Monthly Archives: June 2019

“CAMP CHAOS”— Matthew Camp’s New Sexy Series

“Camp Chaos”

Matthew Camp’s New Sexy Series

Amos Lassen

Matthew Camp bring us a new series that opens with people having sex as a voiceover narrates what is going on.  “Camp Chaos” is both “a self-empowering makeover show” and a  raunchy fantasy.

In the first episode, we learn that real-life social media hottie Matthew Camp has set out to recreate some of his wildest sexual memories. We watch him video chat with a series of guys about their sexual desires until one shows up in real life to help Camp with his project. We then see a hardcore staging of the memory we’ve been hearing about throughout the episode. Camp looks at sexuality as both serious and playful.

Matthew Camp together with show creator Cory Krueckeberg give us something to look at and to think about. “I feel like it’s important as gay men that we exercise our right to want to have sex, to make content with it, and profit off it. It’s sort of a revolutionary act,” Matthew Camp says with an enticing grin. He pushes the boundaries of fantasy and reality in an explicit way in XXX-rated episodic journey starring Camp. He attempts to recreate several of his formative sexual encounters with boys he meets online and in his upstate New York apartment where while nude, he tends to his plants and plays his guitar. He paints in a jockstrap and masturbates in the living room. After Skyping with a few potential scene partners, Camp brings in a bearded San Francisco man and the two share intimacy and have a  carnal adventure. With beautiful cinematography and sweaty reenactments, director Cory Krueckeberg is able to capture the tender and sometimes funny and always authenticity of two people’s first sexual encounter.

On the internet Camp has more than 566,000 followers. It seems that this was his natural next move. We see him as a sexual animal and also as a gentle person. “Camp Chaos” is “a provocative meditation exploring formative sexual memories. The series takes on the form of a hybrid documentary/experimental film / art project. It uses explicit sex as part of the exploration of Matthew’s formative sexual memories.” Each episode is to cover a distinct sexual experience from Camp’s life. He first shares the story with viewers and then sets about recreating the encounter in explicit detail with a new partner. “The series blends reality and fantasy in a way that creates what feels like a true and authentic portrayal of Matthew Camp. What you see is what you get, Camp is truly and unapologetically himself.” He feels that it is “important as gay men that we exercise our right to want to have sex, to make content with it, and profit off it. It’s sort of a revolutionary act,” says Camp.

The series is also a time capsule of relationships and encounters are like in a post-online dating and social media world. “It is current, timely, real and treats sex the way millennials treat sex.”

 

“FABULOUS”— Lasseindra Ninja Goes Home

 

“Fabulous”

Lasseindra Ninja Goes Home

Amos Lassen

Lasseindra Ninja is finally going home. She left French Guiana many years ago when she Xavier. While away, she spent her time away becoming Lassiendra, Her found family tutored her in the art of voguing and dance battle. Lasseindra took her skills to conquer Paris, mothering her own iconic House of Ninja and launching herself to international fame from the French ballroom scene she co-fostered with Madame Stephie Mizrahi.

Director Audrey Jean-Baptiste wonderfully captures Lasseindra’s return to Guiana to teach voguing dance workshops to LGBTQ+ and straight youth. The society in Guiana is rigidly-gendered so there may very well be problems. Lasseindra’s instruction, wit, vision as well as her defiant demonstration of a successful and happy life authentically lived on her own terms. Her love of dance inspires and empowers her  and helps her students to understand self-love, pride, fabulousness, and confidence through the expression of dance.

Director Audrey Jean-Baptiste brings us a heartwarming story of a queer French Guiana kid  who made it possible to be his true self.  Leaving behind his biological family, he went to New York and quickly found a new queer adopted family in the city’s underground ballroom scene. She came home some 13 years later as Lasseindra Ninja. She was recognized as a star.

The movie starts then with Lasseindra’s  first trip home in order to help young queer and straight teenagers by tutoring them in the art of voguing.  She leads these workshops with good humor and a passionate understanding of the limited opportunities that her students have in this very conservative country. Her pupils are overjoyed about this one chance to develop some skills in this dance art form that they take too with big grins on their faces.   Lasseindra encourages them to develop their own unique style and attitude and there is no holding back in their part. The kids admire and her respect both her and her teaching. 

The film ends with them all being able to show off their newly acquired skills and talents to their friends and the  local community. Their dancing is wonderful and their faces glow. She has  empowered these  kids  to be able  to face the world with their new found confidence.

“I AM A RAIN DOG”— Getting Back on Track

“I AM A RAIN DOG”

Getting Back on Track

Amos Lassen

In Christopher Di Nunzio’s new short film “I Am a Rain Dog”, (Leo Fiore), a man in a motel room calling a specialist for help when he finds himself lost. He is not only physically lost, he also existentially lost and looking for guidance. The film runs for only 12 minutes and each minute serves a purpose and even though it is so short, we, the viewers, feel we have seen something that is very special.

As the film opens we see a man, Valentine Biltmore (Kris Salvi)inside a motel room and he is pacing and seems to be very nervous and upset. He has a gun which he pulls out when there is a sudden knock on the door. After looking out he puts the gun away and lets Vernon Weiss ( a tall man carrying a briefcase in (Vernon Weiss). He tells the man that he found his card on the cork board at the motel and that he is lost and needs professional help. When their conversation is over, the visitor takes the man outside and shows him why he feels the way he does.

It is not long before their conversation ends and he takes the man outside to show him the root of his problem and why he feels lost.

I do not want to ruin the moviegoing experience by spoiling the plot so I won’t say anymore about that the meeting between the two men is both puzzling and touching. To learn any more you will have to see the movie.

“Bunny: A Novel”—An Outsider Among Bunnies

Awad, Mona. “Bunny: A Novel”, Viking, 2019.

An Outsider Among Bunnies

Amos Lassen

I was very lucky to be at a reading during which Mona Awad read the first chapter of “Bunny” and I realized that I had to read this book. It is the story of Samantha Heather Mackey, a total outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England’s Warren University. She is a scholarship student who prefers her dark imagination to other people’s imaginations and cannot stand the others in her MFA program and this includes a “clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny,” and seem to move and speak as one.” But then Samantha gets an invitation to 
the Bunnies’ “Smut Salon,” and is drawn to their front door—and getting rid of her only friend, Ava. As she enters the clique, Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into the Bunnies’ world and she begins to take part in the ritualistic off-campus “Workshop” where they make up their monstrous creations and where the edges of reality become hazy. Her friendships with Ava and the Bunnies will be tested and “brought into deadly collision.” 

Loneliness and belonging are two important aspects of love just as are friendship, desire and imagination and these are the themes that are explored here. This is a dark and twisted interrogation of the way women relate to each other and how these girls, the Bunnies, relate to academia, art and social class.

Awad is a clever writer and incorporates dark magic, terror and violence as we read of  Samantha’s second year in the competitive and close-knit MFA program at Warren University. Samantha follows the Bunnies, real and imagined. Despite her writer’s block and unclear but clearly tense family background, or perhaps because of them, she is drawn into the world of the Bunnies and finds herself participating in their rituals while forgetting who she is and the importance of her friendship with Ava.

When a mysterious man named Max appears and begins a relationship with Ava, Samantha faces her terrible acceptance of the Bunnies’ deeds and the power of her own frightening imagination. By the end, it is up to us, the readers, to be able to discern fantasy from reality and the result of this is  “a jarring and sensational look at the acceptance of oneself in the face of judgment, the potency of creative expression, and the secrets of fiction writers.”

This is a difficult book to review because it is so easy to give something away and it is especially interesting in how Awad balances very well the very funny with the very serious. Above everything else, “Bunny” seems to me to a caustic sendup of cliques and MFA programs. The characters who annoying and we definitely understand Samantha’s frustrations. The writing is funny and beautiful at the same time. I can see why there are those who will not like this novel but there are also those who will love it completely.

“Early Work: A Novel” by Andrew Martin— Finding Oneself

Martin, Andrew. “Early Work: A Novel”, Picador, 2019.

Finding Oneself

Amos Lassen

Andrew Martin’s “Early Work” is a witty, silly, wise look at dealing with the early stages of life and love and creative and destructive urges.

Peter Cunningham has been looking for inspiration for his novel when he isn’t teaching at the local women’s prison, walking his dog, getting high, and wondering whether he should marry Julia, his college girlfriend, a medical student whose night shifts constantly remind him of his own lack of direction. But then Peter meets Leslie, a sexual adventurer on a break from her fiancé and he sees what he wishes to be and imagines himself as a writer of talent and nerve. During one  Virginia summer,  Peter and Leslie have a charged, increasingly intimate friendship that sheds light on the difficult questions about love and literary ambition.

This a novel about late-twentysomething writers and lazy-progressive creatives in different stages of existential crisis that ironically shows us “that one who romanticizes the agonized and drug-addled artist, prioritizing the lifestyle over any actual output, does so at his peril.” Martin shows us what it takes to succeed or fail in love or art. We are reminded of when, as children, life seems full of possibilities but is also scary.

Peter’s life in contrast to his medical student girlfriend’s life. His life consists of staring at a laptop, walking the dog, and drinking large amounts of booze. It is not until Leslie comes into his life that they become intimate that he begins to understand life.

None of the characters are appealing even though they seem to have incredible knowledge of culture. Reading this we realize that it is an elegy to manners and we see

how well-educated people will mess up their lives for a shot at living like scum.
Peter, the narrator, wants to be taken seriously yet his insights are silly and we also hear third person insights about Leslie and we see just how complex she is. We also see that she is the complete opposite to Peter.

The action moves from Virginia to New York City to Maine and, finally, to Montana whither Leslie goes to fill a non-existent teaching job.  A lot if the action takes place in bars and there is a lot of sex which is fine.

 

“FKA USA: A Novel” by Reed King— Formerly Known As

King, Reed. “FKA USA: A Novel”, Flatiron, 2019.

Formerly Known As

Amos Lassen

As I read Reed King’s “FKA USA”, I thought to myself that is one of the most audacious novels I have ever and I must say that I admire the author who was able to bring L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz”, Douglas Adams’s “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” together and produce a wonderful American satire.

In 2085, the United States has dissolved in the wake of environmental disasters and the catastrophic policies of its final president. Truckee Wallace, a factory worker in Crunchtown 407 (formerly Little Rock, Arkansas, before the secessions), has no grand ambitions or plans aside from losing his virginity. But then the president taps him for a sensitive political mission: to deliver a talking goat across the continent and the fate of the world depends upon it. Truckee’s not sure the effort is worth it. But agrees to perform the undertaking.

He is joined on the road by an android who wants to be human and a former convict lobotomized in Texas. He has to find ways to navigate an environmentally depleted and lawless continent with  many parallels to our country as it is today. The trio will have to avoid “body pickers and Elvis-worshippers and logo girls, body subbers, and VR addicts” and “ Elvis-willing, he may even lose his virginity.”

Before reading, prepare yourself to laugh for several hundred pages of a novel that is filled with ambition, humor, and satire . You will also shed tears and feel despair as you laugh and you might do like me and reread right away. This is, according to NPR “a visionary head-trip of apocalyptic political satire…absolutely, mind-blowingly, ridiculously crazy…it is precisely in the way that King (or whoever) cranked the Disaster-Mo-Tron up to 11 and offered a world where EVERY near-future nightmare came true at once that makes it something different. And it is his (or her) ability to carve a completely human center out of that storm of sound and fury…that makes it great….” You will feel its absurdity when you read about talking goats and narcissistic billionaire presidents but then the scene seems very real.

  One must imagine that “The Wizard of Oz” is set in 2085 when the United States is torn apart and into warring regions following the chickens of climate change who are coming home to roost, or more accurately to die. There have been cataclysmic earthquakes that broke off large chunks of California and totally eliminated Hawaii. Rising sea levels have eroded most of Florida and the Gulf. Corporate dominance is so powerful that  the employee handbook is the constitution. It is in this setting that Truckee Wallace is sent on a secret mission to cross the country to San Francisco to deliver a talking fainting goat to a great scientist in the hope of saving humanity. An android comes along on the first leg, hoping to go with him as far as the Independent Nation of Engineered People-Things (an android nation run by ALF, the Android Liberation Front). When Truckee and the android were captured by some outlaws, the escaped with a lobotomized fellow prisoner named Tiny Tim because he’s so big. The surgery is performed on criminals, reducing their intellectual capacity. The creator of this futuristic lobotomy was named Straw, and the people effected are called Straw Men.

The world is dour but Truckee and his friends ease on down the road meeting all sorts of people while being chased by drones and other spies. The environment is a constant challenge. When Truckee and friends are rescued and taken to an idyllic preserve where there are fresh water and home-grown fruits and vegetables, Truckee just can’t deal with the awful food.
This is a fun read and you cannot but laugh at the trademarked product names and the unique properties of the diverse states of the territories formerly known as USA. People in the Real Friends® of the North get paid in likes, winks, and nudges while The Confederacy is militant and anti-science and unable to spread their insurrection successfully since they were prohibited any technology post-1868.

The great fun in reading this is recognizing elements from “The Wizard of Oz” especially since nothing is in one’s face. In the near future (end of 2100s) the country Formerly Known As USA is no more. Instead it’s a disjointed conglomerate of city states and territories, some wilder than others and most devastated by environmental and political catastrophes.

“The Guest Book” by Sarah Blake— Mistakes and Betrayals

Blake, Sarah. The Guest Book, Viking, 2019.

Mistakes and Betrayals

Amos Lassen

 Sarah Blake’s “The Guest Book” is a love story about mistakes and betrayals made in the past throughout generations. It looks at not just a privileged American family, but a privileged America. We follow three generations of a powerful American family that “used to run the world”.

The novel opens in 1935 when Kitty and Ogden Milton seemed to have everything— perfect children, good looks and a strong relationship based upon love. After a tragedy changes their lives, Ogden tries to bring Kitty back to life by purchasing an island in Maine. That island, and its house then define the Milton family, year after year after year. It is there that Kitty issues a refusal that will be with her  and haunt her until the day she dies.

In 1959 a young Jewish man, Len Levy, gets a job in Ogden’s bank and gains Ogden’s admiration as well as that of one of Ogden’s daughters. the admiration of Ogden and one of his daughters, but he also has to deal with the scorn of everyone else. Len’s best friend Reg Pauling has always been the only black man in the room at Harvard, at work, and finally at the Miltons’ island in Maine.

By the 21st century, the last generation of the Milton’s doesn’t have the money to keep the island up. When Kitty’s granddaughter hears that she and her cousins might be forced to sell it, and when her husband brings back disturbing evidence about her grandfather’s past, she sees that she is on the verge of finally understanding the silences that were always about the family and her personally. Past and present come together as we read about racism and power that was and, in fact, still is engrained in this country.

The Milton’s story is quite a family saga. T and they were active members of the WASP culture, a culture that practiced racism and antisemitism.  There are family secrets throughout the novel. The original couple, Ogden and Kitty escaped the world by living on the island.

Secrets abound throughout the novel. Ogden and Kitty Milton, descendants of “Old Money,” buy their own island in the 1930s to escape the real world. For many years, the island becomes their family’s personal utopia. In 1959, an incident will occur that will change the family forever. Kitty’s aristocratic background is indeed a part of her and she cannot get past it. She is a complex character and the choices she makes disturbs her all through her life. In the present time, the money is gone and the island must be sold. Kitty’s granddaughters, Evie and Min go to the island to take care of loose ends and as they do, they find disturbing secrets about their family’s history.

The Guest Book is a sweeping saga of three generations of the very rich Milton family from the 1930s to present day. It’s the story of not only how money and privilege isolate a family from the rest of the world but the way it affects their feelings about other races and religions. Each generation feeds their views and their secrets into the next until no one is really sure what is true about the family history.

The novel begins in 1935 with Ogden and Kitty Milton and their three children. They are living a very privileged life and when a tragedy happens in the family, Ogden buys an island and a grand house in Maine to help the family become whole again. The family spends their summers on the island, entertaining all of their rich friends whose lives are reflections of their own. This all begins to break down in the next generation when the 3 Milton children grow up and realize that they want different things out of life and their values are different than their parents.

Moss doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps in business but wants to write music, much to his parent’s dismay. One daughter marries the man who is just like her dad but the other daughter falls in love with a Jewish man which was totally not done in their upper class lives. By the next generation, the money has run out and the grandchildren have to decide if they afford to keep the island and all of their memories. Will this decision also help uncover some of the secrets from the previous two generations that have affected their lives so much?
This book is a well written look at past mistakes and betrayals that ripple throughout generations., It examines not just a privileged American family, but a privileged America.

Sarah Blake’s The Guest Book is an ambitious multi-generational family saga that looks at American life through the experience of three generations of one patrician family, the Milton family of Crockett’s Island. The island is off the coast of Maine and was purchased in the 30s after Ogden and Kitty Milton lost their eldest son in an accident–a sort of fresh start, a place to heal and rebuild. That they could buy an island in the midst of the Great Depression gives you an idea of their power and privilege.

The second generations story takes place during the spring and summer of 1959. Moss, the son, is supposed to go into the family business but wants to be a songwriter and he wants to write the music of a new, free, and liberated America. Joan, in the middle is falling in love, but all her life she has been told she cannot have children because she is epileptic and should not pass that on. Evelyn, the youngest is engaged to the boy next island and could not be happier. The third generation’s story is a look at the summer of 2018. Joan’s daughter Evie and Evelyn’s four children have inherited the island, but the wealth is gone, the trust is running dry, and they need to decide what to do with the island. Evie, a historian, does not know much about her own family and she is resistant to the questions her husband raises about them.

There are also other people come to the island Elsa and her son Willy, the daughter of Ogden’s investment partner in Germany, in German steel. She’s married to a Jewish man who has already been arrested. She asks Kitty to take Willy, to protect him. Kitty’s decision will haunt the family through the generations. Two other visitors are Len Levy and Reginald Pauling. Len Levy is a Jewish man who works for the firm and who falls for Joan. Reginald Pauling is his friend and also a friend of Moss, who invited them and who is, possibly in love with him. Their 1959 visit will change everything.

The setting is also one of the characters and the island plays an important part in the story but the real magic here comes in how “simple encounters expose the festering poisons that have infected our nation from its beginning.”

“STYX”— A Parable on Global Refugees

“STYX”

A Parable on Global Refugees

Amos Lassen

 Set almost entirely in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Wolfgang Fischer’s “Styx” is a parable of the global refugee crisis. Rieke (Susanne Wolff), represents hand-wringing European liberalism; she is a strong-willed and a good-hearted German doctor who reveals a tragic indecisiveness when she comes upon a boatful of stranded African migrants in desperate need of help, during a solo yachting excursion. She has been instructed not to become involved and to leave the situation to the proper authorities.

The film is an indictment of the bureaucratic obstacles that are placed in front of refugees. Rieke clearly wants to assist the refugees she encounters. She wants but  to provide them with bottled water, medical care, and sanctuary on her yacht.  She lets allows her natural empathy to be overridden by a cruel official demand.  

Rieke does eventually get the opportunity to help at least a  refugee, a young boy, Kingsley (Gedion Oduor Wekesa), who floats over to her vessel and is in dire need of medical attention and bring them to the yacht but she says that the boat is too small and she is able to provide this. But once Kingsley recovers, he starts to push her toward helping his friends but and she responds that her boat is too small.  When pushed further, she says, “I have no answers for you. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do.” There is a sense if helplessness hanging over the entire situation.

The film begins with seemingly unconnected sequences and then emphasizes Rieke’s privileges. Her journey is filled with dangers but this is  the journey that she chose to make. Of course she is equipped with all she needs from maps to supplies to a GPS.

Gradually, though, the film tightens its focus onto Rike’s ocean voyage to Ascension Island, a remote volcanic outpost in the South Atlantic which Charles Darwin helped to terraform into a botanical wonderland. The refugees, meanwhile, have far more limited choices and none of Rike’s access to resources.

The film is  named after the river in Greek mythology that runs between Earth and the Underworld and we see that ware all faced with moral dilemmas in facing the immigration situation. We also know that Environmental catastrophe has been  spurred in no small part by America’s stubborn reliance on fossil fuels and this has caused various parts of the world to become increasingly uninhabitable, forcing those who live there to seek a new home, only to be confronted with one border wall after another. Rieke has to deal with the question of whether the immigrants we see in the film should be left to drown because of xenophobic protocol or should we the question a paramedic like Rieke. Rieke had to deal with driving rain and gale-force winds but through this we see her expertise in acting quickly and effectively during daunting circumstances.

Rieke’s destination of her ocean journey is the artificial forest created by Charles Darwin on Ascension Island, an enduring example of how the seemingly impossible can be achieved with the necessary effort and ingenuity. We sense Darwin’s ideas reverberate through every scene.

The specific reasoning behind this venture are unclear. Rieke is obviously wrestling with something unknown to us  We move back and forth in time and frequently. Halfway through Rieke meets her critical crisis. Dialogue is sparse and this heightens suspense and exaggerates the importance of cinematography further. The film is gripping and is a visual feast.  

 BONUS FEATURES

  • Commentary by Director Wolfgang Fischer and Star Susanne Wolff
  • Bonus Short Film – Ashmina (Directed by Dekel Berenson | Nepali with English subtitles | 16 minutes) — In an impoverished country, rife with contradiction, a young girl finds herself torn by her obligation to her family and the influence of foreign visitors. 

ABOUT FILM MOVEMENT

Founded in 2002 as one of the first-ever subscription film services with its DVD-of-the-Month club, Film Movement is now a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide.  Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, Sergio Corbucci and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit www.filmmovement.com.

Mark Tennyson’s Boy Untitled— New Book and EP Disc

Mark Tennyson’s Boy Untitled

New Book and EP Disc

Amos Lassen

 

 “Genuinely profound.” – EQ Music Blog

 “’Skin’.. perfectly fusing a variety of world influences on this colorful and self-liberating anthem.”

Boy Untitled (Mark Tennyson) invites audiences to experience his five-part musical and visual epic with the release of his debut self-titled EP and accompanying illustrated book of poetry, A Wanderer’s Love Letter to the Universe. Having already received accolades for his distinct lane of purposeful, no-boundaries pop from outlets including Nylon and OUT! Magazine, Tennyson’s tale of heart-ache, transformation and rebirth comes full circle. Co-written by Rush Davis (Wolfgang Gartner, Kelly Rowland, Girl Unit), the EP’s soul-drenched lyrics and unctuous vocal dexterity take center stage over world-inspired records that jump from minimal, ethereal pop to vibrant electronica. 

 “A Wanderer’s Love Letter to the Universe” is a non-linear collection of poems that were written during a major shift in Tennyson’s that occurred over the course of two years. Both the five parts in the book and the five songs on the EP outline the process of emotional evolution that he experienced during this time. Those are stagnation (The Sea/Easy), recognition (Desert/Spark), action (The Forest/Sacrifice), victory (The Mountain/Skin) and evolution (The Universe/Out). 

 The release culminates in The Boy Untitled Experience: a multimedia event hosted by the Ace Hotel DTLA  and sponsored by Revry, the world’s first queer owned and operated streaming platform. The Experience (Facebook Event) will be July 12th, 2019 and include performances by Justin Michael WilliamsMadison Rose, and Gess, as well as installations by Jeff Morrical Studio and Shapes + Forms

 “This body of work has been three years in the making. Both ‘A Wanderer’s Love Letter to the Universe’ and ‘Boy Untitled’ are deeply personal works that were birthed out of a huge shift in my life. Little did I know how much more there was to learn, experience and grow from during this process. This project became a prophetic source of guidance in a time of great uncertainty. From the joy of getting married to the sorrow of losing my father, this broad emotional arc is captured within the Boy Untitled experience. It wasn’t until his passing that the full vision of it came alive even to me. It summarizes a powerful experience of forgiveness and healing. One that I hope people are able to hear and take into their own lives.” – Mark Tennyson

 “Tennyson’s story is a powerful one that will move you to a state of serenity. – Gay Life LA

 “’Spark’ is a trippy, intoxicatingly lush musing… an illuminating and timely confession, chiseled in effervescent and glowing synths, allowing his vocal to shatter the static and come clean.” – B-Sides and Badlands

 About Boy Untitled

Boy Untitled (Mark Tennyson) is a musician, poet, and performer based in Los Angeles. Sonically, Tennyson mixes vulnerability with world-inspired tracks that jump from ethereal soundscapes to vibrant electronica. The result is a brand of authentic, no-boundaries pop that is truly his own and why The Q Review describes Tennyson as “an artist that you instinctively know is going to impact the future of music.”

 Tennyson began his career in the LA queer-art scene as a producer and curator, working most notably for The Miley Cyrus Bangerz Tour and LA Pride. In Boy Untitled, Tennyson celebrates his journey towards rediscovering his own voice as a musician and an artist. 

 Connect With Boy Untitled: 

Website / Spotify / Apple Music / Instagram Facebook / Twitter / Youtube

 

“SEAHORSE: THE DAD WHO GAVE BIRTH”— A Pregnant Male

“Seahorse : The Dad Who Gave Birth”

A Pregnant Male

Amos. Lassen

The seahorse, a marine fish, is the only vertebrate species on earth where the male becomes pregnant. Because of this it becomes the perfect metaphor for the rare (at least for now) phenomenon among humans where a trans man decides to carry and give birth to his own child. Even though such men still have ovaries and other biologically female organs, the process of fertilization and pregnancy is not as easy as one might think because of the hormone treatments (including testosterone injections) that they undergo, which suppress the body’s original estrogen. Yet it is not impossible, as we see in director Jeanie Finlay’s moving portrait of Freddy McConnell, following him throughout his lengthy, emotionally and physically grueling journey to become a parent. The documentary has a lot to say about profound truths about sex, gender identity, empathy and love.

When we first meet McConnell  when he faces a decision and is hesitant, but eager, feeling that his fast-approaching thirties will only complicate matters.  He will have to stop testosterone treatments and this is sure to affect his body and self-image. His close friend CJ is also trans meaning that he will not go through the pregnancy alone. As prepared as Freddy may be, however, situations inevitably become more fraught, but he never seesaws in his commitment. He is very lucky to have Esme Esme, an extraordinarily supportive partner and she is his mother and stays by his side the whole time. She is a model to all parents on how to champion one’s child. At the end, when we are in the hospital at the moment of birth We have come to know Freddy and Esme so this is a perfect ending.

The narrative is structured around interviews – some staged, some coincidental with Freddy’s families and friends.  Phone conversations woven in as voiceover, observational footage, self-shot confessionals by Freddy, and archival material show us Freddy as a young girl. She also cuts in sequences of actual seahorses which, with their ethereal movements and striking texture, and a lyrical touch making for an evocative mix and a look at a reconstruction of a life fully lived. To avoid the story becoming the slightest bit sensationalized McConnell had assembled his own crew to be able to tell his story and then entrusted Finlay to take over.  It turned out to be the perfect call.

McConnell had just finally become comfortable in his own skin after he transitioned and although he had an overwhelming desire to be a parent, he was extremely apprehensive of now stopping his testosterone and how that would affect him both physically and emotionally.  He had originally planned to include his best friend CJ, as a co-parent and they even went as far to seek out sperm for a black donor so that the child would look like CJ too..  However that relationship ended and McConnell moved out of London and back to his mother’s house in the small seaside town of Deal.

On his second attempt, McConnell became pregnant and his mother became his biggest support and protector.  Throughout his pregnancy which was playing hell with his hormones, he spoke a great deal about his mood swings and his concerns about how his body was taking on more of its old feminine aspects. However no matter what worries he raised about the whole journey, he was determined to be a parent. He had to think long and hard about how he shared the news of his pregnancy so that he could avoid the unusual aspect of this scenario being used for sensationalism. McConnell’s relationship with his own father who had left the family home when he was just 8 years old was very unpredictable, so he broke the news in an email because he  feared that  a face-to-face meeting would not end very well. Asides from that his mother and he only told a handful of very close friends but even so one of them simply could not let her prejudices upset the McConnells and the rest of the family one sunny afternoon in the garden.

Any doubts that McConnell (and anyone else) were beginning to have about the whole concept of a trans man giving birth completely dissipated when Jack was born.  The sheer joy on McConnell’s face said it all, as had the very close bond son and father quickly formed. It takes an enormous amount of courage for people like McConnell to the system and its status quo that is totally geared around cis woman. He did so unapologetically and with charm and charisma. At the end of the journey McConnell expresses concern about his own naivete about the full physical and emotional extent of reactions. but he professed that regardless he had not one single regret.