Sunday, June 30, 2013

Frameline37 2013 alpha cross-reference

Alphabetical list by title of films reviewed here in Film Queen Reviews from the 2013 Frameline37 International Lesbian/Gay Film Festival, San Francisco, California. All in all, I reviewed 21 narrative features, 12 full-length documentaries, 5 short documentaries, and 33 narrative shorts, for a total of 71 titles this year.

Click on “Read more” below for the full list.

Frameline 37: That’s a Wrap!

Ten days and eleven nights, a total of 38 screenings, plus one on my TiVo thanks to HBO. It’s taken longer to get all this fabulosity up on the blog than it took to watch the actual festival, but I’m finally all caught up. I saw some life-changingly wonderful films, and only one pure stinker. Partly from being a little less adventurous in my selections this year (just say NO!! to “experimental” films), partly from having some years back shed my inhibition about walking out of a film I really don’t like, but mostly from the strong upward trajectory of all corners of queer cinema, the average quality of the works I saw was impressive. I’ll just wrap up with a couple of cross-reference postings, and then begin my long winter’s hibernation until it is again time to spend the sunniest days of the year cooped up in a darkened movie theater.

Frameline award-winners:
  • Best Feature Film (audience award): Reaching for the Moon
  • Best Documentary (audience award): The New Black (not reviewed)
  • Best Short Film (audience award): dik
  • Best First Feature (jury prize): Out in the Dark; honorable mention: Concussion
  • Outstanding Documentary (jury prize): Valentine Road (not reviewed); honorable mentions: The New Black (not reviewed), Big Joy
My own favorites:
One other odd little sidebar: I only saw one program at the Roxie this year, an all-time low for me, and only five at the Victoria. That means that 32 of the 38 screenings I attended were at the Castro, and that’s only partly because of its monopoly on the weekday afternoon screenings.

G.B.F.

Tanner (Michael J. Willett) in the
bedroom of some girl whose name
is right on the tip of my tongue....
G.B.F., dir. Darren Stein, 2013, USA, 94 min. 
Sunday, June 30, 7:00 pm @ Castro (closing night film)

What is the fashion accessory that every teenage girl needs to be totally au courant? Why, of course, she needs a G.B.F., a Gay Best Friend! I was in my twenties when John Hughes chronicled every aspect of high school life, but from Sixteen Candles to The Breakfast Club to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, we never once had the popular girls catfighting for the companionship of a G.B.F. Degrassi has had a number of gay characters, but never commoditized as social accoutrements. Not even Glee itself has answered the challenge, despite Tina’s efforts with Blaine. It’s about time to set the record straight — er, um, or something like that.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

He’s Way More Famous Than You

He’s Way More Famous than You, dir. Michael Urie, 2013, USA, 98 min. 
Saturday, June 29, 8:00 pm @ Castro

Halley Feiffer portraying herself
as a whiny, drunken loser.
Halley Feiffer, daughter of satirist and cartoonist Jules Feiffer, had a small role in the 2005 indie film The Squid and the Whale. Despite about 20 acting credits since then, her career hasn’t exactly been a rocket to stardom.  In He’s Way More Famous than You, we meet a (hopefully heavily) fictionalized caricature of Halley, writing a screenplay as a vehicle for her comeback. She ropes in her (fictional) brother Ryan and his boyfriend Michael Urie (a real person, playing his caricatured self), plus an impressive list of Hollywood stars in cameo appearances. The caricature Michael Urie directs the film-within-a-film, while the real Michael Urie directed the whole thing.

Rebel

Rebel, dir. María Agui Carter, 2013, USA, 72 min.
Jeanne sous la pluie (Joan in the Rain), dir. Julie Meitz, 2012, France, 6 min., in French with English subtitles and English with French subtitles  [click “Read more” below]
Loreta Velázquez/Harry Buford
(fictional re-creation)

Rebel is the true story of a woman, Loreta Janeta Velázquez, born to a prominent family in Cuba, who moves to the southern United States just in time for the Civil War. Not content to sit on the sidelines while her husband went to war, Loreta created Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, a male soldier who fought in the battles of Bull Run, Ball’s Bluff, Fort Donelson, and Shiloh, and also worked as a spy behind enemy lines, although she may have been a double- or even triple agent. She wrote a memoir after the war, although Confederate General Jubal Early denounced it as utter fiction, so it was not until many decades later that many of her claims were corroborated. The true story of Loreta/Harry is fascinating, but the documentary not quite as much so. In particular, many of the dramatic recreations run quite slow. Highly Recommended for Civil War history buffs and aficionados of real-life 19th-century drag kings, but a more equivocal Recommended for general audiences.

Burning Blue

Burning Blue, dir. DMW Greer, 2013, USA, 96 min. 
Saturday, June 29, 4:00 pm @ Victoria (world première)

Lynch helps Stephensen
after their plane goes down
For nearly 18 years, from 1993 until 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was the official policy of the United States military. In theory, a gay man or a lesbian could serve, as long as he or she did not tell anyone, except, of course that if you came out publicly for the specific purpose of getting out of the military, then you would be forced to stay in. Also, in practice, the military completely ignored the “don ’t ask” part of the policy, and actively pursued its witch hunt of more than 13,000 homosexuals in the military, including more than 3,000 from the U.S. Navy. That’s the backdrop for the story of former naval aviator DMW Greer’s Burning Blue, although he wrote the stage play on which it is based back in 1992.

Out Here: A Queer Farmer Film Project

Out Here: A Queer Farmer Film Project, dir. Jonah Mossberg, 2013, USA, 72 min. 
Lovely, dir. Jennifer Maurer, 2012, USA, 17 min.  [click “Read more” below]
Saturday, June 29, 1:30 pm @ Victoria

As the small family farms of the 18th and 19th centuries gradually give way to the giant factory farms of the 20th and 21st, there is a small but notable counter-trend of small groups returning to the land and finding niche markets. These new farmers include new immigrants, women, people of color, and all flavors of queer people. Perhaps surprisingly, in many rural farming communities, the folks who have been doing this for generations are more pleased to see someone (anyone) carrying on the work of the land, than concerned about their other unaccustomed ways. Increasingly, though, small farms are sprouting and flourishing in or near big cities. Out Here: A Queer Farmer Film Project visits a smattering of farms from the Bronx and West Philly to rural Kansas and Alabama to a tiny goat farm right here in Berkeley. It’s an engaging story of another facet of the diversity of our LGBT family, and, to borrow a line from Stephen Colbert, Out Here provides food for thought as it encourages us to give a thought for our food. Highly recommended.

I Come from a Land Down Under (shorts)

I Come from a Land Down Under” (shorts program)
Saturday, June 29, 11:00 am @ Castro
  • Summer Suit, dir. Rebecca Peniston-Bird, 2013, Australia, 15 min. 
  • Gorilla, dir. Tim Marshall, 2012, Australia, 13 min. 
  • dik, dir. Christopher Stollery, 2012, Australia, 9 min. 
  • Kitty, dir. Cindy Dodkins, 2012, Australia, 6 min. 
  • Queen of the Desert, dir. Alex Kelly, 2012, Australia, 28 min. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Out in the Dark (עלטה • ظلام)

Out in the Dark (Alata/Dhalam) (עלטה / ظلام), dir. Michael Mayer (מיכאל מאיר), 2012, Israel, 96 min., in Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles 
Friday, June 28, 9:30 pm @ Castro (U.S. west coast première)

It’s a bit confusing if you say that Out in the Dark is a “smash hit,” because a different Michael Mayer is also a director on the U.S. TV series Smash, as well as having directed A Home at the End of the World [Frameline28, 2004, avail. on DVD]. Perhaps one day Frameline will have them both on stage at once, if only to prove they really aren’t the same person.

Roy (Michael Aloni, left)
and Nimr (Nicholas Jacob)
Out in the Dark (in Hebrew, Alata or עלטה) (in Arabic, Dhalam or ظلام) is the story of Roy (Michael Aloni • מיכאל אלוני), an Israeli lawyer, and Nimr (Nicholas Jacob • ניקולאס יעקוב), a Palestinian student, who meet in a Tel Aviv bar. Nimr snuck across the border from Ramallah for a taste of gay life, but he soon gets a permit to study at a university in Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, the conflict over the Israeli occupation puts pressure on Nimr from all sides, with his brother preparing to defend his homeland while the thugs of the Israeli security apparatus try to blackmail Nimr into becoming an informant. Of course, Nimr’s family is obdurately anti-gay, as Nimr finds out to his horror one night, but Roy’s parents, while they’ve gotten past his coming out, don’t exactly rush to embrace Nimr. Roy gets upset that Nimr is keeping secrets from him, not understanding that Nimr genuinely has no choice. Although Israeli law and society are far more accepting of homosexuality than the Palestinians, the Israeli security police cynically blackmail gay Palestinians and then out them to their families as gay collaborators when they are no longer of any use to Israel. If Roy and Nimr are to stay together, they’re going to need a miracle.

Out in the Dark gives a nuanced portrayal of the two characters and their story, while pulling no punches in shining its light into some of the dark recesses of the injustices of both Israeli and Palestinian society. It’s a moving story, beautifully written, acted and filmed, and definitely worth seeking out. Highly recommended, a Must See.

IMDb pageOfficial websiteFacebook pagetrailer

Reaching for the Moon (Flores Raras)

Flores Raras (Reaching for the Moon) (Você Nunca Disse Eu Te Amo), dir. Bruno Barreto, 2013, Brazil, 118 min., in English without subtitles and in Portuguese with English subtitles 
Friday, June 28, 6:45 pm @ Castro • U.S. west coast première

Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto)
at Lota’s home in Brazil
The opening title sequence of Reaching for the Moon has more logos than a NASCAR jacket, reflecting the participation of at least five production companies and several other outfits that had to be noted before the film begins. The title itself is a bit complex, too: the film is based on the novel Rare and Commonplace Flowers: The Story of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares (Flores raras e banalíssimas: A história de Lota de Macedo Soares e Elizabeth Bishop) by Carmen Oliveira, English translation by Neil K. Besner. The original Brazilian title for the film was Flores raras, but IMDb indicates that it will be released in Brazil in August 2013 under the title Você Nunca Disse Eu Te Amo (in English, “You never said I love you”), as well as being released worldwide under the English title Reaching for the Moon. Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares were real people: the first a poet laureate of the United States and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, the National Book Award, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature; the latter an architect from a prominent family in Brazil. They really did have a long love affair in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but most of the day-to-day details are fictionalized.

Worldly Affairs (shorts)

Worldly Affairs” (shorts program)
Friday, June 28, 4:00 pm @ Castro

El acompañante (The Companion), dir. Álvaro Delgado Aparicio L., 2012, Peru, 20 min., in Spanish with English subtitles 
Summer Vacation (Hofesh Gadol • חופש גדול), dir. Tal Granit (טל גרנית) and Sharon Maymon (ושרון מימון), 2012, Israel, 22 min., in Hebrew with English subtitles 
For Dorian, dir. Rodrigo Barriuso, 2012, Canada, 16 min. 
Um Diálogo de Ballet (A Ballet Dialogue), dir. Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon, 2012, Brazil, 8 min., in Portuguese with English subtitles
Maremoto (Seaquake), dir. Daniel Aratangy, 2012, Brazil, 8 min., in Portuguese with English subtitles U.S. première
Fødselsdagen (Happy Birthday), dir. Lasse Nielsen, 2013, Denmark, 24 min., in Danish with English subtitles  (American première)

Born This Way

Born This Way, dir. Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann, 2012, USA, 85 min., in French and English with English subtitles 
Friday, June 28, 1:30 pm @ Castro

The summer of 2013 has seen some major strides forward for gay rights in the United States, but the picture in much of the rest of the world is much less rosy. Born This Way takes a look at the struggles of the gay and lesbian community in Cameroon, a former French colony located right at the “knee bend” of Africa. We meet the tiny staff of Alternatives Cameroon, an advocacy group for gay rights and HIV prevention and treatment, and Alice Nkom, a lawyer who fights fearlessly for fair treatment in a country where homosexual acts are still punishable by up to five years in prison. Although the backdrop of societal and official homophobia is depressing, these brave activists bring hope that Cameroon may yet move into the light. Worth seeing, highly recommended.

IMDb pageFacebook page • information about Alternatives Cameroon • Facebook page for Alice Nkom

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Beyond the Walls (Hors les murs)

Beyond the Walls (Hors les murs), dir. David Lambert, 2012, France, 98 min., in French and Albanian with English subtitles 
Thursday, June 27, 9:30 pm @ Castro

Guillaume Gouix (Ilir) and
Matila Malliarakis (Paulo)
Paulo, a young pianist, meets Ilir, a double-bass player originally from Albania. They fall deeply, madly in codependency, but try to convince themselves and the audience that it’s true love. Paulo impetuously tells his girlfriend (from whom he is mooching a place to live), so she kicks him out, and like a wounded bird with puppy-dog eyes he wheedles reluctant Ilir (who had clearly envisioned nothing more than a “no strings attached” quickie) into letting him move in. Paulo eventually promises eternal love and devotion to Ilir, who promptly disappears, turning up in prison. The constraints of prison visitation crimp, but do not end, their burgeoning codependency. How will the lost puppy survive without his big strong man, and how will his man survive in prison with the over-the-top public displays of affection in the visitation hall? If you’ve ever been tempted to “rescue” a down-on-his-luck street twink, this film stands as a cautionary tale for you; otherwise, don’t waste your time. Not recommended.

IMDb pageFacebook page

Hot Guys with Guns

Hot Guys with Guns, dir. Doug Spearman, 2013, USA, 103 min.
Thursday, June 27, 4:00 pm @ Castro (U.S. première)

Marc Anthony Samuel (L)
and Brian McArdle (R)
“Imagine Lethal Weapon if Mel Gibson and Danny Glover were ex-boyfriends,” says the tagline for Hot Guys with Guns. Curiously, though, on IMDb, you have to jump to “full cast and crew” to find out the names of the stars, since they don’t appear in the “credited cast.” Danny (Marc Anthony Samuel from General Hospital) is an actor-waiter who is taking an evening class for private investigators to research a part he’s planning to audition for. He starts stalking (umm, I mean, surveiling) Pip (newcomer Brian McArdle), a party boy who seems to have a knack for attending parties where the guests end up drugged and robbed. Since the party guests are more than a little publicity shy, they can’t involve the police, so it falls to Danny and Pip to do some real detective work and find the miscreants. I sat through almost half an hour before I decided I had better things to do than watch them solve the mystery. Not a horrible film, but I can’t recommend it.

IMDb pageOfficial website

Something Real (shorts)

Something Real” (shorts program)
Thursday, June 27, 1:45 pm @ Castro

Mia

Mía, dir. Javier van de Couter, 2010, Argentina, 105 min., in Spanish with English subtitles 
Thursday, June 27, 11:00 am @ Castro • U.S. première

Ale dines with friends
in the pink village
Ale (Camila Sosa Villada) scrapes by, scavenging, streetwalking, sewing, and doing odd jobs, living in Aldea Rosa, the pink village, a shantytown made by various gay and transgender outcasts on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, but she is trying to improve herself, learning how to read. She finds the diary of a middle-class mother named Mía and finds herself drawn into their lives. In particular, she meets a young girl named Julia, becoming a surrogate mother to the girl despite the objections of her own friends and the girl’s father. We get to watch Ale come into herself as she nurtures Julia and pursues her own simply stated goal: Ser quien quiero ser, to be who I want to be. It’s an interesting and moving story, beautifully made, with a fairytale setup but not a storybook ending. Highly recommended.

IMDb page

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Battle of amfAR

The Battle of amfAR, dir. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 2013, USA, 40 min. , coming to HBO Dec. 2013
Entry Denied, dir. Machu Latorre, 2012, USA, 28 min.  [click “Read more” below]
Wednesday, June 26, 4:30 pm @ Castro
Dr. Mathilde Krim

Elizabeth Taylor testifying
to the U.S. Congress
In the 1980’s, AIDS came into public awareness, but Ronald Reagan was President, Jesse Helms was a powerful U.S. Senator, and it was nearly impossible to get any federal support for any research into the cause, treatment, or cure for AIDS. Dr. Mathilde Krim, a noted medical researcher as well as socialite and grandmother, teamed up with Elizabeth Taylor, a sometimes reluctant celebrity, to get private grant funding for vital research efforts through the American Foundation for AIDS Research, or amfAR. Dr. Krim had the medical bona fides, and Ms. Taylor had the unparalleled ability to draw public attention, making the team a force to be reckoned with.

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman combine archival footage of Elizabeth Taylor with interviews with Dr. Mathilde Krim and others to form a compelling record of their groundbreaking collaboration and its significant achievements. Well done, highly recommended.

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, dir. Nicholas Wrathall, 2013, USA, 89 min. 
Wednesday, June 26, 2:00 pm @ Castro

Gore Vidal
I remember as a child seeing Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr., on television debating politics. As a loyal Nixon young Republican, I found myself unable to dismiss Vidal’s points as easily as I would’ve liked. Gore Vidal was a novelist, essayist, screenwriter, political commentator, and public intellectual. He was a force to be reckoned with. Documentarian Nicholas Wrathall managed to film several interviews with Gore Vidal before his death last summer, and interweaves them with notables including Christopher Hitchens, David Mamet, Norman Mailer, and Mikhail Gorbachev, and clips from Vidal’s life, ranging from a Depression-era newsreel (with his father, Eugene Vidal, an official in the Roosevelt administration) to the Kennedy White House to protests against the Vietnam War, and of course the television sparring with Buckley. As an historical writer, Vidal cast his eye backwards to figures including Aaron Burr and Abraham Lincoln, and forward to his criticism of President George W. Bush and the Iraq War, but he also wrote pure fiction, including the (in)famous The City and the Pillar, which dared to present homosexuality in a dispassionate light in 1948 — something that so angered the New York Times reviewer that Vidal wrote several novels under the pen name Edgar Box. Gore Vidal helped shape America’s perception of its own history and present, but he often despaired of our tendency to imperialism and other misadventures. Although he remained fiercely American in identity, citing his family’s ties dating to the 17th century, he lived for many years in a villa in Italy. He was a complex man, worthy of the attention he demanded, and this documentary does a fine job of shining the spotlight. Highly recommended, a Must See.

IMDb pageFacebook page

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Happy Sad

The Happy Sad, dir. Rodney Evans, 2013, USA, 87 min. 
Tuesday, June 25, 9:30 pm @ Castro (world première!)
Qfest Philadelphia: Saturday, July 13, 7:30 pm @ Ritz East 2
Outfest Los Angeles: Saturday, July 20, 1:30 pm @ DGA
opens in theatres Friday, August 16, 2013, at IFC Center (NYC) & Sundance Sunset Cinema (L.A.)

Ummm … awwwwkwaaard …
Stan, Annie, Aaron, and Marcus
Aaron (Charlie Barnett, Chicago Fire, Private Romeo, Gayby, Men in Black 3) and Marcus (Leroy McClain, The Adjustment Bureau) are an established gay couple toying with the idea of an open relationship. Stan (Cameron Scoggins) and Annie (Sorel Carradine, daughter of Keith Carradine) are also a couple, uneasily feeling their way into the intimacy of having been together for a few months. Annie decides she needs to take a break from their relationship, and makes up the excuse that she’s now dating her (female) coworker Mandy. Stan goes on the rebound with Marcus, finding that there might just be something to this same-sex dating idea, but Marcus quickly realizes that he wants more than “no strings attached” sex, immediately breaking the one ground rule that he and Aaron set up for their non-monogamy. The characters intertwine in several more ways, as they try to figure out sexual identity, monogamy and polyamory, and where they fit in with all of the above. Beautifully written and acted, with some great music by Cameron Scoggins and his friends in The Whiskey Collection, under the direction of Rodney Evans (Brother to Brother [Frameline28]). Highly recommended, a Must See.

IMDb pageFacebook pageTeaser trailer

In the Name Of (W imię...)

In the Name Of (W imię...), dir. Małgoska Szumowska, 2012, Poland, 97 min., in Polish with English subtitles
Tuesday, June 25, 7:00 pm @ Castro

Father Adam (Andrzej Chyra)
Father Adam is sent to administer a small reformatory school run by the Catholic Church in a small town in Poland’s Warminsko-Mazurskie region. He’s younger and much more “cool” than his predecessors. He begins to get close to the teenage boys under his charge, and gets very close to one boy, Lukasz. A lot of the rest of the plot flew right over my head, probably at least partly because I am neither Polish nor Catholic, but I found it difficult to understand or relate to any of the characters. In the Name Of won the Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival, but I found it mostly a waste of time. Not Recommended.

Note: some sources list the director’s name as Małgorzata Szumowska, but nie znam polskiego, więc co mam wiedzieć? It’s spelled Malgoska in the Frameline promotional materials.

IMDb pageFacebook page

The Out List

The Out List, dir. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, 2013, USA, 60 min. 
Tuesday, June 25, 4:30 pm @ Castro; also airing on HBO in July

Neil Patrick Harris
I missed the screening of The Out List at the Castro Theatre, but it ran on HBO whilst I was playing catch-up here on the blog. The Out List is an interview documentary, with Dustin Lance Black (writer of Milk), drag artiste and Wigstock co-founder The Lady Bunny, Log Cabin Republican R. Clark Cooper, former NFL player Wade Davis, comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, ballroom performer and community health specialist Twiggy Pucci Garçon, actor Neil Patrick Harris, playwright and AIDS activist Larry Kramer, actress and transgender activist Janet Mock, bisexual actress Cynthia Nixon (Miranda on Sex and the City), financial guru Suze Orman, NYC politician Christine Quinn, musician Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters), comedian Wanda Sykes, Dallas County [Texas] Sheriff Lupe Valdez, and Afghan sex educator Wazina Zondon. It’s a broad selection of interview subjects, weighted towards Hollywood, of course, but including a variety of other perspectives. Well done, Highly Recommended.

IMDb pageHBO page • available to HBO subscribers on HBO GO

Codebreaker

Codebreaker, dir. Clare Beaven and Nic Stacey, 2011, UK, 82 min. 
Tuesday, June 25, 11:30 am @ Castro

Alan Turing (Ed Stoppard) and
Dr Greenbaum (Henry Goodman)
The actual Alan Turing
©Nat’l Portrait Gallery
Alan Turing was one of the greatest geniuses of the 20th century, up there with the likes of Albert Einstein. Turing also played a pivotal role in the top-secret British project to break the Nazis’ Enigma cipher, putting him up there with the likes of Dwight Eisenhower in helping the Allies win World War II. On top of that, he laid the groundwork that led to the creation of every computer we have today, from the greatest supercomputer down to the lowliest calculator wristwatch. Turing was also a gay man. He was arrested and charged with gross indecency, and subsequently “chemically castrated,” all because he was naïve enough to think that burglary was a greater crime than buggery. Codebreaker is a “docudrama,” meaning that many of the scenes are recreations of events and conversations in Turing’s life, particularly his conversations with Dr. Franz Greenbaum, a psychiatrist. We see Turing’s genius and some of its ripples from the pre-war years into the present, as well aspects of his personal life, leading up to his arrest and eventual suicide. The British government finally apologized (or I should say apologised) in 2009, 55 years after his death, for his appalling treatment and persecution. It’s about time that he gets the recognition he deserves as a genius and a national hero, rather than as a deviant criminal. A tale supremely worth telling, well told; Highly Recommended, a Must See.

IMDb pageOfficial website • UK Channel 4 website

Monday, June 24, 2013

Continental

Continental, dir. Malcolm Ingram, 2013, USA, 95 min. 
Monday, June 24, 9:30 pm @ Castro

NYC’s Ansonia Hotel,
former location of the
Continental Baths
The Continental Baths was a “private men’s club” in New York City from 1968 until 1974. It was a gay bathhouse, but quite different from the other sex clubs of the day: the management took its patrons seriously as guests and clients, rather than as patsies to be exploited, and provided a beautiful setting, rather than a dingy, seedy dive. The Continental Baths also sometimes offered live entertainment, including performers who went on to become internationally famous, including Bette Midler (to whom Ostrow gave the nickname “The Divine Miss M”) and Barry Manilow. The DJ at the Continental, Frankie Knuckles, went on to be acclaimed as “the godfather of house music.” This documentary explores the whole life cycle of the Continental Baths, from its creation to its golden era to going out of business, including frank discussions of everything from orgies and STDs to celebrities in the audience to the payoffs to the two major organized crime syndicates, the Mafia and the NYPD. Steve Ostrow, the founder of the club, provides fascinating insights, as do many of the other interviewees, with Michael Musto reliably filling in the dish. Highly recommended.

IMDb pageOfficial websiteFacebook page

La Partida

La Partida (a.k.a. The Last Match), dir. Antonio Hens, 2013, Cuba, 90 min., in Spanish with English subtitles 
Monday, June 24, 6:30 pm @ Castro


Reinier (Reinier Díaz, left/izq.)
and Yosvani (Milton García)
The title in Spanish, La Partida, has multiple meanings: the match (as in, the football/soccer game), the departure (leaving a place), the consignment or item in an account, the certificate (of birth, death, etc.), or the wager. The film La Partida tells the story of Reinier and Yosvani, two young men living in Havana, Cuba. Reinier is a soccer player with a wife and child, trying to support himself with a little gambling and a little rentboy action for the foreign tourists on the Malecón, Havana’s seawall. Yosvani is a migrant from a small town, hooked up with an older woman and her father Silvano, a loan shark whom Yosvani assists with his business. (Cubans from other provinces are not free to move to the capital unless they have a sponsor.) The friendship between Reinier and Yosvani takes a more physical turn after an ecstasy-fueled night out at a club, but there are many obstacles, including the young men’s internal conflict over their feelings. It’s a window into a country that is at once less than 100 miles from the USA and yet worlds away, beautifully acted and filmed, with plenty of pathos and eye candy. Highly recommended.

IMDb page • trailer (YouTubeVimeo)

Valencia

Valencia, dirs. Peter Anthony et al., 2012, USA, 100 min. 
Friday, June 21, 9:00 pm @ Castro
Monday, June 24, 4:00 pm @ Castro
Thursday, June 27, 9:30 pm @ Elmwood

The credits for Valencia list twenty directors for the film, which I rather suspect is at the core of its many problems. The story is divided into a dozen and a half chapters, each with a completely different cast — different actors playing the same characters — and a different production team. To say that the result is disjointed goes beyond understatement. This film was enjoyable for the people who appear on screen, but not for most of the rest of the audience. Avoid this film; definitely not recommended. Why this film alone, of all the feature films in the festival, warranted three screenings, will forever remain a mystery.

Paul Bowles

Paul Bowles: The Cage Door is Always Open, dir. Daniel Young, 2012, Switzerland, 87 min. 
Monday, June 24, 11:00 am @ Castro

Jane Auer and Paul Bowles
©2012 HesseGreutert Film, from
Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s
Paul Bowles was a composer and author before World War II, part of Gertrude Stein’s coterie of artists in pre-war Paris, friend of Aaron Copland, Christopher Isherwood, Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams, translator of Jean-Paul Sartre and of traditional Moroccan folk tales and songs, precursor of the Beat poets, and author of The Sheltering Sky, a celebrated novel about an American couple traveling in North Africa. He spent most of his adult life living in Tangier, Morocco, returning only reluctantly to New York City. He married Jane Auer, also a novelist, but the two were more friends than lovers; each had same-sex companions. Paul Bowles: The Cage Door is Always Open explores the many facets of Bowles’ life and works. I’m hard pressed to put in words the ripples of Bowles’ talents through the culture of the 20th century, but luckily there is an excellent film to relieve me of that burden. Highly recommended, a Must See.

IMDb pagePaul Bowles’ official website

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?

Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf, dir. Anna Margarita Albelo, 2013, USA, 83 min. 
Sunday, June 23, 6:30 pm @ Castro

click to enlarge
(pardon the double-entendre!)
In this faux-autobiographical story, a 40-year-old filmmaker named Anna revisits her yearly resolutions: lose 20 pounds, get a girlfriend, and direct a feature film. She decides on a lesbian remake of the Elizabeth Taylor / Richard Burton classic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, casting someone (Katia, played by Janina Gavankar of The L Word) she hopes will be her “leading lady” in more ways than one. Guinevere Turner (Go Fish [Frameline18], The Owls [Frameline34], and Gabby on The L Word) and Carrie Preston (Arlene on True Blood) play Anna’s friends, gamely putting up with her emotional crises as the film project begins to fall apart. Screenwriter Michael Urban co-wrote 2004’s hilarious Saved!, and he successfully captures the humor of the hot messes that are Anna and her film. The dancing vagina costume (pictured) is definitely the highlight of the film. Highly recommended.

Official website IMDb pagetrailer

JOY! Portrait of a Nun

JOY! Portrait of a Nun, dir. Joe Balass, 2012, Canada, 52 min. 
24 Hitchhikers, dir. Paul Detwiler, 2013, USA, 5 min. 
Sunday, June 23, 1:30 pm @ Victoria

Sister Mish in a state of JOY!
(Disclaimer: I am an acquaintance of Sister Mish, and a friend of several other people involved in this project.) Sister Soami Deluxe (originally Sister Missionary Position, later Sister Missionary P. Delight) is one of the founders of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group that has done activism, charity, and consciousness-raising for over three decades. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence push back against the oppression of the Roman Catholic Church, and particularly its dour, sexually repressed asceticism, preaching instead a gospel of happiness, sexual liberation, and expiation of stigmatic guilt. JOY! Portrait of a Nun takes a look at Sister Mish and many of her fellow Sisters, radical faeries, elves, and other assorted woodland creatures, distilling seven years of interviews, archival footage, and memorabilia, into a moving and fascinating portrait of a pivotal figure in the history of San Francisco and the entire gay world. Highly recommended, definitely a Must See — although, of course, you are absolved of any stigmatic guilt if you don’t manage to see it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nightmare on Elm Street 2

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, dir. Jack Sholder, 1985, USA, 87 min. ⚠
Saturday, June 22, midnight @ Castro

“He’s inside me!!”
I generally make a point of avoiding all horror films, and especially all slasher films. However, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is quite possibly the gayest (in a good way) horror film ever. To begin with, the #1 “scream queen” isn’t a girl, it’s our boy Jesse (Mark Patton). At the high school, Jesse and a friend are talking about the P.E. coach’s predilection for cute boys and gay leather bars, foreshadowing the coach’s demise with unseen hands stripping him naked and whipping him red and raw before Freddy Krueger’s famous razor claws finally do him in. Jesse also does a little dance in his bedroom, the entire point apparently being to show off his cute little butt for a lovely close-up. Mercifully, the actual murders are much less graphic than you might expect, leaving room to enjoy the rampant homoeroticism and mid-80’s hairstyles, not to mention shorts that are actually shorter than knee length.

C.O.G.

C.O.G., dir. Kyle Patrick Alvarez, 2013, USA, 88 min. 
Saturday, June 22, 9:15 pm @ Castro

Samuel (Jonathan Groff) and
C.O.G. Jon (Denis O’Hare)
For the first time, noted essayist David Sedaris (booksNPR clips) has allowed one of his pieces to be adapted as a film. Samuel (Jonathan Groff, Glee’s Jesse St. James), a cocky Ivy League college boy, goes off to rural Oregon to be one with the working people, picking apples alongside migrant workers who speak little or no English. The original plan was to do this with his buddy Jennifer, but she abandons him, and yet he presses on, staying past the end of summer. He meets Jon (Denis O’Hare, True Blood’s Russell Edgington), a friendly leafletter who wants to know if Samuel is a fellow C.O.G., and Curly (Corey Stoll, Rep. Peter Russo on the U.S./Netflix version of House of Cards), a coworker in the apple packing plant who wants to be quite friendly. Dean Stockwell (Battlestar Galactica [2006], Quantum Leap, etc.) plays the owner of the orchard, rounding out the list of recognizable faces.

Big Gay Love

Big Gay Love, dir. Ringo Le, 2013, USA, 85 min. 
Saturday, June 22, 6:30 pm @ Victoria
Jonathan Lisecki (center)
Nicholas Brendon (far right)

Jonathan Lisecki (Gayby [Frameline36]) and Nicholas Brendon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Psycho Beach Party [Frameline24]) are the familiar faces in this comedy about a successful party planner (Lisecki) who is painfully devoid of any self-confidence in his love life, and a successful chef (Brendon) who is, for some unknown reason, interested in him nonetheless. The ensuing hijinks are sometimes funny and occasionally clever, but the over-the-top nebbishness of Lisecki’s character is a wet blanket over the whole film. Amusing, tepidly recommended.

IMDb pageOfficial Facebook page

Big Joy

James Broughton embracing big joy
Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton, dirs. Dawn Logsdon, Stephen Silha & Eric Slade, 2012, USA, 83 min. 
Saturday, June 22, 4:00 pm @ Castro

James Broughton & Joel Singer
(Disclaimer: I am friends with several people involved in making and promoting the film, so I won’t even pretend this is an unbiased review.) James Broughton was a poet and filmmaker, sexual revolutionary, father, teacher, radical faerie, and Sister of Perpetual Indulgence. He was a precursor to the Beat poets and chronicler of the Summer of Love — Broughton’s 1967 film The Bed broke ground in showing full frontal nudity, blazing the trail for many others. Big Joy combines archival footage, readings from Broughton’s diaries and poems, and interviews with luminaries whom he influenced, including Armistead Maupin, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Anna Halprin, George Kuchar, Pauline Kael, Keith Hennessy, and his soulmate Joel Singer. You may not know the name James Broughton, but his life and works influenced the world we live in, and particularly the way we think of love and sex and human bodies. Among Broughton’s mottos were “Follow your own weird!” and “When in doubt, twirl.” When in doubt, watch this movie. Highly recommended, a Must See for anyone interested in film, poetry, sex, humanity, dance, faeries, or life.

Official website with trailer • IMDb pageKickstarter campaign for distribution funding • Facebook page

Fun in Girls’ Shorts

Fun in Girls’ Shorts” (shorts program)
Saturday, June 22, 1:30 pm @ Castro
Sunday, June 30, 11:30 am @ Castro

(Note: films are listed and reviewed in the order they were screened on June 22. Natives was meant to run last.)

P.D.A.

I wanna hold your hand! Kevin
Oestenstad & Patrick Hancock
P.D.A., dir. Patrick Hancock, 2012, USA, 8 min. 
Part of the “Fun in Boys’ Shorts” shorts program.

Two gay men, Tom (Kevin Oestenstad, pictured left) and Bill (writer / director / producer Patrick Hancock, right) are walking down the street in a residential area of L.A.; one of them is eager to hold hands, the other more reticent. They discuss the issue and its broader context of their lives as “homosexualiens.” Apparently, the three easy steps to masculinity are (1) drop your voice, (2) flatten your tone, and (3) pretend you don’t care. Witty and funny, with an excellent surprise twist at the end. Highly recommended.

dik

dik, dir. Christopher Stollery, 2011, Australia, 
Part of the “Fun in Boys’ Shorts” shorts program.
Also part of the “I Come from a Land Down Under” shorts program.

“I lik ribin tims dik”??
What’s a parent to do?
Six-year-old Andrew (Keilan Grace) comes home from school with a drawing he made. His parents, Robert (Patrick Brammall, pictured) and Rachel (Alexa Ashton) aren’t quite sure what to make of the title Andrew gave his drawing. Their conversation continues later that evening, taking a few unexpected turns as they revisit bits of their own lives in an effort to understand and support their son. The result is quite cute and hilariously funny. Definitely a Must See. (dik won the audience award for best short at Frameline37.) Tagline: Don’t take it the wrong way!

IMDb pagetrailerOfficial website

Spooners

Spooners, dir. Bryan Horch, 2012, USA, 14 min., in English with English subtitles 
Part of the “Fun in Boys’ Shorts” shorts program

It’s a good thing Spooners was subtitled, because it was difficult to hear the dialogue over the audience’s sustained laughter. In what was possibly the strongest “Fun in Boys’ Shorts” collection ever, Spooners stood out as the best of the best. Corey (Ben Lerman) and Nelson (Walter Replogle) are a gay couple who have grown tired of their lumpy old futon, meaning it’s time to visit Drowzy’s Mattress World, a place that would feel right at home in any suburban strip mall. Nelson, though, is embarrassed to shop with his husband for a mattress, so he goes by himself to Drowzy’s. The salesman invites him to try out the SmartBed™ to help him choose, but the SmartBed™ asks more and more personal questions as a crowd of shoppers gathers to look on. My pick for best short of Frameline37, definitely a Must See.

Official website including a trailerIMDb page

Cuki Colorinchi Evolution

Cuki Colorinchi Evolution, dir. Eduardo del Olmo, 2011, Spain, 4 min., in Spanish with English subtitles 
Part of the “Fun in Boys’ Shorts” shorts program
We’re here to hook you in, or throw
you for a loop, as we tell you a yarn.

Cuki Colorinchi Evolution is a brief interview with a crochet artist, hiding his identity behind a series of masks (crocheted, of course), talking about his evolution from two-dimensional to three-dimensional objects, and his ambitions (for instance, a 3-D crochet Darth Vader). “Off the beaten path” doesn’t even begin to cover it, but it’s a trip into a world of pastel burqas, international art intrigue, and the unthinkable ramifications of a crocheted condom. Definitely worth a laugh or three, Recommended.

Watch Cuki Colorinchi Evolution on YouTubeVimeoDailymotion

Jackpot

Jack finds a couple of magazines
Well, maybe more than a couple...
Jackpot, dir. Adam Baran, 2012, USA, 10 min. 
Part of the “Fun in Boys’ Shorts” shorts program

Jack (Ethan Navarro) is a 14-year-old boy in the New Jersey suburbs, circa 1994. He’s picked on by bullies at school, but he ventures out when he hears about a cache of gay porn magazines in the dumpster behind a local mini-mart. Helped along by one of the models, sprung to life off the page, he faces the very real danger of being found out, but Jack will not be denied his jackpot. Brilliant and beautifully executed, Jackpot captures the turmoil of a boy’s teen years. This short is also a preview of a feature film in the works. Highly recommended, a Must See.

IMDb entry • Facebook page

Alaska is a Drag

Alaska is a Drag, dir. Shaz Bennett, 2013, USA, 13 min. 
Part of the “Fun in Boys’ Shorts” shorts program
Also part of the “Fire We Make” shorts program

First, a pull quote: “Jesus had two dads, and his mom was a surrogate!” But seriously, who knew that working in a fish cannery in Alaska could be so glamorous? Leo (Martin L. Washington, Jr.) is not just a drag queen, but an African-American drag queen, living in a small town in Alaska until he can realize his dreams of international superstardom. He manages to hold his own with his homophobic co-workers, but newcomer Declan (Spencer Broschard) stirs things up, for good and bad. Alaska is a Drag is a fun little short in its own right, but also a preview of a feature-length film on the drawing boards. Highly recommended.

Official Facebook page • IMDb entry

Yeah, Kowalski!

Cameron Wofford as the very,
very bald Gabe Kowalski
Yeah, Kowalski!, dir. Evan Roberts, 2012, USA, 10 min. 
Part of the “Fun in Boys’ Shorts” shorts program

Gabe Kowalski (Cameron Wofford) is 13 years old, and he really wants to impress the boy he has a crush on, but those outward signs of puberty are frustratingly slow to arrive, so Gabe takes matters into his own hands. Cute and funny, very well acted, with a special credit for “makeup/hair/armpits,” Charli Brath. Highly recommended.

IMDb listingofficial websiteFacebook page

Housebroken

Housebroken, dir. Wade Gasque, 2013, USA, 15 min. 
Part of the “Fun in Boys’ Shorts” shorts program
Also played in the “Bi Candy” shorts program

Paul (Mark Strano, center, who looks very familiar, although I don't recognize any of his previous film credits) is a hopeless romantic, staying with friends-of-a-friend Danni and Dean for a few days, but their image as a perfect couple doesn’t fare well. It’s a ménage-à-trois from heaven or hell or both. Very funny, although a couple of snips of dialogue seemed a little forced, but with a great ending. Highly recommended.

Fun in Boys’ Shorts

Fun in Boys’ Shorts” (shorts program), 
Saturday, June 22, 11:00 am @ Castro
Sunday, June 30, 2:00 pm @ Castro

Housebroken, dir. Wade Gasque, 2012, USA, 15 min. 
Yeah Kowalski, dir. Evan Roberts, 2012, USA, 10 min. 
Alaska is a Drag, dir. Shaz Bennett, 2013, USA, 13 min. 
Jackpot, dir. Adam Baran, 2012, USA, 10 min. 
Cuki Colorinchi Evolution, dir. Eduardo del Olmo, 2011, Spain, 4 min., in Spanish with English subtitles 
Spooners, dir. Bryan Horch, 2012, USA, 14 min. 
dik, dir. Christopher Stollery, 2012, Australia, 9 min. 
P.D.A., dir. Patrick Hancock, 2012, USA, 8 min. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

kink

kink, dir. Christina Voros, 2012, USA, 80 min. 
Friday, June 21, midnight @ Castro

Not your average
bondage scene
kink is a documentary about the porn website kink.com, which produces all manner of BDSM porn at the old armory at the corner of 14th and Mission in San Francisco. BDSM is bondage & discipline, dominance & submission, and sadism & masochism, but BDDSSM would be too much of a mouthful, at least without a ball gag. Peter Acworth, the founder and CEO of kink.com, is not at all the stereotype sleazebag one might expect at the reins of a porn factory, and the staff, both behind and in front of the cameras, are also far removed from the world of clichés of the washed-up detritus of humanity desperate to do anything for money or drugs or both. We get to see the conversations that take place before a scene begins, exploring what the “sub” (submissive) is willing to do, and every bit of the action is consensual by all participants. Although there is money involved, many of the performers do it as much for the thrill as for the cash, and many of the staff are ardent and vocal feminists. Many of the scenes were of activities that are not to my personal taste, but the menu is broad enough to suit nearly anyone. Recommended for anyone with an interest in kinky porn, with apologies to the other 1% of the audience....

The Go Doc Project

The Go Doc Project, dir. Cory Krueckeberg, 2013, USA, 100 min. 
Friday, June 21, 9:30 pm @ Victoria

Back in 2008, I was utterly entranced by the magnificent Were the World Mine (available on DVD and Amazon instant video), directed by Tom Gustafson, produced by Cory Krueckeberg, and starring Tanner Cohen. I saw Were the World Mine at Toronto’s InsideOut festival, and twice more at Frameline32, before buying the DVD. This year, Gustafson and Krueckeberg traded jobs, but kept the lovely, charming, and fabulously talented Tanner Cohen as their star. Sadly, there are no choreographed rugby team drills this time, but the results are still wonderful.

Free Fall (Freier Fall)

Freier Fall (Free Fall), dir. Stephen Lacant, 2013, Germany, 100 min., in German with English subtitles 
Friday, June 21, 6:30 pm @ Castro
Monday, June 24, 9:30 pm @ Elmwood

Hanno Koffler & Max Riemelt
in Freier Fall (Free Fall)
Those of you who saw Sommersturm (Summer Storm) at Frameline29 in 2005 will recognize Hanno Koffler, who played Malte, the lothario of the gay rowing team, and now stars in Freier Fall (Free Fall) as Marc, a police cadet with a pregnant girlfriend who finds himself irresistibly drawn to fellow cadet Kay (Max Riemelt). Marc’s two lives are on a collision course. Koffler and Riemelt have a real chemistry together, but unfortunately the story takes some quite predictable turns, and, despite some current details, feels somehow dated. Not all that I had hoped for, but all the same Highly Recommended.

IMDb entryofficial site incl. trailer

Pit Stop

Pit Stop, dir. Yen Tan, 2013, USA, 82 min. 
Friday, June 21, 4:00 pm @ Castro
Thursday, June 27, 7:00 pm @ Elmwood

I’ve lived my entire life in big cities and suburbs, with only brief visits to the small towns of rural America. Pit Stop takes a peek into the lives of some folks in an unnamed town near Austin, Texas, and the pace of the film reflects the slower pace of small-town life. There is lots of room to breathe in many ways, but not much room for coming out of the closet. Gabe is living with his ex-wife and their daughter, showing a bit of a jealous streak as she starts to date other men while he yearns for the man who got away; Ernesto has a younger boyfriend who wants the adventures of the big city. The characters and their stories are complex and nuanced, and there isn’t a neat and tidy “everyone lived happily ever after” ending — that said, you’ll be sorry if you miss the last scene! Highly recommended.

Official website for Pit Stop: the movieFacebook page

Hatch

Hatch, dir. Christoph Kuschnig, 2012, Austria, 19 min., in German and Serbian with English subtitles,
part of the “Kiss Me Softly” shorts program

A young couple seeking asylum in Austria have a brand new baby, but must consider whether they are able to raise it or whether they should leave the baby anonymously in the hatch of a safe haven. Another couple faces a related dilemma, leaving both couples vacillating, unsure what is the right thing to do. I can’t say much about the dilemmas without giving any spoilers, but the tension is palpable in every scene. Highly recommended.

View the trailer on the director’s website.

A Thousand Empty Glasses

A Thousand Empty Glasses, dir. Andrew Nolan, 2012, UK, 15 min.
part of “Kissing Me Softly” (shorts program)

Charlie (Tristan Shepherd)
Some time in the 1930’s, young Charlie goes on a whirlwind trip to a small town in France, largely to tell his friend Arthur that he is engaged to be married. He meets Arthur’s neighbors Oliver and Martha, also English expats, but one night an overabundance of wine allows Charlie to see some of the truth behind the veneer of happy heterosexuality. It’s beautifully filmed, but an unhappy story with some violent scenes. Recommended.

Available on iTunes