Sunday, July 26, 2009

BRUNO (2009)


Written by Sasha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines



Directed by Larry Charles



Where & When: Arclight Theater, Hollywood, CA July 15, 2009 11:35AM


While I found "Bruno" mildly amusing, I think this film is way, way too graphic for heterosexual consumption and probably a little offensive to the homosexual agenda. So who is this film for? Maybe for a few guys who have a strange fascination with the anal cavity who enjoy jokes about it. The guys from "South Park" must think this movie is hilarious.

My boyfriend, Dean who has not seen it but thinks the film is homophobic and can't believe I went to see it. I was horrified to learn my mother went to see this and was completely grossed out by it. I resisted the urge to apologize to her for having to witness explicit depictions of gay sex. I think it's beautiful but she doesn't need to see it. She also said she will never see another Sasha Baron Cohen film.

The film is about Bruno, an ignorant, self-involved fashionista who has a television program in Berlin reporting on all things that are fashionable. After being fired from his job, Bruno decides to come to America to seek out fame and fortune. We follow him as he travels across the country interviewing celebrities (Paula Abdul), politicians (Ron Paul), rednecks and getting in to all sorts of mischief along the way.

He also acquires the hottest accessory trend... an African baby, then he goes on a talk show which just happens to be populated with a large African-American audience and announces he traded the baby for an Ipod and has named him O.J. The audience, obviously, are not amused. He decides that being gay is not so great anymore, so he wants to convert to a heterosexual lifestyle. He gets advice from a former homosexual who tells him to let God into his heart and he will succeed in changing into a straight male. It works for like, a brief moment, until Bruno realizes you shouldn't change who you really are and to accept your fabulous self.

Like "Borat" before this, the film has it's lead character pulling unsuspecting people into his fictional world. Because of the success of "Borat", you would think people would be slightly suspicious of the antics of this flamboyant German but it appears that he found few people who hadn't seen Mr. Cohen's previous work. Some people have later claimed they were in on the joke but after watching Ms Abdul on "American Idol" preparing to critique a contestant's second song they hadn't performed yet, I'm not confident she has a clear grasp on what is real.

"Bruno" is not nearly as good or as funny as "Borat". This film feels much more forced and struggles to find humor in all the situations they but Bruno in. So enter "Bruno" at your own risk but don't say you haven't been warned.



Friday, July 24, 2009

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER (2009)


Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber



Directed by Marc Webb



Where & When: The Landmark West Los Angeles, CA July 22, 2009 4:50PM



First, let me say that I absolutely loved "(500) Days of Summer" and it is one of my favorites of the year. Now, let me tell you why. . .  The film is about a boy, Tom (Cutie Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who works at a greeting card company but aspires to be an architect who meets a girl, Summer (Zooey Deschanel) who is the new secretary in the office. He is smitten with her after she over hears him listening to The Smiths on his Ipod and tells him they are one of her favorite bands. Since they are one of his favorite bands, he takes that as a sign that she is "the one" he could possibly connect with.

After getting to know each other better after a round of drinks and karaoke, so begins the journey of the 500 days of their relationship. We move non-linearly through various high and low points of their time together. This is not a spoiler by saying they don't make it it to day 501 which we are told at the beginning of the film but what this really is about is how Tom believes wholeheartedly in that cliche that love will conquer all but he soon finds out that unfortunately that is not true and it shatters him.

I loved how the film switched the gender roles from the typical romantic comedy whereas Tom is the one who wants to settle down and who believes in true love while Summer has no real belief in the ideal of love but does believe in just enjoying their moment together in a non-committed way. He wants more from her but she in incapable of it.

What "Annie Hall" was to New York, I think this film is to Los Angeles or more specifically, downtown L.A. This film highlights many wonderful areas in the city as well as historic structures like the Broadway Bar, The Bradbury Building and the Fine Arts Building. Music also plays an important part of this film as an eclectic group of artists like Regina Spektor, Hall & Oates, Carla Bruni and of course The Smiths help set the many moods and is a great soundtrack. We are even treated to a brief dance number that is not out of place and perfectly let's us know how Tom is feeling.

I have never been a big admirer of the talents of Ms Deschanel's but I liked her performance in this film. I can't say she has found a new fan in me but I will admit she is not as bad as I once thought. Now, I am a fan of Mr. Gordon-Levitt. He always has made interesting film choices and after great performances in "Brick", "Mysterious Skin" and "The Lookout" which unfortunately did not find a large audience but after this film (and I guess "GI Joe"), I hope he will now have an opportunity to showcase his talents to an even wider audience.

Marc Webb's claim to fame prior to this film was as a music video director and he used that to his advantage in the making of this by subtly using those video techniques throughout to help tell the story. He is also helped by a strong script and smart casting choices. "(500) Days of Summer" is a wonderfully, smart unconventional romantic comedy. I really can't say enough about this film. Do yourself a favor and go see it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

WINNERS FROM THE 2009 OUTFEST FILM FESTIVAL


Here is the list of this year's winners:

Special Programming Awards:

The Outfest 2009 Special Programming Award for Freedom:

"ON THESE SHOULDERS WE STAND", Directed by Glenne McElhinney



The Outfest 2009 Special Programming Award for Artistic Achievement:

"GREEK PETE", Directed by Andrew Haigh

The Outfest 2009 Special Programming Award for Emerging Talent:

George O’Donnell, "COLLEGE BOYS LIVE"

Audience Awards:

The Outfest 2009 Audience Award for Outstanding Documentary Short:

"GET HAPPY", Directed by Mark Payne

The Outfest 2009 Audience Award for Outstanding Dramatic Short Film

"AWAKENING", Directed by Christian Tafdrup

The Outfest 2009 Audience Award for Outstanding Soundtrack:

"WE ARE THE MODS", Directed by E.E. Cassidy

The Outfest 2009 Audience Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature:

"EDIE & THEA: A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT", Directed by Greta Olafsdottir & Susan Muska





The Outfest 2009 Audience Award for Outstanding Dramatic Feature:

"CHEF’S SPECIAL", Directed by Nacho G. Velilla




The Outfest 2009 Audience Award for Outstanding First U.S. Dramatic Feature:

"WE ARE THE MODS", Directed by E.E. Cassidy



Jury Awards:

The Outfest 2009 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Short:

"FIRST AND LOVELISS", Directed by Shaun Kadlec & Deb Tullman

The Outfest 2009 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Short:

"THE BATH", Directed by Lee Mi-rang

The Outfest 2009 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature:

"OFF AND RUNNING", Directed by Nicole Opper

The Outfest 2009 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding International Dramatic Feature:

"THE MAN WHO LOVED YNGVE", Directed by Stian Kristiansen



The Outfest 2009 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actress in a Feature:

Laura Harring in "DROOL"



The Outfest 2009 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature:

Derrick L. Middleton in "RIVERS WASH OVER ME"

The Outfest 2009 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Screenwriting:

E.E. Cassidy and Bruce Pavalon, "WE ARE THE MODS"

The Outfest 2009 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding U.S. Dramatic Feature:

"MISSISSIPPI DAMNED". Directed by Tina Mabry

Sunday, July 19, 2009

NOTES FROM OUTFEST - JULY 19 2009



Today I saw a sneak peak of the upcoming sequel:


"Eating Out 3: All You Can Eat"


Directed by Glenn Gaylord


"Eating Out 3: All You Can Eat" is latest in the continuing series of the apparently successful sex comedy, "Eating Out". This time we find slutty Tiffani (Rebekah Kochan from the previous two films) befriending Aunt Helen's (Mink Stole) latest nephew, Casey (Daniel Skelton) who she meets at Helen's previous nephew's funeral. Casey is new to town so Tiffani is the perfect person to show him around. Casey meets and falls head over heels for the hot, Zack (Chris Salvatore). Casey is too shy and doesn't think he is hot enough for Zack. Oh, Zack also has a hunky boyfriend but Tiffani tells him that's no big deal.

Tiffani comes up with the brilliant plan to create a fake online profile using the face of her previous boyfriend to win Zack over. She thinks it's better to lie upfront and deal with the truth later after he gets to know the guy in the fake profile. Zack in very interested in the man in the profile and Casey woos him some fancy words. Casey also finds out Zack dumped his hunky boyfriend after deciding he wants more than just a guy with a sexy body.

Casey is all set to tell Zack the truth when Tiffani's ex boyfriend, Ryan just happens to be at the bar. Zack assumes that Ryan is his Internet friend and Ryan goes along to get back at Tiffani and they set up a date. Ryan meets at Zack's place for their date but can't go through with it since he is a straight guy who also happens to be a stripper who strips for gay men. Casey shows up and Ryan spills the beans on the Internet deception.

OOH! Zack is so mad and kicks them both out of his house. Casey must think of a way to win Zack back and lucky for him, he's got Tiffani and Ryan to help him out. I won't spoil the ending for anyone but I will say that everybody cums together in the end.

I hadn't seen the first "Eating Out" but I saw the first sequel at Outfest about two years ago. I was not impressed and didn't think it all that funny. I didn't think it was possible but this one is even worse. This film is littered with lame, tasteless and just bad jokes and I wouldn't want to insult any real thespians by calling any of these young, pretty people in the film "actors".

The thing I'm most offended about this film is how poor Leslie Jordan (from "Will & Grace" and a real comedian) is completely wasted in this mess. I have to admit that the audience I watched this with loved this film and laughed all the way through it, so perhaps it's just something I'm not getting. So if you loved the previous two films and you love cheap, lousy jokes and very attractive, bad actors, then "Eating Out 3" is perfect for you.

NOTES FROM OUTFEST - JULY 17 2009



STAR SIGHTINGS: Rutger Hauer and Bai Ling

Uh... no comment.


Tonight I saw the drama:

"The End Of Love" (2009)

Written & Directed by Simon Chung

The story takes place in Hong Kong and it is about a young man named Ming who works in a clothing store. He meets an older man named Yen there and decides to take him home for a quickie. He's not concerned about his mother coming home because she is out playing Mah-Jong. She, of course, comes home early and catches them in the act. A dramatic argument ensues which causes Ming to storm out of the house. His mother is so distraught and ashamed that she ends her life.

Ming moves in with a friend. Ming's friend soon introduces him in to his world of drugs and prostitution. At the same time, Ming has been dating Yen and wants to move in with him but Yen is not ready for such a commitment. This rejection causes Ming to move further in to the life of a rent boy. Yen becomes suspicious when Ming becomes distant and comes up with lame excuses to take off during their time together.

After following Ming to a hotel, Yen confronts him which leads to the end of their relationship. Ming continues on with his new lifestyle until it is abruptly ended by a knock on the door by the police. An anonymous tip told them there would be drugs in their apartment which, of course, were found.

Ming is sent to a Christian rehabilitation center. He rebels against the system but is helped by a kind, young man who helps steer Ming back in to a clean life. Ming develops a crush on the man but he is straight. After Ming is released. he goes to live with the young man and his girlfriend. But this girl is nothing but trouble and she helps guide Ming back in to his previous life style. More tragedy is soon to follow.

"The End of Love" is pretty much not more than a soap opera but I thought it is well written and very entertaining.

NOTES FROM OUTFEST - JULY 16 2009

"Make A Date"

"Falling For Caroline"


"Butthole Lickin"
Tonight I saw a collection of lesbian shorts entitled "Heavy Petting".There were a total of seven films and the best by far was also the shortest.

With a running time of five minutes was "Butthole Lickin" directed by Kanako Wynkoop and it's title says it all. It's about a couple of ladies enjoying the act and after the one going down comes up for a kiss, she is rebuffed. The rest of the film is the hilarious discussion on why she can't kiss her and how they might solve this problem.

"Falling for Caroline" directed by Christine Chew is about a shy and awkward young lady who meets the title character in a video store and her clumsy attempts to sweep her off her feet. The short is cute but the film and the humor feels too much like a sitcom for my taste.

"Make A Mate" directed by Jennifer Jordan Day is a strange looking stop action animated film about a female going to a store and selecting all the qualities to mix together and create the perfect partner. Clever idea but if there had been more money to use to create the characters and sets, it would have made a much stronger film.

The other films were pleasant but didn't really leave me with much of an impression.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

NOTES FROM OUTFEST - JULY 15 2009



UPDATE: WINNER!
The Outfest 2009 Special Programming Award for Artistic Achievement

GREEK PETE

Written & Directed by Andrew Haigh


The film I saw tonight was a narrative documentary, "Greek Pete". It's about a hustler named Pete who's professionally known as "Greek Pete" and later becomes "London boy Pete". We follow Pete (who is quite charming and attractive, both big pluses in his profession) recently arriving in London as he tries to negotiate working there. He talks about his goals in life, his family back in Greece and how he wants to be recognized as a very successful rent boy. We also meet some of Pete's fellow rent boys and they discuss the trials and tribulations of their lives. We see them create a Christmas dinner for themselves since they have no family to go to and after dinner they indulge in plenty of drugs and drinks.

The problem with "Greek Pete" is that it doesn't work as a documentary since there are parts that are obviously staged and it definitely doesn't work as a fictional film because there is no plot. This leaves for an unsatisfying experience which is too bad because there are many interesting moments throughout. I'm not sure why this could not have been just a documentary since he had a very charismatic subject and it would have made a much stronger film.

NOTES FROM OUTFEST - JULY 14 2009

UPDATE: WINNER!
The Outfest 2009 Grand Jury Award for Outstanding U.S. Dramatic Feature

MISSISSIPPI DAMNED, Directed by Tina Mabry

Tonight is the screening of the U.S. dramatic centerpiece of the film festival.


"Mississippi Damned" (2009)


Written & Directed by Tina Mabry


"Mississippi Damned" is the story of three African-American sisters and their families as they struggle to make ends meet and overcome the obstacles of poverty. We follow the family over twenty years and how their lives are dramatically changed by the many sad and disturbing events that occur.

How this film fits in to the film festival is that it includes a lesbian character, Lee who is the daughter of one of the sisters. Lee is in love with young woman who is possibly just experimenting with a relationship with another woman. She first promises Lee that she would move away with her to another town to escape and live their lives together but she quickly decides to marry a boy she has been seeing. Lee never really recovers from this betrayal.

I really liked this film. This was Ms Mabry's first film and she did an amazing job, most especially with her actors. This is a great showcase for extremely talented actors and I hope this give them all an opportunity for more work. I really hope this film has a distribution deal because people need to see this film.

The only thing I wish "Mississippi Damed" had done was shown at least one or two lighter moments in the family's lives. I understood that the family was struggling but I know that there had to be a few good times in between all of the tragedy. I felt that one misfortune piled on top of another got to feel like too much after a while.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NOTES FROM OUTFEST - JULY 13 2009

"Seeds"


"Frequent Traveler"
"Dirty Magazines"

I was coming back from grabbing a quick bite in between screenings, when I was stopped by a young lady. She introduced herself. Her name is Rochelle and she wanted to thank me for volunteering for Outfest. She told me that she missed the evening's screening of the Legacy Project's "Choosing Children" (sad to say, I missed it too) because of work but her girlfriend was inside at the after party while she had a cigarette or two. She told me it didn't matter because she was glad to be there, enjoying the evening with her girlfriend and just happy to be a part of the Outfest scene. She basically just wanted to let me know, that she appreciated what I was doing. This is why I volunteer for Outfest every year.

The film or actually films I saw was a shorts program called, "Makin' Moves". There were six different films and the standouts for me were:

"Frequent Traveler" directed by Patricia Bateria, about a man who lusts after a security agent at the airport. The agent is aware of this, so when the man sets off the alarm, he has another agent check him out. This leads to the passenger to be stripped search as well as an investigation into the man's cavity all under the watchful eye of the very hot agent. I thought this film was funny and very sexy.

"Transatlantic" directed by David Quantic, is a strange and trippy little flick that I liked a lot. It is about, I think, a heterosexual couple in the United States that we follow as they live their lives. When they go to sleep, we are transported to the same time in Germany as a man awakens. He goes home to his lover and we follow them through their day. The German man goes back to sleep at the same time and we are back to the other couple in the morning. I guess they are sharing one life in two different parts of the world. There is no dialogue to help explain anything, so I'm sure this film could be interpreted in many different ways.

The best of the films was "Dirty Magazines" directed by Jay J. Levy. It is the story of a teenage boy who is gay and gets his hands on some gay porn magazines. He hides them under his bed which is a place no one would ever find them. As a surprise for her son's birthday, his mother decides to gets him a new bed. Guess what she finds? His mother is very upset and confronts him of her discovery. She reasons that that since he hasn't been with a woman, how does he know he's gay. His mother goes to some very extreme measures to try and make sense of all of this. A well written and hilarious film. It took me back to my teenage years and the first time I got my hands on some gay porn. But I hid mine in a much better place.

I will make special mention of the film "Seeds" directed by Stewart Hendler because it features RuPaul in boy drag but I can't say I really understood what the film was trying to say.

Until next time.





Sunday, July 12, 2009

NOTES FROM OUTFEST - JULY 10 2009

UPDATE: WINNER!
The Outfest 2009 Special Programming Award for Emerging Talent

George O’Donnell, COLLEGE BOYS LIVE


STAR SIGHTINGS: Florence Henderson and Sharon Gless.


They both looked fabulous and Ms Gless, I thought was really great. She was there for her film, "Hannah Free". Unfortunately I missed it but I heard from several people it was really good. After the screening, People were coming up to her and she was very gracious and even took pictures with a few.

The film I did see was:


COLLEGE BOYS LIVE (2009)


Directed by George O'Donnell


"College Boys Live" was an interesting documentary on a web cam house run by a couple, Zac and Jonathan. They let young men live in their home, rent free, in exchange for allowing themselves to be viewed by a paying audience 24/7. They try to convince us that the boys and themselves are like a "happy family" and sex is not required of the boys but at the same time say that they must chat with the customers and do so while undressing and finishing with a climax.

We meet and follow three new arrivals to the house. They all come from broken homes and unaccepted as gay. They are searching for a place to fit in and dream of a better life then what they have had in their young lives so far. They feel that this house could be a real "home". The house is threatened when the neighbors find out what's going on there and want it shut down as well as personality clashes between the boys within the house causes friction.

I thought the film was well done but something about it just didn't feel right, I later realized I felt like I was watching a very long reality program. The problem with reality shows are that while they are based on real situations, they are also scripted. I guess I felt that some of the things that happened in "College Boys Live" seemed contrived but I could be completely wrong.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

THE BEACHES OF AGNES (2009)


Written & Directed by Agnes Varda



Where & When: Laemmle Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena, CA July 7, 2009, 1:20PM



"The Beaches of Agnes (Les plages d'Agn├Ęs)" is an unusual documentary because it is actually an autobiography of the filmmaker, Agnes Varda but it is certainly not your conventional autobiographical documentary, if that even actually exists. The only one I can think of is Jonathan Caouette's part narrative, part documentary, "Tarnation" from 2003. Now, Ms Varda will definitely not be familiar to the average American film goer and she may not even be recognized by the average film buff. Now I consider myself the "average film buff" but I have to admit I didn't know much about her and I have never seen one of her films but I found the idea of this film fascinating.

First, a brief history of Ms Varda; She is a French filmmaker and was part of the New Wave cinema in the 1960's. Varda was married to another prominent filmmaker of the era, Jacques Demy, the man responsible for the delightful and inspirational musical, "The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg" (1964) as well as many others. The couple were married until his death in 1990. They had two children who are now also involved in the film industry. Ms Varda has made many films but some that might be more familiar to Americans are "Cleo From 5 to 7" (1962), "Vagabond" (1985) and "The Gleaners & I" (2000). The film gets its title from her love of the beach and her life long connection to it.

Varda tells us about her life in many different ways: There are pictures of her life as a child and how her love of photography led to her career in film. She revisits her childhood home and all of the many places that played a special part in her life. She reveals the process of making her films and displays home movies of her life with Mr. Demy and their children. She tells about the time the family came to Los Angeles and tried to make sense of the Hollywood film industry. She is a strong and vocal supporter of women's rights. And throughout all of this, Varda is interviewed occasionally by an animated cat.

I greatly admire Ms Varda's zest for life and her limitless energy. The beginning of the film shows her and her crew setting up the opening shot with mirrors on the beach. She is still very hands on, making decisions on everything and even helped with bringing the props on to the set. From watching her, you never would have guessed she was 80 years old, well, actually 79 at the time. We get to see her surprise 80th birthday party at the end of the film. Agnes Varda has lived a remarkable life and you will not be disappointed in discovering all that she is about in "The Beaches of Agnes".

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

2009 OUTFEST FILM FESTIVAL


The 27th annual Outfest Film Festival begins this Thursday and runs through July 19th showcasing Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered theme based films from around the world. This is a wonderful festival and it is open to all who are interested in discovering films that may not get an opportunity to be distributed to your local theaters.


I have volunteered my time and services to Outfest for at least the last twelve years. I just love helping in anyway I can to make sure that this festival is successful and runs smoothly. Outfest is non profit, so I know how important volunteers are and without them, the festival just couldn't happen.


And, of course, I get to see some great films.


The opening film is "LA Mission" starring Benjamin Bratt and written and directed by his brother, Peter. It will premiere at the Orpheum Theater at 8:00PM this Thursday.


I will try to squeeze in some reviews of the films I see throughout the festival.


For tickets or more information go to:








Wednesday, July 1, 2009

THE PROPOSAL (2009)


Written by Pete Chiarelli


Directed by Anne Fletcher


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. June 30, 2009, 10:00 PM


It's summer. That means that we are going to be bombarded by films about transforming robots, grumpy old men and their flying houses, drunken bachelors, and teenage wizards.

You couldn't pay me to go see the latest "Transformers" movie. I admit I didn't see the first one in the theater but I tried watching it on cable... and I couldn't get through the first five minutes. Don't get me wrong. I do like and go see Hollywood summer films. I LOVED "Star Trek" and "The Hangover" (fun, clever and two of my favorites of the year) but I am particular on what I spend my hard earned dollars on.

So I went to see "The Proposal". Why, you might ask? Well, I saw the trailer and it looked like fun. My rule is if I see a trailer and I am not sold, I don't go and see it. Which is why I avoid most Hollywood summer movies. There are definitely exceptions to my little rule... word of mouth and a lot of good reviews might make me change my mind but I adhere to it for the most part.

Sandra Bullock plays Margaret Tate, "the boss from hell" in a publishing company and Ryan Reynolds plays her unfortunate assistant, Andrew. Now, Margaret isn't exactly evil and nasty as everyone around her make her out to be. She's just rude, self-centered and insensitive (not at all uncommon with supervisors, trust me) but not all bad. And since this is a romantic comedy, I guess she's gotta be somewhat likable.

Margaret is informed that her request for a U.S. visa has been denied and would have to go back to Canada. Not wanting to see all her years of hard work at the company go up in smoke, she quickly tells her boss that she's engaged to Andrew. Margaret convinces Andrew to marry her for exactly three years, which should help with her visa, and in exchange for going along with this insane plan, he will get a promotion to editor.

Andrew takes Margaret to his home town in Alaska for his Granny's (Betty White) 90th birthday to announce their upcoming nuptials. His parents (Craig T. Nelson and Mary Steenburgen) are a little surprised by this announcement, especially since he used to complain about her but they try to welcome her in to the family.

Margaret and Andrew try to play the loving couple in public but bicker and fight in private. She tries to stay focused on the job at hand but finds herself becoming attracted to Andrew and his family. Everyone is so nice and treat her with kindness. So just like the Grinch, her heart opens up. This makes sticking to this crazy plan more difficult for her. Does she go through with the wedding or does she follow her new found heart?

"The Proposal" is very light and predictable but it is also very funny and sweet. The film requires nothing more than to sit back, laugh and enjoy the beauty of Alaska. Ms Bullock is also an executive producer on this as well and wise enough to surround herself with very talented and funny actors. What a great cast, especially Betty White who practically steals the movie from the much younger leads. No one changes into a robot and nothing blows up but "The Proposal" still is one of the perfect summer movies.