Monthly Archives: March 2014

“In the Absence of Monsters” by J.P. Barnaby— Dreams Change

in the absence

Barnaby, J.P.  “In the Absence of Monsters”, Wilde City Press, 2014.

Dreams Change

Amos Lassen

Jayden Carter has planned his life. He wanted to get a graduate degree in history and teach. But we all know that things do not always go according to plan and when he answered an ad for a roommate, he met Ethan Bryant, a mysterious doctor and he then enters a new world, a world he had never dreamed of.
This is a story of self-discovery and self-acceptance and learning to deal with oneself. All the components of life here—fear, friendship, love, hope—things we take for granted until we have to go out and get them for ourselves. Ethan brings a whole new aspect to Jayden’s well-regimented plans and on one occasion he opened a door that we was supposed to and discovered that it was filled with gear associated with bondage and sadomasochism.  When Ethan realizes this, he con fronts Jayden and tells him to get naked and come to him and meet him or vacate the house by the end of the month. Neither the reader nor Jayden had any suspicions that Jayden was anything but straight and he therefore had to struggle with himself to do what Ethan said. When he did meet Ethan, the Jayden who knew himself so well discovered something new about himself. Ethan had already been training another submissive guy, Lexi and now Jayden joins them. While this became easier for Jayden as he learned, it caused rifts with his family and Jayden has to speak for himself and his lifestyle. When Lexi left, Jayden and Ethan came to know each other better and soon a relationship was forming. Jayden begins to understand why Ethan has to feel in control but Ethan feels that he has let down his guard, he feels that he can no longer train Jayden to be a sub—they are friends and equals so Ethan  begins training Jayden to be dominant and everything is good until a death in the family requires Jayden to travel home to Chicago.

Lexi comes to Chicago to finish her graduate studies and Ethan finds that he is all alone and he begins to feel the loneliness. It is here that Jayden is no longer telling the story but now by Ethan and through this we really learn more about the characters of Jayden and Ethan. We now see Ethan as somewhat weaker than we would have thought. He falls apart without Jayden and he wants out of the life that he has created. Lexi and Jayden go back to Ethan for they will not let him sink into despair. Ethan is now able to write his own journal and get his feelings out so that he can deal with them. He and his parents find a way to mend their broken bridges and he even has a reunion with a former love, Gabriel who left him when he began his spiral downward. Now Ethan is in a position to make decisions about his life and whether he is to be with Jayden or Gabriel.

This is no easy read and I recommend having something nearby to dry your eyes as you read. There is much more to the plot but that is for you to read yourself.

“BREAKING THE WAVES”— Sex and Spiritual Transcendence

breaking the waves

“Breaking the Waves”

Sex and Spiritual Transcendence

Amos Lassen

Bess (Emma Watson) received an Oscar nomination for her performance in “Breaking the Waves”. She plays a simple newlywed in small village in Scotland and makes herself a martyr after her husband, Jan, (Stellan Skarsgard) is paralyzed in an accident on an oilrig. What we see is an examination of the “expansiveness of faith and its limits”. The film portrays the conflict between dark religion, which preaches the fear of God, and light religion, which believes in the love of God, and director Lars von Trier very wisely doesn’t question religion. Instead he employs the conflict as a tool by which to examine how love and goodness, leads to self-sacrifice and ultimately the martyrdom of Bess.

Beneath the camouflage of allusion and homage, is a perverse love story, portraying the transformation of Bess from shy innocence to self-sacrificing sinner, thereby attacking our conventions of normality and goodness. Only Lars von Trier would dare to turn something as beautiful as innocent love into a perverse sadomasochistic relationship. By placing religion in the background, no one questions blind faith in religion, but instead asks, why Bess seeks humiliation and personal degradation to satisfy the wishes of Jan. It is through Bess that von Trier is setting self imposed slavery, either by religion or by love, up against each other, thereby examining the conflict of dark vs. light religion, and ultimately showing us, that there is a God and that he is an okay guy, who understands us more than we give him credit.

 Watson plays Bess as a virginal lass living in a remote village in Scotland during the 1970s. Bess shocks her strict Calvinist community — its church doesn’t even feature the vanity of bells — by marrying a lusty Scandinavian oil rigger, Jan (Stellan Skarsgard), who suffers a paralyzing accident that leads Bess to have degrading sex with strangers and Watson’s luminous portrayal goes straight to the heart.

“Breaking the Waves” won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes. Bess’ introduction to sex by Jan, forcefully played by Skarsgard, has an uncommon carnal intimacy. She rubs his belly, brushes her fingers through his pubic hair and plays with his penis as if she’s just discovered screwing, which, of course, she has. Her mother (Sandra Voe) and friend (Katrin Cartlidge) put her fixation down to simple-mindedness. But sex has liberated Bess. Her happiness with Jan is uncontained. In her talks with God — she does his voice in a deep register — Bess is afraid that she will be punished for loving too much.

When Jan has his accident that belief is reinforced. He asks her to help him get off by having sex with other men and telling him the details. Horrified, she obeys, thinking that her devotion will cure him. When an attempt to seduce Jan’s handsome doctor (Adrian Rawlins) fails, she jerks off an old man on a bus and takes up hooking in hot pants on a trawler that is run by a sadist (Udo Kier). Von Trier sets up Bess for tragedy and his movie for a miracle.

The opening shot of the film lingers on the face of an unknown woman as she registers first pride, then tipsy pleasure, then and anxiety that some secret possession will be snatched away. The woman’s mousey-brown hair and knitted cap set the action squarely in the early 1970s. Here is Bess, a sweet, virginal, and possibly simple-minded naïf who is called before the town elders, an unforgiving huddle of bug-eyed men with white beards. It seems she has fallen in love with Jan, a worldly Swede who works at an offshore oilrig. The elders’ disapproval notwithstanding, they are dead set on marrying. From here you are totally possessed by the film and Watson who gives a stellar performance.

Later, Bess prays to God to send Jan home from the rig, and God grants her wish in the form of a crippling blow to his skull. Jan, now a quadriplegic on painkillers, asks Bess to take a lover or two and tell her adventures to him.  We are not sure if he wants to set her free, or if the drugs temporarily turned him into a crazy sadist? Either way, she’ll do anything to help. So, after failing to seduce a kind doctor, she begins riding buses and plunging her hand into the pockets of surprised but grateful strangers.

Telling anything else ruins the story so let me say that this is a rare film that transports us to the depths of passion.

“ALICE” (“NECO Z ALENKY”)— A Surrealistic Revision of Alice in Wonderland

alice

“Alice” (“Neco z Alenky”)

A Surrealistic Revision of Alice in Wonderland

Amos Lassen

I have my own feelings about “Alice in Wonderland” because when I took my foreign language exam to get my M.A., I was asked to translate a paragraph from French to English that turned out to be ”Jabberwocky”. It took me a while of struggling to realize that is what it was and it kind of soured me on the Lewis Carroll classic. However, now that I have seen Jan Svankmajer’s take on it, I feel that my language exam was not as bizarre as I thought. It is this film that is bizarre and beautifully so. How could I not help but think of Grace Slick belting out “White Rabbit”—“one pill makes you larger…”

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This film version uses one live actor, Alice, and a large variety of stop-motion animated creatures, which include the White Rabbit who is quite complex, and the very simple caterpillar (a sock and glass eyes and two false teeth). The Carroll classic is followed faithfully but there are digressions and while we hear in the opening narration that this is a film made for children, I do not think that children can enjoy all that is here. This version of “Alice in Wonderland” is darkly humorous, imaginative, surreal and even creepy at times. Using his usual tricks of blending a live person with puppets, clay-mation and stop-motion techniques, we see a fascinating fantasy/dream world where nothing makes sense. Instead of tunnels, they crawl through desk drawers, a caterpillar that burrows through the wooden floors, the rabbit and some creatures are stuffed dummies that leak sawdust when wounded, Alice turns into a doll when she shrinks, the food is dangerous and often contains nails, thumb tacks and cockroaches, etc. One of the many unforgettable scenes we see is, for example,  when a rat swims to Alice’s head and builds a campfire. But I found that the visual fun is somewhat ruined by the annoying, repetitive idea of showing a close-up of Alice’s lips saying things like ‘said the rabbit’ after every line of dialog is spoken.

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Jan Švankmajer is an artist whose vocation extends well beyond film into a fascination with puppetry, animation,  and bizarre collectibles of the Habsburg royals. He was a product of Soviet-ruled Czechoslovakia. The tight reins of the Soviet regime left this particular artist often banned from working due to works deemed unsuitable because of their surreal content. So then we might ask what is an artist working under such repressive constraints supposed to do to get his works past the censors?  One way would be to make his own visualization of Lewis Carroll’s famous Alice in Wonderland, of course.

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He did just that in 1988 and he mixed the live action of one young actress (Kristýna Kohoutová) as Alice with stop-motion animation.  In doing this he  created a parallel universe, the likes of which we have never seen before. As Alice says in the opening lines, “Now you will see a film… made for children… perhaps…” Perhaps, indeed. Alice is a brooding and surreal take on Carroll’s work. Švankmajer follows the story rather closely, but his visual aesthetic and foreboding sense of gloom can only be described as “creepy.” From the moment Alice witnesses the stuffed rabbit come alive and follows him down the “rabbit hole,” which, in this interpretation, has Alice falling through the floor in her house, the world becomes an ominous and fantastical universe. Alice, challenging authority figures  constantly changes in size – big, small, big, small – like a physical manifestation of her emotional state is even more corporeal here, as when Alice shrinks, she becomes a doll, at one point ripping her “human” self right out of the doll’s chest.

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The film is totally original and it is a beauty to watch. Wonderland filled with threatening stop-motion characters and uses Svankmajer’s deliberately crude style of animation, use of close-ups, and rich design work. These lend the film a pervading sense of unease and a menacing dream-logic that marries a sly visual wit with piercing psychological insight. It is certainly more loyal to Carroll than the Disney version we watched as kids. Here Wonderland is in a state of decay and filled with creatures there are terrifying and surreal. This film goes into the psyche of Alice. I read a review that likened the animation to alchemy. There is a sense of dread with that hangs over the movie but it is beautiful dread. There is also an undercurrent of psycho/sexual menace as we see the caterpillar penetrate the mind and there are also somewhat violent visuals (the white rabbit bleeding sawdust and then repeatedly licking it off his watch, scissor beheadings, the March Hare moving about in a rickety wheelchair). This is more than a movie—it is a total experience.

“The Desperates” by Greg Kearney— Learning to Live (and Die)

the desperate

Kearney, Greg. “The Desperates”,  Cormorant Books September , 2013.

Learning to Live (and Die)

Amos Lassen

“The Desperates” opens in June, 1998. We meet Teresa who is suffering from terminal lung cancer and she is trying to decide how to die. Edmund is suffering from HIV but he has been rebounding by using anti-retrovirals and now he is facing the opposite of Teresa—he has to decide how to live. Joel, Teresa’s son has now moved from a small Canadian town, Kenora, to Toronto and he is moving toward adulthood by being sexually used by older men. Here we have our three themes—-cancer and chemotherapy, living with HIV and thoughts about suicide but these only take us to deeper issues like class-consciousness, life and death and family. Now these themes look pretty serious so I imagine you will be surprised to learn that this a comic novel. Author Kearney has the gift of using exaggeration to make crazy situations appear even crazier.

Joel, for example, quit his job as a phone-sex line because the client he was speaking to wanted to talk about testicular torment and it so upset him that he made a date with a wealthy guy named Edmund who becomes annoyed with Joel’s constant attention. Joel, luckily for Edmund, has to move because of his mother’s dying wish that he do so. It seems that Teresa feels guilty about Joel’s nerdiness and his ineptitude. She decided that it would be best that Joel come to her and in that way Teresa gets a kind of revenge over the mayor of the town’s wife whose son called Joel “a fatass bag of AIDS” when they were children. But that did not last long because Teresa found religion and then tries to have an exorcism for Joel (see the humor?).

While this was going on, Edmund breaks his seven years of sobriety with a vial that he found on his spice rack and that had once belonged to his now dead lover, Dean. Before he knows it, he is hooked on meth and meets Binnie, a good-looking hustler who is a masochist and loves to do thing concerning the anus (see the humor?).

Surely we all know that there are those who like their sex rough and there are those who use meth. And we know of mothers who like to avenge something in their past. We also meet Hugh here who is Joel’s father and has to balance taking care of his wife and dealing with his gay son.

For me, I think the book is about masculinities and how to be man. Granted this is a funny way of writing about it and I doubt you will ever read a novel quite like this—but go ahead—give it a try.

 

“16 ACRES”— A New Documentary About the World Trade Center

 16

“16 Acres”

A New Documentary About the World Trade Center

Amos Lassen

“16 Acres” is a new documentary that is scheduled to be released on May 21, 2014, the date of the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum at The World Trade Center site. The museum has been

“The most architecturally, politically, and emotionally complex construction project in recent American history”. There has been controversy from the very beginning and the struggle to develop these 16 acres of land has taken place over 12 years, has involved nineteen governmental agencies and over twenty billion dollars. There have problems with engineering challenges, politicians, developers, architects, insurers, local residents and relatives of victims of 9/11.

This film looks at the inside story of how and why this historic project got built. We see the dramatic tension that came about as a result of noble intention and the desire of everyone who wanted to get it “right”. The film is an attempt to answer the question, “What’s the real story behind why it’s taken so long to rebuild?” To the surprise of the writer/producer Matt Kapp, no books, TV shows or documentaries had attempted to answer that question. Few Americans, even New Yorkers, know much about what has really gone on behind the scenes. As it seems with all great urban projects, a small group of powerful people dictates the outcome. Who are they and what motivates them?

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The original plan was to tell the story as a first person narrative and told by the key players. Director Richard Hankin says that since “Many of them are true New York characters, and in many ways it’s a quintessentially New York story”. 

Exclusive access to the World Trade Center site and extensive archival research allowed the filmmakers to colorfully and precisely illustrate and guide the narrative without traditional narration. We see never-before-seen footage, photographs, and architectural renderings and these create an unprecedented historical visual experience of the rebuilding effort. The hope is that this film will be seen as the definitive account of New York’s struggle to rebuild the World Trade Center. 

(The filmmakers have also produced an enhanced, interactive e-book companion to the film, which will be available on iTunes May 15th. “16 ACRES +: Companion to the Acclaimed Documentary About the Struggle to Rebuild Ground Zero” is the first of its kind to be released in conjunction with a documentary, includes slide shows, architectural renderings, video extras, animation, and a narrative that provides background and context”.

Watching the film will bring up memories of that terrible day. The film opens with Bob Dylan singing “Everything Is Broken”. From here director Hankin constructs a polished, appealing surface atop a story of enormous sadness, which was made worse by the reaction of the public to what was going on.

The families of 9/11 victims had, and have, a right to see that the site properly honors their lost loved ones, and often-reviled developer Larry Silverstein had a legitimate interest in rebuilding commercial properties in Lower Manhattan, especially considering the tens of millions a month he had to pay the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey whether there were buildings on the site or not.

The bureaucracy is not toned down and neither is the fact that the enterprise was a mess of infighting. The politicians also get what is coming to them. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani declared shortly after 9/11 that the whole of the WTC site should be considered sacred ground, knowing full well it was an unworkable-bordering-on-absurd idea. Governor George Pataki, whose appearance in the film demonstrates a disconnect of epic proportions, presided over multiple groundbreakings and one ridiculous dedication of a cornerstone (such office towers don’t have cornerstones, someone points out), while making sure the project went as slowly or quickly as was politically expedient for him. Director Hankin and his editing allow people to bury themselves. But not everyone is unsympathetic. “Rosaleen Tallon, whose firefighter brother died in the rescue efforts, is a likable representative of all who lost family in the attack, even if she sometimes seems blinkered to the realities of devoting so much of the world’s most valuable real estate to commemorating the dead. Architectural designer Daniel Libeskind, and David Childs, the architect of the erstwhile “Freedom Tower” (a name Pataki gave the building without consulting anyone, and which has since been erased), are sad examples of the kinds of public artists whose ideas are gradually diminished into parody by too much public input. Likewise Michael Arad, the Israeli-born city architect who won the competition for design of the WTC memorial; the political nitpicking at his concept recalls Maya Lin and her design of the Vietnam memorial in Washington”.

The film raises questions as to whether anything is ever going to be accomplished at Ground Zero. The movie seems to prefer to take the attitude that the voices trying to be heard over the political realities of reconstructing Lower Manhattan are somehow in keeping with the character of New York City, but New York just does not need this now.  Some have called it a comedy of errors but it is more of a tragedy than anything else. Indeed, Dylan’s “Everything is Broken” might just be the best way to describe the entire fiasco.

Transgender and Jewish” edited by Naomi Zeveloff— The World of the Trans Jew

transgender and Jewish

Zeveloff, Naomi, editor. “Transgender & Jewish”, The Forward Association, 2014.

The World of Trans Jews

Amos Lassen

I awoke to quite a surprise this morning. An email told me to look at my Kindle and I found there this new anthology of Trans Jewish writing—a collection of essays by Naomi Zeveloff, Noach Dzurma (whose book “Balancing on the Mechitza” I have reviewed and which won the Lambda Book Award), Max Strasfield, Sarah Seltzer, Ari Lev Fornari (who was a guest at my temple and spoke at a Rainbow Shabbat) and with a foreword by the wonderfully articulate and delightful Joy Ladin. It surprised me in that I had heard that this book was being published but I am so glad to see it now.

The book takes us into the world of the transgender Jew as they lead congregations into moving beyond the gender binary and the definitions of male and female. Some may be surprised to learn that trans Jews direct summer camps, write ritual and even lead prayer services as rabbis.  The branches of Judaism aside from the Orthodox have accepted and welcomed trans Jews as of late but there are still feelings of non-acceptance and otherness among them and I would imagine this is probably true in their home synagogues and temples. The people we read about here are finding ways to be able to be who they are in mainstream Jewish life and what I find so special is that instead of leaving their religion behind, they embrace it as an integral part of who they are. For myself as a gay Jew, I understand because it was not that long ago that I did not feel welcomed in my synagogue but with education and support that has changed.

Ladin writes in her foreword that “This is a book about the birth of the future — a future that was unimaginable to me for most of my life, and that is still unimaginable for many American Jewish communities, but which, as this book demonstrates, is undeniably, irreversibly being born”. She further tells us that she grew up hiding that although she had a male body, her gender identity, her “true self” was female. She lived with the fear of rejection from her family and her Jewish community, a feeling that I am sure all of the essayists here have felt.

We have been raised in a society that has based itself on a gender binary and the assumption that we are all either male or female. In Judaism especially there are roles for each gender whether it be lighting the candles on Shabbat or needing ten men to conduct a service. Circumcision of male Jews is part of the covenant between God and the Jews.

Transgender Jews do not fit according to strict Judaic interpretation. The only options are to hide their true identity are as Ladin says “risk rejection and humiliation by presenting ourselves as transgender; or give up on Jewish community”.

We are now hearing the voice of the future as it is given to us here in this book. We are moving toward a time in which in the Jewish world is beginning to  understand that some members will be transgender and will not fit into the gender binary. We will understand what being transgender means and we will understand it as “part of the normal range of human possibility, and Jewish communities will have developed the policies, rituals and social etiquette required for transgender Jews to feel safe, accepted, included and valued.”

There are already places that do just this and I very am proud that my temple, Temple Sinai, in Brookline, Massachusetts is one of those. I feel very close to the entire transgender issue, as my niece became my nephew at age 41. It is amazing to see how he has embraced his new identity but even more exciting to see how others have embraced him.

We are approaching the age when no Jewish child will experience the terror that Ladin felt “because we will grow up knowing that Jews of all gender identities and expressions are part of klal Yisrael, the Jewish community that stretches back to Abraham and Sarah and embraces every Jew who will ever live”.

Ladin writes of a talk she gave at a temple in Boston when a young girl asked her “a question no adult has ever asked me: “Why were you afraid your community would reject you if you told them you were trans?” Unlike most Jews, she had grown up in a community with close ties to Keshet, an organization committed to the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews in the Jewish world”. What that young girl said that night ushers in a new age—-a future that is taking shape in which a new freedom will emerge. It is writers like Joy Ladin and the others in this book who are paving the way for that. By reading the essays in this book we are also helping to bring on that new age; an age that transgender Jews will not face terror, rejection, bullying, etc. They will take their places along side of us, where they belong and they will have pulpits, go to school, take part in the service, immerse in the mikveh and be full Jews regardless of gender and expression—they will no longer have to dream of acceptance.

I urge you to get a copy of this book and read it—then take time to think about what you have read and about those who wrote it.

“SWEETS”—-Against the Dominant Culture

sweets

“Sweets” (“Sukaryot”)

Against the Dominant Culture

Amos Lassen

Salah is an Arab/Israeli enterpriser who looks for ways to make the Arab children living in Israel happy and he dose so by opening a chain of candy stores. The Firm, an Israeli company headed by Klausner controls the Israeli candy market. Klausner is immediately at odds with Salah and decide to take over the Israeli market for Turkish coffee because of the threat that he feels Salah brings with his new enterprise.

Klausner sees the new business initiative of Salah as a real threat, not only a business one but also a cultural and a political one, even a real challenge against Zionism itself. In a disguise of a business struggle the story reveals moral dilemmas and a cultural struggle: the Arab businessman trying to integrate in modern Israel against the dominant Zionist culture.

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It is filmed in the guise of a tale of business competition. The story reveals moral and cultural dilemmas: an Arab businessman working within the dominant Zionist culture while his Russian wife, French brother-in-law, German partner and the French lover of the German partner demonstrate that the struggle doesn’t take place in a vacuum but within a complicated multinational reality.

 The struggle for control of the candy market rapidly deteriorates in brutal violence that ends in a futile bloodbath. Director Joseph Pichhadze tries to become the Israeli Quentin Tarantino style, but  “Sweets” is a depressing film despite the beautiful way it was filmed.

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Some of the finest actors in Israel today are in the cast— Moni Mosohonov, Makram Khoury, Menashe Noy, Sarah Adler, Samuel Vilozny, and they all are excellent.

“THE COLOR OF PARADISE”— An Eight-Year-Old Blind Boy

color of paradise

“The Color of Paradise” 

An Eight-Year-Old Blind Boy

Amos Lassen

Mohammed is an eight-year-old blind boy in Tehran and we meet him as he is waiting for his father to pick him up for his summer vacation. As he waits, he realizes that a baby bird has fallen from its nest: he chases away a cat, finds the bird, climbs a tree, and puts it back. This act shows us the love the boy has When his father finally comes, he takes him to their village where his sisters and granny await. Mohammed loves nature and wants to life a village life with his family, but his father is ashamed of him. He wants to farm the boy out to clear the way for marriage to a woman who knows nothing of this son. Over his grandmother’s  objections, his father apprentices Mohammad far from home to a blind carpenter.

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When Mohammed got back to his village from school where his widowed father, Hashem, his two sisters, Bahareh and Hanieh, and his paternal grandmother live. He is overjoyed to be at home with his family, its female members who are as equally happy to have Mohammad back for the three-month school break. Hashem, on the other hand, feels ill equipped to deal with Mohammad. Behind Mohammad’s back, his father regards Mohammad as an embarrassment to the family and a burden. He has not even told his fiancée about Mohammad’s existence. He does whatever he can to pass on the responsibility of Mohammad to others, such as the blind carpenter in the neighboring town under whom he would like Mohammad to apprentice. His grandmother loves Mohammed as if he was her real son and is concerned  that unconditional love which is missing from his heart and that is what Mohammad so craves and deserves.

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 Director Majid Majidi shows us Mohammed as a true innocent filled with wonder and a sensitivity to everything that surrounds him. Seeing with the eyes of his heart, he is a world apart from his father who has no idea of what a treasure he has right in front of him. The film can be seen as a spiritual parable that speaks indirectly about the bounties of grace and the emptiness of a life not filled with gratitude to God.

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We see an authentic and touching performance from young Mohsen Ramezani, a natural performer who legitimizes emotions. As the film opens, Ramezani is the last student picked up at a Teheran institute for the blind, another reminder of widowed father Hossein Mahjoub’s bitterness and shame.  After returning home to his sisters and his grandmother (wonderfully portrayed Salime Feizi). As the movie forward the focus is  on the tenuous father-son relationship and, in one wrenching epiphany, we wonder if it can be redeemed.  It is very difficult to review a film that affects the viewer emotionally and I see that as I sit here and type while thinking about the experiences I had with the film.

“ANDY, GO-GO BOY”— Amos Writes About Andy

andy

Barnaby, J.P. “Andy, Go-Go Boy” (Working Boys #2),  Wilde City Press, 2014.

Amos Writes About Andy

Amos Lassen

Andy Finnegan (I have always wanted to read a LGBT novel where the main character is named Andy so I could one day use the title above) is a hunk. He is an ex-Marine  who now has a career (if you can call it that) as a dancer at a gay bar and he also has a very dark side as you will see. Stefan is in love with Andy who barely knows that he exists, However Stefan is determined to meet Andy, the man and not Andy, the dancer.

Andy is angry and he goes out of his way to keep himself set apart and aloof. When he does hook up with someone, it is for a short period of time and only on his terms. He had once been vulnerable and is making sure he will be vulnerable again. He wants to work as a porn in the gay film industry because it is fast money and sex with no strings attached. We meet him on the night that Nick Hartley, a porn producer is coming to the club to watch him dance and Andy knows that this could be his big break.

What Andy does not know is that there are two men who want to ruin this chance for Andy— Dunker, a former Marine buddy who is upset that Andy is doing what he does and wants him to get a real job and the other is Stefan who reminds Andy of someone special who is no longer in his life. Stefan does not realize what he is getting involved with; he has already seen a bad side of Andy.

J.P. Barnaby is a very clever writer. She presents Andy to us in a way that we think of him as selfish, strict and self-centered; the kind of guy we should want to stay from. I did not even stop to think that there might be a reason for Andy acting as he does. Then little by little, we learn about him and we begin to look at him differently and by the time the read is over, we change our minds completely.

Stefan is a nice guy and Andy feels that he looks a lot like Vince, his Marine partner and this is a problem for him in that falling for Stefan would throw a wrench into his career plans. Andy’s feelings for Stefan (that he does let Stefan sense) are in opposition to his plans to make money and have a good life. Besides, he also knows that lovers and porn do not mix.

I am not saying anymore about the plot because to do so would be to ruin the read. I will say that the prose is crisp and the plot is wonderfully rendered by J.P. Barnaby who never disappoints.

“ERODDITY(S)”— A Series of Mini Features

errodity poster

“Eroddity(s)”

A Series of Mini Features

Amos Lassen

“Eroddity(s)” is a series of mini features that allows us to become voyeurs as we peek into the lives of ten young gay men (or as they are more familiarly called “twinks” [although you will be surprised that there is nothing “twinkish about their equipment and how they use it]). We see those young guys in their worlds that are strange, erotic and sometimes supernatural.

“Forever Mine” is about a boy who is confused yet the searches for love that will last eternally. “A Mind of Their Own” is about the closet and why there are some things that should be there. “Unsolved Christmas” is a holiday “tale of woe” in which a young guy gets a very special Christmas gift that he uses on others. In “The Way to a Man’s Heart”, we meet an abused lover get his revenge from beyond the grave.

When I watched this film, I was surprised at what I saw and for one of the very few times, I did not know how to react. I mean that in a positive way. It seemed to show me the trend that we will see in LGBT movies in the future. Gone are the days in which our films dealt with guilt and suicide and guys having a difficult time dealing with sexuality. The new freedoms that we have achieved mean that we no longer have to hide who we are now. The time has come to celebrate it. This film does just that.

We see full frontal nudity and erections and while the sex is simulated (to a degree), the film is much bolder than we have seen in a very long time. Yet it is tastefully and not pornographic. As I said before, the young men here are celebrating themselves and their sexualities.

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The cinematography is excellent as is the music–the actors are cute but obviously inexperienced. The nudity is really shocking especially the hard-ons as is the sex but it is not gratuitous and does move the plot. I suppose we might consider the film to be something like paranormal which is a big trend in gay writing now.

So I come to end of my review and not finding a way to close it. The initial shock of what I saw here is beginning to wear off as I try to think into which film genre fits. Maybe some of you can tell me that.