mean that I really do not understand. But such id life, right?

To Die For (Movie Thoughts: Blackbird)

If ‘Blackbird’ was done well, it would have been a movie right up my alley. It’s one of those family dramas, and of course this one is a dysfunctional family who gets together for one last weekend with their matriarch, played by Susan Sarandon. She has some kind of degenerative disease, and has decided to ‘take care of things.’ See: euthanasia. It’s a polarizing topic but here the decision is treated like deciding which schmear to put on your bagel.

That’s only the beginning of the film’s problems – each of the children have ‘quirks,’ all cookie-cutter traits we have all seen before in better films, though the cast tries best in making the characters feel real. But the likes of Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowksi are not miracle workers, and there’s only so much they can wring out of a flat screenplay. And I am sorry, the whole time I am watching this I cannot help but think that Sarandon is a big Trump supporter so I cannot just fully get on with things.

So Much In Love (Movie Thoughts: L’amore a Domicilio/Love Under House Arrest)

I was watching the Italian film ‘L’amore A Domicilio,’ and really, it’s just an okay film. It’s about a man who falls in love with a woman who is under house arrest, and as I watch it under these pandemic times, it makes me ask, where’s the conflict? But anyway, the film itself is a bit of a hot mess. It could never decide what it wants to be a – a romantic comedy, gangster caper film, family drama. It tries to be all those things at one, unsuccessfully.

But something about the film still got to me. The main character, Renato, played by Antonio Milo, falls head over heels in love with Anna (Miriam Leone) and he does everything for her – he buys her things, he invests his time for her, even commits a crime. And there is a scene towards the end when he realizes everything he has done for her, and feels so weak about it that he just wants to leave her, to finally finds himself back. And I just thought, I have been there before, where I have given so much of myself to someone that I have somehow forgotten myself.

Anyway, it was just a thought.

Scrounge and Scam (Movie Thoughts: Squireels)

Todd Verow’s ‘Squirrels’ probably would have beena more fun movie if I were younger. It’s about a bunch of kids in the East Village sharing an apartment and then putting it on AirBnb for days to help with their rent. They also scam the renters. I have a real moral dilemma about what they are doing and couldn’t muster sympathy for any of these characters. Basically, I am too old to appreciate this film.

It Was Not Exactly Paris (Film Thoughts: This Is Paris)

Can this be true? Am I really watching a documentary about Paris Hilton? And to make matters even worse, can I admit that this film is actually (gulp) good? I mean, 2020 has brought a lot of surprises in all our lives, but I didn’t really think I expected this to happen.

Well, it turns out that it’s true, Alexandra Dean has previously directed a documentary about Hedy Lamar, so now she has set her sights on Paris Hilton. I have to admit I only know fleeting things about Hilton – I never saw her reality show ‘The Simple Life,’ though I admit I did see her sex tape. I kind of ignored here during her height, but that’s just me ignoring anything that’s popular and hyped. I know that she was famous for doing nothing, although I realize know she does a lot of things although I have no idea if she does them well- if she is really a competent deejay, I ‘ll never know.

The documentary is pretty straightforward, and when it started, I thought it was going a by-the-numbers glamour bio. When she first hinted that she was suffering from PTSD, I initially rolled my eyes. It’s kind of hard to feel sorry for her after she shows you all her material things. But then the bombshell revelation came – she was abused at some reform school in Utah, and has suffered from that, traumatized from her experience. And just to prove that all is real, she even enlisted stories from women who were in the same school the same time she was there. I have to say that my perception of her did change, and her ‘poor little rich girl’ act became more authentic after. Dean loves her subject, and presented it to the world, maybe not warts and all, but certainly less photoshopped.

Ain’T She Cute? (Film Thoughts: Cuties)

‘Cuties,’ on Netflix has sparked controversy because of a poster that was used for marketing it. In said poster, four pre-teen girls are scantily clad, and because of this, ‘sexualized.’ There is an outcry among Trump supporters because of it, and calls to boycott Netflix. Phew. Much ado. Oversexualization of girls is the point of the film, and yes, the poster may have been misguided, but is it any different from anything you see in TikTok?

That’s a shame because that can push people away from seeing this film, the debut feature from Maimona Doucouré, and it is a fine coming of age film about a young woman finding herself in the midst of all the ‘noise’ in the age of social media. The one thing I really love about the film is its specificity: it’s about living in the poor section fo Paris, where Senegalese immigrants come an d live. You can see the diversity of nationalities in the school scenes, and more or less, the kids live and play together, and the dilemmas facing could have been anywhere in the world. Fathjia Yopusoff is Amy, the young girl lured into a group of young girls and their dance troupe, and I don’t want to say anything else because it will diminish the shock of what Amy goes through. Parts – well a lot of it – of the film will make you cringe, but it will make you think about everything you ever did when you were young in order to ‘belong’ to something.

When There’s No Forever (Film Thoughts: Los Fuertes/The Strong Ones)

Two souls passing in the night – this genre of love story always gets me. In Oscar Zuniga’s ‘Los Fuertes,’ this story is set in picturesque Southern Chil, Valdivia to be exact, and the gorgeous setting enhances the story of two people meeting, falling for each other knowing that this probably will not be forever. This film is a testament to enjoying the connections we have right now.

 

And that’s it, that is basically the plot of the film. While at first the simplicity made me want a little bit more, I enjoyed the simple subtleties in the characters’ connections. It helps that the two leads, played by Samuel Gonzales and Antonio Altamirano have chemistry for days. You see them and you really believe these two souls are in love with each other. I love the small intimate details – the pregnant glances, the way one massages the other’s scalp while the other is sleeping – these may be minute, but they contribute to the overall feel of the film. And it makes the ending more poignant, and touching. 

Conceptions (Film Thoughts: The Surrogate/Unpregnant)

Jeremy Hersh’s ‘The Surrgate’ is one of the most thought-provoking films I have seen this year. It has become fairly common for A-gay couples to have a child, as if it’s an added accessory, and I can’t help but think and wonder if some of those couples are really on- board with raising a child, or is it all for ‘appearances’? In the film, Jasmine Batchelor plays Jess, a young woman who agrees to be a surrogate for her close friends. All is fine and dandy until they get a results of a test indicating the child will probably be born with Down’s syndrome.

And then things change, naturally, The couple realize they may not have the financial well-being to bring this child in a world with this suddenly more difficult situation. Batchelor is fantastic here, one of those ‘finds.’ Once they may a decision about her well-being, she spirals into a loop of different things. She wants to make her own decision about the fetus, her family has concerns about her being a single black mother, a cliche she did not want to be lumped under. Hersh present this all without judgement – one minute you are on one side, the next you are on the other. These characters are all complex, and they are all real. The cast is made up of theater performers, so they shine in the dialogue driven scenes, making you ache for what they are feeling. The film leaves you with a heavy heart.

It’s funny how one movie tackles the same subject and can have a much different tone. In Rachel Goldenberg’s ‘Unpregnant,’ a young woman Veronia (Hailey Lu Richardson) also finds out that she is pregnant. But there’s no dilemma here, she wants to terminate the pregnancy, and there is no question that it is ultimately the best decision for her – she is young, has teh world ahead of her, and has worked her ass off for everything she has been working for. She has a boyfriend who’s dumb but in live with her, so it would have been an easy out, but no, she had no plans of spending the rest of her life with him anyway.

She then asks her former bestie to take a road trip with her from Missouri to New Mexico. Her state requires her to have parental consent to terminate her pregnancy, and her ultra-conservative parents will never go for it. The movie then becomes a road-trip one as she travels several states to get to New Mexico. here’s where the film got a little dicey for me. Call it weird, but I am not the biggest fan of road trip movies – the journeys are never believable to me, and the ones here are no exception. Do you really meet those interesting people on the interstates? While I like the spirit of the film, it took a bit for me to get there, but nevertheless the film was mostly enjoyable anyway, thanks to the great performances – Richardson is charming and radiant. I bet some people will really despise this film based on their religious and political beliefs, and good, maybe it will get them to think.

Love Bleak (Film Thoughts: Cicada)

Matthew Fifer’s ‘Cicada’ is one of the featured films from thsi years (kinda virtual) Outfest 2020. He directs, stars and writes in this film about a gay millennial in New York City. It is one of those films that is difficult to categorize – there are both comedic and dramatic elements in it, and is quite heavy in theme. It is also a little abstract and at times too obtuse to figure out.

But the film got me thinking. It initially made me a little detached from it, but as I thought about it more, felt it creep up on me. His character, ben, is tortured – he has been sexually abused and has to deal. He spends most of his days and nights in random sexual encounters with men and women.

But things change when he meets Sam, and they try to embark on a relationship. he comes with his own set of issues – he hasn’t come out to his family yet. All of this is filmed gorgeously and you feel their worlds crumble even as they try to patch it up. There’s a sense of dread here, and you try to insert your own kind of hope in it.