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Robust McManlyPants on Average Display » movies

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One of my favorite writers of all time is H.P. Lovecraft, and my favorite of his works is At the Mountains of Madness. I love it and everything about it. Hell, the wallpaper on my phone is someone on the Internet’s homemade badge for team members on the Miskatonic University Antarctic Expedition. In an annotated Lovecraft collection I’ve got somewhere or another there are countless fascinating notes about how the story came to be written, and why, and what personal passions and fandom drove Lovecraft to generate a novella about Antarctica. In the same way space in general was the most fertile field of imagination throughout the 20th century, and specifically in the same way that Mars – by virtue of being the leading edge of our ability to do detailed discovery – has been a huge setting for the last ten years or so, Antarctica was this mysterious place full of countless potential secrets at the turn of the 20th century.

It is with a tremendous sadness that I see that Guillermo del Toro’s attempt to produce a big-budget adaptation of it, appears to be dead in the water for now:

After three months of deliberation, Universal Pictures, the studio that gave del Toro money for pre-production creature designs, has remained unwilling to give the director a greenlight, citing concerns over the film’s budget and likely R rating. On Monday, del Toro withdrew from the negotiations

Universal has produced some amazing science fiction films over time, and a lot of them have been flops at the box office only to be recognized, later, as having been truly visionary. Would this have wound up the same way? Maybe so, maybe not. Either way, I would have loved it. My friend Brian once pointed out that the thing that had him most excited about the adaptation was the possibility of Burger King cups with Deep Ones on the side. I mean, honestly, does it get anymore “crawling horror” than that?

I’m not wholly discouraged, though. What is the ultimate lesson of the Lovecraft story itself, after all, if not that we remember that those horrors that lie deepest for the longest time are the most to be feared? What freezes in obscurity may yet return to the world of the living, from time to time, if the right parties with the right determination insist on intruding on their slumber.

Sunday I saw two movies and then finally got to chill at home. Heh.

Flight of the Cardinal: There are some things to dislike about this movie, among them a pretty heavy-handed fake accent done by one of the characters and a climax that feels bizarrely slapped together. However, there are many more things to like about this, including really great performances by all the actors. What feels for the first half like a skillfully executed if by-the-numbers story of “local kid on the take cons the out-of-towners” suddenly takes a very, very clever twist and becomes a whole different kind of movie. Even if the end feels like something someone slammed home for a NaNoWriMo entry in the last hours of 30 November, what’s good is very good and the more I reflect on this movie the more I like it. That it was filmed not that far from where I grew up is a bonus, yes, but that isn’t what puts it over the edge. I would absolutely watch it again. One of the best suspense films I’ve seen at NCGLFF.

My last film going experience of the weekend was the shorts collection Mother Nature Does the Rest:

Mother of the Year: Really genuinely funny and warm and very good. The audience laughed with real gusto and I was pleased with myself for getting one of the better gags way ahead of everyone else.

Gay Baby: You know exactly the arc of this short but it’s well done and funny and it features a cameo by Richard Riehle, possibly my absolute favorite hey-it’s-that-guy guy. You’ve seen him in something, I assure you, whether it’s Office Space, Star Trek or an old movie. He is always hilarious and his twenty seconds on-screen at the beginning of this short don’t fail that standard. I’m not sure I’m thrilled with the messages of this short, to be honest, but it’s so short it doesn’t have time to give too great offense.

Judgment Day: Really truly a beautiful little short. This is why I love NCGLFF. I loved this film from start to finish. It got fast and resounding applause. I can’t talk about the content because that would be like trying to describe a poem. It was just really good.

Lost Hills, California: Speaking of a poem, that’s what this film is. Again, I loved it. It brought tears to the eyes. This and Judgment Day were distinctly unlike any other film I saw at the festival this year and in a very, very good way. I really enjoyed this one.

Mothers: Surprising in its resolution if completely predictable up to that point. It surprised me by how much it resonated with me given that it’s about a circumstance I don’t ever expect to be in – fatherhood.

Second Guessing Grandma: Absolutely fantastic. I loved this film and so did the rest of the audience. Great writing, great acting, really magnificent cinematography, direction, editing – this one had it all. It didn’t look like the ’80s, but whatever. It’s a really, really good film.

Saturday I saw three movies and went to a party!

Lost in the Crowd: This was a very powerful and affecting film, if very short. It tracks a handful of homeless LGBTQ teens in NYC in 2003 up through 2010. The slow horror of the film is realizing that a significant portion of the kids seen in 2003 aren’t able to be found in 2010 or 2009 or even as early as 2005. I think people who watch a lot of documentaries get accustomed to the usual course of twists and turns, and even if the content of those twists is unpredictable the viewer can at least expect those twists to occur. When people simply disappear from in front of the camera, that’s disturbing. It’s something I don’t recall seeing since I watched Paris Is Burning in the ’90s. This was an extremely worthwhile watch and it has in fact made me decide that I want to be involved in some sort of youth outreach through the LGBT Center in Raleigh. This weekend’s big impression on me was that it isn’t enough to sit around having a good time and it isn’t enough to sit around wishing I’d had a better time of it when I was young. All the progress of the last twenty years makes us feel very comfortable and I can’t let myself be lulled into assuming progress will continue without me; on the other side of the coin, I cannot spend the rest of my life dwelling on the ways my parents’ philosophies have failed to motivate them to accept me. I cannot sit around wishing my parents were more mature. If I do that, I will just wind up bitter and cynical. If I think role models and acceptance would make youth more palatable then I’d better get off my ass and make it happen for someone else.

Howl: This movie was INCREDIBLE. This was hands-down the best thing at the festival and I was simply stunned at how good it was. Incredible animation, fantastic performances in the live-action sequences, surprise cameos and a really affecting, moving and motivating story. When Jon Hamm delivers the closing argument in his performance of the attorney defending Lawrence Ferlinghetti – the publisher of Howl – it raises goosebumps, it brings tears to the audience’s eyes and it gets applause. I have never heard people applaud in the middle of a movie. I have never heard people physically howl at a movie in accolade. It was an amazing film and rumor has it they delayed their release date specifically to show it at NCGLFF. (Films at NCGLFF cannot have already been released; the point of the festival is to show movies one cannot find elsewhere.) When this sees wide release I am going to see it again. Possibly twice.

Bear City: There’s a lot to like in this movie – some snappy writing and some really great performances – but overall I had extremely mixed feelings. Uplifting be-yourself-and-be-loved messages are always welcome, and this movie’s iterations of that are mostly done quite well. However, I had real issues with some of this movie’s messages. I’m sorry, but I don’t see how it’s okay to tell someone who is morbidly obese that he should abandon a desire to change himself and conform to a body type to appease his lover and his friends – a message that would send the audience into the streets if it were directed at a woman in order to pressure her to be thin. I am not a small man – I’m 6’3″ and I weigh in somewhere between 250 and 280 at any given time – and I am someone who has spent the last year trying to find the very fine balance between working on my weight and fitness without obsessing over them (thanks, family history of eating disorders). I am really not OK with a movie in which someone who is clearly unhappy with his body and worried about its future is actively discouraged from taking action to improve himself. Now, that said, the character is discouraged from taking a drastically invasive action to change himself, yes, and none of his friends tell him that he is not allowed to lose weight; but the procedure they so radically discourage also happens to be one chosen by a cousin many years ago and by my mother-in-law a few years ago and by a fraternity sister a couple of years ago, all with tremendous success so their melodrama feels more than a little overwrought to me. The movie works hard to affirm that this guy can be happy and in love and successful regardless of his weight and that is a good message, yes, but it all feels like a reward for listening to his friends who tell him with the same breath that they want him to be happy and that they want him not to do what he wants to do. I think there’s no pretending that it’s OK for someone to pressure his boyfriend to stay morbidly obese because the boyfriend is into that. Again, if the story had been about a boyfriend pressuring the love of his life to lose another three pounds when she or he is already down to double digits, how would we feel about that? How should we feel about a boyfriend begging his lover to keep two hundred pounds, then?

After that, Writing Medic and The Boyf and I went to the tent party out on the plaza where I enjoyed some of the best spanikopita I’ve had in years and tiny squares of dark chocolate fudge that were so rich they had arm candy. I had some truly generous bourbon and Diet Cokes and best of all someone recognized my Miskatonic University t-shirt. Some fellow nancy queen stopped me on my way across the tent for a drink to say, “Is that from Lovecraft? Call of Cthulu?” I said, “Girl, you know it is!” and then I turned around to show him the back of the shirt, slapped him on the shoulder and kept going. Loved it! I also got stopped by a woman who asked what the shirt was about because her dog’s name was similar to “Miskatonic”. The woman with her was like, “No, it’s from those books! I haven’t read them in years!” I had the opportunity, then, to recommend Lovecraft with a footnote that he was very much of his time. So, I got to get a drink on, get some spanikopita and talk Lovecraft with strangers? And hours of good companionship with The Boyf and Writing Medic? Holy shit, that officially made it the best. NCGLFF. Ever.

Friday I saw two movies and a fantastic live show!

You Should Meet My Son: This is a comedy to which the word “zany” might well be applied. I really enjoyed this movie, because even though the editing is a little uneven at times it is hilarious. Very sympathetic performances, fierce queens and some great delivery made this an extremely fun movie. I am really, really glad I caught it and I was recommending it all weekend.

Role/Play: A really neat idea for a film and two lead actors who make the most of what they have just weren’t enough to save this for me. This is a movie that raises some really interesting questions but the meat of the story – the mysteries these two guys bring with them into their current circumstance – were either insufficient for the air of controversy aroused by them or just plain kind of silly. It also dragged a little – another case in which some tidy editing could have really made it shine. That said, the leads have real and engaging chemistry and I kept being impressed by that; later I read that they’re a real-life couple, so that is genuinely nice. They are also smoking hot and this movie has eye candy galore. In the end, I’m glad I saw it.

Later that night I went to see Bruce Vilanch do a live show in Fletcher Hall at the Carolina. This was really, really, really absurdly fun. Vilanch told us about being in Durham three decades ago to work on a script with a producer – and to go on the infamous Rice Diet in the process. He told some great show business stories, some hilarious jokes and some truly hilariously raunchy gags. I had an absolutely fantastic time hanging with Bust O’Lipp for this show and getting to meet a young friend of Busty’s for whom this was his first NCGLFF. It was a great time and I really did love hanging out after. This was the best NCGLFF I’ve been to in years and I really had a great time on Friday night.

Tonight was the fantastic first night of the 15th annual NC Gay & Lesbian Film Festival at the Carolina Theatre and I have already both had a blast and been annoyed out of a theater so I’m glad I got those out of the way.

First up on the docket tonight was the “mixed shorts” collection Everybody’s Having Sex… But Ryan:

Rubdown: Good production quality, super-hot actors, genuine chemistry between the leads and some great writing but it all still falls flat somehow. The actual events of the movie – aside from the flesh and the fantasy sequences – are about as compelling as a potato salad recipe and take up way too much of it compared to the rest. Excellent eye candy and actors making the best of what they’re given don’t wholly redeem it.

Waiting 4 Goliath: Extremely predictable but also extremely well-made and the characters were simultaneously sympathetic and unhappy with themselves or each other. It fastidiously colors between the lines but does so with real skill.

Little BFFs: Cheap, cynical and hilarious. It’s like an even cattier Robot Chicken. Well worth seeing.

Go Go Reject: A genuinely sexy, hot, funny and uplifting short. Every shorts collection I’ve ever seen at NCGLFF has contained at least one really winning anchor film and this is definitely the one for this collection. The important things in comedy, for me, are the delivery, the timing and the unflappable sincerity of the actors’ performances; as soon as an actor stops selling the role and starts mugging for the camera it falls flat. The lead works his ass off in this and manages to deliver a character who’s wholly naive, utterly sincere and completely sexy. It’s also interesting to see twinks challenge the muscle-god standard in gay male beauty. The lead is still absurdly hot to be playing a role that feels inferior but such is show business. The short itself manages to make its point, entertain while doing so and wrap things up without beating the audience about the head and neck with the morals hammer. Fantastic.

You Can’t Curry Love: Often clever in both craft and presentation but the seams show, usually when the camera’s eye cuts to stock footage. The story isn’t exactly full of surprises and a couple of the performances are pretty wooden and, overall, while I don’t want to say it used too broad a brush I will say there’s more line than lane by the time this paint truck goes by. That said, wicked hot leads and it got some real laughs. The main character’s obsession with an unavailable constant tease is something with which plenty of us can identify, too.

Everybody Is Having Sex… But Ryan: Well made, but it raises that age-old question of why so many best friend characters are such insufferable twats. This question overpowers everything else the movie might have to say.

Deaf Relay: At Your Service: Incredibly funny and magnificently written. The audience cracked up repeatedly throughout and I would love to get a chance to talk to the filmmaker at some point because she’s actually in attendance at the festival.

Later I went back for a different set of “mixed” shorts called The Wolf With the Red Roses:

Little Love: I only caught the very end but it was extremely well-made and the performances I saw were touching and sincere.

Closure: A tad “film class final project” at times, and it felt very nineteen, but the people who made this are going to make something truly great sooner or later. Halfway through it the ancient old dried up husk of a queen two seats to my left yawned in this ridiculously melodramatic way and frankly that made me like the movie even more.

Remission: Disturbing and creepy and very genuinely moving. I can’t talk about the content itself without spoiling the film so I won’t say anything other than the performance is really humane and touching and when the film wants to take a hard left turn into creepy it does so with gusto and to tremendous effect. This is possibly the best short out of both programs and one of the best dramatic or horror shorts I’ve ever seen at NCGLFF. It was what made me want to see this collection and it really did not disappoint. This short would have been right at home at NEVERMORE and in any given year it would be one of the best things shown at that very fine festival, too.

That said, the same bitter old queen next to me – and his date – hated it and they weren’t letting anyone get out of there without them knowing that. They made audible comments throughout, laughed at moments of simple human vulnerability and then mocked it when it was over. I stood up to leave between films because I refused to sit there and listen to them any longer and one of them said to me, “Can’t take it anymore?”

I replied, “Of the company, no,” which got a miffed little “hmph” out of the other. “Maybe you’d prefer to rent it and watch it at home,” I said, and that didn’t get any response except a laugh from somewhere else in the theater. Yes, we are a dynamic and active community and yes as the resident custodians of culture it is as often our job to criticize as it is to curate, but goddamn it my ticket was worth just as much as theirs and I didn’t pay to hear their opinions. What the fuck is wrong with people? If someone is so cynical they can’t manage to squeeze out a single bead of sympathy for what was a genuinely moving story and a stark example of personal horror, why are they bothering to watch the films in the first place?

So, having gotten my requisite hating-another-patron-for-running-their-fucking-mouth out of the way for the weekend, I look forward to being able to enjoy myself tomorrow night.

Features:

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein: A classic and with good reason. I laughed aloud in this movie, something modern comedies don’t often get me to do. Seeing this on the big screen with a willing and affable crowd was a genuine treat, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is why we have places like the Carolina.

Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula: A really interesting idea for a movie with some genuinely great moments and some inspired scenes. It does suffer from some low points and there isn’t nearly enough of the “vs. Dracula” part – and what there is doesn’t really make much sense – but when it hits, it hits. The leads portraying Bonnie & Clyde give really genuinely magnificent performances and the movie strikes a lot of its best notes when it emphasizes that those two characters are psychopaths in their own right. It also features the single best vampire-bites-victim scene I’ve ever seen in any movie. It has problems, make no mistake, but its peaks are some of the highest I’ve ever seen in a vampire movie. I would genuinely love to see the same people make a straight-up Bonnie & Clyde story because all of those parts are seriously fine work.

H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator: For decades this was the single best Lovecraft adaptation on film and even though it takes broad, broad liberties with Lovecraft’s original short story it still focuses on the same themes. Jeffrey Combs delivers what’s probably his finest performance in a Lovecraft adaptation – he’s been in a million of them – and the whole movie is basically non-stop awesome. I hadn’t seen it since, I don’t know, 8th or 9th grade, something like that, and I loved it. I noted afterwards, when talking about it with The Boyf and Mr. Pink Eyes, that I’ve never seen Re-Animator 2. I looked it up online out of curiosity only to find that a third movie, House of Re-Animator, has been announced for production this year and again it stars… Jeffrey Combs. How freaking rad is that?

Shorts program They’re Coming To Get You Barbara!:

Shapes: A nicely thematic little short that was well-made but didn’t necessarily break any new ground.

The Ugly File: Quite frankly, lousy. I liked the idea behind it but the execution lacked energy and resources to the point of distraction. I kept finding myself studying the decorating choices of the houses where it was shot and not the movie itself.

Monstrous Nature: Extremely well-executed and genuinely scary, even though I stayed ahead of it by a couple of minutes at any given point. The effects were particularly startling given that it tries to be more of a psychological story for the first 90% of the film.

Pigeon: Impossible: A very clever and genuinely funny animated short, well worth watching. I don’t really get how it wound up at a horror festival, but I’m glad I saw it.

Hector Corp.: A genuinely funny and slightly freaky short. Imagine the love-child of Office Space and Gremlins and I think you’re probably on the right track. Well made and gleefully delivered.

Snuggle Time: Another animated selection that is genuinely warm and funny in its delivery of a pretty straight-forward story. Any child could watch this and love it.

Dead Walkers: A really ambitious attempt at a wild west zombie story that suffers from never being quite sure what kind of movie it wants to be and a “twist” ending that is so ham fisted, by the book and yet simultaneously out of left field that it soured the whole experience. A box of good ideas that’s been shaken too hard. Great production values, though, and a net-positive experience in terms of pure entertainment.

Dead Creek: Extremely well-shot and with a genuinely compelling question at its core of whether it’s going to be a revenge movie or a monster movie, but one of the leads is so teeth-grindingly bad in her role that she drags the rest of it down with her. When the character finally turned up dead I honestly thought, well, at least something good happens in this movie.

I’ve seen one full-length movie and one collection of three shorts. Here are my thoughts so far:

Strigoi: Easily one of the most creative vampire films I’ve seen in years. Everyone is comparing it to Let The Right One In and for good reason: what that film achieves by mixing winter, loneliness and childhood together with vampirism, Strigoi does by mixing the end of Romanian Communism, small town life, the humor of practical matters in the face of fear and the annoyance of family ties with that same supernatural element. Beautifully shot and full of great performances, the only problem is that the sound is marginal in places. It’s filmed in English, but the accents are thick and the dialogue tramples itself sometimes. Subtitles would be most welcome.

AM1200 & Other Shorts:

Sinkhole: A great little short that does its thing and then calls it quits to good effect. The real estate agent is portrayed all too believably, perfect for bringing the real world into the movie with us, and the crazy old coot whose land he’s trying to buy has one of the better monologues I’ve seen in a horror movie. Lovely, big round of applause by the audience at the end.

Shrove Tuesday: “Very artistic” was the best I could do afterward. Interestingly filmed in places and interestingly animated in others, it never could quite figure out whether it wanted to be a cautionary tale, a dream sequence or a splatter flick. I could get behind a lot of individual parts of this movie but not the movie as a whole.

As always, the balcony had assholes in it and they seemed to find this movie hilarious at all the wrong times. For real, would it be too much to ask to have a house manager stop in upstairs once in a while? I can only move so many times in one movie. Ah, well, they shut up for the important bit, AM1200.

AM1200: An exquisite film with lush production, beautiful photography, sharply minimalist writing and incredible performances that focuses on creepy rather than jump-out-and-go-boo. This is a movie to which the term horror most definitely applies. Lovecraft could easily have written this and I mean that in the very best way. A guilty conscience leads the main character from one bad choice to another until everything spirals out of control and the entire time the audience sits there silently pleading with him to turn around, go back, look over his shoulder, lock the doors, anything but what he’s doing at the moment. When three or four hundred people simultaneously cry out in protest or shock and then stifle themselves, it’s like a low moan doing the wave across the theatre and it happened several times. Otherwise, almost utter silence throughout the cinema as everyone was captivated. Worth canceling other plans to go see this 40-minute film. It was the last thing I thought about last night and the first thing I thought about this morning.

You do know that the 2010 Nevermore Film Festival is this weekend, right? Lord, but it’s snuck up on me. I am not at all ready, but I am going to get ready tonight when Pants Wilder and I sit down with a schedule and talk interesting movies.

And let me assure you, there are a lot of interesting movies.

On my extended short list:

  • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
  • AM1200, which has Ray Wise (aka Leland Fucking Palmer)
  • Bonnie and Clyde vs. Dracula, which would be on the bubble were it not for Drac
  • Dawning, which looks fantastic
  • Evil Angel, though I’m not really sure what it has to say about gender
  • The shorts collection Four Minutes ‘Til Sunrise is required.
  • Re-Animator, which is honest to (old) gods one of the best Lovecraft adaptations on film.
  • Strigoi, for that Soviet Bloc vampire flavor.
  • The shorts collection They’re Coming To Get You, Barbara!, which remains one of my favorite shorts titles evar.
  • Witchboard, which is also kind of on the bubble but does remind me of some great times in junior high so, y’know, yeah. I’m there.

Like I said, that’s the extended list. I’m going to watch most of those, though, so if you’re in the area and see something on the list that you’d like to watch with someone virtually guaranteed to be more nelly than you, give me a shout.

Not only is it Guy Fawkes Night, and thus important to anyone who loved V for Vendetta (and hates seeing wingnuts who get their rocks off on authoritarian bullshit try to claim that book as a metaphor for their own rage bone), it’s also the day the flux capacitor was invented.

And seriously, Sandman is twenty years old? Nearly twenty one? Good grief.

I liked it very much.

That said, I kind of feel like I’m losing the ability to watch and enjoy new horror movies. By the end I just wanted everyone to be OK. I didn’t want anymore surprises. I audibly cried out and/or screamed more than once during the movie. I got emotionally invested. I found myself watching with my hand over my mouth so it wouldn’t have far to go to get to my eyes.

I have to do something to undo this.

We went to see District 9 last night and loved it. Highly recommended. I daren’t say more.

My final thought about NCGLFF is to share one of the best things in any film. In Weak Species there’s a character who is the resident beautiful monster of his high school. He’s decided that as an ongoing piece of performance art he’s going to have sex with every other gay guy in his school and then make them feel terrible about themselves. He’s not a nice kid. At one point we see him working on a sketch and the camera angle shifts to reveal that instead of sketching something he’s written the following:

MY FUTURE:

OPTIONS:

  • ART
  • THERAPY
  • MAKE ENEMIES

I can’t begin to tell you how hard I laughed. It’s every kid who was too smart for school, ever.

Is it me, or is it about time the Carolina’s film festivals started giving out awards? Oh, I know, I’ve been saying it for years, but I honestly do think that a small jury and a short ballot attached to each 10-pass could give out awards without overwhelming the organizers with more work to do. The films we see at NCGLFF, NEVERMORE and ESCAPISM are winning awards everywhere else and I don’t think it would do them or the Carolina any harm to see the Carolina’s awards listed on their posters.

Were it up to me I’d have to go with:

Funniest line in any film: “I’m from outer space and I want to be in dirty pictures.” (Twoyoungmen, UT)

Funniest Overall: The 24ish episode of Chico’s Angels, which also features that rarest of gifts, a hot guy playing a character who might as well be named Hot Guy yet can act and be genuinely funny.

Most surreal moment: The cheerleader using a urinal in Girl Parts! or, possibly, the sudden intersection of Prodigal Sons and F for Fake. Both blew my mind. Loved them.

Most dreadful: Q-Case, hands down. To quote Opus, but Lord it wasn’t good.

Tried Hardest and Failed Anyway: Ogles with Goggles, which is also pretty dreadful.

Creepiest: Easily a tie between Steam and Weak Species. Yeesh. Both excellent, but still, yeesh. Pretty much anything in the There’ll Still Be Rain collection could win that, though.

Most Sincerely Touching: I can’t possibly name one. Prodigal Sons is just such a lovingly-told story about how hard it can be to love someone. Redwoods is awash in the chemistry of the leads and the sweetness of its story. Get Happy is so warm and funny and was exactly what I needed to see at the moment I saw it. I couldn’t possibly pick.

This was an excellent year for programming and the crowds were talking about that. Here and there were films that I felt fell way short of the mark set by the others but overall these were some of the best films I’ve seen at the festival. Ever. Mad kudos to the programming committee, because they did a fantastic job.

It was also an excellent year for protesters. They were there Friday night and Saturday morning but Saturday afternoon a guy showed up with a “FREE HUGS” sign and gave hugs to anyone who wanted one. This defused the situation and it also just confused the hell out of the protesters. They were shut down for a good 10 minutes while they tried to figure out how to react. The completely sincere FREE HUGS guy, I’m sad to say, took some direct verbal abuse from the bigots but kept it up and when I got back from lunch on Saturday I found that the protesters had packed it in and given up before the festival was even half over. They never came back. Good riddance.

Maybe next year they’ll stay home.

Sunday I saw two films and one short, all really great. Sundays tend to be a good day for movies in general at the festival and this year was no exception.

Redwoods – This was a really sweet, touching, sincere and most of all low-key romantic drama about two guys meeting while one of them is in a deeply dull but responsibility-laden relationship. The acting is quite good, the chemistry between the two leads is palpable and the story is surprisingly universal. Part of what impressed me about the movie is that it asks some of the expected romantic drama questions – what defines happiness and is it worth the costs – but it doesn’t rely on a queer couple for some unique positive or negative trait. It’s another example of what I noticed overall, that queer films at the festival this year seemed to be open to being about regular life without being about being about regular life. It also stars a Durham native who was fantastic, both in this and in the extremely dark and creepy short Weak Species.

Twoyoungmen, UT – This played right before Redwoods and is a simply magnificent short film. It’s about two guys meeting when one goes out to a gay bar for the first time. It refuses to conform to one’s automatic expectations of what that means, though, and proved to be both tremendously subtle – in presentation, direction and performances – and deeply touching. Between the honesty of the characters’ fears and the slightly surreal tinge, this film felt like being 17 and scared. I loved it.

Little Ashes – This film presents a version of the youthful relationship between the Spanish poet and playwright Garcia Lorca and the painter Salvador Dali that may or may not be historically accurate. I’ve read that it is “an imagining” of that relationship, but the closing title card notes that late-in-life recollections by Dali “inspired” the film. I don’t particularly care how accurate it is or is not because either way it is beautiful and affecting. The performances are great and the times presented – the end of one era of Spanish politics, the yearning for something new, the collapse of hope in the face of Fascism – will feel just a little familiar to any Generation Xer who was once young and wreckless and invincible. Gorgeously shot, tremendous production value and the guy who plays sparklepire Edward Cullen plays Dali.

Little Ashes is well worth seeing and is being held over at the Carolina for at least the next couple of nights.

This afternoon I had the extreme good fortune to catch On the Edge of Happiness, which is kind of a movie and kind of simply a TV show. It’s film length but it’s shot as five episodes of a soap opera that doesn’t exist outside of these five episodes. The writer/director/producer was there and I hope to see him again tomorrow because I really want to tell him how much I loved this piece.

On the Edge of Happiness is set in a fictional Mississippi county, near the border with Tennessee, and features an intricately plotted and entertainingly delivered storyline. There are questions of paternity, unfaithful spouses, a wedding, intra-familial blackmail, betrayals of trust, land-grabbing schemes, ham-fisted acting, contradictory details, questionable timelines and a mysterious shooting and that’s just the first episode. The title card features blood-spattered roses, a biscuit and a beer tab.

The piece itself, taken as a whole, is half parody and half sincerely loving homage to the soap opera form. It got enthusiastic applause and I would dearly love to see five more episodes next year. It’s available online, though he takes it down when it’s being presented in theaters so it’s currently not able to be viewed.

I was also going to watch Hollywood, je t’aime, but twenty or thirty minutes in I got pulled out by work (I’m on-call this weekend, of course). Since I can’t fairly offer an opinion of the whole work, I’ll simply note that it had great production value and the star is a complete hottie. It also seemed not to think a hot star would make a good substitute for the character having an emotional life.

The title credits indicated that it likewise stars Chad Allen and I endorse pretty much anything involving him, even the “Tommy Westphall Universe” theory.

Just watched the “Ain’t Nothin’ Dirty Going On” collection of shorts. It was a decidedly mixed bag. I’m sorry, but the unfunny Seussian short “Ogles With Goggles” doesn’t really get off the ground, lingering as it does over reinforcing conventional standards of beauty and pretending a strikingly handsome guy is ugly just because he’s in a bowtie. It feels like a movie that would like to challenge the established gay caste system but is scared to pull the trigger. That said, “Boycrazy” is a fun and funny musical with a phalanx of hot guys in it, well worth seeing. More than anything, though, the short documentary “Get Happy” is an amazingly sweet, funny and positive film about a child drag queen.

It occurred to me after that none of the movies I’ve seen this year are about queer characters being solely the victim. We can make films about being happy, we can make films about being disappointed, we can make films about being abused, but we don’t have to exploit ourselves to tell the story.

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