Closing out Pride month, I am writing about, for me, the best ‘gay’ film since last year’s ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ Written and Directed by Ofir Raul Graizer, ‘The Cakemaker’ is one of those movies that got to me. After seeing the movie, I wanted to just get home and think about it in silence. It’s the story of a German baker Thomas (Tim Kalkhof, looking like a German Jonathan Groff) who falls in love with an Israeli businessman who travels monthly to Berlin. When the businessman suddenly dies in a car accident, Thomas flies to Jerusalem and gets involved in the life of the man’s widow Anat (Sarah Adler)
This is a great example of how grief ties people together. There is a lot of softness and delicacy on the film, and I was engrossed from the first frame. It speaks to me about how a connection (or disconnection) can make a lasting impact in one’s life, and the different ways we deal with grief. Thomas changes Anat’s life for he better, and while there’s a certain plot point in there that I theoretically did not believe in, thee are fine actors that I swallowed it whole. Kalkhof is fantastic here, muted and passive, yet expressing powerful emotions in a nod and a glance, and Adler a formative match, vulnerable, determined, sympathetic. It shows us realities in modern day Israel – the dichotomy of being religious and liberal, of tradition and acceptance. By the end, I was sobbing, and I didn’t know why. Of course, I knew it was because of the sheer beauty of the film.
I watch a lot of these gay-themed movies, and even though I am glad they get made and improve queer visibility, some of them just irritate me to the core. For the month of June, I am trying to feature as much gay content in my writings here, and was looking forward to seeing ‘Ideal Home,’ if only because I am a Paul Rudd fan – he can most of the time do no wrong for me. Well, he still displays infinite charm here in this film, directed by Andrew Fleming. But his charm is not enough to save this sinking ship. In here he plays Paul, who is partnered with Erasmus (Steve Coogan) and out of the blue, a kid shows up in their doorstep, Angel, who is Erasmus’ grandchild. Hilarity ensues, right, as this gay couple tries to raise a kid.
But my main problem with the film is that the characters of Erasmus and Paul are so thin that we only get ‘personality’ instead of real human beings. They fight and bicker and insult each other, and it’s like being inside a car of a fighting couple: unpleasant, awkward, and the sense that you just want to get out of there. I hated my time with these people and could care less if they succeed with raising the child. Plus, the child is entitled and spoiled so really, who are you going to root for in this film?
Fleming based this story on his experiences in raising a child. Surely, his own life is more textured than the thin plot here. I was disappointed with this picture. Coogan and Rudd try to save it with charm, but that only goes so far. I try to rid my life of toxic people, and these characters are as toxic as they get.
When I first saw the trailer of ‘Alex Strangelove,’ I thought it was very similar to ‘Love Simon.’ in that it is about a high school student grasping with their sexual orientation. But Berlanti’s film is about dealing with being gay after the fact that one has accepted himself. “Alex Strangelove’ is the film right before you get to that place – it’s about the questioning and eventual acquiescence to that same fact. I think the two film are worlds apart, and ‘Alex Strangelove’ is just as good, just as entertaining, just as touching.
Alex (Daniel Doheny) thinks he is straight, and as a matter of fact has a girlfriend (Madeline Weinstein) but he questions this when he meets Elliot (Antonio Marziale) a guy who is unapologetically gay. Maybe this points to the fact that he is unable to have sex with his girlfriend (we learn later on that the suspicion has already started) and when he does, things go in a disastrous manner. Written and directed by Craig Johnson, this film is a lot of fun in that silly, goofball way – I am sure it will attract its teen/tween target market set. But snobs like me will find a lot to like about it, and for old farts like me, it gives me a window to how kids nowadays think: sexual orientation is still a big deal, but the outcome nary matters to them anymore – it’s just the ‘getting there’ that provides stress. Doheny is perfect here with his wonderful neurotic confusion – you feel and empathize, and cringe with him when he makes his misguided choices. I thought the film was much raunchier than I thought it would be. It’s certainly racier than the squeaky clean ‘Love Simon.’ I totally enjoyed this, and highly recommend it. And as Pride Month comes upon us, I applaud Netflix for its dedication. I know this will reach a big audience, and it’s just great to be a kid these days with all these films to have access to. There’s a lot of hate nowadays, but love still comes out on top, it seems.
Another confirmation that I am ancient – I haven’t an idea who Max Emerson is – apparently he is a very popular YouTube personality, and for some reason he has directed a feature, called ‘Hooked,’ and the film actually brings me back to a time when a lot of ‘gay’ films used to be about male prostitutes. I am not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, by the way. I enjoy a good male prostitute movie.
But this one, I kind of did not. It’s clunky, for sure, and you can see Emerson’s greenness as a director. Conor Donnaly is cute and not too bad – his hysterics need to be reigned in, but it never really crosses the ‘annoying’ territory. There’s a ‘Pretty Woman’-ish vignette in the middle part that was fun until it felt it had to go to ‘serious’ mode. I think that may be the problem with this, Emerson felt like it is an important issue-based movie when it could have been more fun. There was a point towards the latter part where I got very bored by it. At least, though, we did not get a ‘straight’ character gay-baiting – the hustler here is in a committed gay relationship. That’s progress, I guess.
I loved Ben Baur in ‘Hunting Season’ and I think he has great charm as an actor so I promised to support his projects. He was great in the movie version of ‘Something Like Summer’ and I know he has been traveling the gay film festival circuit with his short ‘Something New.’ Directed by TH Marchbank, Baur here plays a gay man stuck with his ex. He has been replaced by a pretentious twat, and he has been hooking up with a FWB he met through Grindr. When that friend asks him for a date, he freezes and doesn’t know how to answer. We all know they are good for each other. Baur is great here, showing great comedic (and physical) timing and he really is a someone who lights up the screen whenever he is on. This short is funny, and will make you want more.
I had to think about ‘After Louie’ after the film ended, and then its impact hit me. What happens when one spends most of his life fighting a war, and then suddenly it seems like it’s over? Alan Cumming plays Sam, a fifty five year old man who was an AIDS warrior – there was a time he used to go to two funerals a week, he says – and now time has caught up with him in a different way, as he realizes the youth of today enjoys a sexual freedom he never had, and feels bitterness towards that. He meets Braeden, a twentysomething, and all hell breaks lose emotionally – he despairs a couple friend’s marriage, as he obsesses over his ex-lover’s films, trying to piece something out of those, which is kind of a metaphor for how he wants to piece his life together.
Cummings is great at showing Sam’s emotional turmoil even if the heavy-handed dialogue fails. We see the conflict in his eyes, we see the anguish in his happiness, the defeat as he realizes that yes, the fight may now be over, and he has won. I can’t help but identify with his character, for I myself have felt some of those conflicting emotions too. For example, as much as I rejoice Marriage Equality, there’s a part of me that’s not on board with it totally, that yes, it kind of feels like my ‘niche’ factor is gone. That’s why gay bars are becoming extinct nowadays – anybody now can go anywhere.
Vincent Gagliostro directs this without little subtlety, and his script (with Anthony Johnston) has holes, but as I said earlier, it made me think, it made me reflect. I don’t know if everyone else can relate, to be honest, but I guess I should be glad that in this case, I can still be ‘niche.’
Something always crazy happens during a full moon, they say. Matt Alber’s ‘How High the Moon’ is a very straightforward album, though. And (joke coming) perhaps that’s odd because Alber is openly gay. The great thing about this album is how at once you realize that Alber is not your run-of-the-mill wannabe crooner. His styling and phrasing isn’t reminiscent of a Sinatra or a Bennett, like most male crooner are. He definitely does not sound like he is imitating someone, even while his arrangements are steeped in these singers’ influence.
I wish it stood out more for me. I have listened to the album a couple of times and it has yet to make an imprint besides that first impression. Perhaps it is very nuanced that I need to listen more to it, but I ask myself, do I have the time? The ‘moon theme’ is cute, but have been done before, and he actually did a great job of compiling a good collection of lunar tunes. I like his longing ‘Blue Moon’ that has a lot more angst than I am normally used to when I hear that song. But other that that, all’s a blur – like a liar’s moon.