Reviews written by registered user

10 reviews in total 
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21 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
Interesting Concept, Horrible Execution, 12 October 2008

This film about falling in and out of love has an interesting premise: What brings men together and what tears them apart? Apart from the premise, however, it is pretty bad.

Two young hot guys (an American and a Frenchie) meet cute in a bar, decide they love each other "pour toujours" very quickly, and then, after a few years together, when one of the partners renews ties with a sibling, all begins to swiftly and dramatically unravel. From one extreme of sickeningly sweet "I thought you two were going to last," the film drops quickly into obsession, selfishness and pathology.

Most of what makes the film so annoying is that the writing is overwrought; and though I know some of the dialog is likely intentionally so, it does not ring true even in context. When the couple is falling in love, for example, the dialog seems to come straight out of Harlequin; and when they are fighting it goes towards bitchiness that goes beyond what one might expect from the characters.

The result is that one does not know whether the protagonists are meant to be understood or scorned; and the central acting certainly does not help, with two main actors who do not seem to register beyond type, and are not strong enough to effectively portray an potential Jungian undertones.

In short, I was never quite sure whether to hate or feel for these people, or which one I was to feel for if I was meant to take sides. Was it intended to be a gay "War of the Roses," or some kind of queer morality tale? Aside from one increasingly interesting performance (the lesbian roommate), and one HORRID performance (the sibling, perhaps a victim of one-note writing), there is just so little that stands out.

14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Shocked And Appalled... Thank God!, 12 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Eating Out was not my favorite film. I actually only really enjoyed one scene of the movie. So I had uncertain expectations for the director's latest, Boy Culture. Let's just say that I was surprised.

This film, I guess, is controversial to some people. The main character is a sympathetic (enough) but unapologetic male hooker. Some of the characters party and sleep around; and one of these is barely of age. As well, the lead can be downright nasty at times; and there are some sexual moments that are hardly the pretty-boy soft porn we get so often in gay film. To me, however, these seeming deficits establish Boy Culture as one of the more unique and enjoyable gay films of recent years.

It is nice to see a film that takes risks. It is also fitting, since this is a film about taking risks. I can honestly say that though many elements of the plot are not hugely original (a crush that is not acted on, a "coming out" to the family, an older man who leads our hero to greater understanding), the details of these plot threads are daring. At points, Mr. Brocka seems to take these conventions and give them a proverbial b*** slap.

Most wonderfully, though unfortunately I would not make a great hustler, I really could identify with the characters of the film. The nastiness, for example, especially in the "humor" of its characters, seemed so right. Don't most of us use humor as an emotional condom from time to time, a bit of protection from potential pain? Can't most of us identify with the desire to keep people out of our emotional soft center? The film addresses this reality in a way that can be unnerving, but is still humorous and at times extremely wise.

No, this film is not for everyone. No, the characters are not good plain assimilated folk who the straights can love and not judge. The beauty of film to me, however, is when it can find the universal in something that may be far from our experience. Deep down, I really think Boy Culture does just that.

Shortbus (2006)
3 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Sex That Can Move You, 26 November 2006

I must admit that I saw Shortbus a few weeks before writing this view. Then I saw it again about a week later. While at first not thinking a review was necessary, the film has stuck with me enough to encourage a few thoughts here.

Make no mistake, this is definitely a film about sex; and unlike Pasolini's Salo or some recent French films that are bleakly graphic in sexual content, this is a film that makes sex sexy. The thing I liked best about Shortbus, in fact, was that the sex quite literally shown in the film was allowed to be sexy. At the same time, it was also allowed to be confused, selfish, emotionless, sad, even riotously funny (the much-mentioned National Anthem scene had me laughing uproariously while shaking my head that anyone could be this audacious in their approach to adult film-making). In short, this film showed sex in all its lights: as an expression of love, as a way to mask insecurities, as a way to both literally and figuratively "let somebody in," and as a way to avoid intimacy in other forms.

While hardly realistic, especially in its (rest in peace) Altmanesque way of connecting numerous characters, this film, to me, has a real essence of truth. It also has a way of questioning what sex means to each of us, as well as celebrating what sex can be when it is accompanied by true feelings, vulnerability and emotional intimacy. Even in its at times heavy-handed approach, I cannot help but marvel that a film with explicit sex actually made me feel very deeply. It made me care about some sometimes cartoonish characters. It also gave me, for one, the rush of seeing something I had not quite seen done before.

So kudos to all involved, especially the actor. Say what you will, but for my money the performances, even when showing the inexperience of the actors involved, are miles above what I would have expected from a group willing to perform public sex acts and also attempt to do above-porn-level acting and interacting.

I am still somewhat shocked how endearing these people were to me, and how much the film has lingered.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Unevenly Wonderful- Turned Formulaic and Lacking In Magic, 24 November 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Let me get a few things out of the way. First, the show has an odd tendency to spin between drama and comedy that can be off-putting and even annoying. Second, I have heard rumors that the best relationship on the show, the interesting interplay between gay lawyer son Kevin and cater waiter Scotty is soon to end. Third, I have always been thrown off a bit by the popularity of both Sally Field and Calista Flcokhart (neither of whom are even midway to being my favorites. That said, however, this is my favorite show of the season.

I have read on this board how "bad" the writing is. I guess that I have a totally different set of artistic taste buds. Yes, things can get sentimental, but just when I am about to roll my eyes, an offbeat bit of humor comes along to swipe the melancholy off its track.

I also just love how the little moments that define these people's relationships. A recent episode in which three of the siblings take a road trip and have different, even offbeat reactions to a breakdown was a great example of this: At one point, the brothers start chasing each other around and rough-housing for no apparent reason, yet with every nuance of a family relationship that has always been playful like this.

The acting? Rachel Griffiths is, as always, surprising and brilliant with a part that mixes neurosis and strength in believable measures. Matthew Rhys is great as the acerbic but not stereotypical gay brother. Even CAlista Flockhart is pretty darned good at being a moderate Republican. Then, for the top of the acting list for me...I love Luke McFarlane as Scotty. At first he was a bit of a gay stereotype, but he has really grown.

I could say the same for the series. I wasn't sure what to think, at first, but I have really grown fond of these Brothers and Sisters.

I'd like to see exactly why Patricia Wettig is here (she is a bit of a contrived detour, even though I love her acting choices). I'd like to see less of the Iraq War and 9/11 subplot (which takes the tone of the show in a curious and too-close-to-maudlin direction). I'd like to see more of the little moments that define this family (which are truly the most brilliant aspects of the show). Still, this is truly an involving series, from my point of view. And the writing is often brilliant, if you can trust me over some of the other reviewers quoted here.

Brothers and Sisters, to me, is the kind of flawed but wonderful programming that actually gets me interested in characters instead of lame jokes and bizarre plot lines. Brothers and Sisters, to me, is something I could follow for years.

...or thought I could. This last season has just lost the magic. The disagreements seem staged, characters take secnd place to drama and plot contrivances, things that interested me (Holly being three-dimensional instead of a stock villainess, Justin and Rebecca navigating a friendship) got twisted around in an apprarent attempt to lure in viewers (Holly just became an angry vengeful woman and Justin and Rebecca became... lovers... ewwww).

It seems that the removal of Jon Robin Baitz was the death knell, for me. I have officially quit watching my once-favorite show on TV.

A Love to Hide (2005) (TV)
21 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
The Short Review, 18 July 2006

This film, while historically interesting and politically relevant, goes deeper than most message films. What is so fascinating is that so many things go on in this film besides suffering and Nazi hatred. It is, above all, the story of a family (and the family that is created).

Yes, the Nazis' massacre of Jews and Gays is a huge part of this movie, but what sets it apart is the humanistic story of love, jealousy, acceptance, guilt and tragedy that is set WITHIN the central group of friends and family in the film. There are many small surprises, and the melodrama is really cut to a minimum. Some very wrenching scenes, for example, come and go before you can get a good cry in. To me, the true brilliance of the film lies in its ability to show rather than tell what horrors befell Europe during Hitler's reign.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A Truly Amazing Cast in a Hilariously Moving Tale, 18 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In this tale of a tightly wound Christian family that has three of its four members "born again" after a cake-caused car crash, what really stands out is how grounded most of it is, where there is so much potential to go over the top, and how truly inspired most of the acting is. Where most of the film's moments, particularly its frank and "innocent" discussions of sexuality after three of the four family members have their guilt and shame removed, is hilarious, it is also thought-provoking and the characters stay with you.

How often, for example does a character in a comedy spin from near caricature to full-bodied emotional being in the course of one scene? How often do we see a cast that can pull back from showboating mid-sentence, in order to show a bit of the humanity beneath the character's skin? Even many of the "bad guys" in this film have moments of heart-breaking honesty, even while much of what they do can be absolutely ridiculous and horrifying. There is truth and history behind even the most questionable acts in this film, which is a difficult task in satire.

How refreshing it is to see a darkish comedy that can dare to be humanistic. How nice to see actors so fully committed to character that they can dare to let them be ridiculous and sublime.

And as a gay person, I do not think I have ever been quite so touched by a heterosexual sex scene as I was by the first sexual encounter between the parents of this family after their accident.

Bravo. Bravo. One of my favorites at Outfest this year.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
My Fave This Year, 26 December 2005

I saw this film months ago and still have it in my head. Who knew Rachel Weisz had real acting in her? Who knew Ralph Fiennes could be nebbishy and likable (and even a bit sexy)? Who knew that a film from such a populist writer's work could be so political,controversial and timely? This story of a political company man seeking out the cause of his lefty wife's death goes far beyond where I would have expected it to. The acting is aces, the story is touching, and the music stays with me to this day. The cinematography, while very daringly fluid for this kind of film, is gorgeous and appropriate. It was the best film of the year, for me, with one of the Best Supporting actresses. To boot, its message of corporate greed and its questioning of the Pharma industry is both brave and completely on the mark. Above all, however, Ralph Fiennes pulls you right into this story with his subtlety, his brilliant display of quietly passionate love, and his (I will not spoil things here) graceful final scenes.

16 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Fine Observation Is An Acquired Taste - So, Then, Is This Film, 26 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I read many of the negative comments about this film, and I can understand them. What many see as "boring," however, I tend to admire. I prefer what I call "quiet heartbreak" films to the paint by numbers variety we so often get. I prefer accumulated details and quiet observation to lightning epiphany and voice-over explanation of things I prefer to figure out on my own.

So yes. the movie runs slowly... however the initial scenes build slowly to show the little things that make these two like each other; and if you blink, you'll miss the keen observations that are not accompanied by the swelling score or a close-up of a teardrop on a cheek: Ennis watching Jack with curiosity and interest as the other rides his horse up the mountain (a mere blip in the distance on the screen, yet obviously big in this man's mind); Jack trying hard not to look at Ennis as he bathes; Ennis acting as if the loss of money is the reason he is upset about cutting the summer stint short; Jack deflating when he realizes that a trip to see Ennis at his home was wasted. To me, this was much more beautiful than any heavy sex scenes might have been, more indicative of strong feelings than any screenwriter-imposed proclamations might have been.

I also love that the women in the film got fair coverage; and Linda Cardellini's role, while an add-on to the book, was a nice side note to show that Ennis's interest in Jack was not just a cover-up for lack of marital connection. Her acting actually surprised me; Michelle Williams, heartbreaking as she has been, really anchored that the tragedy of these men's decisions was not just their own to bear. It was really nice to see a movie that showed how this societal urging to hide unpleasant things can have a ripple effect; and it was the women in the film, not the men, who made this truly stand out.

In fact, the film seemed to have an interesting message: While same sex feelings are often viewed as irresponsible and selfish, the fact that these men stayed with wives in unhappy lives had a different sort of tragic selfishness behind it. Not that there were many options open (the comment by the Christian who says that these two would have built a life together had their feelings been true smacks of one who does not comprehend the true life of living in marginalized groups); but the refusal of Ennis to even fully admit his feelings to Jack for most of the film had as horrible effect on others as it did on him, mostly due to his refusal to see how this was bound to happen.

What is beautiful to me is that these subtleties are not vomited all over the screen, as we so often see in Hollywood. Most of the moments are small, can be missed easily. One review I read said that the men's failings were passed over to make the movie more palatable; and yet Jack sleeping with others and his braggart little white lies hardly qualify as saintly, while Ennis's sexist treatment of his wife was often appalling. What made me appreciate them more is that most of them came in hindsight, in whispers and snippets of a thought that came to me as lay in bed, pondering the quiet subtle provocations of the movie,including the elusive last line of the film, both true to Annie Proulx's source novel and completely, justifiably, enigmatic for the rest of us.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Fighting My Own Preconceptions, 6 August 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's all been done before, more or less. The production values were pretty low on the spectrum. The actor playing the manager was so hyped that I was almost certain to be in for the letdown I felt. The ending, to me, felt a bit unfair to one character's integrity.

It isn't anything to write home about, plot-wise. Washed up boxer/manager turned English teacher "discovers" angry, washed-up boxer and former Olympic hopeful. Each has their demons. Each needs each other. Both start to blossom until circumstances test them both professionally and emotionally. Sound familiar? Adding a few doses of character study and melodrama to an old mix does not make it any less familiar (and yellowing with age).

I'm waiting, truth be told, for a new kind of boxing movie to emerge. The variations on Stallone have so little left to tweak out; and even though I liked both this movie and Clint Eastwood's recent foray into the genre, the attempt of each to manipulate and personalize the genre feels contrived, often forced, and derivative. Even the one part of this movie that seems significantly different, that the manager is highly literate and even poetic, somehow seems a bit stilted in the overall course of the film.

Still, the movie has some real power, and even some real surprise. JP Davis (and maybe I am saying this because he is exceptionally sexy) has a real smoldering star quality about his performance, as well as a few beautifully touching choices as an actor. His reaction to some darker developments in the story, both as character and as actor, seem just subtle and nuanced enough to be believable, wrenching and even quietly surprising. After viewing the film, I also realized that one part of the usual formula had a bit of a shift in this film: while the main character certainly has his clichéd meteoric rise in rank, there are moments where he actually wins fights but shows bad form and is anything but coveted in the mainstream boxing circles. Most boxing films seem to make greatness in the sport all about winning, knocking people out regardless of form and execution, while this one makes a few very small steps to point out that a win is not all that is being looked at in championship fighting.

Overall, I had a good feeling from the movie and would recommend it. It left me thinking, ad I always appreciate that in a film. I wish the manager had been less about pretty words and trite mantras, however. I wish that there had been an ending that was a little less manipulative. I still cannot deny that I was moved and even quite thrown back by the writer/star whom I had never heard of, and whom I believe may be a force to reckon with if the right people find him.

13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
What I Love About Canadian Film, 10 July 2005

Maybe it is just that I am a Californian and not a Canadian, but as an outsider, I have often loved Canadian Film. This is a prime example of what many Canadians seem to do that most US directors do not: take time to tell a story, not be afraid to show the dark side of characters, and trust actors to so what they do best.

I saw this film at OUTFEST, and was moved by a gay film that puts homosexuality in context: all the main characters of this film seek love and validation. All do it in different ways. All feel that they have been untrue to themselves, somehow, in this search for love. All seem to feel somehow thwarted by their past (or maybe, in the case of Sandra Oh's character, the most recent past), as well, in this hunt. The struggle of gay people to receive respect AND the love they deserve has been placed squarely into a larger context (we all have this same struggle for identity and validation); and I love this aspect of the film.

The film revolves around a few main characters: the man who comically tries to kill himself over and over, only to be interrupted at the most (in)opportune times; the painter who stalks him throughout the film, but who may also be his only chance at love; the real estate agent and her cop husband whose ideals have somehow drifted apart; and a hometown girl who has recently returned to town with her adolescent (and sexually coveted daughter, perhaps returning because of her sexual antics everywhere else they have lived. While each of these characters is certainly a "type," and has their moment of stereotypical comic relief, I was impressed at how director Daniel MacIvor showed the roots in reality for each stereotype, and allowed each Jungian type to have depth and a moment that ran against expectation.

The cast, as well, was fabulous. Sandra Oh is amazing at playing a together woman with another side. Rebecca Jenkins showed real sorrow beneath smuttiness. Even the actors playing the gay characters had moments of real transcendence, even though the suffering man in the closet and the lonely man chasing him theme has been played out before.

People walked out of this screening, so the film is obviously not for everyone. For me, however, it was a true tribute to the underlying humanity that brings messed up people together for the highest good.