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XXY (2007)
Complexity, 7 January 2013

Complexity and Its Birth

Life on Earth began in the ocean. In the depths of this primordial soup where nature conceived of the first and the subsequent, the natural was born. Eventually, man and woman was born. XY and XX was born. Man and woman was natural. But does natural also mean normal? If natural creation is the source of everything that is a creature, does it follow that every natural creature is normal? Thus, the complex was also born.

It is fitting that in the chronicle of Alex's life, the diegetic beginning of the film begins with the beginning of everything, the ocean. The opening credits are shown within the confines of the lulling blue mother of all that is all. The movie will show again and again these motifs, saluting the ultimate life giver.

A Complex Life/Love/Human Story

It is quite obvious that intersexuality presents a host of dizzying conundrums about biology and society. The movie fulfills this preliminary requirement. Brilliantly, the film goes beyond. The beauty of XXY is that it carries its complexity from chronicling the development of Alex's biological life to chronicling the biology of Alex's love life. Complexity runs through the movie like complexity runs through the fractals of nature. When you think you know what's going to happen, an even more delicate and captivating development happens that provides you with more insights and more questions about the characters. One is rarely black or white, bad or good, ugly or beautiful, XY or XX.

Complexity: What to Make of It?

Life is complex. The filmmakers have enough fortitude to present to us that both blessings and curses are bestowed. Joy to those who are fortunate; woe to those who are unlucky. What will happen to those who are accepted? Those who are loved? Those who are rejected? Those who are despised?

Dream Boy (2008)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Well-made, imperfect, multilayered gem, 9 August 2012

The direction was exquisite in portraying the allure of the initial phases of attraction. With the skillful editing and the above-average to beautiful cinematography, the movie had a well-paced, rich, atmospheric delivery.

The director, James Bolton, handled the actors deftly. Bolton carefully spent enough time on the characters to let us know the possible layers of meaning of the way they gaze at each other. The two leads were quite effective. Stephen Bender especially provided an intriguing aura to the character. Diana Scarwid and Thomas Jay Ryan were remarkable in their few scenes. Even Randy Wayne, Owen Beckman, and Rooney Mara delivered.

The soundtrack was good but had mixed applications. At the music's best, it delivered subtle meaningful tonal contrasts. At its worst, it was obtrusive and distracting.

I haven't read the book, so I'm judging the screenplay on its own. A gay growing-up story has been told over and over again ad nauseam. This movie had all the clichés. What was interesting was the surreal shift with the potential for multilayered interpretations. Not everyone will like this. Personally, this makes me want to read the book. I was satisfied enough with the delivery of this aspect, but I agree it could have been better. The ending was a unique and thought-provoking way of escaping gay media triteness.

Strapped (2010)
9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Fantastic, 23 September 2011

We sometimes feel like we are lost, alone, and confused. Why not? Life is a labyrinth of trials, much like the building that the protagonist gets lost (literally and figuratively) in. Mistaking one path for another is easy, terrifying, and painful. Each path has friends and enemies, angels and demons. But if we're lucky enough, brave enough, we just might let someone in. Getting lost finding the way seems less scary.

Strapped is one of the most excellent films I have watched in quite a while. The writing is excellent, the direction is excellent, the acting is excellent. I have so much more to say about the intelligence, the symbolism, the honesty, the multi-layered profundity, the heart, and the life-affirming testament that is this film; however, why spoil all the fun for you?

Self-absorption, anyone?, 10 May 2011

Why would anyone watch a movie about self-absorbed twenty-somethings? Because it's funny and effortless. Maybe it helps that I'm a self- absorbed twenty-something. Nonetheless, it can be tiring watching a movie featuring your usual sympathetic protagonists who try to be UN ambassadors of good will or even psychotic antiheroes who have redeeming qualities--scriptwriting 101.

The first act can be quite a bore to most people, but I warmed up to the characters, mainly because the acting looked extremely natural. The succeeding scenes slowly became hilarious and effective particularly due to the sharp dialog. The film exhibits vignettes of typical social situations with untypical wit; no earth-shattering conflicts nor out-of- this-world what-if's. It's life, but a bit more amusing.

If you like Slacker, Kicking and Screaming, Before Sunrise, and Funny Ha Ha, you'll like Sleep with Me.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Insane. Uncanny. Fantastic., 15 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

How can one woman hold so much power in a multi-billion dollar industry? The September Issue shows all the mind-blowing meticulous and uncompromising work that went behind the biggest issue of American Vogue, the September 2007 840-page phone book-thick fall fashion bible. If you thought Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada was, well, a devil, then the real-life pope of international fashion whose word on all things sartorial is doctrine and canon will leave you speechless as she makes the most famous and esteemed designers nervous like little girls who doubt that they know even a single thing about clothes, puts into trash $ 50,000 worth of fashion editorial work, and dictates to major retailers what the rest of us are going to wear.

However, the more profound aspects of this documentary are the less notorious driving or hindering forces of multi-million-copy-selling Vogue. Anna Wintour, aka "nuclear Wintour," has chinks in her armor. After all, every deity is a human first, and Anna is a mother to a daughter who thinks that the fashion industry is "amusing," a sentiment shared by Anna's three other siblings. To the commander-in-chief of couture and prêt-a-porter, this seems to send an unwelcoming weakness. Juxtaposed with Anna is creative director Grace Coddington, the apparent warmness to Anna's iciness. Pushing each other has been the norm for their 20 years of working close together. The dynamic between the two is exciting, frustrating, and a necessary endeavor to produce the pages of fashion's most revered reference.

Fashion people will eat up this film. However, normal people/fashion outsiders will not regret seeing this insightful piece about how it is to be supremely powerful, what it takes to be at the pinnacle, and the costs of this might and glory.

13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Under-appreciated, perhaps misunderstood, unique surreal treat, 24 December 2009

I only have a slight idea about Wittgenstein's life and work. Perhaps this is the main difference I have with viewers who hate this film. Unsatisfied reviewers seem to fuss over which things should have been included in a film about Wittgenstein or how his life should be understood or examined. My contention with this approach is that I don't need to agree with a film's views to appreciate it. I appreciate writers' and directors' liberties in interpreting subject matter, especially creative and witty interpretations.

For fans of surreal and different films, this movie is delightfully and intelligently entertaining. The ton of symbolisms--understated, colorful, clever, cryptic, obvious or not--will make you appreciate the directorial style and the screenplay's ingenuity, and help you understand the philosopher in ways that will not put you to sleep like if you're reading one of his treatises. Breaking the fourth wall with the young Wittgenstein's charming and engaging acting is a treat. The old Wittgenstein's portrayal depicts torture and torment well. An evident contrast exists between the black background and the vivid, exuberant costumes and props--much like the dark life of the protagonist, and the flashy treatment of his life here, but far from flash without substance.