Posts Tagged ‘lgbt’

You’ll understand when you get divorced someday!

Year Released : 2015

Director : Stephen Dunn

Cast : Connor Jessup, Aaron Abrams, Joanne Kelly, Aliocha Schneider, Jack Fulton, Sofia Banzhaf and Mary Walsh

Diverting away from films I found in a pile of VHS tapes whilst at the house of my parents, I’m going to look into a film that has been on my Youtube playlist for some time now. I really should get through that list properly as there are some films that have been on there for a few years.

Those of you who are long term readers of this site know that reviewing smaller, independent films meant that I was able to discover up and coming directors such as Xavier Dolan, so to have a film that describes itself as part him, and part David Cronenberg (another great director), is a treat, and one that I couldn’t resist.

If it can be even remotely similar to Dolan’s efforts then I will be very happy as he is arguably the most accomplished director when it comes to LGBT films, but whether it turns out to the the case is another matter as for all I know it could be nothing like either of them, let alone the two combined, but we’ll see.

Plot

Oscar’s (Fulton – Child, Older – Jessup) parents split up when he was a child and his only companion was his pet hamster, who he imagines talks to him. His friends also suspect that he will grow up to be gay, but after being called on it he follows a bunch of teens visually beating another young man, ending with them shoving a pipe up his rear. He is traumatised by what he sees and his father Peter (Abrams) says that it happened because he was homosexual, further worrying Oscar.

Several years later Oscar is involved in a photography project with Gemma (Banzhaf) in the hopes of moving to New York when he meets a new co-worker named Wilder (Schneider). Oscar finds himself being sexually attracted to Wilder, but is still haunted by the incident with the brutalised teen from several years prior. This new connection with his feelings coincides with a breakdown in the relationship with Peter.

Oscar and Wilder begin to bond, but a brief conversation between the latter and Peter leads to more trouble as he believed that Oscar and Gemma were in a relationship. Peter slowly starts putting the pieces together and realises that his son might be homosexual.

So is it a genuine mix between Dolan and Cronenberg

For the first time in a long time after seeing a description like that, I feel that I can genuinely see why it was made, and for once I fully agree. There are definitely similarities in the techniques of film making, and I would argue that there is also a touch of Nicolas Winding Refn in there as well. It takes the best aspects of the three whilst feeling completely unique, and this is only a good thing.

The characterisation in the film is remarkable, with the relationship between Oscar and Peter being exceptionally well developed. Their interactions with each other get more and more tense as the film goes on, especially as the latter starts to realise his son’s sexuality. It is an interesting dynamic and the best part is that whilst Peter is as close as the film comes to having an antagonist, he is certainly not an awful human being.

Peter is clearly going through issues throughout the whole film as he struggles through his separation to the point where he keeps his ex-wife’s belongings around, and how he gets hurt when he finds that Oscar described him as a deadbeat in an art project. There are glimpses of him being a good dad, such as the scene right at the beginning of the film where he pretends to inflate a balloon with a dream and place it into Oscar’s head, but he lets the issues get on top of him and each good deed is countered by the opposite.

 

He is just one of the several captivating characters in the film and visuals definitely aid you falling into Oscar’s world as he struggles to come to terms with what he saw as a youth. This includes a scene in which he is having sex with a man at a party, visualises the brutal attack from his youth, and then imagines himself vomiting screws and a variety of other similar objects.

Make no mistake, this is a visually brutal film, but it is also a captivating experience and it is one of the best LGBT films I’ve seen in recent years, and comfortably one of the most unique films from any genre that I have reviewed for this site. This is helped by the excellent electronic soundtrack, bringing you into this world.

Stephen Dunn is a director that I will be keeping a keen eye on in the near future and if he can produce something as engaging as this on a large scale, he could achieve the same heights of the aforementioned three directors.

Summary

“Closet Monster” is captivating, engaging and most importantly, driven. The great characterisation is simple, yet effective, and that is a sign of great film-making.

Stephen Dunn has fell well and truly onto my radar with his mix of Xavier Dolan, Nicolas Winding Refn and David Cronenberg, and this is about as fresh as I have seen in a long time, certainly for a film in the LGBT genre.

I would thoroughly recommend “Closet Monster” and the films of Stephen Dunn will hopefully appear on this site again.

 

So we’re now into the top half of the countdown for this. We’ve made it through films that, for the most part, I would never go out of my way to watch again. However, don’t assume that just because these films in this list are in the top half that they’re automatically good films. There were a lot of bad films out this year, especially in the latter half of 2016.

So for 50 to 41 we are looking at a variety of films from some very different genres. There are horror films, romantic comedies, stories within stories and arguably the most debated and talked about reboot in recent years.

So here we go.

50) The Girl with All The Giftsthe-girl-with-all-the-gifts-movie-poster

Cast : Sennia Nanua, Paddy Considine, Gemma Arterton and Glenn Close

Plot : A zombie outbreak has decimated the population of the UK, leaving the majority of those that have survived in army bases. They have learnt however that the outbreak can be controlled and children at the key, not showing any signs of zombism unless they are exposed to flesh inches from their face. They are taught in a classroom by Helen (Arterton), who notices very early on that Melanie (Nanua) is her brightest student.

Zombies quickly break through the fence, leaving only a handful of survivors able to escape, and they soon realise that Melanie might their only hope of survival, but what will she make of the outside world, especially when an opportunity arises?

Why in this position? : If you took out the first fifteen and the final ten minutes then this would have been an excellent zombie flick, even though it had the distinct disadvantage of having the diabolically uncharismatic void of emotion that is Gemma Arterton in it.

The middle hour or so of the film is arguably as good as any other zombie film that I’ve seen set in the open world (as in not confined to a specific location, such as most of George A Romero’s films). That sixty or so minutes are full of tension and genuine threat, and not to forget well built characters. There was actually a time that I was considering this for a much higher place on the list.

However, as I’ve mentioned, the first fifteen and the final ten minutes are, for lack of a better word, just not very good. The central character of Melanie just isn’t that interesting, and is the equivalent of that kid in school that would bring the teacher an apple (well, we don’t really do that in England, but I imagine it’s still a thing in America). This isn’t helped by the aforementioned bland acting of Gemma Arterton.

Combine this with an ending that is a bit out of left field (another American saying), and I couldn’t really consider this movie to be anything more than average, at best.

 

49) Ghostbustersghostbusters_ver11

Cast : Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth and Neil Casey

Plot : Abby (McCarthy) and Erin (Wiig) are both highly respected scientists, but when the latter objects to the re-release of a book about paranormal activity that they co-wrote several years ago. They do team up to investigate a reported case of paranormal activity with Abby’s colleague, Jillian (McKinnon). Their video of the incident sees all three fired.

They decide to continue to invest all of their time hunting evidence of paranormal activity, but they soon start getting into more than they bargained for.

Why in this position? I think it’s fair to say that there were no films released this year that divided opinion and caused as many arguments as “Ghostbusters”. My own personal concern was that it just didn’t look funny, or at least not compared to the previous films in the franchise, and I think there in lies the problem. Had this just been a film about ghost hunting that didn’t use the name “Ghostbusters” then I think this would have fared far more favourably than it did.

I didn’t mind “Ghostbusters”, it wasn’t a classic in any sense of the world, but it could be considerably worse to put it nicely. The acting from the four lead women is decent enough, which is something that I never thought I’d say about Melissa McCarthy, but it is most definitely Chris Hemsworth that steals the show as the charmingly stupid Kevin.

I actually quite liked the visuals, and despite looking very cartoony in places, I thought it was very vibrant, thus establishing a less serious tone that the original. It’s a technique that can be taken in either a good or bad way, but it helps in some ways separate it from the originals, whilst in many ways paying tribute.

The main problem with the Ghostbusters reboot, other than their attempts to cram in as many references and cameos from the original as possible, is that the antagonist is just so unengaging. The very fact that I had to look up on Google what the antagonist’s name was should tell you all about how unforgettable he is.

 

48)The Infiltratorinfiltrator

Cast : Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger and Benjamin Bratt

Plot : Special agent Robert Mazur (Cranston) has just successfully come out of his latest undercover role when he is placed under the alias of Bob Musella in order to break into the upper regions of the local drugs cartel, headed by Pablo Escobar. He is placed with the abrasive Emir Abreu (Leguizamo), who struggles to make Mazur believable.

Despite the struggle, Bob does successfully get into the higher reaches of the cartel. Bob’s story is so believable that Kathy Ertz (Kruger) is hired to pretend to be his wife, but its enough to convince many involved, but both feel guilty when they develop a strong personal relationship with Roberto Alcaino (Bratt), making it harder for him to get in.

Why in this position? : When I saw the trailer for this Bryan Cranston lead vice-style film, I got excited. It looked exciting, fresh and had a decent case, but much like several other films on this list, it is largely forgettable.

I went to watch “The Infiltrator” less than 48 hours ago (at the time of writing) and I couldn’t tell you a single character name other than Abreu (obviously I looked them up for the above plot when posting the article), who is played excellently by John Leguizamo. It’s just so forgettable and not really engaging. Leguizamo certainly isn’t the only person putting in a good portrayal, with Cranston doing very well too.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an awful film by any stretch of the imagination, and it does draw you in quite well, but the problem is that the central plot of the film is the central character climbing the drugs cartel ladder, but it all feels completely effortless. Not once did I feel during the film that the character wasn’t going to achieve that goal (for the record I didn’t know that this was a true story go in).

Not awful, but certainly not great.

 

47) The Danish Girlthe-danish-girl-eddie-redmayne

Cast : Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts and Ben Whishaw

Plot : Einar (Redmayne) and Gerda (Vikander) are happily married in 1920s Denmark and they are both keen artists. Einar is considerably more successful that his wife, but is willing to help her and wears a dress for one of her portraits, but this reignites his secret desire to be female. Gerda encourages him to go to a party as his female alter-ego, Lili, but whilst there she witnesses her husband kissing another man, Henrik (Whishaw).

With both becoming distraught, Einar realises that he can no longer live as his old self and seeks surgical help, as well as starting to work in a perfume store and starting a relationship with Henrik, all to Gerda’s horror.

Why in this position? : The first film that I saw during 2016 was ultimately one of the most disappointing as it was quite clearly designed to be Oscar-bait. It had a great cast and being transgender myself, I was interested in the subject matter, but ultimately it’s just told in a way that whilst not awful (which is quite clear by the fact that there was 53 films below it in this countdown), just doesn’t get you emotionally invested at all.

Eddie Redmayne is reasonable as the main character, and Alicia Vikander is highly competent in her role, and with a strong supporting cast this should have been a much better film that it ultimately was. Visually the film is great as well and whilst I can’t claim to be an expert on 1920s Denmark, or indeed any point of Denmark’s history, it looks like what you’d expect from a Scandinavian country almost one hundred years ago.

I think the main problem with this is that it seemed to have an aura that it automatically expected to be considered a great film without really having to work overly hard for it. I wouldn’t even class this as a great film about transgenderism, and there are many better films about the subject matter out there that haven’t got the Oscar-bait machine behind it.

It’s not awful, but it’s not something that I’d actively try to see again.

 

46) Pete’s Dragonpd_teaser_1-sheet_v2alt_lg

Cast : Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dalls Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban and Oona Laurence

Plot : Pete (Fegley for the most part, Levi Alexander aged five) was involved in a car accident when he was five years old that killed his parents. Whilst walking away he is chased by wolves before being saved by a dragon. Over the next few years he adapts to life in the woods, living with his the dragon, whom he calls Elliott. One day he sees other humans though, more specially a girl named Natalie (Laurence), and all of her family eventually manage to find Pete.

He is taken to hospital and cared for by Grace (Howard) and Jack (Bentley), the parents of Natalie, but it’s Natalie’s uncle, Gavin (Urban) that everyone has to worry about as he saw the dragon and intends to use it for financial gain.

Why in this position? I’ve never seen the original animated film, it never really interested me, but one Saturday morning this was on at the cinema I was working at at the time and so I thought “why not?” Whilst it certainly wasn’t a classic, and did drag at times, it wasn’t actually that bad.

Oakes Fegley (what a name by the way) puts in one of the better child performances of the year as Pete, and to be fair the entire cast does a good job. It’s also good to see Karl Urban in the role of an antagonist, but what I especially liked it that he wasn’t an antagonist for the sake of being one, you understand where his character is coming from, and that’s rare for films.

The only problem with “Pete’s Dragon” really is that whilst it develops characters well, there isn’t that much going on for the majority, and I can see why a lot of kids didn’t like it. Even as a 32 year old adult I was getting somewhat bored at times waiting for something to happen. Don’t get me wrong, when it does start happening it’s really good, it just takes a while.

 

45) Alliedalliedposter

Cast : Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard and Jared Harris

Plot : Max (Pitt) is sent to Morocco during World War Two to assassinate a high ranking German official, his partner is Marianne (Cotillard), a French spy. The two train relentlessly, with Max’s boss Frank (Harris) keeping a close eye on proceedings. The pair do eventually assassinate the German, as well as several others, and Max celebrates by asking Marianne to marry him.

Why in this position? After a year of marriage and one child later, Max is called into his local headquarters for meeting. He assumes that it is for a promotion, but when he arrives he is told that they believe his wife to be a German spy. They give Max instructions to answer a call and write down what is said on a piece of paper that Marianne can easily locate, and it would show up in a German transcript a few days later. Max complies, but defies orders by actively trying to prove his wife’s innocence, but that’s easier said than done due to conflicting reports.

Why in this position? If there was one type of film this year that was surprisingly absent compared to other years, it’s a war film. I could be wrong but I think this was the only mainstream one (the only other one I can think of wasn’t mainstream, but will appear on this countdown), or at least one that was set during the time of World War Two, and they decided to cast Brad Pitt for what is his fourth film set in the time period of the last few years (the others being Fury, Inglorious Basterds and some scenes in Benjamin Button). That being said, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a war film, it’s not.

“Allied” is a very interesting film in the sense that is basically a large puzzle piece and you’re never entirely sure about whether the character of Marianne’s allegiance until the very final scene, and I love films that keep you guessing to the end.

The only reason that this didn’t place higher is that I just find Marion Coutillard to be a very boring and lifeless actress. I can’t recall a single performance from her that I have been impressed by. She is very monotone in her delivery, and I don’t think that’s to do with English not being her first language as there are plenty who fit that description and are livelier than her.

 

44) Nocturnal Animals20161014175110nocturnal_animals_poster

Cast : Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Armie Hammer

Plot : Susan (Adams) is an owner of an art gallery who one day receives a manuscript for a novel from her estranged husband, Edward (Gyllenhaal). He dedicates the book for her, causing her to rekindle her feelings and want to meet with him, especially as she is in a neglectful relationship current husband, Hutton (Hammer).

She sits down to read the novel and it tells the story of a man (also Gyllenhaal) who is ran off the road by a gang leader (Taylor-Johnson) and forced to watch as his wife and daughter are abducted, later found raped and murdered. He sets about getting revenge with the help of the local deputy (Shannon).

Why in this position? It’s a bit tricky to talk about this film because it’s effectively a story within a story. We’ll call the Amy Adams section “P1” (short for Part 1), and the Jake Gyllenhaal sub story “P2”.

Had this film just been released as P2, obviously extended otherwise it’d be a very small runtime, there would have actually been a chance that not only would this have featured much higher up, but also a potential top ten candidate. The section starring him, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is arguably one of the most emotionally investing parts of a film that I have seen this year.

P2 is expert film making at it’s finest, and I was drawn into it’s story, the look and feel, as well as the acting from the three main characters, especially ATJ, who plays something completely different from what he has done before.

However, as good as P2 is, P1 is the complete opposite and something that I just couldn’t get behind, no matter how hard I tried. It was just generic and any time they cut back from P2 to P1, it felt like someone had slammed the breaks on in an extremely hard manner. It kills any momentum that P2 has built, and one of the reasons for this is that it just isn’t that interesting.

 
43) Kubo and the Two Stringskubo

Cast : The voices of Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, George Takei, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes

Plot : Kubo (Parkinson) is an imaginative child that is told expressively by his mother that he must be home by sundown, or his evil family will be able to find and kill him. One day however he fails to do that and is quickly found by his evil aunts (both Mara), who promises that his grandfather (Fiennes) is coming. Kubo’s mother soon dies.

Distraught, Kubo realises that his only chance is to get his father’s ancient armour. He is soon joined on his journey by a talking monkey (Theron) and a giant cockroach (McConaughey), but whilst they aim to protect him, can the evil power of Kubo’s aunts and grandfather prove too much?

Why in this position? : On the face of it “Kubo and the Two Strings” is a charming look at a coming-of-age tale of a young man against a seemingly overwhelming evil, and it is easily the most visually unique film I saw this year, however, despite having some good jokes in there, two genuinely creepy antagonists (the witch sisters just to confirm) and a likeable main character, the problem with the aforementioned film is that is just completely forgettable.

At the time of writing this mini-review, I watched it less than 24 hours ago and I am already at the point where I can’t remember large parts of the plot, other than there are a LOT of ex-machina moments, and I largely found myself withdrawn from the story throughout.

That’s not to say that “Kubo and the Two Strings” is awful, far from it. It’s animation style is relatively unique and it is one that I never considered for the bottom 10, not even close, but if I was to describe it as anything other than forgettable then I wouldn’t be accurate.

 

42) The Finest Hoursthe-finest-hours-poster

Cast : Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, Eric Bana, Casey Affleck, John Magaro and Kyle Gallner

Plot : Bernie (Pine) is a Coast Guard in Massachusetts, and one day he meets Miriam (Grainger). The two fall in love and plan to get married, but as per regulations he has to ask permission from his commander (Bana). As he approaches him to ask, news comes through that an oil tanking has started sinking.

Due to everyone else being at other rescues, Bernie is sent to rescue the crew along with the largely reluctant Richard (Foster), as well as Richard (Gallner) and Ervin (Magaro).

With time against them, they soon realise that their boat simply won’t be big enough to rescue everyone safely.

Why in this position? : “The Finest Hours” is not a bad film, not by any stretch, but the problem is that it’s just not very interesting or exciting.

Let’s start with the romance section of the beginning of the film. I really liked that part and it’s nice to see a relatively fresh face in the role of the leading lady, something that only ever really happens in the horror genre. Holliday Grainger is arguably the best part about this otherwise generic film.

I love the look and feel of the film though. It feels very coastly, if that’s even a thing, and they take great care to make it at least seem authentic, but the problem is that it’s just kind of there. It’s not really overly interesting, and that’s a big shame as with the cast it should have been a lot better.

I think what lets this film down the most is that the consequences just don’t feel that vital. Whilst you know what’s going on, you never get a real sense of danger and that feeling that they’re not going to achieve rescuing the majority of people. When there are no stakes, there’s nothing driving you towards getting emotionally invested.

 

41) Bridget Jones’ Babybridget

Cast : Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Sarah Solemani and Sally Phillips

Plot : Bridget (Zellweger) is firmly in her midlife crisis safe and has largely accepted that she’s never going to get with anyone, so one day she joins Miranda (Solemani) in going to a festival. There she meets the hugely successful romance expert, Jack (Dempsey) and the two quickly have sex before Bridget leaves in the morning.

The next day Bridget runs into old flame, Mark (Firth) and it again ends in her having sex. Several weeks later Bridget realises that she is pregnant, but she isn’t sure who the father is and therefore tells both of them that it is their child, but it isn’t long before they find out the truth and there is a rivalry between Mark and Jack.

Why in this position: “Bridget’s Back” bellowed the tag line for yet another trilogy completer, but the problem with any trilogy that you face is that realistically you need to have seen the first two to have any real sense of what is truly going on. I’d never seen either of the first two Bridget Jones films, so this meant that I was effectively going in blind.

Ignoring that I tried to get into the film and there were some bits that I genuinely enjoyed about it. It is a very feel-good comedy, and I do like the concept, afterall, it’s a fairly routine plot as one that has been done before.. The execution Is fine and overall there aren’t really any major complaints that I have with the film’s relatively long run time. The acting is competent and the telling of the story is relatively well structured, even if the ending is a little tooing and froing.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I didn’t like it. It’s not an awful film by any stretch, and I suppose being this high up on the list isn’t a bad thing when you see how many films I’ve watched this year, but is this something that I would actively watch again? No, probably not.

Maybe it’s one of those that you really have to watch with the first two to get in the swing of it.

You are so deeply in bed with the tea party, you’d let Bill O’Reilly teabag you.

Year Released : 2014boy_meets_girl_2014_film_poster
Director : Eric Schaeffer
Cast : Michelle Hendley, Michael Riley, Alexandra Turshen, Michael Galante, Randall Newsome and Joseph Ricci

I delved into Netflix again recently and found many films based on the LGBT genre, and I found something that I’d never thought I’d see, a film that shows the being transgender has nothing to do with sexuality, which is something that I’ve always found strange about the term “LGBT” as it makes it seem like it is linked. The reason I say that is because you can be transgender without being lesbian, gay or bisexual, and yet the term seems to lend itself to appearing as though they are inexorably linked.

The reason the term frustrates me so much is that being transgender, I have never found myself attracted to men, and yet people make that assumption all of the time. Sexuality is not linked in the slightest to being transgender. It is something that does annoy me beyond belief, and so I was intrigued by the premise of a film that breaks that perceived element of transgenderism.

That being said, that was something that looked mighty predictable, and that somewhat bothers me, but I have been wrong in the past and I hope that it’s the same this time around.

If you wish to follow my personal journey from male to female, please visit my personal blog.

Plot

Ricky (Hendley) is a young transgendered woman living in rural Kentucky. She dreams of moving to New York to follow her ambition of being a fashion designer, and she has the full support of Robby (Riley), her best friend since she was six, although it’s obvious to everyone that Robby is poorly hiding that he wants more.

One day Ricky receives a customer into her coffee shop named Francesca (Turshen), and despite being excited about her engagement to David (Galante), she again poorly hides that she is attracted to Ricky, and the two eventually have a steamy sexual encounter. Francesca tries to hide this from David, but he is less than pleased by the fact that she is simply hanging around with Ricky after the two went to school together.

Yo-yoing between how they feel about each other, Francesca eventually invites Ricky to a party, but she is shocked when David returns home from Afghanistan early, and he eventually figures out what has happened in his absense. Already being shown to be a hot-head, how will Ricky react to this new revelation?

boy-meets-girl-banner

So, predictable or a breath of fresh air?

I’m not going to lie, there were some parts of this film in which I was able to successfully predict what happened, but the vast majority of this movie felt relatively fresh, and at times I didn’t feel that I was actually watching a film. At times it was almost like I was watching a TV movie rather than something that was intended to be more, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

This is a very humble approach to film making and uses many elements that I found refreshing in the genre. For example, the use of music is something I have referenced in others and in particularly, Zerophilia. That film uses music a LOT, and at times it doesn’t really feel appropriate, but there wasn’t a single moment when I thought that the music in “Boy Meets Girl” was out of place, or poorly used. It enhanced the scene without dominating it.

The acting is relatively decent throughout the run time and I genuinely believed the performances were done with the utmost respect to the subject matter, rather than it simply being a payday for some, which isn’t the case with a lot of films in the LGBT genre. If you can make it through the strong Kentucky accent that every single character seems to have, there is a lot to take it.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a fast paced film and is all about the characters. It’s a wordy film, meaning that a lot of conversations take place. It’s one that takes a significant amount of time to build it’s three central characters, and the three secondary characters to the point where you feel emotionally involved in their lives, and I’ve always said on this site that I will always give props to films that do that.

My only two real issues are that the film does drag somewhat and it does start of outstay it’s welcome at times, and the character of Ricky is horrendously one-dimensional and seems to be the type of transgendered person that somehow finds a way of bringing the fact that she is transgender into every single conversation. Admittedly it is 24 hours since I watched the film, but there isn’t a single time that I can recall five minutes going by without the character being transgendered is referenced in one way or another.

bo3

Summary

I know this was a much shorter review than normal, but ultimately there wasn’t really a lot of say about it. approvedI genuinely enjoyed “Boy Meets Girl” and it’s relatively unique take on sexuality. The acting is decent and no-one stands out as better than anyone else, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.

Don’t go in expecting a masterpiece, but it’s certainly worth a watch and it’s current rating of 7.1/10 on IMDB is about right, which is something that I don’t say often.

Out of all of the LGBT films that I’ve reviewed for this site so far, this is certainly one of the most unique and enjoyable, and I happily give it my stamp of approval.

 

He spent two bullets on eleven men. He saved your tax money!

Year Released : 2014man-on-high-heels-32390
Director : Jang Jin
Cast : Cha Seung-Wan, Oh Jung-Se, Esom and Song Young-Chan

Recently I reviewed a South Korean movie called “Train to Busan”, and it was surprisingly half decent considering it is a zombie film, a genre done to death in recent years. It was my first glimpse into South Korean film and I decided that if I were to get another opportunity then I would jump on it, and that’s what happened when I was browsing Netflix and found “Man on High Heels”.

For those that haven’t read the site before, I am transgender, and I am automatically intrigued by films about people with gender dysphoria, albeit I won’t just watch a film simply because of that. The film has to offer something that I haven’t seen before and this achieves that relatively well, as I’m never seen a film about a man that wants to be a woman but could comfortably kick your arse if he wanted to.

This does however give me a little trepidation when it comes to this as it does look like one of those typical films in which the protagonist breaks arms without breaking into a sweat. You know what I mean? Those characters who, despite the number and/or size of the enemy, you never doubt they’re going to win, therefore taking any real sense of tension out of the scene….think the majority of the Marvel franchise.

But anyway, we’ll see.

Plot

Unfeasibly good cop Yoon Ji-Wook (Cha) has decided to quit the police force to finally complete his dream, living as a woman, although hormones are not working as is hoped. Virtually no-one knows about his desire other than close friends and a former lover, mainly because he successfully separates the two aspects of his personality.

Soon, after going out as a woman in public for the first time, Ji-wook is visited by one of two gangster brothers, the Heo’s, but Ji-wook easily defeats Bul (Song) in a fight, and this leads to him placing the man under arrest. Bul eventually brokers a deal that will see his sentence halved if he sells out his brother, Gon (Oh). Gon is unsurprisingly unimpressed with the idea once he finds out, and his gang soon kills the prosecutor responsible for the idea.

Meanwhile, Ji-wook has actually gone to Gon to fund his reassignment surgery, unaware of the connection, but as soon as Gon finds out who Ji-wook is, and more importantly his secret, he decides that killing everyone in Ji-wook’s life is the only way to re-establish dominance in Seoul.

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A decent LGBT film?

“Man on High Heels” is certainly one of the more unusual transgender related films that I’ve seen in recent times, and certainly one of those that doesn’t fit the usual mould for films in the LGBT genre, especially given that the character of Ji-wook shows very little signs of femininity when not dressed in female clothing. The best way I could really describe it is if you imagine Neo from the Matrix franchise, and having kicking everyone’s arse, all whilst wearing a dress, that’s the summation of this film.

If you’re going into this film expecting it to be full on LGBT action then you’re going to be disappointed. The character spends around 95% of the film in fully male clothing, with only the odd scene here and there spent in more feminine attire, and whilst the obvious desire to be female is there, you could be forgiven for forgetting the desire to be female for most of the film’s over-two hour run time.

I suppose though that I can personally relate to Ji-wook. I am a male-to-female transsexual and yet I don’t act or dress in an overly feminine manner, and many ways the uncertainty in which the character approaches his feminine side, especially outwardly, reminds me very much of when I initially came out around four and a half years ago. There is one particular scene in an elevator in which Yi-wook realises that others are about to get in to ride down to the ground floor, and she cowers in the corner, facing the wall, because she is afraid of the reactions, which is understandable and very relatable.

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Presentation wise I loved “Man on High Heels” and it has that noir style that I find very appealing personally. Visually it is excellent, with great attention to detail given to each scene in order to make it look like the very vibrant city with a dark side that I’m sure Seoul is (I’ve never been there, or anywhere in South Korea…..or even Asia just for the record). In this sense it strikes me as a very similar city to Los Angeles, another place in which noir films are often set.

I do however have two concerns with “Man on High Heels”. The first of which is that the fighting scenes, whilst not plentiful, certainly don’t have a sense of tension to them as Ji-wook never feels like he is under a genuine threat of being beaten by his opponents. Even when it is ten-on-one at the end, you still get the feeling that he could easily defeat them, and it means that there is no real depth to the fighting. There is no real tension there because like a lot of similar fighting films, you feel that you could see this character against a hundred people at once, and they’d still win.

My other issue with it is that whilst I did largely enjoy the film, at times it is hard to follow. I don’t think this is to do with the language barrier as I watched another South Korean film last week and had no issues with that, but for the first hour, other than the odd scene here and there, I didn’t really get into the story and found it a bit hard to follow at times.

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Summary

“Man on High Heels” is a largely enjoyable film for what it is, but unfortunately it does lack of a bit of depth by not really having any tension in the fights, and more importantly, a story that at times is a little tricky to follow.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I disliked the film, far from it infact, but I couldn’t give it the approved stamp in all good conscience as, whilst enjoyable, I wouldn’t really recommend it to others, and I think that is a big part for me.

Certainly don’t avoid if you get a chance to watch it, but don’t expect brilliant either.

Stop forcing Dorothy Cuda on me!

Year Released : 2015poster-large
Director: Andrew Nackman
Cast : Parker Young, Evan Todd, Chord Overstreet, Jon Gabrus, Jennifer Damiano, Jordan Lane Price and Doug Moe

After the disaster-piece that was “Aimy in a Cage”, I was actually contemplating stopping reviewing films, that’s how bad it was. I even started writing an article a few days later in which I actually rank the films that I’ve reviewed on this site and put the worst ten into a list, and “Aimy in a Cage” comfortably won (if that’s the right word) the dubious honour of being the worst film that I have review on this site, and more importantly, is still one of the worst films that I have ever seen. That list will never be published but yeah, it also made me quit reviewing films.

I left it a few days whilst desparately searching for a relatively newish film that looked like it would actually fall into the “approved” category, and I think I may have found it with “4th Man Out”, a story following the immediate aftermath of a guy coming out of his friends as gay.

Whilst I’m not gay, I am transgender (as I have mentioned in a few previous reviews) and I think the reactions are pretty similar in both situations, albeit with their odd differences here and there, and so I was curious to see if this would actually be fairly realistic and seemingly true to life, and I am optimistic following the trailer that it will be……then again, I’ve been tricked by trailers before!

I also don’t review comedies that often on this site either, so this will make a nice change (hopefully).

Plot

Adam (Todd) goes out to celebrate his 24th birthday with his friends. He becomes increasingly uncomfortable as Chris (Young), Nick (Overstreet) and Ortu (Gabrus) make gay jokes and the following morning he finally plucks up the courage to tell the group that he is infact homosexual. Despite the trio promising that nothing will change, Adam notices that they are less comfortable around him, but they are generally supportive.

After finally feeling the pressure lifted, Adam starts to date a few guys, although none of the dates go well, especially with Brad (Moe), who effectively starts stalking him. Date after date fails, and Adam’s homosexuality is often referenced by a girl (Damiano) that Chris is trying to date but can’t remember the name of, saving her name on his phone as “train” following a drunken night out.

As Chris continues to struggle to get the girl to like him, she points out that Adam is obviously attracted to him, and this makes Chris a little wary, especially when Adam innocently misreads him leaning over to grab the remote control as an attempt at kissing, and tries to respond in kind.

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Have I been tricked by a trailer again?

Nope, this film is pretty much as the trailer described and that is wonderfully refreshing, especially in an independent film in which it would be so easy to lie about so many aspects of the plot and characters.

I’m going to start with with what is my only real complaint in this movie and that is that I can’t recall a single conversation that Adam shares with pretty much anyone that doesn’t somehow revolve around his homosexuality. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that it’s the main plot of the film, but there just doesn’t seem to be that much depth to his character and it’s the only thing that he’s concerned about.

As mentioned above, I am transgender and obviously had to come out to people at some point, yet I was able to hold conversations about other things and I find it highly unlikely that anyone who comes out will talk about nothing else other than their sexuality.

Other than that though, the dialogue throughout is pretty true to life. A lot of the quotes from characters do sum up stereotypical thoughts that a lot of people have about homosexual men, such as one character commenting that Adam can’t be gay because he fixes car engines for a living. This smartly references that a lot of people stereotype homosexual men as overly effeminate men and doing what is arguably a masculine task isn’t what gay men do.

There is also an interesting discussion in which the characters joke around who is homosexual and one of them says something along the lines of “I’m can’t be gay, I have a fantasy football team and I like Die Hard.” It’s such clever dialogue because it tells you all that you need to know about the character in question. The characters do try and support Adam, but it’s evidenced that they somewhat uncomfortable about it as well.

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As a comedy it works well and there are numerous bits that did make me laugh, even if they weren’t designed to be laugh-out-loud lines, such a woman saying that she was late because she was watching Ghostbusters and got distracted, or one of the characters following up

The soundtrack works very well in “4th Man Out” and is definitely one of the better soundtracks from the films that I’ve reviewed. Each sets off the mood of the scene very well and much like fellow LGBT film “Zerophilia”, it works very well as it’s a small-scale town that they seem to be in, and the music is much more humble than in larger-scale movies.

This also follows into the acting. All act out their characters very well and it was a relief to see that Gabrus (who resembles a discount Jack Black) wasn’t used as comic relief for his weight. Granted, there is one scene in which he covers up his body with a bath-robe, but even then the weight isn’t really address at any time and this made a nice change. Usually the overweight friend is made fun of because of his weight all of the way through a film, but I can’t recall a single time that happened in “4th Man Out”.

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Summary

It’s such a relief to be able to give an approval stamp after watching the disaster piece that was “Aimy in a Cage”. This in many ways was the perfect film to follow this one up with as it was exactly what it needed to be to be enjoyable.approved

Don’t get me wrong, “4th Man Out” is far from a perfect movie, and I would argue that the rating of just 6/10 on IMDB is about right (maybe slightly too low) but it works and that’s why I’m giving it the stamp.  It was an enjoyable way to spend 85 or so minutes of my life and I was never bored.

The dialogue is the key foundations of this film and it’s all pretty realistic, if you ignore that Adam doesn’t seem to have a single conversation that doesn’t somehow revolve around his sexuality.

Merry Christmas Eve, Bitch!

Year Released : 2015Tangerine_(film)_POSTER
Director: Sean S Baker
Cast : Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, James Ransone, Mickey O’Hagan, Karren Karagulian and Alla Tumanian.

Finally, a film with transgender main characters that doesn’t focus on the fact that they’re transgendered. For those that don’t know or haven’t read any of my previous reviews, I am transgendered myself and whilst it doesn’t bother me how transgender characters are portrayed in a lot of movies, it does bother me how people automatically assume things about me because of how they have seen characters act in films.

So based on that, just once I’d love to see a different portrayal of transgendered characters and judging by reviews and various others things, that might be what I’m about to get.

Interestingly, there has been a campaign for Taylor to be nominated for the Best Actress award at the Academy Awards, something that would make her a history maker as the first transgendered person to be nominated for one of the main awards.

It’ll will be interesting to see if it makes the mistakes of making the film all about their transgenderism, and whether Taylor is good enough to be held in such esteem.

Plot

Transgendered prostitutes Sin-Dee Rella (Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Taylor) are having a catch up on Christmas Eve and Sin-Dee reveals that she is thinking about breaking up with her boyfriend, Chester (Ransone). Alexandra gets really excited that Sin-Dee is finally acting on Chester cheating on her, but the problem is that Sin-Dee doesn’t know and angrily sets out to the woman who’s sleeping with him, although she doesn’t know any details other than that her name starts with D.

Whilst Alexandra goes about her normal business during the day, including servicing several clients, Sin-Dee goes in hunt of the girl who has been sleeping with Chester, eventually finding the woman, named Dinah (O’Hagan), who basically suggests that Sin-Dee being Chester’s girlfriend is a laughable concept as he doesn’t have girlfriends.

All hell breaks loose when Sin-Dee eventually finds Chester, but it isn’t only Dinah that she should have been worried about.

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The typical movie representation of transgendered characters?

Whilst there are many transgendered characters in Tangerine, the very fact that they’re transgendered is portrayed as secondary to the plot of the film. Taylor and Rodriguez are both excellent in their roles and whilst they and the characters are openly transgender, that fact isn’t overly-referenced during the film, and I found this remarkably refreshing.

More often than not, films starring transgendered people, or about transgendered characters, focus on nothing more than their change of gender, but that’s definitely not the case in “Tangerine”. The fact that the characters are transgendered is treated with respect and the way that the characters interact with them is in that mould.

There are some very interesting representations of the non-transgendered characters though, with two cops talking about Alexandra and using the male pronouns, but then as soon as she’s in ear shot they switch to female pronouns. It’s an interesting study that shows that what people say about people and directly to people are two very different things.

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The soundtrack for Tangerine is absolutely fantastic and adds to the film. The film half of the film is basically putting Sin-Dee into the phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, she is genuinely scary in her actions and the soundtrack backs that up, almost bringing it into an angry form of chaos. It is genuinely engaging and when she eventually finds Dinah, you genuinely fear for the character’s life.

Throughout the 87 minute run time, the music consistently impresses you and brings you into the environment, and it also helps establish the atmosphere of a grimy

The dialogue is fantastic in it’s openness and fluidic nature. It’s witty and dramatically harsh for example, when talking about a server at a donut shop, the dialogue is as follows;

Sin-Dee : “Does your husband ever cheat on you?”

Chester : “Who’s going to marry her smiling ass?”

Sin-Dee : “The one who orders her online!”

It’s quick, it’s witty and ignoring the fact that it’s a bit racist, it’s a fantastically written line, and the dialogue is of a similar nature throughout the film. I’m not going to lie and pretend I’ve been to LA, or even America, and I know very little about life in the street sort of setting, but it all strikes me as genuine and very realistic to the environment.

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There are few boundaries that “Tangerine” isn’t willing to cross and it not only crosses them, it runs straight over them and several miles down the road. It is remarkably honest and best of all, fresh. No scene is without purpose and everything contributes to the story, something which isn’t the case in a lot of films.

This is shown no more prominently than a scene in a shop called “Donut Time” about 15 minutes from the end, in which all of the relevant storylines come together. There is a scene about ten minutes long in which Sin-Dee confronts Chester, then argues with Dinah, it reveals that there is a marriage coming, then a cab-driver who is attracted to transgendered prostitutes comes in to find Sin-Dee, some to be followed by his family. It’s a chaotic scene, with several different elements and it’s so well done that I can’t praise it highly enough.

Now onto the final point and the performance of Mya Taylor. Now whilst Mya Taylor does well in the film and is great to watch, is she worthy of a Best Actress nomination for this performance? In a word, no. That’s nothing against her in the slightest, she does very well, but I prefer the outing from Rodriguez, who shows a larger variety in her performance, and has more flexibility.

Again, don’t get me wrong, Taylor puts in a great performance, but for me Rodriguez does a better job.

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Summary

“Tangerine” is unlike anything that I have ever seen before. I can’t even start comparing it to another film as it is completely original. To that effect I stand up and applaud all of those involved in the film, it was 87 minutes of my life that was well spent.approved

When the film came to it’s conclusion, I was sat there wanting more and that’s exactly what you want from a film, you don’t want it to stop, and I would go as far as saying that out of all of the low-budget independent films I reviewed in 2015, this was one of the best.

The acting is brilliant, the soundtrack is fantastic and other than not really having much of a point for the first 20/30 minutes, there isn’t a single complaint that I can make about the film.

I would definitely recommend “Tangerine”

I believe the world is a better place if people aren’t lying

Year Released : 2014LIS-poster-s
Director : Ira Sachs
Cast : John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson and Harriet Samson Harris

If there is a phrase that all movie goers should fear, it is “critically acclaimed”. I have found myself often going against what the professional critics say. I tend to like films that they hate and vice-versa. Whenever I see that a film is critically acclaimed then I tend to stay clear of them because they tend not to be that interesting, a pretentious and about as enjoyable as stepping on a rusty nail.

When I first saw the trailer for Love is Strange, I was intrigued by what is an interesting concept and a plot that isn’t really explored in films. Marriage between same sex couples became legal several years ago but I couldn’t tell you a single film, other than this, that he seen a cinema release covering the subject in a serious manner.

Then I saw that it was critically acclaimed and my heart sunk. Professional Critics tend to like films that are slow moving, don’t really have a lot going on and characters that despite having a lot about them, don’t develop at all during the course of the films length. Because of this I was highly sceptical, but decided to give it a go anyway.

Plot

After being together for 39 years, Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) finally get married with their friends any family around. At first everything is perfect and they couldn’t be happier, but soon thereafter they start having issues as George is fired from the catholic school that he works at. The two realise that they can no longer afford to live in their apartment and they turn to their friends and family to help them whilst they’re trying to sort themselves out.

Ben goes to stay with his nephew, whereas George goes to stay with friends. Ben’s family loves having him there at first, but his outgoing nature means that he soon starts distracting Kate (Tomei) from doing her work. Meanwhile George is uncomfortable staying in his friend’s apartment due to the considerably different lifestyle.

Things soon start picking up though when George decides he has had enough and goes to stay with Ben and his family. The two start looking optimistically to the future and find the community’s attitude towards their sexuality, but things soon change when Ben’s health take a downward turn.

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So was the scepticism justified?

The film started off really well. I thoroughly enjoyed the opening fifteen or so minutes brought you nicely into the lives of these two men and their first stage of marriage. It was an excellent opening and I felt optimistic for the remaining seventy five minutes, but it quickly lost a lot of momentum after that. The film dedicates around thirty minutes or so of the couple living apart due to their living situation, but it is a very slow thirty minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, the story is told excellently about how both men struggle to cope apart from each other, but the film seems to stand somewhat still for a third of the film. For a few minutes here and there I could forgive it but not all in one chunk. Again, don’t get me wrong, I understand the purpose of the separation and the point of them longing for each other, struggling in their new surroundings, but in that half an hour I went from being excited about the film to being a bit unengaged. The fact I started watching it on Wednesday evening and only finished it on Thursday evening tells it’s own story (although to be far I did start watching it at about 11pm)

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However, that is pretty much my only complaint with the film. I’m not going to go as far as the critics did and give it a brilliant review when it doesn’t deserve one, but it is definitely an interesting look at a life that most people will never experience. It’s a great character study and a film which looks at the term “familiarity breeds contempt”.

I myself try to keep my distance from people if I have seen them too much in a short about of time. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to spend more time with my family and friends, but I know that if I actually spent too much time with them that I would start noticing things that would drive me crazy, and that is superbly shown in this, especially with Ben. As time goes on, characters that previously loved him struggle to cope with his quirks and struggling to keep quiet.

Ben is oblivious to how he starts grinding on his family and this is down to Lithgow’s brilliant display. Lithgow has turned in several excellent performances in recent years and like a fine wine, he seems to be getting better with age. Lithgow is one of Hollywood’s finer older actors for the simple reason that he accepts that he is getting older and doesn’t turn down roles because of his age, unlike other certain actors *cough*Sean Connery*cough*.

Lithgow is wonderful in this film and the best part is that he makes it look effortless. I grew up watching him in films such as “Harry and the Hendersons” and TV shows such as “Third Rock From the Sun”, and it’s rare to see an older actor with the flexibility to pull of roles of varying genres. He can pull of eccentric just as well as he can appearing completely vulnerable.

I love the realism with the film and it’s obvious that the main characters have been sheltered, which leads to the very life like scene where they are being introduced to more mainstream media, such as Game of Thrones, and have no idea what it is. This fits in which Ben seemingly perfectly as he gets nostalgic on a regular basis and never strikes you as a character that would have embraced that made new forms of media.

Finally, I’m going to talk about what probably gave me the most satisfaction in the film and that is that Sachs didn’t go down the route of showing the stereotypical same-sex couple. More often than not, the stereotype of two men being in love with each other is that at least one of them is overly effeminate, but isn’t very true to life. Being transgender myself, I know quite a few same sex couples in which neither of them are overly effeminate, or in the case of two women getting married, neither being butch. It is a stereotype that is too often shown and it is a relief to see a movie that accepts that this isn’t always going to be the case.

Neither George or Ben are effeminate, nor do they have many feminine qualities, they happen to just be two men that have fallen in love with each. Now, don’t get me wrong, whilst the stereotype is also true of a lot of same sex marriages, the relationship between George and Ben seems very grounded in reality and they have conversations that you would expect a real couple to actually have. Granted, I don’t think that Lithgow and Molina have any chemistry whatsoever, but that doesn’t distract from one of the more genuine love stories that I have seen on screen in sometime.

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Summary

Whilst it doesn’t really deserve to be critically acclaimed, it’s not an awful film by any stretch of the imagination. My only major problem with the film is that after an excellent opening fifteen minutes, the remaining 75 is exceptionally slow.

The characters are somewhat underdeveloped, and this isn’t helped by Molina and Lithgow having seemingly no chemistry at all, however, the latter almost single handedly saves the film with his heartwarming performance.

It’s hard to really recommend it based simply on that I will never watch it again, but if you’re interested in a story about love and relationships that is different from what you’ve seen before, go right ahead.

As we sat there listening to the carolers, I wanted to tell Brian that it was over now and that everything would be okay. But that was a lie, plus I couldn’t speak anyway. I wish there was some way to go back and undo the past. But there wasn’t. There was nothing we could do. So I just stayed silent and tried to telepathically communicate how sorry I was about what happened. And I thought of all the grief and suffering and fucked up stuff in the world, and it made me want to escape. I wished with all my heart we could just leave this world behind. Rise like two angels in the night and magically disappear.

Year Released : 2004kinopoisk.ru
Director : Gregg Araki
Cast : Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbet, Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Rajskub and Elisabeth Shue

I’ve recently been re-watching the TV Show “Third Rock From The Sun” and I was immensely impressed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance as Tommy, an alien stuck in the body of an adolescent boy and trying to cope with the rigours of growing up. Gordon-Levitt’s performance throughout the run time was amazing to watch but he then seemingly disappeared from mainstream media until an appearance in the anti-romantic comedy “500 Days of Summer”.

Since then he has enjoyed a surge into the Hollywood A-List with roles such as Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Lincoln and several other excellent films. I was however curious what he had done in between TRFTS and 500 Days of Summer, so whilst searching for a new film to review I decided to look into his past films and I came across this unusual looking movie.

It wasn’t just Gordon-Levitt that drew my attention to the film though, more specifically it was the appearances of Brady Corbet and Michelle Trachtenberg, the former of which had been spectacular in the 2007 home-invasion thriller “Funny Games”.

The one thing that did make me nervous about this that the trailer made it look like it was going to be one of those heavily pretentious films that has become all too familiar with indie films. I have reviewed films in the past, such as Frank (click for review), and slaughtered them for thinking they are more important that they actually are. Some movies do have the feeling that they think they’re amazing when they’re not, and this did strike me as one of those films, but I decided to give it a chance.

Plot

When he was a child Brian (Corbet – Adult, George Webster – child) lost five hours of his life and the aftermath ruined the rest of his life. Several years later he is still searching for answers about what happened to him, not helped by numerous flashbacks. He becomes obsessed with documentaries about alien abductions and believes that it was happened to him. He contacts one of those featured in a documentary, a girl by the name of Avalyn (Rajskub) and she helps him come to an epiphany about how he can figure out what happened to him.

During his youth, Neil (Gordon Levitt – Adult, Chase Ellison – child) was the star player on the baseball team due to his attraction to his baseball coach. He is soon molested by his coach but mistakes it for a reward for his good performances. Several years later, Neil has started prostituting himself out and doesn’t understand the concept of safe sex. He becomes depressed when he realises that he has had some form of sexual contact with pretty much every man in his town and he subsequently moves to New York to be with his friend Wendy (Trachtenberg).

Neil struggles to adapt to New Yorkian life (if that’s a phrase) and after being violently raped, he soon moves back and meets up with Brian, helping him to try and find the answers that he has been looking for.

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As good as I’d hoped?

I’ve been sat here during the film wondering whether I like the film or not and am still relatively unsure. Normally I can tell within the first ten minutes if I am not going to like a film and often the ones I enjoy are the ones where I don’t realise until half way through that I haven’t thought once about my opinion on it, but with this I am completely unsure. Is it awful? No, not by any stretch, but calling it anything more than reasonable would probably be a push.

Let’s start with the positives. Gordon-Levitt is fantastic throughout. The one thing that you can always guarantee with Joseph Gordon-Levitt is that he throws himself into a role and he’s not afraid to do different things. Every time you watch him, he is playing different roles and I love actors with diversity. He can portray emotion so well, with one of my personal favourite performances of his coming in the final few minutes of the film 50/50, a film where he plays a man who gets cancer and the fear as he goes into the final operation, that moment when it dawns on him that he could easily die from the operation is so well acted.

Infact, before I go ahead with the rest of the review, here is that scene from 50/50. I really, really, really, really wish I could review 50/50, it is an incredible film, but it is too well known to be reviewed on a site that is designed to highlight films that the vast, vast majority will never have heard of.

Anyway, back to the review. In Mysterious Skin there is a scene early on the character’s adult life when he is basically prostituting himself out and he is receiving a blow-job off of a junk-food salesman, and although the scene doesn’t move off of Gordon-Levitt’s face once the sexual act starts, the facial expressions and change in emotions from him tell you everything you need to know. This continues throughout the film and his emotions become more unwary throughout, especially after he moves to New York and is asked to give a massive to an HIV positive man and the scene where he is violently raped by a stranger. The latter of those also focuses purely on his face as he is getting raped, whilst also being beaten with a bottle of shampoo (yes, that does actually happen)

One thing I will definitely say for indie films is that the acting is usually better than that of Hollywood films, and for me the stand out scenes occur between Neil as a child and his young coach. There is a scene at the beginning and one towards the end between the two and they draw you in because of the exquisite acting of the two on screen. On one side you’ve got a young boy discovering his sexuality for the first time and realising that he is gay, and on the other you have his paedophile coach that you find dangerously charming. It is that aspect of his personality that is particularly interesting as you realise just how dangerous that paedophiles can be and how manipulative they are.

You don’t realise at all how dangerous and manipulative he is until the final scene, when you realise something more terrifying. I’m not going to talk about it here but will go into it at the end.

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That scene helps establish the foundations of Neil as a character and he is excellently developed. The way that the scene where he is sexually assaulted by his baseball coach as a child is set up to be a massive part of his personality but it doesn’t seem to have really affected him at all in many ways, probably being his misinterpreted it as a reward rather than what it was. Every scene with the character  You are constantly learning new aspects to him and I love that. I hate characters that stand still and that leads me neatly onto talking about Brian.

Whilst Neil is a very interesting and deep character, Brian doesn’t really do anything for me. It takes until the 35th minute for him to leave the house but his character never really develops beyond someone who wants to find out what happened to him when he was younger. There is literally no other character trait to him throughout. Corbet does a good job as the confused and socially awkward young man, but the character just isn’t that interesting.

Infact, it takes 75 minutes for the character to really show any emotions other than a seemingly passive curiousity towards his situation when he sees his father for the first time in two years. Suddenly, after being largely unemotional throughout the film, Brian launches into a mini-rant that actually showed a minor bit of depth to the character, but other than that burst out there was nothing really there with the character. He is simply a character that happens to be on screen, and emotionally he doesn’t seem there. There is such a huge contrast between him and Neil that it’s character to make a fair comparison between the two.

It’s almost strange to have two main characters and yet only one them is actually engaging and interesting. The fact that the majority of the first half of the film focuses on him rather than Brian shows just how different there is in depth between the characters. Infact the story-arcs of the two characters feel completely unconnected until the 43rd minute when it’s hinted that the two the answers that Brian seeks are related to Neil.
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I’m not going to lie, this would have been a better film without the character of Brian or his story-arc. It feels like it should be an entirely different film and it would actually make a half decent stand alone sci-fi movie, but the lack of connection between the two arcs for the majority of the story, other than the most tedious of links, really would knock the overall score of the film down (if I did a scoring system), however, then comes the ending that links everything together. Granted, the character of Brian still lacks something and when you realise what actually happened to his character, it does feel like you’ve wasted your time with him for most of the movie, even if it is a brilliant ending.

Finally, I’m going to talk about something that I briefly touched on earlier in the review and that is the final scene. I don’t often spoil a scene towards the end of a movie so if you want to watch the movie and don’t want it spoilt, this is your warning that between now and where the summary section is, all I’m going to talk about is that scene.

Still believing he was abducted, Brian is taken to the house of the coach that molested Neil as a child and it is revealed that in the five hours missing from his childhood, the coach took both to his home after Brian’s parents failed to show up after a baseball game. In the five hours Neil, who had been manipulated by the coach, convinces Brian that the molestation that both he and the coach are about to perform is a very natural and beautiful thing. When the sexual acts are over, Brian collapsed on the floor, giving him the blood nose and causing a concussion that wiped his memory. The film ends with a traumatised Brian crying on Neil’s knees with Christmas carollers signing Silent Night in the background.

For me this is one of the more unique endings to a film that I have ever seen, and it is somehow a twist ending because you really don’t see it coming at all. The flashback highlights just how dangerous the coach was because he manipulated a young child into believing that debauchery was a good thing for an adult to inflict on someone who is underage and it is played out brilliantly.  The innocence of the children is corrupted and ruins both for life, simply because of one man’s desire.

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Summary

The ending changed it for me because it connected everything properly, but up until that the movie is dominated by two very differing storylines that don’t seem even slightly connected, even to the point where they don’t even seem like they belong in the same movie. The ending does make it slightly more worth it and brings a good, natural conclusion to events, but before then the character-arc of Brian just isn’t interesting enough to hold the film together, and the fact that the majority of the film is focused on Neil shows that.

Neil is an excellent character and is well acted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but I didn’t care for the character of Brian for the most part and whilst he is well acted by Corbet, whenever he was on the screen I was just wanting it to go back to Neil, and it’s never a good thing when you’re not interested in one of the two main characters.

It’s not a great movie, I feel that current rating of 7.7/10 on IMDB is a tiny bit high, if I did a scoring system I would give it somewhere in the high sixes/low sevens region.

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Mom, Dad and I have the same breast size now!

Year Released : 2003Untitled
Director : Jane Anderson
Cast : Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Lange, Hayden Panettiere and Clancy Brown

For those that aren’t regular readers of this review site, you might have missed me previously referencing in the reviews for Zerophilia and Laurence Anyways that I am changing gender from male to female and started transitioning just after I turned 28 years old. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a review full of comparisons between what happened at around that time to what happens with the character of Roy.

Before I started transitioning I took in as many chances as I possibly could to watch as many trans-related films as I could and that lead me to this HBO film about a middle-aged man who suddenly reveals that he wants to be a woman.

Whilst this isn’t one of the strongest trans-related films I have ever seen, this is probably the most realistic and related to most people watches as it not only focuses on Roy’s experiences as he starts transitioning, but also the reaction of his family, co-workers and the community when he isn’t around.

Plot

Roy (Wilkinson) and Irma (Lange) are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary with friends and family when Roy collapses suddenly. After waking up there is a noticeable emotional difference in Roy and when they seek help from their local minister, Roy suddenly reveals that he has been living a lie and wants to be a woman, much to the shock of Irma.

Irma throws Roy out of the family home but this doesn’t deter Roy as he starts his transition from male to female. Roy chooses to ease in his transition at work, starting by wearing perfume before making more obvious appearance changes, much to the disgust of most of his colleagues and the stunned surprise of his boss, Frank (Brown). Frank, realising that Irma is now available, tries to start a romantic relationship.

Despite their difficulties, Roy and Irma start living together again but it is an uneasy relationship. Roy eventually starts to realise that transitioning wouldn’t be as easy as he had hoped. He is thrown out of his local church and receives a less than supportive reaction from his son and other family members.

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So is it any good?

In many ways “Normal” is one of the most realistic films about someone changing gender that I have seen. It deals with the real emotional aspects of the transition and doesn’t feel forced.

There are a few reasons for this and the main reason is due to Wilkinson’s approach to the film and not doing any research into transgenderism meant that he went into the role with an almost curious innocence. Much like Roy, he knows nothing about how to be a woman and that shows as despite being in his 50s at the time of filming, he is almost like a child learning something for the first time and I do mean that in a positive sense. For a character that has had virtually no exposure to that world or a chance to practice. The character has spent pretty much all of his life either at work or with his wife.

Arguably the most enjoyable part in many ways was seeing Roy start his transition at the same time that his daughter starts puberty and this introduced an interesting dynamic. I’m not going to lie, I’ve never been a fan of Hayden Panettiere but she did a reasonable job in what was arguably her most grown up role at the time of the film. She did the shocked but supportive daughter role very well. She was only 13 in 2002 and just at the start of her puberty and her interactions on screen with her transitioning father were an interesting comparison of a natural female and someone becoming female.

Being transgendered myself I know the general rules for transitioning and Roy is given hormones when still quite clearly living as a man. Now, I’m English and am obviously not an expert on the American medical system, either private or mainstream healthcare, but I find the likelihood of someone been giving hormones to change gender whilst still clearly living as their birth gender a bit of a stretch. I have personally known people who have been denied the chance to start changing gender simply because of the job they did or because they wore jeans to the initial consultation, so the chances of someone being given hormones before they have started living in the role as their chosen gender is exceptionally unlikely.

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That is one of the few things that I did find relatively unrealistic though as everything else is seemingly pretty well researched. The difficulties that the character experiences once the transition begins is relatively realistic, ranging from being shunned by the local church, receiving a heavy negative reaction at work and Irma’s former suitors suddenly take an interest again now that Roy is seemingly out of the picture. People who transition from one gender or another have either very positive or very negative transitions, and this film certainly focuses on the latter.

Wilkinson easily stands out amongst his cast members and is really the only character that shows any real depth. A big deal is made about Roy’s son struggling to come to terms with the transition but he rarely features in the film so there’s no real tension or feelings when this is brought up again towards the end of the film. The son isn’t even developed other than a brief seen where he is seen mocking the decision to change gender to his friends. Having said that, he appears to have gotten over the initial surprise when he visits the family for Christmas and is greeted by his now very femininely developed father dressed in male clothing, offering a hand-shake and being very masculine, again much to his surprise.

To end the review I’m going to reference the relationship between Roy/Ruth and Irma. Whilst their difficulties early on are understandable, everything afterwards feels forced and despite supposedly being married for 25 years, they seemingly share no chemistry whatsoever. Lange is just bland as Irma and as good as Wilkinson is, he can’t carry an entire film on his own. Even Irma’s developing relationship with Roy’s boss is feels forced as Lange and Brown again have no chemistry. I won’t claim to have seen Lange in much but she did precisely nothing for me in this film.

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Summary

The awkwardness of transitioning for a character in the later stages of middle age is well done but there is a lot of filler in this film and approvedthe cast, other than Wilkinson, struggles to make it count. Wilkinson tries his hardest to carry the film but fails through no fault of his own, he’s just not supported well enough by a strong enough script. There are plenty of films where the story is focused on a very small group of characters and they all support each other excellently, with “The Fly” being a great example, but I just don’t get that with this film.

Normal isn’t a bad film by any stretch but it never really gets out of first gear and it’s hard to really get engaged because of this. Whilst the character of Roy/Ruth is interesting, the supporting cast of characters just doesn’t really add anything.

There are interesting aspects to the film that are touched on, such as the parallel developments of the female body from different origins, but they don’t save this from falling into the realms of being average.

 

 

Our love wasn’t ‘safe,’ but it wasn’t dumb. What is it you want, Fred? What is it? A child? A house? I can give you that. I’ll change.

Year Released : 2012Laurence Anyways
Director : Xavier Dolan
Cast : Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clément, Nathalie Bay, Monia Chokri, Magalie Lépine-Blondeau and Yves Jacques

In recent reviews I have been focusing on Xavier Dolan films, writing my reviews as I see his films for the first time, rather than writing reviews on films I have ever seen, and whilst “J’ai tué ma mère” and “Tom à la ferme” were both excellent, Dolan’s “Laurence Anyways” falls someway short of it’s predecessors.

With a lengthy run time of just short of three hours, “Laurence Anyways” doesn’t have the same charm as Dolan’s previous films, the characters aren’t as interesting and if anything, the film is about an hour too long as there are too many characters that add nothing to the film.

Whilst it hasn’t put me off Dolan’s films, far from it, there was just something missing that had made his previous films so delightful and whilst the aforementioned were both 9/10 (at least), I am struggling to think of this as nothing more than a 5/10, and even then I’m being generous.

Plot

Laurence (Poupaud) is an award winning novelist and literature teacher in Montreal. When he turns 30 he is due to have a romantic evening with his girlfriend, Fred (Clément), but when she surprises him by saying that they are going to go to New York for the weekend, Laurence bursts out in anger and reveals that he can no longer hide that he wants to be a woman. Understandably shocked, Fred takes several days to decide that she will stick by Laurence as he transitions.

Reactions from the local community are mainly negative and Laurence is frequently harassed on the street and his situation isn’t helped when he is fired from his job due to parent complaints. Growing further and further apart, Laurence and Fred split up after Fred starts dating Albert (David Savard).

As Laurence goes through his transition, he meets several unusual characters, including the Rose family and new romantic interest Charlotte (Lépine-Blondeau), but all the while he is still in love with Fred.

 

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Positives about the film…..

I can certainly relate to the Laurence character on some level. Being transgender myself I thought that the first hour or so of the film was very similar to my own experiences to when I first started telling my friends and family, as well as the excellent scene where Laurence admits to becoming terrified about entering the female toilets at his school. That was done in excellent fashion

In my previous reviews for Dolan films I have used the word “real” on a regular basis and for the first hour or so of this film, it continued along that theme. Having experienced very similar things to Laurence, I could definitely see the realism in it’s approach and for that, I commend it.

There is also another fabulous rant scene in a Dolan film this time Fred has had enough of a waitress’ questioning. The scene can be found below as the pure passion shown by Fred is a testament to the actress in the only scene where she is actually not tediously dull.

Much like his previous films, Dolan also includes several scenes that are full of vibrancy and colour, whereas most of the rest of the film has a dull pallet. This works well in my opinion as you know that what is happening is out of the ordinary and that what you’re watching is either a completely different state of emotion for the character, or indeed a dream like state. This film’s example comes from when Laurence and Fred are walking along a path and all of a sudden a lot of bright laundry just falls around them.

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Despite a very positive and real, it was hard to really get behind Laurence as a character, the longer the film went on, the less interested I got. For the first hour Laurence is very likeable and passionate about numerous things, but after that he just seems to lose something and was no longer than interesting.

Probably the biggest contention of the story for me was the Rose family, who feel like nothing more than filler and ultimately add nothing to the story other than as some friends for Laurence, which I get in some ways but realistically they actually add nothing to the story. If anything they actually become quite an annoyance as none of them show anything other than one aspect of their personality. It’s the same with Fred’s sister, who’s only character trait seems to be that she doesn’t like transgendered individuals, there is nothing else that she does during the film other than scold Laurence for his decisions and Fred for her’s to initially stay with Laurence. and as I said, it feels like they are there to be nothing more than filler in an almost three hour run time.

The secondary characters feel like nothing more than filler for the near 3 hour run time and this was also referenced by numerous professional critics, and whilst a long run time isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it certainly needs some interesting characters to keep it going. Dolan is a self confessed massive fan of Titanic, a film that exceeds three hours, but the reason that works is that there are numerous interesting characters in that film and you route for the two main characters, I don’t get that with this film. Neither Laurence or Fred are interesting enough to hold a near three hour run time together, and add in a poor selection of secondary characters, it makes you realise that this film is AT LEAST an hour too long.

One thing I also found a little strange was that even after he has admitted that he wants to be female, Laurence never actually changes his name, nor does the character encourage anyone to say anything other than Laurence. The film is set over a period of ten years, most of which Laurence spends living as a woman and I can only assume that by the end she has completed her transition, yet the name doesn’t change. One possible theory is that not changing his name means that people can still associate the new works to those that she won awards for before she started transitioning, but even then it is strange not to have changed name.

Lastly, something that truly bugged me, on a regular basis the characters switch between French and English mid-sentence for seemingly no reason. Now, don’t me me wrong, I’m fine with not needing subtitles, but why are they suddenly speaking English mid-sentence before going back to French? You may have noticed an example in the video clip above where towards the end she switches to English. Now, I appreciate this is set in Canada and not France so people can speak French and English, but it makes very little sense to just switch.

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Summary

Having now completed my Dolan trilogy (there are other films but I wanted to do three reviews for this site to make it seem like I could give a more detailed description of his work) I can say that I do enjoy his work but for me this was the weakest of the three films that I have seen. ” “J’ai tué ma mère” has a great relationship and dynamic between it’s two characters, “Tom à la ferme” had great character development, “Laurence Anyways” has neither of those.

It’s such as a shame as I really wanted to round off my trilogy of reviews of Dolan films with a third positive review, but I can’t.

The characters just aren’t that compelling and the majority of them are one dimensional. Maybe what this film was missing as the presence of Dolan on screen, which has been one of the main positive points from the previous films.

Watch the other two. Don’t watch this.