Category Archives: GLBT Film

“WALLFLOWERS”: Season 1 & 2— Looking for Love

“WALLFLOWERS”: Season 1 & 2

Looking for Love

Amos Lassen

The first season of “Wallflowers” introduced us to a group of New York singles that meet weekly for a support group catering to the romantically challenged. The show focuses on both gay and straight relationships and the discord and dysfunction of both.

“In ‘Wallflowers’, there are straight, gay and bisexual characters. But they’re characters first”. The series explores what all these different types of people go through in their search to find love, and do it in the most honest way possible. Stereotypes of any kind, especially gay ones are insulting and reductive and it seems that sometimes our creative community relies on them way too heavily in order to get a laugh.

“Wallflowers” is a charming comedy from Kieran Turner who introduces us to a diverse group of people who, for whatever reason, can’t get dates. They are all members of the support group, “Navigating the Relationship Waters in the New Millennium,” a kind of AA for the hopelessly single.

Turner uses the group meetings sparingly and effectively to advance the narrative. Janice (Christianne Tisdale), the group leader, sets the tone. She is earnest, even when her group members think she may have gone crazy.

Patch Darragh as Bryce nails the character as a world-weary, overly cynical, screw-you-guy. He is a pessimist by nature and jaded by the world around him. In the second season, Bryce has a new love interest after a really bad blind date from hell in Season 1 — a piano player named Alex (John Halbach). In the first episode, we learn just about everything you need to know about them. Bryce fights against his grim side while Alex is genuine.

“Wallflowers” gives us the details of the ensemble, a tight knit group of jaded but hopeful Gen-X stragglers, coping with the ecstasy and the agony of dating life. 

“DROPPING THE SOAP”— Camping the Soap Opera

 

“Dropping The Soap”

Camping the Soap Opera

Amos Lassen

“Dropping the Soap” is a web series that takes us behind the scenes of long running and terrible soap-opera “Collided Lives” and the craziness of its cast and crew. When the network brings in a ruthless new Executive Producer (Jane Lynch) to “re-brand” the show, the cast realizes that they must fight for their survival. I understand that the idea for this series has been in the works for several years, but it’s only now that it has finally arrived on VoD platforms, including the LGBT-centric streaming service, Dekkoo.com. It’s a 10-episode series.

Julian Draker (Paul Witten), the star of Collided Lives, is an egotistical man who is obsessed with getting enough close-ups, maintaining his soap star status and making sure that nobody else upstages him. He has stiff competition from co-star Kit Knockers (Kate Mines), who would like nothing more than to knock Julian off his perch and become the main star of “Collided Lives.”

Their rivalry intensifies after the arrival of a new producer, Olivia Vanderstein (Jane Lynch) who’s been brought in to improve the show’s ratings. This means firing various people, hiring others, and generally shaking things up. Nobody is safe, including Julian and Kit. This, of course, means plenty of backstabbing, and the secretly gay Julian tries to go deeper in the closet by marrying one of his co-stars in the hopes that this will guarantee his position and destroy Kit in the process. However, Kit has a sex tape featuring Julian have fun with a guy in a Santa suit and she isn’t afraid to blackmail him with it.

Each of the show’s 10 episodes starts off with some scenes from “Collided Lives” that has become more fantastic and fanciful under Olivia’s influence. We have aliens and vampires showing up throughout and we have melodrama, comas, secret children and other soap contrivances. It is as you would imagine it to be— a lot of fun. American soap operas are an easy target for satire and the series has fun with it. As it moves along, it invests more in its characters to ensure it doesn’t feel like it’s only using soap stereotypes. Paul Witten and Kate Mines as Julian and Kit also co-created the show and bring heart to two characters that on the surface are obnoxious. They’re both funny and treat their characters as real people, rather than just grotesque imitations.

Former “Glee” star Jane Lynch (who is also an executive producer) as Olivia Vanderpump channels her Sue Sylvester as a take no prisoners producer who expects everyone to jump when she says so and doesn’t mind who she steps on to get what she wants.

It’s all a lot of fun, although it doesn’t quite fit into the short-form, 10-minute episode format of web series. The way it’s written feels like it needs more time, so there’s a sense of it trying to squeeze what would normally be a 22-minute sitcom into around half that time. Because we can binge-watch all 10 episodes one after another, we tend to like it even more. It has a few rough edges, but it also has heart and humor and some good guest stars.

Paul Witten is charming and very funny. The show is well-paced, and while all the back-stabbing and crazy plots get a little crazy at times, it is all in good fun.

The episodes are short and really packed with humor. I found myself genuinely laughing more than I have in a long time while watching a TV show. My only complaint is not really a complaint but a request for more episodes.

NEW GAY SHORT FILMS…. to watch for

New Gay Short Films

A Few New Ones

Amos Lassen

Here are several new short gay films that you should want to be on the lookout for.

 

“Alex And The Handyman”
, Dir. Nicholas Colia (USA)

Alex And The Handyman takes a look at pre-adolescent sexuality in a sweet way. The film precocious nine-year-old Alex, who develops an instant crush on much older handyman, Jared. The child wants the moody 20-something man’s attention, but Jared isn’t that interested in humoring the fantasies of a kid. The short starts off as a sweet and sometimes funny look at pre-sexual awakening. However, some will feel it goes too far towards the end in a slightly creepy way.

“Mr. Sugar Daddy”
Dir. Dawid Ullgren (Sweden)


Hans is in his 50s and looking for something new in life. After seeing another middle-aged man with a much younger lover, Hans sees an opportunity for himself when he meets the handsome, young Andrej. But while Hans is smitten with his new potential lover, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell whether Andrej really likes Hans, or just likes the money the older man can spend on him. Mr. Sugar Daddy is more interested in power dynamics and the potential for both sides to play with the others’ emotions, while not knowing quite that’s what they’re doing.

“Spoilers”
Dir. Brendon McDonall (UK, Australia)

Spoilers is a sweet, quirky, nostalgic and film-literate short; the kind we don’t get enough of in the gay movie world. The film follows Leon, a self-professed ‘short, fat bloke from Derby’, who unexpectedly bumps into the handsome Felix. Leon finds it almost impossible to believe Felix would actually be interested in him, while Felix has his own reservations about whether he can truly love someone. This is essentially a film about the things that will stop us finding happiness, and where we can inadvertently become our own worst enemy. It’s sweet, often smart and rather charming.


“Tellin’ Dad”
Dir. André D Chambers (UK)


After a rather sexy opening of two naked men writhing in bed— Dan and his boyfriend, who’ve been together for over a year. However, Dan is still in the closet, but promises to write a letter to his family, telling them he’s gay. The film then follows the reactions of the different family members, leading up to the person he’s most worried about, his dad. This is a look at working class people and the pressures that come from that, some of which are universal and some of which are specific to that place and culture.

“Boys”
Dir. Eyal Resh (14 mins)


It’s the beginning of summer and adolescents Brian and Jake are having a sleepover. It’s certainly not the first time they’ve shared a room for the night, but on the cusp of adolescent they’re dealing with new and unfamiliar feelings. Seeing how many armpit hairs they’ve grown develops into something potentially more sexual. “Boys” attempts to capture the confusion of burgeoning sexuality – whether gay or straight – with the young men unsure of what they’re doing and what it might mean or how to communicate about it. There’s no resolution but it’s an fun look into a time when many young men have experimented or questioned their sexuality and then been surprised by what has happened.


“Hole”
Dir. Martin Edralin (Canada) 15 mins


The sexuality of disabled people is still one of the more taboo subjects since many do not want to touch it. “Hole” follows Billy, who has cerebral palsy, which limits his mobility and means he needs an assistant for things such as washing. He also yearns for sex and true intimacy, but comes up against a world that only seems to offer him that if they can’t see him. The film is bold with a strong central performance from Ken Harrower as Billy and it shines a light ion some of the issues around disability and sex – from physical accessibility to sex to the faux intimacy of assistant and assistee. The end is challenging and initially seems somewhat extreme, but it’s thematically interesting and probably very close to what some disabled people have had to ask for help with.

“PERMISSION”— On the Brink

 

“Permission”

On the Brink

Amos Lassen

Anna (Rebecca Hall) is turning forty-years-old and her boyfriend, Will (Don Stevens) is ready to propose to her. But during a birthday lunch, their gay friends Hay (David Joseph Craig)and Reece (Morgan Spector) suggest something unusual – that Anna should date other men before spending the rest of her life with her boyfriend… At first, it seems that, Anna did not really pay attention to what her friend said. Anna used to play the piano. She loves her life and agrees on a polygamous relationship after discussing it with William. Will also seems to not mind and allows his girlfriend to embark herself in another relationship with a man whose romantic nature, musical skills and breakfast in bed turns her into a new person, a person that she starts liking more than before. William also starts dating one of his clients, a divorced woman, Lydia (Gina Gershon), who tries to unlock in William the lover he always wanted to be. Both Anna and William give each other permission to explore each other’s unknown parts, hoping it will deepen their relationship. And it does, but not in the way both expected.

Hay and Reece have their own challenges as both try to find the reason to strengthen their relationship. Hay believes that by adopting a child it will help their family to grow. And when Hay meets Glenn (Jason Sudeikis) in the park who nurses a baby, he also realizes his own future that he hardly will change his mind.

“Permission” begins like a comedy and turns into a romantic film and a drama. It has a mix of three genres while it explores a realistic relationship between a couple that one day can bore each other to death. William and Anna are such rich and honest characters but no matter how good they are together, something is missing in their relationship and William, who quickly loses the priority status in Anna’s life with the appearance of Dane, whose relationship William himself agreed to. We see what can happen if one plays with feelings and freedom. We see that each man is different and that each woman delivers a different type of relationship.

Brian Crano’s screenplay flips the script on traditional gender roles. With Anna and Will, this comes as she learns that he has only slept with her during a dinner with their longtime friends and couple in their own right, Reece and Hale (David Joseph Craig). The revelation doesn’t exactly faze Anna, who has tired of having unexciting sex with Will, but it sparks the notion that he might need some practice before they move in together to the brownstone that Will is refurbishing during his off-hours. “Permission” takes the discontent of its characters seriously and highlights the different attitudes towards the experiment based on the characters’ chromosomes- – Anna’s fine with Will sleeping around so long as he tells her about it while Will’s accepting of the arrangement, but actively doesn’t want to hear about Anna’s exploits. The film also successfully takes on a larger cultural question as the characters start wondering if their individual satisfaction is more important than what they have and can build together with a partner.

Not everything in “Permission” works. The parallel story of the gay couple, Reece and Hale who are at odds over whether to adopt a child is intriguing, but isn’t on the level of Anna and Will’s storyline.

“A FANTASTIC WOMAN”— After Orlando

“A Fantastic Woman” (“Una Mujer Fantástica”)

After Orlando

Amos Lassen

Orlando (Francisco Reyes) takes his girlfriend, Marina (Daniela Varga), out for dinner and dancing to celebrate her birthday. He is 20 years older than Marina and the two feel in love after Orlando left his first wife. and fell in love with her after leaving his previous wife. Suddenly Orlando suffered an aneurysm, fell down the stairs and was rushed to the hospital and even though Marina rushed to get there, he died and there was nothing she could do, Marina rushes to the hospital but sadly not in time to save him. Filled with grief, Marina had to suffer of humiliations and insults from her lover’s family and the police who suspect her of corrupting and killing the deceased because she is a trans-woman.

From the very beginning we see that Marina is a wonderful performer and puts the audience in the back pocket when she is on stage. Her sexual identity is not an issue until she loses her lover. Daniela Vega totally captures Marina with her suffering and pain, the same that many trans-people are forced to endure so pointedly. She has only to deal with the aggressions of Orlando’s family and the police at first. They refer to her as a man and see her as a prostitute who was only with Orlando because of his money. Marina is visibly hurt but carries on; she is used to this level of disrespect and ignorance. The family prohibits her from attending her lover’s funeral for fear of offending the extended family. They take away everything Orlando gave to her and the police strip her down for one of the most humiliating physicals ever seen on film.

Director Sebastián Lelio has found the perfect balance, alternating between powerful symbolism and subtle realism with confidence and charm. Throughout the film, Marina endures compromises and wins small victories but she continues to fight for her right to say goodbye to her lover. In the first sequence we see a happy couple and watch as Orlando’s ghost becomes the voice of reason, lost in a world of gender bigotry. With this film, the audience gets a look at trans-life without sensationalism..

We only see Marina and Orlando together for a short period but we clearly see the way he watches her when she performs as a nightclub singer, and the level of comfort between the two that is real and passionate. But then with Orlando death, we understand that aside from the lovers, nobody else took their relationship for what it was. Because she transgender, the authorities and Orlando’s family refuse to believe in Orlando’s love for her. They see it as perverse and only Orlando’s brother Gabo (Luis Gnecco) shows any empathy for her. Marina grieves and simply wants to do so in peace, and say her goodbyes at the forthcoming funeral, yet is warned away by Orlando’s ex-wife and son. They also give her a deadline to leave the apartment that she lives in since it is in Orland’s name. Marina is tough is not going to give in anytime soon.

A few of Orlando’s belongings are given to Marina. One of these is a key that she cannot place, but believes there may be something for her, if only she could uncover which lock this key fits. This subplot beings suspense into the film. Marina is a victim in this humiliating affair with the law enforcement taking her in for questioning because of bruises on Orlando’s body from when he fell and we understand that the police need some kind of statement of what occurred. Marina is frustrated and wounded and fed up being treated differently and becomes very defensive and we understand why.

Lelio takes us into the mind of a character seldom seen in cinema without a hint of sensationalism. He is aided in this by having cast a genuine transgender performer as Marina, and Vega is simply remarkable. We get a sense for that anguish, from the bullying and humiliation, we feel her emotions and reactions and he gets a wonderful performance that is emotionally charged and dramatic in its execution.

“PREEXISTING CONDITIONS” (“Trashology 2”)— “A kinda/sorta sequel to the kinda/sorta cult comedy “Trashology””

“PREEXISTING CONDITIONS” (“Trashology 2”)

“A kinda/sorta sequel to the kinda/sorta cult comedy “Trashology””

Amos Lassen

“Preexisting Conditions” is the return of Katrina and Melissa as they set off on a new journey where they encounter an assortment of wacky characters. After an eye patch wearing diabetic woman saves their lives, she asks but one favor of them. That favor is bizarre and has everyone disgusted but cheering.

Truthfully, I did not really care for “Trashology” as a film but it was fun to watch. I certainly never expected to see a sequel.

“Beginning with a visit to the local library in search of the titular tome, we’re treated to the further adventures of those co-dependent gal pals, Katrina Lizhope (writer/director Brian Dorton) and Melissa Couch (Douglas Conner) along with the irrepressible Ms. Green (Gerica Horn), a diabetic, half-blind, wheelchair-bound mother out to avenge the murder of her son and unaware that houseguests Katrina and Melissa are responsible for his death.”

This is truly a trashy (but fun) look at the world of sex, violence, fried chicken and revenge. I can’t even bring myself to write anymore about it,

Special Features include:

  • “A Handsome Dick” short film
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes
  • Katrina’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
  • Outtakes and Blooper Reel
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailer

“SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE”— We’ve Come a Long Way

“Some of My Best Friends Are”

We’ve Come a Long Way

Amos Lassen

“Some of My Best Friends Are” is set in 1970s in Greenwich Village just one and a half years after the Stonewall riots gave national exposure to the LGBT community. Even today, prejudice and hatred against LGBT people is very much present in Manhattan. We now see how it was back then. At a local bar “Blue Jay”, a group of straight women and gay men are celebrating Christmas Eve. There are no secrets or untold stories at Blue Jay as the drama and hectic lives of the staff members and clientele are the highlights of the evening.

The bar is managed by Louis Barone (Larry Reed), a mobster and is a temporary home for three women, Sadie (Sylvia Syms), Helen (Fannie Flagg) and Lita Joyce (Rue McClanahan), as well as several gay men, Michel Mireaux (Uva Harden), Tanny (Tom Bade) and Kenny (Paul Blake). Louis lends money to some of regulars and he is ok with them but he cannot abide Leo (Jeff David), an Italian homosexual who’s constantly looking for newbies to pick up. The bar is a safe space for storytelling and fun, as long as the manager keeps bribing Pete Thomas (Allan Dellay), the policeman who wants to raid it.

The patrons of the Blue Jay Bar still feel like second-class citizens where dancing between two men is prohibited and those who have come out about their homosexuality are

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being rejected by their family and friends.

The film brings up some great issues, but it all seems to be on the surface and this was a chance where some depth would have made this a significant film. Unfortunately the direction lacks style and the dialogue is generic. The camera simply cuts from one group of people to another as they chat among themselves. Because everything takes place in the bar, we get a claustrophobic feeling.

The best moment is when Gary Sandy who plays a man in denial about his homosexuality becomes enraged when he finds that the woman (Candy Darling) he has been dancing with is actually a man and beats her up. The riot that ensues is interesting and we get to see a bit of action in a movie that is basically a talker. The scene where a mother enters the bar and openly disavows her son after finding out that he is gay is also well done but a bit too short.

Fannie Flagg gives an engaging performance as a snarky lady who never seems at a loss for words or verbal comeback. Rue McClanahan is also good as a bitchy, aging blonde and so is Dick O’Neill as a conservative old-timer who shows great disdain for the ‘pansy pad’ once he finds out that it is a gay bar. (However, he is reluctant to leave it).

The Blue Jay is a long, narrow firetrap with a bar in front and a large room in back for dancing. The film came out a year and a half after “The Boys in the Band” so naturally there were comparisons and we have dopey sentiments, as well as of self-hatred and of self-exploitation and it is almost impossible to differentiate between an intentional second-rateness and serious moviemaking of no great quality.

Mervyn Nelson, who both wrote the screenplay and directed the film, shares with his characters not only a large amount of self-pity, but also the kind of romanticism that permits characters to define themselves in the clichés of an old-fashioned Hollywood soap opera. The characters sound like parodies of real emotions and that is too bad.

Director Nelson manages to discover and exploit every stereotype of homosexual literature. In addition to the confused married man, there are the kid who is new to the game, the hustler who hates himself, the wise-cracking swish; the defrocked choirmaster; the straight guy who comes into the Blue Jay by mistake and the angry mother who tells her homosexual son that from now on she considers him dead.

“There’s violence, abuse, betrayal, back-stabbing etc. in   a very sad gay movie about— Christmas Eve in a New York gay bar and we see how far we have come in gay themed films.

 

 

“Point… of the Pink Triangle” by David Edmonson— His Name Was 75224

Edmonson, David. “Point… of the Pink Triangle”, Beau to Beau Books, 2017.

His Name was 75224

Amos Lassen

The number 75224 that was to become his name was tattooed on his arm with a filthy needle and it would stay with him as a reminder of what he was forced to experience in the most infamous and notorious of Nazi concentration camps, Auschwitz.

Pieter Belinsky was a handsome and spirited boy ho had grown up in a small village in Poland. He had no father and he was raised by a loving mother. They were forced into hiding and then transported where he was sexually and physically enslaved by a Block Commander at Auschwitz. His only chance of survival was by submission, chance and circumstance. He was forced to wear the pink triangle that labeled him as a homosexual. Homosexuals in the camps were considered to be inferior to everyone else. Those wearing the pink triangle were often given impossible work details, severely abused, beaten and tortured, and in some cases castrated.

When he was finally liberated and began a new life in Americas, Pieter became Peter Ballantine, star of the Broadway stage. When a chance encounter with his former Commandant in a hotel lobby in New York City gave him an opportunity for revenge made him wonder if that would avenge all that he had been through. It most certainly would not erase it.

He tells us of when the Lagerfhurer satisfied himself at the expense of a young and innocent Jew while he put thousands of others to death for social deviancy and for defiling the racial laws of the Nazi State.

 

Between the years of 1938-1944, 50,000 to 63,000 citizens of all nationalities were systematically rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Many were Jews, some were not, but all were further stigmatized and forced to wear the pink triangle that became known as the badge of shame. what became known as a badge of shame.

“ANIMAL KINGDOM”: The Complete Second Season— They’re Back

“Animal Kingdom”: The Complete Second Season”

They’re Back

Amos Lassen

“Animal Kingdom” centers on 17-year-old Joshua “J” Cody, who moves in with his freewheeling relatives in their Southern California beach town after his mother dies of a heroin overdose. Headed by boot-tough matriarch Janine “Smurf” Cody and her right-hand Baz, who runs the business and calls the shots, the clan also consists of Pope, the oldest and most dangerous of the Cody boys; Craig, the tough and fearless middle son; and Deran, the troubled, suspicious “baby” of the family.

The ties that have held the family together during season one now are about to be stretched to the limit as “Animal Kingdom” comes back for Season Two. As the second season opens, the Cody clan is back to their old ways and in the midst of a heist. But when things don’t go as planned, the family dynamics become more fractured than ever as some members advocate for independence from Smurf.

Here is a bit of recap from season one. The Cody family is comprised of: Baz, Craig, Deran and Pope, who’s recently returned from jail, and Smurf, the mother and ringleader of the family. “J” who is a nephew of the Cody brothers by his mother who died of a drug overdose and was the twin of Pope is reluctantly welcomed into the family and eventually brought along on jobs which culminates at the end of season one in a major heist on Camp Pendleton for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Season one saw the police hot on the Cody trail, Baz’s wife’s murder by way of Smurf’s decree, Craig’s drug habit, Deran’s closeted relationship and you have quite the family drama.

Season two picks up with the Cody family still living off of their Pendleton job money, and the small cracks of division that began between the brothers and Smurf in season one have now grown into large fissures that threaten the Cody way of life. Pope, having been asked by Smurf to do unspeakable acts in the first season (murder), is now distancing himself from her altogether because he sees her for who she truly is and what she is slowly doing to his brothers. Using her best efforts to keep the boys under her ruling thumb, she is becoming strained in attempting to hold all of them from scattering and going off in different directions. This will undoubtedly come to a vicious conclusion, one that will be sure to draw lines between the family with casualties along the way.

Ellen Barkin (Smurf) and Scott Speedman (Baz) hold their own but the standout He is eerily silent and his character possess a quiet anger that gives off the vibe that make us think that he is ready to snap at any given moment. Anytime his character is onscreen, whether a major player or not, we cannot take your eyes off of him and his unpredictability gives his character great depth.

From the very beginning of the first episode, the viewer sees that the Cody brothers were not the first to grace Smurf’s doorstep and steal for her. What is even worse is the thought of how she might go about replacing the brothers if they end up going their own way because we know that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

The second season builds perfectly off of the tension-filled foundation that was laid in its first, and continues the turmoil of the Cody family as they ward off inquiring police, outsiders from the family, past relationships and more. And yes there is a gay character. Jake Weary plays Deran Cody, the gay son who’s just trying to make a life for himself outside of the family crime business. We also get to see many hot men in various states of undress.

“CAUGHT IN A LANDSLIDE”— Loneliness

“CAUGHT IN A LANDSLIDE”

Loneliness

Amos Lassen

Most of us know what it feels like to be lonely but do we really understand the whole concept of loneliness. In my own experience, I can tell you that it is an awful feeling. In “Caught in a Landslide” we meet Jay (Wade Radford), a young man who knows true loneliness. We meet him as he reminiscing to himself (with the help of drugs and alcohol) all those memories he once shared with others. These lost memories are described poetically and as he listens to himself, we eavesdrop on what is being said. We also realize that the entire film is poetic as it looks at the reality of loss.

The film is based on Jay Proctor’s “A Vision of Life”. Jay Proctor and Wade Radford are the same person and because of this Radford totally rings true as he acts as Jay in the film. Jay is unable to close the door on his last relationship and he is filled with self-pity. He has visions of his ex (Robbie Manners) who appears to him in his dreams and even tries to come back into Jay’s life. However Jay will have nothing to do with this as he continues to nurse the pain that he sill feels as a result of this relationship not working. As much as he misses his ex, he refuses to take him back.

 For me, what makes this such a fascinating film is that it has no narrative. It is quite simply a poetic approach to emotions and feelings. The atmosphere comes from Jay Proctor/Wade Radford’s lyrical poetry. We do not get films like this often and they are so welcome when we get them.