Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Another Outfest has come to an end and I think it was a very strong year for the festival, particularly with documentaries. I never seem to see as many films that I would've liked but what I did manage to get to, I was quite impressed.

First, here is a list of award winners from this year's festival:

Audience Award for Outstanding Dramatic Feature Film:  
REACHING FOR THE MOON, Directed by Bruno Barreto

Audience Award for Outstanding First U.S. Dramatic Feature Film:
GEOGRAPHY CLUB, Directed by Gary Entin

Audience Award for Outstanding Dramatic Short Film:
WINI + GEORGE, Directed by Benjamin Monie

Audience Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature Film:   
BRIDEGROOM, Directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason

Audience Award for Outstanding Documentary Short Film:
FACING FEAR, Directed by Jason Cohen

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding U.S. Dramatic Feature Film:
TEST, Directed by Chris Mason Johnson

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Screenwriting:
Chris Mason Johnson, TEST

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film:    

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film:  
Bill Heck and Marcus DeAnda, PIT STOP (tie)

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Experimental Short Film:  
SHE GONE ROGUE, Directed by Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Short Film:  
PERFORMING GIRL, Directed by Crescent Diamond

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Short Film:
GOING SOUTH, Directed by Leesong Hee-il

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature Film:  
BORN THIS WAY, Directed by Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullman

Grand Jury Award for Outstanding International Dramatic Feature Film:
IT'S ALL SO QUIET, Directed by Nanouk Leopold

Special Programming Award for Freedom: 
DEEPSOUTH, Directed by Lisa Biagiotti

Special Programming Award for Artistic Achievement:
ANIMALS, Directed by Marçal Forés

Special Programming Award for Emerging Talent:
Diego Ruiz, Writer/Director/Actor, IGLOO

Now, to some of the films I did check out; "Concussion" follows Abby (Robin Weigert), a bored and sexually frustrated lesbian housewife who lives a very comfortable life with her partner and children. An accident caused by a flying baseball to the head releases the strong desires long held within Abby. While renovating their investment property in the city, Abby decides to take advantage of the place and hires a call girl with unsatisfactory results. Her contractor not only introduces Abby to a better quality of working girl but soon leads her to spending many days of the week turning female-only tricks herself. While this film by writer/director Stacie Passon is pure fantasy and slightly preposterous but it's fun and very sexy with some strong performances, most especially by Ms Weigert.

"Continental" is the latest documentary by the 2006 Outfest Grand Jury Prize winner, Malcolm Ingram that tells the story of Steve Ostrow, who opened the notorious Continental Baths in New York along with his wife in 1968. The not-exactly straight Ostrow brought a safe and clean environment just in time for the newly sexually liberated gay man. The frustrated opera singer also thought that entertainment should be a part of the club and it's well known that Bette Midler and Barry Manilow were discovered there but established artists such as Sarah Vaughan and Labelle made appearances to perform before the towel clad. Even Mick Jagger and Johnny Carson popped in to "catch" the shows. This fascinating film interviews former employees, patrons and performers such as Sarah Dash of Labelle who all share their remembrances of the short-lived bathhouse. It's a breezy affair that takes us back to a carefree sexual wonderland before AIDS would forever alter the world. The only downside is that there isn't much footage of the performers on stage and what's available is far too brief and not in great condition.

Finally, "God Loves Uganda", the disturbing but highly insightful documentary by Oscar-winning filmmaker, Roger Ross Williams covers how American evangelicals decided to spread their dangerous message of intolerance towards the LGBT community in the African nation. After these religious ideas take a stronghold over Uganda, the country formed legislation that would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. However, there are vocal opponents in Uganda who see through their destructive agenda including Bishop Christopher Senyonjo who risks excommunication as well as possible death to speak out against them. This immensely powerful film will most certainly put a frightening chill through you but it will also make you quite angry and serves as a sad reminder that we still have a very long way to go.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Written & Directed By Pedro Almodóvar

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. July 1, 2013 1:45PM

After a number of well-received, dark melodramas that earned him new-found respect as a filmmaker (as well as a few Oscars), Pedro Almodóvar is back with a new comedy, "I'm So Excited". At first, it appears to be a return to form of his delightfully frothy sex comedies that helped put this Spanish director on the world's radar. However, this film is very far from his best work, in fact, it's so bad that I came incredibly close to walking out in the middle of this mess. On the surface, it feels very much like a classic Almodóvar film, a Technicolor fantasia laced with his trademark absurdist humor but here it's far too heavy-handed and inconsistent, lacking his usual graceful style and finesse.

On Peninsula Airlines, a flight from Madrid bound for Mexico City seems to have run in to a serious problem. A mechanical issue with the plane means that they need to make an emergency landing in Toledo (Spain, not Ohio which is thankfully cleared up in the film). The head pilot (Antonio de la Torre) has advised his first-class stewards to handle this matter discretely and delicately. Unfortunately, he's got the wrong crew to try and keep calm in the cabin. These three wildly flamboyant men each fit a specific type; one is overly dramatic, the other high-strung and of course, there has to be one that is preoccupied with sex. The drama queen, Joserra (Javier Cámara) explains that after a tragic situation, he can no longer ever tell a lie. That makes his current situation particularly difficult, not to mention trying to keep secret the special relationship he has with the married captain. Fajas (Carlos Areces) is the most low-key of the group (which isn't saying much) who obsessively prays for other people's sins while he proceeds to gossip about their evil-doings. Finally, Ulloa (Raúl Arévalo) struggles to keep his strong carnal desires in check, most especially with the handsome, sexually-ambiguous co-pilot (Hugo Silva) on board.

The stewards have come up with the ideal solution to deal with this life-threatening crisis; to get themselves as drunk as possible. Another thing this foolhardy bunch agreed upon is that the passengers in economy class shouldn't have to endure the stress of this potential disaster, so they've all been knocked-out with a cocktail of sedatives. However, the first-class cabin is wide awake, noticed that the plane is flying in circles and now demanding some answers. These wealthy passengers are a difficult and very challenging bunch with some of Almodóvar regulars including Cecilia Roth ("All About My Mother") and Lola Dueñas ("Volver") filling in these roles.  With their lives hanging in the balance, they slowly reveal the secrets of their mysterious lives and complicated passions publicly. These events make them feel so liberated that it even leads a few to become members of the Mile High Club.

The film appears inspired by the light romantic comedies of the 1960's except it's very much of the moment where you can now get away with a not-so-subtle visual sight-gag involving semen. Even Doris Day wouldn't want to be involved with "I'm So Excited" and not necessarily due to the more raunchy elements but because this lacks any of the breezy charm and comic wit of the movies of her generation. Almodóvar has built his career on this type of campy farce so, it's quite surprising how dated and uninspired this turned out. Even with what is supposed to be the film's most outrageous moment, that features our trio lip-syncing while dancing manically to the song that inspired the film's English-language title by The Pointer Sisters, it will leave you utterly bewildered and unamused much like the passengers on the plane. While the choreography is cute but it all goes on for far too long. Besides, everybody knows that if you're going to have guys miming along to female singers, they really should be wearing wigs and high-heels. That's part of fun.

Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz make cameo appearances at the begining of the film as part of the baggage crew. It's sad to say that the brief prescence of these two glittering Almodóvar veterans is actually the highlight of the film. "I'm So Excited" fails to capture the madcap spirit and wacky banter that we love about this filmmaker. It ends up feeling nothing more than some inferior filmmaker trying to make their version of an Almodóvar extravaganza.