Star Wars Teaser Trailer Friday, Nov 28 2014 

We finally got our first glimpse of the new Star Wars movie, and it’s so much better than I had even hoped!

 

I’ve loved Star Wars almost my entire life, and I wasn’t really happy that Disney had decided to dump the expanded universe and go in a new direction with the new movie. But I really like the look and feel of this teaser; maybe J.J. Abrams will correct the horrible mistakes of the prequels (which I both hate and adore)! I have high hopes for the film. I can’t wait for December 18, 2015!

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Begin Again: A Review Monday, Nov 17 2014 

On Saturday, PJ and I watched Begin Again, the latest movie by John Carney, the writer/director of Once. Keira Knightley stars as Gretta, an idealistic singer-songwriter who just wants to create art. When he boyfriend, played by Adam Levine, has an affair and unceremoniously dumps her, she’s about to go home to England when she runs into Dan Mulligan, played by Mark Ruffalo, a down-on-his-luck former record producer. They decide to make an album together. Here’s the trailer:

In many ways, like Once, this movie revolves around two things: music and a will-they-or-won’t-they-fall-in-love plot. I like the movie, even though it’s not as moving as Once, which is one of my favorite movies. But Knightley is very good, and Ruffalo is excellent.

My favorite part was the music. One song in particular stood out my favorite. As she writes her new album, Gretta gets inspired to write a break up song. She then calls her ex up and leaves it as a voicemail on his phone:

Overall, it’s a good movie, and I like Carney’s willingness to experiment with the romantic comedy.

“Non-Love-Song”: A Review Thursday, Aug 28 2014 

If I were teaching my Lesbian and Gay Lit class this term I would show my students this 2009 short film, “Non-Love Song” written and directed by Erik Gernand

I think this short beautifully captures the experience of many young gay men: king of having an unrequited crush on your best friend and trying to let him know how you feel and who you really are while worrying about what would happen if he knew you were gay. At least that’s how I interpret the film — some viewers argue that straight guys have the same interactions. But I think the part where Josh asks what would happen if they meet up again in a few months and they’re different suggests the character’s anxiety about coming out and whether Alex will still be his friend. His defensiveness about Alex’s use of words like queer, faggoty, and gay further reflects this, I think. As does Alex’s assertion, “I know” when Josh tells him how much it bothers him. I think the emotion on the actor’s face when Josh asks, “Do you understand?” is especially poignant. 

I also like how the grittiness of the cinematography and some of the jumpy editing reflects the nervousness of the main character.  

And Alex’s line, “You won’t be different. Not to me” is just perfect. 

 

Test: A Review Wednesday, Aug 27 2014 

Recently, PJ and I watched Test, written and directed by Chris Mason Johnson and starring Scott Marlowe and Matthew Risch. Set in 1985, it tells the story of the early days of HIV testing through the eyes of Frankie, a gay modern dancer in San Francisco. Here’s the trailer: 

AIDS movies can often seem cliched and preachy. What I like most about this film is that it avoids the preachiness while still getting it’s point across. While it isn’t a perfect film — I’m not sure it entirely captures the look of the early 1980s — it is nevertheless an excellent one. It really conveys the fear and indecision that marked the early AIDS crisis and testing in an era in which testing positive was usually a death sentence. Frankie explores such questions as whether an HIV diagnosis be misused to discriminate against gay men and whether gay men should stop having sex — was it even possible to stop having sex — in order to preserve their lives. I thought the dance scenes were also quite good, and there’s a little man-on-man action to spice it up a bit. 

I really liked this film and think it could easily make it onto my top ten films of the year. I highly recommend it. 

Turbo: A Review Sunday, Dec 8 2013 

While home for Thanksgiving, I watched DreamWorks’ Turbo with my 16-month-old niece. This animated adventure tells the story of a snail who obtains the ability to go super fast after a freak accident. Here’s the trailer:

Voiced by Ryan Reynolds, Theo, who goes by Turbo after the accident, has always dreamed of racing. The desire for speed is a part of who he is. His brother Chet, voiced by Paul Giamatti, wants him to stop his dreaming and conform to the normal snail culture. After the accident, both Turbo and Chet are rescued from a crow by Tito, who drives his brother’s taco truck by day and races snails with his friends at night. Tito and Turbo are perfect for each other, and before long Turbo is racing against his idol, Guy Gagné, in the Indy 500.

Generally speaking, the movie is predictable, but I enjoyed it. I couldn’t help but take Turbo’s description of how he feels inside and desire for racing as a kind of metaphor — or at least a parallel to — being gay. For example, Theo is an outcast among the other snails, who routinely pick on him. Chet tells him, “You do this to yourself, you know.  Look at you.  It’s like you’re almost forcing them.” Turbo responds, “I can’t help it.  It’s in my nature.” But Chet will have none of this: “No it’s not.  And the sooner you accept the dull, miserable reality of your existence, the happier you’ll be.”

This is exactly the same conversation obviously gay kids have to have with their parents and other grown ups all the time. Their difference is their fault as is any bullying that might result from other people seeing it. I’m not saying that this parallel was definitely intended by David Soren, the co-writer and director, but I enjoyed the movie all the more for taking it this way.

We also watched Disney’s 2006 animated movie Cars while I was there. I hadn’t seen it before, since PJ and I don’t often see animated movies. I can definitely see why it’s become a classic of contemporary animated movies. It, too, was relatively predictable, but it was a lot of fun. Who would have thought that cars and snails could make such interesting characters!

12 Years a Slave: A Review Monday, Nov 18 2013 

Over the weekend, PJ and I saw 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen’s adaptation of the true story of Solomon Northup’s kidnapping into slavery. It’s an incredible, moving film that is surely the most realistic depiction of slavery yet produced. Here’s the trailer:

It’s almost impossible to describe this movie adequately. I knew almost nothing about it before seeing it (unlike PJ, who has read the original memoir). One consequence of this was that I really didn’t know what was going to happen next. The consensus among our friends was that it didn’t matter either way — if you knew the plot or didn’t it was still a powerful depiction of the ills of slavery (to put it mildly).

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My Favorite Movies of 2012 Sunday, Mar 3 2013 

I am finally ready to compile my list of favorite movies from last year. Living in a small town means that it usually takes longer to see all the important films of the year; some films never come here. Nevertheless I’ve managed to see all of the films that I think have the best shot for making my list. There are two major films I missed this last year: Argo and Les Miserables. I can always add them later if I see them and really like them.

1. Django Unchained

My favorite film of 2012 was Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Here’s the trailer:

As a general rule, I tend to love Tarantino’s films. Unlike everyone else in the world, however, I didn’t really care much for his previous film Inglorious Basterds. For me, that film was missing the element that I most enjoy in my favorite Tarantino films: personal revenge. (I know that the Shosanna Dreyfus character was more or less fulfilling this function, but I felt that the film’s revenge plot got swallowed up in the fantasy of killing Nazis.)

Many viewers and critics loved that movie and had a more lukewarm response to Django Unchained, arguing that the latter failed in its depiction of slavery and racism. I obviously disagree. For me, Django’s personal revenge story gives us an interesting, albeit fantastical glimpse into nineteenth-century slavery. I thought Tarantino was back in the mode of Kill Bill, my favorite of his movies, using violence and spectacle not merely to entertain but also to make us think. I think this is a challenging film that also happens to be really stylish and interesting. Consequently, it’s number one on my list!

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Good Boys: A Review Saturday, Aug 4 2012 

Last night, PJ and I watched the 2005 Israeli movie Good Boys, written and directed by Yair Hochner. It stars Daniel Efrat as Menni and Yuval Raz as Tal, two prostitutes in Tel Aviv who meet and then are hired to have sex together while their John watches. They then spend the night together, and both men feel that they’ve made a special connection to one another. They agree to meet up again the next evening; the movie follows their efforts to do so.

Here’s a trailer, of sorts:

Menni is clearly the more successful prostitute: he’s cuter that Tal and he dresses better, and the sign of his success is that he has regular clients rather than works the streets. But he still has problems, not the least of which is the appearance of a female prostitute he once slept with, resulting in a child. While Menni identifies as gay and has little interest in raising his daughter, he feels some need to make sure the two of them are safe.

Tal, on the other hand, lives hand to mouth and is constantly on the lookout for easy money. He’s not as cute as Menni and therefore takes more risks with his clients. Consequently, he’s in more danger as he works the streets.

Just before they’re supposed to meet up, Menni and Tal each meet another man. Menni runs into a younger hustler who has been beaten up. He befriends him and offers him a place to stay. The two then embark on a mini-quest to return Menni’s daughter to her mother or her parents. Tal picks up a trick in the bar just when he’s supposed to be meeting Menni. The trick turns out to be bad news, and film cuts back and forth between Menni’s efforts to find his daughter’s mother and Tal and Tal’s efforts to end his “date.”

Overall, this is an interesting, provocative movie. It seems to depict prostitution rather realistically — it doesn’t romanticize these men’s lives or work. The leads are both excellent in their parts, and I think we come to care for them and whether they’re going to make it or not. The movie is only about 75 minutes long, making it a short, but well-made little movie. It’s another good example of Israeli queer cinema.

My Favorite Movies of 2011 Sunday, Feb 26 2012 

In honor of the Oscars tonight, I thought I would finally sit down and do my annual ten favorite movies list. As usual, these aren’t necessarily the best movies of the year. They’re the ones I enjoyed most.

Many of the movies on my list are anchored by a strong central performance. In a couple of cases, that’s what I love most about the film. Others are great stories. At least one is an artistic work that I don’t understand but really loved anyway!

Number one on my list is The Iron Lady.

I know that practically no one besides me loved this film, but I honestly think it’s not being given a fair shake. Meryl Streep’s performance is a masterpiece — one of her best ever — but I also liked the script, direction, makeup, sets, etc. The secret, it seems to me, is not to think of it as a Margaret Thatcher bio-pic. You have to think about it as a study of power, memory, and loss. Of all the movies I saw this year, it’s the one I most look forward to owning on DVD.

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The Tree of Life: A (Very) Brief Review Monday, Feb 6 2012 

PJ and I recently saw The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick and starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain. It started a bit slow, I thought, but the more I watched the more I got into it. It’s a movie that you have to let wash over you — just sit back and experience it rather than follow a plot or try to figure everything out.

By the end, I was convinced that this is a beautiful, amazing film that is one of the most interesting movies of recent years. It’s clearly auspicious in its imagination — a work of art more than a typical movie. Even though I don’t understand much of it, I loved it! It’s certainly one of the year’s best films.

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