gaymoviefest 2012

It's roughly around that time of the year again (actually it's probably a little early, but what the hell) when I start publishing lists of things, and usually around this time I go through the gay movies I've seen during the year (see also 2011, 2010).

I do need to stop waiting until the end of the year to post these reviews though, since I watched all but the last two movies on this list during my enforced convalescence in May.

Unfortunately the list starts out with a stinker... but fortunately I did counteract that with the second movie on the list which was brilliant, and probably the best gay movie I saw this year.

I also realised again that I would really like something other than just relationship movies from my queer cinema viewing... I want some gay science fiction, some queer fantasy, some (more) bent horror, some homo thrillers...

If you know anything good that is more than just two guys in a room talking about their feelings, lemme know in the comments.

So... once again chronologically... welcome to GayMovieFest 2012...

gaymoviefest2012 - the brotherhood v
The Brotherhood V - Alumni

Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.

The plot makes NO sense, the dialogue is appalling, none of the actors can actually act worth a damn, it looks like a film student made it.

And even reasonably attractive young men taking off their clothes couldn't improve it.

This movie should be avoided like the plague... it's not even bad enough to be amusingly distracting or campy... it's just BAD!

Would I recommend it: No, no, no, no, no.

gaymoviefest2012 - private romeo
Private Romeo

This is truly beautiful! An all male retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet without a word of dialogue altered.

It sounds like it shouldn't work, and there are a few moments early on with some minor framing dialogue that I wasn't sure about. And a couple of the actors were hard to keep track of (Tybalt and Mercutio particularly) but something about young men performing the very beautiful dialogue of Shakespeare's greatest romance is just gorgeous.

The way it's set up is interesting too... These eight young men are left behind at a military academy while everyone else is away and they're also reciting Romeo and Juliet in their English class... But then suddenly the dialogue just spills over into the real world without any warning.

It sounds clumsy but it's artfully done, especially of you're familiar with the story.

Other than the two leads, Seth Numrich as Sam Singleton (aka Romeo) and Matt Doyle as Glenn Mangan (aka Juliet), who perform the titular star crossed lovers (although I was a little fuzzy on why the two groups of young men were at odds with each other beyond the needs of the story) the two stand-outs were Sean Hudock as Gus Sanchez who takes on the role of Benvolio and Chris Bresky as Omar Madsen who does a fantastic job as Juliet's nurse.

Actually the names thing did bother me a little... more so that the cast list doesn't include their alternate roles (ie Madsen/Nurse or Singleton/Romeo)... there are a couple of instances where the supporting cast switch roles later on, but given that they use the Shakespearean names more than the military academy names during the movie, it would have been nice to be able to have a better clue who was who.

The only points in the movie that didn't really work for me were the two scenes where characters appear to be making YouTube videos miming the words to songs. The first time this happens it almost feels in character for the moment, if a little odd, but the second time just feels like it puts a full stop in the middle of a sentence.

Would I recommend it: Without question! Even if you only have a passing knowledge of the play, it's beautifully done and well worth a look!

gaymoviefest2012 - wilde

There is nobody on earth better equipped to play probably the most famous and possibly first publicly acknowledged homosexual, Oscar Wilde, than the redoubtable Mr Stephen Fry!

And yes, there is an element of my fan boy adoration for Mr Fry to that statement but it's also true. He's very much this century's answer to Wilde.

The movie itself is both heartbreaking as well as a wonderful demonstration of how far we've come in a little over a hundred years (and also that there are still people in 2012 that think like people in 1895).

The performances are wonderful and the movie is a cavalcade of English acting talent... Vanessa Redgrave, Zoë Wanamaker, Tom Wilkinson... not to mention the three objects of Wilde's affections... a young Michael Sheen, a Dorian Grey inspired Ioan Gruffudd and Jude Law playing the incredibly petulant yet beautiful Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas (although honestly, if that's really what he was like, then why Wilde put up with him is beyond me).

Plus a very young and beautiful Orlando Bloom gets his first screen "blink and you'll miss it" role as a cheeky rentboy.

Would I recommend it: As a piece of gay history and as a window into another time, I certainly would. The fact that it contains a lot of Wilde's wonderful wit and genius is just icing on the cake.

gaymoviefest2012 - nico and dani
Nico and Dani (aka Krámpack)

The original title of this movie baffles me a little... the word itself doesn't seem to have a translation anywhere I can find (beyond references to the movie itself), and it seems more of a German word than Spanish which is the language of the rest of the movie. From the context they use it in the movie it's clearly slang for either masturbating or being masturbated, but that would essentially mean that the movie is called "Wanking"...


European filmmakers always seem to get this kind of coming out/coming of age/teenage boy type of movie better than any of the English speaking world... Summer Storm for example... and for the most part this is another good entry into the genre.

It did make me realise a couple of things though...

Firstly that as a gay teenager, you don't fall in love with your best friend because he's necessarily the most beautiful guy, you fall in love with him because he's... well, there. That is something of a generalisation, but there's that line that gets crossed between friendship and a one sided love, and it's at least partially because this guy is there, already in your life, and oftener than not, already in your bedroom or in situations where things get confusing.

And that resonates very strongly in this movie... only partly because the straight boy, Nico, very often looks like a lollipop (big fat head, skinny body).

And secondly, something that I don't know that I've ever though of before, or whether it was really brought to mind by the performance of the aforementioned lollypop, but the burden the straight half of these "messy" friendships have to bear isn't fair. That line that once crossed isn't easy to uncross without ruining the friendship.

Getting back to the movie itself though. As I mentioned Jordi Vilches as Nico puts in a fine performance... he's a little obnoxious at times, but he shines in the latter half of the movie as his friendship with Dani starts to weigh on his shoulders.

There's something slightly more desperate about Fernando Ramallo's performance as Dani (or possibly just about the character in general)... I couldn't help thinking that the character was pushing too hard in all directions, not only in his relationship with Nico but in his interactions with a couple of the other characters. In all three instances he pushes the sexual relationship to it's outer limit and seems either clueless or uncaring about the repercussions of doing so.

Would I recommend it: I would probably recommend Summer Storm over this, as I feel like it's the better movie, but I think some of the themes in this will resonate with a lot of gay men.

gaymoviefest2012 - give me your hand
Give Me Your Hand (Donne-moi la main)

A strange, quiet little film about 18 year old twins, played by Alexandre and Victor Carril, making their way from France to Spain to attend the funeral of a mother they've never met.

We're never told why they never met her... we're never told why they're hitching their way there. In fact we're never told very much. I think there was maybe three pages of dialogue in the whole movie if that.

There's also an animated prologue to the movie that doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense given the feel of the rest of the movie beyond the fact that one of the twins draws almost constantly in an animation/anime style.

And the twins are completely dysfunctional... they act more like they were 8 than 18... their both quite petulant at times, and seem to take turns in being unlikeable... plus their whole relationship seems to revolve around insulting each other, hitting each other and generally being horrible to one another.

Weirdly, taken separately, each of the Carril brothers is handsome enough... but there is just something about both of them together that's more than the sum of it's parts. The homoerotic power of twins I guess.

It's only once they stop on a farm to earn some money to catch a train that things take a decided turn for the worse when one of the twins discovers the other having sex with one of the farm hands...

This sets the whole third act of the movie into motion, which I won't give away any details to... although I did guess how it would all work out.

For all that it's occasionally awkward, the twins are often unsympathetic and there is often far too much left unspoken, the movie is gorgeously shot and intriguing.

Would I recommend it: Given how beautiful the movie is at times and the fact that it kept my attention that whole way through, I'd definitely say yes, although with the caveat that it's just weird at times. Plus, twins!

gaymoviefest2012 - howl

I'm not sure how much of a "gay movie" this actually is. Firstly because it feels more like a documentary a lot of the time, but also because while it's about a homosexual poet, I'm also not sure if the movie is really about him or about the fact that his poem was on trial for being obscene.

I will admit that I'm not a huge one for poetry... I much prefer reading prose, for the most part poetry, especially "modern" poetry, just leaves me cold. But there's something to the way the movie deals with what I'm guessing is pretty much the entire text of the poem that is actually captivating.

Partly I think because it's James Franco reading the words, and although I think he's taken on the real Ginsberg's manner of speaking, there becomes something hypnotic about the words. And added to that is the fact that the poem is illustrated by animation that is both metaphorical and full of sexual imagery.

What intrigues me most is the title card at the beginning of the movie that says that the movie is "composed from court records, interviews and Howl". That's what made it feel like I was watching a documentary... but there's that extra layer where you know you're watching, in essence, a recreation of an actual event. And whether that's Franco providing Ginsberg's answers in an interview, or the beautifully summation by the defence attorney, I wondered if it was all really real. Particularly the closing summation.

Franco is brilliant throughout the whole movie. I've only seen him in a couple of things (the James Dean TV movie where he again disappeared into another person... Milk, again a real person... plus the first two Spiderman movies, but we won't count those) but this was unlike anything else I'd seen him do.

The courtroom sections are also brilliant... David Strathairn, Jon Hamm and Bob Balaban as prosecution, defence and judge all turn in great performances, as do the range of actors playing "expert witnesses".

Would I recommend it: It's a little removed from the "gay movie" genre, but just as a movie in it's own right, yes, I would definitely recommend it for the performances alone.

gaymoviefest2012 - from beginning to end
From Beginning To End (Do Começo ao Fim)

Another movie about brothers although this one is just about two brothers in love (with each other).

I'm a little conflicted on this one... Not because the subject of gay incest bothers me but it's just the way the love story is portrayed.

The first half of the movie shows the two brothers (well, half brothers really) when they're kids... maybe 7 and 12 or something like that... and it's clear that they've always been this close... but there's just something uncomfortable about watching two young boys portray that kind of relationship. There aren't any sexual scenes when they're that young, but they feel like they're in love.

And then as soon as the movie jumps ahead fifteen years, there is a somewhat weirdly staged love scene (seriously, does anybody ever do that weird "I'll stand ten feet away from you and take my clothes off while you do the same" thing they do in movies... I know I never have) and suddenly these two brothers are naked and making out with each other.

It's a weird transition and made me feel a little awkward.

The other weird thing is that everybody seems to either know that they're both brothers and lovers and don't really care... or else be so incredibly clueless about it that it borders on the unbelievable.

And whereas there's real dialogue between people in the first half, as soon as it jumps forward in time to the grown-up brothers, it's all moody silences and silent caresses. Or at least it feels like that.

Which is not to say that it's not a beautiful movie... the two grown-up brothers are stunningly gorgeous, particularly João Gabriel Vasconcellos as Francisco, although Rafael Cardoso as Thomás is equally beautiful... and even with the aforementioned moody silences, it's a beautifully shot movie (although I imagine with actors that attractive it wouldn't be too hard to make a beautiful movie) and the love scenes are sweet.

It's really just that nothing really happens... there's some plot along the way, but it all feels a little superficial, as though the main point of the movie was to focus on this slightly obsessive and exclusive sexual relationship between two brothers.

Would I recommend it: Yes with a but... and the but is really just a warning that you may or may not experience a similarly uncomfortable feeling during parts of this movie.

gaymoviefest2012 - little ashes
Little Ashes

I honestly can't work out whether Robert Pattinson is completely brilliant in this movie and perfectly cast or a completely shithouse actor.

Given what I know of his other work, I think I'm still leaning towards the latter, but given that the character he's playing is at first socially incompetent and then painfully arrogant and pretty much unlikeable the whole way through, he's kind of a perfect fit.

His co-star Javier Beltran however, is brilliant... actually all the other actors are exceptionally good.

The script is a little vague in parts, owing most likely to the fact that it's a movie based on real people and real events.  And given what I've since read about Dali, it's very likely the whole "gay" subplot between Dali and Lorca is the invention of the writer.

There's also about half a subplot involving their friend, film maker Luis Bunuel that doesn't really go anywhere, and I'm not exactly sure what it's trying to say.

But, like Wilde and Howl before it, it did give me a window into a historical period I wasn't necessarily aware of (in this case Spain in the 20's and 30's) and an idea into the lives of gay men of the past. So it's interesting from that perspective.

And I suppose if you want to see Pattinson awkwardly kissing a man and then appearing to be repulsed by it (possibly only mostly in character), then there's that.

Would I recommend it: I'm going to err on the side of "not really" for this one... it's okay, but I found that I spent most of the movie watching Pattinson, looking for signs of bad acting and trying to pick apart his performance, so it wasn't overly enjoyable.

gaymoviefest2012 - steam
Steam: The Turkish Bath (Hamam)

Back in the early Jurassic period when I was a fresh young gay and got all of my gay related news from gay magazines, references to this movie were everywhere.

And now having seen it, I think that the people involved in those magazines hadn't actually seen the movie, they just saw one of the versions of this poster with two guys in towels and assumed that it was much gayer than it really is. Either that or there just wasn't much else available in the late 90's.

Which isn't to say that it's a bad movie... it's kind of an Italian/Turkish version of movies like Under The Tuscan Sun or just about any movie where the main character isn't happy in their current life, visits a new country, gets involved with the locals, falls in love with some old building or other and then with one of the aforementioned locals.

But usually the characters in those movies are women, so this was something different.

There really is only one "gay" scene, although there's a degree of homoerotica at certain points, and if you do go into this movie with that pre-existing notion about the main character, then it has more resonance for a gay audience I think.

However the end of this movie completely ruined it for me.  It reminded me of movies with gay characters from the 70's and 80's.  Given the Italian/Turkish co-production, it's probably not really surprising, but it was also totally unnecessary.

Yes, the idea of the ending is set up part way through, but it's the flimsiest of things and completely unrelated to the main thrust of the movie... it just feels spiteful and unfair.

Would I recommend it: Yes, I think I would... and I know I've said this before, but I'm going to be incredibly exact this time... watch the movie for 1 hour, 23 minutes 39 seconds and then shut it off.  You might be curious about how it ends, but just walk away, the ending will only disappoint you.

gaymoviefest2012 - north sea texas
North Sea Texas (Noordzee, Texas)

If there's one general rule for young gay men in movies when they're discovering their sexuality, it's this...


Actually that advice pretty much goes for young gay men in the real world to.

I covered this idea in the review for Nico and Dani earlier... but it also applies here to a lesser degree.

There isn't a lot of set up or explanation to this movie. It's one of those ones where you just have to take a lot of things as they're presented and hope they're explained later on in the movie.

Some of them are, some not so much, but even with that I didn't feel particularly confused.

Pim (played at the start of the movie by Ben Van den Heuvel and then when he's older by Jelle Florizoone) has a mother who is more interested in herself and her accordion than she is in her child. So he spends a lot of time with another family. That's part of what's never really explained... they're not next door neighbours, in fact they seem to live some way away from Pim and his mother, so the basis of their relationship is never explained.

However, it's clear from the start that Pim is in love with Gino (Nathan Naenen and then Mathias Vergels).

And it also seems like Gino is the sexual instigator between the two of them.

Which did have me muttering at the screen a few times the aforementioned rule for gay characters.

And then there's Gino's sister, Sabrina (Nina Marie Kortekaas)... she's a weird one. As a character, she's almost pointless... I thought she was going to be "The Troublemaker", but even though she completes the first part of that role, there's no pay-off to that part of her story. So I can't quite work out what the point of her is.

Unless of course the story is more autobiographical than I'm aware, and she's just there because she was there.

For once though, this is a coming out/coming of age movie with an upbeat and positive ending. Technically it's largely left to the audience's own interpretation as to what happens after the credits role, but at least this movie allows you to make your own mind up about what happens and doesn't screw it all up in the last ten minutes.

Would I recommend it: Yes. The start is a little bumpy, and there are parts that feel kind of predictable, but the ending makes up for it and left me with a positive vibe.

gaymoviefest2012 - weekend

This movie kept getting mentioned last year... and everybody seemed to be saying good things about it.

Although other than a couple of people on my Twitter feed mentioning it, I honestly don't remember ever really reading a review, I just remember it as one of those movies that the gay press got their panties in a bunch about.

But having just watched it, I'm not sure I see what all the fuss was about.

Maybe it's that I've never in my entire life been in the situation that the two main characters find themselves in... maybe it's just that the older I get, the less tolerant (if that's even possible) I am with characters (and by extension people in general) who I find unlikeable.

That's actually been a complaint I've made about a number of movies and teevee shows in the last couple of years... that they were unlikeable in some way, and therefore I'm not really interested in following their story.

And as I said in, I think, the previous GayMovieFest review post, I'm also somewhat tired of stories of gay men going through a "stunted adolescence" (not being comfortable with your sexuality when you're a man in your mid to late twenties), which Russell (Tom Cullen) seems to be suffering from.

To be honest, it's possibly a better version of it than has been in previous movies I've seen, and it makes some degree of sense narratively... but I'm still mostly bored with those kinds of characters.

But it's really the character of Glen (Chris New) who I had no time for. While he doesn't suffer from the same kind of stunted adolescence, he's suffering from "pretentious wankerism"... he's the kind of guy who thinks he's edgy and unconventional and doesn't want to "buy into the hetronormative fantasy" (it's not a direct quote, but he does say something similar). He reminds me of the type of guy who gets involved in "queer politics" in Uni, but never quite moves past it after being out in the real world.

I will commend writer/director Andrew Haigh for making a movie that feels very real for the most part. There's no soundtrack other than when the characters are actually hearing music in the world, a lot of the footage feels almost like a documentary, or if not that, then it feels quite candid... but without a lot of useless shaky-cam action. And the dialogue is always delivered in a completely believable way. In fact there's a scene right at the beginning that I don't think I've ever seen in a movie before... everyone talking over everyone else and not hearing other people.

On the flip side of that, as I mentioned previously there is some slightly questionable dialogue. Not that it feels badly written, I don't think there really is a dud line, it's just that I was annoyed that either of the characters was spouting a particular piece of dialogue.

And whether it's because my own experiences, but the fact that the movie takes place over a single weekend, and some of the discussions the two main characters get into don't feel quite real. No, wait... scratch that... thinking back on it, I've had conversations that weren't as odd in the same way, but still pretty intense within a couple of days of meeting someone. I've just never done that with anyone I've then had sex with.

The other thing that just bothered me was the drug use. Yes, it might be realistic and a part of the world that Haigh comes from... but for me it was completely unnecessary within the story and didn't add anything to it. In fact I felt like it detracted if only because it became almost like a narrative crutch... that they were only having this deep and frank and slightly weird conversation because of the cocaine.

The sex scenes feel more graphic than they really are... it's all glimpses of things, raised thighs, heavy breathing and sucking sounds. And because I didn't really like Glen pretty much from the start, I didn't really care about the sex.

I do wish I could have liked this movie more... but I just didn't.

Would I recommend it: I'm on the fence with this one. For people who aren't me, then I think they may get something out of it, although I can't for the life of me think what that could be... but I think it's one of those ones that you'll have to make your own mind up about. But I'm neither going to recommend it, nor tell you not to see it.

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