Monthly Archives: November 2020

“SILENT RUNNING”— In the Not-So-Distant Future

“SILENT RUNNING”

In the Not-So-Distant Future

Amos Lassen

 In the not-so-distant future, Earth has no flora and fauna; there are just ecosystems preserved aboard a fleet of greenhouses that orbit in space. When the crews are ordered to destroy the remaining specimens, one botanist, Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern), rebels and goes in the direction of Saturn in a desperate bid to preserve his little piece of Earth. He is alone aside from three service robots. “Silent Running” is a haunting sci-fi film that seems more relevant than it was when it was released in 1972.  

In 1972, worrying about the environment wasn’t the sign of responsibility and sophistication that it has now become. Although scientists already suspected that global warming was taking place and knew that serious damage was being caused by pollution, ordinary people didn’t take this very seriously. The notion of an Earth with no surviving plant life was thought of as science fiction. Yet, “Silent Running” presents such a scenario. The only remaining plants are tended in huge biodomes attached to spaceships in the orbit of Saturn. When the government wants to recall those ships for commercial service, the domes come under threat.

“Silent Running” combines this with a very human story. Freeman is an ecologist who has devoted his whole working life to caring for the domes. Not only does he have a completely different philosophy about the importance of the plants from anyone else but he is emotionally attached to their welfare, and his desperation to save them leads him to do terrible things. He seems obsessed and is very  aware of the terrible moral dilemma he faces.

The film is interesting as a curiosity as well as an important reminder of early warnings that were ignored. Director Douglas Trumbull placed the weight of the film on Dern who isthe only man in sight during most of the picture. His only companions are Huey, Louie, and Dewey. He is a basically uncomplicated man faced with an awesome, but uncomplicated, situation. Given a choice between the lives of his companions and the lives of Earth’s last surviving trees and fruit, he opts for the growing things.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, approved by director Douglas Trumbull and produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release

  High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation

  Original lossless mono audio

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  Brand new audio commentary by critics Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw

  Original audio commentary by Douglas Trumbull and actor Bruce Dern

  Isolated music and effects track

  No Turning Back, a new interview with film music historian Jeff Bond on the film s score

  First Run, a new visual essay by writer and filmmaker Jon Spira exploring the evolution of Silent Running s screenplay

  The Making of Silent Running, an archival 1972 on-set documentary

  Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull and Douglas Trumbull: Then and Now, two archival interviews with the film s director

  A Conversation with Bruce Dern, an archival interview with the film s lead actor

  Theatrical trailer

  Extensive behind-the-scenes gallery

  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Arik Roper

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and Peter Tonguette

“SHALOM TAIWAN”— Keeping the Temple Open

“SHALOM TAIWAN”

Keeping the Temple Open

Amos Lassen

Part traditional comedy, part tourist spot, Walter Tejblum’s Shalom Taiwan humorously portrays a rabbi’s efforts to keep his temple open even if he has to travel to the other side of the world. Rabbi Aaron (Fabian Rosenthal)  is an ambitious man with big dreams. He is willing to give up everything to grow the temple and the social work that surround it. His mentor left him some very big shoes to fill when he was in charge of leading his community and all that that Judaism represents.

So Rabbi Aaron embarked on a major project to renovate and expand the building but this is a dream that can only be attained only achievable by taking on a significant debt with a financier, who despite having promised to be flexible to renegotiate when the time comes, as the due date approaches, claims to collect the full amount without leaving room for delays, because the economic situation no longer the same as when they made the agreement.

Using the same financial crisis as an excuse, the regular donors have stopped contributing and the rabbi sees no way to prevent the temple building from being used as collateral for the debt. When he is already desperate and about to give up, a friend approaches him with a rather unlikely plan but this is the Rabbi’s last card to play. The idea is to connect with a Jewish community in Taiwan that according to plan is made up of very wealthy, people who would be able to help financially and quickly. Wasting no time, the rabbi embarks on a journey to the other side of the world, from where he is forced to put into perspective many of the actions that led him to that point, especially those that made him neglect his family.

Rosenthal carries all the dramatic weight of the film and he is indeed a  charismatic protagonist. As the rabbi, he portrays the optimism and passion that sustains a fairly simple plot that alternates between the family comedy and a Taiwanese tourist.

The film is funny in a quite tender and familiar way. It does at times feel fragmented but we can overlook that and just enjoy a film that requires no thought and provides entertainment.

 

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“PALINDROME”— Narrative and Perspective

“PALINDROME”

Narrative and Perspective

Amos Lassen

A palindrome is a word or phrase that is the same forward as it is backward. Knowing that, we see that Marcus Flemming’s “Palindrome” begins and ends in the same place. It is the journey, not a destination.

Fred (Jumaane Brown) is in an asylum. Aside from the attending nurse and doctor, he seems to be the only one there. Dr. Gladstone (Daniel Jordan) puts Fred through extreme treatments including severe electric shock therapy. While in these  sessions, Fred experiences his subconscious and learns how to relive his past and try to make amends to Anna (Sarah Swain), the woman he failed.

Sarah called Fred and tells him that she is going to die at 11:01 PM. She knows Fred will be unable to prevent her death yet she asks him to look her up. The first half of the movie follows Fred, as he relives the fallout from an attempted robbery and tries to understand what Anna wants from him. The second half is all about Anna as she attempts to reorganize her life and reclaim her one true love.

There is an occasional interconnection between the two stories but they are really symbolic and stand for the ways for Sarah and Fred to come together. Themes of loneliness, grief, and mental health appear through different events in the ambiguous plot.  And the view becomes filled with intrigue and excitement. Forget your previous feelings about narrative conventions and fall into what we see as a meditation on self-consciousness and self-determination.

The film is basically two stories about lives unravelling. Fred, stuck in a mental institution, has a live made up of facing conversations and painful “treatments” with \ Gladstone and he is trust into his own subconscious where he meets strange characters that challenge and force him to decide what he wants in life.

Anna’s story is one day in her life and we see her and Terri (Hester Ruoff), her girlfriend. The story has to do with Terri’s death and then we look at Anna’s and Terri’s relationship from the beginning. The focus moves to one evening— her final day and only one other person knows about it.

Fred and Anna’s stories come together in only a few moments, the first when Fred is first thrust into a deep, dark, sub-conscious state after electroshock therapy. He reaches some sort of awakening in an undisclosed location when he hears a phone ringing. On the other end of the line is Anna, who tells Fred that she is going to die at 11:01 pm. Here Fred begins a sub-conscious journey after his phone call with Anna. He wants to save her and he also wants to find out who he is. Three characters enter his mind— Daniel, a young man preaches about capitalism and who pulls Fred into a robbery; a nameless, nihilistic man who challenges Fred’s sense of idealism; and a young woman, Mary, who encourages the same idealism. The three represent unanswered questions as they try to destroy Fred’s sense of self.

After the robbery, we see Anna’s face at 6:23 pm at an art gallery. She is preoccupied with herself. Through flashbacks she meets Terri and their relationship develops and then comes apart.  We get to know Terri, and learn that her drug dealing has landed her into trouble but until we see her dead and mutilated body, we do not know how much trouble. Knowing about Terri’s death doesn’t really matter and the plot moves forward towards 11:01 pm and Anna’s end. We see past and present come together just as we saw reality and fantasy come together in Fred’s story.

The last flashback is of Terri and Anna, on a date when Terri tells Anna that her name is a palindrome leading to the final scene. Anna hits the floor and we see by  the clock that it is 11:01 pm. Fred is seen lying on the ground in the same position Anna landed. He then comes back to the room where he picked up the phone at the beginning of the film and calls Anna back, realizing that it is  too late to save her. He blames himself even though there is no evidence to the truth of this.

Fred who chased the ideas of freedom and absolution, lives, while Anna’s limitations ended her life. I will not share the ending of the film.“Palindrome” looks at what happens when one sees a terrible happening and it explores the human psyche as it deals with grief and loss. We are taken on a strange journey through narrative and perspective. It will surely provoke thought.

 

 

Revry Launches 1st Queer Game Show Versus RuPaul’s Drag Race Icon Hosts Premiere Queer Game Show on December 4

 

Revry Launches 1st Queer Game Show Versus

RuPaul’s Drag Race Icon Hosts Premiere Queer Game Show on December 4

December 4, 2020 (Los Angeles) — Revry, the first global LGBTQ+ TV network, will celebrate the holiday season with the release of the first ever queer game show Versus. In a year full of firsts for the network, including the launch of OML on Revry, the first 24/7 live TV channel for queer womxn, Versus will expand the network’s diverse lineup of content and make the holidays just a bit more jolly this year. Versus will arrive to delight audiences on December 4. 

Developed and hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race icon, Deven Green and award-winning musician, Ned Douglas, Versus is a charmingly absurdist game show where instincts and fun override smarts and knowledge. It’s a verbal version of Wipeout mixed with a gentler Billy On The Street.

The rules are simple: two contestants are pitted against each other in six rapid-fire challenges that will test their trivia skills, memory, and even knowledge of their own social media. Each episode features a new set of mini-games that no-one can prepare for!

Contestants for this inaugural season include: iconic drag queen, Varla Jean Merman (aka Jeffrey Roberson); TV talk show The Q Agenda hosts, Enrique Sapene and Lianna Carrera; reality TV star, On Mekahel; musician, Christopher Saint; actor, Cole Jenkins; Channel Q radio host, Ryan Mitchell; and actor, Matt Baume.

Contestants will be constantly surprised by the challenges posed… They might find themselves counting animated kittens, or, trying to remember a series of increasingly strange objects that pass before them on a virtual conveyor belt. They’ll spend as much time smiling at the question as sweating about the answer.

In this game, accurate scorekeeping never gets in the way of having a good time, and winning prizes isn’t as important as winning laughs.

Versus will be available starting Dec. 4th at www.watch.revry.tv .

ABOUT REVRY

 

Watch Queer TV 24/7 with the first LGBTQ+ digital cable TV network. Revry offers free live TV channels and on-demand viewing of its global library featuring LGBTQ+ movies, shows, music, podcasts, news, and exclusive originals all in one place! Revry is currently available globally in over 250+ million households and devices and on seven OTT, mobile, and Desktop platforms. Revry can also be viewed on nine live and on-demand channels and Connected TVs including: The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus, Comcast Xfinity X1, Dell, XUMO TV, Zapping TV, STIRR, TiVo+, and as the first LGBTQ+ virtual reality channel on Rad (available on PlayStation devices). The company–an inaugural member of the Goldman Sachs Black and LatinX Cohort–is headquartered in Los Angeles and led by a diverse founding team who bring decades of experience in the fields of tech, digital media, and LGBTQ+ advocacy. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @revrytv, Revry.tv

 

HOSTS

DEVEN GREEN

Originally from Canada, now based in Los Angeles, Deven is an award-winning comedic chanteuse. You know her from the cult parodies “Welcome To My Home” & “Welcome To My White House,” as being a judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” portraying the satirical Betty Bowers, hosting high-profile auctions, legendary bingo, and comedy panels at DragCon.

 

NED DOUGLAS

Originally from London, now based in Los Angeles, Ned is an award-winning music creator, programmer, composer, and engineer. Ned has an extensive client list: Mick Jagger, No Doubt, Katy Perry, Steve Nicks, and Celine Dion to name a few. Ned has also worked on projects for stage and screen, including GHOST the Musical, and Madagascar 3.

 

Together, Deven and Ned have been honored to perform with the top Drag Queens in the world, headline Pride events and perform sold-out shows internationally. Fun Fact: They’ve created two of the top Apple Apps in fashion, written the book, “Everyone F*ck Off!” and made a Christmas album.

 

 

“MADRE”— A Real Nightmare

“MADRE”

A Real Nightmare

Amos Lassen

Co-writer/director Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s “Madre” is filled with shocks. The opening scene presents a parental nightmare in real time and the following story, as well as the filmmaker’s approach to it, is shocking, if only relative to how the film opens. Based on that first scene, we expect some kind of mystery or thriller, but instead, Sorogoyen and fellow screenwriter Isabel Peña gives us a story of deep melancholy and unfulfillable longing.

This story is quiet, tranquil, and methodical, offering unspoken but obviousmotives for a pair of characters who are connected by nothing aside from the desire to connect to each other. The prologue begins on an empty beach somewhere in France, before the scene transitions to an apartment somewhere in Spain. Elena (Marta Nieto) has returned home with her mother (Blanca Apilánez), and the two speak about the daughter’s dinner plans and her romantic opportunities. The conversation is ordinary but then, Elena receives a phone call. It’s from her 6-year-old son who is on a trip with the boy’s father, Elena’s ex-husband.

Iván, the son, is somewhere on a beach. His father is nowhere in sight, as he went back to the camper the two were traveling in to retrieve the boy’s toys. It has been a while and Iván is worried. He has no idea what beach he’s on or even which country it is located.

The grandmother takes over the conversation while Elena calls the police and the mother slowly realizes that help isn’t coming for her son. Elena tries to comfort her son as the direness of his situation becomes very clear. The boy eventually spots a man, a stranger, calling for him. There’s an unseen chase on the other end of the line, and shortly after, with a few words from an adult and unfamiliar voice, the call ends.

The scene lingers well into the story, which suddenly cuts back to the beach. People hang around and play, and words gradually form “10 years later”. Elena now lives here in this little town in France, filled with seasonal vacationers and only a few locals. She manages a beachside restaurant, lives alone in an apartment, and has a steady boyfriend named Joseba (Alex Brendemühl), who occasionally spends the night and wants Elena to move in with him somewhere away from this place. Joseba loves Elena but we cannot tell if she is ready to love again.

While walking on the beach, Elena spots a teenage boy named Jean (Jules Porier). His face, based only on her reaction, looks very familiar to her. She can’t stop looking and follows him to his home. He notices, and then, he can’t stop looking at Elena.

This relationship is complicated, to say the least, primarily because neither Elena nor Jean is willing or able to say what they want from it. We don’t hear, until much later (and from someone else), that Jean reminds Elena of her missing son, whose fate is never revealed, but the fact is apparent. We never hear Jean tell Elena, except in an occasional half-joke and in the climactic scene, what he wants from her. From his age and the way his eyes focus on her, we know exactly what the boy wants from this 39-year-old woman.

The boy lusts for the woman and she knows this, but she also ensures that nothing will happen. The boy is all  she has of her missing son—even if she also knows, deep down and less likely to be spoken, that this is all a fantasy formed of pain, uncertainty and grief.

The scenes between these two characters are like a dance filled with restrained emotions and a little dangerous. People, especially Joseba and the boy’s parents (played by Anne Consigny and Frédéric Pierrot)), start noticing how much time they spend together, although the rumors surrounding Elena’s history in town prevent people from assuming the worst.  What might this woman, dubbed a “psycho” by the vacationers and the locals, do in order to reclaim what she lost?

These scenes, which play out one way for Elena (whose looks and few touches are delicately maternal) and a completely different way for Jean (who flirts in the shy way of a boy whose experience with romance is limited). The performances from these two actors communicate so much without saying much at all.

We see the aftermath of traumatic loss in all of its ambiguity—how what we lose revisits us in disguise and how from the outside this haunting can appear, as more than one character refers to Elena, “psycho.” By projecting her despair into the landscape, Sorogoyen shows us her grief inside out, where it cannot be judged, only witnessed.

“LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER”— The Hunt for a Monster

“LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER”

The Hunt for a Monster

Amos Lassen

“Lake Michigan Monster” is an extremely weird hunt for a Great Lakes kaiju, but each plan produces evermore disastrous results directed by Ryland Tews. Captain Seacoast (Tews) explains in his opening monologue that he has assembled a crack team of oddballs to hunt the monster that killed his father. The details of his death change with each telling of the story but Seacoast will have his vengeance and he is willing to pay handsomely for it. He has recruited “weapons expert” Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West), sonar technician Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters), and dishonorably discharged Navy seaman Dick Flynn (Daniel Long).

The film is a somewhat awkward viewing experience but when it is funny, it is very, very funny. Seafield comes up with various operation names including Annihilation, Nauty Lady, etc. as he seeks revenge for his dead father.

Shot in grainy black and white imagery, the film looks like it was made in 1940s or 1950s.  As for the Lake Michigan Monster itself, we get some early glimpses of the creature during Seafield’s mission to kill it.  Unfortunately, the monster does manage to take the life of a team member.  This is a sad moment after which Seafield takes matters into his own hands.  Things get really weird.

The production budget shows itself the visual effects, but do not let this detract you. The film is fun and creative and a unique vision. From the first scene and from Tews’ first appearance, we feel his energy. As the mysteries of Seafield unfold, so do the mysteries of Lake Michigan, its monster, and this little movie unreeling before us. We watch the team attempt to kill the monster with the same plan repeatedly (but with slight variations). Each new attempt becomes funnier than the last, until some revelations and a strange dream throw this off course into stranger but just as silly territory. The movie moves into the unexpected. Even as the story gets stranger, the film remains weirdly hilarious and hilariously weird.

 

“Two Dads Under the Christmas Tree” by Tobias Mile and illustrated by Milan Samadder— A Book for All of Us

Mile, Tobias. “Two Dads Under the Christmas Tree”,  (1) (Jayden’s Funny Tales), illustrated by Milan Samadder, True Colors Lab, 2020.

A Book For All of Us

Amos Lassen

“Two Dads Under the Christmas Tree” might look like a children’s book but it is really for everyone.  The first book in a series by Tobias Mile, it is alladoption. We meet Jayden who tries to tell everyone what adoption is and how beautifully it can change a child’s life. The story is sensitively written and touching as it looks at diversity. Families today are different than they ever were before. Jayden’s family is a wonderful example of this and we can see that is a great tool for explaining to diversity and inclusiveness. More important, it teaches respect for others, something that has become lost in recent years for many.

Author Mile includes humor through delightful stories that deal with adoption, human rights and respect for diversity and these stories are told by Jayden in his own language. We see that love is love and does not depend upon race, sex and other limits. It is a feeling we have for others and this feeling is what is so important. What a great way for parents to be able to teach their children about families that are non-traditional and about adoption. It is also a wonderful way for parents to learn from Jayden.

While it is set at Christmas, it is relevant at any season and I cannot praise it enough. We do not need a holiday for a love story—- all we need is the love and we certainly feel that in Jayden’s family. The artwork by Milan Samadder is gorgeous and so uplifting. I felt that Big Dad and Little Dad became my friends and Jayden represents a kind of “everychild” who does all the things that children do. You will find memories flooding back and begin to look at things differently.

 

 

“Tiny” by Malread Case— How We Mourn

Case, Mairead. “Tiny”, Featherproof Books, 2020.

How We Mourn

Amos Lassen

With “Tiny”, Mairead Case gives us a contemporary, poetic retelling of Sophocles’ “Antigone” that is set in the Pacific Northwest. Tiny, a teenage girl, has a brother who kills himself after coming home from a far-away war. Tiny is confused by death but she also understands it in a way that her dad and the government just can’t see. She misses her brother, but-with the help of Izzy, her best friend Izzy, boyfriend Hank, and  night at a collective dance night in an old artificial limb store, she manages to escape being frozen in grief. “Tiny” explores how we mourn and move on. We see that being vulnerable is something of a sacrifice and that by mourning, death becomes a participatory act. Case takes us on an emotional journey that looks at death and how we del with it. We also see how we are brought together by love.

 

 

 

“The Freezer Door” by Matilda Sycamore Bernstein— A Meditation

Bernstein, Matilda Sycamore. “The Freezer Door”,  Semiotexte, 2020.

A Meditation

Amos Lassen

Mattilda Sycamore Bernstein’s “The Freezer Door” is “a meditation on the trauma and possibility of searching for connection in a world that enforces bland norms of gender, sexual, and social conformity.”

Our daily lives are filled with desire and there is always something to aspire to. We search for community and our dreams often fail more than they come together. As owe search for that community, we find a world where norms are strictly enforced and those norms refer to gender, sexual, and social conformity yet we want to celebrate the diversity of who we are. Bernstein writes about belonging in the stream-of-consciousness mode showing us the ironies of American life. Through the author’s own memories, we begin to see life very differently.

We are with Bernstein on the streets of Seattle looking for humanity in a city that seems cold and sterile. We want to interact with others while maintaining our identities and we see that so much is missing. Culture, especially LGBTQ culture has changed and we now conform to that which we once rebelled against.

We might see that as a memoir of Bernstein speaking internally while remaining a part of and detached from society. Yet, the search for a connection continues.

 

“The Doll: A Portrait of My Mother” by Ismail Kadare— An Autobiographical Novel

Kadare, Ismail. “The Doll: A Portrait of My Mother”, translated by John Hodgson, Counterpoint, 2020.

An Autobiographical Novel

Amos Lassen

Ismail Kadare, Albania’s famed novelist and poet explores his relationship with his mother in his autobiographical novel, “The Doll”, a story of home, family, creative aspirations, and personal and political freedom. He grew up in his father’s great stone house with hidden rooms and even a dungeon and his mother was at the center of his universe but his mother was a fragile woman who was at odds with her mother-in-law who, according to custom for women of a certain age, never leaves the house. Young Ismail has difficulty understanding his mother’s tears aside from that she is bored.

As Ismail explores his world, his mother becomes afraid of her intellectual son. He uses  words  that are unknown to her and he writes radical poetry. He falls in love easily, and seems to disrespect and renounce everything she believes in. She is afraid that she will lose him when he becomes a famous writer. Kadare explores his creative aspirations and their tangled connections to his childhood home and his mother’s place within it. He does so throughcombining fiction and memoir as he recollects his childhood in Gjirokastra, Albania, and early writing career in Tirana while imagining his mother’s early life. The intricate portrayal of his mother matches that of communist Albania, full of conflicts and incongruities. We read of  the ways his mother influenced both his personality and art.