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A 12 Year Long One Night Stand, 12 August 2014

"The Last Straight Man"

A 12 Year Long One Night Stand

Amos Lassen

"The Last Straight Man" is going to be one of the movies of the year, I predict. Director Mark Bessenger ("Bite Marks") sent me at advance copy and I watched it last night. It has been on my mind ever since. Evidently I am not alone in praising the film because this morning 8/10/14 it won the Alternative Spirit Award Grand Prize at the Rhode Island International Film Festival! This the first year they've split the features away from the shorts, into separate categories.

Now this is going to be a bit difficult to describe the film without giving something away but I will say that this is a movie filled with surprises. It is all about a one-night stand that lasts for 12 years. I must admit that after the first few minutes of the film I thought I had it all figured out but to my chagrin it took a totally different direction than what I expected. The film opens at Cooper's bachelor party and we see some exotic dancing from a hired female stripper but we also notice that one of the party guests does not get involved. Moving a bit forward we are in Lewis's (Mark Cirillo) hotel suite and with Lewis (the one who did not get involved with the lap dancing) and Cooper (Scott Sell). They are talking about life will be different once Coop gets married and he talks Lewis into having a couple of tequila shots and playing the game, "Three Questions" which is important because we will see it recur later.

In the course of the evening Lewis comes out as bisexual and he does so in the answer to one of the three questions. One thing leads to another and adding alcohol, the new men exchange oral sex. According to Cooper this will never happen again yet it does every year on the same date for the next eleven years. Over the course of twelve years, we see four additional nights that depict how the two men grow and how their friendship changes as they mature and age—Coop becomes a father, Lewis remains a loner and so on. There are certain rules to their meetings—booze, cigars, condoms and lube and eventually Lewis moves from bottom to top Cooper who never admits to being gay. He is a married man but we hear very little about the wife and I had the feeling that the reason that Coop married her was because of societal expectations.

We see a total of five nights (including the first) that the two men spend together and how their relationship changes. Sexuality is a complex subject and in this film you see how much that is true. It is also of the few films in which the leads begin as bisexuals yet we only see them act on their gay desires. In fact, when we first meet Lewis and Coop they are both closeted—Lewis has at least acted on his desire but Coop will act the first time with his best friend.

The two men decide to meet secretly in the same hotel and on the same night with the pretext of catching up with their lives but they actually further explore their sexual desires. We see the changes in friendship and relationship over the passage of twelve years.

I really believe that this will be one of the films of this year if not THE film. Everything about it is wonderful from the actors to the situations and if any of you have lusted after someone you will find yourself here. Bessenger has made yet another film of which he can be proud and we can be entertained and left with something to think about. I rarely rave about a film but this one is really one to rave about.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Sexual Fluidity, 25 February 2014

"Straight Men & the Men Who Love Them 3"

Sexual Fluidity

Amos Lassen

Four short films explores sexuality and the complexities of relationships that sometimes become volatile. The films here deal with situations of friendship and hidden attractions, societal expectations, stereotypes and traditional values.

Jorge Ameer gives us "Quarters" which takes place the night before Paul is to be married. He is with his childhood friend Jeremy and they are drinking and playing Quarters. As the stakes are raised, the confessions begin and so do the dares making this a night that neither guy will forget.

From Sweden, director Anna Osterund Nolskog brings us "Boy Game" about two 15 year old best friends who are both interested in girls but are insecure about acting having sex with one of them. They decide that it would be best to practice on each other. Will their friendship last beyond this?

Early One Summer" from the United Kingdom and directed by Gary Thomas is about Dave who goes on a camping trip with his physical education teacher. He thought that something amazing would happen and it did but you will have to see the movie to find out what it is.

Director Yee Lam Wong brings us "From Here to There" (Hong Kong) about two friends who meet up again ten years later at a wedding banquet. As they sit next to each other, they are reminded that they had done the same when they were younger. Jae takes his friend who has had too much to drink home and on the trip they reviewed their friendship and realize that something has been lost forever.

Hide (2010)
Expectations, Obligations and Reality, 16 June 2012


Expectations, Obligations and Reality Amos Lassen

Sometimes a short film can say in several minutes that which longer films try to get across but still do not manage to do. Perhaps that is why we tend to remember pivotal scenes and not whole films. I feel quite confidant in stating that anyone who sees Robert Shelby's "Hide" will remember the film for a very long time. It is centered on an issue that many people of my generation have witnessed or been a part of and for that reason alone, we can consider this an important film (but there are several other reasons as well).

We are raised with certain expectations and obligations that are put upon us—by family, society, friends and usually the choices we make are based upon them. When we make a bad choice, we are reminded of it by ourselves and by others. Our goals tend to come out of the expectations of others and even the in the twentieth-first century with all of its diversity, the house with the picket fence, the wife and the children are still part of the expectations of many. Our main characters, Rick and Matthew were fine with this until they met face to face one day and their worlds collided. They both realize that had they lived their lives differently and according to what they wanted and not what was expected by others, that everything would have been different. Instead, they each married and fathered children and sublimated their true feelings for the sake of the larger society. Then they discover what "might have been" and they are faced with the decision of whether it was worth it or not. Here is the study of two men who lived in the closet and hid from their sexuality and who uncover it to be who they really are. They are both trapped in marriages of convenience and it is there that they discover the "consequences of what they may have to tell their wives and what the future might hold for their relationship".

I have rarely seen films that are perfect but here is one that is very close to it. The story line is very real and very relevant, the cinematography is beautiful and the direction is flawless. But there is something else and that is the incredible performances of Daamen Krall and David Zimmerman as Rick and Matthew. As I watched, my heart ached for them and I was suddenly taken back to a time when I had to decide who I was. Additionally this is a film made about the "forgotten" generation of gay men—the "older" men and we realize that they are as much a part of us as we are a part of them. This is a stunning piece of filmmaking that should not be missed—not by the young who one day will become the Ricks and Matthews and not by the old, who been there and lived through what we see.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Finding Destiny, 29 May 2012

"THE DARK SIDE OF LOVE" Finding Destiny Amos Lassen Jorge Ameer is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated directors working in gay cinema and I suspect that the reason for that is that he makes us think. His movies are always entertaining but they also have something extra that causes us to evaluate what we have seen. His new film, "The Dark Side of Love" takes a look at identity and destiny as if affects four people whose lives come together as they search for who they are and where they are going. Steven (Harsha First)) is our guide here and he takes us by the hand early on and leads us into the film. With the theme of the universality of love, we are shown the four characters who must make decisions that will affect their lives.

Two brothers; Julian (Carlos Sales), a waiter and gay, Michael (Jason Susag), an abusive drug addict fight to gain control of their lives which seem to be going in the wrong direction. Julian develops a crush on a bachelor (who he meets in a very clever way) while the other brother, because of his drug habit and his feelings about his gay brother, has lost touch with reality and has trouble controlling his life. The brothers have been estranged but they are forced to come together with the death of their mother so that they can plan her funeral—a taxing situation, to say the least. Since they do not get along, their "relationship" tests both of them. It is so very difficult to prepare for the death of a parent and even though everything may well be worked out ahead of time, the actual death is not just heartbreaking but trying. Regardless of how they feel about each other, they are brothers and even when tempers flare up and emotions get very high, they know that this is the time to say goodbye to the woman who gave them life. Each brother is forced to look within himself and deal with his feelings, his anger and range and his prejudices.

Steven, our bachelor is looking for a wife and he is not really in the picture like the brothers but his role becomes very important later. When Julian goes home to prepare for the funeral, Steve surprisingly appears at his home with the excuse that Julian should not have to face the ordeal alone. What is so interesting here is that Steven maintains that he is straight and the he and Julian actually only met several days before. There is another character, Chanel (Raquel Rossner), Michael's girlfriend who comes along with Michael when he goes home to bury his mother.

As the brothers prepare to say goodbye to their mother, old wounds are reopened and they are forced to deal with the fact that what was once a family is no more. The death of the mother is the pivot around which the film revolves. As we enter the world of Julian, Michael, Steven and Chanel, we find that each is searching for identity and we are part of that quest.

This is a dark film as the name suggests and the beginning is quite shocking. The cinematography goes right along with the theme of darkness and there are few scenes with bright light. Some might find this depressing but I actually found it interesting especially when we see light at the end.

Ameer not only directs but he also wrote the screenplay and produced and actually appears in a small role. I must say that it took me a bit to get into the film but I soon found myself glued to the screen as I watched and I wanted to know how everything would turn out. The actors give fine performances and I found myself at one point thinking about the meaningfulness of life. When Julian goes to the funeral home (before he is aware of the details his mother has left for her sons) to pick out a coffin, I found myself thinking that after having lived on earth for a lifetime, we are relegated to spend eternity in a box somewhere beneath the earth and that bothers me. I do not know why I never thought about it before and I find it very interesting that it was Ameer's film that brought that home. We are all just passing through and when it is over, it is over.

D'Agostino (2012)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A Very Strange Engrossing Film, 29 May 2012

"D'Agostino" A Very Strange Engrossing Film Amos Lassen I had just finished watching Jorge Ameer's newest film and honestly I did not know what to think about it except that it had totally pulled me in. So I played in a second time and found myself completely absorbed by it. It is quite basically a tale of horror which later becomes something else altogether so I suppose I have to say it is macabre to a point but it is so much more than that. Allen Dawson inherited an apartment in Santorini, Greece. He learned that his grandmother willed it to him but he had to go to Greece to take care of the property transfer. He discovers a human clone in the apartment and decides that it or D'Agostino (who he nicknames Diablo) is to become his new best friend even though the only human quality that the clone possesses is his appearance.

We learn that the clone had been on a transatlantic voyage from Italy to America when there was a crash and he had been left for dead. He had been commissioned by men with wealth and was to be used for organ transplants but he had been abandoned. In the meantime, Dawson learns of his inheritance and leaves his home which he had been sharing with his girlfriend and goes to Santorini where he finds the abandoned clone. Through Diablo, Dawson comes to learn more about himself as he decides to make the clone his best friend. Dawson also realizes that his relationship with his fiancée is a sham and that it is going nowhere and he is bored with and upset that he gets nothing out of it. He realizes that he is trapped in a sedentary existence and that his prospects for future happiness do not look good so when he receives news of the inheritance he knows that he has a chance to get away from his him-drum life and travels to Greece alone. He understands that his life has been little more than an obstruction but he is also not quite ready to deal with what he finds. He quickly sees that with his new property his outlook on life changes and then changes once again when he meets D'Agostino.

At first Dawson s befuddled by the clone and has no idea of how to deal with him but as the two interact we see that his state of mind becomes quite strange and he becomes both ruthless and cruel but as he gets to know the clone, we watch him become victim to his own moral perversion which later creates a reaction that causes him to fall victim to his actions. How and what that is will be something for you to discover when you see the film and regardless of what I say, there is no way to prepare the viewer for what he sees.

The version I was an unedited screener but I could still tell that the cinematography was beautiful and Greece of course leads itself to creating beauty on the screen. Yet when the film is dark, it is very dark. Hats off to the actors who play Dawson and the clone and to Ameer himself in his performance as the man who has been watching the property. I cannot say that this is a film I enjoyed but I can say that it is well done. Enjoy just does not seem the right word to describe it. If you get the chance to see this film, do not hesitate.

The Seder (2011)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Slice of Life, 4 May 2012

"The Seder"

A Slice of Life

Amos Lassen

This is quite a year for LBGT movies with Jewish themes and I am really glad to see that. I just watched an amazing twelve minute short, "The Seder" which really blew me away. I was expecting a comedy but instead got a hard look at life and acceptance. The Seder, for those of you who do not know, is the ceremonial Passover meal that commemorates and celebrates the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt and it is familiarly known as the holiday of freedom. What better time is there for gay people to be who they are, to come out and to celebrate difference? Mitchell (David Looza) decides to bring his boyfriend Leo (Adam Rodness) home for the very first time to the Seder and introduce him to his parents as the person he loves. We get the feeling that everyone is nervous—Leo, his mother and Mitchell. His father is okay but then he has been out in the back toking on a joint and nothing seems to bother him. Waiting for the Seder to begin are Leo's parents and grandmother as well as the rabbi who tires very hard to convince mom that Mitchell is doing the right thing by using the Seder to announce his love for Leo. After all, like the children of Israel, he is proclaiming his freedom. The production values of the film are excellent and I was sorry to see it end. I would love to see it developed into a full length film but then, perhaps, it might lose some of its punch. As it is, it makes quite a powerful statement. Leo and Mitchell have a job to do and they are not too eager to do it for fear for either hurting someone or fear of non-acceptance. Theresa Tova as mother is THE Jewish mother who worries about how things will go and she knows what her son is about to do. The dad (Harvey Atkin, who reminded me much of my own father---physically) seems to let nothing bother him. While we are speaking about acceptance, you should know that Leo's sister is married to a black man and they have a child with a huge Afro. Interesting that the mother should worry about their son being gay and involved when their daughter has given birth to problems of a different nature. The ending came as a total surprise but thinking about it in retrospect, I realize now that this is the only way it could end and that last scene is something that you will not forget. "The Seder" is finding a place on my "Best List" simply because it really spoke to me. Everything about the film is perfection, even the tiniest detail. Justin Kelly has written and directed a film of which he can be very, very proud as can everyone affiliated with this delightful look at the way we live.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
An Amazing Documentary, 28 August 2011

"This is What Love in Action Looks Like"

An Amazing Documentary

Amos Lassen

I just had the good luck to see a film that is currently on the festival circuit and decided to review it now instead of waiting and letting what I saw sink in. Set in Memphis in 2005, Zach, a 16 year old wrote on his My Space blog that he had just come out to his parents and they did not take it very well. In fact the very next day they began it make plans for their son—they decided to send him a Fundamentalist Christian program that works with gay teens and turns them straight. The film follows Zach and what happened to him and how his friends and the LGBT community stood up for Zach and began daily protests at the Refuge program at Love in Action. I do not remember reading or hearing about this anywhere but that could be because I was just not paying attention—after all 2005 was a bad year for me with Katrina changing my life in ways I could never have dreamed of. And now that I am living in Little Rock, just two hours away from Memphis, I wonder why I didn't know more about this. Be that as it may, all of us will be hearing about it with the release of this excellent documentary from Morgan Jon Fox.

This is one of the most amazing and interesting documentaries that I have seen and that with the fact that it has a very strong message makes it so important. A novel approach, Fox begins his film with pages from Zach's online blog and it is heartbreaking to read that a 16 year old wrote:

May 29, 2005 The World Coming To An Abrupt Stop Current mood: depressed "Today, my mother, father, and I had a very long 'talk' in my room where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist Christian program for gays. They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me" and then he learns that he is going into a program that sees homosexuality as an addictive behavior and therefore it can be cured by using the necessary methods. Zach's parents hoped that gayness, his addiction would be cured and when he wrote this in his blog his friends rallied to support him. Soon Zach's story was not heard about in Memphis but it also began to appear in the nationwide media. Zach himself could not speak openly about what happened since the program would not allow him to have any kind of access to the media and he was not allowed to talk to his friends who were not in the program. His friends mobilized and brought in others and protests began. At the same time people everywhere wanted to know how he was doing. He was to be at the Refuge for eight weeks and by the time his "reorganization" was doing OK, people began to worry.

It did not take long for national news stations to become involved and the international press also came on board. The film follows the events that caused the story to go national and then international. Ultimately the protests were successful in that the state of Tennessee investigated Love in Action and ordered it closed only to cause Love in Action turn around and file suit against the state. It is a fascinating story and a wonderful look at a concerned group o people that reacted to parents shaming their child and having him put into a radical institution that cannot do what it says it can. We also hear from Zach himself and he had decided that he didn't want to be contacted after his stay at Refuge.

We are privy to the requirements of Love in Action/Refuge and they are shocking. Like Zach says, "it was like boot camp, only worse". At the institution (and I use that word loosely), young gay men and women are drilled on how to think and act "straight".

I commend the author for having the courage to make this film especially in Tennessee where the state legislature has banned any reference to homosexuality from the school curriculum. I understand that the film has been six years in the making and Fox has every reason to be proud of what he has done. The film looks at a piece of American history as well as a call to us to realize that there is still much more that we need to fight for. Fox has been very lucky to have the film accepted to the major LGBT festivals especially to Frameline 35 in San Francisco. If you have a chance to see it, do so by all means otherwise toy will have to wait for the DVD release.

In 2007, Refuge was shut down and in fact the director, John Smid, not only left Love in Action but wrote a letter of apology to those he has hurt. There is so much more that I could say but to do would take away from your experience of seeing the film and that is something that I will not do so.

Slant (2011)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Finding Love, 17 August 2011

"Slant" Finding Love Amos Lassen I have just had the pleasure of watching an amazing new short film from Steve Soucy, the wonderful mind behind Modernist Press. Here is a film that many of us should have no problem identifying with as the search for love is something we have all experienced. Set in Palm Springs, a college professor, Ash (Christopher Fairbanks), in his 50's looks for romance. He lost his partner to AIDS some time ago and now he is ready to start to live again. The film is inspired by a poem by the Belle of Amherst, Emily Dickinson and she is not just the inspiration as she can be felt throughout the film.

Ash, like so many of us is blinded by the vigor and beauty of youth and in his case, Luis (David Calderon), the gardener is the object of his feeling. Even more surprising is that Luis shows a knowledge of Dickinson and Ash senses a connection only to be turned down for a drink and then stood up for dinner. By chance he meets a new neighbor, Patrick (Granville Armes), and after a pleasant conversation and a tentative meeting set, Patrick shows up at Ash's apartment with a bottle of wine and the two share the dinner that Ash had prepared for Luis.

Sometimes we just read signals wrong as Ash did when he assumed that Luis' love for Dickinson would be a step to coming together. Realizing that perhaps he has made a mistake, Ash ultimately finds someone with whom he shares a history like his own and that coming together was completely natural and required no preparation.

It is amazing how much we see in such a short film (some 14 minutes). I thought it particularly interesting that when Ash thought that he was going to have time with Luis, he was careful in what he chose to wear and how to prepare for dinner while with Patrick no preparation was necessary. So often we, as older men, are flattered when a young person pays attention to us and we read the signals wrong. It is that much easier to be with someone with whom there are commonalities than it is to train someone to like what we like. It is also easier (albeit lonelier) to let things happen naturally.

We do not often see films in which "older"men find love and each other and seeing that here was fresh and new. I must mention the beautiful music score and the actors who are so good that we easily feel what they do.

Check your local LGBT Film Festivals schedules—you do not want to miss "Slant".

7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Wonderful, 29 July 2011

"The Love Patient"


Amos Lassen

I just read two of the scathing reviews posted here about this film and I am convinced that the reviewers and I did not see the same film. If we did, they obviously were not watching.

I can't think of too many films that I love from the moment I begin watching but I must say that Michael Simon's "The Love Patient" had me from the moment it began. Everything about it is very professional and the actors are beautiful to look at. Romantic comedy can be a very tricky genre since the film industry has been so filled with them. Finding something new cannot be too easy and balancing romance with comedy can be somewhat hard to do. Michael Simon does it and does it with style. How often does one watch a film with a smile on his face all the way through? I was very lucky that no one dropped in because I grinned all the way through the film.

The story is simple. Paul (Benjamin Lutz) is an advertising executive who lost his boyfriend, Brad (John Werskey who is very easy on the eyes) when he dumped him and Paul has never gotten over this. Brad moved on and is dating Ted (Jackson Palmer) and he understands that what was is over. Paul, on the other hand, cannot get over the loss of Brad and it is even more difficult in that they work at the same place. Paul comes up with a scheme to get Brad back– he stages his own cancer diagnosis and he thinks that Brad will come back to him out of sympathy. But then Paul's whole mispoocha (family—mother, father and sister) move into his house so they will be there to nurse him through his chemo treatments. Stephanie, Paul's very rich sister, suspects something is not kosher and the fun begins. The scene with the family eating dinner on a Friday evening won me over totally. Mother Esther lights the Sabbath candles and Paul says, "Enough with the Judaism". I laughed uncontrollably but there is something very serious here– how we turn to religion when we need something… like a cure for cancer.

I love, love, love this movie and the mixture of grief (from cancer), love, laughs and fun is absolutely wonderful. The characters are outrageous but believable. The acting is fine with just the right amount of kitsch; the cinematography is beautiful and Simon's direction is excellent. The film premieres at Philadelphia's QFest this summer so if you are around, make sure you see it or you will have to wait for a DVD release and as far as I know there is no information on that. Werskey and Lutz are also in another film on the festival circuit this summer, "Bite Marks" which I also recently reviewed. The two films are totally different in every aspect and we are very lucky when we get a GOOD gay romantic comedy as they are few and far between. So I ask myself, what happens when you put good looking men together with a literate plot, excellent direction and fine acting? You get a hit and that is exactly what "The Love Patient" is.

I just find it strange that the other reviewers chose to nitpick rather than sit back and enjoy the film. I find it sad when people take out their frustrations by panning something that others like. I see no point to it and it is just not fair.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A Weekend at the Lodge, 14 February 2011

"Flight of the Cardinal"

A Weekend at the Lodge

Amos Lassen

Beetle Hobbs (David J. Bonner) lives is a small town that is very confining and he wants out. When he meets Grady Wilson (Ross Beschler), he sees a chance to get away. Grady has movied to the Smoky Mountains to run a resort and Beetle gets a job working for him. Robert Gatson takes us through a suspenseful experience as the film keeps us on the edge of our seats. There is more than suspense—there is comedy and drama as well, fine performances, beautiful cinematography and a wonderfully literate screenplay. Past meets present and futures are at risk and a group of friends come together for a weekend at Grady's lodge. Grady decided to give his life a new start by taking over the lodge. His boyfriend, Andy (Matthew Montgomery in yet another excellent performance), is coming to visit for the weekend along with two other friends, Karen and Rye. Grady has plans to ask Andy to marry him but tensions come along with the guests and the weekend turns out not to be what was expected. When the group realizes that there is someone else staying at the lodge this weekend—Beetle, a small time drug dealer who is now homeless and Grady allows him to stay in exchange fkor a shift's work. Beetle has a plan and as we learn of Grady's past, Beetle begins to develop an idea which he can use. Gaston both wrote and directed the film and he gives us a treat. I love the way things slowly come to light, bit by bit and the same is true of the way we get to know the characters, bit by bit. This is an amazing experience in filmmaking and while the film will leave you shaken, it also leaves you with a sense of having seen something really worthwhile. Beetle was able to cash in on the fact that Grady acted strangely when his guests come to visit. As Grady's character falls apart, Beetle's solidifies and this is the emphasis of the film. Gaston concentrates on his characters, all of whom turn in excellent performances. I think the fact that we really never get to know how Beetle feels about anything adds a great deal of mystery to the film. I love a film that leaves me thinking and that is what happens here. The fact that Beetle is a character that is both weak and strong allows him to remain an enigma long after the film is over.

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