I keep it short

28 04 2014

Finding it difficult to write a full-length play. Even when I was in film school, I found it really hard to write and complete my feature screenplays. So much plotting and thinking involved. No, I’m much better as a short film filmmaker, or a short play playwright, or a short story writer. I can tell a story in a scene or two no problem, but a whole thing?



16 08 2011

Synopsis:  Troy, a handsome man with a nice body, moves back to California and reignites things with his handsome ex with a nice body, Jonathan, who already has a handsome boyfriend with a nice body, Raoul.  Stuff happens.

Super awesome things:  I thought long and hard about this, and the fact that I had to do so shows how much good stuff I have to say about the film.  About the only thing I can say about this film is that I commend Eldar Rapaport, the writer and director of the film, for his effort.  Clearly, he tried to make an insightful film about relationships, and even employs a non-linear narrative, which is an interesting choice.  There are few sex scenes which I’m sure people will like, but there are reasons why they don’t work.

Not so super awesome things:  Well… here goes.

If you’re looking for a plot, this is not your movie. I know people may lower their expectations for gay-themed films but at the very least, there is some sense of a story in those films.  Not in this one.

Troy, Raoul, and Jonathan sort of dance around (often shirtless) each other the entire film, none of them confronting each other about anything, which only frustrates viewers.  In trying to be deep about relationship issues, Rapaport’s script and film lacks any sense of subtlety or depth.  In one scene, Troy and Jonathan are in bed and as the camera cuts between the two of them while they speak, Troy is framed on the right third of the frame and Jonathan on the right, as if to show that they’re at odds with each other.  Which isn’t the case at all: sure Jonathan’s a cheating liar but we don’t feel much for him at all.  In fact, we don’t feel much for any of the main characters; all three leads are hollow, undeveloped people with no sense of character or personality.  They walk around the film, doing stupid, highly questionable things (at one point, Jonathan shaves his head like Troy even though he’s fully aware it will anger his boyfriend).  There’s no dramatic tension between the characters and the first chance Jonathan and Troy have alone together, *SPOILER ALERT!*…. they jump each other.

Since the characters actually have no character, I spent a lot of the time wondering, “Why is [insert name] with [insert name]???”  And then I realized, “Why the hell not?”  They’re all so bland and morally questionable that it should make sense these men are perpetuating the stereotype that gay men can’t have a monogamous relationship.  Clearly.  Even the sex scenes, as hot as they were supposed to be, come off as cold and dispassionate and a shallow fuck.  There doesn’t seem to be anything remotely attractive about Troy or Jonathan except for their physical stuff, but then again, this goes right back to how the characters lack any sort of substance.  Raoul seems like a good boyfriend, having good intentions for Jonathan and Troy to spend time with each other despite being exes and he even buys supplies for Jon’s birthday party, but the film is so centered around Troy and Jon that for most of the film, Raoul just walks around with puppy eyes and sad.

The film is also supported by a Middle Eastern soundtrack for some reason, which is extremely obtrusive and distracting since the story is set in sunny California and none of the characters are Middle Eastern (Raoul is Spanish, but that’s a long way away from the Middle East); the acting is sub-par; there is a lot of noticeable hand-held footage, which is annoying; but most aggravating of all is the ending, in which the film attempts to be thoughtful and make up for the last 2 hours by offering what appears to be any sort of theme, an open-ended ending for viewers to think about.  However, it only comes off as pretentious because we don’t give a crap about anyone in the film.  “You smoke again?” Troy asks Jonathan in bed.  “No, you make me smoke,” responds Jonathan.  Right.  Or I would say you’re weak, but I’m just a movie viewer.

Good for watching: as a real way of exacting revenge on an ex.  It’s that painful.

Overall:  I was disappointed to see Brian Sloan’s name attached.  He’s a much better writer than this, even if he only had story credit.  My advice to Rapaport: learn how to write a story and try again.  You have the crew and the talent, but not the material.

Grade: F

More queer films!

16 08 2010

Today’s been a long day — 3 films!  I better get writing before it all fades from my memory (just like my childhood… sigh).

Off World

Synopsis:  A Filipino-Canadian man journeys back to “Smokey Mountain”, a slum in the Philippines and does… things.

Super awesome stuff:  I thought I was desensitized by poverty but this film proved me wrong.  The crane shot in the beginning, showing just how large and full of garbage Smokey Mountain is was eye-opening, to say the least.  And as Lucky, our protagonist, explains how methane in the garbage is released into the atomosphere, thus explanining the slum’s nickname, children no more than 7 years old play around in the filth, some even working.  It’s these shots that really get to viewers.  Mathieu Guez, the writer and director of this co-produced film (from Canada and the Philippines) seems to have had some sort of budget to use a crane, which I wanted to ask him about after the film since he was in the audience, but unfortunately I had to leave for the next movie.  He also has a natural feel for camera angles and movement of the camera, and we get to feel and experience things as Lucky goes on his quest.

Not so super awesome things:  Because of the absence of any real plot (Lucky seemingly just does things for a while), the film doesn’t seem to be headed for any sort of direction.  In fact, I was wondering while watching the movie, if it would be better if Guez had made a documentary instead of a narrative feature.  There’s nothing about Lucky that I personally connected to, as well as any of the other characters.  Before the film began, Guez stated that it was a very personal film for him, and it definitely seems so.  Scenes like Lucky high on… something and him dancing wildly for a few minutes or him walking around disillusioned by the poverty come across as personal experiences.  However, making a film about personal experiences has its downfalls, like having no plot or lack of an antagonist.  Maybe VFS has drilled the concept of story too hard in my brain but I want to see a good story and unfortunately, I didn’t see one in this film.  Also, strangely enough, I felt very void of emotion while watching this.  I think it has to do with not being able to connect to the characters, and if I don’t connect with them, I don’t care if good or bad things happen to them.

Good for watching:  if you feel like looking at some pretty images (yet ugly, because of the slums) of the Philippines but don’t care about characters.  Or if you love fade ins and outs.

Overall: Maybe a documentary next time?

Grade:  C-

There was a Q&A after with filmmaker Mathieu Guez after the film and I would’ve loved to stay at least for a few minutes to hear him talk about his experience in making the film, but I had to run off to the next film at the Granville 7 to see…


Synopsis:  A former child star all grown up goes to college in the hopes of having a normal life and meets a hot professor.

Super awesome good things:  First and foremost, I was absolutely impressed by Sarah Stouffer, who plays the main character, Jackie.  She looks like a younger Haley Bennet, but acts miles better!  Her natural beauty, charm, and innocence really got through and considering this is her first acting gig, she seems like a born actress and I really hope she goes far.  It’s a simple story about an affair between a college student and a teacher except in this case it’s two women instead of the typical male fantasy.  The story moves along well, and the character interactions are wonderful to enjoy.  Bloomington is wonderfully acted and very well-made and I particularly liked how it ended.

Not so super awesome things: While I like the taboo of the teacher/student love affair, it all happens a little too quickly and easily for me.  During their second encounter, Jackie and Catherine (the teacher) go to bed?  Already?  We’ve heard from other students that everyone stays away from Ms. Stark but Jackie doesn’t seem to care about that.  I wanted more conflict!  Should Jackie do it or not?  What if they get caught?  What’ll happen to both of them?  I also noted that no one in the film talks about sexual orientation (ie. Are you lesbian?  Have you always known?  the usual questions like that), which is refreshing, but at the same time, it makes me wonder if this is just a fling for Jackie.  The fact that Stouffer looked around 17 bothered me a tiny bit, since she was supposed to be 22, which is a minor thing.  I also would’ve liked to see more of the dynamic between Jackie and her uptight mother; the scenes between them were full of tension and interesting to see how it would all play out.

Good for watching:  for remembering the good old days when you fantasized about sleeping with a teacher.

Overall:  An impressive debut from Fernanda Cardoso featuring a standout performance by Stouffer.  Great job!

Grade:  B+

There was also a Q&A after the film with Cardoso (the writer/director) and Stouffer, which I was able to sit for a few minutes for.  There was funny banter, Cardoso talking about how she had saved up several years’ worth of money to produce and make this film, and the moderator asking Stouffer if she had any similar experience that helped with the film, where the audience giggled with delight and Stouffer wittily answered, “If you’re referring to if I was homeschooled, yes, I was.”

I wish I could’ve stayed for more but I had to run off yet again, back to Tinseltown to watch the final film of the night…

The Butch Factor

Synopsis: A documentary examining what it means to be masculine in the gay world.

Super awesome good things:  Well, the entire subject matter is interesting to me since, as the film points out, there is this neverending conflict amongst the gay community to prove that they’re “men”, which I have issues with.  I like how the film has interviews with seemingly macho men and most of them define being a man as more than just appearance.  It was particularly interesting how director Christopher Hines gets almost everyone on the gay spectrum — from a police officer, to bears, to a stereotypical gay youth, to drag queens — all voicing their opinions on masculinity.

Not so super awesome things:  the narrator’s voice bugged me for some reason.  It made the film seem like a tv special for 20/20 or something.  Furthermore, his narration serves to primarily introduce new interviewees but then altogether disappears halfway through the film, leaving interviews such as one with a transgendered man, without an introduction.  The style of the film also changes midway, focusing less on personal interviews and more on groups in the gay community and how they represent masculinity.  At first I minded this because it was a strange transition and also I was wondering about the interviewees I first watched in the beginning and if they’d be coming up again, but it didn’t bother me too much because I found it absorbing, especially the parts about the history of masculinity.  I also became very aware of the editing (ie. if someone was talking about a certain image or person or something, it would show up briefly on-screen, then back to the interview) which I guess isn’t a good sign. I was also aware they mainly interviewed older, white men (with the exception of one black man).  What about everyone else?

Good for watching:  for those newly coming out or are closeted, who are afraid of labels and whether or not their “masculine” enough.

Overall:  Pretty good.

Grade: B