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.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Falling For Angels (Web Series)

When you star watching this 6 part episodic web series from Here TV, you feel like this could easily have been 6 separate short stories, but they eventually all merge in the last episode. The biggest beauty is of the show is that it puts queer me of color at the center-stage. The common thread binding them all is LA and the 6 stories focus on 6 different neighborhoods of LA telling stories of a diverse, politically-active patchwork of gay and queer men as they fall in and out of love. Lasting at about 22-30 minutes each, they do manage to hold your attention.

Ep 1: Boyle Heights
A successful Latino lawyer has forgotten his latin roots until he encounters a fiery and sexy activist who brings about a cultural awakening. The coconut finally peels the layers.
Ep 2: Koreatown
A young Taiwanese-American man begins to have a different understanding of his heritage after meeting a Korean-American adoptee.
Ep 3: Leimert Park
A young African-American poet struggles to define what it means to be a man in Los Angeles. And parallely its a struggle for his lover and his future.
Ep 4: Bel Air
Married ten years, Bentley and Chase seem to have it all--a strong and loving union, as well as all the trappings of the good life. But, sadly, over time, the sizzle has gone out of the relationship and they are both cheating.
Ep 5: Silver Lake
Brendon thinks that his marriage to Jeffrey is losing its sizzle, and suggests they have a threesome with a sexy stranger. But after Star enters his life, Brendon starts regretting it and now there is no going back.
Ep 6: Malibu
Our former "angels" have all gathered in Malibu for Scott and Levi's wedding, which proves to be a lovely affair.

The first three episodes focus on cultural and sexual identity and it showed beautifully some of the conflicts that immigrants face. Despite being a third or fourth generation American, Latin, Asian, Black, Indian, everyone has to struggle with their identity and stay connected to their roots. If you don't , you are called names. Interestingly though, each of the stories had a positive message behind why you should connected to the roots. Stories 5 and 6 focused more on gay issues like monogamy, cheating, threesome and what not. But thank the lord! none of these stories were over-dramatic and were beautifully handled. I have the say that direction and acting in all of these episodes were pretty good. At times, the episodes felt stretched and it would be nice to close the chapters soon, but its alright. The material may not not be very much "in" today but its good to go back to the roots.

The episodes are a bit long but regardless they are real examinations of contemporary queer issues, relationships, and love in todays times. It does right by its audience by staying true to the lives they actually live. (6.5/10)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Daayra (Hindi) [The Square Circle]

I had been trying to get my hands on this film for a long time now. Actually ever since the movie came out in 1996 but was never officially released in the country. Thank you to the wonderful person, because of whom I finally managed to see the film. If you can somehow manage to ignore some inconsistent direction and discontinuity, you will actually be pretty surprised at the bold concept of the film. This is not strictly gay but the story of an unusual friendship, journey and love between a transvestite dancer and a gang raped woman who begins to dress up like a man.

A village girl is kidnapped on the eve of her wedding. She tries to run away but gets gang raped by 3 men. She meets a transvestite, an outcast, who has body of a man but is truly a female from inside and dances in villages to make ends meet; who ends up taking her under her wings. On the insistence, the girl decides to cut her hair and start dressing like a man and that would be the only way for her to survive. Hence begins a road journey on foot through villages meeting various people and questioning the whole idea behind sexual identity explained very well in multiple scenes by the leading actor playing transvestite. When the girl finally manages to reach back her home, her parents refuse to take her back and then there is this brief moment of romance between the two when transvestite decides to embrace the idea of being a man to be with the girl. But when the couple gets attacked by same three rapists, this time, he cannot save the girl and instead gets killed. His last wish before dying is to die like a woman.

The concept of sexual identity, gender fluidity and how we define man and woman is a very topical topic these days and dealing with that subject almost 23 years ago was a huge risk. No Indian maker even in today's time would dare tackle with this. So respect to the makers. The dialogues in the film are pretty amazing from the cultural point of view when the transvestite explains the trauma that she has been living with and was even forced to marry. The girl asks some some very interesting questions to which we hear some very relevant and powerful answers which really make you think.The most interesting thing about the film is that the characters have no names, because that itself would have biased the audience. A very smart move. The actors playing the role, especially Nirmal Pandey playing the transvestite is simply amazing. By the end of the movie, his portrayal wins over you. The girl as the forever hapless woman sometimes got on my nerves, but I guess thats how some of the teenage girls in villages are. The ending is a bit abrupt but when the girl says to him that she loves him, no matter what he is, it becomes a timeless lesson in the art of celebrating differences.

This movie deserves to be seen by a wider audience, celebrated, discussed and debated. It explores the rights of LGBTQ community in India.  It is a touching, witty, surprising journey through terrain that's unfamiliar and human dilemmas that aren't. Please discount the bad production and inconsistent direction, and you will thank the makers for dealing with this subject with utmost dignity , honesty and conviction that it deserved. (7/10)

Monday, March 25, 2019

Gay Short Films : 62

Mi Hermano (Spain [My Brother]
The news of his brother's sudden death forces Alberto (minus his boyfriend Nick) to come back to his oppressive hometown in Spain from Berlin. Only after arriving he finds out hat his brother committed suicide for not being supported by friends or family for being gay. Its time Alberto share his own secret.

Gay Dude (USA)
A funny short showing a guy coming out to his best girl friend.

Cerrojos (Spain) [Locks]
A very weird film where a guy is obsessed with his roommate and his anal bleeding. I felt he was also getting schizophrenic. The movie was long, weird and boring.

Room Closet (USA)
Teenagers Rafael and Dan explore the nature of their friendship when one of them shows signs of feelings that go beyond friendship.

The Cream (France)
A young man runs through the woods when he suddenly finds a man smearing a gel on his body. The boy will be surprised and trapped by the sensuality of the moment. Its a weird yet funny really short film.

Goldstar (USA)
Unexpected news of marriage and a sudden kiss redefines friendship of 2 black men playing basketball. It shows repressed homosexuality in black men.

Jetzt Jetzt Jetzt (Germany) [Beat Beat Beat]
Story about 3 friends Fabian, Bene, and Richard. Against Fabian's quiet protest, the friends ridicule outsider Jakob. The aggression escalates when one night the boys make their way into Jakob's room to bully him. Fabian can no longer repress his attachment to Jakob and confronts his friends.

Glory (Germany)
An old man is spared his life before a mass gay shooting when he decides to spend time in a porn cinema.

O Otci (Czech Republic) [About a Father]
Sixty-year old Jindrich is waiting for a heart transplant. His wife doesn't want their son to tell his father that he is gay, despite that he is visiting with his partner. Is, however, the worry about his health the real reason why she is making her children lie to their father?

Brújula (Spain) [Compass]
A scout guides his friend (and possibly lover) to learn to accept who he is and be comfortable with his sexuality.

Love You Thank You (USA)
When Lance receives a call from his ex boyfriend Adam to come see his exhibition, he relives the good and the bad in his past relationship to decide whether or not to see him that night. Slightly stretched but decent.

In The Dark (US)
This is a college gay romance between an athlete black guy and an openly gay white guy. Strictly ok!

I distesi (Italy) [Lying Bodies]
3 friends are spending summer together. Their attraction and physical connection is great but they will do anything to attract attention of one at a time and make love and passion.

Wederzijdse (Germany) [Bi-Sided]
Two young men of different background and ethnicities meet and fall in love. Surprisingly the black family is more accepting of the relationship than white family.

Grotto (USA)
A 20-year-old boy returns to his hometown after a year of big changes away at school. Very beautiful really short film.

What the Hell You Gonna Do in Stockholm? (Sweden)
Markus likes to dress up as a girl but in the small town, amongst his friends, he is torn between who he wants to be and what is expected of him.

100% hétéro (Paris)
A hilarious comedy snippet of a man trying to convince his friend he is straight despite sucking dick(s).

Honour Council (USA)
After taking down the top bully, high school outcast Wren faces off against a jury of peers in a fight for his identity and his future.

Pretty Dudes: Caught Gay-Handed (USA)
Sunji worries that he may have a private problem that the guys are unwilling to assist with. Zario is reminded of the first time he met Sunji and Ellington.

Scenes From Another Marriage (Canada)
When Alex and Chris attempt to reshoot Ingmar Bergman’s "Scenes From A Marriage" for the LGBT world, they find out that they-themselves might merely be pawns in another director’s game. And what's worse: he's straight. It's a nightmare which could threaten their relationship.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Third party (Filipino/Tagalog)

A romantic comedy film, this film has a very interesting premise when started but somehow somewhere in between, I felt the makers were confused as to what genre did they really wanna focus on. It was primarily drama but the comic scenes or dialogues were thrown in at random places, and I as an audience was quite confuse as to what mood should I keep while watching the film.

Max and Andi are a couple in college, but when Max decides to go to US for medical studies, she decides to break up with him because she doesn't believe in long distance relationships. 5 years later when he comes back home, he reaches out to Andi increasing her hope of getting back together but all her dreams are shattered when Max introduces her to his boyfriend, a fellow doctor Christian. Max convinces her that he i snot sure of he is gay but he knows that he loves Christian. 2 years later, the film gets in current time when Max and Christian have been together for 3 years and Andi is still struggling to get her events management business going. Christian is slightly controlling in the relationship and keeps pushing for the couple to adopt baby but Max is not sure, especially when his parents don't even know about him being gay. Around same time, Andi's boyfriend turns out to be a crook and she finds herself pregnant. She reaches out to her best friend Max for help and Christian sees this as an opportunity and they make a deal that the couple will adopt the baby and till then they will take care of all Andi's expenses. As expected, Andi sometimes longs for her ex-boyfriend; Max finds comfort remembering old days with Andi around and Christian is always worried if Andi is going to take his boyfriend away. Things go sour when finally the stress of relationships takes over and Max kisses Andi. Andi leaves home and Max and Christian decide to take a break. Sanity prevails soon and once the baby comes and a year later, everyone is happy in their space.

My big problem with this otherwise decent film is none of the characters are really sure what they are and what they want. Andi keeps telling herself she is over Max but secretly still longs at him. Max is still confused when Andi comes back in life whether he is gay or straight. When in one specific scene, he clearly says he is bi and its about person and not gender, the film could easily have gone to that route, instead of the cliche when Christian asks Max to pick either him or Andy. As an audience we are always confused as to who to empathize with, because all the characters are full of faults themselves but they expect perfection from the others. Some comedy scenes are over the top but I think thats a common scenario in filipino movies , so I will discount that for now. Max and christian's conflicts are cliché, and the solutions to their conflicts are grossly convenient and seemingly ill-suited. The last 10 minutes is so rushed when everything magically and very very conveniently comes along together. Max's parents are accepting, the couple is happy and even Andi is ok being a very good mother. It all felt very convenient. On the positive side, Max as an actor was good and very handsome to look at. His and Andi's chemistry was better than his with Christian.

As I mentioned before, had the film explored the topic of gender fluidity, as it was briefly mentioned, it would have been a lot more interesting. In current space, with some tighter editing, this film is strictly an average light watch. (5.5/10)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tinta Bruta (Portuguese) [Hard Paint]

A melancholic film about a troubled young adult who is shy, hates going out of home and has troubles connecting with people and making friends. He is awkward and withdrawn but at night he is sexually provocative webcam dancer for gay men. This film is mostly about loneliness and yearning for company and love. There is a lot of social context from the point of view of the town of Porto Alegre where this is set in when apparently a lot of people are moving out.

The film is divided in 3 chapters: The first one is dedicated to his sister Luiza, who so far has been his companion and support for everything. And now she is moving to another city for better prospects leaving our protagonist Pedro alone. An already awkward Pedro is happy and very sad for being left behind but hopefully through his webcam dance shows he will keep busy. Pedro's speciality is that he uses glowing neon paint on his paint while performing shows for his audience but soon he realizes that his audience is reducing because someone is copying him. He meets this boy Leo (this is the second chapter) and both of them have an instant connection. They are both some kind of outcasts. Leo is working on website to save money in hopes to secure a dance scholarship. They both decide that they should do joint sessions and make money and split. Pedro slowly draws into Leo's circle of friends and gets a new perspective. Also there is a clear connection between two men and signs of love. This is also when we find out that Pedro is accused to violence against a college mate but it was a retaliation for all the years of bullying that he received from that man. But when Ben surprisingly gets a scholarship sooner than expected, Pedro is hurt and we go into third chapter of the NeonBoy himself. This part is slow, runs in depression, focuses on how lonely and emotional Pedro is but at the same time, when a guy tries to trick him, he is completely capable of violence. The film ends with a beautiful goodbye between Leo and Pedro.

This film is not an easy watch. It is slow, melancholic and does not leave you with a happy feeling but still it is a wonderful film with some very poignant and emotional moments. Pedro is an amazing actor and does a beautiful job showing 2 sides of him; the confident webcam performer and the gawky awkward social person. And so is Leo. They have an amazing chemistry. Their painted sex shows, with vibrant splashes of color pulsating in the semi-darkened room, have genuine electricity. The scene when Leo tells Pedro that he knows if him from the violence incident but even how at that point, he wanted to help Pedro, will leave you teary eyed. The beauty with which Leo explains the whole scene is an art. The script's treatment of homophobia, bullying feels grounded in authentic experience. The film has good moments of eroticism but this isn’t a flesh-and-fantasy frolic. You can feel the burden of being different, and the artificial construct of internet chats break down social bonds.

The film does end on a positive-ish note when there is hope for Pedro but only is he looks for for himself and tries to find love. The film is slow but you will definitely be able to connect with it. (7/10)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Puoi Baciare lo Sposo (Italian) [My Big Gay Italian Wedding]

I absolutely loved this film. When a film manages to keep a constant smile and feel-good emotions inside you throughout its runtime, it already has done its job to a large extent. And to top that, me laughing out loud in a couple of scenes was just icing on the cake. It takes a lot to make me lose my inhibitions and loud out loud, so in that department, this film was a total winner. Yes, this is not a path-breaking cinema, but with right mix of comedy, emotions, family and drama, this film is something that everyone would like and enjoy to watch. Oh! and did I say how beautiful the town of Civita is.

Antonio is in a very happy relationship with his boyfriend of three years Paolo. Just before visiting his hometown for Easter, Antonio proposes Paolo. Antonio has a female roommate who he is good friends with and they just get a new room mate , an older man who has discovered his happiness for cross-dressing. The 4 of these travel together as a group now to celebrate easter with Antonio's family. Antonio has to come out to his parents as well as announce the engagement, and Paolo and his mother haven't spoken in years because of his sexuality. Once Antonio announces, his parents react very differently. His mother goes into acceptance and planning mode with her conditions, primarily being that Paolo's mother has to be present at the wedding and that her husband has to officiate the wedding. Antonio's father, on the other hand, who also happens to be the mayor of the town, does not understand and refuses to support this idea of wedding. To add to confusion, we also have Antonio's ex-girlfriend come in every now and then, who refuses to let go off Antonio and wants him back at any cost. Of course, brief moments of confusions happen but ultimately love wins everything.

The story above may seem serious but really everything plays out with a very light joyous atmosphere and there is no one single moment where I felt bored or not smiling. The film is right amount of comedy and feel-good without overdoing either of those things. I cracked up when Antonio's father explains why he doesn't like musicals and why musicals don't make sense. And then to have the movie end with a total musical number was a master stroke. The beauty of the town of Civita adds to the charm of the overall story. The two men have excellent chemistry. Right from when Antonio tells us how he met Paolo and how their relationship developed to this moment of wedding, we as audience feel an instant connection with them both. They have their differences and opinions and this is what makes their relationship more real. The two actors have done an incredible job here. In fact, every single actor is a masterstroke. The conflict of Antonio's parents presents two very different sides of spectrum and adds more to humor and drama. I wish there was more story to cross dressing roommate and the girl but they do add in some good light moments in the narrative. And the crazy ex-girlfriend, although annoying, added more fun. My favorite for some reason would be the father and his character. There was something human and charming about his character of loving his son, accepting him being gay but somehow the whole idea of wedding is too much for him in his family in the small town. I loved the fact that nothing situation was overdramatized just for the sake of it. Not even the climax, which could have gone so wrong but ending the film with a song and dance musical number leaves viewers on a high which was exactly whats needed from a film like this.

There is absolutely no way that this film will not out a smile to your face and show a positive side to same-sex marriage between two people who wholly adore each other. Although the issues are quite serious, there are many humorous moments, and this romantic comedy will leave you on a high. (8/10)

Monday, March 18, 2019

At The End Of The Day

Only if thing and people were so easy and simple, life would be so much better. This movie comes with very very good intentions and to a large extent addresses a lot of issues that it wants to focus on (thankfully it doesn't go all over the place); but ending is so convenient, but religion in every country is so powerful, that this could be a mere wishful thinking.

Dave is a young teacher in a very Christian college, who has string resentment against LGBT people, even more stronger since his wife left him for another woman. He is asked by his dean to go check out this group of outcasts, who are in the process of trying to purchase a property that the college also wants to acquire. When Dave finds out that it is an LGBT group, he is initially shocked but continues to visit thereby getting exposed to a very loving community of individuals and what are their challenges. He meets Samantha, a straight girl and activist helping this group for this property, whose brother was brutally murdered for being gay and advocate. At the same time, Dave is challenged by one of his students Nate that make him constantly question his beliefs. The group tries hard but are unsuccessful in acquiring the property but Dave's late aunt leaves her home for this group, where people can be who they are.

The film started with showing Dave as a dickhead but slowly you warm upto him. He is aware of the hypocrisy surrounding him, especially when the Dean of the college plays double games and worse when he suspends Nate from college. He wants to understand and be supportive but at the same time he struggles to take responsibility of his actions, including teaching his students to hate LGBT folks. The film gets a bit stretched when we meet many individuals who go over their stories of struggle. This scene is important because this is when the first hint of change in Dave is seen but is too long. I really liked the idea that everyone in the support group instantly saw through Dave, realizing that he wasn't gay, but embracing him anyway. This is a touching yet funny insight into people who yearn to be closer to God and a faith that wants to keep them away. But like I said, real life things are not that easy. But that doesn't mean we can't hope. Good theme, but too stretched to come to the point where it can make a maximum impact on the audience.

The film is more about celebration of who you are and if seen objectively, it is not hard to understand and appreciate the struggles of LGBT community. It questions our beliefs that everything doesn't have to be black or white worldview. (5.5/10)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Ka Bodyscapes (Malayalam)

I had heard of this film so much, that I was very much looking forward to watching it. Created in Indian subcontext of Kerala state, this film was in news for long struggling to get itself a decent release in the home country. The film touches upon various subjects and pubic debates but in the end, IMO, fails to properly raise a message against any of these issues.

There are two parallel stories here. Haris is an artist, photographer and painter and is gay and proud. His best friend Vishnu is his muse and model. Vishnu is staunch hindu and besides regular fooling around between roommates doesn't think much about Haris's affection though is close to kissing him a couple of times. One of Haris's close friends is Sia who belongs to a very conservative Muslim family. She is a rebel who wants to make a place for herself and other women and raises a voice against her employer when a woman is humiliated for having her periods. Of course neither goes down well and Sia struggles to defend herself in front of her family and leaves home to come stay with Haris. Haris' landlord evicts him overnight for all the gay paintings that he has and sleeping with a man and a woman. Still keeping his confidence high, Haris still plans to go ahead with his exhibition which gets completely vandalized on the day of the show. Finally, Haris is beat and cant take it anymore.

The film tackles the taboo subjects of politics, religion, sexism and sexuality. The title of the movie is invoked from the Egyptian concept of 'Ka', which is the vital essence of a human body that distinguishes the living from the dead. There is a lot of focus and close shot camera focus on Vishnu's body, who looks pretty hot. You see Haris going through feelings of pure focus but also love for his friend. And Vishnu has to deal with complexities and contradictions of desire and politics that seem to fly in polar directions, difficult to reconcile and negotiate. Sia's story brings its own issues to the forefront of society. The subjects are all handled ok but at some point I feel the film loses focus. There are plenty long shots of nothingness that go on forever. Sia masturbating, her driving scooter, Haris painting or him walking on the beach are few of the many scenes that just go on and on and unnecessarily stretch the film. I'd say the film is more in the space of homoeroticism. The film does not offer any resolution towards the end, and perhaps comes across as bleak, grey and dark. The last scene of Haris taking off all his clothes and using just his body as a metaphor walking naked into the water doesn't offer any solutions. The actors were all very good (and hot in Vishnu's case) but something was amiss in the direction.

This must not have been an easy film to make, but in my opinion if and when you are trying to make a statement at this level, the style of the film making has to be something that can attract more viewers, so the message is spread. This movie felt more of a self-indulgence piece, which personally I did not connect much with. And this is a shame because I really wanted to like this film. (4/10)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Plastic Boy (UK)

This film was shot on an iphone with a budget of approximately 5k pounds. Unfortunately, that shows, and by that I don't mean production quality but I mean lack of investment in a properly flushed out screenplay that could have done justice to a decent story idea. I believe, this film is intended to be a comedy but not once did I feel like even smiling, forget laughing. On the contrary, I did find myself rolling my eyes quite often.

The story is about Sam, a guy probably in late 20s, who clearly is bored at his job and doesn't even try to do something about it. His room mate is his best friend Zoe, who constantly reminds him to get his life together. All Sam cares about is two things: first getting attention of one of his co-workers (a cute guy), and the other, somehow getting together back with his ex-boyfriend, who constantly keeps inviting Sam for sex. Zoe and Sam soon find themselves drifting apart. And they both lose their apartment as well. A tiny prospect of having to move in with his parents, Sam is forced to relook at his life.

As I said before, There is really not much that I liked about the film besides the overall story which had potential but uneven screenplay, and the lost direction of the film takes away from everything else. Clearly Sam (also the director of the film) knows his craft as a director because he does extract good performances from everyone except himself. I know Sam's character is supposed to be obnoxious and unreliable but it came out as annoying to me. I found that odd, since all the other 3 main characters were pretty good at their roles. I also find the film stretched unnecessarily at various intervals with long silences in between. It just became really hard to keep your attention.

I am all for new concepts and experiments and its easy for me to just shot down someone's hard work and efforts put in but I need to be objective in my personal opinion. I think Sam should concentrate on direction because he clearly has good future there. As to the team, good luck for future prospects. (2.5/10)

Friday, March 15, 2019

My Brother's Shoes

This film is another one of those independent film trying to tackle a "new" theme in the gay world. Sadly, not every idea turns out right. And it has nothing to do with low production values. It is mostly to do with poor acting and not a good direction. We have seen some really funny movies that involve such a thought but sadly this one doesnt come close at all.

Primary story is around two brothers: Austin is younger, gay and is struggling for love and making his ends meet. His dream is to won the miss diva beauty pageant. Elder brother Dallas, is supportive but not completely used to with Austin being gay. He is stressed at work and at home he is trying to have baby with his wife. Each brother thinks the other “has it so good.” By a strange twist of fate, they switch places. They know they have switched but no one else realizes this. Only person, who believes the story is Jackie, who is Austin's best friend. Now Austin needs to save his brother's job and his family. And what is to be seen is how far will Dallas go to make his brother's dreams come true. Finally the evening comes and now Austin has to go home to Dallas's wife who wants to get pregnant. And Dallas has to now go on stage in drag and perform for Austin! Thankfully at right time, the switch back happens and things all fall in place.

There was a lot of scope for making the whole situation very funny but it felt drag in al events. The acting was below average and the overall direction was also pretty bad. There was a scene where Jackie recounts his life to Dallas and that goes forever as if suddenly Jackie is the protagonist. Also when the situation occurs, even more reason for brothers to stick together and help each other out, but rather they dont even talk throughout the day. This could have been very funny short film but I think the makers thought they had a solid product in their hands.

Strictly below average, there is a lot of good stuff out there, so save your time. (3/10)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Paper Boys (Web Series)

This series premiered with 6 episodes on Dekkoo, each of about 15 minutes in duration. So it was an easy pleasant watch. The series is nothing out of the ordinary but it a nice slice of life episodic watch with a twist (a good one).

Cole arrives in SF from NYC to attend the engagement party of his best friend Darren. Trying to save money, he is staying with Darren and his fiancé Rebecca. Cole has not been completely honest with Darren about his visit to SF. He has actually moved out of NY and is looking for a job. We soon find out that one of the reasons he did that was perhaps to get closer to his ex-boyfriend Max. The first night Darren Darren confides that his engagement was an accident and asks Cole to help him tell his fiancée Rebecca that he doesn’t want to marry her. Following one incident after the other, Cole soon realizes that whatever sketches he has been making, they are coming true. Using his power of sketches, he and Darren think that maybe they will be able to overcome some of their issues, but only if life was that simple. Frustrated in getting landing any job and things moving at a snail's pace with his ex Max, he blurts out to Rebecca that Darren doesn't wanna get married. Of course things are not the same , and even Darren feels betrayed. Rebecca throws them both out of home and its at this time that Max comes to their rescue. Cole has somehow managed to save his friendship but what about love?

The series is essentially a romantic drama with a twist of an interesting super power. But the drawings sometimes doesn't give him exact results that he expected although they do come true, albeit maybe with different individuals around him. Over the six episodes, the series explores the relationship between Cole and Darren as they try to help each other navigate their respective issues. Its interesting that despite short duration of the episodes, as an audience we still get time to understand the characters and join them on their journey of self-discovery. I am sure most people like me would have expected that at some point Cole and Darren would hook up; but I am so so glad that this not happen. That would have been too cliched. Their chemistry as friends was amazing and its refreshing to see that a straight man had no second thoughts on going to a gay party. Acting by everyone is quite good. My favorite was Rebecca's sister, who doesn't have much to do overall but clearly stands out with a very funny and interesting portrayal. ON a side note, I would have liked to understand the dynamics between Max and Cole a little more with respect to their background and what really happened between them in the past.

Not sure of this is going to get renewed for a second season, but this was a decent watch. (6.5/10)

Monday, March 11, 2019

Dear Ex (Mandarin)

On the surface, this film seems like yet another film about conflicts. But this is so much more than that. It is a dark comedy, an emotional roller coaster, where things are not really black and white. Given the nature of the story, you will struggle to take sides. You are supposed to, given that nature of the film, but you will be able to appreciate why the individuals did what they did. In fact, this is a very very emotional film about love. It talked about boundary between hate and fear. By the end of it, I had a lump in my throat by the overall story line and how beautifully and emotionally some of the scenes were handled with the dignity they deserved.

Liu is angry and bitter that her husband left her and their son for another man Jay. Now that he is dead, she finds out that Jay is the beneficiary of his insurance money and demands that he return that money for her son's future. Jay is a young hippy-ish man who is spending his time attempting to direct what appears to be a poor quality play. In between the two is stuck Song, who is angry and frustrated with his mother for being angry, resentful frustrated over everything around her. He finds himself leaving home in a fit of anger and comes to live with Jay, who clearly doesn't want him. But neither Jay nor Liu can do anything about him. Song keeps reminding himself that jay is a bad man, but then he is the only one who he can stay with since he doesn't want to be with his mother. He thinks that all she cares about is money. In between all this, we see glimpses of flashbacks of everyone's lives, which are no longer than a couple of minutes each, which help us come closer to every character, including Zhengyuan who binds all these characters. Unhappy about the situation around them, the three characters eventually begin to manage to come to terms if not with their own grief then at least by the end of the film they have a better understanding of each other’s.

The film is about pain, and it can be painful to watch it at times. It is from the point of view of the kid. As I said above, you think this is gonna be one of those silly over-the-top films but by the end of it it is such a rewarding film that isn’t afraid to feel its feelings and grapple with what they mean. All three characters start as one-dimensional and the way it is shown on the screen, you are put off by the mother's character. She is over-bearing and frustrated but we slowly understand that how this bitterness started. And Jay is more like a hippie who has no money and for some inexplicable reasons wants to run this play at any cost. Jay and Liu bicker and antagonize each other, both jilted by the same lover, but the two need an outlet for their anger. Jay's character is the one who get to know eventually towards the end. You want to blame him for stealing a woman's husband, but through flashbacks you get to know the realities. You find out that Zhengyuan and Jay were lovers long before he married Lui but, struggling to come to terms with his sexuality, Zhengyuan  leaves to try and live a “normal life”. When he becomes ill he leaves his family to spend his last days with his true love Jay. Zhengyuan's death happens so sudden that he never has time to grief for it. Its only when he finally presents the play that the wife realizes about his true love and how finally on the 100th day of his death, through his play, Jay is giving his final goodbye. There are many more emotional scenes like this. One other scene that stood out for me was when Zhengyuan tells Liu about him being gay. The performances are all outstanding from every single person. The cast each do a wonderful job of showing themselves before and after grief and all of them. This is a Netflix release and I hope more and more people get to see this film.

There is so much I wanna write about this film and all the memories of watching it are coming back. This film is a lot more than drama, comedy, coming out genres. Its a complete package about emotions, love, sacrifices. Love can never be wrong. People may be. It is a tale of two ill-fated loves, treated with immense pathos. A strange, mutual sympathy for the grief of losing the same man, in ways both very different and very similar. (8.5/10)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Vergot (Italian) (Documentary)

These days when everyone is trying to make a realistic film, it took me 5 minutes to realize that something is off in this film. It was NOT a feature film, rather it was a documentary. duh! I felt stupid. Maybe it was also a bit of dramatization but I am not sure.

The story is primarily about 2 brothers living in a farmland. Alex and Gim are brothers and love each other very much. Their farmer, belonging to a family of farmers, is very rough and exuberant. Life in hills is hard and people are who they are. When Gim tells his family that he is gay, things dont go down so well with his father, who self-admittedly says that he would have killed Gim three years ago, without even giving a second thought but could not since he is his son. This is where Alex finds himself stuck between modern changing world and supporting Gim, while also trying to change his father's attitude. In such an exasperated context is hard to recognize the love hidden behind. The father eventually comes around and embraces Gim, with support of Alex.

Since this whole docu-drama was through scenes and dramatization without any voice-overs; it is a bit hard to believe what's real and what's not. Is camera constantly following Gim, even when he goes to gay clubs? I don't know. But overall the documentary had a very neutral effect on me. I mean, I didn't see a point of making this film. There was no point to prove. ITs a simple coming-out story of a farmer boy and defeating odds of his surroundings and with help of his brother. Mane scenes felt too stretched and this would have been a. abetter fiction short-film.

I wouldn't waste my time on this. Its a done to death premise, doesn't offer anything new. I am struggling to say anything positive about this. (1/10)

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Al Berto (Portuguese)

So, I did not know anything about the film when I started watching it. It felt as if it seems like a true story, a biopic of sorts, with scenes moving along at a fast paced. It felt, as audience we were supposed to know the context of the area and the times. Thirty minutes into the film, I decided that I need to read a little bit more about the film before I continue to watch. And I am happy I did that because suddenly the film started making a lot more sense. Al Berto is one of Portugal’s best-known poets and the film focuses on his youth immediately after the Portuguese revolution of 1974.

in 1975, Al Berto decided to return to his childhood town of Sines as his base to become a writer after spending time in Brussels. He stays in his family mansion which was seized by authorities during revolution and is now empty. Once there, he starts befriending like-minded individuals who are into poets, arts, eccentricity and sexuality. He meets João Maria and the two men have an instant connection and fall head over heels in love with each other. Al Berto is fearless yet a kind hearted revolutionist who is happy to share his space with locals but most locals do not appreciate the youthful vibrancy that comes along with Al Berto. Another important character of the film is Sara, a young woman who dreams of a better life but faces a moral dilemma because of her own working class background. The film largely focuses on the romance between João Maria and Al Berto and how it progresses. The y have fights, especially when João Maria cheats on him but as someone says, Its not easy to be in love. And they get back together and together they always provide Sines with its well-deserved trendy scene. The open relationship between two soon leads to more conflicts and ultimately the group starts to separate. And eventually Al Berto leaves his lover to go back to his safe place.

As I said before, a bit of context on the poet and the political situation of Portugal will help grasp this film better. The chemistry between Al Berto and João is killer. The intimate scenes between them are some of the film’s finest moments and you can almost feel the heat from your screen. João is unbelievably good looking and both the actors have put up an absolutely incredible performance. I believe its both their first film. Al Berto is brave but naive. He loves João but finds it hard to trust him and eventually leaves him. Sadly, as a viewer I connected with João's character more than of Al Berto. But the fim is not just about gay romance. Yes, thats the pretty strong element but its a portrait of youth and the film is a portrait of the artist as a young man. Its about post-revolution when free people wanna be free and do as they please and after effects of dictatorship are still seen. What is captured really well here is the ‘anything goes’ attitude of the community during this time period. While it’s important to live your truth and embrace an authentic life, you can’t always control the outside influences and pressures that come with it. Al Berto is painted here very much as an idealist rather than a realist, and by the end of the film that becomes his downfall.

I will strongly recommend the film. Finding faults with the film is hard. Its about the beauty of love, thoughts, relationships and freedom. Go for it. (8/10)

Friday, March 8, 2019

Hazlo Como Hombre (Spanish) [Do It Like A Man]

I am seeing a gay comedy after a long time and it felt good to laugh. Yes, the activists would feel hurt about stereotypes and that this is regression but you have to remember that you are watching a sort of satire. The film opens with a warning that opens with a mock advisory warning that its protagonist displays behavior that should not be repeated at home. And that pretty much sets the mood. And to top of it all, the film is not about gay love, but its about friends and friendship and how strong these bonds really are which can't easily be broken.

Raul, Santiago and Eduardo have ben best of buddies since childhood and have led a very happy and "masculine" life. Raul is married and is expecting a baby soon but confides in Santiago that he actually sleeps around with other hot women but justifies that sex and love is different. Santiago is engaged to marry Raul's sister Nat, who complains that they havent had sex in the longest time and is a bit of a nutjob. Eduardo has no girlfriend and is a barber and Raul suspects he is gay. Having had enough, one day Raul confesses to his friends that he is gay. Eduardo is happy and ecstatic but Raul thinks its just a phase. He tries to convince Santi that its a simple sexual confusion and tries many tricks to "cure" him. Despite his wife, Eduardo and everyone around questioning Raul on his homophobic behavior in 2017, he is adamant that Santiago is wrong. Things go so bad, that the friends have a big fight and they stop seeing each other. This is when Raul's wife finds about his philandering ways and Santi decides to movie to US with his boyfriend. Raul's wife leaves him and Santi finds out that his boyfriend and lover actually believes in polygamy while he himself is very traditional. Its only the night before Santi is supposed to leave, the friends reconnect over video games and Raul apologizes. Raul leaves aside his prejudices and decides to help Santiago to venture into their new life with his new partner.

The film is funny right from the get go of interactions between the 3 friends. Their expressions, dialogues, connections is all good. The funniest of them all is Nat, who goes crazy when she finds out that Santiago is gay and wants to call off wedding. She is desperate and tries to win him back but its all funny. All the interesting tactics that Raul tries to use to convince Santi that he is not gay also cracked me up. I am soooo glad  that, everytime he would react weird, everyone around him would give him a look and say its 2017, this is all good, so why is he reacting so weird. There is also a reference to how everyone (straight or gay) knows about grindr. Using his psychiatrist (also a lot of funny scenes there), learns that he will go through different stages, such as grief and denial, as he mourns the loss of the friendship he once knew. The interactions between the three friends are very heartwarming and they all share an excellent chemistry. Raul never stopped being friends with Santi because of his sexuality. It was the fear of losing the friend he knows that drives him to such extents. It was also refreshing to see that Santiago didn't conform to any gay stereotypes and that his straight friend Eduardo kind of did.

Yes, it may not be politically the most correct film but we all sometimes need a good time. It is high-spirited, buoyant and full of laughs. The movie also has some nicely affecting moments that deal with male friendship and loneliness. Personally, for me, this is definitely a winner. (7/10)

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Aus der Haut (German) [Shed My Skin]

This decent little German film is not path-breaking but is definitely a film that holds your attention. Its far from perfect but there is something relatable especially for teenagers who are going through their usually growing up and identifying themselves phase. Sure, it does handle some topics in a very cliched way and by the end of the movie, you are slightly puzzled as to what's the message that this film is trying to give, but does it always matter?

Milan is a 16-17 year old teenager who has a crush on his best friend Christoph. One evening while getting drunk, Milan kisses him which freaks out Christoph. Afraid of what just happened, Milan gets into his parents car drunk for an attempted suicide but is thankfully saved. We find out that Milan has history of drugs, depression, aloofness and possible suicidal tendencies. Things are not easy at school when Milan is now completely snubbed by Christoph. One evening, Milan has a chance meeting with an older guy who he later has sex with, which makes Milan feel liberated and finally he tells his parents that he is gay. His parents are relieved to hear this and do not over-react, but primarily because they are themselves going through their personal issues. The father is unhappy in his job and the mother is unhappy in the marriage. Milan is heart broken when he realizes that he was just a fling for the older guy. Christoph in the meanwhile understands everything that's going on and he and Milan are back to being friends. Its now the turn of the parents to sort out their differences for the sake of their son.

The production quality of the film is top-notch and the direction is also pretty good but its the story that lacks finness. Between the struggles of parents and their issues and that of Milan, the focus of the film kept getting shifted. Having said that, I really liked how the parents supported Milan when he comes out, thereby instilling confidence in him to be who he is and be confident of that. It may have something to do with his history which we never get to know the reasons for. I wonder if thats to do with the relationship that the parents share with each other. Milan is definitely a good looking guy and acts well and has good potential. The ending is also not one that really makes up for everything before that and seems pretty abrupt. Few issues are raised in the film but none of them actually gets a closure.

You are not missing anything by not watching this film, but you will definitely not be bored. At a crips 80 minute running time, you just wish, it had a point to make by the end of it all. (6/10)

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Curious (Australia)

This movie was simply soft porn and nothing else. There is no way you can get around to defending this film in anyway.

Beth and Ryan are engaged but a fight leads to them wanting a break Ryan is passing through a gay bar and curiosity gets the best out of him. Next one hour is spent on multiple sexual encounters filmed in much details that Ryan has with various people inside the club, thereby making him realize what he truly wants. Beth and Ryan become best friends.

Trust me, there is absolutely nothing besides what I just wrote here, The sexual encounter scenes with Ryan sniffing poppers way too extended that it makes me feel this was an extended audition for porn films. The acting was poor and there is absolutely no point in making this film. Completely avoid. The half star is just for Ryan's good looks. (0.5/10)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Beneath The Skin (Canada/UK)

Low budget amateurish movies can be a hit or miss. This film could have had a good potential but somewhere neither storyline nor direction was upto mark. That combined with slow pacing and random nature scenery thrown throughout tests your patience. On a brighter side, the two teenagers are good to look at :)

Movie starts with we witnessing Jay getting abandoned by his Alabama parents for being gay. He is taken in his wing by a straight guy and his girlfriend who are moving to Halifax Canada to open a tattoo shop. Forward one year, and we meet Joshua, who is being shipped off to Canada from England after his mother's death to be with his biological father. He starts getting bullied at school and is saved by Jay on the streets. The two boys immediately connect and fall in love with each other. The bullying continues to an extent that Joshua punches the guys in his school and is therefore expelled. Social services decide to send him back to England. Completely heart-broken, both boys do not have a choice and Joshua moves back to England. A few months later, he gets a surprise visit, not only by Jay but the whole crew. They are in town for exhibition of Jay's photographs and finally things are starting to look better for both.

So, storywise as you can read, its pretty alright. But there are so many loopholes and things taken for granted, that its laughable. After all the vandalizing and almost life-taking attempts at bullying, there is no mention about reporting this to cops or school. Why?  Also, its 2019 and its Canada.. such ignorance about homosexuality still exists? Why does a big ass school have only 5-6 students and just 2 teachers. The couple owning the tattoo store has not a single tattoo on their body. Joshua doesn't go meet his father even once in Canada (since he is with Jay all the time). Acting by both main characters is actually just average, not bad; but the couple who owns the tattoo parlour is the worse. They are both sooo bad. And as I mentioned above, a good part of movie time is taken away by random shots of the town. They are pretty but there is way too much unnecessary focus on that. And the sex scenes also look awkward.

In short, "Beneath the Skin" is a beginner's work. It shows potential because it isn't brilliant. The editor needs some massive coaching. You can watch it on a fast forward mode. (3.5/10)

Monday, March 4, 2019

Happiness Adjacent

First five minutes into the movie and I was starting to doubt whether its gonna be a big mistake watching this film and wasting my time like most trash queer films out there, but thankfully it did spring a pleasant surprise on me. It wasn't earth-shattering or game changing in anyway; but it did manage to hold my interest in the lives of our protagonists. There i a lot of improvement that can be done in this, but more about that later.

Hank is now taking the week long cruise alone, because his best friend had a last minute family emergency. Aboard, he meets Kurt, vacationing with his wife. Since Kurt's wife is sea-sick, the two men hang out all the time, and there is some connection. At the end of day 1, Kurt ends up in Hank's room and they both have sex. Thankfully, the next morning is not about guilt or snubbing but taking it one day at a time. Hank is not sure, why Kurt os doing this and if he is just a vacation fling. But on the other hand, Hank is also here to get over his ex, but his increasing attraction towards Kurt is something that he really doesn't want to happen. Kurt's wife eventually gets better and join the two of them but still afraid of getting off the ship. This gives the two men enough opportunity to hang out and in fact have a heart to heart conversation. They both like each other and have great chemistry and want more from life. Only if it was that simple. Just when Kurt is starting to make up his mind about leaving his wife, he finds out that she is pregnant. Also we find out that this is not the first time that he is having flings with men and that his wife has always been aware of that. It is decision time and Kurt decides he would change his ways and wants to be a good husband and have a family. Hank respects his decision and they both decide to keep in touch as friends.

To be honest, I was slightly disappointed by the ending. In the long run, I really doubt that Kurt will be able to stay faithful to his wife but who am I to judge. Besides that things about the movie were pretty on and off. Production wise, this film seems to have been shot with a hand held camera or even an iphone over an actual 7 day cruise. If that is in fact true, then I have to say that acting was very very goodby all principal characters but the feeling of watching a film was amiss, which personally bothered me. There were way too many close-ups and the audio was bad but thats understandable given that it was probably shot in sync-sound. The acting was solid and thankfully there were not random side stories to take our attention away from core issue of sex, attraction and finding love in most unexpected situations and places. I wish, Kurt's wife's character was a bot detailed because in all this, she seemed to get a raw deal because you never sympathize with her character which I would have preferred, especially given how the maker wanted to story to end.

Its slow in beginning but eventually picks up. Audio is also an issue. But its not a bad film at all. Keep your expectations low. It's not exactly a feel-good movie, but it does bring to mind differing aspects of gay/bi romances. (6/10)

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Cakemaker (Hebrew/English/German)

Israel, more often than not, surprises me with the films that they make (or maybe it has to do with the films that I have seen). The Cakemaker is a provocative, unexpected and finally very moving work is as unusual a love story as you are likely to find. The film is shot in Berlin and Jerusalem and very minutely shows us about love, relationships, exploring sexuality in a world where no one takes time to enjoy the small pleasures of life.

The primary focus is Thomas, a reserved German pastry chef, who is content in his life. Oren, a married Israel guy frequently visits Berlin every month and they fall in love for almost a year and are pretty serious about each other. A freak accident kills Oren and Thomas is devastated. Thomas is now longing to find out details and decides to visit Jerusalem to meet Oren's wife Anat and his son. Anat, not religious herself, runs a cafe in Jerusalem but is also kind of controlled by Motti (Oren's brother) who is still strict about religion and regulations. Thomas visits her cafe as a customer and soon manages to get a job as a cleaner in the cafe. Soon Thomas skills as a pasty chef become very evident and he starts baking for the cafe, thereby increasing the business. He also does get a warm welcome by Oren's mother and increasingly starts getting close to Anat as well. And finally they make love. But soon Anat realizes, that Thomas is the same person, about whom, Oren had told her that he has met someone in Berlin and would like to move to Berlin. Thomas is immediately pushed out back to Berlin, only later to be visited by Anat to make sure he is doing ok.

Before I talk any further, I have to comment on Thomas' performance. It is such a still, calm and silent performance that speaks just with eyes. The man is grieving on the death of his lover but cannot show. He is mysteriously absent yet present in past. All his interactions with Anat and her family, are strictly business, even though he wants to touch and connect. He yearns for any connection that he can have with his lover(the scene is the swimming club is an example). Only later we find out the reason that he stays so disconnected is because Oren never wanted Anat to find out. The last sceen when finally Thomas cries his heart out once he realizes that Oren's family now knows the secret shows us how much pain has he been carrying in his heart. It killed me to watch him like that. The film treats issues of sexuality and sexual identity as subtly and indirectly, as so is religion. It’s just a tender love triangle with a dead man in the middle. Like Thomas, all the other characters are also beautifully portrayed. One thing that wasn't clear to me was whether Oren's mother knew who Thomas was. Their 2 scenes together makes me want to believe she knew who he was, but its hard to say. Also , the film is slow, but it more than makes up for it in the beautiful and delicious looking cakes, pastries and cookies.

In a broad, non-judgmental way, this film depicts love and loss, unbound by social and cultural divides, without taking sides. A beautiful, honest, and melancholic piece, a tale of emotional journey and life after tragedy. Besides the pace of the film, I can't think of any reason why anyone would not like this film. I wanna reach out and give Thomas one big hug. (8.5/10)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Giant Little Ones (Canada)

On the face of it, this movie feels like just another coming of age teen drama, but there is so much more to this film. For the first time in queer cinema, I saw a story that deals with sexual fluidity. Its not about labels but about curiosity as growing up during teenage years. Its about love, friendship, acceptance and today's times.

Franky and Ballas have been best friends forever and are also a part of the swim team. Ballas is older of the two and has a steady girlfriend and enough sexual experience. ON Frankie's birthday night, the boys ending up "experimenting". They both are slightly discomforted by the whole thing but Ballas completely freaks out. He spreads the news in school that Franky initiated the encounter and that he is gay. News spread and suddenly the school is against him. Its also important to know that Franky lives with his mother and sister and his father left them when he is realized he was gay; which is something that Franky doesn't want to accept. Shunned by everyone, Franky finds a companion in Ballas's sister Tasha, who is herself a victim of bullies and has a backstory. Also she is well too aware of her brother’s tendency to deny having any part in occurrences he himself instigated. Franky is not sure about his sexuality and both his mother and dad try to tell him that its ok to experiment. You shouldn't have to label anything. It should just be about sexual encounter with a person. Why does the gender have to matter! Tables soon turn when Ballas encounters Franky in an empty parking lot of beats the crap out of him. This gives Franky time to gauge things. He decides to make amends with his father and visit him and thats one of the most brilliant scenes of the film.

Some scenes in the film stand out. When Ballas and Franky have the encounter, we are not clearly shown what exactly happened and like the characters in the film, we don't actually know the truth for quite a while. And everyone , including audience is just assuming because no one is coming out in open and I thought that was wonderful. Also when Ballas beats up Franky, it speaks volumes about the self-loathing and his inability to accept. True friendship is tested and honored by Franky, when he does not tell anyone what really happened. Because that would put Ballas and his career in swimming team at risk. I love that at the end Franky learns to own it. We are still not 100% sure about his sexuality and neither is he but thats not important and this is exactly what the film is trying to educate to today's teenage youth. The end of the film is also very poignant. Franky recognizes that Ballas has had extreme difficulty owning his own sexuality. Franky can finally see that Ballas is suffering, and he lets Ballas know that he is aware of it and that he will always love him.

I am so thankful that this film did not follow any cliches and seemed very natural. Even parents judgement and their interactions were more practical than over dramatic. I would highly recommend this film. I am shocked that this film is not being talked about on a larger scale. (8/10)