In Time for Pride, GayBingeTV Streaming Service Launches on Roku and Fire TV.
In Time for Pride, GayBingeTV Streaming Service Launches on Roku and Fire TV.
In Time for Pride, GayBingeTV Streaming Service Launches on Roku and Fire TV.
Those of you who read my reviews will recognize the name of Chris Esper. I have been lucky enough to have hi ask me to review his short films and while for many this can be something of a chore, watching and writing about an Esper film has always been a pleasure for me. I have never met Chris; I only know him from his cinematic output and feel honored to review his work. His film “Yesteryear” came about as he was converting some of his home movies of my own, having been forced to quarantine because of Covid 19. All of us spent time remembering happier times even though the pandemic has left people us unhappy and often depressed. Esper’s goal was to present “better times” as a way “to bring positivity in a time of uncertainty and to celebrate the positives life has to offer.” He reached out to folks and managed to get home movies, found some footage online, and had his own. He then edited about 10 hours of footage into a 15-minute film with a beautiful musical score by Steven Lanning-Cafaro.
What Esper brings us is amixture of archive material and home movie footage, in a visual documentary that uses the past to make us feel good in a world where it is now hard to do so. The film is an autobiographical approach to a narrative of his and others; families. Home films are records of our lives yet we often forget about them. I was reminded of the days of VCRs when I would record everything “for later” but later never came. I seldom, if ever, watched what I recorded but kept them just in case. Think about how many home movies have ended up that way. Home movies usually are taken in the moment and then stored until it is time to clean the attic. If we ever watch them again, they come across as silly and juvenile and “what was I thinking”?
Esper went through sorting and deciding which were the best and the happiest moments to be saved in “Yesteryear”. I was amazed at the power that came across the screen. The film contains some very important family moments and reflect the happy and the quiet moments of family life. . Esper chose clips from his own home video collection and we see births, parties, trips, celebrations and other personal expressions. Above all we see love.
Even though I don’t know any of the people in the film, I was able to transfer what I saw to my own family. I love that “Yesteryear” is non-linear making it almost like reading in the stream of consciousness. I was emotionally touched by what I saw (and will see again). Unfortunately, the similar time that we all yearn for seems to be lost forever so we must be thankful that we have memories like the ones we see here.
“EYE SEE YOU”
A Personal Killing
Federal agent Jake Malloy (Sylvester Stallone) is on the case of a sadistic killer when the killer starts getting personal killing his girlfriend. While it seems like the killer takes his own life Jake’s life spirals down as he drinks and is unable to shake the feelings of guilt over his girl- friend’s death leading to him to try to take his own life. He fails and Police chief Hendricks (Charles S. Dutton) takes him to an isolated rehab center run by Doc (Kris Kristofferson), a former cop who specializes in treating cops who have seen the worse and have fallen in to bad times. However, at the isolated center people begin to mysteriously die leading Jake to tyro discover who is doing it and is he in for a shock.
The film is not something new or original; we are on familiar territory. That territory is an isolated building with various characters and someone doing some killing and we know that Jake Malloy will use his detective skills to try and get to the bottom of things.
Even though “Eye See You” feels like other movies, it keeps us watching. Stallone tries to deliver a decent character and even though it is not Stallone at his best he is watchable. The film is a thriller meant to grip us and make us wonder who is doing all the killing. This is where it is a let down because rather than trying and build up the suspense, giving us clues to who it could be all it does is give us potential killers and action and no real clues to solve the mystery.
Unfortunately, Stallone can’t seem to get in decent movies anymore. All he appears to be able to do is assemble a group of decent actors and then make bad movies with them. In the first very sequence, we see Malloy at a bar with some cops and they’re having a good time then the subject of the serial killer comes up. Suddenly, everything goes tense and the cops, for the most part, seem to turn on Malloy. Then, just as easily, everything’s light and happy again.
The major problem, though, is that nobody’s given anything to do. Literally, it’s like a bunch of actors who got together and decided to make a bad slasher flick. Some of the actors really never do anything at all before they’re killed. Some barely have lines; maybe this would have been okay, but it’s obvious from the moment you walk into the detox center who the killer is.
“A BIGGER SPLASH”
An Enigmatic Look at David Hockney
Made in the early 1970s. “A Bigger Splash” features artist David Hockney and his circle. It seems, at first, to be a documentary looking at Hockney, but as you watch we understand that what we’re watching isn’t a documentary at all. Instead it is recreation of reality with all the real players in Hockney’s life who are take part in a devised reflection of the truth. It was made at a time when reality soaps were the work of mad directors.
The film begins with Hockney talking about a new love, but then goes three years back in time three to when he’s recently split up with his young boyfriend, Peter Schlesinger. The film then covers the time following the split, looking at how ‘more than two people suffer’ when love goes wrong. If you’re hoping for it draw any conclusions, they do not happen.
“A Bigger Splash” takes its lead from Hockney’s famed paintings, with their fascination for looking at subjects through other things (glass, water), as well as how they frame their subjects and feature characters who seem slightly detached both from each other and the viewer. The film is therefore very deliberately a reflection of (and on) Hockney but without clear viewpoint and we face questions. Is this Hockney’s view of himself? Is it his friends’? Is it the director’s? Is the truth, as the film seems to hint, coming from a mix of these views?
The result is enigmatic and interesting, even though it’s somewhat frustrating. Any attempt to gain a further understanding of Hockney himself does not happen, as the film doesn’t allow the audience to fully understand what it’s doing. It’s a fascinating film, but not one you can trust. It’s almost like the unreliable narrator in literature, but here that unreliable narrator is the movie itself. With a famous subject like Hockney, you expect a documentary that shows you his life and art, but instead director Jack Hazan has created something where you have to question everything you see. although “A Bigger Splash” is difficult to trust, Hockney himself found the whole thing far too close to the truth and offered to pay to have the negative destroyed. He may have eschewed the pop art label others thrust on him, but like many creative people, he was aware that the public Hockney was a creation, and that this film could affect that. He later changed his mind and apparently now sees it as a worthwhile portrait. Indeed that idea in itself is incredibly intriguing, suggesting this is the cinematic equivalent of when one artist paints another.
It seems that the film gets close to the truth, but it’s impossible to tell exactly what is true and what isn’t. Hockney come across as a little self-obsessed, playing on his working class roots but whose problems and attitude are rather decadent It’s perhaps not surprising that he comes across like that as he’s constantly being affirmed as the center of his own universe by agents, gallery owners and collectors and by friends whose existence seem to largely revolve around him.
Made in 1974. “A Bigger Splash” is incredibly frank in its depiction of gay sexuality. We normally think of cinema back then censoring homosexuality out of existence, but this is amongst those rare documents that refused to do so. Even today it contains at least one scene that would give it an X rating. Few movies of the time manage to be so frank, blasé and natural about gay people as this is. The film was seen as quite scandalous at the time it was released, but its view of gay life is actually wonderfully quiet and matter of fact.
The film is ostensibly a portrait of the artist as an uninspired man. Hazan dispenses with many of the familiar conventions of documentary filmmaking that would become the way to do so in years to come. Hazan presents Hockney and the people in the artist’s orbit as essentially living in one of his paintings and it is a captivating pseudo-drama of alienated people living flashy lifestyles and who have much difficulty communicating with each other. The film feels like an extension of Hockney’s sexually frank art, which has consistently depicted gay life and helped to normalize gay relationships in the 1960s. One notably protracted sequence shows two men stripping naked and intensely making out making it i easy to see why the film is now recognized as an important flashpoint in the history of LGBT cinema.
Hockney shows an acute understanding of human behavior. Hazan beginsthe filmwith a flash-forward of Hockney describing the sub-textual richness of a male friend’s actions with the artist practically becoming giddy over incorporating what he’s observed into one of his paintings. Hazan subsequently includes extended scenes of Hockney at work, attempting to capture a sense of people’s inner feelings through an acute depiction of body language and facial expressions. At its simplest, then, the documentary is a celebration of how Hockney turns life into art.
Hockney is seen in the film working on “Portrait of an Artist” (“Pool with Two Figures”), incorporating into his now-iconic painting the visage of a friend. It’s here that the film homes in on Hockney’s uncanny ability to transform a seemingly innocuous moment into a profound expression of desire. It’s as if Hazan is trying to put us in Hockney’s shoes, force us to pay as close attention as possible to the details of so many lavish parties and mundane excursions to art galleries and imagine just what might become one of the Hockney’s masterworks.
Toward the end of “A Bigger Splash”, surreal dream scenes are seen between shots of a sleeping Hockney and staged like one of his pool paintings, showing the accumulation of people and details that the artist witnessed and absorbed throughout the film.
A Collection of Ideas
Writer-director Lynn Hershman-Leeson is a radical feminist filmmaker and “Teknolust” is her collection of themes and interests through an aesthetic lens. It is
baffling that makes us feel like we’re eaves-dropping. because you haven’t either been expressly The humor is quirky, perverse and intriguing and not in any way traditional. Tilda Swinton stars as Dr. Rosetta Stone, a scientist working to create a new form of techno-organic cloning. She uses her own DNA to create three clones: Marinne, Olive, and Ruby (all played by Swinton). Each clone wears color-coordinated wardrobes to match their names and live in a virtual space that Stone monitors on the glass door of her microwave. All three clones suffer from “low levels of spermatozoa,” a condition whose symptoms include “irritability and loss of consciousness.” Ruby, the most outgoing of the trio, decides to remedy that situation by seducing men using lines of dialogue that Stone feeds her from films. After Ruby beds a man, she takes her target’s sperm, stored in a used condom, boils it and serves it in tea. There’s no rhyme or reason to the film beyond this jumble of a plot. Either you can take it on those terms or you can’t. I am still not sure about my own reaction.
I can appreciate that the clones’ drive to become fully fledged personalities— one clone likes to shop, one wants companionship, and one is a moderate in-between version of the other two girls. There’s something funny, in a conceptually cruel way, about watching a film about using other people to create your identity created by an artist who doesn’t care about substantively developing anything she doesn’t want to. There is something to be said about a film that doesn’t just rattle off a series of ideas ranging from stem cell research to post-femininity. I was laughing with the director until I realized I wasn’t.
The viewer is left to deal with Leeson’s stew of ideas and concepts on his own. I’m sure there’s a metaphor or two in there for the right kind of audience member to latch onto, but sadly, despite her immense talents, Swinton can’t make any of her four characters interesting. Rosetta is a meek, mousy scientist with little to no discernable personality and hazy goals, and the other three, being part robot, are naturally restricted from having much personality.
Perhaps I missed the message of the film as I tried to unravel the movie’s numerous messages. Apparently the world no longer looks at sex as a means to reproduce, which gives weight to Ruby’s trysts and what they mean to a de-sexualized society. The way in which Ruby and her clone-bot sisters interact with people through the internet is also not very well defined because of the microwave as some sort of techno-phone that Stone uses to communicate with the trio. There are throwaway gags and what anyone is supposed to make of these things, much less the film as a whole, is very hard to tell.
Then again, maybe it doesn’t mean anything. In the last few minutes of the film, Leeson’s film comes to a simple conclusion. “Teknolust” might be interesting as a piece of Leeson’s output as an artist, but as a film, it’s a confusion of ideas and metaphors without anything for the viewer to catch onto.
“SID & JUDY”
Garland’s Second Act
Documentary film maker Stephen Kijak’s “Sid & Judy” looks at the complicated relationships and career of Judy Garland following her leaving MGM in 1950. The story is primarily told from Garland’s third husband and manager, Sid Luft’s point of view, The documentary moves through the meeting and marriage (1952-1965) of the couple through her death in 1969 at the age of 47.
Kijak had access to unpublished material including the Sid Luft Trust and he gives us a unique and thought-provoking story of Garland who was frequently over-exposed and misunderstood. Rare photos and recordings, including many of Luft’s taped telephone conversations with Hollywood insiders allow us to understand Garland’s environment and attitudes. We gain an intimate look into relationship and career shifts, transitions and challenges.
Narrated by Jon Hamm and Jennifer Jason Leigh, “Sid & Judy” has never before seen photos that highlight Garland’s beginnings. Kijak’s balanced approach lets us think about and the depth and problems that Garland faced as a person controlled by those who saw her as a commodity. We see a new perspective on kind of what was going down and how people treated her and talked about her and, in fact, talked about women in general. Kijak was challenges was to “craft a counterpoint”
to soften the harshness that Garland sometimes conveyed. He believes that by contextualizing her words that sometimes became rants, we can get insight into the world that generated these responses and understand the basis of her rage and anger.
Kijak says that [Garland] “was a great interpreter. And it’s like the music is one aspect of it. I mean, she’s vaudeville, she’s radio, she’s movies, she’s stage, she’s— it’s TV. It’s like this one artist has arced over almost every great American entertainment art form over the course of her life. There’s very few people that have been that.” “…it’s the weight of history she carries through her in her voice and in her performances that is kind of unlike anything that we’ve seen before.”
The 13 years that Luft and Garland were married coincided with her mid-career “comeback,” as it was regularly touted in the press, after she was fired from MGM. Garland, who was at this point deeply into addiction resulting from the tremendous pressures of fame at a young age. She had a reputation for being volatile and unreliable. In spite of having several hits, she would never again achieve the movie star status that defined her time at MGM.
Over the course of her 13-year marriage to Luft, Garland had two children and he remained her manager until she died in 1969 at age 47. He would later write about their relationship in a book that was eventually published in 2017. Garland was never able to tell her own story in full. Looking for a way to stave off financial ruin in the 1960s, she attempted to put together her own autobiography. Some of her writings, as well as tape-recorded dictation meant to be used for the book, are today part of a Columbia University archive. We hear some of those recordings in “Sid & Judy.” But it is through the voices of others that a fuller portrait of Garland’s life comes forth.
The most astonishing material in “Sid & Judy” comes from the recordings Luft secretly made of his phone calls with Garland’s business associates. As their marriage began to disintegrate, Luft blamed his wife’s financial trouble. To insure himself against negative claims, he began taping his personal conversations without the consent of the other party.
“Everyone involved is dead yet we get a firsthand peek into what was happening. What is most revealing about the recordings is the way in which Garland is discussed as if she were an object instead of a person. In one October 1963 call with CBS programming executive Hunt Stromberg Jr., Luft is told about a “very, very unpleasant and unfortunate night” on the set of Garland’s musical variety show. “I’m aware that when you get in that state, you’re not responsible for some of the things you do,” Stromberg said. “But if somebody has leprosy, Sid — it is highly regrettable, but you stay away from them.”
“Certain people are getting her too much junk,” Luft responded, speaking about Garland’s pill addiction. “It just reaches a point where you just say, ‘Aw, … it!’” the executive said. “Somewhere along the line, she got mixed up,” Luft lamented. “Maybe it was partially my fault. Maybe, uh, I mixed her up. I don’t know.”
The documentary does avoid Garland’s lifelong battle with prescription medication and alcohol. In excerpts from his memoir — which are read in the film by Jon Hamm — Luft describes how the actress’ weight was “constantly monitored” from the time she was a young girl working at MGM.
Luft admits that he was “enabling” her drug problem, coming up with a plan to employ an MGM doctor “to monitor her and keep her on an even keel.”
The addiction ended the marriage. When Luft tried to control Garland’s pill intake, she turned his “concern into a game” and Garland would later die from an accidental barbiturate overdose while traveling in London.
The relationship between Garland and Luft perplexed many in Hollywood, including those close to the couple. At first, their relationship was a slow burn. Luft even wrote in his memoir that he was “not attracted to her at first,” and in 1951 — before they were married — he reacted horribly when she told him she was pregnant.
Garland and Luft would go on to have two children together and Garland would sometimes stay up all night and leave love notes for her husband to find in the morning.
The degree to which men controlled Garland’s life, both emotionally and financially, is a theme in “Sid & Judy.” Director Kijak has said he was astonished when he first heard the way that the men were discussing Garland, a grown woman in her 40s as a “sad, poor girl.”
“PORNSTAR PANDEMIC: THE GUYS”
Life During the Quarantine
It has been a rough time for all of us. While, at first, staying home and not seeing others was fun, it grew old quickly and we have yearned for human interaction. Director EJ (Edward James) in his documentary, “Pornstar Pandemic: The Guys” gives us an in-depth look at adult film actors as they experience this Covid-19 quarantine with the world around them being closed down. We have no idea for how long the adult film industry will be shut down especially since it requires direct contact between the actors.
The film looks at the daily lives and experiences of some of gay porn’s big names and covers the gamut of gay, bi-sexual and gay-for-pay stars. If you think about it, most of what we know about gay porn stars during their free time is just hearsay and here we see what they do when they are not acting and it is quite surprising. I have actually known several gay porn actors and was very surprised to see that when they are not on screen, they are just ordinary guys living regular lives.
The film looks at six adult actors— Dante Cole, Pierce Paris, DeAngelo Jackson, Alter Sin, Elijah Wilde and Jack Loft. We not only learn of how they are spending their time being Locked-in but also how they feel about the porn industry and how their lives have changed as a result of Corona Virus. They also speculate on what will be when the quarantine is over and they return to work. You might be surprised to learn that they see their profession as just a regular job.
“Global Gay” is a French TV documentary about the move to universal decriminalizing homosexuality. It was originally made some six years ago and we see here that not much progress has been made. In the United Nations with its membership of 196 nations, there are still seven where homosexuality is a death sentence and in 84 other countries being gay can mean prison and/or physical punishment even though several world leaders have declared themselves in favor of the universal decriminalization of homosexuality. However, others have look to Trump and Putin who want to go back to universal punishment for what they see as sexual aberrations. We clearly see here that global acceptance and equality is a long way off.
The documentary follows the fight for decriminalization by looking at the lives and work of some of the pioneers in the field and we see here that there is a growing global social movement.
“WHAT THE WATERS LEFT BEHIND”
A Slasher film
The devastation of the town of Epecuen was even worse than the hardest hit areas that were hit during Hurricane Katrina. The former tourist city on Argentina’s coast was wiped out and it will never come back.
Vasco, his hired crew, and his faithless girlfriend Vicky drive to Epecuen to make a documentary. Their star will be Carla, who is revisiting the site of the disaster that she had barely survived as a child. The group should have turned back when they saw the rustic yokels at the last-chance gas station but they didn’t. Naturally the locals proceed to kill them off brutally \ Then there is one outsider, Senor X,” who is looking for a missing loved one.
Luciano and Nicholas, the Onetti Brothers’ entry into the slasher sub-genre has only location that makes it worthwhile. The Epecuen backdrops are haunting and also exploitative and it is the scene of a massive tragedy.The slasher violence is so cruel making it really impossible to enjoy the film. It is just too much in dubious taste. Nonetheless, it is technically impressive, especially the work of cinematographer Facundo Nuble, who beautifully captures the s landscape with a washed color palate.
The film is full of horror tropes from a freaky gas station to a cannibal family and the film begins and ends with these. In the opening scene, a nearly naked young woman is chased by an off-screen villain. A number of horror movies have opened this way. This is followed by a group of partiers on a road trip, to some remote town. The locations often serve as a reminder that the characters are leaving civilization (urban) for the rural. Horror usually happens on the border of nature and civilization and “What the Waters Left Behind” follows a horror formula and rarely steps outside a connect-the-dots. Carla relives some of the horrifying moments when her town was flooded. She lost several brothers, but hopes to make new friends, through the filmmaking process and inevitable cannibal dinner. At Epecuen, there is another, minor character – searching for a lost family member. He teams up with these documentarians, when the villains appear. From here on out, everything takes place in a slaughterhouse. These later sights must be seen.
The real life location was destroyed by flooding and looks truly apocalyptic. The brothers utilize a drone, to show the audience the true devastation. The Onettis also show a picturesque sunset, just before the action reaches its climax. Late scenes, inside the slaughterhouse are just as impressive and terrifying. The walls drip blood and so do many of the characters. This film shows a number of interesting sets and locations, which are often visually good.
Still, this is very much a remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” which The brothers admit. All of the villains are cannibals, ready to eat their new guests. The Onetti brothers have not really improved on this earlier material aside from some of the locations. The film does not have as many surprises as it could. Yet it is not easily forgotten in that it brings an Argentinian flavor to the slasher film, which I am quite sure will satisfy many horror fans.
It’s All About Money
Donnie Yen Chi-tan’s “Dynamo” is vehicle for Bruce Li. Li plays Hong Kong cab driver Lee Tien-yee, whose martial talents and pronounced resemblance to the late Bruce Lee make him a natural for the. His bosses hires a lazy, alcoholic kung fu instructor (Ku Feng) to train Li, and the two get off to the sort of rocky start. Lee’s abilities increase substantially, of course, and his popularity becomes a threat to rival ad agencies. His mentor decides to try and have Lee bumped off, first during a practice bout and, later, at various stops during a whirlwind promotional tour. He holds these opponents back without much difficulty but, when his girlfriend is kidnapped, Lee is ordered to take a dive during a prestigious martial arts tournament in Chicago.
“Dynamo” has little besides solid fights and that reflexive premise (a Bruce Lee imitator starring in a story about the travails of a Bruce Lee imitator) to recommend it. Also, someone decided after the fact that the movie was either too short or needed more action, so two fights from another film have been cut in. Trouble is, that film stars Danny Lee, who only bears a slight resemblance to Bruce Lee and Bruce Li! Yuen Woo-ping, Yuen Yat-chor, and Yuen Shun-yee all appear briefly, as do Peter Chan Lung, Lee Hoi-sang, and Donald Kong To.
In the first scene, a crass, cutthroat businesswoman passes Bruce Lee’s funeral (stock footage) giving the idea to exploit grief and fandom raise her advertising firm’s stock. So she hires Bruce Li, Instead of fighting for pride, Li brawls for profits and this summarizes the film’s entire reason for being.
The film’s crude quality doesn’t stem from the way it uses death to shamelessly exploit Lee’s legacy – plenty of others in this brief sub-genre did the same. Instead, the world of “Dynamo” is sleazy. Opening credits show a naked woman dancing on stage. Executives aggressively gamble on horse racing. Women sleep with men to further their own careers and hurt their competition. Mobsters work clean-up, either attacking Li as his fame grows, or kidnapping his girlfriend when the dollars reach their bank accounts.
Everything in “Dynamo” is about money. Li fights because he’s paid better compared to driving a taxi. His trainer takes six figures too. Women fawn over men as told (and paid to do). At the end, Li’s willing to throw a fight as his rivals look to profit.
A lot of what we see is Hong Kong finding its way in the ‘70s especially the conformity to western living. Advertising and commercialization are at the center. In using Li for his look-a-like qualities, “Dynamo” comments on Hollywood’s own shrewdness and lack of moral control. The film is
Sloppy and ridiculous. However, it isn’t a total throwaway. Li’s athleticism can’t be questioned. Were it not for his unfortunate, typecast mirror-image face, or if Bruce Lee didn’t exist, maybe he would have had a shot. The fights are often fun to watch including one at a ski resort with combatants in full winter gear, and rather than swords, they strike each other with ski poles. Energy is high and there is plenty of action. Choreography is excellent throughout and all in all, it is awkward fun with the minimum quality to be entertaining.
The film was released some42 years and restoration reaches a limit, and a poorly preserved theatrical stock is that point. The color is pale and the damage to the print is obvious.