An Emotional Experience
Jess Harris (Jasmine Batchelor) is a 29-year-old web designer for a nonprofit in Brooklyn and she is eager to be the surrogate and egg-donor for her best friend Josh and his husband Aaron. When she was twelve weeks into the pregnancy, a prenatal test reveals unexpected results that bring about a moral dilemma. As the three consider what is the best course of action, their relationship is tested.
Director Jeremy Hersh’s filmskillfully looks at an agreement between a young single woman, her gay best friend and his husband. All three of them are smart, open-minded progressives. ”The Surrogate” deals with tough questions about prenatal testing, eugenics, reproductive rights, parenting and special-needs children thus making it sometimes hard to watch yet it is compelling by showing what can be an authentic experience.
.Jess works for a Brooklyn nonprofit dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated women readjust to civilian life but she sees herself as just “a glorified social media manager.” Her romantic life her with boyfriend Nate (Brandon Michael Hall) is unfulfilling. She volunteers to be a surrogate and egg donor for her best friend Josh (Chris Perfetti) and his lawyer husband Aaron (Sullivan Jones). When a prenatal test has come back positive for Down syndrome, the three are forced to make tough choices and tension begins because of the split opinion that isolate Jess from Josh and Aaron.
The men focus on financial commitment and additional healthcare and schooling needs that raising the child would involve. Josh and Aaron are in a somewhat stunned, detached state even as they go with Jess to a community center to watch a play session for families and their children with Down syndrome.
Jess’ feelings are influenced partly by meeting with Bridget (Brooke Bloom), a young mother who goes to the community center with her relatively high-functioning son Leon (Leon Lewis). Jess pushes herself into Bridget’s life who at first reacts with a kind of strained kindness and patience. She is able to speak to someone openly with someone who cares but eventually backs away when becomes intrusive in asking for advice.
Josh and Aaron acknowledge their limitations as a mixed-race couple (Aaron is African American, Josh is white but it is never spoken about) gives another layer to their consideration of every aspect of what their future life and that of their child would be. We see an a very tense discussion between the men and Jess after she has angrily run away to her sister’s place in Connecticut shrewdly and this continues the tension of how it will all end.
This is a thought-provoking drama about parenting, as well as a look at how challenging experiences can break loving friendships of chosen families.
Batchelor gives a stunning performance. At times she seems naive and sanctimoniously saintly while at others she is level-headed and purposeful. There is melancholy inside her that makes the character’s uncertainty and the movie totally affecting.
Jess tries desperately to get reassurances from anyone that having the baby is the right thing to do regardless of the Downs syndrome. Jess’s own mother (Tonya Pinkins), an academic, is reluctant to give her support and when Jess later insists that she will parent the baby on her own, her mother is completely opposed to her daughter giving up her own life to be a caregiver.
Hersh’s well composed script avoids judgmental calls especially when the two men finally tell Jess that they do not want her to go through with the pregnancy When Jess tries her best to persuade them to change their minds and when she realizes that this has no effect, she practically threatens them in a very powerfully emotional scene.
“PRE2ENT STILL PERFECT”
From Solitude to Paradise
Aam Anusorn Soisa-ngim’s “Pre2ent Still Perfect” begins with Toey (Ice Adisorn), as he hikes into solitude. He travels light, and buys what he needs on the road. He has cleaned himself and looks quite different to the way he looked at the airport when he last met Oat (Joke Kritsana). The two former lovers have not seen each other for years, yet there has been contact. As he settles in at a resort, a Japanese tourist named Kenta (Ohmi Ryota) arrives. He eyes Toey with a certain level of amusement and curiosity and this unnerves him. The dynamics of the Japanese newcomer and the resort caretaker together change Toey solitary travel plans and lead to events that shake his being.
It is Ice Adisorn’s emotional performance as Toey that gives the film its heart and soul. Joke Kritsana is filled with the kind of sex appeal reserved for Asian idols. His interactions dynamics with Ice are the result of mutual respect and their scenes are natural and sincere. The intimacy they show is amazing.
The film explores issues of being the spare wheel in a relationship and also with Oat’s wavering sexuality and it does so gently and with sensitivity. There is something old-fashioned about courtship and romance that we see.
The film also deals with the issue of same-sex marriage and is a fresh take on a queer love story that is a pleasure to watch.
The Heart of America
Actor Dyllon Burnside is the host of “Prideland”, a one-hour special and short-form digital series that hosted by that goes into the heart of America and explores how the United States is changing and how so many LGBTQ+ people and their allies have decided nothing will stop them from living their lives with a sense of pride.
Burnside is an openly proud gay actor and singer who was born in Pensacola, Florida. .After being fired as a Church Worship Minister because of his sexuality he began his career as an actor. He, over the years, has questioned and challenged the toxic masculinity in show business and in his own life. He has become an activist and an advocate for young people, helping them to better express themselves.
In “Prideland”, he is taken back to the South and guides us on a journey of discovery into diverse LGBTQ+ communities where we meet people of different backgrounds, locations, experiences and opinions. His charisma is evident throughout the film. We see a positive side of the Bible Belt Deep South and meet people who have been traditionally averse and hostile to homosexuality. Some of the people we meet find rejection close to home while others find acceptance in their communities of origin and/or those they create.
Burnside highlights personal stories from a diverse and still relatively still new LGBTQ community. Through his natural curiosity and genuine commitment to seek out positive change wherever he can find it, we see a South unlike what we might have thought it to be. Further episodes are to follow.
Four Gay Seniors
In “Irving Park, director Patangiotis Evengellidis introduces us to four gay men in their 60s, living together in Chicago, and exploring an unconventional lifestyle of master/slave relationships. They have created a family based on free choice and the consent to lose one’s personal freedom in favor of the desire of the other.
The men cohabit with a rather unusual arrangement – they are all aging gay men practicing dominant-submissive relationships. The movie is a time-lapse film that takes us into the middle of the action of the household, and even though the family is based on a seemingly primordial provocation, it comes across as natural and commonplace.
The men engage in long conversations from the Lord and his naked slaves and we get a “sense of family reciprocity, unsolvable crises and daily inhabitation.” The men live in acceptable relationships of domination and submission.
We rarely get films about the senior gay community and while this certainly will not appeal to all viewers, it is a remarkable look at a lifestyle that we know little about.
Revry Now Available on Samsung TV Plus
Queer TV Network Brings Diverse LGBTQ+ TV to Millions of Samsung Smart TVs in time for Pride Season
LOS ANGELES (June 3, 2020) – Revry, the first global LGBTQ+ streaming network, announced today the launch of its service on Samsung TV Plus, Samsung’s free smart TV video service that delivers instant access to over 120 free channels in news, sports, entertainment and more.
The Revry Channel, featuring hundreds of hours of original and licensed LGBTQ+ movies, shows, music, podcasts, and news, is available on Samsung TV Plus Channel 1226. As Samsung’s only Queer-focused TV channel, The Revry Channel will premiere across millions of Samsung Smart TVs just in time for Pride season, and will be the first and only home for exclusively LGBTQ+ entertainment on Samsung’s Smart TVs.
“We are excited to launch our newest live linear channel on Samsung TV Plus. Given Samsung’s massive reach, we now have the opportunity to touch a broader LGBTQ+ and allied audience through Samsung Smart TVs,” said Damian Pelliccione, CEO and Co-Founder at Revry. “We believe representation saves lives, so partnering with Samsung helps us bring our ‘radically inclusive’ entertainment to an even bigger audience, and gives us the chance to change hearts and minds, both inside and outside of the LGBTQ community.”
These diverse perspectives have become the hallmarks of Revry’s “unapologetically queer” programming, which includes its slate of originals such as the GLAAD Media Award recipient and Spanish-language docu-series, THE CATEGORY IS, which follows the vibrant underground ballroom scene in Mexico City; the Wes Anderson-style comedy series, SINK SANK SUNK, starring Academy Award nominee Laura Linney; the second season of the reality TV series, PUTTING ON, starring rising Israeli fashion designer, On Mekahel; and THE QUEENS, an insightful documentary film following RuPaul’s Drag Race favorites: Alaska, Katye, Jinkx Monsoon, and Sharon Needles. In addition to these originals, Revry will be releasing over 100 new titles this Pride season.
In order to optimize the distribution and programming of its live channel, Revry is using Frequency Studio–a cloud-based video platform and channel creation software–to manage, create and distribute the Revry Channel to Samsung.
“Revry continues to have a huge impact on the LGBTQ+ community and we’re really proud to be working with them to optimize the delivery of Revry’s newest channel to the Samsung TV Plus platform, just in time for Pride 2020,” said Blair Harrison, Frequency’s Founder and CEO.
Established in December of 2016 in the U.S., Samsung TV Plus is pre-installed on all 2016-2020 Samsung Smart TVs. Millions of consumers already use Samsung TV Plus, making it one of the top OTT services on Samsung’s Smart TV platform. Users can instantly access their favorite shows, movies, and more with just an internet connection—no download, additional device, or credit card needed. For more information or to view a list of Samsung’s 120+ free, live TV channels, please visit samsungtvplus.com.
To learn more about and experience Revry, please visit www.revry.tv.
See the following link for additional assets including a downloadable promo.
Watch Queer TV 24/7 with the first LGBTQ+ virtual cable network. Revry offers free live TV channels and On-Demand viewing of its global library featuring LGBTQ+ movies, shows, music, podcasts, news, and exclusive originals all in one place! Revry is currently available in over 225+ million households and devices, and available globally on over nine OTT, Mobile, Connected TV and Desktop platforms. Revry can also be found on Comcast Xfinity X1, XUMO TV, Zapping TV, STIRR (Sinclair Broadcast Group) and TiVo+. The company–an inaugural member of the Goldman Sachs Black and LatinX Cohort–is headquartered in Los Angeles and led by a diverse founding team who bring decades of experience in the fields of tech, digital media, and LGBTQ+ advocacy. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @revrytv. Revry.tv
Frequency is a software company based in Los Angeles. We build and operate Frequency Studio, a completely cloud-based video platform that brings all participants in the video ecosystem together on one unified platform. Over 100 content providers depend on Studio to manage, package, distribute and monetize their programming, and to reach an addressable audience of over 100 million monthly viewers. To learn more visit frequency.com.
“YOUR HEART IS HOMELESS”
A Conflicted Gay Man
In “Your Heart is Homeless”, James (Peter McPherson) places his last drink on the bar next to a handsome stranger and their eyes briefly meet. Shortly after James sees the stranger, Carl (James Buttling), in the men’s toilet and decides to wait for him outside in the street. James drives Carl back to his apartment where he tells him that he already knew him since he services his car. James kisses Carl and they spend a night together. In the morning Carl is racked with guilt and assaults James leaving him beaten and bleeding on the bed.
The opening scene is ina quiet gay pub in a London side street at lunchtime . The two men at the bar make eye contact with each other and afterwards when they stand side by side at the urinal neither says a word, but just before he is about to leave, James holds himself against Carl who is clearly very nervous.
They go James’s apartment and the men finally speak. Carl sAYS he is a straight married man but when James accuses him of stealing his sports jockstrap from his car , we get the idea that this hook-up is not spontaneous. There is no happy ending but the performances are excellent. Director Daren Blade says that the film is fiction but that he wanted to tell a story how many people lead a double life as they struggle with their sexuality.
“VARIAÇÕES: GUARDIAN ANGEL”
A Solitary and Reserved Queer Portuguese Music Legend
I understand that the desire to represent António Variações on the big screen had been going on for almost 20 years for João Maia, director and screenwriter. With “Variações” this has finally happened. Sérgio Praia, who plays the title character, was also part of this fight, being 10 years to play the part. The period of waiting for the opportunity to make the film may have given João Maia time to start realizing what he wanted to tell about António Ribeiro, born in 1944 in Amares.
The film covers between 1977 and 1981, even before the musician managed to release the first of his only two albums. He died in 1984. The emphasis is placed on António’s struggle to show his music and go beyond what the industry sought to make of him.
Sérgio Praia’s performance is an inseparable factor of the film. Praia managed to give humanity to Variações and let go of a permanent eccentricity and let the singer’s greatness show in his music.
Variações was an artist whose work and legacy was so rooted in the Portuguese collective psyche that even the youngest who do not know who he is certainly heard it. Despite having died new and with only two albums recorded, António Variações is synonymous with Portuguese music at its best. His image was daring, shamelessly queer in a Portugal that clung to Catholic conservatism which came to define Portugal over time. The music he presented to the country was bold and new, a sound with one foot in traditional folklore and another in the future. Looking back, perhaps the biggest mystery surrounding the figure of António Ribeiro made António Variações is how he was able to achieve such weight and such success. The film does not even try to explore this socio-cultural process and mystery. It leaves this entire period in the artist’s life outside the narrative.
This is not necessarily detrimental to the film. In journalistic articles and television profiles, we can find this out. The film explores the intimacy of its protagonist to those parts of its existence that are outside the official history and known by those who are already his fans. The problem is that this is also not a particularly incisive character study. In fact, this is a film more easily defined by what it is not than by what it actually manages to be. It is not a classic Hollywood story. Although we see the singer in childhood and in his last days, there is a clear lack of interest in seeing his most iconic years. It is also not the type of intimate portrait, more focused on the psychology of the person than on the image of the idol. It is too fragmented and chronologically chaotic and too superficial,. it is also not the type of story contained and united by a concrete theme. Sérgio Praia sings all the numbers in the film with his own voice but that doesn’t steal the songs from their glory.
Born into a large rural family, Variações was expected to work in their woodworking shop, but he had other ideas right from early childhood.. Even though he couldn’t write a note of music he knew that he wanted to make that his life.
He had a habit of recording his songs on a hand held tape recorderwhile in his bathroom. When he finally gets a recording contract, he insists that all he wants to record are his own compositions . The Company however refused and so he didn’t get to record anything for the next four years.
Variações musical style is hard to define part neo-folk part rock part punk but also very queer. He was a charismatic flamboyantly-dressed figure who made no effort to hide his sexuality. When he was not performing on stage he worked as a fancy hairdresser’. He was ‘discovered’ by a Portuguese music critic when he living in Amsterdam and it did take much persuading to return to Lisbon if he wanted to be a successful musician.
Returning him reunited him with hairdresser Fernando Ataíde (Filipe Duarte) who is unsubtly hinted to be his lover. The whole film skirts around Variações’s very obvious queerness although very sadly his family still denies his homosexuality and the that fact the cause of his death was a complication from AIDS.
A Portrait of Greed
Dr. Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman), superintendent of the Roslyn, Long Island school district is personable, beautifully groomed, loved by everyone and responsible for getting the district ranked number four in the state. He must also cover up a potential scandal that could destroy the school board’s budget— assistant superintendent Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) has been embezzling from the district for years. To complicate matters further and a school newspaper reporter, Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan), is looking for a story and sniffing around and this could bring the operation to light.
“Bad Education” gives an unattractive look of its main characters. Using muted colors, the wrinkles on the actors’ faces are prominent in close-ups. Their actions are unflattering and the extravagance of the town’s embezzlers is clear through their house renovations, pieds-à-terre, first-class flights, facelifts, and more—all paid for by the school and written off as some ambiguous charge from a suspicious company.
By probing the truly thankless task of teaching kids while fighting for district rankings, school board demands, and antagonistic parents, the film gives us educators like Gluckin and Tassone with sincerity and dedication to their jobs and who remember their students’ names, their parents, hobbies, and the siblings of all the kids who come through Roslyn.
There is more to Tassone than his composed exterior suggests. The embezzlers are clearly in the wrong, their justifications are not so easily shaken off. The director of the school board (Ray Romano) makes seven figures selling real estate with values directly tied to the success of Roslyn as the teachers and administrators are underpaid and overworked. Instead of a straightforward parable of greed, we see the true events with depth and ambiguity. Excellent acting, useful moral lessons, proof that indiscriminate criminality can take place anywhere.
Tassone had even more going on in his private life than Gluckin— he lived in a wonderful apartment in Manhattan with one man while owning a house in Las Vegas, NV where another man, an exotic dancer, was there and waiting for his frequent visits and paid for by his pretending to attending school-related-conferences. Everyone believes Tassone’s story of a brief marriage to a woman who died at an early age. He also used his illicit gains to buy a flashy wardrobe, a couple of trips to London on the Concorde, and other material gains through illegal activities including padded-expense-accounts and authorizing money to vendors who didn’t exist. Tassone seemed to be far-removed from any of this by putting up an effective façade of intense personal care for all of his students, their parents, teachers and administrators.
This is anentertaining, thought-provoking movie with sharp dialogue and outstanding performances and who cannot love Hugh Jackman portraying a gay male?
“DON’T EVER WIPE TEARS WITHOUT GLOVES”
Journey to the End
Set in Stockholm in the early 1980s, we meet young Rasmus (Adam Pålsson) and Benjamin (Adam Lundgren) who fall in love at the same time as the AIDS epidemic came to Sweden and their circle of friends is soon dying. Writer-comedian Jonas Gardell gives us a very emotional chronicle of an era based on actual experiences and memories. It is touching, funny and frightening as it moves to its bitter, dark end. The film is also a look at religious fanaticism and a society that would prefer to pretend that the epidemic is not happening.
Most documentaries and films about AIDS concentrate on what happened in the US, but here were are taken somewhere else. Rasmus is a young man from the middle of nowhere who goes to Stockholm to check out the city. He stays with his aunt and immerses himself in the gay world, meeting other people and having fun. Benjamin comes from a very strict family of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When he knocks on the door of one of Rasmus’ gay friends, intending to spread the word of his religion, the man immediately sees that Ben is gay, something the young man thought nobody could ever Ben slowly begins to open up and eventually begins a relationship with Rasmus.
Benjamin just wants a simple monogamous relationship and has no intention of coming out to his parents, Rasmus feels people should be out and proud, and he also wants to have sex with other people too. Then they hear about AIDS and people around them start getting sick.
From the very beginning, we see that this isn’t going to be an easy film. The title comes from a line of dialogue in the first few minutes where a nurse is informed not to touch AIDS patients without complete safety gear. As the film moves forward, we move between the young men figuring out their lives against the promise of early 80s Stockholm gay scene and Rasmus lying in a hospital bed suffering the effects of the epidemic.
We see the contrast between the hope and possibility of gay people in a society that’s slowly being more accepting of different sexualities with the devastating impact of AIDS. We also see great performances. Adam Palsson is excellent as the brash Rasmus, although it’s Adam Lundgren who acts as the real heart of the film. He possesses a wonderful innocence and sense of empathy that pulls us into.
The supporting cast is also excellent as is the recreation of 1980s life and projects an intimate knowledge of the areas of Stockholm that were popular with gay people in the early 80s.
It’s not always an easy watch with the horrible reality of the end stages of AIDS, but that’s as it should be. For those who weren’t around at the time, it’s easy to think the AIDS crisis was a bad thing without understanding what it was actually like for those living through it. There were people who were still somewhat dislocated from society and often estranged from their own families. They had built their identity and new families with each other and then had to watch those closest to them dying ugly, deaths, often wondering if/when the same would happen to them. They also knew that if it had primarily been happening to straight people, the reaction would have been a full scale emergency rather than a political football and ignored by many.
“Don’t Ever Wipe Tears” caused a sensation when it first was screened in Sweden in 2012, and it has now been recut into a film for distribution in other countries. It’s a look at the AIDS crisis and 80s gay life, beyond the places that are normally concentrated on. It is sometimes a tough watch but always rewarding.