Started in 2007 to keep a track of gay films that I watched, this blog has come much further than I had planned. There are tons of movies that I need to watch and review here. Through this blog, I want to give you genuine, my personal heart-felt review of the films that I see. These are my personal thoughts and opinions about the films and I would love to hear your thoughts on these films as well. I always reply to comments in a day or two. Please help me make my blog more popular by becoming a member, following it and by recommending it to your friends. As far as I know this is one of the very very few gay movie review blogs where reviews are not linked or copy-paste imdb summary. Enjoy and do keep writing your feedback.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Our Fathers

By now, I have seen a few films on this subject: the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. All of them true and focusing on different part of the world. This, as a subject, will never go old and the more we talk about it, the more people need to know these stories. Interestingly, while I was watching the film, I realized that the context and setting is the same as that of movie 'Spotlight' which won the best film oscar a few years ago. This, made for TV movie, is shown from the perspective and lawyers and the church.

The film is set in the time of Cardinal Law, who during his time in Boston apparently turned a blind eye to all the cases of child abuse and sexual abuse of young boys and continued to support the priests. We see a few very uncomfortable scenes where priests are seen molesting young boys. Primarily amongst these were Father John Geoghan, whose arrest in many years later starts to uncover all these hidden truth. The victims start to come forward, and a lawyer Mitchell Garabedian sues Cardinal Law & the diocese for hiding the crimes from the authorities. Cardinal Law arrogantly defends his behavior, and refuses to resign. The film follows through how the lawyer gets all victims together to make a string case in the court and how law and media come together to expose one of the biggest scandals and cover up by the church.

This film is not an easy watch at all. There is a scene where one of the victims is taunted by a couple of insensitive men at a local deli. When he graphically describes to them how he was abused, I was almost in tears. Any amount of graphic details cant match that short scene that make you truly feel what those young boys must have gone through. Its hard to not become angry at the double standards of the church and see this film objectively. It took many brave souls to take on the Catholic Church on such a horrifying subject as the pedophilia that occurred by the very same Priests to which we entrusted our children. The cast of the film is just perfect. Everyone does a standout job and the film brilliantly shows the impact on the lives of those abused and focuses on the church, in not the best of terms.

Its hard to rate movies like these. Something with a very strong message, very gripping and you are curious to know how the church is going to react to the whole scandal. Besides the bad title of the film, I would generally rate this movie quite well but still a very difficult to watch film dealing with a very controversial and sensitive subject. (7.5/10)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

En Algun Lugar (English) [A Place To be]

Sometimes good intentions and ideas don't always translate into a gripping movie. Especially when you are trying to leave a very strong social message through the film, it becomes even more important to get a handle on the subject and where you are trying to go with it. The film tackles the main issue too late and only touches upon it in the surface.

Diego has a chance encounter with Abel on the streets of Chicago. There is attraction but both men are shy. Eventually after two more unexpected meetings, they start dating. They have instant connection and soon they are meeting families and friends. But Diego seem to be hiding something. Being of Mexican descent, we see him facing racist slurs and hence he has become a man of strong opinions. The romance is at its peak when we find that Diego's mother is dying in Mexico. Diego, actually came to US when he was 6 years old and still after so many years is an undocumented illegal immigrant. Abel convinces him and joins him to go to Mexico but the mother already dies. Diego tries to reconnect with his sister and with his origins but it is soon time to go back to US and it will have to be illegally. Abel refuses to go on flight directly and insists he will join Diego whatever way he does. Tragedy strikes when Diego is killed in transit after a fight. On his return to US, Diego finds out from Abel's sister that Abel actually gave his whole identity to Diego and now a new world should open up for him.

The pace and the mood of the film is very contrast in two halves. While the first half is romantic drama focusing solely on the men getting to know each other and falling in love, the second half is slightly darker. From making a statement and giving out a message, it is not very clear if its making a political point, or immigration issues or just capitalizing on Trump administration's recent development on the issue. I feel somehow that issue was missing. The story is good and the actors have acted decent (not good) given what they were asked to do. But at almost 2 hours running length, the film felt stretched in a lot of places. Also, what I don't understand is why would Abel leave his identity for Diego just because he was going on a trip to Mexico. Its not like he was illegal. What made him think that he may not return. I don't get it. Like I said before, the subject is interesting and relevant but it failed to touch me. It was a surface level exploration.

With tighter editing and shorter length, the film could have been even more enjoyable. Unsure of what exactly the film wanted to say made my experience a bit disjointed. But may be its just my mood. You may like the film, but I feel a more coherent focus would have been much better. (5/10)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ein Leben Lang Kurze Hosen Tragen (German) [The Child I Never Was]

I have always enjoyed thrillers. And this one is about a serial killer in the 60s in Germany who was arrested for murder of at least 4 young boys and their sexual molestation. Partly told as taped confessions and partly as events recreation, this film gives us an insight in the minds of a notorious serial killer.

Jürgen Bartsch, while recounting events on how and why he killed those boys, tells us that he was a loner as a child. When he is teen , he doscovers that he was adopted by his parents. They do not allow Jurgen to have friends, to socialize, to have any interests. When Jurgen begins to get in touch with his sexuality, they foster care him and seek professional advice for his sickness of homosexuality, after it is found that he beat and touched a neighbor boy. Jürgen Bartsch recounts events on how he almost fell in love with a boy whom he ran away with but almost also killed him under the train just because he would then be able to express his love. He is shocked by his own behavior. But he years for friends. He discovers a cave where he can escape form his ugly world and fantasize about many things, including sexual fantasies about boys 'ages 8 through 14'. Gradually he gives in to his compulsion to seduce boys into his cave where he tortures them, eviscerates them, and once they are dead he has sexual acting out with them. In one of the final murders, the boy being tortured surprisingly enjoys the beating and kissing and leaves the boy tied up but he escapes, which eventually leads to arrest of Jürgen Bartsch three days later. Eventually he serves time in prison, gets out, gets married but died during anesthetic complications getting a surgery.

The film reminded me of the TV series Mindhunters which talks about what actually goes in the mind of these serial killers. In this case, Bartsch’s confused sexuality turns to a bitter hatred of all things sexual, resulting in his crimes. Its a fascinating story, except that the makers decided to tell the story with constant back and forth and its sometimes hard to keep a track of which chapter of Jürgen's life are we looking at now. I am sure if we, as audience, are supposed to be sympathetic to the killer and understand the reasons and motivations of why the kills because it felt a bit one sided to me.  The narrator describes all of his feelings. One might think that he is being vulgar or proud when in reality - it shows that he is innocently sincere. Thankfully, the film doesn't portray Bartsch's extreme deviancy as being a product of or related to his homosexuality. Since the subject is grim, the cinematography is accordingly which creates an atmosphere. It is a disturbing film with pretty good acting by the teenage guy playing the titular role. Even the actor playing the adult version in jail, is a tough job, since he has to act while just looking into the camera.

An interesting subject handled well but the docu-drama feel of the narrative makes it slightly less of an entertainer or even a tout thriller that could keep you on the edge of your seat. Still worth a shot. (5.5/10)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Secret Kiss (UK)

This film was a terrible waste of my time. I have seen many bad films as you can tell from this blog, but this film definitely joins one of the worse films in the gay genre.

Ray is a loner who has recently been getting a lot of dreams where he sees masked men following him around in the woods. And surprisingly for whatever reasons, he decides to roam around the same woods during day time filming on his phone. He tells his shrink that he feels his death is near. He meets Paul, a mysterious guy in the same woods and they both get a liking for each other. Every time Ray finds Paul in the woods and then in morning he mysteriously disappears and of course Ray doesn't think anything of it. Then apparently it turns out that those masked figures are after bot those boys and the end of the film forms how they get freed from those masked figures and are united.

The story and execution are both so so lame, that I cannot describe in words. The only saving grace about the film is that the actors actually can act, given a proper script and director. Otherwise such films get worse by horrible acting. But other than that the film is boring. Its not clearly explained about those figures, the relationship and everything else. It has absolutely no meaning, no plot and the loud background music starts to get on your nerves.

I honestly cannot bother to write anymore about this film. Totally avoidable. (1/10)

Monday, December 3, 2018

Hjartasteinn (Icelandic) [Heartstone]

This film is a story of teenage sexuality and teen angst in an idyllic Icelandic village. Agreed the film was stretched too much, for something that could have been shown in much less time but that doesn't take away the fact that it is an authentic and emotional look at growing up and becoming aware of your feelings, surroundings and sexuality.

Thor and Christian are two pre-teen best buddies in an Icelandic fishing village where apparently everyone knows everyone's business. Its an idle summer and the two friends spend time playing, walking around, enjoying nature. Thor has a restless single mother and two intrusive older sisters, while Christian's volatile, homophobic father and mother are on the verge of a split. In between all this, they also try to flirt with 2 sisters but clearly Christian has very strong feelings for Thor, which he fails to see. Completely dejected by his surroundings, Christian decides to take his life. This is when Thor realizes about Christian's feelings for him but its too late since he is now going to move to the city. But Thor manages to plan one final kiss to Christian as good luck and good bye and thank you gesture that cements their friendship forever.

The surroundings of the beautiful Icelandic village is just breathtaking. I so feel like wanting to go to that location and spending a few nights in those gorgeous settings. As mentioned before, The film take a long time testing viewer's patience to go about showing what they exactly wanna say. It needs a much tighter editing, to make it an interesting watch. Coming to performances, the two boys strongly and firmly hold the film together. They are both absolutely brilliant actors and have a very strong screen presence. The brashness of Thor concealing his insecurities is all too familiar, as is the great conflict running beneath the surface of shy Christian.

This film reminds us that it's tough to grow up gay anywhere. Friendship keeps you strong, even though the confusion about sexuality leaves you frustrated sometimes leading to extreme steps. The harshness of the wilderness with the first feeling of the youth coming of age would have been a lot more enjoyable and relatable had there been some serious editing. (6/10)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

This Close (Web Series)

This is such an interesting 6 part series on Sundance Now. The fact that the two protagonists are deaf is both the whole point and completely beside it at the same time. And to top it, the actors who play the protagonists are actually the writers and stars and deaf in real-life makes it even more interesting. Sadly, I also fall in the category of people, like when our protagonist says “You focus on our disability, but not who we are.”

Michael and Kate are best friends. Michael is a graphic book writer, who is trying to get over his breakup with his boyfriend Ryan. He is on a downward spiral, most often drunk and dealing with the writer's block and hence unable to come up with the idea of next book, there by risking his future and breach of contract. Kate is confident, sparky young girl, who works at a PR firm. Her boyfriend Danny has just proposed her. Michael is not a huge fan of Danny but Kate wants them to work through. We later find out why Michael broke up with Ryan and now Ryan is trying to win him back. At the same time, Kate is struggling with her relationships with Danny and almost calls off the engagement. A lot of what transpires in the six half-hour episodes focuses on the things people fail to tell each other, either on purpose or because their communication systems are too flawed to function properly.

Kate And Michael being deaf is just one aspect, because the friendship they share and the romance and break-up they are dealing with is universal to all. But then this specific aspect also makes it important because Kate and Michael's relationship with others and with each other depends a lot on what and how much is communicated amongst all of them. Kate fights and reconciles with Danny, Michael does the same with Ryan, and Kate and Michael do the same thing with each other. The series thankfully has a comical touch to it and is not all serious. The ability to say nasty, smutty things about hearing people right in front of them using sign language, which is always good for a laugh. Its an interesting experience since there are very few dialogues and a lot of focus is on hands and mouths. The production quality if very high, the acting is brilliant by both main and supporting actors and this is an engaging watch. Having said this, the cliches of gays always have drinking and sex on mind and the PR workplace dynamics, sort of slide the series slightly downwards.

This is not strictly a gay series, but 50% focus on gay character and his life; and so definitely deserves to be reviewed her. Six episodes, each of 25 minutes is not much investment and trust me it will be worth it. (7/10)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (TV Series)

This series also took me a while to finish watching. Given the predecessor of season 1, I had naturally quite high expectation of this series and I have to say that they were all met to a large extent but somehow something was missing. Its hard to point out exactly what, but its still a very worthy watch and a very good use of time.

The series starts with Versace being murdered by who we later find is called Andrew Cunanan. Pretty soon we are told that this is not the first murder that Andrew has done and there have been a series of murders behind this. In a series of flashbacks, the story gets unfolded layer by layer. Andrew had an encounter with Versace seven years ago and since then he can't stop bragging about it. Uber handsome and very intelligent and charming, Andrew is always the heart of a party. In the next few episodes, we see who Andrew really is and the details of how and why he murders  Chicago real estate developer Lee Miglin (Lee used to hire Andrew as an escort); his old friend Jeff Trail by hammer blow while he is living with his boyfriend Daniel. Daniel is the only person whom according to Andrew , he truly loved even while he was escorting with older gentlemen. But having witnessed murder of Jeff by Andrew, It shakes up Daniel completely and eventually Andrew kills Daniel as well. And now the hunt begins for him especially after a high profile murder. In between all this, we all see the issues and relationships between Versace and his sister Donatella and Versace with his lover Antonio of 13 years, the first person to find Versace's body. When finally authorities corner in Andrew, he shoots himself.

The series was very engaging. I personally love crime thrillers and having no knowledge of these events, i thoroughly enjoyed watching the series. Having said this, the central character was indeed Andrew Cunanan and not Versace. I think it was only 3-4 episodes that focused on Versace, who by the way was shown according to me a very simple yet boring man. I would have expected the man to have more colour and drama but anyway. Most other episodes focussed on Cunanan and his story and history and the other murders he had done, the who's and why's of it all. The lack of Versace's character was more than made up by the absolutely brilliant portrayal of Andrew Cunanan. I mean the actor has done such a splendid job, you just cant take you eyes of him. Be it his love for Daniel, or all the times he escorts with older gentlemen, the way he dances when he is alone, the way he tries to charm Versace or impress his father. He is just brilliant throughout. Penelope Cruz and Ricky Martion as Donatella and Antonio were strictly ok according to me. To be honest they didn't really have much to do but Ricky Martin felt was struggling in his scenes. Cunanan was gay and how he struggled to keep a lavish lifestyle without having to ever work was the brilliance that his mind had. The series end made me have fixed feelings. I felt “Is this it?” But at the same time, I’m not sure what else there could be.

As I mentioned before, the series doesn't come close to season 1 about OJ Simpson and the ride of the series is uneven and bumpy. But i am always a sucker for stories including string gay characters and backdrops and this series more than made up for this. (7/10)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Gay Short Films : 60

Impar (Mexico) [Uneven]
An old sock with no pair falls in love with an attractive young boy. The boys uses it to jerk-off and throws it off till it finds a new home. Weird yet funny!

Searching for Love (USA)
Story of a gay man looking for love within the ever changing landscape of queer culture.  Throughout the story, Jack develops a unique relationship with a dating app, which in the end is what leads him to a powerful lesson about the search for love.

The Forest (USA)
A novice hiker is exploring a lush forest with the help of a smart phone application and encounters a mysterious and sexy stranger. An innocent exploration of the forest becomes a much more dangerous and exciting experience. Its a parallel drawn to the quick anonymous hookup culture.

Fuck Yes - Threesome (USA)
When a gay couple is sure/unsure of getting into threesome; this short shows importance of improved and clear communication for consenting adults.

Regalo de despedida (Spain)
Two men who were couples meet again in the hospital and remember the moments they were together, full of beautiful details. They both remember what was and could have been.

Pedazos (USA)
After a bizarre ceremony, two lovers are condemned to live in a cave inhabited by flying creatures in this surreal tale about repressed love.

Été (UK)
A simple story set in the countryside. A sheap shearer has an attraction to a co-worker but it seems that he does not know hot to confront his one-sided feelings.

Sailor's Delight (France)
An animation film about a mermaid trying to seduce two sailors but everything is not going to happen as expected. Sailors are gay and they in turns capture mermaid.

Killer Friends (USA)
This was actually a funny film. Four friends go on a camping trip that one won't be coming back from alive.

Mój koniec swiata (Poland) [The End of My World]
Eryk leaves Filip and disappears without a trace after few years together. Heartbroken Filip convinces himself that the end of the relationship is also the end of his world. He doesn't know yet that a new day is going to bring many reflections, changes and ground-breaking decisions.

Whats Up with Adam? (UK)
Adam is a confused college student who begins to help his classmate Toby with french lessons. He is attracted to Toby but his best friend wants him to hook up with a girl. Will Adam confess his attraction to Toby?

Mr. A (USA)
A curious teenager finds his teacher's profile on a gay internet dating site. His daring fantasies have serious consequences for both.

The Mess He Made (USA)
The longest 15 minutes of a man's life as he awaits the news of his HIV results. He fucked up, and in the process may have just changed his life. A simple yet powerful short film by an amazing performance by lead actor.

Boyfriend (USA)
You've met the perfect guy and he seems wonderful with amazing chemistry but something is holding him back. Of course, he has a boyfriend!

Call Your Father (USA)
On Josh and Greg's first date, they quickly realize that the generational divide between them. Greg is the older nice guy who will not standup against the obnoxious, I know it all, millennial Josh. A brilliant and relatable film.

The Signs (USA)
A girl tries to flirt with a mute guy, only to find out through sign language by another guy that the first guy was gay.

Trophy Boy (USA)
James, a sexy, youthful instagram star in high-society and self-proclaimed 'Trophy,' is dumped by his wealthy benefactor. Now he must learn that the real world is not the facade he's built for himself on social media. Wonderful!

Debut (Croatia)
A young farmer dreams of becoming a football star. But before pursuing his ambition on the pitch, he must face the truth about who he really is.

Writhing (USA)
Part work of ethereal realism, part dance film, this contemporary-set short follows a young man facing the probability of an HIV+ diagnosis. Another film about the subject and how an individual reacts to the whole possibility.

Je T'aime - a Musical (France)
Johannes is about to move to London with his girlfriend. At the last moment he realizes he  is actually in love with someone else, a priest.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Jonas (French) [Boys]

The english title 'Boys' for the wider audience is a bad and such a common title, that it doesn't tell us anything. Now that I have gotten this out of my mind, lets focus on the film which focuses on Jonas over two timelines which is a decade apart. An event from his teenage years haunts him with the guilt he’s carried around since being a teenager.

Jonas is a 30 something troubled young man. He picks up fights at the popular gay bar and sleeps around. His boyfriend has had enough of it and ultimately dumps him. But all this volatile behaviour has something to do with his past. Meanwhile we also see that Jonas has been stalking this young man everywhere but we don't see the connection until later. Flash back to 1997 when Jonas as a teenager meets the rebellious new student Nathan. Jonas immediately has crush on Nathan and they become good friends. The friendship. and eventually curios love blossoms and is depicted quite well. When they share their first kiss, the sparks are immediately felt. But a serious incident happens where Nathan gets kidnapped or murdered, we will never know and Jonas was the only one with him that night. Finally we see the connection that this young man is Nathan's brother and all Jonas is trying to seek is forgiveness.

This movie is a very emotional yet charged movie. Its hard to even imagine the pain that Jonas must be going through to pick up all the fights and behave the way he does. The director teases out the answers slowly and carefully, capturing our hearts even before the full picture comes into focus. The acting is brilliant by everyone. Everyone is so good, especially the guy playing Jonas that you feel you’re experiencing the film’s events as if you were walking in his shoes. As a teenager he’s shy, lacking in confidence and a bit awkward but always very endearing. As an adult he’s a lot harder, visibly troubled and struggling to move on with his life. Our life gets shaped by events that happen with us and this movie is a wonderful example of that. My one big problem with this film is the finale. It felt a bit rushed and I would have loved to see some kind of closure.

This film is not going to disappoint you. You will want to know what's going on and why Jonas behaves the way he does. You wonder how his life would be today, if the said incident did not happen. A movie succeeds when it makes you think and this film does a wonderful job of it. You just need to be patient. (7/10)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

M/M (German / French)

This film is a good example of self absorption and sexual obsession. And no I didn't mean this for the characters but for the makers who keep going on and on about saying whatever they were trying to say through this film.

Matthew, a young Canadian, now lives in Berlin but is too lonely and isolated in the new strange city. He meets Matthias online, an attractive, seemingly interesting young man with the body of a God and the swagger of a bad boy. Matthew soon becomes obsessed with Matthias, so much that even after hooking up with him, he is not satisfied and wants to be him. When an accident puts Matthias in coma, that presents Matthew a perfect opportunity. In a coma in the hospital, Matthias’ waking life, dreams and memories blur. The film emds with Matthias coming back home and now Matthew and Matthias spending all time together, very similar to each other. But is it reality of dream?

The film is so full of repetitions of dreams, techno music, serial hook-ups, random geometric objects, that you keep checking how much longer this film is gonna go on. In fact during the entire film, after a while you fail to even care what's real and whats dream. This was pure self-absorption. How can anyone like this film when you don't even know what you are supposed to be watching. There are barely any spoken dialogues. The only one good thing about this film is the gorgeous greek god Matthias. My god! He is so deliciously handsome, its unfair. A perfect cast for the enigmatic Matthias. Matthew was ok.

I would not recommend watching this film at all. Almost nothing is good about this film. (2.5/10)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Malila: The Farewell Flower (Thai)

This is a film that looks at death from different perspectives with the pretext of a very gentle gay romance. It is about the invisible scars in the soul of a man and how he seeks redemption through Buddhism. The film has amazing visuals and starts off very promising. The cinematography is just brilliant. But I felt somewhere in latter half, I had personally lost the interest that was generated in the first half.

Pitch is a young man who is a skilled craftsman in making baisri, elaborate, multi-tiered floral ornaments made from jasmine and banana leaves. He has cancer and after trying for therapy in Bangkok and also herbal way, he has now moved back to his village. His belief is that overtime he makes baisri, he gets better. He meets his old love Shane, a rural farmer and they reconnect. Shane was married but when his girl was killed by a python, he started drinking heavily and his wife left. The two men rekindle their love and however hard they try, they cant escape death. Shane wows to become monk, hoping that maybe that will help Pitch. Destiny has something else in store. Pitch passes away and Shane is now a practicing monk. We then follow him as he treks into forests to practice meditation.The ending is a bit vague after Shane feels that he has finally one last time reconnected with Pitch via meditation on a rotting corpse.

The first half of the film is magic. It needs patience. The film moves really slow but the magical designs of the baisri are to die for. Those floral arrangements are so intricate and delicate, it just mesmerizes you. The film is about love and a bit the suffering of love. The guys being gay is never an issue, more because no one knows about them. But this is about love embracing death. Its through mention of witches, rotting corpses, python and Pitch's death scares that we see different pretexts of death. As an actor Shane does an amazing amazing job. His character is a man haunted by death; not his own, but of those he loves (first daughter and then lover). He walks around with a weight on his shoulders, unable to comprehend the harsh truth of life, that we all sometimes wish was eternal. The second half gets a little too slow and preachy for my taste and I wish it was either trimmed down or something more substantial had happened. The high that the first half created was let down for me in second half. The story has been handled with grace and warmth and a gentle yet reassuring touch about life and death. The film , in my opinion, has a lot of metaphors , which unfortunately, I am not smart enough to comprehend but I can totally see how and why some movie critics would go gaga over the film. No wonder this was Thailand's official nomination for oscars as well.

If the pace of the film was better, especially in second half, I would have rated this film very high. But still how does on deal with their own imminent death and how does the loved ones deal with it after you are gone, is something that gets a new meaning with this really profound, heart-touching gay love story. (6.5/10)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Akron

Sometimes simple is beautiful and powerful. This small budget film, whose name I have not heard anywhere at all, is a beautiful love story, where our lead protagonists kist happen to be in gay and in love. This could very well have been about a straight couple, because the focus is on love and relationship and the challenges. The fact that the boys are gay is never ever discussed or is ever a point of contention and I absolutely loved this fact about this small-indie yet beautiful film.

The film starts when a young mother accidentally runs over a small boy who's walking with his brother and his mother crying in disbelief. Years forward, we now meet Benny studying for medicine in university of Akron. He meets Christopher, who was born in Akron but later moved to Florida with his mom. They soon fall head over heels in love with each other and Benny's parents also love Christopher. They decide to go to Florida on their spring break. Just before the trip, when Christopher is at Benny's house, he finds that Benny had an elder brother who was killed in a road accident. Christopher realizes that it was his mom who was responsible but keeps his mouth shut. In Florida, when Christopher's mother realizes this, she cant help but tell the truth to Benny. Benny is devastated and he decides to come back to Akron. Realizing that Christopher knew about this and still chose to not tell Benny makes him want to break from him as well. Benny's parents see their miserable but cannot understand why. On prodding, when Benny tells them the truth, they appreciate their son's gesture. But true love cannot be held back for long. They boys soon realize that they miss each other and get back together but this is not liked by Benny's parents. This is when Christopher's mother flies in from Florida, asks for a heartfelt apology from Benny's mother and begs her to forgive so that both their sons could lead a happy life. Benny's father talks with his wife to try harder to forgive past and live in future, finally the love of the boys is accepted by the family.

The first scene of the boy dying in the accident first feels irrelevant until the connections are made and you are shocked and wonder what will happen. The drama is never over the top. Benny processes the new found information and decides to go back home. He doesn't breakup with Christopher because of the accident issues but because Christopher knew and didn't tell him. Benny is deeply divided in his duties towards his grieving yet very very supportive parents vs his love. I personally was hoping that the teens would stay away being responsible individuals and it would be the parents that will bury their hatchet and bring the boys together. I think that would have added a different dimension rather than the above story but this also was very realistic. All the actors seem new and this is what adds to the freshness of the whole love angle. The film clearly reminds one of first love, teen love and innocent love at that – whether gay or straight. And as I mentioned above, there’s something nice about watching a gay relationship treated with normalcy, free of the baggage. The lead actors are both very charming and act really well.

The film will be no game changer. If you ignore the random title that doesn't justify the movie, the movie offers a fresh perspective rather than rehashing done to death gay stories. The 90 minutes breeze by quick and very engaging. It has flaws, like every film, but I am really really surprised why this tiny indie gem of a film is not getting mentioned in more forums. The film definitely deserves to be seen by a lot more people. I urge my followers to please watch this film. (7.5/10)

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Very English Scandal (Mini Series) (UK)

Wow! There are so many real life stories that most of us had no idea about. Thankfully with so many platforms, a few of them come to the screen. This mini series is based on the life of Jeremy Thorpe, who was the leader of the British Liberal Party and his lover (former) Norman Scott. Their's is a very interesting story and these 3 parts of almost one-hour each were very engrossing.

Jeremy Thorpe is a highly educated, upper-class man belonging to a political family. His career was at its peak in 60s and 70s during which he also served as the leader of the Liberal Party. Thorpe meets a scrappy stable boy Norman Scott in the countryside and one year later they sort of begin a relationship. Norman is slightly unstable while Thorpe is a public figure. The relationship doesn't last long and soon Normal is out of his life. But Norman doesn't take it well and goes to ops to file a case against Thorpe against homosexuality which was still illegal in 1960s in UK. but the police covers the case. Meanwhile, with a fellow MP's help, Thorpe keeps financially supporting Norman since all he wants from Thorpe is his National Insurance Card. Thorpe gets married and surprisingly so does Norman after a few years but neither marriage lasts. Thorpe remarries to keep his public profile. But Norman has had enough and he constantly threatens to make this information public making Thorpe want him dead. Eventually his friends help Thorpe in a stupidest plot of killing Norman, which does not go well. Norman is saved and now Thorpe and his allies are charged against murder conspiracy. the case which is shown publicly with full details proves Thorpe as not guilty but his career is finished by then.

This series is surprisingly real yet funny and weird with bizarre twists. If you dig deeply, you will also find it slightly heartbreaking. The 2 men loved each other and I feel they did even till the case was on, and towards to end of the series we se why Thorpe's actually went into a relationship with Norman while others were just one night stands. Hugh Grant playing Jeremy Thorpe is absolutely brilliant. He is eccentric and slightly over the top but apparently thats how the real Jeremy Thorpe was. He is brilliant in the last scenes when he realizes he still loved Norman and his two marriages have actually made him more alone than ever. Norman's character is slightly mysterious. He seems naive, mentally unstable, vulnerable yet fearlessly gay and sometimes dangerous to get things done when they were not supposed to. The whole scene of the hired killer (a local pilot) plan and execution of the attempt to kill Norman is brilliant and funny at the same time. There are so many oddball elements — both funny and shocking — that you sometimes can't believe how strange the lives of Thorpe and Scott actually were. The series was thoroughly engaging and entertaining and in fact if there were a few more episodes and this was stretched out, I wouldn't have mind at all. There are light comic moments plenty spread out in the series. It is a drama as brutally funny, endlessly clever, justifiably confident as its protagonist. Thorpe eventually died in 2014 but Norman is still alive and healthy.

Very strongly recommended. It is informative, partly funny, real story and very very engaging. You will also see some brilliant performances from the lead actors which surely is gonna fetch them some awards. I must say that BBC does far and few series with central gay themes but when they do, they always come up with some brilliant stories. And its scandalous to even imagine that all this happened very publicly in 70s. A very english scandal indeed. (9/10)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Cola de Mono (Spanish)

The title of the film as told to us in the film refers to a eggnog-like drink popular in Chile during the holiday season. Later we are also told that it could also be a homophobic slur about anal sex. A story of two teenage brothers, I had some hopes from the film, especially since it started off so well. But it went complete downhill before it regained in last 20-ish minutes. This could have been a decent low budget gay film but some things are not meant to be.

Its Christmas eve in 1986. Borja is a loner teenager who likes to dream about films. Its his passion, just like his father. His elder brother Vincent is a reader and their mother is another oddball. They come together for Christmas eve dinner after which secrets come out. Vincent goes to his friend's home, a lie to cover the fact that he is going to a gay cruising park. While the drunk mother is sleeping, Borja goes through Vincent's stuff in his room and discovers his. gay porn books and jock straps which makes him very horny and he realizes his own sexuality. Vincent gets mugged at the park and comes back home dejected and the brothers have a huge fight over sexuality issues. Borja challenges Vincent on why doesn't he accept who he is rather than denying. While the brothers are talking and find solace in each other, the mother wakes up and hears everything and attacks Vincent. As an instant reflex, Borja attacks his mother. Cut to 1999. Borja is now living with his boyfriend but still has horrid dreams about gay attacks. Finally he goes to visit his family's grave to tell them that he is forever moving to SF to learn film making. But a chance sexual encounter with the cleaner leads to his death as well.

This film could have been a nice erotic thriller but I felt that the director got too much self-absorbed and could not make heads or tale of what he wants to say. Despite great acting, good looking actors, pretty good production quality, the film is let down by a trash script. The scenes where Borja is exploring Vincent's room is stretched way too long just to increase eroticism for no reason whatsoever. There is more than enough penis shots in the film. After a mediocre slowness, the film does pick up pace when the two brothers have a fight. That's a very good scene and paced well but again it slows down with Borja's dreams. The only good things about the film is the 2 extremely charming actors who give it their all but sadly the film itself lets them down.

There are better films that show sudden eruption of suppressed desires and this movie itself could have been a great film. Sadly, the writer and the director got carried away in self-indulgence. (4/10)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Boy Erased

It is very refreshing to see more and more mainstream films being made on queer themes and more actors wanting to take risks in playing roles which otherwise they wouldn't have. I have seen a couple other films on the theme of gay conversion therapy, but this, as far as I know, is the first mainstream film to focus on the subject. Based on the memoirs written by Garrad Conley, this film take us on a journey of a family as they all deal with Garrard's homosexuality.

The film starts with barely 20-something Jared checking into a gay conversion therapy program with his mother Nancy. His father, Marshall, is a priest in Arkansas who constantly reminds his congregation that they are all imperfect people and that only faith can make them whole. Through a series of flashbacks, we get to understand how does Jared reach here. He had a girlfriend but was never really sure of his sexuality. We get to see 2 different encounters:one in which he is raped by a classmate one night in college dorm and the other in which he spends a night with another boy just holding hands and doing nothing more. An anonymous phone call from the college, force Jared to be out and confront his sexuality. On his father's insistence, he agrees to want to change and enroll in the gay conversion therapy program not knowing anything about it. Once inside the program, Jared realizes what exactly is going on. He tries his best to fit it but eventually gives up feeling more comfortable about who he is. Thankfully he gets full support from his mother, who so far was just obeying wishes of his father. Jared leaves home and moves to NY and becomes a famous writer, educating people about his experiences in the conversion therapy program. 4 years pass and his relationship with his dad has not changed. The final scenes show an attempt by both individuals in taking that extra step to resolve the hard relationship that they share.

This film may not be everyone's cup of tea but then this is a very important film. It is slow and hence needs a patient viewing. Russel Crowe does a good job as a conservative but soft-edged father, who is asked to question his bigoted values at last. Nicole Kidman fits well as the supportive mother. The scene stealer is of course Jared, showing so well of all the complications going on inside him. Scenes in the conversion facility are also surprisingly textured and quite detailed. They are restrained but still make your blood boil as audience but not disrespectful. The kids respond in very different ways — some trying to fall in line, others resisting at moments, still others keeping their own counsel — and this seems truthful. But the script fails to give more context to these other members in the camp who would have added more substance. I guess based on the statistics shown at the end credits, the idea is to put an end to such kind of therapy but that will only happen if concerned parents can be convinced that it does more harm than good. And that's why the scenes between Jared and his parents are even more important.

It is scary what we do to ourselves and our families. This is a dramatization of a real life horror. While left a bit on the surface, the eventual transformation of Nancy and Marshall is what sets this film apart. Be patient and watch the film because it has something very important to say. (7.5/10)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Mario (Swiss German)

If you read the summary of the film which says " a love story of gay footballers", you will think you have seen a few films before on the subject and thats exactly what OI thought too. But the treatment and the focus of this film is different and actually much deeper. The sexuality is not brushed aside but the focus is more on how to deal with it in 2018 and like one man says in the movie that its ok to be gay but not ok for sportsmen. A beautiful love story that grows slowly and ends open ended. I am glad I saw this film.

Mario, early 20s, is the start striker player of his team, highest scorer and has a big chance to being promoted to the main squad. Things change slightly, when another star player Leon from Germany is added to the team. Since he is also a striker, pretty soon him and Mario share an amazing chemistry on the football field. Mario has been so busy with the game that he has not had chance to think about his sexuality but he cannot help but notice the very good looking yet mysterious Leon. For their benefit, the 2 are put in same players flat near college and soon enough they fall for each other after initial denials by Mario. Leon is a confident man and knows what he wants but Mario is struggling hard to balance love and the game. Its not long before rumors start floating and we see how Mario is struggling. The club board calls them both individually with their agents for truth but of course they both deny. Although later, they do tell the truth to their agents and coach promises to support them as long as they can control. One of the team players bullies them, but they keep cool. Leon is clear that he will chose love over football but Mario has other plans. He constantly denies their relationship and even happily agrees to be seen with a girlfriend (his best friend from a long time) to refute the rumors. Things work for Mario when he gets promoted to the main squad but Leon gets suspended for losing his cool and openly admitting to his sexuality in front of the team members. He leaves Mario and Mario now moves to Germany to play but you can see he is torn and cannot forget Leon. Finally Mario decides to visit Leon in hope to rekindle love, but its probably too late by now.

Even though, the film is essentially a love story, the title clearly suggests that we will be seeing this more from Mario's point of view. The actors acting where he portrays the confusion between his affection and desire for Leon and the dream of a potentially great soccer career is superb and this happens on more than one occasion. He never though of love and when love came to him, he wasn't prepared. And hence he always rejects every move from Leon but goes back to him right after, just like their first kiss or their trip and hotel room scenes. Leon is the only one who gets him, and my god, he is soo good looking and handsome. The love in his eyes for Mario is undeniable and he is ready to sacrifice everything to be with Mario because he has enough experience to know that true love doesn't come easily. I did like the fact that the film doesn't judge them for being gay. Be it their agents, or family (except father) or friends; they all are ok with it. What they are not ok with is the fact that they are lovers and playing for same team and no one is ever gonna accept the fact and hence they have to keep it a secret. Also the club has invested too much in Mario, so they also can't completely dismiss him. Some of the supporting characters like Mario's best friend and his mother and are also fleshed out quite well. You may think it's one of the regular run-of the mill gay movies that may titilate but trust me its much deeper. When you drill down below that veneer you experience the real pain and consequence of the real world. Making choices in life is not easy, especially given the homophobia in sports field.

Great chemistry between the leads, very humane moments throughout and a very realistic approach make this film a must watch. The ending is something that not everyone would like, but hey! life is not always about happy endings. Two protagonists choose two very different paths for themselves. Strongly recommended. (8.5/10)

Friday, November 2, 2018

C.R.A.Z.Y. (Canadian French)

This film has been on my list to watch for a long time, especially since it features in a lot of lists that talk about the best LGBT films of all times. And boy , were those lists right. Running over a period of little over 2 hours, its like watching the complete journey of a family. The story of Zac, a young gay man dealing with homophobia while growing up with four brothers and a conservative father in Quebec during the 1960s and 1970s is so well shot and told and you feel intruding into the families life. Sure, the film may not be perfect but it is definitely an amazing film to watch and not feel the love for it.

The film essentially focuses on Zac, fourth son of Gervais and Laurianne, who is born on Christmas eve prematurely. His brothers include Bookworm Christian, shiftless drug addict Raymond, dumb jock Antoine and youngest Yvan (and hence the title). Zac and his father share a very special loving relationship which officially comes to an end when Gervais comes home to find Zac dressed in his mother's clothes. Zac feels he is different and so does the mother but daily prays to god to make him normal. When he does a shotgun joint with his cousin's boyfriend at the age of 15, Zac's confusion starts growing about his sexuality. He doesn't feel comfortable enough to "do it" with his girlfriend Michele with the excuse that it will ruin their friendship. Eventually with strong will and after an accident, Zac begins a relationship with Michelle much to the relief of his father but his relations with Raymond continue downhill. Things are ok till Gervais sees Zac coming out of car with another boy adjusting his crotch and the war between father and son continues. Post his 20th birthday, at his eldest brother's wedding Zac shares another shotgun with the same guy but are seen by a guest who thought they were kissing. Raymond and Gervais overhear this and Raymond gets into a fight. Gervais confronts Zac in the pouring rain, and Zac admittedly comes out, yelling that while he was not kissing Paul, he wished he had been. Gervais asks Zac to leave. Zac flies to Jerusalem to reinvent himself and explore his sexuality. With much guilt and restraint, he does end up sleeping with a guy. He comes back home, only to find Raymond in hospital because of overdose which leads to his ultimate death. After the funeral, Gervais hugs Zac emotionally. and finally father and son will share and accept each other for who they are.

The big focus of the film is on father-son relationship and is very endearing to see it. As parents, in 60s-70s they want what's best for their son and talk at nights on what would be best for them but children want something else. The three actors who play Zac are all brilliant, especially the youngest one. His eyes speak a lot and the look of confusion as a kid when he wants something else for present, but gets something else; who wants to be close to his father and occasionally gets close but is shunned again is beautifully displayed. There is love between the two. An unspoken bond. And Zac wants to do everything that will please his father but how long will he be able to control who he really is. I absolutely loved the fact that the father is not portrayed as a villain here and this shows the strength of screenplay and wonderful acting y all principal characters. How do you accept your sexuality, how do you make your parents and siblings accept who you are, and how do you continue to be a single family unit? These are not easy answers and the struggle can never be understood by anyone who has not had a personal journey like this. Another good thing is that there is never anything shown graphically and its completely plot driven. Its so weird that I am feeling at a loss of words on how much I liked and appreciated the movie. There are so many scenes that touch your heart. You feel for Zac but you also feel for father and his inhibitions. One of the later scenes when Zac finds one of the records in Jerusalem of his father's favorite album is so good. Even though the film is coming-of-age drama and family entertainer; in my view it is very focussed on a father and son. The film could be a much better series, if more focus was also given to other brothers besides Zac and Raymond.

The movie is good not because of a complicated twisty plot but rather really well acted and created characters. A touching portrait of family life, this film is not perfect but I can't imagine why would anyone not like the film. (8/10)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Happy Prince (UK)

We have seen a few film on Oscar Wilde, but this films focusses on the latter part of his life and the his tragic final days. The film's title alludes to the children's story by Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and Other Tales, which Wilde would read aloud to his children. The film shows aspects that at least I wasn't aware of. However, the film shows events in a non-chronological order which means you have to focus really hard to keep up on whats happening.

The film focuses on post 1895 when Wilde was convicted for 2 years for “gross indecency with men.” because of his indiscreet affair with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas. Once out of the prison, His friends re surprised to find that he has resumed his affair with Bosie, which leads to both his allowance from his wife and Bosie's allowance to get cutt off, leaving them with nothing. This is when Bosie leaves Wilde. This is the time when Oscar neglected his faithful friends Robbie and Reggie when Robbie was actually in love with Oscar. Wilde now has befriended a young Paris rent boy and his young brother and spends most of his time with them. Now his times are spent on death bed, with able support from Robbie and Reggie while his ex-lover Bosie completely ignores him when he needs financial help. The ending is sombre and heartbreaking with his death.

Skipping back and forth across his exile period, this film actually shows us a kind of rough love triangle between Wilde, manipulative Bosie and Robbie, Wilde’s more tenderly devoted literary executor. And this triangle alternately intensifies and dissipates across years and European borders. Apparently the film may not have been based on absolute true facts. Were his final days really that bad and his exile really like the one shown, but the film actually does a good job of paying a tribute to Oscar Wilde. Rupert Everett is amazing in the titular role and he puts all his worth in a role and does an absolutely marvelous job. I am not sure why Robbie would always standby Oscar but people do strange things when it comes to love. All the other actors have also done a great job. There are a quite a few suggestive gay scenes but nowhere there is unwanted nudity which keeps the film's possibility to be seen beyond just gay audience. I am not sure I know enough about Oscar Wilde, but my one issue with the film is I felt he was shown more as a total alcoholic loser, rather bitchy and quite selfish. The film is never less than interesting and often fascinates.

I would recommend to watch this film for the incredible acting and also getting to know what Wilde's final years post exile were like. Having said that, its non-linear format is not everyone's cup of tea. (6.5/10)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Flow (Canada)

This was such a random experimental film. These are the kind of films that make me wonder that in the name of "different" cinema, some film makers are ready to offer all sorts of garbage and expect that audiences should lap it up. Come on.. we are better than that.

The film starts with a documentary style focusing on 22-something Chinese gay film maker who talks about his work and love life with an unseen friend behind the camera. The maker also gives an ode to his mother. Before you realize, the film shifts to showing 4 of the directors short films.  "Hysterio Passio" shows images of men's passions. In "Matricide," a lawyer asks a young gay Chinese why he killed his mother on Christmas morning. In "Key in the Heart," a heroine (an Asian man in drag) pursues vampires. In "Fall, 1990," college students meet their roommates, and Jimmy, an edgy scholarship boy without a family, is slowly brought to an understanding of love by the callow Byron.

Yes, this is what the above film is about. A sheer waste of time. I had to fast forward and watch this piece of garbage. Besides the last short film, which was actually pretty decent, everything else about this film is total rubbish. The producers of this film need to extract the last short and release it as an individual gay short film and they will make more money. I really don't feel like wasting anymore of my energy by writing anything more about this film. Please don't waste your time on this one at all. (2/10)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Sueño En Otro Idioma (Spanish) [I Dream In Another Language]

What a visually stunning film! I haven't seen a gay themed film which is shot so beautifully and esthetically, in a long time. There are lush tropical landscapes, crystal clear water, attractive people that you can connect with and amazing performances. The film is not just about the dying language Zikril ((an imaginary dialect invented for the film) but also about understanding the world, perspectives that are lost when we fail to show sufficient curiosity in the generations and cultures that have come before.

A young, good looking researcher Martin turns up in a small jungle settlement in search of last speakers of the dying language Zikril. Isauro and Evaristo are the only 2 remaining men who speak the language but interestingly they have not spoken to each other in a long time. Isauro unfortunately understands and speaks only Zikril but everyone else including Evaristo can speak Spanish too. With the help os Evaristo's daughter, Martin tries to bring the two guys together but a haunting episode from past stops them from coming close to each other. We find out that they both fell in love with same girl 50 years ago but Evaristo won her, also because Isauro didn't speak Spanish. Later we see that there is more to the story. The men actually love and like each other a lot, even sexually and enjoy it. But soon, religious guilt starts forming in Evaristo, asks forgiveness from the girlfriend who knows the truth and has a huge fight with Isuaro, indirectly blaming him for the gay tendencies and love. The grand-daughter knows the details because of the grandmother but they cant tell Evaristo. The 2 men briefly talk but soon their differences creep again. Isuaro unfortunately dies soon, and even after pleading by everyone to say his goodbye, Evaristo in his ego does not do that. Inevitably, there’s a bit of myth woven into it all, in the shape of a magical cave where all the speakers of Zikril go when they die, which I think brings a wonderful aspect to the whole story.

The film is directed with emotions and tenderness. I absolutely loved the connections that people shared with one another, the genuine respect and admiration they have. The 2 main protagonists, both in old age and in flashbacks do a fantastic job of portraying the conflicts that their characters are going through. As mentioned above, this film is not just about a dying language. It also depicts clash of sexuality, personal aspirations and how its not easy to make sense of harsh life. it is a film about roots. Deep roots, from language to fairy tales and myths to secrets defining a strange, forbidden love story. A film about a dying universe. About reconciliation. Having said these nice things, I did have some issues about the film. I am still not very clear why they would completely stop speaking. Agreed, the religious guilt is way too much for Evaristo but still why hold the grudge so long? I wonder if that was something to do with grandma. The ending when Isuaro says something in Zikril to Martin, which is only later translated to him by Evaristo , sort of summarizes the film. Look for the translation below. And, finally to martin. A gorgeous man and even amazing values. Thats the kind of man I would want for myself. Just saying!!

This film is not for everyone. Most people will find it very slow. But you really have to invest in the individuals to appreciate the nuances of the film and and the idea. The lines below tell you the relationship between the two men. (8/10)

Goodbye my friend... my best friend
All that was unsaid... will remain unsaid
but in "The Enchantment" I will think about those things 
... and I will also think of you
my friend... my best friend

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

La Virgen de los Sicarios (Spanish) [Our Lady Of The Assassins]

This was a very interesting film, filmed in a very guerilla style probably using video cameras and what not. The violence somehow still seamlessly weaves throughout the film which is filled with social realism. The film does take us through the grim reality of the city of Medellin in Colombia, which thankfully I know a lot more about having recently watched the Narcos series. I was, hence, thankfully able to relate to the film better.

50-something Fernando meets 16-ish young handsome gay boy Alexis at a party and instantly has a liking for him. They both get into a very organic relationship naturally. Fernando has recently moved back to his city after years and they both walk around talking about the changes that this city has gone through. Alexis, though super young, does carry a gun with him, like most people in Medellin, just in case, he ever gets attacked for his own safety. Even though Fernando has come home to die, his sarcastic views on the city and everyday robbery, violence, and shootings is mellowed somewhat by his relationship with Alexis. Alexis becomes very protective of Fernando and kills at least 4 people who disrespect him. The love grows but so does the fact that there will be an assassination attempt on Alexis. Having dodged it twice, the killer do end up killing Alexis. Sad and gloomy, a year passes and Fernando mets Wilmer, another 16 year old bearing a striking resemblance to Alexis. They soon begin a relationship but Fernando is shocked to find out that it was Wilmar who killed Alexis. Vowing to kill Wilmar, Fernando changes his mind when he finds the reason and instead convinces Wilmar to leave the country with him for a better life. But life has other plans and Wilmar gets killed too. Seeing that the vicious cycle of atrocities in Medellín denies happiness, Fernando presumably commits suicide.

At first i wasn't really sure, where the film is headed but there were quite a few things that were very likeable about the film. The way the interactions had been between Fernando and Alexis, there seemed to be a genuine love and care for each other. Initially what seemed like a convenience of money and youth, was a mistake and there was love. The morality of their arrangement of course is irrelevant in a city with no morality and where killings happen for no reason whatsoever. Fernando's character brings a charm of sarcasm on how the city has change and also educates us through some of the history of the town. But at times, it gets a bit too much. However, I think most of it was needed to explore the growing relationship between 2 guys with a huge age gap. There is a charm and comfort that the 2 men share which is repeated in his relationship with Wilmer as well. The film actually could easily have been delegated to being a documentary and a boring film, if not for the charming and very likeable actors. With the direction, I feel a very realistic portrayal of Medellin has been shown and ironically now I wish to visit the place. The title of the film comes from Fernando's ambivalence about religion, and the fact that the he keeps finding himself in cathedrals for reflection on life.

This film is not for everyone. Most people will find it boring and pointless but I feel there was an odd charm to the film. The killings are not gratuitous, they are there to make a point and show you what realistically people are living there. Its not a bad film by any means but will need patience and an odd sense of humor to appreciate the film. (6.5/10)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Make It Right: Season 2 (TV Series) (Thai)

Finally, after watching 14 episodes of the season 2, a total time of about 11-ish hours, I am ready to review the season 2 of this Thai hit TV show. My review of the season 1 is here.

Actually not much has changed between the previous season and this one. The stories and love between the couples continue over all these episodes. Tee and Fuse are still the primary couple. Fuse is back with his girlfriend Jean and despite all signs, he fails to believe that she can cheat but finally comes to senses towards the middle of series. Tee, in the meanwhile sticks with him through, except for once when an old friend from previous school comes. But that also helps asa. catalyst for Fuse to realize his feelings for Tee. The second couple is Frame and Book. Thy continue with their love but when an old video of Book having sex with a stranger goes viral online, it has repercussions on their love and everything around Book. He even attempts suicide but Frame stands by him and is there for hi every single step of the way to bring Book out of this mess. As with season 1 , there are other couples as well, but we do get to see a little more of couple 3, which is Mo and Yok. Yok is the friendly yet very effeminate guy in school and Mo, who was supposedly straight so far, eventually falls in love for Yok. Their story walks us through the acceptance of their love for each other, their first intimate moments and Yok's mother finally accepting him for who he is.

The series just follows these three couple and few of their friends with their day to day activities involving food, laughter, love, friendship and at time social evils. This season they thankfully didn't focus on forced product placements but sadly also didn't focus at all on Fuse's sister. She was a fun character and I personally would liked to have seen what happens with her. But I guess this series is more popular in Thailand because of the cutest boys. Frame and Book are still the best couple, they act really well and their chemistry is the only one that is believable. The way they look into each others eyes is completely believable. All the problems of lengthy episodes, side stories and random content is still true. Fuse and Tee still lack the chemistry that Book & Frame share. But I liked the fact that a lot of focus was done on showing how Book deals with the shame that comes with internet stuff going viral and how your true love stands for you every single step of the way. Frame has the best character development in overall series. From a playboy sleeping around in season 1 to a very devoted, in love boyfriend for Book, who wows to take care of Book for entire life is awesome. You all will wish a boyfriend like Frame. Having said that, its a bot funny to watch the delayed reactions of most people and the way some folks react but as I said before, maybe thats how it is culturally and I got used to it much quicker this time.

This season was slightly better than first one, but at almost 11 hours of total screen time, this is a huge commitment to watch. I wish someone edits this series really well and crispy and presents it. I can almost bet that it will overall do much better globally amongst the gay audience, if someone could do that. I wish I had the skills to edit the show. But then who cares if the makers got the audience in their Thai teenagers in their country. (5.5/10)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Henry Gamble's Birthday Party

This film is less about being gay but more about struggles of people trying to reconcile with their complexities of adulthood, with their Christian lifestyle, their religious beliefs, sex and the changing modern world. To be honest, maybe this film should not even be here on this blog, but then given the title and the fact that our protagonist Henry is struggling with his own sexuality is reason good enough for me to write down a few lines.

Henry is turning 17 and his parents are throwing a birthday pool party. His father Bob is a pastor and clearly the family and surroundings are very religious. HIs sister is also back from college for this. The parents have also invited some adults from the church. Introductory scene hints that Henry may have a crush on his best friend who is sleeping over. Kids from church arrive and more form his school. Soon a sort of segregation starts between the church kids and secular kids. When Logan arrives, he is a shy kid, rumored to be gay and that creates all sorts of anxiety amongst everyone. Every adult is going through issues and longings and secrets, including Henry's mother who shares her secret with their daughter. The film just continues with some adults giving up inhibitions and "free-ing" themselves. Towards the end, Henry does realize that Logan's affection and liking for him is not just one-aided and maybe Henry also has feelings for Logan. The film ends with Henry asking Logan for a sleepover and a kiss.

There are some very tender moments in the film and then some wtf scenes too. The whole movie is directed in a way where the focus is on all individuals and I wonder if the idea was to show the suppression that the folks are going through. An adult wanting to drink wine but cant, a daughter wants to go swimming but doesn't because of her over-bearing mother, a disturbed kid Keith (who we don't know much about), Affair of Henry's mother, boosting sexual energies of the kids and the secret glances from Logan to Henry; all these are like watching a French ensemble film. Thankfully every actor does a good enough job of their character. No character is right or wrong, they all have affection and compassion but also confused sometimes because of their beliefs. The pressure to conform to standards. The characters were taught that life was simple. Yes, the focus was not just about exploring Henry's sexuality but it was a major part of it on how he sees everything around him and every small person around him makes him feel. I loved the scene when one of his classmates tells him that she is gay and hints that Henry should have known but soon realize that Henry is not open about himself or has even accepted it.

This film is NOT a simple story about coming out. That is a small part of a bigger picture of complex interactions, difficult life and beliefs. It doesn't resolve any conflict whatsoever, but being gay myself, I was happy to see Henry had hope surrounding him, and he is open to love lurking somewhere very close to him. (6/10)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Telo Bez Duse (Czech) (Documentary) [Body Without Soul]

This film portrays the one of the oldest tragedies in the public: Child prostitution. It shows the problems of living on the street, at such young age and how you get exploited. Although this specific documentary focuses on the city of Prague, but I cant imagine the situation being any different in a lot of other places. This graphic film depicts the appalling process by which young prepubescence and teen age boys in Prague are so skillfully lured into the eviscerated life of a male prostitute.

This documentary came out in 1996 and interview about 6-8 boys in the age range of 14-17 and their experiences. Each of the boy is asked same questions as to how did they come to Prague, how did they start and why, what are their challenges, issues that they face and the AIDS issue hanging over their head. Every single boy's story is very similar on how they are exploited by older gay men for their pleasure but they also admit that its the easiest money that they can make. They are ultimately lured into porn business and candid conversations with the film maker Pavel Rousek, who makes these films gives us a better insight into what really happens. The final question involves the boys perception of 'soul' and the overall message is that these lads sell their bodies as a career, but the soul is 'what you think', something that cannot be taken from you.

As a documentary, this is as real as it gets when dealing with a sensitive subject like this. And based on the subject material from this documentary, a film 'Mandragora' was also made which I had reviewed on my blog almost 10 years ago. This film is not easy top watch. There are difficult conversations but despite that hearing similar answers on the same questions 7-8 times dilute the overall impact of the documentary. If I could, I would edit this film , make it crisp and I think the message that needs to reach the audience will have a more powerful impact. The film can also be a introspection for teens who sometimes think that prostitution is a quick money and plentiful entertainment.

I would hesitate to recommend this documentary to a casual viewer. Its the old story of man's inhumanity to man. But despite that the documentary needs to be watched at least once. Its sickening, disturbing yet a truth of our society that we live in. (5/10)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Alex Strangelove

Of late we have been having a surge of coming out films, especially with more focus on teenage romance. Something that was a focus few years back. With mainstream films like Love, Simon; this genre is getting more popularity again. Netflix's film takes this genre forward and brings to us a tender coming-of-age story and the film is not without flaws. That doesn't take away the charm and smile that this film brings to your face.

Alex Truelove is a nerd who is too much into animals. He is the kind of guy who is not a jock but popular enough and friends with everyone, to even become class president. And he wonders if any girl ever would find him cool enough to ever be friends with him, forget dating. Enter Claire, who is as much of an animal nerd as him and they both instantly hit off. They go from friends to dating but to Claire's frustration, they have not gone all the way. But Alex doesn't care. He is not ready and doesn't think much about it. Soon we realize why. He meets Elliott at a party and they both instantly hit it off. There is a very strong mutual attraction that confuses Alex further. Though his friends tell him multiple times that they live in a world where they except him for whoever he is, even if gay; Alex never feels comfortable coming out. But thats more because he himself is not sure. A final break-up with Claire and childhood memories flaring back where he was once beaten as a kid for checking out guys, he finally admits to being gay. Claire then helps to bring Elliott and Alex together. After initial hesitation, Alex finally gives in and kisses his truelove.

Even though Alex is struggling with experimenting and eventually accepting his sexuality, thankfully the film focuses on showing the progress that we a a society have done. As his buddy Dell points out, their school is relatively open-minded when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. And Alex comes out as a genuine person, geeky but very comfortable with himself. The film is not trying to be too ambitious. The motive is to make a feel good teenage romance. The tender scenes between Elliott and Alex have been done really well. Elliott, who is openly gay senses something within Alex but he also understands having been kicked out of his father's house for being gay, as to why Alex might be holding back. I loved the fact that the film never gets over the top and over dramatic and is kept very real. Claire's character blends very well and is important to the narrative in shaping who Alex really is. All the actors playing their roles do a fantastic job. But like I mentioned earlier, the film offers nothing new. It’s best as an honest, progressive idea of a high school in 2018, but it comes with a fair amount of charm. Being a teenager is not easy. No matter how much the social environment around alternative sexuality shifts and clears, determining your own identity is never as easy as checking a box. And this film has a tender approach to show this.

Its a good charming, sometimes a silly film but its quite a distance from even coming close to the feel good factor of recently released Love Simon. Still, its not bad by any means because it does bring a smile to your face. (7/10)