Monthly Archives: January 2019

Ad Guru Aaron Walton and Film/TV Director Cheryl Dunye join Revry’s Rock Star Board

Ad Guru Aaron Walton and Film/TV Director Cheryl Dunye join Revry’s Rock Star Board

January 31,2019 – First global LGBTQ streaming network, Revry is thrilled to announce the expansion of what CEO, Damian Pelliccione, calls his ‘Rock Star Advisory Board’ as each are world class leaders in the fields of technology and entertainment. “An Advisory Board is crucial for any startup,” says Pelliccione. “Our rock stars not only bring years of expertise and experience to help with navigating obstacles, but they’ve given us access to their networks and colleagues, helping us better strategize and realize Revry’s incredible opportunity for growth and contributions to our LGBTQ+ community.”
Revry is the first queer global streaming network, available in 35 million homes in over 100 countries, with a uniquely curated selection of LGBTQ+ film, series, and originals along with the world’s largest queer libraries of groundbreaking podcasts, albums and music videos. Revry is available worldwide on seven OTT, mobile, and online platforms, and hosts the exclusive LGBTQ+ channels on Pluto TV and XUMO.
Newest advisor Aaron Walton, the black gay award-winning founding partner of full service ad agency Walton Isaacson, understands the next generation of queer media and how diversity leads to dynamic innovation. “As the LGBTQ community continues to redefine what it means to be ‘out and prideful’ in the modern era, this audience has longed for media outlets reflective of the digital age to connect culturally,” says Walton. “The simple brilliance of creating Revry fills that gap. Revry’s orientation within the digital distribution environment means that global reach is without boundaries, with possibilities that have yet to be defined.”
Pelliccione is honored to include Walton onto the board as well as groundbreaking and award-winning filmmaker Cheryl Dunye, whose focus on queer storytelling will help Revry craft diverse content and develop creators who speak for current and future generations.
Dunya currently directs for a slate of incredible shows such as Ava DuVernay’s QUEEN SUGAR for OWNTV, Lena Waithe’s THE CHI and DEAR WHITE PEOPLE. Dunye explains “Revry is doing exactly what my 30-year career as a filmmaker has been founded on — putting stories from the margins at the center where they belong. Full stop. Revry is also committed to fostering the development of young and emerging LGBTQ talents from all backgrounds, all while giving us a powerful sense of agency as a community and as storytellers. We have great things to do together on this front in the coming few years, and I look forward to working with the team at Revry to advance their dynamic content and business goals on every level.”
Headquartered in Los Angeles, Revry’s Pelliccione and his three founding partners (Alia J. Daniels, Christopher Rodriguez and LaShawn McGhee) also count among their advisors entertainment powerhouse Rod Perth, the former president of USA Networks, Reelz Channel, Jim Henson Productions and President & CEO of the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE). Revry’s first advisor Timothy Mohn is a five time entrepreneur, venture investor, scientist, and engineer who was recently CTO at Fullscreen (acquired by AT&T) and creator of the HBO GO App. Other advisors include Jessica Casano-Antonellis, VP of Communications of Disney Streaming Services as well as Grindr’s sales guru Steve Levine, Conde Naste’s Them founder Jenna Trabulus and social media strategist and community builder Matt Skallerud.

Currently, Revry is making investing in the queer community a family affair by launching an equity crowdfunding campaign on SeedInvest (https://www.seedinvest.com/revry/seed). Revry’s streaming network brings the queer experience to the world through its diverse mix of films, series, music, podcasts and originals. Revry is committed to inclusion and creating a space for all voices in the LGBTQ+ community to be seen and heard.

Quotes from Advisors Below:
Rod Perth: “With the explosion in online viewing of streaming content, Revry is well positioned to reach the LGBTQ community across every platform with a broad variety of entertaining programs that are already resonating with viewers and advertisers. With my deep background in both the business and creative sides of television, I’m delighted to be able to contribute to this energized team that is so passionate about creating value for investors, advertisers, and viewers who will love Revry.”
Timothy Mohn: “As a five time entrepreneur, venture investor, scientist, and engineer who was recently CTO at Fullscreen (Acquired by AT&T) and creator of HBO GO App, Mohn has been a part of the streaming revolution before the streaming revolution even existed. Mohn has become instrumental in navigating Revry’s product development, engineering and product launches. A stellar technical advisor, Mohn explains, “When I met the Revry team a few years back, I was incredibly impressed with Damian and the entire team. What struck me was that they were clearly building Revry because they were passionate that the LGBTQ community needed to have their stories heard. First and foremost. And building a vehicle for artists to tell those stories was important for that. I don’t see that everyday as an investor and entrepreneur, it wasn’t just ‘about business.’ That’s important. And I was excited and humbled that Damian and team presented the opportunity to help them build this amazing platform for the community.”
Steve Levine: “Having overseen the introduction of a new advertising medium at the worlds largest gay dating app (Grindr) where we broke through barriers and were instrumental in the growth and success of Mobile Advertising targeting the LGBT community, I am excited to bring my expertise in growing publisher advertising revenue to such a unique, cutting-edge platform as Revry. I see Revry as the next frontier for fresh, innovating advertising solutions by allowing brands to reach the highly prized LGBTQ audience in diverse and creative ways never before available. Like Grindr before it, Revry is blazing the next trail in brand partnerships with a young, creative, highly motivated and ably diverse team willing to work tirelessly to be the example that others can only follow.”
Matt Skallerud: “Over the years, it seems like it’s been a ‘search for the holy grail’ in terms of companies trying to launch a successful LGBTQ-only television network. By understanding and mastering the technologies currently available today with Smart TVs and devices such as Roku and Apple TV, it seems like Revry has finally discovered the formula to make an LGBTQ channel actually work!”
Official Bios and Headshots for all Advisors are Available Upon Request.

About Revry
Revry is the first queer global streaming network, available in 35 million homes in over 100 countries, with a uniquely curated selection of LGBTQ+ film, series, and originals along with the world’s largest queer libraries of groundbreaking podcasts, albums and music videos. Revry is available worldwide on seven OTT, mobile, and online platforms, and hosts the exclusive LGBTQ+ channels on Pluto TV and XUMO. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Revry is led by an inclusive team of queer, multi-ethnic and allied partners who bring decades of experience in the fields of tech, digital media, and LGBTQ+ advocacy. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @REVRYTV. Go Online to: https://revry.tv.
Revry is offering securities under Regulation CF and Rule 506(c) of Regulation D through SI Securities, LLC (“SI Securities”). The Company has filed a Form C with the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with its offering, a copy of which may be obtained at: https://www.seedinvest.com/revry/seed It is advised that you consult a tax professional to fully understand any potential tax implications of receiving investor perks before making an investment. The individuals above were not compensated in exchange for their testimonials. In addition, their testimonials should not be construed as and/or considered investment advice.

About SeedInvest
SeedInvest is a leading equity crowdfunding platform that provides individual investors with access to pre-vetted startup investment opportunities and has only accepted 1% of those companies to feature on the platform. For more information, visit www.seedinvest.com.

“THE GAY HISTORY OF SITGES” A Small Beach Town

“THE GAY HISTORY OF SITGES”

A Small Beach Town

Amos Lassen

Sitges is a small beach town about 40 miles south of Barcelona, Spain that has long been recognized as an international mecca for gay tourists.  The main day time attraction during the summer are the 17 sun soaked beaches that line the coast of this tiny Catalan town. Later on comes the nightlife of bars and restaurants (and cruising spots). make it the firm favorite with the LGBTQI crowd.

Brandon Jones, a Brit  settled in the town in 1985 with his partner Juan and has been the co-owner of Casablanca cocktail bar and art venues or the last 20 years.  This is his first attempt at filmmaking in which he delves into the intriguing question of how on earth did this sleepy fishing town become such a major gay destination.

He goes back over 100 years to trace the history through early artistic and gay pioneers who  ‘discovered’ the town and slowly help transform it. It is important to remember that the whole of Spain was controlled by the military dictator Franco for some 35 years until 1975.  Under that regime homosexuals were imprisoned,  but as Jones says, the local gay population could push the limits to what they could achieve more successful than those in Barcelona.

Sitges has had its fair share of oppression and homophobia and concerted efforts by Town Hall to try to stop its being a haven for gay tourists have been unsuccessful. They may have managed to make things tough in general, but  Jones talked to some of the old local colorful characters who looked back fondly at how the community found its place and voice.

Nowadays in this very diverse and tolerant town, there are still far more bears than lesbians, and there is a definite political edge to some of the partying.  Most of all though there is a sense of a community that has gone through so many changes, and that is now accepting of the fact that it will continue to have to do so to survive.   

Jones highlights the history in such a way Jones  to give hope at the end of the tunnel for people in less tolerant countries, showing them how a small Mediterranean village(and Spain!) in less than 100 years was able to overcome repressive laws and a dictatorship, to become a tolerant, all-inclusive place. We get fascinating insight to this  sleepy fishing village with an original population in 1900 has now grown into an internationally well respected gay resort.

Jones reminds us that “In the dark days of Franco’s dictatorship Sitges became an almost secret haven for gays who felt safe here although they still had to behave discreetly.” Apart from a dark period in the late 1990s when homophobic demonstrations left a local barman in a coma, Sitges has triumphed as a liberated, tolerant and diverse community. It is therefore surprising that the first LGBT association began in only 2001. The theory is that until recently most gay visitors were just that – visitors for a few days or weeks. But with a notable number of gay people buying properties and paying taxes, it was inevitable that social action groups would be formed, as Brandon did in 2011 as co-founder of Gay Sitges Link.

Sitges has always managed to avoid becoming a gay ghetto, the film tells us, and the newly formed associations are committed to integration within the wider community, while supporting events like World Aids Day. The film also makes it clear that it’s always been easier to be gay in Sitges than elsewhere in Catalan.

“THE SIGN FOR LOVE”— Deaf, Gay and Jewish

“The Sign for Love”

Deaf, Gay and Jewish (Israeli)

Amos Lassen

Filmmakers Elad Cohen and Iris Ben Moshe have a new documentary about being deaf, gay and Israeli. Elad was born deaf to a hearing family. After his mother’s tragic death and the breakdown of his family, he makes the most important decision of his life: to become a father.

Elad divides his time between hearing family members and a group of deaf friends. He’s closest to Yaeli, a deaf woman who wants a child. The two of them decide to not only have a child together but to share an apartment and raise the baby as a couple.

While Yaeli’s mother is supportive of her, Elad has many unresolved issues with members of his biological family. When lad was small, his mother told him that raising him was like raising three kids and from that day forward he has felt guilty about being deaf and he has tried hard to be like everyone else. After the tragic death of his mother and the breakdown of the family unit, he became even more alienated and decided that the best thing for him was a start a family of his own. This is a first person account of the life Eldad has created for himself and his attempt to finally have a family that he can be a part of. Parenthood seems to have healed his bitter feelings

“The Sign For Love” reveals some of the unanticipated complexities involved in relationships that will surprise viewers. It’s all about the need to love and to be loved and to heard and understood even when we cannot hear ourselves.

“GAY HOLLYWOOD DAD”— Quentin Lee, Father

“Gay Hollywood Dad”

Quentin Lee, Father

Amos Lassen

Originally planned as a web series with multiple episodes, this project was turned into a documentary feature debut, centered on the life of Quentin Lee, a queer director who built an independent film career for himself. Lee wanted to have a child since the age of twelve and, after years of feeling guilty, undecided or scared to take the plunge, he finally decides that the time has  to  come for him to become a single parent. With the kindness of a surrogate mother and an egg donor, Quentin’s biological son, Junyi Casper Lee, was born on June 6, 2016. Lee takes time off from his profession in order to be there for his baby. He comes up with the idea of offering his child a unique birthday present: a web series all about him and how he came into this world.

Casper is born with the help of Crystal, a woman from Parkersburg who loves horses and has become very close to Leen who is forced to reconsider many of his day-to-day choices and completely turns his life around after his son is finally born. He is also faced with the challenge of introducing Casper to his conservative family. Moreover, Quentin now has to adapt his busy schedule and chaotic career obligations to fit his child’s needs, bringing Casper along to most of his on-set endeavors, including the premiere of his latest film, “Unbidden”.

We see what Lee has on his plate as the film follows  a year in his life as he invents himself once more this time as a parent.” “Gay Hollywood Dad” is the result of  Lee’s desire to eliminate the stigma surrounding single parenthood, particularly in relation to the LGBTQ community. Lee plans on documenting Casper’s growth and development over the next few years so we have that to long forward to.

“TO DUST”— Thoughtful and Sensitive

“To Dust”

Thoughtful and Sensitive

Amos Lassen

  Albert (Matthew Broderick) is an embittered community college professor gone to seed. Shmuel (Geza Rohrig) a Hasidic cantor, who doesn’t know the difference. He thinks that any participation in scientific inquiry is sinful, but the recent death of his wife leads to a desperate obsession with human decomposition. Shawn Snyder’s  “To Dust” is about these two men coming together.

Shmuel is very serious about Orthodox teaching especially the part about “dust to dust.” In fact, he becomes consumed with anxiety, worrying that his wife’s soul will be in torment until her body fully returns to the earth. At first, we might think that this is a film that pushes the line of good taste but it is actually very thoughtful and sensitive it the ways it addresses Orthodox Judaism. In actuality, this is a deeply mournful film that readily forgives its characters’ foibles and excesses. There are indeed some rather grisly images, including the archival footage from 1960 and some morbid nightmare sequences, but they are always counter-balanced by the human element.

Géza Röhrig is excellent as Shmuel. It is a quiet performance, but his anguish always feels very real. He and Matthew Broderick show real chemistry. “To Dust” leaves us with more questions than answers as it deals with issues of death and the afterlife. While the film seems to imply that the main character has achieved resolution and is able to move on, we are left with many unresolved feelings. I believe that this is what writer/director Shawn Snyder was striving for.

The film opens with the  death of Shmuel’s beloved wife, Rivkah. Shmuel immediately becomes troubled by questions surrounding the decomposition of her body and what happens to her until her physical being is returned to dust. Unable to find satisfying answers within his Hasidic community, he begins a scientific inquiry with the help of Albert, a community college biology professor (Matthew Broderick), who is really only one step ahead of Shmuel in researching the forensics. The two men embarks on a series of scientific experiments, both horrific and humorous, to try and approximate the disintegration of Rivkah’s body.

The film is also a very realistic depiction of bereavement and mourning and it is heartening to see a Hasidic man portrayed as so deeply loving his wife. In one scene, after being encouraged by his mother to begin to clean out Rivkah’s closet, Shmuel caresses Rivkah’s clothing and wig as if she is still alive. Shmuel is haunted by nightmares of Rivkah corpse decaying, but he is most troubled by thoughts that she is suffering as a “lost soul.”

The seriousness of loss is balanced by the antics of Shmuel and Albert. Each must learn a little about the other’s way of lifegiving us some very comedic interactions. They also clandestinely act as undertakers for a pig that they bury for comparison purposes. Broderick’s character is almost carried away in Shmuel’s quest, feeling compassion for his grief, while at a loss to really help him.

Shmuel’s two sons have to struggle to deal with their father’s consuming grief and inattentiveness and begin to believe, influenced by community rumors, that he has a dybbuk of Rivkah inside him. (A dybbuk is a malicious possessing spirit of the dislocated soul of a dead person), and the sons attempt an exorcism while Shmuel is sleeping, providing for some comedic relief.

The humor in “To Dust” serves to mark the true feelings of sorrow that surround the loss of a loved one. Director Snyder does a good job of walking the line between the two and leaving the audience just unsettled enough to have a fulfilling viewing experience. Geza Rohrig carries the film with an authentic, moving portrayal. We are immediately swept up alongside Albert in hoping Shmuel will find the answers he is searching for.

“POSE”: Season One— Gender, Race, Sexuality and Class

“Pose”: Season One

Gender, Race, Sexuality and Class

Amos Lassen

Ryan Murphy’s “Pose” “gives good face from its opening moments.” Inside the house of Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson), the musical beats of Taana Gardner’s “Heartbeat” order a group of queens to strike a pose. The mood is a mix of warmth, sauciness, and narcissism that will make perfect sense to fans of “Paris is Burning”, Jennie Livingston’s documentary about the golden age of New York City’s drag balls.

 “Pose” features the largest cast of transgender actors in history for a scripted television series exploring the drag ball scene which is defiant of gender norms and we see the internalized racism—the playing at being white—with apprehension. “Pose” reflects a more confused than confident image of that culture back to audiences.

This is a show about young people of color trying to loudly own their identities during the dawn of AIDS, but it doesn’t even try to pretend that New York City isn’t submerged in a sea of gentrification. Multiple references to Donald Trump—several characters work for his corporation suggest that Murphy may be playing some kind of game: that the aesthetic of the show will be placed in some kind of meta-conversation with the façade of Trump’s existence. The show’s characters are defined by their present conditions—looking forward toward a dream they probably know isn’t realistically within reach. Only Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain), a young black dancer, gets any sort of backstory. He was kicked out of his house for being gay, made his way to New York and is eventually taken in by Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), who’s recently estranged from Elektra and is looking to populate her House of Evangelista. Blanca is wise beyond her years announces that “We do not have the luxury of shame,” as she charges into the New School’s dance department, with Damon in tow. By the end of the episode, he’s auditioning for Helena St. Rogers (Charlayne Woodard), one of many characters throughout the series who are committed to being mothers to the lost queer boys and girls of the city.

“Pose” is  at its best when devoted to advancing its representational politics. In another storyline, Angel (Indya Moore), a sex worker and recent House of Evangelista inductee, begins having an affair with a married businessman, Stan (Evan Peters). In a series dominated by people of color, almost all unknowns, the appearance of Peters and especially James Van Der Beek—playing a broadly drawn real estate hustler—initially feels like a focus-pulling blunder. But Murphy is careful to neither center Stan in the series’ narrative nor talk about his attraction to Angel. In fact, it’s Stan and Angel’s relationship that allows the series to widen its scope as a consideration of gender in relation to matters of race, sexuality, and class.

Stan and Angel’s scenes lay the foundation for our awareness of why characters like Elektra and Angel are so desperately driven to undergo gender-reassignment surgery, which promises them a certain freedom even as it threatens to alienate them from their lovers. There is a scene of Damon kissing Ricky (Ryllon Burnside)—a moment captured with a confrontational tenacity that feels like a rebuke to the melancholic sense of self-pity. It’s a scene that will surely be very important to any queer person of color unaccustomed to seeing their passions depicted on screen so openly and without shame.

Set in the 1980s, “Pose” looks at the juxtaposition of a few fragments of life and society in New York: the ascent of the extravagance Trump-time universe, the downtown social and artistic scene and the ball culture world. Diminishes and Mara star as New Jersey couple Stan and Patty, who get sucked into the fabulousness and interest of New York City back then.

“The Dark Young Man” by Jacob Dinezon— A Historical Jewish Romance

Dinezon, Jacob. “The Dark Young Man”, translated by Tina Lunson and edited by Scott Hilton Davis, Jewish Storyteller Press   2019.

A Historical Jewish Romance

Amos Lassen

Jacob Dinezon’s historical Jewish romance is set in the Russian Empire in the 1840s and is the story of Yosef, a poor but brilliant yeshiva student, who falls in love with Roza, the beautiful and charming daughter of a rich merchant. The couple’s bright future is made cloudy by the ruthless actions of Roza’s brother-in-law, the Dark Young Man, who plots to protect his position in the family by destroying the young lovers. When first published in 1877, the book was a runaway best seller (and this was even before we had bestseller lists),

Originally written in Yiddish and translated for the first time in English by Tina Lunson, the plot delves deeply into the personalities and politics of Jewish middle-class urban society, and describes the growing opposition to arranged marriages, the disparities between rich and poor, and the effects of assimilation and modernity on traditional Jewish life. That may seem like a tall order, but the book does it all and does it well.

The novel is filled with all the intrigue and excitement of Jewish life, culture, and religion during the mid-nineteenth-century. It blends romance and realism while it launched the author’s career as a major voice in the Jewish literary world. Tina Lunson’s wonderful and first ever English translation captures mid-nineteenth century Jewish life in Eastern Europe, showing us not only its particular culture but also its parallels to today’s Jewish experience.

When young Yosef leaves his parents’ home to work for a wealthy family, he is admired by the members of his new household but not by Meyshe, the husband of the family’s oldest daughter. He soon sees Yosef as a threat, someone who might replace him as the person with authority over the family and its fortunes. The overall mood of claustrophobic despair is seen in the personalities of the main characters whose lives are intermittently pierced by brief periods of hope except for  Meyshe Shneyur, the dark young man of the title. Meyshe who is the title character is far from the story’s hero. He is the villain, the destroyer of all hopes who finds joy in his destructive accomplishments and the suffering—and Dinezon’s novel is a treatise on this dark soul’s power and methods.

The time in which the novel is set in Eastern Europe is the period of Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, when long-observed Jewish traditions were being questioned and threatened. Those holding on to the old ways had no respect for new ideas and assimilationist tendencies, and the young moderns saw little value in traditional strictures that were not justified by new secular learning.

In this book,   the central tradition being questioned is the arranged marriage. Yosef and Roza, the woman of his dreams, are caught in the middle, but determined to live worthy lives according to Jewish religious law.

Yosef’s courting of Roza is subverted by the sinister operations of “The Dark One.” Meyshe and his cohorts make false claims about Yosef’s behavior to discredit him as an acceptable husband for Roza, and later, when the marriage is stopped and Roza is coerced into marrying a marriage broker’s selection, her younger sister wins Yosef’s heart. After Yosef moves to St. Petersburg, letters between the lovers are blocked and  many were replaced by forgeries that undermined the relationship. Moreover, Meyshe manages to have Yosef convicted of crimes and suffer a year’s imprisonment.

Dinezon’s themes and insights bring a complex era to life and we see that this is also  surprisingly relevant to today especially when considering the ongoing quest for female autonomy.

“CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?”— Struggles

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Struggles

Amos Lassen

 In the 1990s, biographer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) became frustrated with lack of interest in a mooted project about vaudeville legend Fanny Brice. Israel was also  struggling with money and alcohol issues and began a spree of literary forgery that amounted to over 400 faked letters.The film is based on Israel’s bestselling memoir and is a slow-burn crowd-please. It is evident from the very first scene when we see Israel being fired from a copywriting job, that there will be plenty of dark humor and a twisted narrative.

At first we think that this is going to be an introspective picture about loneliness, professional dissatisfaction and alcoholism but these ideas are ultimately subordinated to something that seems like “a caper, filled with imaginary cousins, dead cats, library heists and Noël Coward’s signature.” While the title hints at something more reflective, the narrative eventually reveals it to be a rather good joke. McCarthy has the ability to draw warmth and humor from her character who is basically unlikeable. She is an actor for whom pathos comes very naturally. This is really a performance of less subtly and restraint than you might imagine, though she is essentially in a two-hander with Richard E. Grant.

The film is, at times, both moving and funny, well-intended and unselfconscious. Israel is a very abrasive New York character, with a well-hidden humanity and heart of gold. McCarthy forges a memorable, individual, even unique on-screen character out of Ms. Israel. She forms a double act with Richard E Grant as Jack Hock, a kind of older variant gay male whose role is respectful and sympathetic, even if you have to say Mr. Hock isn’t exactly a good role model. Israel is also gay too, a short-haired, frumpy, lonely lesbian, whose only previous friend before meeting Hock is her cute pussy cat. She starts forging literary letters from Fanny Brice, Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker. Desperate for rent money and cash for the vet, she then sells the letters for not very much to New York booksellers and meets a new friend – bookshop owner Anna (Dolly Wells), a charming lesbian, whose tentative approaches Israel declines.

The film tells a good story, and it tells it really well. There are a lot of laughs and a lot of truths. It is sharp, acid, hard-edged at times, but it is also warm hearted and a little sentimental. Lee Israel found her voice by impersonating the voices of more talented writers. For decades, she was an esteemed biographer, writing numerous books on the works of accomplished women ranging from actors such as Katharine Hepburn, to pioneering. However she fell upon hard times, with no publisher wanting to release her biographies on increasingly lesser known subjects – which led to a drastic career move that gained her notoriety.

Director Marielle Heller never portrays Lee Israel as a victim of circumstance or as a conniving schemer desperate to make a quick buck. We see her as short tempered and argumentative due to her diminished standing within the book industry.  The film begins in 1991; Israel can’t get her publisher to return her calls, she’s been fired from a copywriting gig due to her short temper, and her only companion is an ageing cat given to her as a present by a former girlfriend. By chance, she happens to meet Jack Hock), an equally lonely man who has just been released from prison, where he served a sentence for armed robbery, only to discover all of his friends have passed away from the AIDS crisis during his time behind bars. As Lee discovers she can make hundreds of dollars plagiarizing letters from literary greats, she brings Jack into her operation.

With her arraignment imminent, Lee’s lawyer urges her to get an actual job, start doing community service, and go to AA. Also not a surprise: She starts volunteering at a cat shelter and goes to Julius’—not 12-Step—where she and Jack reach a caustic resolution and we get to have a relatively happy, gay-lesbian friendship ending.

“On Chocorua”, Book One in the Trailblazer Series by Robin Reardon— From College to the World

 

Reardon, Robin. “On Chocorua”, Book One in the Trailblazer Series, Robin Reardon, 2019.

From College to the World

Amos Lassen

I became a Robin Reardon fan some eight books ago when she was then publishing with Kensington books. There was something about her writing that pulled me in immediately and her plots were exactly what was needed. When Reardon began writing there was most definitely a dearth of LGBTQ literature for young readers. I really believe that she was partly responsible for that changing. Reardon’s voice could speak to the entire nation and perhaps one day it will. We are finally seeing acceptance of the LGBTQ community and with that things are constantly changing.

With the publication of Reardon’s ninth book, we have a beginning to the three volume series, “Trailblazer”. The books are centered around Nathan Bartlett and follow him through his freshman year in college to his early twenties as he does what all of us have had to do— find our way. I think that for many of us, the quest to know who we are is never ending. We often forget that our futures depend upon our pasts.

Nathan faces detours in his journeys including addictions that hamper his way. Being a trailblazer usually means doing something ahead of others and preparing the path so that others will be able to walk on it. Nathan becomes an explorer who sometimes finds himself at dead ends—- he forgets that the ending is not always the goal but the way to the ending is what is important. To make important choices, we must know ourselves and not knowing makes the road that much more difficult. I often wonder if we ever grow up completely. Life is not about answers but about the questions. Reardon describes Nathan as a trailblazer because he dares to explore himself and who he is and to do that he has had to muster up courage and a willingness to stick with it until he is content. It would certainly be much easier for  him to use someone else’s path but doing so could push him out of the picture and he would become just a number of one who tried. This is his journey and for it to remain his, he must forge his own way.

Chocorua is Nathan’s metaphor. During the first year of college, we have the power to really be who we want to me if we know who that is.  Nathan does not use the best judgment when he acts and he learns from that. There were moments when I wanted to reach out to him and make him feel loved and there were times when I was ready to use every four letter word I know on him. I almost caught myself yelling at him when he fell in love with someone because he looked like his own brother and was straight, I became very angry when he ventured into the world of addiction and I really thought that he had lost it when he decided to climb a mountain regardless of the awful weather conditions. But then again, haven’t we all done things that are just as crazy ?

Nathan was strong enough to deal with his personal demons head on by recognizing that for many questions there are no easy answers. Very few of us have our lives handed to us so, like Nathan, we have to struggle and even suffer for what we feel is important. I really loved being with Nathan on his journey and I am especially  glad that it was Robin Reardon who wrote the wonderful text. Each of her books has tackled some aspect of LGBT life that can be problematic and while she does not have all the answers, she gives us options to think about.  Reardon is the kid of writer whose words stay with you long after the read is over. For me that is one of the definitions of good literature. Nathan’s journey is a collective journey with room for all of us to become a part of. We might not realize it but by reading this book, we are learning a lot about who we really are.

I have had the pleasure of meeting and having coffee with writer Reardon and she is as terrific of a person as she is as a writer. However, I do hate having to wait for the next two books. I am very aware that I have not shared much of the plot with you and that is because I want all of us to be on this journey and to tell about it might spoil the experience.

“SO DARK THE NIGHT”— Mystery and Intrigue

“So Dark The Night”

Mystery and Intrigue

Amos Lassen

Joseph H. Lewis was a master film director whose work is spread out over several different film genres. He was at his best, it is said, when  working in the world of film noir. In “So Dark the Night” we really see him at his best and it is surprising that this film is not better known. We meet  Inspector Henri Cassin (Steven Geray), a renowned Paris detective, who decides that he needs a break and so her leaves Paris and goes to the French countryside.  There he meets and falls in love with the innkeeper’s daughter, Nanette (Micheline Cheirel) , who unfortunately for Cassin is already engaged to a local farmer. On the evening of their engagement party, Nanette and the farmer both disappear. Cassin takes up the case immediately to discover what happened to them and who is responsible. Cassin follows the case that becomes something of a psychodrama and a dark voyage into the mind of a murderer.

Director Lewis uses the twisty, pulpy material of the plot and adds some fine noir touches. Cinematographer Burnett Guffey (who also shot the classic “Bonnie and Clyde”) provides fantastic camerawork. The film is a remarkable and underrated whodunit that is driven by a continuous sense of real tension that has us feel a sense of unease even when the film is over.

Henri Cassin is considered to be the best detective in Paris. He has not had a vacation in eleven years and the police commissioner arranges a quiet holiday for him in the country village of St. Margot. He is tremendously attracted to Nanette and feels that he has found happiness at last. Nanette’s mother (Anne Codee) encourages the romance because the detective is wealthy and has status. Nanette is impressed by his wealth and with the prospect of living in the Big City. But her father (Eugene Borden) says that Henri is too old and that she’s already been promised (since childhood) to a poor farmer named Leon Archard (Paul Marion). The jealous Leon tries to break up the romance by telling her how much he loves her, but while away from the village the detective and Nanette announce their plans to marry. Leon returns and warns Henri that if he marries his girl, he will follow her everywhere and win her back any way he can. 

Soon afterwards, Nanette disappeared and her dead body is found in the river. Henri says she wasn’t drowned but strangled at Leon’s farm and dumped in the river. At the farm, Leon is found dead from an apparent suicide. But Henri deduced he was also murdered by strangulation. The only clue is the footprint of a shoe found by Leon’s side. Henri is baffled and doesn’t understand the motive. Things get scarier when the housekeeper widow (Helen Freeman) finds a note under the detective’s door threatening “There will be another murder.” 

The Freudian story is strange and it and strains credibility, but the elegant style Lewis uses is mesmerizing. There and several light touches such as the rich depiction of rural life and the character study of a psychological breakdown due to a pressured psyche that induces schizophrenia. I found the film to be fascinating and with this new release it will no longer be so obscure.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

  High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

  Original uncompressed mono PCM audio

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

  Audio Commentary by critics Glenn Kenny and Farran Smith Nehme

  So Dark… Joseph H. Lewis at Columbia – Critic Imogen Sara Smith provides the background and an analysis of the film

  Theatrical trailer

  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tonci Zonjic

  FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic David Cairns