“IF YOU DON’T, I WILL”— Modern Relationships

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“IF YOU DON’T, I WILL”

Modern Relationships

Amos Lassen

Sophie Fillières looks at modern relationships with the help of Emmanuel Devos (Pomme) and Mathieu Amaric (Pierre) who star in “If You Don’t, I Will”.

We see how people who are stuck stranded in a once hot romance gone cold; begin to pick at one another. Pierre and Pomme are a chic, attractive French couple, and, at first, it appears that their mutual arguing is either an ironic sign of affectation or the symptom of a rut.

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Pierre grows possessive over Pomme while they are at an art opening, and their dialogue ends with him attempting to abandon her at a bus stop. Later, he talks to Pomme briefly while she’s showering, and, though we clearly understand that she expects him to climb into the shower with her, he brutally shortens the conversation in an act of willful obliviousness.

It is impossible to guess what happens in this film; one of the trademarks of director Sophie Fillières is that she never plays put what she thinks the audience thinks is going to happen. Here instead of having cute altercations, Pierre and Pomme have painful exchanges and while we tend to feel for Pomme in the beginning we see that Pierre’s callousness is just a cover for missing something in life. Pierre allows us to understand that his attacks come from a deep feeling of feeling of continual emotional blockage that’s really confusion.

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Passion and spontaneity between the two have given way to predictability and cold shoulders. Yet there’s a lingering optimism and hope they can return to the couple they used to be, attending chic art openings and sharing a laugh like young lovers. On a hike together one afternoon, Pomme declares her independence by deciding to stay in the woods rather than return to an underwhelming life with Pierre. Pierre tries to return to “normal”, despite his worry over her whereabouts and the sense that he’s missing his better half. Meanwhile, Pomme begins an extended meditation in the forest on where her own life should go next, with our without Pierre. In the end, both are left to deal with the strength and meaning of each other’s commitment.  Pomme and Pierre seem to be very much in tune with each other even while they aren’t. (No I cannot explain that sentence).

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In the first half of the film we rely on the verbosity of the characters’ speech to try to understand who they are. Then the film takes on a structure that follows Pomme after she decides to live in the woods in order to detox from Pierre’s poison. Pomme is trying to get in touch with herself and maybe even find solace in nature. Yet there is still a great deal of uncertainty with her. While in the woods, Pomme and Pierre are surrounded by the beauty of nature but they cannot see anything but their constant bickering.

The point of the film seems to be that there is no human more self-absorbed than one who is part of a new love situation. The despair that comes with the erosion of feelings is what seems to doom our two main characters.

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Solitude provides us with an escape from the pressures and obligations that are part of our private and daily lives. Nature and being alone gives us a reprieve from the constraints of the clock and social conventions. Solitude can indeed cause purification where we leave old habits and emotions behind and begin anew.

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Their marriage is in deep trouble and both of them know it. Pomme is hurting the most; she is at the end of her rope with his little attacks on her being.

The film is an intense portrait of a marriage that is ending. Emmanuelle Devos gives a nuanced performance as a wife who takes a break from her unhappiness in order to discover in solitude what she should do with her life. Pomme’s wilderness sojourn becomes a spiritual wake-up call as she realizes that she can no longer live in the midst of loss, disappointment, and frustration. All that remains is for her to head home and test out her decision in dialogue with Pierre.

“THE BOY WHO COULDN’T SWIM”– Two Teens and a Kiss

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“The Boy Who Couldn’t Swim”

Two Teens and a Kiss

 ‘Rasmus arrives in Copenhagen determined to find his mother whom he has never met. Having just arrived at Copenhagen Central Station Rasmus is approached by Nicklas who wants Rasmus to help him by keeping a stolen IPod. Rasmus does so and to return the favor Nicklas offers to give Rasmus a ride to his mother’s house. Reluctantly Rasmus accepts the offer and that kicks off a day that holds lots of fun and reveals hidden feelings.’

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Two young actors have that faces that are were very expressive of their personal sense of unsureness and disconnectedness with the world, yet wishing to demonstrate a bravado and control of their personal circumstances. The opening shots of the film showed the yearning and glistening hope in the eyes of the boy, Rasmus, as he looked out the train window, contrasted with the harsh face of a middle-aged stranger sitting next to him on the train whose face showed the angry lines of a firm acceptance of his place in hard world where dreams won’t come true. One can see in that that youth is not apt to find much of value from people such as those, who are more apt to destroy their spirit than they are to ignite it.

In the train station, the other boy, Niklas, almost by a kind of bodily magnetism instantly connects with Rasmus as someone he can trust to help him by holding a stolen item while he escapes from men who are pursuing him. A while later, Niklas, having escaped from the pursuing men, meets up with Rasmus and while it seems that Rasmus has a vague destination he is heading for that he doesn’t feel like revealing to Niklas, Niklas convinces him that they need to go there together with Rasmus riding in the cart of Rasmus’s bicycle cart. And that really was the true journey, the two of them toward, or with, each other, they who share certain personal circumstances and need.

This action of them traveling together seemed to put them together in their own isolated bubble. Much of the movie was simply their traveling together throughout the city of Copenhagen from one destination to another (which I appreciated seeing, as while I have passed through Copenhagen, I haven’t seen very much of it), but the beauty of the city, the simple shared exuberance of the boys as they felt the wind in their hair and a feeling of their own motive power, and the various expressions on their faces, sometimes wide open, sometimes cautiously masked, tell the true story without a need for words. And what words there were, were pointed and expressive, and throughout those conversations the boys were continually reaching out in yearning for connection, and then drawing back into unsureness, wavering on that balance beam between “yes I need” and “no I don’t”.

The title of the movie, “The Boy Who Couldn’t Swim”, made me think of a wise Jewish saying that I learned about in a psychology book, “A father’s job is to teach his children how to swim.” While at first that seems trivial, you come to realize that “swimming” is metaphorical of leaving the safety of home and venturing out bit by bit into an alien and dangerous world (or an uncaring and exploitative one). The father is not to hang onto his children, but to help them grow up into a secure adulthood. So what of those children who have not been “taught how to swim?” How do they maneuver out in this world without having had a secure center to start out from? Perhaps they can have another chance, by finding helpers along the way, if only they can recognize them and take the risk of connecting with them when they find them.

“THE WAY THINGS GO” (“Der Laugh der Dinge”)— “Pranksters of Art”

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“The Way Things Go” (“Der Laugh der Dinge”)

“Pranksters of Art”

Amos Lassen

 Swiss artists Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (1946–2012) built an enormous, precarious structure 100 feet long made out of common household items—tea kettles, tires, old shoes, balloons, wooden ramps, etc. Then, with fire, water, gravity and chemistry, they created a spectacular chain reaction, a self-destructing performance of physical interactions, chemical reactions, and precisely crafted chaos worthy of Rube Goldberg or Alfred Hitchcock. The artists have been called “the merry pranksters of contemporary art” and Fischli and Weiss collaborated for 33 years, drawing global notoriety and praise for taking on big questions with humble materials and a tongue-in-cheek manner. The film now on Blu-ray for the first time, is their most acclaimed and beloved work.

The film is something of a homage to the two artists and as we watch the film we see thirty minutes of cause and effect. It all starts with a suspended and unwinding trash bag that sets a tire into motion and from there on, there is a chain-reaction with fire, water, foam, popping corks, balloons, sparks, tires, balls, cylinders and enough examples of balance, gravity, momentum, inertia and chemical reactions and as viewers we are visually stunned.

The film was made with just one take and the contraption reportedly measured more than 100 feet. There’s tension and suspense here with great fire effects.

The title is a bit misleading—this is not a film that explains something but rather a film about things that happen without explanation. The way it is edited makes it seem what we see is one long reaction rather that several shorter ones, one happening after another. I loved the experience but I also would have liked a bit of narration.

27th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists

27th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists

Note: The number of finalists in a category is determined by the number of submissions in that category.

Those with an asterisk have been reviewed here at reviewsbyamoslassen.com

BISEXUAL FICTION

Best Bi Short Stories: Bisexual Fiction, Sheela Lambert, editor, Gressive Press, an imprint of Circlet Press
*Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin, Ron J. Suresha, Lethe Press
Finder of Lost Objects, Susie Hara, Ithuriel’s Spear
Give It to Me, Ana Castillo, The Feminist Press
*She of the Mountains, Vivek Shraya, Arsenal Pulp Press

BISEXUAL NONFICTION

*Fire Shut Up In My Bones, Charles M. Blow, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
*Not My Father’s Son, Alan Cumming, HarperCollins Publishers/Dey Street Books
*Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men, Robyn Ochs & H. Sharif Williams, editors,Bisexual Resource Center

GAY EROTICA

Bears of Winter, Jerry Wheeler, Bear Bones Books
Incubus Tales, Hushicho, Circlet Press
The King, Tiffany Reisz, MIRA Books
Leather Spirit Stallion, Raven Kaldera, Circlet Press
*The Thief Taker, William Holden, Bold Strokes Books
GAY GENERAL FICTION

*All I Love and Know, Judith Frank, HarperCollins/William Morrow
*Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas, Hogarth
Bitter Eden: A Novel, Tatamkhulu Afrika, Macmillan/Picador USA
*The City of Palaces, Michael Nava, University of Wisconsin Press
I Loved You More, Tom Spanbauer, Hawthorne Books
*Little Reef and Other Stories, Michael Carroll, Terrace Books, an imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press
Next to Nothing: Stories, Keith Banner, Lethe Press
Souljah, John R Gordon, Angelica Entertainments Ltd/Team Angelica Publishing
GAY MEMOIR/BIOGRAPHY

*Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival, Sean Strub, Scribner
Charles Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance, Brent Phillips, University Press of Kentucky
Closets, Combat and Coming Out: Coming Of Age As A Gay Man In The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Army, Rob Smith, Blue Beacon Books by Regal Crest
*Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris, Edmund White, Bloomsbury
Letter to Jimmy, Alain Mabanckou, translated by Sara Meli Ansari, Counterpoint/Soft Skull Press
*The Prince of Los Cocuyos, Richard Blanco, HarperCollins/Ecco
*Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, John Lahr, W. W. Norton & Company
*Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe, Philip Gefter, W. W. Norton & Company/Liveright
GAY MYSTERY

*Blackmail, My Love: A Murder Mystery, Katie Gilmartin, Cleis Press
*Boystown 6: From the Ashes, Marshall Thornton, MLR
*Calvin’s Head, David Swatling, Bold Strokes Books
*DeadFall, David Lennon, BlueSpike Publishing
Fair Game, Josh Lanyon, Carina Press
*A Gathering Storm, Jameson Currier, Chelsea Station Editions
Moon Over Tangier, Janice Law, Open Road Media
*The Next, Rafe Haze, Wilde City Press
GAY POETRY

[insert] boy, Danez Smith, YesYes Books
Clean, David J. Daniels, Four Way Books
Don’t Go Back To Sleep, Timothy Liu, Saturnalia Books
ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness, CAConrad, Wave Books
The New Testament, Jericho Brown, Copper Canyon Press
Prelude to Bruise, Saeed Jones, Coffee House Press
*This Life Now, Michael Broder, A Midsummer Night’s Press
This Way to the Sugar, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Write Bloody Publishing
GAY ROMANCE

The Companion, Lloyd A. Meeker, Dreamspinner Press
Everything’s Coming Up Roses: Four Tales of M/M Romance, Barry Lowe, Lydian Press
*Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction, Timothy Lambert and R.D. Cochrane, Cleis Press
Like They Always Been Free, Georgina Li, Queer Young Cowboys
*Message of Love, Jim Provenzano, Myrmidude Press/CreateSpace
*The Passion of Sergius & Bacchus, A Novel of Truth, David Reddish, DoorQ Publishing
Pulling Leather, L.C. Chase, Riptide Publishing
*Salvation: A Novel of the Civil War, Jeff Mann, Bear Bones Books
LESBIAN EROTICA

All You Can Eat. A Buffet of Lesbian Erotica and Romance, Andi Marquette and R.G. Emanuelle, Ylva Publishing
Forbidden Fruit: stories of unwise lesbian desire, Cheyenne Blue, Ladylit Publishing
Lesbian Sex Bible, Diana Cage, Quiver Books
LESBIAN GENERAL FICTION

Adult Onset, Ann-Marie Macdonald, Tin House Books
Last Words of Montmartre, Qiu Miaojin, Translated by Ari Larissa Heinrich, New York Review Books
*Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, Francine Prose, Harper Collins/Harper
Miracle Girls, MB Caschetta, Engine Books
*New York 1, Tel Aviv 0, Shelly Oria, FSG Originals / Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The Palace Blues, Brandy T. Wilson, Spinsters Ink
The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters, Riverhead Books, Penguin Random House
Yabo, Alexis De Veaux, RedBone Press
LESBIAN MEMOIR/BIOGRAPHY

Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith, Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, with Barbara Smith, SUNY Press
Cease – a memoir of love, loss and desire, Lynette Loeppky, Oolichan Books
*Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger, Kelly Cogswell, The University of Minnesota Press
*The End of Eve, Ariel Gore, Hawthorne Books
*Under This Beautiful Dome: A Senator, A Journalist, and the Politics of Gay Love in America, Terry Mutchler, Seal Press
LESBIAN MYSTERY

The Acquittal, Anne Laughlin, Bold Strokes Books
*Done to Death, Charles Atkins, Severn House Publishers
The Old Deep and Dark-A Jane Lawless Mystery, Ellen Hart, Minotaur Books
Slash and Burn, Valerie Bronwen, Bold Strokes Books
UnCatholic Conduct, Stevie Mikayne, Bold Strokes Books
LESBIAN POETRY

Haiti Glass, Lenelle Moïse, City Lights/Sister Spit
Janey’s Arcadia, Rachel Zolf, Coach House Books
Last Psalm at Sea Level, Meg Day, Barrow Street Press
Like a Begger, Ellen Bass, Copper Canyon Press
MxT, Sina Queyras, Coach House Books
Mysterious Acts by My People, Valerie Wetlaufer, Sibling Rivalry Press
Only Ride, Megan Volpert, Sibling Rivalry Press
Termination Dust, Susanna Mishler, Red Hen Press/Boreal
LESBIAN ROMANCE

Christmas Crush, Kate McLachlan, Regal Crest
The Farmer’s Daughter, Robbi McCoy, Bella Books
The Heat of Angels, Lisa Girolami, Bold Strokes Books
Jolt, Kris Bryant, Bold Strokes Books
Nightingale, Andrea Bramhall, Bold Strokes Books
Seneca Falls, Jesse J. Thoma, Bold Strokes Books
Tangled Roots, Marianne K. Martin, Bywater Books
That Certain Something, Clare Ashton, Breezy Tree Press
LGBT ANTHOLOGY

Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call, Charles Stephens and Steven G. Fullwood, Vintage Entity Press
*A Family by Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships, Bruce Gillespie, TouchWood Editions
Outer Voices Inner Lives, Mark McNease and Stephen Dolainski, editors, MadeMark Publishing
The Queer South: LGBTQ Writers on the American South, Douglas Ray, editor, Sibling Rivalry Press
*Understanding and Teaching US Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History, Leila J. Rupp & Susan K. Freeman, University of Wisconsin Press
LGBT CHILDREN’S/Young adult

*Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, Susan Kuklin, Candlewick Press
*Double Exposure, Bridget Birdsall, Sky Pony Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing
Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, Tim Federle, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before, Karelia Stetz-Waters, Ooligan Press
Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley, Harlequin Teen
Pukawiss the Outcast, Jay Jordan Hawke, Dreamspinner Press/Harmony Ink Press
This is Not a Love Story, Suki Fleet, Dreamspinner Press/Harmony Ink Press
When Everything Feels like the Movies, Raziel Reid, Arsenal Pulp Press
LGBT DEBUT

*Death in Venice, California, Vinton Rafe McCabe, The Permanent Press
Kill Marguerite and Other Stories, Megan Milks, Emergency Press
A Map of Everything, Elizabeth Earley, Jaded Ibis Press
The Music Teacher, Bob Sennett, Lethe Press
Nochita, Dia Felix, City Lights/Sister Spit
*Part the Hawser, Limn the Sea, Dan Lopez, Chelsea Station Editions
Unaccompanied Minors, Alden Jones, New American Press
The Walk-In Closet, Abdi Nazemian, Curtis Brown Unlimited
LGBT DRAMA

The Beast of Times, Adelina Anthony, Kórima Press
Bootycandy, Robert O’Hara, Samuel French
A Kid Like Jake, Daniel Pearle, Dramatists Play Service
The Whale, Samuel D. Hunter, Samuel French
Wolves, Steve Yockey, Samuel French
LGBT GRAPHIC NOVELS

100 Crushes, Elisha Lim, Koyama Press
Band Vs. Band Comix Volume 1, Kathleen Jacques, Paper Heart Comix
Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag, A.K. Summers, Soft Skull, an imprint of Counterpoint
Second Avenue Caper, Joyce Brabner; Art by Mark Zingarelli, Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Snackies, Nick Sumida, Youth in Decline
LGBT NONFICTION

An American Queer: The Amazon Trail, Lee Lynch, Bold Strokes Books
*Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS, Martin Duberman, The New Press
The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality, Julie Sondra Decker, Skyhorse Publishing/Carrel Books
Nevirapine and the Quest to End Pediatric AIDS, Rebecca J. Anderson, McFarland
Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, Hilton Als, Ann Temkin, Claudia Carson, Robert Gober, Paulina Pobocha, Christian Scheidemann, The Museum of Modern Art
Sexplosion: From Andy Warhol to A Clockwork Orange, How a Generation of Pop Rebels Broke All the Taboos, Robert Hofler, It Books/HarperCollins
The Transgender Archives: Foundations for the Future, Aaron H Devor, University of Victoria Libraries
*The Up Stairs Lounge Arson: Thirty-Two Deaths in a New Orleans Gay Bar, June 24, 1973, Clayton Delery-Edwards, McFarland
LGBT SF/F/HORROR

Afterparty, Daryl Gregory, Tor Books
Bitter Waters, Chaz Brenchley, Lethe Press
Butcher’s Road, Lee Thomas, Lethe Press
Child of a Hidden Sea, A. M. Dellamonica, Tor Books
Full Fathom Five, Max Gladstone, Tor Books
FutureDyke, Lea Daley, Bella Books
Skin Deep Magic, Craig Laurance Gidney, Rebel Satori Press
LGBT STUDIES

*After Love: Queer Intimacy and Erotic Economies in Post-Soviet Cuba, Noelle M. Stout, Duke University Press
*Charity & Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America, Rachel Hope Cleves, Oxford University Press
*Delectable Negro: Human Consumption and Homoeroticism within US Slave Culture, Vincent Woodard, Ed. Justin A. Joyce and Dwight McBride, New York University Press
Queen for a Day: Transformistas, Beauty Queens, and the Performance of Femininity in Venezuela, Marcia Ochoa, Duke University Press
*The Queerness of Native American Literature, Lisa Tatonetti, The University of Minnesota Press
Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings, Juana Maria Rodriguez, New York University Press
The Sexuality of History: Modernity and the Sapphic, Susan S. Lanser, University of Chicago Press
*Under Bright Lights: Gay Manila and the Global Scene, Bobby Benedicto, University of Minnesota Press
TRANSGENDER FICTION

Everything Must Go, La JohnJoseph, ITNA PRESS
*For Today I Am a Boy, Kim Fu, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Moving Forward Sideways like a Crab, Shani Mootoo, Doubleday Canada
Revolutionary: A Novel, Alex Myers, Simon and Schuster
A Safe Girl To Love, Casey Plett, Topside Press
Transgender Non-Fiction

Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man, Thomas Page McBee, City Lights/Sister Spit
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More, Janet Mock, Atria Books
*Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community, Laura Erickson-Schroth, Oxford University Press

“DAYS OF GRACE”— Corruption, Violence, Vengeance—Three Destinies

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“Days of Grace” (“Dias De Gracia”)

Corruption, Violence, Vengeance—Three Destinies

Amos Lassen

“Days of Grace” is set in Mexico City during three consecutive World Cup tournaments. We see three lives impacted by kidnappings. Lupe is an idealistic cop, whose job it is to investigate a crime ring and he finds that justice has no place when a human life has a price. When Susana’s businessman- husband Arturo is kidnapped, she must go outside the law to fight for his release. Iguana dreams of becoming a boxer even as he is drawn into a lifestyle that finds him guarding kidnap Victim X and facing down a kidnapping mastermind. This was writer-director-producer Everardo Gout’s Out of Competition entry at the Cannes Film Festival about a fierce Mexican cop battling baddies and drug cartels and it is full of cruelty.

The film depicts Mexico as a lawless land of drug lords, kidnappers, and corruption so endemic it goes “all the way up to the top.” The hero, a handsome young cop, is as ruthlessly macho as the snarling, tattooed killers he battles. The pace is fast and furious, there’s little time to worry about the ethics of sympathizing with him as he goes about breaking arms and cracking skulls. The action takes place in 2002, 2006 and 2010, cleverly denoted by the World Cup soccer matches on everybody’s TV.  During the games, both cops and criminals let down their guard. But not Lupo Esparza (Tenoch Huerta), a champion of justice who will stop at nothing to catch his man. He is a tall, muscular young cop who exudes intensity and honesty; a family man with a big smile and an aversion to lawbreakers.

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The movie begins at the end—we see three armed figures caught in a stand-off as a menacing dog slavers away behind them. Then we jump back to the summer of 2002, where Lupe is shaking town two young boys suspected of peddling cocaine. Aggressive and seemingly crooked, we soon see the human side of Lupe as he rushes to meet his newly born son and exhausted wife at a city hospital. Meanwhile, the second narrative strand follows the kidnap and ransom of a businessman, his head captor inspiring a seductive mix of awe and fear in those who follow him. Throughout, Gout jumps from past to present in order to flesh out the complexities of those that are featured in the story.

Mexico City is seen as a nightmarish dystopia where an individual’s hopes and dreams are crushed immediately at conception. Lupe is our pistol-toting guide into this murky underworld and he was brought into an elite narcotics squad by his congratulatory Comandante (José Sefami) after a daytime shoot-out. However, Lupe’s actions prove to have severe consequences for both himself and his young family. The film shows us contemporary Mexico with little of the tourist baiting and alcoholic charm that have been used by others.

 By constantly cross-cutting between the years, Gout is able to keep the action rolling non-stop. It’s never clear how much Lupo is involved in the kidnapping story; his screen time is spent taking revenge on other criminals. According to family legend, his grandmother was saved by Zapata himself from being raped, and the Mexican revolutionary inspires Lupo’s ham-fisted yet ingenuous crime-fighting.

There are so many subplots that sometimes it’s hard to keep the stories straight, especially when the ending throws a truly unexpected twist. But the exceptional tech work gives the film plenty of energy and excitement.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQTBpoRVmFM

“MOTIVATIONAL GROWTH”— The Mold Knows

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“Motivational Growth”

The Mold Knows

Amos Lassen

Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni) is a depressed and reclusive 30-something who finds himself taking advice from a growth in his bathroom after a failed suicide attempt. The Mold is a fungus that talks smoothly and who was born from the filth collecting in a corner of Ian’s neglected bathroom. It works to win Ian’s trust by helping him clean himself up and remodel his lifestyle. (Yes, I am serious). With The Mold’s help, Ian is able to attract the attention of, Leah (Danielle Doetsch), a neighbor he’s been ogling through his peephole.

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Ian and Leah actually find some happiness despite his unnatural circumstances. But then Ian suddenly starts to receive strange messages from his old and broken down TV set and they make him realize that The Mold may not be as helpful as it seems to be. Then strange characters and even stranger events push Ian’s life into an epic battle between good and evil that Ian is only partially aware of. Ian is a slob who hasn’t left his couch in ages and it his broken TV (that he has named Kent) that propels him to act. Without Kent, his best friend, Ian begins talking first to the audience and then after a terrible and traumatic event, he talks to the Mold (Jeffrey Combs).

The Mold calls Ian by the name Jack and tries to help him deal with life without Kent as well as how to deal with events that he has to face. These include the creepy TV repairman (Ken Brown), a violent landlord (Pete Giovagnoli), a mouthy delivery woman (Hannah Stevenson) and Leah. Somehow   Ian not only cleans up his act (and face), he cleans up the apartment. Yes, there are some really sick and gross-out scenes so this is not a movie to watch while eating. You will be surprised how dirty Ian and his apartment are and, in fact, it just might be a catalyst for cleaning the house. This is certainly not a feel-good flick. Think about this—how many films have you seen when the main character becomes best friends with slimy, dirty mold?

Ian hasn’t left his apartment in over a year— he sleeps on the couch, letting food waste and garbage pile up around him as he sits glued to his cabinet style TV set for the majority of his day. He doesn’t set alarms to be woken up and he rarely bathes, For Ian, life has become a struggle and he cannot even seem to be able to lift himself from the couch to go and use the bathroom. On the day that we meet Ian, he decided to kill himself via a toxic mixture in his bathtub. However, when he stands up on his counter to cover the exhaust, he slips and falls, hitting his head and passes out on the floor.

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Only when he comes around does he notice that amid the grime and dirt of his small and disgusting bathroom, a huge mould has been growing. It also has a face; and it talks.

Ian and the mold come to terms and have a plan. The mold informs Ian that it has a plan but it will take a week to get it all together. has something in mind for Ian; it will take a week and it informs Ian that if he follows the plan, he will be rewarded. Ian does as he is told but something else is happening in his apartment—his interaction with the mold causes Ian to hallucinate and question the reality that the mold told him He begins to realize that the “motivational growth” in his bathroom may not have the best of intentions.

Watching the film is like watching live theatre with the entire film taking place in either Ian’s living room or the bathroom, the fourth wall removed. This set-up by Ian is the strongest part of the film; the description he gives of his depression is pretty uncomfortable due to its direct honesty. Yet, it is refreshing to see someone on the big screen describe something so painful and undeniably personal.

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When the moves forward and strange things begin to happen, the movie seems to be trying a bit too hard and it begins to drag. Ian is lost in a world that is inhabited by watching too much TV, and he hallucinates himself as being a part of the programs. While this is completely bizarre, it almost seems entirely unnecessary to the rest of the movie, but once it reaches the end it seems to make sense.

Director Don Thacker has a unique vision in  this bizarre film and even though it starts to lose its steam along the way, DiGiovanni’s mostly solo performance keeps it going strong.

“ANTARCTIC EDGE: 70 DEGREES SOUTH— Journey to the Bottom of the Earth

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”Antarctic Edge: 70° South”

Journey to he Bottom of the Earth

Amos Lassen

“Antarctic Edge” takes us on a journey to the bottom of the earth with a team of scientists. Oscar Schofield and a bunch of expert world-class researchers are there to understand the nature of climate change in the place where the winter warming is the fastest, the West Antarctic Peninsula.  The scientists that we meet here have, for the last twenty years, been studying the rapid change at the peninsula under the auspices of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research Project.

The environment at the peninsula is both dangerous and perilous yet it is gorgeous to look at both on land and at sea. This is the earth’s southern polar region. We see the harsh conditions and substantial challenges that scientists must face and deal with for months at a time.  The waves are as high as 60 feet and it is dangerous to navigate them not just because of the waves but also because of icebergs. We go south to Charcot Island in order to study the Adelie penguin whose numbers are dwindling. The birds are the best way to study climate change as well as omens of what is to come.

Dena Seidel directed the film that was made through a collaboration between the Rutgers University Film Bureau and the Rutgers Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences.  In part funding comes from the National Science Foundation. The beauty that is seen here will not be soon forgotten and the film not only shares that but educates us as well.


The film opens in New York City on April 17, 2015 at the Quad Cinema.

 

“COMPARED TO WHAT?: THE IMPROBABLE JOURNEY OF BARNEY FRANK”— The First Openly Gay Congressman

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“Compared to What: The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank”

The First Openly Gay Congressman

Amos Lassen

This new documentary that covers forty years of Barney Frank’s political career is a personal portrait of the United States’ first openly gay congressman. Directors Michael Chandler and Sheila Canavan were given total access to Frank and his husband, Jim Ready and they let nothing get by them from what are mundane household chores to filling out marriage forms and Frank’s and Ready’s wedding reception.

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We have, it seems, always known that Frank is cantankerous and it is fun to watch him speak to his husband in a non-cantankerous way. We also see him interacting with others and discussing his personal life and his career. This is a Frank most of us have never seen. Frank knew he was gay when he was just 13 years old just around the same time he became interested in politics. However, he did not think that as gay man that he would ever have a political career.

Nonetheless, he ran for the Massachusetts House of Representatives anyway and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980, winning 52 per cent of the vote. He served for the next 32 years, winning every subsequent election by a wide margin. He remained in the closet in those early years for fear of exposure. After serving in Congress for seven years, Barney Frank came out but only when his sexuality was revealed in a book that one of his colleagues penned.

By watching archival films, we see the high and lows of Frank’s career included the scandal in 1989 when we learned that he had a sexual relationship with his live-in aide and driver and was accused of allowing him to run a prostitution ring out of his home. Frank was cleared of that charge, but was reprimanded by Congress for several minor offenses. Frank has a sharp and acerbic wit and we certainly see that throughout this film. There is a good deal about the years he spent on the House Financial Services Committee including the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis in which he was criticized by conservatives for his support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and his role in the creation of the 2010 Dodd-Frank bill.

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The film features interviews with some of Frank’s many friends but where the film really shines is when it focuses on Frank’s personal life. He is candid in his discussions of his sexuality. This is “a very personal story of how a gay man with political aspirations was able to both find success in government service in the pursuit of a better country for all, while also finding love and happiness in a world that for most of his life, was set up for gay men to fail.” 

Even after his 1989 scandal, Frank was re-elected and that was because many respected him in that he responded to the issue candidly and honestly. One of the great ironies here is that the then Republican Representative Larry Craig of Idaho, who led the charge to get Frank censured and removed from office, was arrested for soliciting sex in a men’s restroom at the Minneapolis airport in 2007 ending his own congressional career. And have we heard a word about or from Craig since then? Frank tells us that closeted gay Republicans largely avoided him. He threatened them twice— the first time was in 1989 when Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich and Lee Atwater, tried to stop the election of Democrat Tom Foley as Speaker of the House by planting rumors he was gay (Foley was married to a woman from 1968 until his death in 2013).  Frank told several closeted Republican congressmen as well as closeted Republican staffers and aides that he would out them if they continued their whisper campaign. It worked and that tactic, at least in regards to Foley, was ended.  Then there was 1994, after President Clinton’s attempt to allow gays and lesbians to serve in the military openly ended with the very problematic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Frank pushed for the federal government to lift the ban on gay people having security clearance. When closeted gay Republicans pushed against this, Frank informed them he would “have to report them all” since many of them were gay and had security clearance themselves, something that was technically in violation of the law. I love that Frank said, there is a right to privacy but not to hypocrisy.” This was not just an off the cuff comment; it is something he has kept at throughout his career.

When elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1972 he introduced the very first gay rights bill in the Commonwealth, and consistently fought for equal rights, marching in Boston’s Gay Pride parade that same year.  Yet, in 2007, was criticized when one version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act  (ENDA) died in committee because it included protections based on gender identity so he introduced a non-transgender inclusive version of the bill. His speech about it had a great deal to do with its passage but this was considered a betrayal by those who supported transgender rights. He claimed that he could only get 200 of the required 218 to get a bill passed and those included 7 Republican votes and with the help of a member of the GOP who has a transgender child.

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In 2012, Barney Frank made history by becoming the first sitting congressmen to marry someone of the same-sex. He says that the future for LGBT rights looks great and that soon marriage equality will be in every state. He looks back and remembers that when he introduced a gay rights bill the reaction was negative says “But as gays and lesbians come out and people hear our stories they change their minds. When the issue of transgender rights surfaced, it was the same negative reaction. “All people thought about was men cutting off their penises.” But now transgender people are telling their own stories, and being heard. The journey is still a journey but it is a lot easier now because Frank dared to what so many others feared. The film is a sensitive and moving portrait of a man who dared to stand up for himself and for what he believed in and in the process, he made it easier for so many others.

“DEAR FRIEND”— Falling in Love with Your Best Friend

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Dear Friend

Falling in Love with Your Best Friend.

Amos Lassen

Dear Friend by Sophie Boyce Fresh, emotional and bewitchingly taking you back to Liverpool in the mid-sixties, here we find writer and director Sophie Boyce tell the story of seventeen-year-old Christian; a gay boy clearly not out to anyone at this ‘illegal in the eyes of the law’ period in UK history and in particular to his homophobic father. Trouble is, he’s fallen head over heels in love with his best friend James. Only when James has to return to London, signalling the end of his prolonged stay with Christian, their worlds are set to collide. And in more ways, than one.

dear2Aided by lush attention to the light and shade of the piece, coupled with a vibrant score and some striking CGI effects, this Met Film School production vividly plays host to both the “coming out” and “falling in love with your best friend” scenarios. It is a work in which the camaraderie between its two youthful players, wonderfully displayed during the opening scenes, sets the stage for what is to follow, as Joshua Miles’ “look of love” eye movements acutely contrast with Julian Mack’s hetero persona, making an emotional confrontation between the two, all but inevitable.

Beautifully played out, with feelings of repulsion mixing with expressions of remorse, the result is a class production in which Boyce and everyone associated with this work should be proud of what they’ve accomplished, as the true friendship between the two young men is put to the test. A job well done, even if the title track by Paul McCartney and Wings, is all too noticeable by its “I’m in love with a friend of mine” absence.

“Smoke: How a Small-Town Girl Accidentally Wound Up Smuggling 7,000 Pounds of Marijuana with the Pot Princess of Beverly Hills” by Meili Cady— An Unwitting Error

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Cady, Meili. “Smoke: How a Small-Town Girl Accidentally Wound Up Smuggling 7,000 Pounds of Marijuana with the Pot Princess of Beverly Hills”, Dey Street Books, 2015.

An Unwitting Error

Amos Lassen

 “Smoke” is an outrageous, entertaining and true story of an aspiring young actress’ ill-fated friendship and unwitting alliance with a drug smuggling “heiress.” Meili Cady left her parents’ home in Washington State and went to Los Angeles. She struggled there until she met Lisette Lee, the “Korean Paris Hilton”. Lisette claimed to be a model and a Korean pop star and lived in a $1.2 million dollar apartment in West Hollywood, owned a fleet of luxury cars, and went from one red-carpet event to the next.

The two became friends immediately and when money was low, Lisette hired Meili to be her personal assistant and with that Meili found herself a part of major crime. When Meili finally realized what she was a part of it was too late—she was in too deep. She was trapped in a precarious criminal world of money, drugs, and dangerous secrets she struggled to understand truth and lie. Here she was; a once naive girl who fell down the rabbit hole and now she could only watch helplessly as it all came crashing down around her.

This is a true story and it reads stranger than fiction.

“A native of Bremerton, Washington, Meili Cady starred as the lead actress in the Showtime comedy film Chick Magnet, and has appeared on Californication and other television shows. After a brief stint in a federal prison camp, Meili began the blog House Arrest Girl while she served a year of home confinement. She lives in Los Angeles, California.”