Love Begins With One Hello (Film Thoughts: Hello Again)

helllo_1507045388I remember seeing ‘Hello Again’ off-Broadway at Lincoln Center many years ago, and I remember disliking it. Even though I liked the performances (Donna Murphy! John Cameron Mitchell!) I really was put off by Michael John LaChiusa’s score. I have always been a purist when it comes to musical theater – I’m old fashioned, please don’t mind me – and it took me a long while to get adjusted to the ‘modern’ composers whose themes are more discordant, and tuneless.

So maybe it’s that maturity that made me appreciate the score now, more than twenty years later, and actually, it really has grown on me, and I even like it a lot now. Or perhaps it’s the MTV effect. Paired with the great visuals in the film, the music resonated more. The show was inspired by Arthur Shnitzler’s La Ronda, and features vignettes of people engaging in sexual acts, all done elegantly, so there’s nothing smutty here.

s592I loved this movie, and I had reservations. It was perfectly cast with a cast with blazing screen presences, voices that life the score, and sensuality that is needed to essay the score. I cannot think of anyone who is a weak link – everyone was perfect. To my eyes, the male cast was perfection – starting with Gerald Nolan Funk and Al Calderone. And has Cheyenne Jackson ever been sexier on film? I was mesmerized by Tyler Blackburn (Where has he been all my life?) and thought T R Knight was best with his scene from the Titanic.

And of course, Audra McDonald. She sizzles on screen as she does on stage. You cannot take your eyes off her, and when she sings, angels would take notes. I hadn’t known that Rumer Willis (of Demi and Bruce) was good like this good, and Martha Plimpton always delivers.

The vignettes, to me, played like music videos, and probably better suited for this medium. Some of the sexuality seems tempered, but I guess that wasn’t really the point of the film. But to me, the whole was very enjoyable, and when the credits started to roll, I wanted more.

Gallivanting I: Germany and France (Movie Thoughts: Die Geschwiter/Basier Caches)

Some quick hits on some flicks.

diegI really liked Die Geschwiter (Brother and Sister) which is set in Berlin and touches upon a couple of issues. Written and Directed by Jan Kruger, it is the story of a gay man who finds himself involved in the life of a brother and sister who are illegal refugees from Poland and Russia. He initially gives them a place to stay, then he gets romantically involved with the brother, but are they really just brother and sister? And is he really gay, or is he just being used? We never really get direct answers for some of these questions, and that’s not the point perhaps. We get a glimpse of life where refugees are discriminated, and I learn here that this type of thing doesn’t just happen in America. This was thought provoking and also engrossing.

baiserFrom France comes Baisers Caches (Hidden Kisses) which is about a gay teenager from suburban France. It is a story about young love, homophobia, bullying. This was really disturbing to me – do these stories still exist in this day and age? I thought the younger generation now do not care about the sexual orientation of people their age? While the film does provide a nice ending, I was really bothered by some of the bullying scenes. At least it gives a positive message for this younger generation.




Love Among The Lambs (Film Thoughts: God’s Own Country)

gocI was lucky to be in Los Angeles, because ‘God’s Own Country’ had a very limited release schedule and I was even able to use my Movie Pass to watch it. Directed by Francis Lee, this movie is set in Pennine Mountains, in England, which is a farming town. Johnny (Josh O’Connor) takes care of the herd, and he is somewhat of a lost soul, as well: he goes drinking every night at the local bar, probably to forget the fact that he is hiding his homosexuality from his parents. When Romanian Gheorghe arrives to help out (a handsome Alex Secareanu) he is met with hostility by Johnny, who is wary of him.

And they they fall in love. And what happens next is kind of sweet. Some have compared this movie to ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ but the scope of this film is smaller, and the love story is more pointed, and sweeter. One can’t help but get involved in their love, amidst the picturesque landscape. The latter part of the film is on the predictable side, but the pay off ending doesn’t feel tacked on, thanks to sensitive acting by the leads. The languid pacing can be argued, but I just take it as indicative of how slow the pace of life in those parts. But the real get here is the sense of genuine affection the two characters have for each other that was essayed by the movie. This a small film with a big heart.

A Spring Comeback (Television Thoughts: Will And Grace, The Fall Season)

Will & Grace - Season 1Just finished watching the ‘Fall Finale’ of Will and Grace, and I guess we will not be seeing the show for a couple of months, though I think there is a Christmas episode coming up.  I know I wrote about the pilot, mainly praising it, and thankfully, with each week the show just brought it on. I will not lie and tell you that every joke on every show landed (for me) but the show did one thing for me – it made me want to ‘make an appointment’ with the show every Thursday night at 9 pm, and I don’t even do that with any of my favorite shows. I wanted to support it, and even though I am not a Neilsen household, I wanted my television to be on it on the actual time it was on.

And all four actors just got better and better every week – these characters are all second skin to them, but they even manage to flesh out a little bit something to them. Look at Hayes during the ‘gay conversion’ episode. When he tells his grandson that he is ok, it never sounded prerachy because one can actually see that character say the exact same words. And Mullaly on the sixth episode, when her maid Rosario dies, gives the character just enough pathos and vulnerability amidst the comedy. I know both have won Emmys for their roles, but I can’t see them not getting more next September. I give them special mention but McCormack and Messing both are as good. I know I am sounding like the biggest W &  G fanboy, but I have to say I wasn’t even a big fan of it when it was on. I stopped watching it after its third or fourth season, if I recall, so maybe there’s something here that is touching me – perhaps it’s the times we live in, perhaps it’s the political climate. And speaking of which, it was good to see that the later episodes become almost non-political, although the show is always topical, and perhaps too much at times.  I will eagerly await its return next year.

I Feel the Body Electric (Film Thoughts: Corpo Electrico/Body Electric)

corpoI always love when a film goes deep into the heart and soul of a city and I think the film ‘Corpo Electrico’ (Body Electric) by Marcelo Caetano does that for the city of Sao Paolo.  This film stars Kelner Macedo as Elias. he works for a clothing manufacturer company in the middle of the city as an assistant designer, and in his work interacts with the workers. He is told by the big bosses not to be too friendly with the lowly workers, but he ignores that. He parties and interacts with them. He is comfortable with his place in the world – he has an older lover who takes care of him – but through his interactions with these people he explores his sexuality and sensuality.

I have seen this film described as a ‘mood piece,’ designed to celebrate the diversity of Brasil. I know there are some discrimination by light and dark skinned Brasilians, but this film shows that there can be harmony amidst that. Elias shows that through his interactions with these people, he can embrace himself fully, and can better get in touch with his most authentic self. And that’s about it – there seems to be no other discernible plot here, as the film shows more a slice of Sao Paolo life more than anything else. Initially, that bothered me (is this film going anywhere, I ask myself) but there are times a film doesn’t need to. It showed me a glimpse of real life of real people, and that’s more than fine with me. Isn’t film a reflection of life anyway?

From Finland With Lust (Film Thoughts: Tom Of Finland)

large_MV5BMTY5NjM3ODI1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzcyMDM1MzI_._V1_SY1000_CR0_0_675_1000_AL_“All my drawings make me hard,” Touko Laaksonen (Pekka Strong) says in a way to describe his art. Laaksonen, better known as ‘Tom of Finland’ is known for his hyper-sexualized drawings, and I remember there was a time in the late 80s and early 90s when I saw these drawings everywhere – at bars, clubs and gay bookstores. I liked them, though I wouldn’t say I was fascinated by them, and saw them more as comic-artistic rather than erotic.  But after watching ‘Tom of Finland,’ I am inclined to check them out again, perhaps even buy a coffee table book of his work, as after learning about Laaksonen’s life, perhaps I would see the art in a different light than before.

This is because he seems to have led a very interesting life. In his youth he was a Finnish soldier fighting the Nazis, even killing a Russian soldier by knife. Then he discovers his talent for art, and it was interesting the way his art evolved over the tom-of-finland-movie-2017years. Dome Karukoski directed this film and I wish it was more focused on his art, because that is the aspect I was most interested at. We only get small glimpses of everything else – of how he hid his art in Finland to survive (he says it is easier to publish his work in Vatican than Finland)  to how his art was discovered in California in the 60s. The film doesn’t present a full description of anything, as it is told in a very conventional biographical way. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think a film celebrating one of the most barrier-breaking artists in gay modern times deserves better. But, I am glad that this story is out there, and that is is told, and for that reason I heartily recommend this film.

1984 (Movie Thoughts: NY84)

mediaJust the title alone excited me. I arrived in New York in 1984, so I felt like it was speaking to me. But ‘NY84’ is a little off from my experience, as it tells the story of three artists (Kate, Anton, Keith) during the 1980s bohemian scene – it might even have been trying to emulate Smith/Mapplethorpe. My problem with this movie is that although it shows the hedonism of the time, we really do not get any of the character’s back stories so we could properly care for them. So when these people got infected by ‘the plague,’ try as we might we don’t feel anything. Plus, I never got really a sense of the 1980 nor 1984 setting, the film looks like it was just filmed yesterday, and the 80s fashion looked more 90s to me. So as much as I wanted to like this film – for sentimental reasons – I was unmoved by all of it.