This year’s selection at Out on Film is outstanding.
I was repeatedly blown away by the quality of many of the films I previewed. I’ve been covering LGBT festivals for a long time, and I can remember when a situation like this year’s —“Love Is Strange” opened before the festival, “The Imitation Game” wasn’t available in time and Out on Film screened “To Be Takei” and “The Dog” prior to the festival—would have left nothing but a few awful rom-coms and a documentary about the LGBT movement in some country or region that is years or decades behind the U.S.
Instead you’ve got at least three films that will be back at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema for a regular run before Thanksgiving and several more that deserve theatrical runs but aren’t perceived as being commercially viable.
In other words, you can see “Guardians of the Galaxy” again if that’s your thing, or you can see films made by people who didn’t have a budget for spaceships, car chases and explosions; so they wrote about people, many of them people like you and/or me, and had actors enact their stories. What a concept!
About a third of the features, slightly more than last year, are from other countries. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in foreign languages, just as films from the UK can have some Chinese dialogue (“Lilting”) and those from Canada can have a little French (“Tru Love,” “Gerontophilia”). Also represented are Brazil (“The Way He Looks”), Israel (“Snails in the Rain”), Finland (“Open Up to Me”), Spain (“My Straight Son”), France (“Eastern Boys”), Germany (“Rosie”), Switzerland (“The Circle”) and the Netherlands (“Boys”).
Many of the lunchtime shorts programs are free as is a Sunday family film, the 1974 TV version of Marlo Thomas’ “Free to Be…You and Me.” Shorts are usually excellent because the festival has more of them to choose from than features. They often introduce up-and-coming talent and of course they appeal to short attention spans.
The fest runs Oct. 2-9. Besides watching movies, there’s networking and socializing, as well as eating and drinking, at the Out on Film 27 Lounge, next door to the theater at Apres Diem. Directors, actors and others associated with the films will be holding Q&As almost every night and will probably visit the lounge afterward. VIP passholders get special privileges there.
ALEC MAPA: BABY DADDY (Oct. 4, 7 p.m.)
My introduction to Alec Mapa was an interview I did with him when he was touring in “M. Butterfly.” He wouldn’t discuss his orientation. I don’t know if that was in the contract for the drag role, which called for actors to be billed by their first initial and last name, or just because almost no performers were out then.
Anyway, my partner and I went to a gay bar that night and guess who we saw dancing with another man? I didn’t out him.
Since then Mapa has outed himself and done a lot on work in movies and TV (including recurring roles in “Desperate Housewives” and “Ugly Betty”). He’s also done stand-up comedy, as he does in “Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy,” most of which is his one-man show, filmed last year during L.A. Pride.
The Filipino-American, who bills himself as “America’s Gaysian Sweetheart,” fills us in on his 12-year relationship with his husband, Jamie Hebert, including TMI about their sex life. (“I’m so vanilla my safe word is ‘Ouch!’”)
Three years earlier Alec and Jamie, “brainwashed by lesbians” during a Rosie O’Donnell cruise, adopted Zion, a five-year-old boy from Compton (“You don’t have to go all the way to Africa to adopt a black child”), through the foster care system. Some of the material has a specifically gay twist but a lot of the pee, poop and puke stuff could be from any stand-up comic’s routine.
While he doesn’t get too sentimental too often, most of Mapa’s funniest material is in the early part of the show, including his impersonation of Bette Davis singing a Miley Cyrus song. Those of you with the parenting gene might appreciate the latter half more than I did.
Director Andrea James has filmed the concert well using multiple cameras, and padded it to feature-length with some domestic material that makes Jamie and Zion more than punchlines. I’ve never been a huge Mapa fan so it’s to the film’s credit that I liked him more at the end than I did going in.
APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR (Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m.)
When someone you’ve never heard of writes, directs and stars in a movie it’s known in the trade as a showcase or, less politely, a vanity project. Desiree Akhavan’s “Appropriate Behavior” is one of those. It shows she has a lot of talent to showcase and a lot to be vain about.
She’s not vain about her appearance or personality, incorporating discussions of her character’s large shoulders and small breasts, and generally being someone you can feel some sympathy for on screen but not someone you’d want to hang with in real life.
Like her creator, Shirin (Akhavan) is bisexual and bicultural, an Iranian-American whose entire family, she points out, is from a country where they stone homosexuals to death. So she’s not out to them.
The film begins with Shirin splitting from her girlfriend Maxine (Rebecca Henderson) and follows her efforts to win Maxine back, while also attempting to find new partners in a life without Maxine. Their relationship is traced in sporadic flashbacks, from meeting cute on New Year’s Eve to breaking up.
The first thing I noticed about “Appropriate Behavior” is the dialogue, so fresh-sounding and capturing various Brooklyn types with wit and accuracy. I assume the portrayal of the Iranians is equally spot-on.
The next thing is that nothing goes quite the way you think it’s going, after a lifetime of Hollywood romcoms. Akhavan is not Meg Ryan, Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson, and you wouldn’t want her to be. I could compile a similar list of writers and directors she thankfully is not.
“Appropriate Behavior” was made as an NYU graduate thesis film, which means a critic is supposed to make allowances for inexperience, budget and other constraints. No such allowances are necessary in this case. Akhavan is a woman who’s ready for prime time!
Part of the plot has Shirin accepting a job teaching “young filmmakers,” who turn out to be five years old. Watching a brilliantly crafted scene of an awkward threeway with Shirin and a kinky couple, I thought Akhavan could be teaching a lot of professionals a thing or several.
If I ran a movie studio I’d cut her a check for $20 million and let her go crazy.
BFFs (Oct. 9, 7:05 p.m.)
“BFFs” makes two points, only one of them intentionally: Some friends should really be lovers, and some movies should really be stage plays.
There’s a lot of truth in this dramedy, but no truer words are spoken than near the end when the facilitator of the couples retreat Closer to Closeness tells our heroines, “You talk too much.”
Kat (Tara Karsian) and Sam (Andrea Grano) have been best friends for ten of their 40-some years. Neither has been able to sustain a relationship with a man. Kat just broke up with one and her mother gives her a retreat weekend in hopes of getting them back together.
Since Kat has sent the man packing, Sam suggests they go together, masquerading as a couple. It’ll be a vacation and they might get some laughs from the real couples with real problems.
About 20 minutes is spent introducing those couples – four straight, one gay and our faux lesbians – in two long scenes of non-stop dialogue. The gay men (Sean Maher and Russell Sams) are getting ready to adopt a child and want to work out their current problems before taking on new ones.
Some of the dialogue is good, especially in the conversations between Kat and Sam. Karsian and Grano wrote the screenplay to showcase their not inconsiderable talents, but the best director couldn’t have made this look halfway cinematic and they didn’t get the best.
There are moments of real drama and genuine humor as everything seems to conspire to make the women consider taking things to the next level. Whether they will or not generates suspense, but it’s less important than the realization that gender doesn’t have to be a barrier if two people love each other in some way.
What might have been MTV’s “Faking It” with older, less attractive leads, contains surprising substance. It’s just in the wrong medium.
BLACKBIRD (Opening night film — Oct. 2, 7:15 p.m.)
Much better than the sum of its parts, “Blackbird” sounds on paper like a lurid melodrama. How else could one 99-minute movie contain gay sex, straight sex, STDs, teen pregnancy, a deadbeat dad, abortion, kidnapping, suicide, hymn-singing, Shakespeare and – OMG! – exorcism?
I won’t say Patrik-Ian Polk (“Noah’s Arc”) has fashioned a work of art out of all this, but he’s made a generally satisfying entertainment; and that’s a near-miracle. The script Polk wrote with Rikki Beadle Blair manages enough believable moments amid the sturm und drang – not to mention erotic scenes, mostly in dream sequences – to rate an overall thumbs (or something)-up.
“Blackbird” opens with one of those dreams, in which two choir boys carry on in a way you won’t even see in an MCC church. It’s Randy’s (Julian Walker) dream and it pairs him with one of his best friends, Todd (Torrey Lamar), who must be the coolest straight guy on earth.
This is Randy’s story, even though the actors playing his parents (Mo’nique and Isaiah Washington) get top billing for their marquee value. Mo’nique looks slimmer and more glamorous than in her “Precious” days, even though the glamour doesn’t fit her character.
Thanks to his mother and her pastor (Terrell Tilford), Randy has been trying to “pray away the gay,” even though his wet dreams are all about boys. His other best friend, Efrem (Gary LeRoi Gray) is out and doesn’t care who knows it. Like their gal pal Crystal (Nikki Jane), he’s just waiting for Randy to figure it out.
They have a little drama group at Christian High School and, told they have to put on “Romeo and Juliet,” they decide to do a gay version with Randy and Todd (I told you he was cool) as the lovers.
Meanwhile Randy tries out for a student film at a local college and is cast in another gay role. His four-years-older co-star, Marshall (Kevin Allesee) joins the queue waiting for Randy to come out, but with more predatory (and romantic) motives in mind. At least he becomes one of Randy’s dream lovers, even though he doesn’t know it.
The details sound like a typical gay romcom, but believe me, all the elements listed above are shoehorned in to add gravitas. They give Mo’nique a chance to overact and won’t spoil your fun too much.
BORN TO FLY: ELIZABTH STREB vs. GRAVITY (Oct. 3, 3:45 p.m.)
If I say Elizabeth Streb is a crazy dyke bitch, I mean it admiringly. I also admire Catherine Gund’s documentary about her, even though I wouldn’t choose to see Streb’s troupe perform.
I’m not sure where the lines are drawn today between dance, gymnastics and acrobatics; but from the excerpts here there’s very little I’d call dance in the choreography Streb bills as “extreme action.” She says she was motivated by “a desire to see a human being fly”; but while a lot of her works involve people soaring through the air in harnesses, more effort seems to go into landing. In what Streb calls “pop action,” the dancers hit hard, usually without getting hurt.
Streb offers autobiographical commentary, starting when she was adopted at the age of two by a bricklayer and his family. She was impressed by her father’s scars, signs that he was “using his body up” while he was alive.
Two years in San Francisco in her early 20s (the early 1970s) prepared her to return to New York and develop her own style of dance.
While most of the film is about Streb and her work, we also see her at home with her partner, author/journalist Laura Flanders, hosting a dinner party for A-listers including choreographer Bill T. Jones and director Anne Bogart.
We also meet several of Streb’s current and former dancers, and getting to know them a bit feels like watching a new version of “A Chorus Line.” They include Deann, the only one who ever left a performance in an ambulance.
One dancer, Cassy points out a difference between this dance company and others: “In Streb the women are lifting the men.”
While other dancers have suffered minor injuries, it’s a wonder worse things haven’t happened, as they run around in the midst of swinging I-beams and cinder blocks. Is Streb able to get insurance for her company? A documentary can’t answer all your questions.
The final segment shows portions of “One Extraordinary Day,” a multipart public show Streb put on in London as a prelude to the Olympics. It looks more like Wallenda than Nureyev to me, but
Gund has made a good film about it and I’m a film critic, not a dance critic.
BOY MEETS GIRL (Oct. 3, 5:20 p.m.)
You’re forgiven for thinking a movie titled “Boy Meets Girl” is in the wrong festival, but consider the possibility of boy meeting girl in the same body and you’re on the right track. Writer-director Eric Schaeffer is probably best known for a lame, straight 1996 romcom, “If Lucy Fell”; so this is really a delightful surprise.
Ricky (Michelle Hendley, fabulous!) has grown up in a small Kentucky town. She was born in a male body but has always felt female and started estrogen therapy in her teens. She’s frustrated that she’s still just an A cup, she confides to Robby (Michael Welch), her best friend “since, like, first grade.” People who meet them assume they’re more than friends but the possibility’s never occurred to them.
“I was born in the wrong body and the wrong town,” laments Ricky, who wants to go to New York to study fashion design.
Robby’s the local stud but Ricky, while generally accepted in town, is no man’s idea of a sex object. Just as she’s thinking of trying women, Francesca (Alexandra Turshen) walks into the coffee shop where she’s barista-ing. Francesca’s from a wealthy local family but doesn’t know anyone because she’s always been away at boarding school or summering abroad. She’s engaged to David (Michael Galante), a marine serving in Afghanistan.
What begins as Transgender 101 develops into a postgraduate course that examines questions like, Is it lesbian sex if one of the women has a penis?
While never trivializing his serious subjects, Schaeffer keeps the tone relatively light most of the time for an enjoyable viewing experience. A couple of scenes get a little too heavy, but that’s justifiable if somewhat jarring.
The film has its obvious villains representing bullies and Southern hypocrites, but no one in the audience will feel anything but love for Ricky. Hendley is the perfect transgender girl next door.
THE CIRCLE (Oct. 5, 3 p.m.)
The ping-ponging between present-day interviews and reenactments of the past can be annoying at times, but it’s a great way to tell this true story.
Two stories, actually – the love story of two men who were together nearly 50 years before becoming the first same-sex couple to marry legally in Switzerland; and the history of the first organization there, Der Kreis (The Circle), which began in the early 1930s, published a monthly magazine from 1942 on, and faded away in 1967 because of a combination of repression at home and competition from the relative openness in Holland and Denmark.
Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, now in their 80s, met in 1956 at the Circle’s annual ball. Their younger selves are played by Matthias Hungerbuehler and Sven Schelker respectively. Ernst remained closeted until his 70th birthday while Röbi performed (and apparently still does) in drag and had a very supportive mother (played by the wonderful Marianne Sägebrecht – and where has she been lately?)
While Switzerland didn’t outlaw homosexuality, gays there were subject to the same discrimination, intimidation, bar raids and murders as those in the U.S. and other countries.
Historical documentation and the testimony of surviving spouses and others enhance the drama, which is strong enough to stand on its own. Credit director and co-writer Stefan Haupt for bringing us the best of both worlds.
CLUB KING (Oct. 8, 8 p.m.)
“Club King” is like, you meet an alien and want to explain what hyperactivity is. You show them “Club King” and they understand.
A documentary portrait of club promoter Mario Diaz, it begins with a rapid-fire photo montage that gives you a subliminal impression of drag queens and hot shirtless men having fun. More of these montages will come later, but even the slower parts between don’t give you a lot of time to catch your breath.
Diaz moved to New York in the ‘90s and started planning parties for bars in the East Village. He brought sexy back a decade before Justin Timberlake and reminded the AIDS-ravaged community how to have a good time, pushing the envelope while Mayor Giuliani was pushing the other way, trying to Disneyfy Manhattan.
Eventually, ripped off by a straight silent partner, Diaz moved to Los Angeles in 2001. They weren’t quite ready for the New York edge he brought with him, but they learned to love it. His Big Fat Dick parties have been a regular event at Fubar for 11 years and Full Frontal Disco recently marked five years at Akbar. He’s also found work acting in commercials and dancing on television.
These details were gleaned from the film, where they’re presented in random order, sometimes by Diaz himself and sometimes by such friends as Jackie Beat and Justin Vivian Bond. Diaz also fills us in on his macho father, alcoholic mother and bipolar sister. His sister is dead but we meet his divorced parents in separate interviews.
I would find Diaz pretty hot if he didn’t so obviously find himself hot. Even one of his best friends notes he can be narcissistic at times.
One of my criteria for reviewing movies is whether the filmmaker has been true to his or her vision, and I believe Jon Bush has made exactly the movie he wanted to make, even if it’s not the movie I wanted to see. It’s sporadically interesting and there’s lots of hot manflesh on the screen, but it’s disorganized, jumps around too much and encourages Diaz’ vanity to a shameful degree.
CRAZY BITCHES (Oct. 6, 7 p.m.)
In the camp spirit of the Rita Mae Brown-scripted “Slumber Party Massacre,” “Crazy Bitches” populates a slasher movie with a lot of women in a remote location, then starts killing them off.
If you’re a fan of transgender actress Candis Cayne you won’t want to arrive late. She doesn’t last as long as Drew Barrymore in the original “Scream,” but she makes a strong impression.
Then we start meeting more characters than our brains can accommodate. The former sorority sisters are like “Mean Girls” 20 years later. They’ve planned a ranch weekend in Nowhere, California, to celebrate Alice’s (Victoria Profeta) birthday.
It’s all girls except Minnie’s (Liz McGeever) gay friend BJ (Andy Gala). He’s shooting footage for a mystery reality show because they’re staying in the “Vanity Killer Murder House,” where seven teenage girls were killed 15 years ago during a pajama party.
Cassie (Cathy DeBuono) is the group’s token lesbian, who’s after Taylor (Samantha Colburn), who’s more interested in ranch hand Gareth (Blake Berris), who’s interested in all the girls.
Also attending are Dorri (Nayo Wallace), who’s dying of cancer, and Princess (Mary Jane Wells). Creepily spying on everyone is another ranch hand (John W. McLaughlin), and a hunky hiker (Trey McCurley) keeps happening by with his dog.
Alice arrives late. She’s having trouble with her husband, Eddie (David Fumero), who slept with her sister, Belinda (Guinevere Turner), among others.
The movie’s about two-thirds over before the first body is found, so there’s not much to scare the women for an hour except BJ’s ghost stories and people appearing suddenly in windows and such. There’s talk of a dark and stormy night but we only hear one clap of thunder.
The denouement should come as a surprise, but I’ll be surprised if you even care who the killer is by that time. It’s hard to criticize “Crazy Bitches” for being awful when it’s supposed to be awful, but it’s a disappointing sophomore effort for writer-director Jane Clark, whose “Meth Head” was a highlight of last year’s festival.
DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST (Oct. 4, 11:05 a.m.)
“Drunktown’s Finest” won jury and audience awards at L.A.’s Outfest. You can see why. It’s extremely ambitious and largely successful in trying to fill the huge gap caused by the scarcity of films about modern Native Americans.
Writing and directing her first feature, Sydney Freeland focuses on three people, whose stories overlap and intersect in ways that are almost incestuous (not literally but literarily). I’m a fan of movies with multiple story lines like that (“Crash,” “Short Cuts,” etc.).
Like the people on the Navajo reservation next to Dry Lake, New Mexico, Freeland is sometimes caught with one foot in one world and one in the other. None of her characters are all good or all bad, but one of the worst is a Caucasian doctor who tries to keep her adopted daughter, Nizhoni (Morning Star Wilson), away from her Navajo roots. The woman views Indians in terms of negative racial stereotypes, which the film often confirms, starting with its unexplained title.
Sick Boy (Jeremiah Bitsui) is a well-intentioned screw-up. He’s joining the Army to take care of his pregnant wife and little sister; but he can’t keep from getting into fights, often fueled by alcohol, and is tempted to join his friends in their criminal enterprises.
Felixia (Carmen Moore), formerly Felix, illustrates the Navajo ambivalence between their traditional acceptance of two-spirit people (gender variants) and the homophobia they’ve picked up from the outside world. She works as a hooker (advertising online as “Sexy Tranny Felixxxia”) and is trying to get a modeling career going.
So two characters are trying to raise themselves out of poverty, or at least survive at a comfortable level within it, while the third has unintentionally escaped from all that and is trying to find a way back in. These three young people carry a huge narrative burden, and you won’t be able to leave them behind when the credits roll. I liked “Drunktown’s Finest” better the next day than while I was watching it.
EASTERN BOYS (Oct. 2, 9:20 p.m.)
Depending on your perspective, “Eastern Boys” is a social drama about human trafficking, a horror movie or a love story. Actually it’s all three. Running slightly over two hours it feels like a miniseries sometimes, but it’s worth the wait. It begins with two sequences so brilliant I added Robin Campillo to my list of favorite directors.
It helps that he’s his own editor, as well as the film’s writer. For 10 minutes the camera roams Paris’ Gare du Nord, introducing characters and situations in the busy train station and drawing our eyes to exactly what Campillo wants us to see. It’s better than anything Scorsese did in “Hugo”!
What we see are young men, many still (and one barely) in their teens. They hang out, meet up and separate, sometimes evading security and sometimes cruising men who walk by. For 10 minutes there’s no dialogue except some barely audible Russian. Then Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin), a middle-aged Frenchman, pursues “Marek” (Kirill Emelyanov), a young Ukrainian, until “Marek” catches him. They make a date to rendezvous at Daniel’s apartment the next evening.
What happens next is not a sex scene but a home invasion, as the whole gang shows up, forces their way in and has a party while loading Daniel’s belongings into a van as he stands by helplessly, sometimes joining in the drinking and dancing. The segment is a little too long but the editing gives it a dreamlike quality that brings us into Daniel’s head space.
He’s rich. He uses it as an excuse to redecorate. Meanwhile “Marek” has the balls to come back – alone – the next day to earn the agreed-upon 50 Euros.
No more spoilers, except to say their relationship evolves in surprising ways until the movie threatens to turn into a Liam Neeson, man-against-the-mob thriller, but doesn’t.
The lead roles might have been played a decade ago by Kevin Spacey and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Daniel is so impassive that Rabourdin’s performance is somewhat one-note, allowing Emelyanov’s range to seem all the more impressive.
“Eastern Boys” has nowhere to go but down after the extraordinary first half-hour, but it stays high enough to be highly recommended.
EAT WITH ME (Oct. 9, 8:40 p.m.)
Two things that seem to be everywhere these days are food and George Takei. They’re both in “Eat with Me,” David Au’s film that’s light enough to avoid being heavy but not light enough to be a comedy. It made me want to like it more than I did, which was more than I felt, as a critic, I should.
It’s basically a mother-son love story, and the performers are so appealing they sometimes make their characters more sympathetic than they should be. Emma (Sharon Omi) takes a break from her boorish husband and goes to stay with her gay son, Elliot (Teddy Chen Culver), who’s running and cooking in his late uncle’s Chinese restaurant.
That it’s a family business is revealed too late, keeping us wondering why Elliot’s in a job he has little aptitude for. That’s one of many flaws in Au’s script, which glosses over details, presuming audiences don’t expect a movie to make sense. It takes place, for instance, in a Los Angeles where no one locks their doors.
Emma didn’t react well to Elliot’s coming out and is still having trouble adjusting. He’s not doing so well himself, attracting hot guys but being unable to establish a relationship with one. The latest candidate is Ian (Aidan Bristow), a musician who’s incredibly patient with Elliot, sensing a diamond in the rough.
Nicole Sullivan plays Elliot’s next-door neighbor Maureen, who befriends Emma and loosens her up. It’s the stock “sassy black friend,” except she’s white. Sullivan cranks it up to 11 as if overcompensating for everyone else’s underplaying and trying to give a needed boost to the film’s energy level.
Elliot hasn’t inherited his mom’s cooking skills but watching her make dumplings inspires him. Is it too late to save the restaurant from going under?
Takei makes a brief, late appearance as himself as a sort of fairy godfather who solves a lot of the problems. Dude’s practically as beloved as Betty White, so how can he fail?
“Eat with Me” makes you like its main characters (maybe you’d like Elliot even more if he’d smile occasionally), which is a big part of the battle and may even be enough to make you like the movie.
THE FOXY MERKINS (Oct. 4, 11 a.m.)
One of my problems with “The Foxy Merkins” was high expectations, because I was such of fan of director Madeleine Olnek’s “Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same.” The other was that the script, by Olnek and two others, lacks an arc; too many scenes seem to be in random order. But that’s a “critic thing” that shouldn’t bother ordinary viewers, and I still liked a whole lot of it a whole lot.
Some of the characters could come from early John Waters movies. Margaret (Lisa Haas) is a New York newbie who tries hooking when she can’t get other work. She’s befriended and mentored by Jo (Jackie Monahan), who shows her how to make a home in the women’s bathroom at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Unless I missed a line, we don’t learn until late in the game that Jo is straight.
The movie’s mostly about their friendship and has almost no sexual activity, just a bit of talk about sex. Alex Karpovsky of “Girls” shows up selling merkins, which he describes as “a toupee for your vagina.”
The dry wit, deadpan style and surreal situations keep the movie off-the-wall and the viewer off-guard. Who can resist a line like, “I couldn’t sell a sex tape with Mussolini and Phyllis Diller,” whatever the context?
GERONTOPHILIA (Oct. 5, 9:10 p.m.)
Bruce LaBruce began as Canada’s John Waters, trying to push the envelope and shock people with his movies (“Otto; or, Up with Dead People,” “Hustler White”). People are harder to shock these days but LaBruce is still trying, at least to come up with fresh subject matter. Hence “Gerontophilia,” which freely translated from the Greek, means “geezer-loving.”
Lake (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) is a typical teenage boy with a typical teenage girlfriend, Desireé (Katie Boland) and an atypical fascination with senior citizens. When his slutty mother (Marie-Hélène Thibault) gets a job at an assisted living facility, she gets Lake hired on too.
Lake discovers the local version of Nurse Ratched is overmedicating the residents to make them easier to control because they’re never more than semi-conscious. He befriends one octogenarian, Melvyn Peabody (Walter Borden), an old school gay gentleman who might have stepped out of the Harlem Renaissance. Sensitive do-gooder that he is, Lake eventually breaks Melvyn out for a spree, hoping to check off his bucket list item of seeing the Pacific Ocean.
And yes, “Gerontophilia” is a love story. LaBruce eroticizes wrinkled flab the way other gay directors do taut muscles.
Though artfully made, the film has a thin script that pretty much avoids conflict, except when Lake sees another youth cruising Melvyn in a bar and goes all Sarah Palin on his ass.
Still, there hasn’t been a movie like this Melvyn was in his thirties. It was called “Harold and Maude” and was about a couple who were heterosexual, if not straight.
Boland accurately personifies a rarely-seen type and Lajoie is pervy enough to be believed without it making him unattractive. LaBruce might have fleshed it out more with a bigger budget, but what he’s done is fine.
“Gerontophilia” might even cure your gerontophobia.
THE LAST ONE (Oct. 8, 7:30 p.m.)
Documentaries about HIV/AIDS are history lessons for some, nostalgia for others (including me). “The Last One” reminds us that despite their historical content, they’re still about current events.
Nadine C. Licostie uses the Names Project Quilt as her focus but goes all over the map, citing, among other things, the discrimination against gay men in the early days of the epidemic, which has not completely gone away today; the current high infection rate among young gay men and bisexuals, who think the disease is no big deal; the therapeutic value of the Quilt for our collective grief, as well as empowering those who work on it. (For me the star of the film is the Quilt’s longtime production manager, Gert McMullin.)
I was in San Francisco when the epidemic and the Quilt began. I had moved back to Atlanta before the quilt moved here in 2002. At that point, less than halfway into the film, the emphasis shifts, along with the largest subgroup for new infections, from gay men to African Americans. A segment is devoted to the Women’s Collective and its founder, Patricia Nalls, who lost a husband and child to AIDS but has survived it herself.
Every panel of the Quilt tells a story, but Licostie lets people tell their own. Relatively little screen time is devoted to showing individual panels, and some of them are repeated, despite having nearly 50,000 to choose from.
There are better documentaries about HIV/AIDS but this one isn’t bad and it’s the latest. Unfortunately, despite its title (explained by Annie Lennox near the end), it won’t be The Last One.
LILTING (Oct. 6, 7:30 p.m.)
With some of the best acting and most moving scenes I’ve seen all year, “Lilting” might be a Best Picture contender if Cambodian-born English writer-director Hong Khaou had let some fresh eyes look at his script and make minor – but significant – changes. Khaou has created believable situations that could seem melodramatic in the hands of less capable actors, but here they ring true; and he’s settled for an honest conclusion instead of opting for one of the feelgood or feelbad alternatives.
Multiracial Kai (Andrew Leung) has put his widowed Chinese mother, Junn (Pei-pei Cheng, who’s so good she must be China’s Meryl Streep), in a senior residence in England. She can’t live with Kai because she doesn’t like his boyfriend, Richard (out actor Ben Whishaw). In fact she doesn’t know her son is gay.
Junn has found a boyfriend of her own in the home, Alan (Peter Bowles), an Englishman. They get along well, even though – or perhaps because – they can’t communicate with words.
This is all set up skillfully before jumping ahead to Richard visiting Junn in the home after Kai’s death, the details of which are pointlessly kept secret for most of the film.
Besides offering the relatively helpless Junn her choice of Kai’s possessions – except that they fight over his ashes – Richard hires an interpreter, Vann (Naomi Christie), to help Junn communicate with him and Alan.
The film is made up primarily of conversations – most serious, some humorous – including flashbacks of Richard and Kai talking in bed.
The flow of the story is upset by a brief fantasy scene – not identified as such – at the time of Kai’s transition from life to death. This confuses viewers, lessening the impact of his death.
Khaou has gotten so much so right that the film’s imperfections are almost as heartbreaking as its story. Don’t let them keep you from seeing and loving “Lilting.”
LIMITED PARTNERSHIP (Oct. 5, 11 a.m.)
Part history lesson and part tearjerker, Thomas G. Miller’s documentary is a storybook romance with two handsome princes. Filipino-American Richard Adams met visiting Australian Tony Sullivan, as they would tell it often, “on Cinco de Mayo 1971 in a bar called the Closet.”
Thus began a romance that would last over 41 years, despite immigration difficulties that caused them untold hardships. They were one of the first same-sex couples to marry legally, when a window opened briefly in Colorado in 1975; but when Tony applied for a green card as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, he received an official letter from the INS denying his request on the grounds that “two faggots” couldn’t be married.
Tony has remained in the country illegally. In 1980 they petitioned the court to let him stay here, but they lost this and a five-year series of appeals. They left and spent a year traveling around Europe but were homesick and came back, entering the country from Mexico, where Caucasians aren’t questioned at the border.
The film offers a crash course in LGBT history, from the backlash against the gay movement in the ‘70s through the AIDS epidemic of the ‘80s, immigration reform in 1990 that officially allowed “homosexuals” to enter the country, the passage of DOMA in 1996 and the tightening of immigration laws in 2001 after 9/11.
There are excerpts from several interviews with Richard and Tony, especially in 2002, two years before Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage. As other states joined in, the majority passed constitutional amendments forbidding it.
In 2009 Tony, who had been keeping a low profile because of his illegal status, spoke at a rally for marriage equality. He and Richard began having health problems, leading to Richard’s death late in 2012, just as the tide was turning in our – and their – favor.
If I can keep from crying on the keyboard I’ll give you a spoiler with Tony’s memorable words: “We won. They never managed to separate us.”
Tony Sullivan and Richard Adams. You should know their story and this film tells it well.
MATT SHEPARD IS A FRIEND OF MINE (Oct. 5, 5 p.m.)
What happened to Matthew Shepard (1976-1998) could have happened to just about any gay man, and I think most of us realize that on some level. It’s been almost 16 years since he was brutally murdered in Laramie, Wyoming, time for a new generation of gays to grow up sheltered from the horrors of his story.
Even those of us who remember, who saw the original press coverage and gained perspective from “The Laramie Project,” don’t know as much about Shepard as you’ll learn from “Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine.” Michele Josue explains why she made the film: “I miss my friend and I’m not ready to let him go.”
She combines the basic news reports with her own memories and memorabilia and those of others who knew Matt, from his parents, Judy and Dennis (but not his publicity-shy brother Logan, who is seen only in photos), to the bartender who served Matt his last drink; and others involved in his life and death.
You may not know Dennis worked for an oil company and moved the family to Saudi Arabia, and Matt went to a boarding school in Switzerland for high school. From there he traveled to Italy, Japan and – unfortunately – Morocco. He went to Marrakesh with classmates but went out on his own one night and was robbed and gang-raped.
That rape changed him, we’re told, from the happy, carefree guy he used to be: “Depression took him to really dark places.” One would think the incident would have made him too wary to go off with Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney on that fateful night in Laramie, but obviously it didn’t.
Even if you cry for the entire 89 minutes – and I wouldn’t blame you if you did – you may think the film provides TMI: Too Matt Information. It would work better pared down to an hour, but whether you cut cold hard facts or personal trivia, someone would miss it.
OUT IN THE NIGHT (Oct. 5, 12:35 p.m.)
You don’t need a documentary to tell you the wheels of justice grind differently for minorities, but Blair Dorosh-Walther does a good job of documenting a case you may be unfamiliar with – that of African-American lesbians known as the NJ4 or, in sensational media, as a gang of “killer lesbians” or simply “The Wolf Pack.”
In August 2006 these Newark residents and three of their friends spent a day in New York. Walking through the Village that night they were greeted by a man the way women have been greeted by men since Adam said, “Yo Eve baby, what’cha got under that fig leaf?”
Despite grainy security camera footage, much of what followed comes down to he said/they said. What’s known is that the man followed his verbal advances by advancing physically toward the women, and when the dust cleared four minutes later he was beaten and had a knife wound in his stomach.
The film begins by introducing Renata, Patreese, Terrain and Venice, and some members of their families, as likable, ordinary people. From there it moves to the night of the incident and then the trial. Three women accepted plea bargains, while the four who defended their innocence against an absurd barrage of charges received sentences of 3½ to 11 years in prison. Appeals and retrials got these reduced somewhat, with the longest time served ending in 2013 after seven and a half years.
If you’re not thoroughly incensed, wait for the punch line – two pieces of evidence, at least one of which was not allowed in court, that show how ridiculous the charges were.
“Out in the Night” may not be great filmmaking but it gets the facts – and its point – across.
QUEENS & COWBOYS: A STRAIGHT YEAR ON THE GAY RODEO (Oct. 7, 7:25 p.m.)
I’m not a big animal lover (although horses are my favorite), and I’ve never taken a position on whether rodeos are harmless entertainment or the four-legged equivalent of SeaWorld, without the water.
“Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo,” Matt Livadary’s documentary about the gay rodeo circuit, totally sidesteps the controversy rather than addressing it, which is disingenuous if not dishonest.
For a film about competition, it devotes amazingly little time to showing actual rodeo events. Instead it does a wonderful job of telling the stories of a few human participants as they strive to reach their goals in 2012.
Wade Earp, a descendant of Wyatt, hopes to win the All-Around Champion award after being runner-up the last two years. Char Duran, a bull-ridin’ bulldyke who’s been injured more times than Jackie Chan, hopes she can finally stay on a bull the full six seconds.
International Gay Rodeo Association events are equal-opportunity, open to men and women, gay and straight. Like many groundbreaking LGBT organizations the IGRA is graying – average age of competitors is 42 – and facing declining membership and attendance. Hence this film, the equivalent of what newspapers call a “puff piece” or “advertorial.”
If you can ignore what happens to animals at rodeos – and “Queens & Cowboys” makes it easy to do that – this is a well-made documentary about a nice bunch of LGBTs doing what they love. It’s your call.
ROSIE (Oct. 5, 11:05 a.m.)
Movies are full of stories about unlikable characters with just enough redeeming qualities to make you root for them to become more likable. Then there are the ones you hope will be the first victims of the Zombie Apocalypse.
“Rosie” is populated by the latter types. It’s a well-made, naturalistic drama about some unhappy, unpleasant people. I admired it without enjoying it.
In a clever opening, Rosie (Sibylle Bruner) has a stroke while watching a review of a gay novel on television. In the next scene the author of the novel is in her hospital room. It’s her son Lorenz (Fabian Krüger), who has made a rare visit to his Swiss hometown from his current home in Berlin.
Rosie’s illness is likewise inconvenient for her daughter Sophie (Judith Hofmann), who is busy with work and her own family. But before you blame the “kids” for being ungrateful, note that Rosie drinks more than Kathy Griffin’s mother and is so disagreeable she can’t keep a home health care nurse, even when she can be persuaded to try one.
So Lorenz is temporarily stuck there, when he’s supposed to be starting a book tour. A momentary bright spot is the fawning presence of Mario (Sebastian Ledesma), who is half his age and his biggest fan. By Lorenz’ standards that’s worth a one night stand, but after that Mario is hard to shake. Lorenz’ efforts to shake him are so rude Lorenz loses our sympathy, and when Mario becomes a stalker we don’t like him much either.
The strong script, co-written by director Marcel Gisler, gives everyone a reason for their negative behaviors, but that’s not enough to make us like them. As a result the film is rather depressing. It may be good enough to justify being depressed by it. Just don’t expect to come out smiling.
THE 10 YEAR PLAN (Oct. 3, 9:05 p.m.)
It’s not the most original of plots: Two friends make a pact that if they haven’t found lifemates by a set deadline far in the future, they’ll settle for each other. The friends in this case are Myles (Jack Turner, an adorable cross between Ryan Reynolds and Tom Cruise) and Brody (Michael Adam Hamilton). Myles is turning 25 and his 35th birthday is the expiration date for their “10 Year Plan.” Myles is a romantic who scares his dates off by getting too serious too fast. Brody’s a slut who won’t call a guy again, even if he likes him.
A month before the deadline they haven’t changed a bit, except that Myles is now a lawyer and Brody’s a cop. (Cue the nightstick and handcuffs jokes.) Myles is still looking for love and Brody’s still avoiding it. Each has a straight friend at work, one male one female, who will discover each other while our heroes are still exploring alternatives.
There’s one surprising twist and several that are not so surprising on the way to an ending that will surprise no one, except in how sloppily it’s executed. (Brody doesn’t recognize Myles’ car parked a few feet in front of him?)
This is the kind of movie writer-director JC Calciano makes (“eCupid,” “Is It Just Me?”), a passable entertainment for undemanding gay viewers. Once it was all we had, aside from the occasional “Brokeback Mountain” or “Milk.” That has changed but Calciano, like his characters, hasn’t.
TIGER ORANGE (Oct. 4, 9 p.m.)
Things weren’t working out in L.A. for Todd (Frankie Valenti, known to porn fans as Johnny Hazzard), so he’s come back to the central California small town where his older brother Chet (Mark Strano, who co-wrote with director Wade Gasque) stayed on in their late father’s log cabin and now runs the family hardware store by himself.
The switch here is that both brothers are gay. Todd’s far more open about it, and being a charmer he’s able to win acceptance from many of the people who keep Chet cowering in the closet.
Coming home from New York at about the same time is Brandon (Gregory Marcel), a high school “playmate” (but did it mean anything?) of Chet’s.
There aren’t many surprises in how the story develops. The surprise is how well it all works to engage and satisfy an audience. “Tiger Orange” looks like a first feature, but not in a bad way. Gasque imbues the story with sincerity that would be difficult to fake for someone who had become jaded by the industry, and gives cinematographer Lila Javan free rein to show off her skill with atmospheric shots.
The lead actors advance their careers with fine performances, even if they don’t look like brothers (not all brothers do) or like their adolescent selves shown in flashbacks.
“Tiger Orange” is not the new black, or a 51st shade of grey. It’s more of an earth tone, which is appropriate for autumn.
TRU LOVE (Oct. 3, 7:10 p.m.)
Some women will dismiss my reaction to “Tru Love” as “dudethink,” while others will share it. There should be a sign at the entrance: “Your estrogen level must be this high to see this movie.”
Overwrought and overacted but underpopulated and underdeveloped, “Tru Love” resembles a 1940s melodrama with a lesbian twist, set in modern times.
Widowed Alice (memorable Kate Trotter, the love child of Bette Davis and Gena Rowlands) comes to Toronto to stay with her daughter Suzanne (Christine Horne, who bears a frightening resemblance to Katherine Heigl), but gets foisted off on Suzanne’s friend Tru (Shauna MacDonald, who also co-wrote and co-directed with Kate Johnston), a lesbian.
Smitten almost instantly, Alice admits to being curious about lesbianism and indicates things might have been different if she’d grown up in another era. They take things slowly but Suzanne misinterprets an innocent kiss and freaks out, for reasons that are gradually revealed.
It’s an interesting twist. Instead of parents being unable to accept a child’s homosexuality, it’s the 30-something “child” who can’t accept her mother’s.
Someone needed to tell MacDonald and Trotter to bring down their acting about ten percent and not to be afraid to be still occasionally instead of always having something twitching to keep the screen alive.
In spite of this Alice and Tru keep you on their side, while Horne is a hissable villain. The women must have been doing something right to make me care as much as I did.
THE WAY HE LOOKS (Oct. 5, 7:15 p.m.)
Hollywood hasn’t been making notable teenage movies lately, unless they’re about dystopian societies, diseases or superheroes. Writer-director Daniel Ribeiro dips into John Hughes’ bag of tricks, and adds a few of his own, with “The Way He Looks,” a teen love story in which the main character happens to be blind.
That’s Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), who lives with his overprotective parents and hangs with platonic girlfriend Giovana (Tess Amorim). He’s reached a rebellious age, wants more freedom and even considers going to Los Angeles (from São Paulo) on an exchange program.
Leo and Gio are your outsiders. Leo is pursued by the class slut and bullied by a classhole, and wonders, like most boys his age, if he’ll ever fall in love.
Enter Gabriel (Fabio Audi), appropriately named for an angel. Soon he, Leo and Gio are a trio, and the old friends don’t realize they’re competing for the new boy in school.
Leo gets the edge when a class research project breaks the students into same-sex pairs, but of course a lot depends on what Gabriel is into – and the class slut is after him too.
Since the movie is in Out on Film it’s probably not too much of a spoiler to tell you how things work out, but you’ll have a great time seeing it for yourself.
I honestly couldn’t tell whether Lobo is really blind or just a damn good actor, but he does a flawless job of keeping his eyes still while reacting to things with his mouth and other body parts. The condition is treated matter-of-factly and compassionately without turning the movie into a pity party.
In subtitled Portuguese with a pop soundtrack from several countries, “The Way He Looks” evokes the teen years like few films outside the Hughes oeuvre. It won Best Feature awards at all three of this summer’s major LGBT film festivals. Be thankful that you can see it.