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.
In the late 8os up to the 90s, I used to watch every ‘gay movie’ that came out, and truthfully, a lot of them were not good at all. But I was craving any kind of gay representation on screen that I took it. I only mention this because I just saw ‘Dating My Mother’ reminded me of those movies I used to watch. Well, the idea of the movie anyway. I have to be honest and say that this movie is better than most of that old crap. Written and directed by Mike Roma, this is a low budget film about the bond between a mother and her gay son – a situation ripe for all kind of stories: drama, comedy, horror. This film even has Kathy Najimy in a small role, as the friend of Joan, the mother, played by Kathryn Erbe. Her son, Danny is played by Patrick Reilly, and this film explores their close relationship and what happens when the mother decides to start dating again. Well, that’s a real simplistic way of describing the plot. Danny is also an aspiring screenwriter, and also falls for a (straight) friend. There’s a lot going on here, and for my taste, jokes fall more than they land. But this film is not completely dumb and is in fact cognizant of its shallowness. I didn’t hate it, and Reilly could be charming, because I totally did not hate Danny even though I despised some of the character’s traits. I am sure you could do much better than this film, but it is also easy to get much worse.
About ten minutes into ‘Bwoy,’ I wanted to tell the character of Brad, played by Broadway veteran Anthony Rapp, ‘Gyrl, you in danger.’ Brad is a closeted married man who starts to have an ‘online relationship’ (an oxymoron if there ever was one) with a Jamaican mine via a dating website. Brad is a tortured soul: his son died in an accident, and he is a doctor who feels he could have done something. But everything is in shambles – he works now for a collection agency, and of course, is extremely vulnerable. And you can kind of sense where this story is going. Even so, though, you get entranced because of great performances by Rapp, and especially Jimmy Brooks, who plays ‘Yenny,’ the Jamaican Bwoy. You even understand how Brad falls under his charms. There’s nothing groundbreaking about this film, but tells a compelling familiar story that will keep yu interested, even invested in the outcome.
I am one of the generation who ‘grew up’ with ACT-UP. I remember once going to one of its meetings by mistake. It was at the “Keith Haring Room’ at The Center in New York City in the Mid 80s, and I thought I was going to a group meeting of some sort, and walked in to ACT UP. And I was scared, I was trembling. It was a whole group of very militant people, all garbed in black. of course, I knew what they were fighting for, but seeing their faces and their hostility face to face was an affront i didn’t expect. I ran out of there right away. I couldn’t handle it – their intensity weakened me. I look back at that now and think, can you imagine being on the receiving end of all that energy? Well, darn right, I could, and it was that rage that spurred the action that was needed at the time. I often saw the news reports of their activism, and then I would kind of shake my hand, but with my eyes now, knowing what I know, and after time has passed, I can only view all of as great bravery – hand battle in the war that is still on going.
BPM captures the Parisian energy of the time. Directed by Robin Campillo from his screenplay (with Phillippe Mangeot) this film is a depiction of a war, in the same vein as one would see ‘Schindler’s List,’ for example. While we are fortunate to be living now in a time where much of what was discussed here as battles won, it is good to see how we got to this place. This film tells the story of the activism in Paris that went on, and the loves and battles they lived through. It has the great performance of Nahuel Perez Biscayat as Sean, who is one of the activists who got the disease from his teacher, and his unlikely partner in Nathan (Arnaud Valois) who is negative. They form a bond that is unflinching in its honesty.
But, like all war films, it’s too exhausting to watch for me. In these times where we see resistance in form everyday, it is a reminder that we never do stop fighting in life. This is the opposite of the feel good movie, and I spent the evening after seeing this in deep solitude. I thought about the friends I have lost, the friends still affected by this. I thought about my life – how I survived all of this, and how I still do not feel completely safe from it. I slept with these thoughts, and this morning still could not figure out how to feel, how to write. I think this film is a great representation of the war a lot of people had to go through, and I hope people see it.