Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2014 Grind: Hookup Shorts

16 08 2014

Another year of queer films to watch and review at Out on Screen! Unfortunately, I don’t have a pass this year, since I didn’t make a film — strange not to have one after years of proudly strutting around with it around my neck — so I won’t be going to most of the films. So sad. I did manage to buy a six film package and caught my first screening, a short film program titled Grind: Hookup Shorts. Let’s get down to it!

Spoilers throughout!

Barrio Boy

A handsome Latino barber falls in love with an Irish guy who comes into the barbershop. I actually read about this short film earlier this week and was pleasantly surprised to see it screening here (apart from Grind, I had no idea which shorts were going to be screening). Cute premise and decent camerawork, but the voice-over mostly doesn’t work. It works when handsome Latino is confessing his desires, like wanting to know him better than his best friend, but having the bulk of the film rely on this technique begs the question: Is he saying absolutely nothing in real time? And if not, I’d almost prefer seeing that than close-ups of hair. The other thing that I wasn’t quite clear on was why he found Irish guy so attractive. What makes him so special? Surely, he’s seen white guys before, but why is this one different? Until that question is answered, it makes the barber’s lust and love difficult to fully enjoy.

Grade: B-

Gaysian

A humorous exploration into “no Asians” and those who love Asians. As someone who is pissed off at sexual racism, I immediately liked this just for the premise. The highlight of the film was the main character, Aaron, (a gay Asian guy named Aaron? Coincidence?) who, after rejected by white guys who tell him they’re not into Asians, finds a young white guy who seems to like him for who he is — or rather, who he isn’t. Although there is some discussion on racism with Aaron and his two gay friends (nice to see you again, Adamo Ruggiero!), I found myself wanting more of a punch, instead of shying away to let’s-just-party! ending (literally).

Grade: B

MUM

I’m not quite sure how to summarize this one, so I’ll take the synopsis from the imdb page: “In the midst of dealing with the repercussion of a recent accident, newly introverted William comes in contact with the very spark that may just allow him to overcome.” This is a film that I think people will either like or hate, mainly because it is experimental and non-linear. The film floats along, playing with sound, flashbacks, and quick cuts that feel disorienting. This goes on for a while and I was just about to give up on the film when the pieces come together and things make sense, and I appreciated the film a lot more then. The cinematography is very nice, and is overall a well-made film. The romance feels quite refreshing as well, and I thought it was great to have two average-looking guys, slight bellies and all, as the leads. This is a film I’d like to watch again.

I’m not sure why it’s called Mum though.

Grade: B+

All Good Things

Fellow Vancouverite makes his directing debut with this film about a young couple who have sex for the first time. With the exception of Mum, the shorts in this program juggled comedy and drama to various levels of success. Gaysian probably did the best job of it, making it clear when to laugh and when it was serious. All Good Things had the hardest time balancing these two genres. Both the audience and myself weren’t sure at times when to laugh or not, when the characters were being serious or not. What really drags this short down is the unnatural-sounding dialogue. Not only did it sound unrealistic, but made me wonder throughout the whole short whether these two were really a couple or not. I’m not one to pick up on chemistry between actors — I’m pretty oblivious to all that — but it’s unfortunately obvious here, the lack of it. With a leached-looking palette, the whole film feels like a hookup, not the first time between boyfriends — where’s the romance? The trying?

Grade: D

Sex Date

A criminal on the run enters a guy’s home and is mistaken for a hookup. The dramatic irony in this one is what makes it. The tension between the two guys, especially in the first third of the film is funny, and I actually liked that the guy living there (I don’t remember anyone’s names) is respectful and patient. Unfortunately, the film meanders in the rest of the film, especially as a roommate is added to complicate things, to the point where the two guys talk about life and being in love. Can we get back to the awkwardness?

Grade: B-

Grind

Two guys — one a young, dumb model and the other, Anthony Rapp — play around on Grindr and find guys to have sex with. Except the young one really wants to find love. But he’s so dumb he makes his nerdy, smart roommate talk to guys because young guy only attracts fellow dumbos. I think this is a problematic film, to say the least. One reviewer on imdb wrote a negative review and gave it one star. I don’t think it’s necessarily a one-star film. Anthony Rapp is the standout here, but that might be because he’s Anthony Rapp. What makes this one special is that it’s a musical, and yet it doesn’t have the self-awareness that it’s dealing with Grindr — Grindr! — to be more camp. Instead, it’s dark, brooding, and serious, and because of this, again, tonally, it can be unclear when the film is trying to be serious or not. It also probably doesn’t help that the songs themselves are also serious, but more than that, they all sound the same (with the exception of maybe that last song Anthony Rapp sings). All have similar sounds, most (possibly all) use the overused four chords of music, and most the lyrics are full of forgettable abstractions. Good musicals are hard to write, I know, but they should accompany the story. The story here is flimsy and unnecessarily dark. I’m not quite sure I understand why Rapp’s character kills guys. I think he gets off on it, but I’m not sure. That reveal in the end is set up to be so big but it didn’t come off that way for me, but instead made me ask more questions. I just didn’t feel like the film gelled overall, which is a shame because… Anthony Rapp.

Also, lip synching into the camera is weird.

Grade: C

Man, I feel like such a harsh critic.

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