Film #270-271: Boys (2014) + bonus short film

aka: Jongens
director: Mischa Kamp
language: Dutch and a bit of English
length: 76 minutes
watched on: 3 Mar 2017

I’ve been seeing pictures and gifs of this movie online for a while, and it looked good. It’s yet another gay coming-of-age movie. You’d think I’d have had enough of them by now, but I don’t get a whole lot of choice in the genre. Anyway, I bought it on DVD when I was back home.

This movie is basically harmless, and it can be fairly described as “nice” for most of its runtime. It tells the story of two teenage boys on the running team in a rural Dutch school who fall in love. Meanwhile, the main character, in deep denial, also gets a kind-of girlfriend to fit in with his best friend and his brother. Unlike his romance with the other boy, which develops slowly and naturally, this seems forced and rushed. Towards the end it comes down to a choice between the two.

The film has a good visual style. It’s clean and uses contrast and symmetry well. I noticed this watching it, and then the director said that’s what she was trying to achieve in the DVD extras – they wanted something that would be iconic enough that individual frames could be screenshotted easily.

The other important thing about the movie is that I think it’s the first “PG” rated gay film I’ve ever seen – and this was also very deliberate on the part of the director, as her target audience was young people just figuring out their sexual orientation. In terms of sexual content, it goes as far as kissing and making out, but not further. I guess some of the homoerotic exercise shots reminded me of Bavo Defurne’s work, which I watched last year, but they were also pretty tame.

Overall, I liked the visual style of the movie, but as I say, I need to take a break from movies about coming out. I think on the same day I watched this, I read That Article that’s been circulating about how gay men are all lonely and emotionally stunted from the experience of being in the closet (I partially agree with it, but it’s a very pessimistic article and has some faulty arguments/conclusions without advice on how to break such a cycle), and watching this film, about being in the closet and figuring oneself out, didn’t help my anxious feeling that day. Still, I’d recommend the movie, it’s basically harmless and optimistic, and feels really genuine and warm-hearted.

The DVD also came with a bonus short film:
Film #271: Even Cowboys Get to Cry (2013)
aka: Cowboys janken ook
director: Mees Peijnenberg
language: Dutch and a bit of French
length: 25 minutes

So I just waxed lyrical a bit about the importance of having a PG-rated gay movie… and the distributors kind of ruined that by packaging it with this 18-rated short, meaning that young teenagers trying to figure out their sexuality can’t even buy this movie legally in the UK. Like, this doesn’t concern me a lot personally, but it’s annoying. I can see why they added it, though – the main feature is a bit shorter than usual at 76 minutes.

The movie is connected to the other by dint of sharing two main actors – in Boys, they are the boyfriend and brother of the main character, here they are best friends and troublemakers. They have a “bromance” going on at the start of the movie and there are some scenes showing how close they are. But then, one of them starts a fight after drinking, and the other gets in a coma as a result of the ensuing violence. The rest of the movie is his rehabilitation and the first boy’s guilt – they sort of drift apart and reconcile at the end.

It’s not gay like the other movie, actually, although it’s very easy to read subtext into it. And the sexual content that gets it an 18 rating is pretty superfluous – firstly, there is a scene where one boy walks in on the other while he’s having sex with a girl, meant to show how they are inappropriately close, and the other is in the hospital, when we accidentally see his erect penis. I think these scenes are meant to titillate, and I think they could easily be extracted from the film.

A bit disappointing, but an interesting look at disability and rehabilitation.

Has anyone else seen this/these?

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Film #266: All Over Brazil (2003)

alloverbrazildirector: David Andrew Ward
language: English
length: 9 minutes
watched on: 9 Feb 2017
link to the video: https://vimeo.com/1802140

I’ve still got a fairly long list of short films to get through at some point – when trawling for them on the internet, this is one that stood out to me because it’s set in Scotland in the 1970s.

It’s about a kid who likes glam rock and wants to dance around with make-up on (the above image is his fantasy). Of course, his dad, more into football, isn’t OK with this and gets angry. But in the end he lets the kid out with his sister to go see the band he likes, and there’s some kind of reconciliation between them.

Obviously I saw this because it’s gay-interest, and I thought it was a sweet film. It doesn’t really match my experience, though – my parents weren’t like that with me. I daresay my dad would recognize the situation more than me.

I was surprised that the movie was from 2003 – I didn’t realize how much video quality has improved since then. I think this was made for TV (for the BBC), and the quality is accordingly pretty low.

An interesting little snippet or slice of life. What do you think? You can watch it online easily – and tell me what you think.

Film #254: His Wedding Night (1917)

hwndirector: Roscoe Arbuckle (Fatty)
language: silent
length: 19 minutes
watched on: 26 December 2016 (plane 5/6)

Along with Cops, this was also in Air France’s Buster Keaton collection, and was randomly the one I decided to watch next. It’s actually not a Buster Keaton vehicle, and was made by another comedian I hadn’t heard of called Fatty Arbuckle. It’s a hundred years old this year.

Some things haven’t changed, and some things definitely have, in that century. I was going to say we don’t have comedians or characters who are just called Fatty, but then there is Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect. We’re also (sensibly) a bit more sensitive about consent and related issues than this movie, although the related tropes of the Nice Guy and the Friendzone are still around.

Basically this movie is about Fatty (a professional con, and liquor smuggler in prohibition-era America) and his girlfriend who he wants to marry. They’re very cute together. But his girlfriend has to fight off Al, the Rival – the original Nice Guy. He gets very aggressive when she rebuffs his advances (but he gets his just desserts, don’t worry). Buster Keaton shows up about halfway through, immediately falls flat on his face, as he’s wont to do, to deliver the girlfriend’s wedding dress. But he ends up showing it to her by trying it on himself – as a result, Al steals him away instead of the girlfriend. He tries to force the girl to marry him but he marries Buster instead. Gay marriage, how hilarious!!!

The cryptic comment about consent above is actually about a weird, and totally unnecessary, scene in which Fatty uses chloroform to knock out women who come into his drug store, so he can kiss them without their knowledge. He winks at the camera, like hey guys, wouldn’t you all love to do this? But he has to also knock out an old man in the corner who starts to complain. And the second woman he tries it on just drinks the chloroform and is on her merry way – wait, what? I dunno, except for generally adding to Fatty’s established con-man character (we already know that he swindles rich people and pushes liquor), it doesn’t really add to the movie. It’s an interesting look at what used to be acceptable. I’d hope that such scenes wouldn’t make it into a movie these days, but I fear that’s also not the case. But there is a vocal crowd who will call them out on that now. And it’s better that way.

Anyway, I wasn’t as impressed with this one as with Cops (one other issue was that it’s missing a soundtrack – Cops had a nice piano accompaniment, and I think this was supposed to but didn’t), but it was enjoyable, and it might be the earliest movie I’ve watched, except for some ancient shorts that are more akin to modern animated gifs. I was running out of time on the plane, though, and I was getting tired due to imminent jet lag, so I abandoned this series and went for another feature film, before it was time to land in Paris and continue back to Scotland from there.

Film #253: Cops (1922)

copsdirectors: Eddie Cline & Buster Keaton
language: silent
length: 18 minutes
watched on: 26 December 2016 (plane 4/6)

Pursuant to the discovery of the short film collection on Air France in which I found the last movie, I found a collection of remastered Buster Keaton movies in there. I’ve watched very few movies from Keaton’s period – indeed, this movie is me popping my Buster Keaton cherry.

It’s about twenty minutes long, obviously much shorter than I’m used to with modern movies, but it tells an entertaining story, if a bit fast-paced (part of that is the old-style camera work that makes everyone move really quickly). Through a series of increasingly unlikely coincidences, Buster finds himself being chased by a whole town’s worth of cops, having unwittingly stolen a family’s possessions and then ended up riding through the middle of a policemen’s parade. Meanwhile a bad guy throws a bomb into his lap and he’s blamed for it.

The climax is when Buster ends up on a ladder being used like a seesaw by policemen trying to catch him from either side, which is entertaining. He knows how to do physical comedy. I feel like it’s a lost art these days – it’s still around, but very few can do it properly. In contrast, it was positively necessary in the silent era.

Timeless (except for inflation – a horse in those days cost $5, apparently) and funny. I liked it so much I went straight to watch another.

Film #252: Children of History (2016)

cohaka: Les enfants de l’histoire
director: Aurélien Kouby
language: French
length: 5 minutes
watched on: 26 Dec 2016 (plane 3/6)

Air France had a really extensive selection of films this year, and instead of making the mistake of picking a random “comedy” movie from the list of French films (as I did last year to my dismay), I found the “short films” section. That’s basically how I watched six movies this time around: this one is only five minutes long. I picked this one because it seemed like a nice way to see some French talent, and I was searching through the list for anything vaguely LGBT-themed. This certainly has overtones of that, although the two subject matters are twelve years old, and I wouldn’t actually class it as an LGBT movie.

I think I’d class it as comedy, although subtle. The two boys are changing after a swimming class. The teacher tells them to hurry up, followed swiftly by chastising them for running – it’s that kind of humour. The white kid quizzes the other boy about his ethnicity (Jewish), and then proceeds to talk about how he found a photo of his grandparents doing a Hitler salute, which he demonstrates. The Jewish kid is initially dumbfounded and gets angry. But by the end of the five minutes he’s agreed that whatever the grandparents did, he can still be friends with the other boy. History is history, or something. The boy isn’t his grandfather.

It’s less of a film than a slice of life, or a fossilized moment. Interesting in passing, certainly, and it raised a chuckle. But unless you’re also going to catch an intercontinental Air France flight, you’re unlikely to come across it.

Film #249: Absent (2013)

absentdirector: Leandro Tadashi
language: English
length: 6 minutes
watched on: 20 Dec 2016
on vimeo: https://vimeo.com/61652698

I follow various blogs that post links to gay films to put on my watch list, which is where I found this one. It’s a simple drama that unfolds over the 5 minutes between a man and his late husband’s mother. We find out that he was denied access to the funeral, and understandably, he’s a bit reticent about letting her into his house – she wants to reminisce about her son, and claims it was her husband that was being homophobic, not her. He tells her that’s not the case, and that she should get out.

In the end she steals a photo of the two guys together, but swaps it for a handprint the husband made as a baby.

It should be a heartbreaking little story, particularly as the two guys are so young, but unfortunately the acting was too wooden to show this in great detail. I just didn’t quite believe in the characters. Oh well. I suspect it was made for a course, and in that it’s absolutely fine. I’ve linked it above if anyone wants to make their own impressions and conclusions.

Film #246: Alkali, Iowa (1995)

alkaliiowadirector: Mark Christopher
language: English
length: 17 minutes
watched on: 2 December 2016

I was linked to this on Tumblr or something, I guess, and it found its way onto my hard-drive. Not sure if I ripped it from Vimeo or from a torrent file. Anyway, you can watch it on Vimeo if you google the title. I got round to watching it when my boyfriend asked to watch something, but I had to go to work the next day, so something short was best.

It’s about a guy growing up on corn farms in Iowa and realizing he’s gay. Then through a roundabout series of events he discovers that his late dad was also secretly gay, and the blonde guy that sometimes comes to a nice picnic spot near the farm was his father’s lover once upon a time. Unfortunately, granddad is homophobic and draws a gun on the blonde guy.

It was a nice little movie. The corn fields are shot very nicely, although bleakly. The various family relationships portrayed were realistic.

It’s not the most interesting, however. Not much happens in the movie except that the granddad gets angry at the son for prying. But it’s short and it’s a curious watch, so if you’re at all interested I’d go for it! Let me know what you think!

Film #242: Spooners (2013)

spoonersdirector: Bryan Horch
language: English
length: 13 minutes
watched on: 28 October 2016
Boys on Film 11 (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

This movie was the last short film on “Boys on Film 11”. It’s almost aggressively a comedy movie. It starts with tinkly Spanish-sounding music to let us know we’re in for a funny ride and has a bunch of one-liners. But ultimately I wasn’t so impressed with it. However, it was a nice ending to the series – as with the last series, it was nice to end on a high note.

The premise is that two guys are in the market for a new mattress, their ancient futon having gotten uncomfortable to lie on, and stained. One of the guys wants to keep it, as he’s grown attached to a stain that resembles both Che Guevara and Jesus. Ew. Anyway, the other guy is desperate to get a new mattress and not so desperate to out himself in public, so he tries to go along to the bed shop in secret, but when he gets there, the sales rep makes him use a special talking bed-choosing machine/app/robot thing, which promptly outs him to the entire store when it forces him to select the gender of both participants. This leads to the scene above where everyone crowds around offering their own opinions on everything, and to increasingly cringy situations when the app asks him to choose what sexual position he takes, and so on.

OK, it was funny. But I also thought it was trying too hard, and I thought the app thing was a silly conceit. I think there’s a point there about companies asking invasive questions to their customers, perhaps, but it also came across as Luddite in its treatment of modern apps. I also watched the trailer and the Kickstarter video, and they had all the same jokes in them.

I did like all the other customers with their ridiculous opinions, though, and I thought the two guys acted well as a couple together, so it’s not all bad.

As for the rest of this series of films, it’s been good in general, and I think the quality and variety on this DVD is absolutely commendable – perhaps there is more variety than the older DVD. I think every film is a different genre, and then some. But none of them are very outstanding, if I’m honest. There are a couple of more notable films from the other DVDs. It’s not going to stop me watching, though. There’s a certain level of comfort in it.

Film #241: For Dorian (2012)

for-doriandirector: Rodrigo Barriuso
language: English
length: 15 minutes
watched on: 28 October 2016
Boys on Film 11 (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

This is one of the more poignant movies on the “Boys on Film 11” series, but it was less explicitly gay than the others, in my opinion. It’s about a boy with Down syndrome (Dorian of the title) and his father. The boy is coming of age and starting to seek his own independence, much to his father’s chagrin.

As far as I can tell, it’s a rare look into the sexuality of a disabled person, and it treats its protagonists with respect. The boy is obviously interested in a hot weatherman, and has a collection of screenshots on his computer. He only talks about the weather to his dad. He also walks arm-in-arm down the street with his best friend from school and it’s sensible to read something more into their friendship.

Dad isn’t having it, though – he chastises the boy’s after-school carer for not bringing him home. He also won’t let the boy cook his own breakfast, even though he’s willing to help, perhaps worried that he’ll mess it up – but he hasn’t had the opportunity to try! He needs to realize that he won’t be responsible forever.

Aside from that, it’s obviously a coming of age story, and fits a few more of those tropes well. Furthermore, I liked the minimalist cinematography and the precise composition of so many shots in the movie. I also thought the setting – Toronto in winter – was evocative, and the scenery was crisp and clean to match the interiors. Out of the eight films on this DVD, I don’t think this was the best, but it’s probably second or third.

Film #240: Little Man (2012)

little-mandirector: Eldar Rapaport
language: English
length: 24 minutes
watched on: 28 October 2016
Boys on Film 11 (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

This was the sixth movie on the “Boys on Film 11” DVD, and I think it’s the weirdest out of them all. It’s about a gay guy who’s leading an unfulfilling life, hooking up with guys only to have them ditch him the next morning, or even literally during sex.

At the same time all the straight men around him, like his brother or an anonymous taxi driver, keep telling how easy he must have it to hook up with guys, and that girls are a much more difficult nut to crack, and eventually he snaps, at the taxi driver, while he’s trying to hook up with a guy in the back seat. But when he gets home, he finds that some nerd-looking guy – the “little man” of the title – living in the flat upstairs has been secretively setting up all his hook-ups, like a combination of a guardian angel and the Illuminati. That’s where it becomes creepy, as there’s all these photos on the wall, like mementoes of his failed love life. The little man gets beaten up by the main character and is left for dead.

As with some of the other movies, I wasn’t sure what this movie was trying to say. I think there’s a perfectly valid point when it attacks people saying that girls or boys are easier to hook up with, but I’m curious what the little man is meant to represent. Perhaps it’s saying that we don’t have as much control over our lives as we think, or that we’re under constant observation. Perhaps it’s more of a straight-up what-if scenario, and it’s asking if we would do the same thing in his situation. I’m not sure, and I didn’t find it as poignant as some of the other movies in this series.