FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
A FEW STANDOUT SHORTS FROM HOLLYSHORTS 2015
In as much as this is hardly a full compilation of the great number of shorts exhibited at this years Hollyshorts, here is a "short" review from some of the shorts that either raised eyebrows or were memorable in their own right.
In the adult Annimation program, T.P. (for Toilet Paper) is a naughty, raunchy, gritty short that takes place in a filthy public restroom of a convenience store at a gas station. Here a new toilet paper is placed on the rack for usage. This unsuspecting TP is greeted by an older TP who's out of energy, life and has relented to his faith of going down the filthy toilet waiting to consume him. But he does have some wise words of wisdom to dish prior to his unavoidable passing. Very cleverly done, astute as well as funny, this short by BobBlevins and Bradly Werley was a sure audience pleaser of the most memorable kind.
Dominic Polcino's LOVE IN THE AGE OF LIKE centers around the search for love on the internet, mostly social media, and how we've become susceptible to the perils of finding love on the vast filed of electronic media. But then again its all game in love & war!
In the horror program, A.J. Briones THE SMILING MAN, is a terrifying look at the seducing of a young boy by a freakishly looking supernatural spirit who just killed the boys mother and now luring the boy in an attempt to confiscate him. A prize winner at this years Hollyshorts, this short effectively deliver the chills.
TEETH, by Daniel Gray & Tom Brown is a weird little concoction were a man hunts for a variety of animal teeth in order to create the best denture for his eating habits. Definitely a fresh original with a twist, this short is not for the squeezy.
THE LOYALIST - Minji Kang shot this film in New York with a cast from South Korea. In this disturbing short, a father must grapple with the decision his daughter is about to make wether to stay or leave her country. Things don't turn out as expected and the ending leaves you wondering wny, but then again cultural differences and generational gaps is what this short is about.
MONKEYS - Christopher Soren Kelly's short is a twisted look at a woman's demise as she ponders her existence locked in a bathroom after a night of lovemaking. The style of this short is schizophrenic and swift in its execution as images are interchanged between the past & the present of this woman's disturbing past.
"IN HERE, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL"
DISCO STUDIO 54 REVISITED IN "54" DIRECTOR'S CUT
Reviewed at OUTFEST
by Jorge Ameer
July 17, 2015
The re-edited premiere of "54" was held at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood last night as a part of Outfest's "Ford on the Road" program.. The original version distributed by Miramax on August 28, 1998 celebrated New York's defunct iconic Studio 54 and its debauchery mildly with a saccharine edit to comfort and elate whomever the sensors were back then. Those who kept this story from being told in all of its splendor & glory are no longer a hinderance in the vision of director Mark Christopher, who armed with editor David Kittredge, have infused new life into "54". By pasting additional drug and sex fueled storylines leftovers from the cutting room, this creative team have constructed a better, more satisfying version recounting the fantasy & wild nights created by club founders Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.
Having followed the storied nightclub and its history as the pivotal place to have galvanize the disco era, many would agree the original version was just too tame in essence. This new directors cut has an additional 44 minutes of never before seen footage that explains the many sexploits of the story's main character Shane 54, point of view. It also, delves into the turbulent behind the scenes look at what it took to make it within the confines of the club with party promoter Steve Rubell (Mike Myers) at the helm. The original story remains. A very naive & hungry small town lad moves to the bright lights, big city of New York to make it. In this new version, once Shane O'Shea (Ryan Phillippe) gets an inside look at the world's most famous Studio 54 on 254 W. 54th St., his life changes. The revised edit follows closely the path of Shane from a timid staff member to a character who would indiscriminately romp in the sack with both sexes, members of the clubs elite of course, as long as he got his fix. He goes from being a wannabe to the most celebrated bartender until the club's demise due to tax evation.
The film gives a better inside glimpse into the characters who regularly attended the club as well as its staff. Anita (Salma Hayek) is a struggling singer waiting to be discovered. Her husband Greg (Breckin Meyer) served as host to Shane until his impulsive desires for both, and anyone else who may cross his path from "excess to wisdom", leads to the rupture of the couple's nuptials.
Viewers who saw the first film, will find this director's cut so much more fulfilling. The artistry by which the story is told is presented more accurately and authentic to the legacy of Studio 54.
FOURTH MAN OUT
Reviewed at OUTFEST
July 17, 2015
Director Andrew Nackman crafts a very engaging and moving portrait of a small town bromance as a car mechanic comes out to his unsuspecting friends. Adam (Evan Todd) and childhood friend Chris (Parker Young) are the front and center of this bromance as Chris attempts to reconcile and engage his buddy Adam in helping him find true love. Very comedic dating scenarios turn powerful additives to a story that feeds on the feelings & trepidation of both men as they stumble and awkwardly deal with one another during this trying time of their friendship. Their love is unconditional, sometimes messy, as they don't quite know how to share or communicate their feelings. But this is what makes this bromance so much more charming. On many occasions during the film, you feel the love both men share for each other bursting out of the screen with sometime as little as a look or the withholding of words. The acting is powerful, and stirring causing a yearning and hoping that both Chris & Adam would find each other instead of someone else as Chris helps Adam find an appropriate mate. The other drinking buddies Ortu (Jon Gabrus) and Nick (Chord Overstreet) really try their darndest not to embarrass themselves in an attempt to camouflage their homophobic fears to comic results. Fourth Man Out is a breath of fresh air for a story that has been told many times before in many different languages, however writer Aaron Dancik throws you several curveballs throughout the film that unhinge a deep seeded desire to see Chris reconcile with Adam on another level as other small town issues surrounding Adam's coming out resolve themselves to a satisfying final act. A beautiful film, splendidly shot with outstanding performances from a very capable cast making Fourth Man Out an unforgettable film.
HARSH REALITIES & CLASHING BELIEFS LEADS TO DISTURBING VIOLENCE IN HUNGARY'S "LAND OF STORMS"
2015 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
by Jorge Ameer
Reviewed at the Marche Du Film
June 7, 2015
Szabolcs (András Sütö) plays in a German football team, as does Bernard (Sebastian Urzendowsky). A lost match and an ugly confrontation leads Szabolcs to reconsider his life. He goes back to Hungary for simplicity & to build up an inherited broke down house and to bask in his newly found solitude. He meets Aron, a local who welcomes him by stealing his motorcycle. In a odd turn of events, Szabolc hires Aron (Ádám Varga) to help him rebuild his property. A mutual attraction develops to the detriment of Szabolcs, as Aron's mother and local mates disapprove of their relationship. Violence ensues for both. A sexual friendship of the same sex attraction breeds contempt with the towns people, as Aron's dependent mother denounces her son's lifestyle to the local bullies in an attempt to "correct" his behavior. A confused yet curious Aron expresses his affection for Szabolc with a mix bag of emotions and several eruptive confrontations that will ultimately lead to a very shocking and disturbing finale.
This Hungarian/German co-production may very well be reflective, and a testament of the the state of affairs and societal hostilities that still remain in place in a few rural towns within eastern Europe where the enabling, persecution & disdain for same sex couples seems to remain latent. This mentality shepherded by religious intolerance is what leads the violence and the hostile living conditions for anyone not subscribed to the few who have self appointed themselves as the enforcers of the town's moral code of conduct.
Hungarian director Adam Csaczi's unveiling of the story with its sweeping cinematography, superb direction and acting is poetic, lyrical and subtly mesmerizing.
"BAD EXORCIST" POSSESSES YOUR FUNNY BONE WITH LOL HILARITY.
By Jorge Ameer
Reviewed @ Dances with Films 18
June 6, 2015
Hands down the funniest horror comedy of the 18th Edition of Dances with Films. Kyle Steinbach's "Bad Exorcist" is as goofy as it is awkwardly funny. The characters, a trio of teens who set out to make a horror film to impress their fellow classmates accidentally wind up getting their actress possessed during the shoot. Dana (Julian Master), Charlie (Sean Roney) & Matt (Alex Knapp) make up the trio. In their attempt to prove their coolness, they end up getting involved way over their head in attempting to practice from a stolen book of exorcisms for a film project meant to compete in the local reel horror film festival. However, one dumb decision after another force all three to come to grips with the fact that they actually did turn their actress into a possessed victim of the book. The attempts at fixing the problem is were hilarity ensues to stomach aching laughter.
The comedic timing of the main actors along with the visuals and sounds designs are right on target. Dana's obliviousness is especially perplexing for he seem the most clueless of the three, yet he's the one that will ignite the laughter mostly because of his response to the proceedings as they turn scary because of them messing with forces beyond their comprehension. The style of the film has a very vintage feel to it as so does the writing and evolution of the story.
As I watched, I could not help but to think of other eighty's favorites such as "Porky's" meets "Revenge of the Nerds" and the "Exorcist" as relevant films which may have influence the creation of this film. Wether or not that may be the case, this film stands very much on its own due to its fresh approach and originality in tackling two disctinct genres that are hard to nail. Bad Exorcist simultaneously elicits from chuckles, to laugh out loud reactions, to jump scares. Few films succeed with engaging the audience with non stop laughter the way "Bad Exorcist" did, during its world premiere at Dances with Films, with some very funny and engaging results.
By Jorge Ameer
Reviewed @ Dances with Films 18
June 6, 2015
James Bird's "Honeyglue" is an effective experimental narrative film that interwoven animation with live storytelling. Androgyny reigns as gender roles are flipped and reversed to make a statement on style and personal expression.
An unlikely romance blooms when Jordan (Zach Villa), a purse snatching cross dresser artist, meets Morgan (Adriana Mather) a conservative middle class girl, under unusual circumstances.
Base on the vast differences of both characters, initial perception predicts that this ill conceived relationship is doomed from the get go. Yet, during the many trials and tribulation both Morgan and Jordan suffer in their own worlds, they manage to keep the
"glue" alive and well whenever they met until life throws a curveball that will ultimately, and in an untimely manner, turn this love story into a contemporary Romeo & Juliet with many twists in between.
In what can be best described as an Annie Lennox kind of wedding, in a very unorthodox way, the couple exchange nuptials with alternative descriptions of their relationship as the ceremony and events succeeding the ceremony trumps traditional vows.
This is a very ambitious film that seeks to mix many unrelated themes and stories, and to the fortune of the film, director James Birds succeed at making it all work.
The Main actors deliver solid performances in between a series of superlatively artful animation sequences with screen live action visuals to be credited courtesy of cinematographer Stefan Colson.
By Jorge Ameer
Reviewed @ Dances with Films 18
June 6, 2015
Edd Benda's "Superior" is a heartwarming story of two good friends during the height of the Vietman War in 1969. Charlie & Derek played with emotional depth by Paul Stanko & Thatcher Robinson embark on a final adventure before they must confront their futures. Charlie is headed to Michigan Tech University & Derek counts his days before he becomes eligible for the draft.
With two speed Schwinn bicycles and very little preparation Charlie & Derek pedal through the shores of lake Superior along the massive backwoods of Michigan, Minnesota & Canada.
A deep platonic emotional bond mixed with nostalgia surrounds a very compelling coming of age story. During their adventures, they face hunger, exhaustion and a deep bond for one another. Their love for each other is specially noticeable during their interactions as many times they must compromise as they divert from their final destination.
Between the laughs, tenderness and childlike interactions both friends share, the relationship between Charlie & Derek emotes an underbelly of sadness for the unpredictability of their futures. Ultimately, the last quarter of the film delivers a tearful & gut-wrenching final act as the boy's journeys finally comes to an end.
With beautiful panoramic shots and a sweeping cinematography, "Superior" delivers. This film has a studio quality feel to it as it transports its viewer back to a time when simplicity was the norm and love and deep friendship could overcome some very compelling odds, due to the unpredictability of war and how it had real repercussions by those affected by it.
THE BIG LONELY CAPTURES A RIVETING LOOK AT ONE MAN'S JOURNEY INTO ISOLATION
By Jorge Ameer
Reviewed @ Dances with Films 18
June 4, 2015
Micheael Nelms was once a functional member of society. But due to many of life's hits, he decides to live in the remote wilderness of Oregon rather than face being another statistic under a bridge. His story may seem common, but this man has made a few life altering choices that has regressed him a few degrees from the primitive.
Loneliness, survival and resilience of the human spirit in a uniquely filmed manner is the way the filmmakers describe "The Big Lonely". You could easily add many more adjectives to describe this documentary. You can't help to wonder though, at the core of it all, where was this man's family to aid him in his time of need. It is very easy to expect an answer to what does seem like an obvious answer. However, there's an underbelly of complicated dilemmas since Michael Nelms is a very proud man. And his position is not unique.
There is a vast majority of the populations that is living pay check to pay check only a few or maybe no checks away from Michael Nelms. And pride and dignity is powerful when one is faced with the choices of seeking help from the next of kin.
What's even more fascinating is the survival skills that were developed as Michael lived in the woods. Everything from cleaning and prepping dead animals for consumption to surviving bears. His companion, a dog name Tic, in the midst of such desperate survival conditions, is truly his best friend.
Sadly to say, after speaking to the filmmakers after the Q & A, I was told about the passing of Tic after the shooting of the documentary. You can tell Michael was able to survive in the wild because of his best friend Tic before he found the cameras of the filmmakers as another comforting tool of spiritual survival. The camera in this film is sorta like Tom Hank's best friend Wilson, the volleyball that helps to keep his sanity from devolving, in Cast Away.
The successful social experiment here was the use of the cameras and how the filmmakers chose to set up Michael with these modern day devices so he could narrate his story to his own pace.
Definitely a captivating and unforgettable documentary, "The Big Lonely is a film that will linger in your mind long after you've watched it." It is powerful, insightful and at times very sad and moving. However, if you do hear of this documentary on any format or platform of exhibition, do not hesitate to watch it.
There's much to be said about how we treat the unfortunate. Wether due to mental illness or debilitating circumstances, you will find this documentary is a victory in the realm of enlightment and insightful observations of how resilient the human spirit can be when tested against nature and adversity .
2015 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW - Official Competition
SEXUAL DESIRE LEADS TO OBSESSION IN SERBIAN FILM "PANAMA"
by Jorge Ameer - May 23, 2015
In director Pavle Vučković's Panama, Milan (Milos Pjevac) wages periodic bets with his buddy Jovan ((Slaven Doslo) to see how many sexual conquest they can acquire in short periods of time. However when he meets Maja (Jovana Stojiljkovic) what originally begins as another score for Jovan, after several heavy sexual encounters, suddenly his conquest turns into an "open relationship". Maja accepts his conditions, but it seems Jovan has problems dealing with his own rules as he becomes obsessed with Maja's every move on social media.
Obsession leads to jealousy and to Jovan attempts to try to recategorize his relationship with Maja as he follows her every move. Jovan find it increasingly difficult to deal with his own rules he implemented in the relationship causing Maja to denounce his contemptuous treatment of her on several occasions. His temper progressively turns volatile and his feelings for Maja makes Jovan paranoid that everyone in her surroundings is either a culprit in hiding the affairs he thinks she's having or they are having an affair with her themselves.
This situation becomes unbearable for Maja and it does turn Jovan into a walking mess as he's unable find answers amidst his continuous accusations of Maja's infidelities. There is something to be said about Jovan's allegations, for Maja's demeanor is very withholding and vague towards Jovan's claims, giving him more ammunition to doubt her credibility. His increasingly paranoid scenarios regarding Majas affairs with whomever may be chummy with her on her social media leads Jovan to a borderline nervous breakdown. A once carefree player is now on the other side of his game, and the results take a toll on his daily existence for he trails and follows Maja's every move online with unconvincing results. The intelligence of "Panama" comes as a result of the way the social media information is gathered by Jovac and the way it makes him borderline manic, as he strategizes how to conduct his surveillance of Maja to mixed results and to the detriment to his relationship with her.
The Panama connection becomes apparent as Jovac is lead to believe that Maja has departed to Panama under mysterious circumstances never to be seen again, or did she?. A riveting cause and effect tale, all the subplots of Majas whereabout tie in nicely with the progressively self distructive behavior of Jovan. Jovan's obsession is acquired as a results of his apparent self projecting insecurities of Maja due to the standards and lifestyle he lives by.
The film's beautifully crafted explicit sex scenes complements the story visually as it tacitly explains a darker addiction to pornography & social media. The radical changes that leads the Jovan into a tailspin of self deception grows in apparent misplaced distrust of his friends and surroundings.
Panama is a very thought provoking film as it begs to question the role social media is having on relationships and how misplaced trust in this media can prove destructive if not checked against reality.
IN THEATRE REVIEW
INVENTIVE "TUSK" TAKES YOU ON A JOURNEY,
FINDING A NEW STORY IN TERROR.
by Jorge Ameer - September 19, 2014
Howard Howe: The walrus is far more evolved than any man I've ever known. Present company included.
If you can stomach some of what Kevin Smith's "Tusk" has to offer, you will find this film to be a fascinating joyride into the macabre. . The bottom line of "Tusk" is a very simple story of a man longing, and seeking to recreate his relationship with a walrus by literarily molding another man into a mammal.
Justin Long stars as podcaster Wallace Bryton who travels from Los
Angeles to Manitoba, Canada in search of a story to boost the ratings
for his show. Upon discovering the story that originally brought him to
Canada is no longer there, he sets out to find a new one. This time his
latest story is found in Howard Howe (Michael Parks), an older
eccentric gentleman living in an isolated mansion.
With many sips of tea and vintage stories being told by old man Howard,
Wallace finds himself attracted by the visual details of storytelling
by which Howard candidly shares with his latest victim.
What happens next leads to several unexpected surprise changes for
Wallace. He is heavily sedated and cured from an apparent poisonous
spider bite. Such generosity found in private health care can only be
found in these sort of films where disgruntled sociopaths practice
their craft on unwilling patients. However, as "Tusk" may have it, we
soon find out that Howard has very different plans for his now captive
Not much should be revealed here in order to really spare the viewer
from any unintentional spoilers, however, I will say the film takes you on
a ride with a strong message about humanity and mankind as a whole and
more importantly how you reap what you sow. Wallace went to Canada
looking to expose and exploit a story for his show's ratings. But soon
he becomes the main attraction in a story that would have skyrocketed the
ratings of his own podcast off the charts, had he known, he would be the "butt of the joke" he sought in the first place, a road kill attraction for his next internet circus show.
Director Kevin Smith tugs at many raw emotions simultaneously as the
events degenerate into a Frankenstein like metamorphosis of Wallace
revealing the true dark side of human nature and how if left unchecked
can result in pure unfiltered madness.
The introduction of a special appearance by quasi detective Guy
Lapointe played by an over the top Johnny Depp leaves much to be
desired. First, his monologue fails momentarily by extracting your
suspension of disbelief from the successful track the story was headed.
What may seem like a very long moment of Johnny Depp, being well...
Johnny Depp, was in my opinion unnecessary, redundant and just plain
tedious to watch. That's without saying that it slows down the film to
a screeching halt for a good moment. But once this "detective" is
reintegrated and relegated back to the main story, then the pace
accelerates to a very unusual ending worthy of much debate afterwards.
Howard Howe: Are you really mourning your humanity?
I don't understand, who in the hell would want to be human?
If you enjoyed the premise and originality of "Tusk", you may want to
remain seated during the end credits just to make sure you don't miss
the commentary by the director himself and other images that may help
give you some insight and maybe closure as to the ideas that went
behind the making of this film. The director himself comments on what
he was looking to achieve by the third act. With that said, Tusk will
certainly take you somewhere where you have yet to go this year, this
is the film to help you escape to another dimension where the depths of
human depravity combined with some very solid performances with lead to
a jarring experience that you are not soon to forget.
MEMORABLE SHORTS FROM HOLLYSHORTS 2014
The 10th edition of Hollyshorts had much to offer in its coffers with a rich palette of films from all over the world. Hollyshorts has quickly become one of the best showcases for short films. Both for audiences to industry, Hollyshorts presents a strong programming with works from around the world. Even though I must admit I did not watch all of the programs, for there were many activities in the festival happening simultaneously, below are reviews of the most notorious shorts that will stay in with you long after watching. These are shorts that should be seeked should you happen to see them on rosters of other film festivals.
MINIMUM MAX - A very touching short narrating the trials and tribulations of Max, a teenager who's affected with ADD and has been prescribed many medications in order to hep him "function properly". The message of this short is lean yet powerful, pondering the question of where do we draw the line in medicating our children and what are their consequences on their interpersonal growth. A very moving and excellent shorts from the Max the filmmaker who happens to be the main subject of this aptly titled film.
THE MAGIC BRACELET - A celebration of life is wrapped in the story of two girls who find out as they befriend each other that they may have more in common than their friendship. With a fantastical theme of a flower that is suppose to unveil a much delayed family secret to the unification of two unwilling adults through the starring children, The Magic Bracelet packs a punch and is full of heart.
LE DEVOIR - This French-Canadian short from filmmaker Justin Wu engages two family members who are about to loose their matriarch. As they have many conflicted inner feelings, a long lost love of one of them makes an appearance that will change the course of the protagonist.
ROLAND An extremely hilarious short subject about how quickly the mind can race under extenuating circumstances when a man in dire need of using the restroom is declined usage due to company policy. What follows is a hilarious and threatening turn of events for the cashier who must very politely yet extremely frightened of the guest must show him to the door nicely in order to avoid escalating violence. Non-verbal comedy creates laughs a minute in this strange yet delightful short.
TICKET TO THE HAUNTED MANSION A short that will take you through a haunted house let by an auditor who was appointed to checking the books of a dubious business owner who's main commodity is to sell fear and terror. A visually and estetically beautiful short with great cinematography and an scary story waiting on the other side of the door.
THE BODY Filmmaker Paul David develops a clever idea as a serial killer makes his latest kill during Halloween only to be confused with the best costume and prop in town. Soon, his admirers will find out one by one how amusing that distinction means to the sociopath carrying his recent kill.
ONE PLEASE Jesse Burks short subject may very well be the most original as it is the most disturbing short subject of the festival. A nonechalant set of parent go about their daily routine as their kids play in the yard. Arriving to the neighborhood from a distance, the ice cream truck brings lots of treats for the young ones. Excited to get a treat, one of the daughters runs into the kitchen to make mom aware of her wanting The mother, repetitively cutting vegetables with the same rythim smiles at the little girl in acceptance of her request. What follows is the visual price parents sometime pay to give their children anything they want. Some would even go as far as cutting off a limb just to keep them happy. A must see short.
CHECK PLEASE Two friends on a double date offer to pay for the dinner bill. Neither will accept no for an anwwer. What ensues is a hilarious tug of war between the tow alpha males who believe they have the moral obligation to be on the right side of history by taking care of the bill. Both will suffer the consequences. Another cleverly elaborated short with several funny moments worthy of a play on funny or die.
NEIL & JOHN IN THE KEY Neil & John are good friends. Friend one friend approaches the other with the ultimate favor in order to have life altering positivite results one is rightfully doubful.. Upon further debate, both men come to an arrangement of how they must move forward to unleach the powers of the key while keeping a semblance of their dignity.
SAD MOTIVATOR - By far the best web series short I've had the pleasure to watch at Hollyshorts, this ingenious web series from creator Nathan Bunker starring Timothy Ryan Cole is a feast for those who love dark humor. Its dark & twisted and enters the mind of its protagonist through a two dimensional green blob. This green blob who reminded me of one of the 3 dimensional ghost from "Ghostbusters" represents that voice in our head that knows what men crave, sex, while speaking to Kevin (Ryan) the was your voice in your head would, directly and with all the unfiltered thoughts that comes to mind when you are presented with the opportunities to get laid. Kevin first has a girlfriend, but she ends up missing because a certain voice in Kevin's head recommended he stops her nagging. The girlfriend's roommate Sasha looks for her and is most distraught. Of course green blob can't help but to feel bad for her as he encourages Kevin to help himself to her while her defenses are down, and so it goes. If you find this web series, don't miss it. You'll find that green blob living in your head long after watching "Sad Motivator"
SERPENTS LULLABY - Patricia Clark's poetically told beautiful version of "Medusa" in turmoil, sets the story in modern times as she wonders and suffers for having turn into stone someone who seems to have recently proposed. She sits at the park staring at a baby through her dark shades while a nervous mother find it increasingly hard to disguise her anxiety over this mysterious stranger obvious attraction to her infant. They meet again though the disappearance of the baby's toy as the lady with the shades makes her way back to her solace. What follows is the unraveling or better said unwrapping on her head band to disclose who she truly really is.
FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
SADNESS, HEARTBREAK & REGRET PERMEATES "THE LAST STRAIGHT MAN"
WINNER GRAND JURY PRIZE - ALTERNATIVE SPIRIT AWARD - RHODE INTERNATIONAL ISLAND FILM FESTIVAL
by Jorge Ameer - August 13, 2014
Grand Jury Prize Winner - Alternative Spirit Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and rightfully so, this very involving film from filmmaker Mark Bessenger, "The Last StraightMan" is a therapeutic treat for anyone who's been involved in
truncated relationships. From the outset, both leading men are aware of
their feelings for one another. Lewis (Mark Cirillo) is a closeted man
throwing a bachelor party for his straight best friend and secret
crush, Cooper (Scott Sell). However, both realize their
relationship is doomed due to Cooper's upcoming nuptial.
Emotions run high as both men agree to schedule a yearly one
night stand from life's daily grind. During this interlude they
are both allowed to ask three intimate questions to be answered as
truthfully as possible. That opportunity allows
both men to exchange confessions on their true feelings in
addition to giving each other the needed updates they crave just to see
where their relationship stands. You would think that Lewis is
unilaterally suffering through the bulk of heartache this unrequited
love situation is generating. However, much suffering is to be had by
Cooper who is torn between his family and his real belated true love found
for Lewis. This is the type of love that has grown so out of bounds,
Cooper does not know how to deal with his emotions.
The beauty of this film lies in what is not said. Both Lewis and Cooper
are deeply in love and their non verbal exchanges speaks volumes. Their
jokes fall flat whenever they come close to addressing their real
feelings forcing one or both to change the subject.
"May your hair never fall, your dick always rise and your kids never
call your brother-in-law daddy" is only one of the many witty dialogue
shared by both Cooper and Lewis in what may seem at times to be funny
banter translate into the men trying their hardest to convey their
deepest sentiments. Cooper's communication and body language,
muddled by the restrictive code of
silence men as a species have been known to observe in order to
preserved the stereotypical macho facade, is made to cover any an all
possible honest feelings he may have.
The struggle he suffers between his genuine feelings and the life he's created for himself leads to a
defensiveness that, should real feelings be exposed, could possibly lead to the outpouring of
his true authentic self with an emotional breakdown, possibly a breakthrough, .
In the form of visual collages, the film skips to several
life events as both men evolve with the passage of time. As
the men age with life experience, so does their love, affection and
understanding of each other, which only seems to grow stronger with
time, until Lewis realizes that at some point he has to be the better
man and do the right thing for the benefit of Cooper's family. Such
selflessness is what makes Lewis a likable character. He's always the
reasonable one, where Cooper just wants to take their opportunity to
let loose, and be who he really is. During their exchange of emotion in
the bedroom, you can't help but to feel the plight and internal
struggle they both face, but it is Lewis, who most of the times seems
to be relegated to make the difficult choices.
Production values are satisfactory for this digital production.
However, at times misplaced music becomes distracting in some very key
moments that demand full attention for the words being exchanged
between the two leads. Performances are courageous and engaging as both
actors flawlessly perform with due diligence even during scenes of
pervasive nudity and very explicit sexual situations. Kudos to Mark
Cirillo & Scott Sell who create admirable performances, and also for
their bravery in choosing to stay true to the story with some very
demanding and at times difficult moments both leading men share as they
emote during their intimacy.
"The Last Straight Man" is a delight of a film, with an involved story
that will leave you pondering on many underlying themes dealing with
the way men express themselves and treat each other, and how not
knowing to express true feelings can have long term and irreversible consequences on a
life that should have been with the one.
FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
THE KISS THAT KILLS IN BENJAMN WALTER'S " PINK ZONE"
Opening night film -
ACTION ON FILM INTERNATIONAL FILMFESTIVAL
Friday, August 22, 2014 - 8:00pm
by Jorge Ameer - August 13, 2014
A dynamic new premise with an ultra low budget feel throughout, this "Clockwork Orange" style festival offering enters into another dimension whereas diseased men can easily kill with a kiss. This throws a curveball to the dating scene for the last remaining women who are kept in an internment classroom.
Emily's father (Matt Cooper) is the only hope to finding a cure for the kissing disease. Emily (Jayna Sweet) is resented by her classmates and teachers alike for the special treatment that her father’s profession and prestige affords her. But, they must all put up with each other as they are held in the vacant high school. As the school is taken over by a group of violent teenage boys, Emily and classmates must bond together to work out their issues and escape.
Filmmaker Benjamin Walter's movie is an original premise that could benefit from a Hollywood remake with a studio budget and major stars in the title roles.
FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
RHODE ISLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
MASCULINITY AND VIRILITY ARE DEFINED BY AGGRESSION IN DIDACTIC DOCUMENTARY "POWER EROTIC"
Reviewed by Jorge Ameer July 22, 2014
Several evolutionary psychologist are engaged in expressing the correlation between male aggressive behavior and sexual prowess in Lawrence Ferrara's documentary "Power Erotic".
Violence and aggression translates into sexual arousal. Women find these attributes attractive in potential mates for reproductive purposes and males find it stimulating due to the dangerous elements that entail submission over dominance.
Shame vs. desire - Society is incredibly good at making people feel shame for their sexual desires and drives. Sharing their wives with other men was for some of the subjects a way to have a bond with other males. It is compared akin to men sharing their sexuality during their youth as they masturbate making it a bonding activity.
Being used by somebody else for sex is the height of sexual pleasuring as it creates a psychological interchange. Reciprocation is not a necessity as long as the other parter is satisfied.
Several psychologist blame sexual disfunction and deep rooted sexual repression directly to religion and the overbearance of imprinting a moral code that will oppress authentic deep rooted desires.
Giving up control can be psychologically healing. One subject being bullied as a youth did cause him to enjoy sexual humiliation as an adult as way to project his feelings of discomfort from those earlier childhood episodes.
A trending commonality between the subjects was the desire to be loved as a means to reach different degrees of happiness and self fulfillment.
Every society honors power, status and dominance. Those who manage to perpetuate their DNA were the strong dominant males. This has been demonstrated as audiences are drawn to powerful men in sport as they are to those who demonstrate strong sexual prowess in pornography. The correlation between these two explorations come from a place where people seem to be overpowered. It takes a lot of work for people to be sexually in control of themselves says one academic.
Another PhD, David Barash, an evolutionary biologist, refers to the lost of control that is desired during sexual activity as an appealing trait displayed by domineering men with their female partners.
The documentary explicitly studies ways in which men advertise their sexual interests in an effort to capture their desired partner. It delves into the animal psyche that drives the reproduction of the species, while inherently exposing the benefits and drawbacks of dominance versus servitude as a palpable basic instinct needed to fuel deep seeded sexual satisfaction.
IN THEATRE REVIEW
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
by Jorge Ameer - July 1, 2014
Another by the numbers and very formulaic horror scare ripped off directly from the book of "The Exorcist". You will feel a keen sense of Déjà vu. The fun in this film is anticipating prior to things happening. And for the most part, if not all the time, you will succeed.
Eric Bana plays NY police officer Ralph Sarchie who investigates a series of crimes that do not seem to add up. Upon further revealing of the case with his partner, both officers find themselves unexpectedly sought-after by their prey as the tables turn.
Then there is the unconventional priest (Edgar Ramirez) who always seems to show up when you need him and when you don't. You do wonder when this character takes care of his church duties as he become a self assigned demon catcher.
Horror connoisseurs may find this Sony/Screen Gem release disappointing and lacking originality. There were many fresh ideas that were floundered upon leading the story to fall into the usual conventional and predictable schlock.
The trials and tribulations of Haute couture in "Yves Saint Laurent"
Reviewed by Jorge Ameer - June 29, 2014
The House of Dior dominates the fashion industry with the fashions & shows from rising French designer Yves Saint Laurent in this biopic depicting the designers career as of 1958.
The son of an insurance company manager, Yves Henri Donat Mathieu Saint Laurent left home at the age of 17 to work for the French designer Christian Dior. Developing his styles, he emerged as one of the top designers creating his own empire with the savvy of lover and business partner Pierre Bergé.
The leads Pierre Niney and Guillaume Gallienne enthusiastically depict the up and downs of Yves life lasting relationship with Pierre. With a good grasp of the title character played with much determination by Niney, Saint Laurent is only 21 when we meet him in 1958, working for the house of the late Christian Dior, who died a year earlier.
Director Jalil Lespert’s film keeps things heavy on the fashion side yet a bit light on the inner workings of Saint Laurent. As the viewer you will want to know more yet Lespert's film does not dive deep enough into the dark side of the revered designed. His mental state is addressed at the commencement of the film as he's excluded from joining the military due to his manic depressive condition. Not enough insight is given on the power struggle he suffered emotionally at the hands of his lover Pierre.
Their relationships was a constant power struggle permeated by bursts of rage with Pierre attempting to consumate sexual relations with anyone threatening to disrupt his relationship with the young & successful Yves Saint Laurent. At some point in the film, Pierre shows disdain for Yves muse and model Victoire Doutreleau (Charlotte Le Bon) when asked to prepare dinner for her. A moment of jealousy by Pierre while cooking is followed with intercourse proving his virility and assertion of ownership over the fashionista & those who surround him.
All the while, Bergé runs the fashion empire, ensuring that Saint Laurent maintains all the artistic control needed to produce spectacular shows that will later introduce the Mondrian day dress & the tuxedo suit for women.
Pierre was the only person who seemed able to control Yves mental breakdowns whenever they got out of control or were threatening to disrupt a major fashion show.
The film takes its time to unfold. However, it never fully develops the inner turmoil and plight of the title character, as it only touches the surface of Saint Laurent's personal dive into his emotional breakdowns made worse by drug and alcohol abuse. This biopic seems to work hard at keeping things safe, only giving us a birds eye view while excluding many of the lifestyle excesses that comes with the inner workings of the fashion industry.
IN THEATRE REVIEW
LIONSGATE'S "BURNING BLUE" EXCELS AT BLOOMING ROMANCE BETWEEN NAVY PILOTS
by Jorge Ameer reviewed June 11, 2014
During strategic maneuvers while flying, a squadron is immersed in a scandal due to several fatal accidents. Several undercover investigations will lead to the unraveling of a forbidden relationship between two Navy pilots. The will to serve their country is tested as they are subject to several clandestine investigations initiated by the government. Naval aviators Daniel Lynch (Trent Ford) & Matthew Blackwood (Rob Mayes) face a deep seeded and uncontrollable affection for each other that will lead to several messy situations between their wives. As their resolve and conviction to maintain their relationship strengthens, their marriages linger. Unit moral, honor and courage, will be tested by government investigators as the squadron comrades are questioned amidst their implication in the cover up of this doomed romance.
You will find yourself tearing up unexpectedly with a stir of emotions towards the last quarter of this excellent film. The actors succeed at showing the inhibitions of their emotions, while tugging at your heart strings. Ford & Mayes create very suitable performances with a solidly engaging chemistry. Their presence do light up the screen with a glow during their mostly non-verbal romantic moments. This is a film you will not soon forget. Much apprehension has been displayed critically for this films due to its perceived irrelevant and past due subject matter since times and this genre of film have evolved considerably. Nonetheless, the time period (early 1990's) where the story is set should not be taken for granted, for many men & women were dishonorably discharged for similar situations as portrayed in this film.