Film #290: Head On (1998)

director: Ana Kokkinos
language: English and Greek
length: 104 minutes
watched on: 3 May 2017

I think I just found reference to this movie on Tumblr or something, and decided to try and watch it, as usual not really knowing much before going into it.

It’s about a gay guy (Ari) in the Greek immigrant community in Australia. They faced, and as far as I know, still face a lot of racism, and the movie tackles that for a lot of its runtime. The rest is Ari’s search for happiness, which (spoilers) he never quite finds.

A lot of it – and it might just be the period – reminds me of Trainspotting, at least things like Walkmans and the 90s music, but also the copious amounts of drugs that are being consumed in almost every scene. A lot of marijuana, but also cocaine and heroin at some points. But I wouldn’t want to give the impression that it’s as well-made as Trainspotting.

I liked the movie’s realism. It has realistic-sounding bilingual dialogue, with a lot of the characters randomly switching from one language to the other. It doesn’t shy away from showing disturbing things, such as the guy and his transgender friend being abused in jail by a pair of cops. One of them is also Greek, who has to up the ante a bit to kind of show off to his buddy that he’s willing to dole out the abuse too.

The gay encounters in the movie are all ultimately unfulfilling to the main character – they’re either violent or he gets robbed. Ari also tries it on with a girl, but she rejects him as he obviously isn’t “into it” (although I think I had to be told this by the dialogue, as the acting wasn’t quite up to scratch). Similarly and more annoyingly, the film builds to the final encounter with this cute guy that Ari and the camera have been eyeing up for the entire movie, but he gets super angry and throws Ari out into the stairwell after sucking him off. Like he was angry at Ari for ejaculating in his mouth or something. Honestly, this was the least comprehensible part of the whole thing, and the bit that got me the most angry at the movie. I don’t see why the main character wasn’t deserved a happy ending by the end of the film. And the whole outburst came out of nowhere.

Basically, I wouldn’t recommend this movie. It has some high points, but it didn’t pull together coherently. The acting was poor, the film was dimly-lit, and tries to shock more than anything else. I can’t recall the plot in any significant detail, it felt more like a progression of not-really-related scenes. Plenty of better gay movies out there.

TV: Please Like Me season 2 (2014)

creators: Josh Thomas & Matthew Saville
language: English and a bit of Thai
length: 10 episodes of about 25 minutes each
finished watching on: 1 May 2017
previous seasons: season 1

I can’t remember why I took such a long break from this series – there were a few months when I didn’t watch it at all, before picking it up again sometime this year. But I still get a strong impulse to watch it whenever I cook food, perhaps a habit, but perhaps also influenced by the importance of food in the series (they provide motifs for a lot of episodes and the episodes are named after food).

Basically, the series has found its feet here, but I feel it’s still far too full of cringe humour for my liking at the end of the day. Josh, the main character, is insufferable, to be honest, constantly nagging other characters for attention and validation.

I like how it deals very frankly and directly with mental illness. But it often goes from these moments straight back into something very cringeworthy for comedy’s sake, and perhaps back again, even ending one episode with the surprise suicide of a side character – I said in the review of the last season that I was annoyed that my favourite character had been killed off by the show, and this is the same. I think the tone wasn’t consistent in this area. Balance is important.

But it’s got some high points – Josh and his mum in the wilderness of Tasmania was a really nice episode, and I liked the introduction of Arnold, who as far as I know will end up with Josh in the next season.

Despite its negative points, I still identify with a lot of the characters and recognize the situations. I’ll still be continuing with the next season. Soon, perhaps!

Film #238: The Last Time I Saw Richard (2014)

tltisrdirector: Nicholas Verso
language: English
length: 22 minutes
watched on: 23 October 2016
Boys on Film 11 (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

This is the fifth in the “Boys on Film 11” DVD, and it’s the one that’s used on the DVD cover. It’s set in a mental hospital somewhere in Australia, and has a strong creepy horror bent to it.

The main character Jonah self-harms, which we see in too graphic detail early in the film. Coincidentally, the last time I saw this on film in such detail was another Australian film where a character kills herself. I really don’t see a reason to include this. But whatever. The love interest is Richard, a new roommate for Jonah. Jonah is a massive dickhead to everyone around him, manipulating everyone around him to get his own way, but with Richard it’s like an unstoppable force up against an unmovable object – Richard is cut off from the world (he always has headphones in) and lashes out with violence when Jonah tries to snoop on him.

But they bond over basketball, and end up in bed together, although it seems more to protect each other from their nightmares. This is where the horror part comes in – there are dream visions where they are missing eyes, or where dark shadows from the corner of the room try to attack the two boys. Despite not being realistic, this part was totally believable, given the setup and taking the boy’s point of view directly.

I thought the piece was well-considered, and even over the very brief total time, there is considerable character development, which I also liked. It can be commended for realism even with the dreaming and fantastic elements, and I really felt sorry for the main character at the end, when he is forced away from the boy he’s grown to love – despite really not taking to him at all at the beginning, when he was being a manipulative little shit. It’s probably my surprising favourite of the 8 films on the DVD. You can watch it on Youtube, but be prepared to cry.

TV: Please Like Me season 1 (2013)

plm1creator: Josh Thomas
language: English with a bit of Thai
length: 6 episodes of 28 minutes each
finished on: 7 July 2016

This series was swept up in my quest to consume all LGBT media in the world – it’s been around for a while now and is often recommended by the places that recommend LGBT media, but it was after I came to Japan and I never had easy access to it. I think you can pay for a premium service to watch it online, or something.

I actually started watching it before, but only got a few minutes into the first episode – I think I found the main character, an autobiographical depiction of creator and principal actor Josh Thomas, too awkward and annoying. I still kind of think that, but this time I persevered and got through the first season pretty quickly. I started the second, but I stalled on the third episode or so – I should pick it up again.

The awkwardness doesn’t really let up, though. Josh’s character is one that gets anxious over unimportant things – he also moves robotically. I was at some points internally screaming at him to get over himself.

He has a boyfriend for the majority of the first season, but they’re obviously completely different kinds of people. I instantly distrusted the boyfriend when he outed him to his parents – like, have some respect for your compatriots and understand that you may not know as much about others’ situations as you think. I know it’s a sitcom in which everyone is awkward, but there’s basic gay decorum and this is breaking it. I also found it jarring how quickly he was referred to as a boyfriend. They barely fooled around in the first episode, and in the second they were in a relationship. I think the show was going for something like a slice of life, in this case.

Aside from him, though, I enjoyed the rest of the characters, especially the homophobic aunt, but also the mentally ill mum. I found a lot of them were also true to life. I also enjoyed the series in general, I think (aside from the awkwardness) it was well-observed and the jokes were frequent. And like with a lot of the other things I’ve written about recently, I liked to be reminded that LGBT stuff is becoming more mainstream, to the extent that there are actually TV shows like this at all. When I was growing up there was only Queer As Folk (though I like it, it’s decidedly not suitable for younger teens). Nice to have more variety now. The genre is still a niche, but perhaps that’ll always be the case.

Film #164: Disc of Love (2013)

disc-of-lovedirector: Ryan Davey
language: English
length: 8 minutes
watched: Sep 23 2015

This was another short that I watched on the same day as the previous one. It’s a bit shorter and depicts two Australian boys living together, but one becomes weirdly attached to the other and gives him a kind of mixtape CD to listen to in the car. Then it gets a bit weird.

Like the last one, it’s not like it’s a particularly profound movie or anything, and the production is noticeably cheap, but unlike the last one, it stays firmly on the side of comedy and isn’t aimed at closeted people or talking about any kind of issues.

Basically, it’s short and funny enough that I’d recommend just checking it out on Youtube (or wherever it was that I found it) – but it comes with a slight warning, because the punchline at the end made me groan, especially after all that build-up.

Book #47: Jam (2012)

jamAuthor/Narrator: Yahtzee Croshaw
Language: English
Length: 855 minutes (14 hours 15 minutes)
Finished listening on: 30 Jan 2014

I read Yahtzee Croshaw’s first book, Mogworld, a few years ago, before I started this blog, and found it entertaining and lighthearted. I also watch his video series, Zero Punctuation, every week, even though I hardly play any video games – mainly because I find him funny.

The first thing I want to note about this audiobook is that compared to his video series, the narration was a bit stilted. His usual style in the video series is very fast and peppered with bad language, so when he narrated the audiobook, I think he overenunciated, especially at the beginning before getting into it. Every t is very carefully pronounced. He’s a bit better when doing the voice of a character, but overall I think the performance was lacking and could have benefited from some more dynamism.

That aside, the story was interesting overall – the idea is that a sea of murderous strawberry jam comes out of nowhere and starts eating any organic material it comes into contact with. Because it happened at rush hour, the only people who survived were slackers, young adults, students, and overachievers who arrived at work before rush hour. The main character is one of the slackers, and together with three others from his apartment block, have to try and travel across the city to find rescue. There are also some US military personell who show up. Basically, they find themselves in somewhat of a Lord of the Flies situation, with people setting up shop in the mall or in an office block, and running wild.

The premise behind the jam is that it’s the apocalypse that nobody expected – it’s alluded several times that if it’d been zombies, people wouldn’t have been caught out so bad, as we have had so much media of various forms copying the zombie idea.

In terms of setting, it’s set in Croshaw’s adopted hometown of Brisbane, although at first when they referred to it as “our city” I thought he was going to try and hide where it was, but the way it was eventually revealed made it sound like he just gave up trying to hide it in the second chapter. Croshaw’s accent is still firmly West Midlands (although I think he tries to hide it, and he has a couple of amusing hypercorrections), which creates a weird effect in the audiobook where everyone sounds English, but use some Australian terms like the ever-confusing “thong”, or “Central Business District”.

Some of the characters in the story were more complex than I first anticipated, but at the same time some of them just fulfill one stereotype or function. The military characters are very one-dimensional, as is the character of Don, an overly cynical and utterly detestable character who has no redeeming qualities, and I believe must have been included as a cheap shot at games developers.

There’s also a lot of stupidity in the story. Nobody ever thinks to try and use radio to contact the outside world or try and find out what’s happening, for instance. Or when characters’ batteries run out, they never think to just take some more from an empty shop (especially in the section where they’re living in the mall). As another take-that at overachievers, the office building, instead of being a safe haven, is actually a corporate hellhole, with the characters there only concerned with profit and protocol even in the face of death.

Croshaw’s view of young adults is also not very nuanced, as his characters are also only concerned with their social status and standing, while simultaneously egregiously misusing the word irony as their internal motivation for everything – their “society” is heavily reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, as I mentioned already, with arbitrary executions and a religious bent to everything.

There were also a couple of moments where I did just outright disagree with the point the author was trying to make. At one point the characters mention the “friend zone” uncritically, for instance, and at another, a character insinuates that another might be gay, a moment that’s treated either as an insult or as a punchline, neither of which I can be happy with.

For all its problems, however, the story does hold together, and the writing style is addictive. Croshaw likes to use Adamsesque similes, and although sometimes he is clearly trying too hard, these are often funny. As a story of human incompetence, it’s also funny and perhaps accurate, although I’d like to think I’d have a little more sense than many of the characters. Mogworld was better, frankly, and I’d recommend this one only if you’ve already read the other.

Panto: The York Family Robinson

Watched on: 15 Dec 2011
Length: 3 hours
Language: English

It’s been four months since I went to see this pantomime, but I’ve been enjoying myself in Japan too much to care about this blog for too long now. Sorry.

Anyway, I went to York in December to see it, and my main remark is that it was one of their less remarkable ones. For a production that prides itself on not having much of a plot, this doesn’t really make much of a difference, though; I’ll be splitting hairs if I go into the reasons why, I guess, if I could remember most of them. Suffice to say that they could have had a more impressive slapstick/water throwing scene, from what memories I do have of it.

As with most York pantos, it was delightfully non-sequitur, and seeing it on opening night did mean that we got that special dress-rehearsal feel that you can’t replicate! I guess the plot was something to do with Robinson Crusoe, and they ended up in Australia for some reason. I don’t even know. Not important!

It’s also the last time I saw a bunch of people in York before I left for Japan in January, so all in all, I had a particularly fun weekend. That said, I think I spent about £40 in the Evil Eye – I think it was that weekend, at least! That place is like a sinkhole. Or at least I thought so before I started going out in Tokyo… things here are either ridiculously expensive or cheap, without much quality difference and without much in between. A large pricing gap, if you will.

So anyway, I love this panto, even though this time wasn’t the best. Berwick Kaler, the dame, is still a genius, and it was, I believe, my seventh time going to it. Trying to explain panto to Japanese students is quite fun, incidentally… a lot of the time they hear “mime” and think they know what I’m talking about. Nope.

Also, this post is quite exciting for me because I typed it out on my phone using my new wireless keyboard. Pretty cool!

Film #29: Oranges (2004)

by: Kristian Pithie
in: English
for: 12 minutes on Youtube
on: 13 Sep

This was another short film that I watched recently. It was OK; it had two teenage actors who weren’t that great – it’s gay-themed in that they share an awkward kiss. It’s quite evocative of being that age and being awkward about relationships, but that does to some extent just translate into it being an awkward film. And I’m mainly including it because the final few seconds really made me go “d’awww”. It wouldn’t take that long to go and watch it on Youtube to see what I mean, if you can find it. I can’t remember where I was linked to it from.