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.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Gay Short Films : 74

O Porteiro do Dia (Brazil) [The Daytime Doorman]
Marcelo soon realizes it's time to try to go further with Márcio, the doorman in his building. He not only manages to have sex but also makes him to bottom. Two worlds will collide through these men's bodies.

Cruising (Germany)
Stani meets the same guy most nights at a cruising spot. Eventually they decide to maybe take it to the next level in a proper setting.

Loris sta Bene (Italy) [Loris Is Fine]
20 years old Loris is naive and in need for affection. A HIV-positive man he met online is willing to transmit his disease to him. The virus becomes a powerful ally for Loris to gain a much desired symbiosis in his relationship with his HIV+ boyfriend.

Frank (Germany)
20-somethings Frank and Dominik are in a relationship. But Dominik has to go to prison somewhere in the province. This puts their love to a test.

El tigre y la flor (Mexico) [The Tiger's Fight]
Nicolas and Pablo, prepare for “The Tigers’ Fight”, a ritual where the village men fight each other to imitate thunder and foster the rain. Some of the tigers also deliver commitment flowers to a girl as a sign of love. This year, Nicolas has decided to offer flowers to Pablo.

Break Through (India)
A gay couple gives a befitting reply by kissing, to a person hate staring at them in the local train.

Dirty (USA)
Marco cuts class to spend the afternoon with his boyfriend, Graham. When they decide to try anal for the first time, things do not go as planned. Apparently you need to douche. This was nice and real.

The Letter (USA)
When a love letter written by Adrian to Patrick makes its way back into his possession, Adrian must face who he is before friendships are lost forever.

Out (Disney+Pixar)
Beautiful film about a young gay man who has not yet come out to his parents. Their unexpected visit magically leads to his mind swapped with his dog's and the dog tries his best to keep his master's secret.

Stum (Norway) [Tongue-tied]
Sondre has just come out to his friends but now he faces abandonment issues following the news that his boyfriend will move to London soon.

Mohabbat Zindabad (India)
Ankit and Joy have been together for a while. Ankit is out about his sexuality, Joy is not quite there yet. This film is about accepting yourself and your partner in the orthodox jungle you live along.

Semicolon (Germany)
Timo is gay but his parents don't take the news kindly. As he then also starts receiving anonymous threats, he doesn’t see any way out of this mess.

El Casamiento (Spain) ]The Marriage]
Suso and Ricard are getting married. Both families are delighted but there is a catch. Suso's grandmother, will be present at the dinner, but unaware that what's being celebrated is her grandson's wedding day.

While the Unicorn Is Watching Me (France)
A man awakens to the mischievous stare of a unicorn leading to a fantasy of transforming his apartment into a garden of delights, in which sex and desire flow freely.

Stigma (USA)
Peter's view of the world changes when he finds out he is HIV+. Feeling his humanity like never before, Peter sets out on a journey of self discovery and acceptance.

Yuxiang and Mark (Taiwan)
Yuxiang and Mark meet one night. What started as hookup leads to a journey of knowing each other over the night. Time can dilute sexual desire, but will it arouse the emotions between them?

Coming Out (Sweden)
Joel has finally made up his mind, or so he thinks. Tonight he's going to tell his parents, but is this the right moment? How should he do it, and what should he say?

Mein Anderer (Germany) [My Other One]
Leo is 19 , gay and single. A chance encounter with a guy in a club changes things for Leo when he unwillingly ends up taking drugs and having unsafe sex. This is not the escapism that this young man was looking for.

Dancers (Portugal/UK)
35 Portuguese dancers undress in front of the camera becoming object of desire with a sensual provocative performance. Right from dancing to getting a hard-on to a final ejaculation.

Weg Hier (German) [Get Away]
Melek & Fabio are different yet both want to get away. Fabio because he is gay and Melek because her Turkish parents limit her dreams. A film about understanding, being gay and immigrants.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Aleksandr's Price

Aleksandr's Price is an exploration to American youth in New York City and the excessive use of alcohol and other drugs in the gay community. I am not very sure on why did the makers have to show the character's background to be Russian because honestly, after a while, the fake made-up accent was starting to get on my nerves.

The film starts with Aleksandr doing his sessions with his therapist and we keep going into flashbacks. He had moved to NY with his mother and sister in search of their father. His father had long abandoned them for his boyfriend. But after his mother's suicide, he manages to find a job as a "dancer". he meets a wealthy man Keith and goes with him to his hotel because he is longing for company and love but is shocked when Keith offers him money for sex. when the scenario is repeated a couple of times, he takes up being prostitute to make money but also searching for friendship and love. Aleksandr eventually meets a much older man Tom who is interested in him, but Alexandr is not interested. The films goes on and on on how he eventually gets into drugs and more sex and how his life is spiraling out of control. It's only when he meets a much older man and has sex with him, who turns out to be his father is when he sees the reality for what it is.

Alexandr also happens to be the director of the film, so you can only imagine that his presence is there pretty much in every scene of the film. To be fair to him, does a credible job of portraying the vulnerable desperation of a young man left on his own in a place where being alone is a dangerous place to be, minus the accent. But, its hard to sympathize with a grown up man, who keeps making one bad decision after another and then blames everyone around him for all the wrong happening with him. Talking of acting, lets talk about the therapist. Worst acting ever. So plastic, no compassion for the patient and the oddest dialogues ever given to her. Big thumbs down. Alexandr looks good and acts decent but is let down by a bad repetitive script and poor direction. Its really hard to empathize and feel for the main guy and his miseries.

Below average is how I would rate this film. There is a lot of better stuff out there. (4/10)

Monday, June 1, 2020

After Forever: Seasons 1 & 2 (Web Series)

This Emmy Winning Amazon web series can be best described as the story of love, loss, friendship and healing. Gay men in their 50's is not something that many films or shows have explored. So in that sense, this series does come as a breath of fresh air. With 16 episodes of about 11-12 minutes each between 2 seasons, it is an easy watch. Human loss redefines equation of love between people who are left behind and this show shows us how love makes a lasting impression on all of us.

Brian and Jason have been now together for more than 15 years. They have a very close knit circle of friends with whom they hang out with. These include the gay couple with a 9 year old son, who looks forward to his weekend cycling trips with Brian and Jason. We also have a gay couple, both named Paul, who own a restaurant. And then we have a straight couple where the girl has been best friends with Jason since they were young. Jason has now being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and he refuses to undergo chemotherapy and eventually passes away. Leaning on family (Jason's parents who are very close to Brian as well) and friends during Jason’s final days, Brian struggles to comprehend the immeasurable void that now exists after his spouse’s passing. Season 1 is all about that in multiple episodes. It ends with Jason's parents setting up Brian with a prospective match David. Season 2 shows David and Brian have been together for 6 months now. While their love for each other is solidly established, Brian still faces the difficulties of being in a new romance while he attempts to heal from losing Jason. The series continues with various interactions with these 2 and their corresponding friends. Brian has now started his own boutique firm and we also see some of the challenges he is facing. But most importantly is the challenge faced by David, who feels like he is in a relationship with both Brian and Jason. Even after so many years, Brian finds it hard to let go of Jason's memories and David feels he cannot take it anymore of being the third wheel. They eventually breakup.

Set in New York City, the show actually is presented simultaneously in three levels. Story of Brian and Jason; story of Brian with David and after Jason's death, from Brain's mind's perspective where Jason still exists and talks to him. The series does deal honestly with relationships and with loss. I feel this will have a universal appeal. The concept is very fresh and something that hasn't been desalt with before. Acting wise all the lead actors do a fantastic job, especially Brian. Yes he is struggling to move on after his husband dies and whatever others say, its not easy to just forget your whole past and move on. Only the person dealing with such a thing can connect. Having said that, I still felt that something was missing in the show. And I have been trying to think really hard what is it really. I mean it has emotions, very real, its about love, life and loss but still there is something thats missing thats preventing me to call put this show as great and not just good. I connected with the show but not with the character. I could empathize with the pain but not feel it. I wish i could say more details but I am struggling to find more context. Hopefully in a few days when I have processed more!! By the way, I did like the whole side story of the Dads with thier son and how they bring him up. I think there is a lot of potential there to grow it in a full fledged script of itself.

Irrespectively, this show is a must watch for seeing something new and real showcasing life of 50 plus gay men and for the sake of love. (7/10)

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Boys On Film 20: Heaven Can Wait

And the 20th volume in the series is out there. Every volume has a theme and most short films follow that strictly but to be honest, I am not really sure what "Heaven Can Wait" means. I didn't find a pattern, but then who cares. It was quite a decent collection after all.

Chromophobia (Tunisia)
A beautiful animation charting the life of a gay man in Tunisia; his childhood, his self-discovery, his first love and the consequences when this is uncovered within his conservative community.

Sleepover (Sweden)
When Emil stays over in his friend Adam’s bed after a night at the cinema, there’s a tension in the air, and unspoken feelings are on the tip of his tongue. A film about friendship and the longing for something more. Cute but unsatisfying.

Just Me (UK)
Scott is preparing for his future with his wife-to-be, but when policeman Connor arrives on his doorstep this reignites feelings Scott had tried to bury. Consumed by the idea of what could have been, Scott finds himself sneaking off from his stag do to pursue this ghost from his past.

Mine (UK)
Liam and Ben are fathers to baby Lottie. Biologically Ben is the father, and as his bond with their baby flourishes, Liam feels left behind and refuses to be the third wheel anymore.

Don't Blame Jack (UK)
As Jack comes to terms with his new medication, he longs for the adrenaline-fueled manic highs he’s given up. Is sanity and stability worth the sacrifice? Jack finds himself searching and failing to find moments of magic, until he meets Frank. This was the most boring of all.

Foreign Lovers (USA)
Sparks ignite when an actor and a foreign dancer meet in New York, and the two artists share an immediate connection that surprises and scares them both. It begs the question; can you fall in love with someone in 24 hours? A meditation on life and love in the digital age.

Mankind (UK)
Will is restless. He loves Evan, but it is not in his nature to settle, and when he has a shot at the adventure of a lifetime, he’s prepared to leave love and the Earth behind. ‘Mankind’ reflects on the idea of human beings as explorers by nature, and on the consequences of standing still for too long.

Isha (UK)
Rahmi, a Romanian immigrant living in England, creates a new life for himself whilst trying to keep up appearances with his Muslim family. His brother is a rebel and mother is always scared of unknown. Will Rahmi be able to live a carefree life, being himself and being with the new possible love.

RUOK (USA)
Best friends Alex and Brian have a bitter fight, entirely via text message, when one of them sleeps with the other’s crush. But, just as things seem to settle, an unexpected development may lead to yet another riff. Wonderful short with almost no dialogues until very end. Gay men are indeed mostly shallow.

Manivald (Estonia/Croatia/Canada)
Manivald is turning 33. He feels content but claustrophobic, being smothered by his mother and her expectations. When foxy Toomas arrives to fix their washing machine, his affection towards Manivald leads to a sexual and emotional awakening. Animation and slightly boring.

The World In Your Window (New Zealand)
Eight-year-old Jesse struggles to comfort his grief-stricken father who refuses to face the past, acknowledge the present or plan for the future. They are stuck, until an unlikely friendship with the transgender Repa unlocks the means for Jesse to liberate his father and himself.

I was amazed that I had not seen any of these short films before. Most of these were good, barring the almost 30 minute Don't Blame Jack.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Straight Up

A brainy screwball comedy film would the best way to describe this film. The dialogues in this are spoken so soft that its really easy to lose track of what exactly is being discussed here. Stories like these are a new brand of cinema, which may not be everyone's cup of tea. It all depends on how well the treatment of the film. Interestingly, the director of the film is also the lead actor, which, I only realized after I finished watching the film.

The story is about Todd, a good looking Asian American software, with buttoned up shirts. He is gay, his friends know that and even his therapist knows that but for some odd reason Todd doesn't want to be gay. He has OCD and any kind of any bodily fluids disgust him to the core. He’s lonely and longs for a partner, but he can’t begin to deal with sex. It’s just…too messy. A chance meeting with Rory, a struggling actress changes everything. She is also a brainiac and witty girl. they form the kind of communion where you could say that they finish each other’s sentences, except in this case it sounds like one long sentence. Neither is too keen on sex or kids but social pressure makes them want to try sex. A failed attempt makes them change their mind. Rory suspects something is off and maybe Todd is really gay, so she makes the bold decision of leaving him and moving to Seattle. Todd is heartbroken because he will now never find his soulmate (gender doesn't matter). Todd tries but eventually gives in, goes to Seattle and convinces Rory to be with him because no matter what, neither of them will find a person who is so like the two of them.

My biggest problem with the film is it's ending. It feels like it retreated into its own bubble. As human beings, we get caught up in our own ideologies and thoughts and create our very own psychological prison. Even though Todd is not really having a sexual-identity crisis, but he totally convinces himself of that, despite being in therapy. Maybe the real problem is something all the way deep down there. Todd does a good job both as an actor and director. We do not relate to Todd because he is a sensitive, bi-racial, guy with OCD. We relate to him because he wants to love and be loved, and because his story is told with skill and humor. And his chemistry with Rory, who shows his range of skills in the improv classes she attends, is also pretty good. There is often reference to Kinsey scale, which I found was very interesting. Personally, I quite enjoyed the first half of the film but after a film, I felt there was way too much just back and forth, non stop dialogues and no breathing space at all for any other character or situation. Nott hat those scenes were serious because everything has been done with a lightness so that its easy to connect with audience but for me, it failed to do after a while.

Today's people do not believe in labels. This film really about a generation of people who have discovered a new way to connect through their detachment. (6/10)

Friday, May 29, 2020

Present Still Perfect (Thai)

Its fun to watch a sequel of a film immediately after you have seen the first one and not having to wait for a few years. Present Still perfect is a beautiful sequel to its predecessor, and a worthy film. Interetsingly, its one of the few sequels that in my opinion are much better than the original. Be it acting, direction, the natural beautiful landscape and overall presentation. The two major themes, according to me that are handled in this film are that Love hurts and also that Love is about forgiving. Not sure if the makers had that in their mind, but at least that's my take away.

The film pretty much is set right after Toey and Oat's chance meeting at airport and them connecting through facebook. Oat has sent a few messages to Toey but still heart broken, he is ignoring those messages. He has just arrived in a beautiful resort for a holiday which is owned and managed by Jen. A Japanese tourist Kenta also arrives at the same time in the resort. He eyes Toey with a certain level of amusement and curiosity that somehow unnerves our hero. Jen confides in Toey has her ex husband cheated on her and that she will never forgive him. SO next day when Oat shows up unannounced in the same resort to woo Toey, he is shocked and scared of himself. He fights with Oat, but eventually decide to give them a chance and spend 3 days together for the sake of their love. The two have the best time but Jen keeps reminding Toey of why he should not be the person spoiling someone else's family. On their last night together, Oat tells Toey that he wants to be with him, but in a very emotional outburst, Toey refuses it. He says that he will not be the person who is known for uprooting his family, his wife and son and asks Oat to leave the next day. When Oat reaches home, his wife eventually makes him admit the truth about his love for Toey and surprisingly she is very supportive of it, because she wants to see him happy. They both immediately leave for the resort to convince Toey, Oat proposes to him and eventually they get married.

The resort where the film is shot is a near perfect backdrop for this cute love story. Yes. it is mostly serious but thankfully Jen's character continuously provides some light relief and smiles which is actually much needed in this film. It is very evident that Toey is still very much heart broken and in love with Oat and cant forget him and even his Japanese friend Yumi tells him to stop running away. The two men, when they meet reconnect beautifully and are very much in love. They share an excellent chemistry. The intimacy they exhibited in one crucial scene was a clear highlight that the original movie did not have. Somehow Oat got hotter and Toey has become a much much better actor. His outburst, his fear, his want for love, but also morally doing the right thing; he does a beautiful job of showing all these emotions. He is really good. The outburst that Toey has on their last night together is something I never expected. Right from writing the scene to directing and performing; it is a beautiful scene, that will stay with me. Love hurts but you also want to do the right thing and that's a dilemma in which most of us will probably fail to make the apt decision. Jen was a fun character, something I thought would become caricature-ish but thankfully it did not. It was funny but still with emotions and love. Oat's wife was surprisingly very supportive. I had expected bit of drama but this shows the maturity of the script writer. At some level, we all want our loved ones to be happy and sometimes to do that, you have to take a step back. The film is still a bit slow and I wish there was a bit more character development for the Japanese tourist would be only constructive feedback.

You don't have to have seen the prequel to understand and appreciate this beautiful film. What a contrast between over the top That web series v/s a beautiful emotional and sentimental thai love story. And did I mention, how beautiful the location of the film shot at is. (7.5/10)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Present Perfect (Thai)

After a few non-stop Thai series, it's time to catch up on some films and that too a Thai film set in Japan. It's interesting to see the vast difference in stories, presentation, direction , acting and everything else in both those mediums. I guess most LGBTQ Thai series that I have seen so far are all focussed on young adults and hence the stark difference between the two.

The story of this film is actually pretty simple. The main focus in on Toey, a young Thai boy, who has just come to Japan for a solo holiday after a bad breakup with his girlfriend of 5 years. His Japanese friend Yumi helps him with his lodging and is there for him when needed. Toey meets Oat, who is living in the cottage next door, who also happens to be Thai, and is on his finale bachelor trip before he gets married in a few months. The two men start hanging out together and via conversations it comes out that Oat is gay. One thing leads to another and after a drunken shameful night, which Toey regrets, he starts feeling a connection with Oat and clearly romance soon blossoms. Not judging the two men, Yumi tries to be supportive of her friends. Unfortunately, reality soon strikes in. When Yumi announces that she is pregnant, Oat confides in Toey that his girlfriend is also pregnant and that now he feels guilty to have led Toey on. Heartbroken the two men go back home on their individual paths only to very briefly meet at the airport four years later and connect through facebook.

The copy of the film that I had had really bad audio. Not sure, if it just me but because of it focusing on the film was hard. Its heartwarming to see, how the two strangers, traveling alone, becomes friends, start getting comfortable with each other and then also become romantically involved. The film story is simple but is unnecessarily stretched. It can easily be trimmed by 30 minutes. Thankfully the guys act well and Oat is extremely good looking too. They do share a good chemistry. This encounter forms a beautiful relationship between two men, because each has his own trauma. The locations of Japan were really beautiful and you would feel like visiting.

It is a heartwarming journey as we follow the simple pursuit of love. Unfortunately, the very slow pace of the narrative takes away from the high points of the film. (6.5/10)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Fire Song (Canada)

I don't think I have seen any films where central characters are Anishinaabe, a group of culturally related indigenous peoples resident in Canada. To that sense, this film definitely gave me something to read about later and also an interesting perspective because certain stories are more relevant to certain cultures and not others. Focused on an individual, his community and his coming out forms the basic crux of the story.

Shane has just graduated from high school and is looking forward to college in Toronto. BUt his plans go for a toss when his sister commits suicide. The mother almost takes to bed in grief, loses her job and the entire family is falling apart. Its fully onto Shane to support them both and find money for repairs. Not only there are lack of financial opportunities but it turns out that he is gay and there is no way that his traditional community will understand and accept it. David, his boyfriend, is also in closet and is unsure about leaving the town to go to Toronto with Shane. To keep up the appearances, Shane has a girlfriend Tara, who is more than happy to go with him. We see how youngsters in this town are struggling. David and Shane fight and come back together often. One such night Tara sees them kissing and is shocked. In a drunken state, she tells that to one other guy who eventually rapes her. Ashamed she also commits suicide. Somehow Shane's mother pushes herself to snap out of her grief when police comes looking for Shane as a suspect. She, together with David's grandmother, decide they will do what's best for the two boys and do everything in their power to make Shane go to college.

David and Shane as a couple were interesting. It was hard to say whether they loved each other or were they in love. I mean, given neither of them knew anyone gay in town, its easier to find comfort in each other. Surely, they cared; but family responsibilities prevent them from thinking about themselves. And this has probably to do with their culture where you just dont abandon family. The film moves at a slow-ish pace but the acting by all principal actors is amazing. Shane is amazing and he looks good too. Portraying the gut-wrenching desperation of what life must be like in a depressed community with no jobs and no hope for betterment is not an easy job to take and do justice to it without being biased. I commend the makers to choose a difficult subject. That said, the film is a bit dark, there is no light moments or even hope for a better future (well, there is; but not really). 

I have a feeling this film may not be for everyone. Showing compassion and despair in the aboriginal community in Canada, the film somehow resonated with me at least at some level. It's a sensitive portrayal of people at cross roads with respect to family, ambitions, love, responsibilities and there is no easy option or result irrespective of what they choose. (6/10)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A Bigger Splash (Documentary) (UK)

Released in 1973, this film can best be described as a staged documentary (neither fully feature film nor a full on documentary) that focuses on several years in the life of the British painter David Hockney. I am not an art connoisseur, so I have never heard of this artist and was looking forward to this. The name apparently is taken from one of the more famous paintings from the artist.

Hockney's lover was Peter, also the muse for most of his paintings. As described by many friends, Peter was gorgeous, almost like a Greek-God; so no wonder Hockney had such a liking for him. The film focuses more on the. breakup time between the two guys. The breakup has left David a wreck and he imagines scenes with Peter making love to another man. One day, he is hit by inspiration. Two images, one of a semi-nude male figure seemingly at the bottom of a pool, the other of a fully dressed man at pool’s edge, peering down. The resultant painting, “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” had up until recently held the record for the highest price paid for a work of art at an auction.

To be honest, I was not impressed by the film at all. Having read the synopsis, I was looking forward to it and wanted to like it, but there was absolutely nothing that caught my attention. Maybe its because of my lack of knowledge of the art scene but I doubt it. With its combinations of staged conversations and encounters and  intimate documentary glimpses, is about is how a certain artist has to work. Except that after a certain point I really couldn't care less. I wanted to know how and why the painting was created but don't really get clear answers even for that. And I found myself having to fast forward a lot of scenes because they would just go and on. Why did we watch a female fashion show for 15 minutes? Why was the naked swimmer pressed up to the "window" while two others ate dinner? and more stuff like that. I don't understand much of art or this film/documentary for the same reason. The rating is my personal opinion on this. (1/10)

Monday, May 25, 2020

15 Years (Hebrew)

While this isn’t your usual romantic queer offering, 15 Years does an impressive job of showing what long-running relationships go through when there’s talk about wanting to change things up. The change could be anything from opening up the relationship, to bringing in a third to even starting a family. It also shows an aspect of mid life crisis that our lead goes through.

Our primary character is Yoav, a 40 something architect. He has been with his lover Dan for 15 years who is a lawyer completely in love with Yoav. Alma is a mixed race Israeli who has been friends with Yoav since she was 13. At an art opening Alma announces that she is pregnant. For some reason Yoav is completely against the idea of kids, but Alma's announcement ignites Dan's desire for fatherhood. Yoav is so dead against the idea that he even lashes out at his friends and Alma on their 15th anniversary celebrations. It seems Yoav has some really bad childhood memories from his father who is dying. We never hear the details. This is where Yoav's downward spiral begins. His tight grasp on his life begins to come apart, leading him to self-destructive behavior that threatens to destroy his life with Dan & unravel his friendship with Alma. He leaves Dan, starts living on his own, completely shutting off even Alma. He spends time cruising, hooks up with a teenager and essentially just go on. Time passes. Alma becomes mother and Dan has started seeing another guy. Alma pays him a visit questioning his reason to shut everyone off despite the fact that everyone loves him so much. No one can understand Yoav at this point. Yoav then visits Dan, they remember old times,. sleep together and eventually Yoav leaves. He cannot be with Dan anymore.

This film is acted and directed really beautifully. You see the couple falling apart and all you want to do is shake them up and ask them to sit and talk. And Maybe thats what is tried to be shown that communication in any relationship is so important. Yoav never ever shares what is his real problem with not wanting to be a father. We just know and feel his angst is real but it's difficult to connect with him since we don't know where it is coming from. What happened between him and his father? Yes, couple sometimes grow apart but they make things work. I mean even these guys were in open relationship (which I felt Yoav was not comfortable with) but just a matter of child could make things so worse? I think, they can. The film is about how sometimes things just change in a relationship and there’s nothing you can really do about it. Or maybe you can, if you make an effort, but by themselves nothing will change automatically. Both the lead actors are absolutely fantastic and so is direction. It's poignant and makes you think and want to give them a hug. Here, I have to say that Dan was absolutely gorgeous and so magnetic and charismatic. So HOT! and a good actor.

All in all, this film is an intimate and intense look at a relationship featuring two characters that see no choice but to drift away because they want different things in life. This is a very serious film to watch, but I think you will not be disappointed. (7.5/10)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Les Crevettes Pailletées (French) [The Shiny Shrimps]

This light hearted fun filled film can easily be termed as a silly gay comedy. A movie about underdogs is something that we all love. Add to it some "fabulousness" and the time just goes by real quick, when both the actors and the audience are just having some fun. Yes, it is full of crude cliches and stereotypes but aren't we all used to it by now, especially if its comedy genre.

Matthias is an olympic swimmer almost at the end of career, so when a TV commentator pushes him, he blurts our a gay slur. Realizing his mistake he goes back to governing bodies so that he can get one last chance at swimming. His punishment is decided by making him coach of a gay water polo team called the  Shiny Shrimps, touted as “the worst gay sports team”. As you would expect, the team is a bunch of misfits thrown in together who are there just for a good time and lot of sex They are not interested in winning. Restaurant owner and chef Jean created this team and trained but has some sickness now. we have his ex lover, married guy with kids, older guy Joel who always undermines the current generation, 2-3 other guys who are just careless and free and newbie Vincent who just joined the team. We also have transgendered Fred in the mix. Matthias hopes that he will show no interest and team will automatically disqualify but soon he realizes that this may be his only chance to not only redeem himself and also use this opportunity to mend differences with his young daughter. How Matthias come around from being a homophobe to doing everything possible as a coach to make this team a success forms the rest of the story. An impending tragedy at the end even manages to bring a tear to the viewer's eyes before things end on a literal high note.

The big win of this film in my opinion is the fact the film never takes itself too seriously but at the same time does try to bring to foray some issues like older gays, transgendered, homophobia etc lightly. And everything is kept very comical. You may think the acting is loud but I think that the acting is pitched to the relative loudness of the respective characters, which really works in the films favors. These guys get one chance to be themselves and thats why they wanna have fun. No one till Matthias showed them a possibility that they have the potential to do greater things if they out their heart and mind to it. Most of the laughs are stereotyped but fun, especially the explanation of why, exactly, they are called Shiny Shrimps is great. There is an ode to queer classics as well, notably their trip on a rented bus from Paris to Croatia, echoing the fabulous The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Any movie lover would know that for sure. It was nice to see Matthias transformation. It doesn't seem forced. The scene where Jean actually tells Matthias a little background of each of the players is when you feel the change happening. Till now the team members were bunch of jokers for the coach but now he had something to prove himself. It's difficult to single out any actor in this film. It's the entire ensemble that make it work. The negatives of the film will be the stereotypes showing all gay men want to do is get naked, drink and have sex. As much of that may largely be true, but no one wants to be shown the mirror. lol

Forget your worries and just watch this for a good fun ride because good vibes don’t come for free. Joy is something we have to fight for. We are all in lockdown and deserve something that brings a smile to our face. A fun filled silly gay comedy. (7/10)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

José (Spanish)

There are probably only a handful LGBTQ films that have come out of Guatemala. A tragedy of unfulfilled aspirations as a result of widespread homophobia and emotional blackmail, this film feels very real, like as if you are prying on someone's private life. You feel sad for José, but you can also connect with his dilemma.

José lives with his mother at a poor area. Both him and his mother are working hard to make ends meet. In between his work, José makes time to live out his sexuality in secret through gay hook-up apps. He knows its not acceptable by society and he tries to keep it as alienated as possible. Things change when he meets Luis. There is connection at all levels. Straight acting, poor, hard working guys, leading a double life. Love starts forming because they understand each other and its only together that they can heal each other scars. They are happy when they are together, but when Luis proposes that José leave the city to come with him to start a life together, he cannot do that to his mother. He cannot leave her alone. And bang, Luis is out of his life. Heart broken José, continues with his life meeting other guys, one of them from a rich family, even offering to help José but he cant leave his mother alone. The mother knows about her son, but here is no over the top drama. She just prays to Jesus to keep her son safe. Eventually José moves to her grandmother's home for work and to support family. He is lonely, very lonely. He even travels to Luis' village in hopes to find him, but he never does. José's future when it comes to love doesn't look very good.

The thing that stays with you after the film is completed is the brilliant acting by the lead actor. He utters few words and doesn’t perform any outbursts; what’s required of him is an unfazed façade, even when his chances at happiness have vanished time and again. No tears leave his eyes, ever. He is just brilliant. Slight changes from a boyish look in the beginning to having facial hair in latter half, is a masterstroke to also show the pain and agony he is living inside. I am not sure how many people will actually connect with the fact that José cant just leave his mother for selfish reasons of love. Asia and latin America, as cultures, are very family oriented and its very rarely anyone will put someone above their family, rich or poor. The relationship of José and Luis was shown so beautifully. They may not have money, but they how to be happy with each other. They are happiest when together riding on a motorcycle or in motel rooms caressing each other’s skin. I am not sure what happened with Luis, when he suddenly leaves without José, but I wish there was a bit more clarity around that. The direction, screenplay and everything is brilliant. The way, the sections of Guatemala city are captured, are just wonderful. You feel you are a part of the hustle and bustle of the city and are in there with the characters. I loved the fact that even though the film focussed on harshness of life of a poor gay Guatemalan man, they didn't go into gay bashing or anything. The film uses less of dialogues and more of imagery that often leaves it to the viewer to decipher certain story points, while relying on imagery to do the rest.

It's very understandable, how someone like José who is growing up in poverty and intolerance will be confused on what he wants from life. A small film with its heart in the right places. A touching tribute to the harsh life and its realities. I just wish parts of it were not so slow at certain points. (6.5/10)

Friday, May 22, 2020

Moffie (Afrikaans / English)

Moffie, is apparently the gay slang in Afrikaans for faggot, which means if said out loud, it really really hurts like a bullet. This film had a very interesting plot. It is set in 1981, when there was long running war at South African border spun by the Apartheid government as a mission of anti-communist protection. With the backdrop of war, what the film tries to explore is the violent homophobia prevalent in the country’s heavily patriarchal white Afrikaans population.

18 year old shy Nicholas is drafted for compulsory military service and his family is throwing him a send off party. His father gives him a porn magazine as "ammunition" to keep with him. Of course, when he reaches the camp, he is headthrown into the shouting, fighting, swearing world of military and all the new recruits playing roughly at manhood. We notice Nicholas is trying to hide something, from others and possibly even from himself. The training of the boys begin which is a literal assault course of abuse, humiliation and physical exhaustion and any boy who briefly wavers or steps out of line is labeled a “moffie,” as if no greater failing could be imagined of a man. Another recruit Stassen is someone who catches Nicholas' fancy but he cant do anything about it. In a wet ditch one night, its wet and cold and the two boys are forceed to sleep next to one another naked. We don't get to know what happens but apparently thats enough to open up Nicholas's imagination. We are then shown in a flashback sequence when Nick wad a child, he was caught peeping while not yet into his teens by someone’s outraged dad, and had to be whisked away by his own parents with dozens looking on. Nicholas has never got over that moment. For reasons, we are not told, Stassen, is moved to Ward 22, a place reserved for "moffies" and Nicholas can do nothing about it. The two men eventually meet after months of them finishing the military but the scars are left on them permanently. The film ends on a questioning and uncertain note.

The first half of the film was very very nice. The way the whole training was shown, young boys being forced to military etc was something very real and slowly the layers started to peel and you would see a young man yearning for love but somehow controlling himself. The flashback does show us how and why Nicholas has learned to avert his eyes from people to safeguard his masculine insecurity and aggression of the society. The direction of the film and the story is beautiful and painful. But I also do have certain issues with the film. There was a lot about these 2 men that could have been explored. The film largely focuses on what military regiment does to these young men, so when it becomes all about their love towards the latter half, it felt a little disjointed to me. The whole last section of border tour and fight also felt rushed and disconnected. Secondly, I feel that with the amount of suffering that black men had to go through during the apartheid time, making a film showing a gay white man as a victim over black man is slightly unfair. I am not saying that this was not an issue, but I would have loved to see the film strike a balance and shown some correlation to a gay white man's suffering to a black man's day to day survival. This is my personal view which doesn't take away from the fact that what is shown in the film is still quite interesting. The two boys give very defining performances that need to be recognized and applauded, especially Nicholas whose eyes speak volume about the constant fear of being exposed.

I had much higher expectations having read the unanimous praises of what a masterpiece this film is. It is good but not great because of my issues with some topics mentioned above. The film is masterpiece for the lead's acting for sure and for showing us about a time which wasn't too far ago and to think these things really happened, is just frightening. (6.5/10)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Épouse-moi Mon Pote (French) [Marry Me, Dude]

It was really good to watch a light hearted comedy film. Work pressure is increasing and I needed something that could just cheer me up a little even though briefly. There is only so much that re-runs of Schitt's Creek could elevate my mood, which by the way I strongly recommend. Coming back to this film, its sort of comedy of purposely created errors leading to hilarious situations, even though, most of you, like me, probably will take offense to how stereotyped everything was made to be in the film.

Yassine, is a moroccan student whose family has made sacrifices for him to be able to study architecture in Paris. He is doing so well, except he gets piss drunk the day before final exam and hence cannot finish his degree and hence now his visa is at a risk. He also had a crush on this girl Claire in college but because of embarrassment, he stands her up on the last night. He now works as a labour in a construction project. Fred and his girlfriend Lisa move in next to Yassine and very soon Fred and Yassine become very close friends. Fred is a blond deadbeat with no job and no ambitions and for some reason not interested to marry Lisa. To keep his visa situation in check, Yassine asks Fred is to marry him, which he willingly agrees. Now starts all comedy when the state official Dussart needs to find out of the couple is for real or just faking it. There are many scenes in which he follows the couple or visits them and how then they handle him. Thinks take another turn when Yassine's mother shows up unannounced and Yassine then introduces Lisa as his wife. The mother now starts planning for his wedding. Meanwhile Yassine is still crushing on Claire at work but she still holds grudges. As expected, the secret eventually comes out when Yassine confesses. The mother is shocked but Claire eventually comes around and Fred finally realizes that he actually likes men.

The story of the film is wonderfully written to keep bringing in comic relief every now and then. There is never a dull moment in this fast paced film. Each character brings something fun. Now, the situation son Fred and Yassine trying to act gay, even though funny feel slightly dated on how gays are stereotyped with their clothing, mannerism, sex obsession, over the top clothes. I felt weird but then I looked from another angle that maybe what they were trying to show is that still many straight guys are so ignorant about gay world and gays in general that in their mind, this is how gays live and behave having no clue whatsoever about the similarity of lives and ways that gay men have with straight guys. It made me feel less bad but I wish how they would have kept at least one stereo-free gay character. But I guess most mainstream comedies like to take the short cut to bring some laughs. Chemistry that Fred and Yassine share is amazing. Fred was definitely my favourite character who literally takes everything he does to his heart and does with passion, be it the fake marriage, dance competition or anything else.Some of the random characters like the loan shark and the blind guy also added good funny moments. The whole Claire angle was very underbaked and really didn't add much. Maybe they just needed an arena for Yassine to have. a reason to speak out his truth. Another thing was how sake all the Moroccan scenes looked like. And why were they all talking in French and not Arabic?

Keep your mind aside, and just try to enjoy this film. Try to not be offended with typical stereotyping. The film is not showing homophobia intentionally. I was entertained for a change. (6.5/10)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Confessions

I wasn't sure what to expect of this film since Mark Bessenger's films have been a mixed bag so far. So, I was a little skeptical in the first place. This film is more like an anthology of 10 short films, where 10 men are sort of confessing their secrets directly talking to the camera taking us through the journey of a gay male psyche.

The film starts with a straight actor opening about his struggles trying to make it as an actor. He talks about being taken advantage of by his agent, then a producer and that how he landed into the gay film because a man has to eat. There’s a young man who has to find the bravery to tell his parents that he’s a puppet, despite the fact they think that puppets are disgusting and abnormal. We have a man who appears to have kidnapped someone and is holding him in his basement, who slowly undresses as he reveals what is going on. In another, a hot young guys talk about what he’s really looking for as he lies in the arms of another man just after sex. A man slowly shaves off his beard, with each look he tries on a new persona that allows him to explore the fact that despite being with a woman, he has strong desires for men. And more...

Anthology films are always hit or miss, just because of the nature that some stories connect better with audiences and others don't. Even though genre wise, we get to see comedy, horror, empathy; but there were actually only 2 segments that I connected with. The first one with the actor really establishes the contrasting light and dark reveals that are to come over its duration. And then of the man slowly shaving off his beard was intense and gripping. That one was deep, but rest of the others were strictly ok or bad. The actors are thankfully good to look at and easy on eyes, but after a while, the constant jibber jabber takes my mind away from actually focussing on the film and as an audience I feel thats a problem. Surely, we are all looking for different meaningful cinema but it should still manage to hold your attention. I will probably give it a pass. (4/10)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Boy (Dutch / Tagalog)

This was a very interesting film. At 45 minute length, it's not short enough but neither a full length feature film. I guess it still deserves a quick short review, because this film focuses on the life of a gay Filipino houseboy in Holland. Something that I don't remember seeing before and the idea and concept felt very intriguing to me, and that made me pick this film to watch.

The story is simple. We meet the "The Boy" whose name is never shared who works as a cleaning boy in the upscale and posh houses in Amsterdam. We watch him go house to house cleaning, and unknowingly also becoming a witness to their life. Andre, is the only house owner with whom he actually talks to while cleaning his home. Andre, being a writer, is always interested in knowing stories about the other houses. The Boy lives with his boyfriend who works as a dancer in a gay club and together they are looking to make ends meet. Clearly Boy cares about the boyfriend and his own family equally and doesn't mind working extra to support. it's not to say that the boyfriend is exploiting. he is also trying his best to get by. When Andre Kills himself, one of his friends, a photographer shows keen interest in the Boy, befriends and actually almost starts having an affair with him. He is always looking for a subject for his pictures and we later find out that in the name of caring for the Boy, his hidden story was about a cleaning boy who sleeps with the owners for money. The Boy is utterly disappointed by the attitude of him and others who think that he would do something like this for money.

The focus here is clearly on the life of illegal workers in EU and how they get by in life, their struggles etc. Boy here moves continuously from one location to other as if he is almost invisible. He is trying to strike a balance between work, his happiness, caring for his family back home and doing everything in his power to make his boyfriend's career a success. Slowly, following the boy, you realize he is no different from anyone else. We are all here trying to survive. We all have our own ways, and how disappointing it is when someone mistakes your genuine warmth and affection and friendship for a means to just make some extra money; just because they are in need of money. This easy to watch film is a gentle reminder for us that we need to take a moment to notice and appreciate the hard work of all these kind of essential workers, whom, normally we just ignore. The two lead boys act really well and share a good chemistry. Maybe, I watch too many movies, but I was constantly expecting that the dancer boyfriend would do something to break boy's heart but I am so glad that it never happens. The two boys really love and care for each other.

A touching film about people trying to make a better life and trying to make human connections, not really succeeding at either but persevering anyway. I'd recommend it. (6.5/10)

Monday, May 18, 2020

He's Coming To Me (Thai Series)

This Thai BL drama is another one of the recommendations that was given to me. At almost 60 minutes an episode duration and 8 episodes later, this took sometime to watch, but thankfully you are rewarded with a novel story, some good acting and direction and lot of food for thought. The entire concept of the show is very unique. I am not sure how many films or series are out there focussing on a love story between a man and ghost. Yes, a ghost!!

Its 1997, and Mes, a university student suddenly dies of heart-attack. He can't figure out why he is not reincarnated. None of his friends or family ever visit his grave, so there is a sense of sadness that overcomes Mes. When a kind young boy Than takes pity on the dilapidated grave and lights an incense stick, Mes suspects the boy can either see or hear him. As he grows older, Than continues to visit Mes's grave once a year, leaving food and candy that Mes has asked for, but he suddenly stops. Waiting for him, eventually Than does show up in 2019. He confesses that he could always see Mes but didnt want other people to think of him as a weirdo. Now that Than's father died many years ago and Than is studying law, Than and Mes are very happy to see each other and Than takes him to his Bangkok student apartment to live with him. Than's gang includes best friends Prince and Khiem and a young girl Plaifah. Plaifah has crush on Than but Prince likes her. Also Than figures out that the reason Mes hasn't reincarnated is because he didn't die of heart-attack. There is some other reason and Than promises to solve the mystery for Mes. Slowly every layer is peeled. Than comes out as gay to his friends and his mother when Plaifah kisses him. He and Mes really like and love each other but when Mes sees Than's mother, he is shocked. She used to be best friends with Mes in college but Mes broke her heart when he came out gay. Eventually Than is able to figure out the secret of Mes' death with support of his friends. Mes can probably reincarnate now, but the two lovers decide to spend as much time together happily as they can. On e day at a time.

As you can see, the story is very novel and has actually been done with respect and sensitivity. Nothing has been made fun of and every character gets their due. We see the goofiness of the friends group that Than has and how he balances his life with them and alongwith Mes. You see the unconditioned love and support that he provides to Mes even before they both realize that they love each other. Of course, you have to stop entertaining the idea of how on earth can a spirit and human fall in love but sometimes love no boundaries, so watch it with open mind. Nothing is rushed in the series. And sometimes, that also becomes a negative aspect of the show.  Some scenes I feel were quite stretched and could be done away with, but I guess given the mini series format, you cant just always focus on the core story. You do not additional storylines and actors to keep viewers hooked. I also liked the fact that it wasn't really always about their love. Than was doing all this for Mes in good intention and then with passage of time, its the comfort and attraction that happens between the two of them. Unlike most other BL stories, its not all about love between two boys. Focus on the grief and suffering arising from the death of a loved one creates drama. Sadly, the finale and the big reveal of why and how Mes died was not an absolute shocker. I felt something bigger and more shocking would have taken the series to an altogether different level. Of the Thai series, that I have seen so far, this is the most emotional series so far that goes beyond love and what you would do and what lengths would you go for love.

Barring the overdose of forced comedy in the first initial episodes and certain other scenes that were stretched, I can't find fault with this. Even the instances where the spirit can sometimes touch things and objects and other times not was also well explained. Its a good watch. (7/10)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Stormy Night

Watching a black and white film made in 2020 already gives a very retro and warm feeling. And when the setup includes the fact that there is a sever storm outside, it makes it spooky as well. Thankfully, this film was neither spooky nor retro. It's a very modern story of 2 strangers meeting on an evening and what happens there after. The setting is just a matter of fact.

There is a big storm hitting New York and all flights are cancelled. Spanish documentary film maker Marcos was on his way back to Spain but now stranded. Thankfully one of his friends lets him stay in the city in her room since she is out working and lets her room mate Alan know about it. Marcos and Alan are both gay. Alan welcomes Marcos and makes him comfortable. Alan has been working through the weekend on a project he needs to finish, while it turns out that the documentary that Marcos was working on was to do with sexuality, sexual identity and anything related to sex featuring his ex-boyfriend. On an impulse Alan kisses Marcos but keep profusely apologizing. We find later this is because Alan has been in a relationship for 2 years now. This is where the discussions between 2 men begin on everything about being and a gay men and their relationships. Rest of the film is all about this: questioning each other’s understanding of life, happiness and love.

Alan believes in monogamy and love whereas Marcos thinks it's fake. They both share stories on the idea behind their beliefs. Of course, neither is right or wrong. But it gives an opportunity for two complete strangers to share ideas and thoughts. We find that Marcos is not even out to his family, his ex hasn't seen the film. Turns out Alan's boyfriend is also not out to his family. Alan is an idealist while Marcos is carefree. Is it because thats how they are or is it because the circumstances made them the way they are? The film is all about dialogue and discussion and hence after a while it becomes tedious. This kind of genre works well in short film format, unless there are surprises in store for the viewers. The 2 men literally just talk about ideologies throughout the evening before Marcos heads back to the airport in the morning and that gets boring after a while. I sometimes would relate to Marcos , and other times with Alan and thats because we all have our own opinions. The acting was just average, even amateurish but not bad. The black and white setup and cinematography is quite good and it sets a mood for the film. It was a good idea.

Strictly average, this film doesn't shake the ground or provide any new insight or entertainment. its just different. (4.5/10)

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Do Lado de Fora (Portuguese) [Boys In Brazil]

It's good to watch a light hearted comedy film after a while. I have been seeing a lot of heavy duty, raw TV shows and serious films. So this film was a good change in that regard. What's interesting is that the film is not very old. It came in 2014. Although if you see the content of the film, it feels as if it should have come maybe 12-15 years ago. The subject material is slightly dated but hey, lets stop judging for once.

Its gay pride day and best friends & teenagers Mauro and Rodrigo decide to attend this one. Thanks to Mauro's uncle Vincente, who is an executive. After the parade, the three of them see a gay guy being bashed up for four dudes. They fight him and bring him back. His name is Roger and confesses that he is actually in closet, married and with a son. Mauro makes everyone make a pact that before next year's parade they will all have come out. Rodrigo has a crush on a fellow classmate Lucas and Mauro plays cupid to bring them together. Mauro himself wants to become a drag queen. Vincente needs to come out at work but he keeps missing opportunities. When Roger again shows up at Vincent's house, they both begin an affair with the understanding that at some point Roger will tell the truth to his wife. His plans go for a toss when they find that Roger's wife is pregnant again. One evening, Mauro's mother finds about him and as expected they ground him inside home and take him to church and everything; but eventually all of these 4 folks come out to their respective families and work just in time for the next years parade.

My absolute favourite thing about this film was the unconditional friendship that Mauro and Rodrigo shared. They both loved and cared for each other. Mauro does his best to bring Rodrigo close to his crush and at the same time Rodrigo provides full and honest support to Mauro's dream. Never at any stage no one judges Mauro for being effeminate and wanting to be a drag queen. And Lucas does exactly the same. So, yeah as much as it got slightly annoying that Mauro couldn't stand still for even a second, I really felt nice about the non-judgemental aspect of it. Vincente and Roger's relationship was also done very well. It was not all about sex. The two guys genuinely cared about each other and Roger also loved his wife and kids but knew that he can't continue to lie. He goes through his own struggles. Luckily, Vincente never forces him to do anything that Roger is uncomfortable in. For variety sake, a lesbian couple is also thrown in, of which, one of the girls, who writes for a blog to advocate for LGBT rights was very annoying. She is so riled up in LGBT rights, that she doesn't care that coming out is an individual's decision and she can't force anyone. That was very insensitive and I wished somewhere her girlfriend had stood up for the right thing to address that point. So yeah, the story was simple and no it wasn't serious at all. With a light comedy touch, the film never bores you and with just under 90 minutes duration, it passes very breezily.By the way: The Roger guy was so freaking hot. Yum!!

Enjoy the movie and just watch for what it is. A light hearted, harmless comedy that's trying to entertain you with some messaging around being true to yourself. It's important to note how with a little support from family and friends, coming out can be so much more easier for everyone. (6/10)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

From Zero to I Love You

There are a lot of gay romantic stories out there. So when you see another one of the similar films looking to exploit gay audience, you go with a bit of skepticism. In that sense, I was taken by surprise because this film is actually not bad. Handled with maturity in today's time , no character or scene goes overboard (takes a sigh of relief!), but it does have its shortcomings which we will discuss further.

Jack is happily married to Carla with 2 daughters. After a casual fling with a waiter at a friend's party, Jack finds it hard to control urges to be with a man and starts frequenting the gay bars of Philadelphia. He meets Pete there and they both have a great time. We find out that Pete has a knack for falling for married men and getting his heart broken. Pete's supportive father dissuades Pete from repeating his mistakes but Jack professes his love for Pete and vice versa. Jack's commitment to his family, makes him stay away from Pete, who knowing that this affair may not go anywhere start seeing another man and they eventually get engaged. Carla, who has been suspecting of her husband possibly having an affair, is shocked to learn at an art gallery opening that his affair is with Pete, another man. Pete is clearly unhappy in his new relationship and has been cheating and one day his fiancé eventually finds out and asks him to leave. By then, showing a very matured relationship, Jack and Carla also decide to separate. Jack's best friend and Pete's father eventually take upon themselves to reunite the lover boys.

The story is straight forward and simple. The guys act alright but there was something hugely missing in the film, and I am having a hard time pointing out what really that is. The problem is, at any point I wasn't able to connect to either of the 2 leads at emotional or personal level. Jack is happy with Carla but he makes mistakes. If he is bold enough to talk about his gay escapades to his friend and even his wife's brother, why does he hesitate to do that with his wife? Also, Pete seemed a very confused guy. Whoever shows a little bit of love to him, he goes with it. He starts seeing this new guy while he is still with Jack (agreed they are probably not exclusive), but he is obviously a confused man. Which is ok, but its not explored correct. Then there is the race angle, which was ok because it was never talked about, but then the film gives 2 different references around it and it doesn't get explored at all. It’s laudable that these conversations are flagged but they are so fleeting, it becomes frustrating that these ideas aren’t extended. Pete has these exasperated expressions throughout and his acting felt very rehearsed to me. He doesn't come out as a natural. Jack is much better actor, probably too young for the role he was playing, but I don't see much chemistry between the two and hence its hard to want them to be together as an audience.

The script and acting both needed work and definitely slightly tight editing. The film is an honest attempt at a genuine love story but sadly these work when the leads have crackling chemistry amongst other things, something sorely missing in this film. (5.5/10)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

NY84

We have seen some really good films in the past that tell us stories about AIDS in the 80s worldwide and especially in US. So between all those amazing dramas, a film like this, doesn't really add much value. Made as an ode to the artists in New York in the 80s, I feel that this film doesn't do justice to either those artists or to the generation of New Yorkers whose world was turned upside down because of HIV/AIDS in the 80s.

in 1980 in downtown New York, we meet the trio of Kate, a budding singer; photographer Anton and a painter/graffiti artist Keith. The three of them spend time sharing bed, drugs, partying. all night clubbing and sometimes also working towards their art. The three are joined to the hip but are also allowed to play around outside. Things change when gay men mysteriously start getting sick around 1984 and both Keith and Anton are not spared. We also see a little bit of wealthy art patron Harold who gives Anton an opportunity to become famous, but he is also sick now. The film oscillates between these 2 time zones with the mean dealing with their sickness and the audience getting to see the colorful life of these individuals just a few years back.

To be honest, there really wasn't much point to the film. I would have loved to see how the trio met, what their inside dynamics is like. Instead we see them already together, very sorted, not jealous of each other, fully supportive, living together. A little too good. We see all kinds of pleasure seeking activities between these men, which I guess was to show the stark contrast to the times when they struggle even to breathe because of AIDS. We also see some mocumentary like interviews with a couple of folks while Keith is bedridden in hospital and Anton is struggling to enjoy his fame. Thankfully, the three actors do a pretty convincing job portraying their roles, but the screenplay is a huge let down. Maybe the budget was limited for filming but at least more effort could have been out otherwise in story details.

Not bad but easily forgettable. (4/10)

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Luciérnagas (Spanish/English) [Fireflies]

This was a very interesting film and definitely not for everyone. Most immigrants may relate to it one way or the other. It's never easy when you leave your country in hope for greener pastures, but you are never fully prepared for the uncertainties and the loneliness thats about to surround you and may eat you up. It's about, how you keep yourself settled and grounded during these times and give yourself and the new place an opportunity.

Ramin is a foreigner from Iran in the port town of Vera Cruz, Mexico and is doing odd jobs as a laborer. He is looking around to see if a boat can take him to Greece or Turkey but he doesnt have enough money. He is staying at a cheap motel owned by Leti. We soon find out that Ramin is gay and is away since he ran away. He was trying to escape to EU but somehow got to mexico and is now stuck here without knowing the language, the people, the culture. We also later in the movie see that he has scars on his back which were probably because of him being gay. So he keeps his sexuality to himself unsure how locals would react, despite him seeing a very pen cruising area. He befriends Leti and they together teach language to each other. Leti's ex-bf is also visiting from US but thats a chapter of her life that she is not willing to get into again and hence very clearly tells her ex to stay away. Another laborer from work soon becomes friends with Ramin, who is also a migrant worker looking to move to US and then to Canada for a better life. He thinks he is getting mixed signal from his friend so ends up kissing him but gets beaten. Slowly, days pass and it's time for carnival and he celebrates with Leti. The film ends with Leti seeing Ramin with a smile on his face kissing another man. Finally Ramin can be himself.

You know, I didn't think much of the film when I was watching it. In fact, I was even confused at certain points, but the more I think about it and am trying to replay scenes in my mind, This is such a sad story but also a story that tells us that there is light at the end of tunnel. Ramin is very lonely and is trying to find friendly people and places but lack of language prevents him from doing so. He is not very sure of where his relationship with his bf back at home stands. He wants to leave Mexico but cant and is stuck. He ventures in the city to find gay haunts but is still very afraid to do anything with it given that his country Iran would punish being gay by law. Ramin is not sure if Mexicans are freer to flaunt their sexuality in public? He takes a chance with his buddy but that backfires. His chemistry with Leti was also interesting. We have two characters with contradictory feelings towards their past loves. One is longing for a visit while the other is dreading it. I have personally moved to 3 completely new countries in my life not knowing a single soul or the language so I could so well relate to Ramin feeling lonely and trying to make friends. It's easy to make new friends when you are in college or at work, but other wise it's really hard. We all put up a barrier. The last scene where Ramin is hugging and kissing a man passionately without any worries of how people would react was beautiful. He has a smile on his face which hasn't been there ever since he arrived to Mexico and Leti is also so happy for him. Maybe finally Ramin will  find love and tranquility in this part of the world?

This was a very very beautiful film. In fact, after a long time, there is a film that I can see myself watching again at some point. The film takes time to grow on you. If, like me, you connect with the character, you are in for an amazing film, otherwise others may find it average. After all, movie watching is all about an individual's perspective. (8/10)

Monday, May 11, 2020

Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish (Hindi)

Made in late 2011, this film was never officially released in India, until recently when somehow Netflix got the rights to this film and released in late 2019. Directorial debut from a famous 70s and 80s actress, I was looking forward to seeing this film. It would be wrong to classify the film in LGBT genre but given that one of the three main protagonists is gay and we do talk a lot about relationships in t his film, its only fair that it should be reviewed here.

Debu, a wanna lyricist, has been recently dumped by his boyfriend of 3.5 years and hence he is out of a place to live. A chance encounter with an aging prostitute Juhi on that rainy night changes things for him. The two bond over old hindi music and she hires him to take care of her wheel chair bound son Kaku, who cannot talk and needs constant attention. Juhi has strained relationship with her son as she is too busy making ends meet, to give him time. Arrival of Debu changes the equation between all three of them. Juhi only later realizes that Debu is gay but doesn't judge him. They both share their past of how they ended up being in the situation that they are in. Slowly the 3 of them start to live together and enjoy together, although slowly Juhi's work reduces since the customers now only want younger girls. Everything is going well, till one day suddenly Debu gets a call from his ex-boyfriend. Debu is excited to meet him only to find out that he is getting married and wants to just make sure that Debu will not tell their secret to anyone else. He comes back heartbroken but that night Juhi tries to seduce him coercing that he has to try with a woman. She wants to hold on to him but the next morning he leaves home leaving a letter saying that their relationship has now become complicated and that it will be hard for him to live there any more. Juhi and Kaku are heartbroken, but eventually he comes back asking Juhi that they can't live as a couple but surely the three of them can live as a family.

The title of this film is the first thing thats strikes you., Its very poetic just like the title song of this film. You know not to expect a mainstream film, rather a very nuanced, slow film that will probably rely a lot more on silences and eyes doing the talking rather than the dialogues. A lot of conversation between Debu and Juhi happens using old hindi songs, which is interesting for a native speaker. Rajit Kapur does an absolutely fantastic job as Debu never stereotyping gay mannerisms and always keeping the positive attitude and happiness around him. He emotes effortlessly, displaying pain, helplessness, pleasure and happiness aptly, and he is the one who makes this film look real. Manisha Koirala as Juhi has played similar roles in the past, so you expect her to give her best and the kid performs well too. It's the screenplay and direction that holds this film tightly together. The treatment is very respectful. Mumbai's monsoon season and the backdrop of rain is used a lot throughout the film which helps describe and live the moments in life of our protagonists.

The film sometimes get too wordy and slow and therefor will not appeal to even the language speaking audience. I, for a change quite enjoyed it. India doesn't put out many respectable queer characters in their films, but this was good for a change. (6/10)

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Fin de Siglo (Spanish) [End Of Century]

This film, in its spirit, reminded me of one of my favourite films 'Weekend'; although both these films have absolutely nothing in common. But in soul, interactions between 2 men, who have some sort of chemistry instantly reminded me of that. But the similarities just end there. This film is an interesting exploration of what life was, is and the possibilities of what it could be based on certain decisions we took or may take in future.

Ocho, an Argentinian man, is visiting Barcelona on a holiday from New York. Wandering around town and on the beach, he notices a man. Later, while looking out from his balcony in the evening, he notices this same man strolling on the pavement below and impulsively calls out to him to come and have a drink. His name is Javi. Opposites attract and they hook up, have a great time and Javi asks them to connect again to hang out in evening. They both discuss life over wine and cheese. It turns out that Ocho has been in a relationship for about 20 years now & has recently split and Javi is married to man with a 2 year old daughter and lives in Berlin. Ocho has this nagging feeling that they have met before, which Javi confirms and we go in flashback about 20 years ago. They were both straight, and a girl Sonia was common between them. Ocho's long time friend and Javi was then dating here. One night they both end of up hooking up when they are alone. Those were also the days when Ocho definitely wanted to have kids but Javi didn't. Back to present, it's almost night and Javi wants to leave since he and his husband have certain rules. Ocho is back to being alone, thinking briefly of what life could have been if Javi and Ocho were together and reality is he is by himself in this empty apartment.

The first things that you realize when you watch the film is the amazing chemistry that the leads share with each other. There is passion, comfort and respect and it makes for a perfect pairing between the two. Second thing that you notice is that even when the story goes 20 years back, the leads look exactly the same. It actually bothered me initially because the makers could have probably experimented with hairstyle, beard or something else to show them younger but absolutely no effort was done. In a film, which has quite a bit of minute details, I feel that was probably done on purpose. Maybe, even though on the surface, the two guys haven't changed in 20 years, but philosophically they have both grown up and settled in their own way. Ocho is promiscuous and on Prep hooking up with people on grindr but Ocho will have nothing but safe sex. he is committed to his husband and daughter. The two men have no confrontations. Just talks and reflections on life, what it is and what it could have been, which is interesting but sadly not everyone's cup of tea. I can see some people lose interest. Not me. Another very beautiful thing about this film is the cinematography. The beauty of Barcelona twilight in evening is the perfect background for the pair to sit and relive their past. The film was slightly lengthy but still manages to hold your attention.

In life, you are meant to meet certain people, make some connections and maybe move on. But it's the memories that stay while life and time flies on. Savor it, enjoy it and see what it would be like to fall in love with these characters and maybe think of some of your past fleeting connections. (7/10)