September 7th, 2016 — 7:04am
This is a true story that needed to be told. It is about Laurel Hester, a gay woman, Ocean County police officer in New Jersey who developed end-stage cancer and wanted to leave her pension to her domestic partner Stacy, which was not allowed by the local government. Ten years after this event, filmmaker Cynthia Wade produced an award-winning short documentary film about this moving battle. Now, producers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher decided to make a feature film to tell this story. They teamed up with director Peter Sollett and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner. Academy Award-winning actress Julianne Moore played Laurel and Ellen Page came on board to take role of young girlfriend along with an excellent supporting cast which included Steve Carell. The result is an emotionally touching experience that not only shows clearly the discrimination that these two brave women faced but also put us inside their hopes, aspirations and most of all their feelings for each other.
The outright unfairness of these women who were being denied that which heterosexual couples would take for granted is clearly put before the viewers. The subject of this movie is still being played out in the public arena today. The State of New Jersey did go on to pass legislation allowing domestic partners to be treated the same as married couples and of course the Supreme Court now ruled that same sex marriages are legal. Unfortunately, there is still the persistence of non-acceptance of this ruling in many places. It takes a film such as this one to tell the story in an unforgettable manner that allows the viewers to have an emphatic understanding of the people and the issues involved. (2016).
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance
February 3rd, 2016 — 2:55am
(Spanish with English Subtitles)
Havana is one of the most interesting and exciting cities in which to set a movie. This is particularly so when the beat and the rhythm of Cuban music is an important part of the film. But this is not a typical musical, drama or love story. The story uses the backdrop of a subculture of gay young men, female impersonators and prostitution to tell a poignant tale of a relationship between a father and a son who reunite after years apart.
This movie is the brainchild of Irish director, Paddy Breathnach who, after a visit to Cuba, visualized how this project might work and teamed up with screenwriter, Mark O’Halloran, to bring it to fruition. This mostly Irish production team then went on to put together a wonderful cast of Cuban actors and filmed this moving story in Cuba. The fact that they received the blessing of the Cuban government shows how things have come a long way in the Pearl of the Antilles
Hector Medina plays Jesus, a young gay Cuban man, who lives in severe poverty. He begins performing at a nightclub of female impersonators. Angel (played by veteran Cuban actor Jorge Perugorria), his long-lost father recently released from jail, has found him and moved in with him in an attempt to control his life. There is a recurrent theme of people trying to find some kind of family relationships. Not only is this perceived in the relationship between Jesus and Angel, but also in the character of Mama (Luis Alberto Garcia) who exudes the strength of his character by his relationship with the female impersonators who worked for him and by his powerful singing (lip-sync of course)
In fact, it is this universal yearning for human connections that has the potential to allow so many people to relate to this film . The director, Mr. Breathnach, discussed with our screening audience how he chose not to translate the words of the songs that were sung (lip-sync) by the main characters, yet it was these powerful music renditions, which clearly touched our emotions and were the strength of this movie which we highly recommend.
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign
August 13th, 2015 — 2:03am
Paul Weitz, whose credits include American Pie, About a Boy, In Good Company, and Admission, has written and directed this movie which he put together with Lily Tomlin in mind. It is an independent low budget film but is high in quality with an edgy story and great acting. It all takes place in a 24-hour period and the film runs a crisp 80 minutes. It is about relationships, difficult decisions, love, and regrets, all set with a somewhat unusual cast of characters. Lily Tomlin is Elle, grandmother and a literature professor, who we meet just as she has broken up with her younger girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer). She is then visited by her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner), who tells her that she is pregnant and needs money for an abortion which neither she nor grandma have the money.
The story unfolds as the two of them visit old friends of grandma in an attempt to get funds for the abortion. During the course of these visits, the viewer gets the life history of grandma and the trial of broken relationships that she has had which includes a long-term relationship with a now deceased Violet, a relationship that ended abruptly 40 years ago with Karl (Sam Elliott), and a more recent friendship with Deathy (Laverne Cox), a sweet tattoo artist. We also get some insights in to the contentious relationship with her nearly estranged daughter Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), mother of the granddaughter and a successful business executive who must have developed her tough exterior from her own mother, grandma. The storyline also takes us into the women’s health center or should we say abortion clinic, where we feel the subtle ambivalence that exist for women in this situation.
In certain respects, this movie is cutting edge as grandma’s sexual orientation is clearly gay from the beginning of the film. However, that has very little to do with the drama, personal conflicts, tragedies, and ambivalent relationships which the viewer experiences in this fascinating story. This is an unusual refreshing movie that should not be missed. (2015)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama
June 13th, 2014 — 7:45pm
**** Strawberry and Chocolate-nf (Spanish with subtitles) Prior to our first trip to Cuba several friends told us that we have to see this award winning movie. (It won the Goya Award for the best Spanish language film in 1994 and was nominated for an Academy Award for the best foreign language film that year. There was a long waiting list for it on Netflix so we couldn’t catch it before we left. While being shown around Cuba by a young Cuban guide, we were taken to dinner up a beautiful staircase in Havana, which we were told was part of the main location for this movie. He also highly recommended this film. When we finally caught up with the film, we not only appreciated the specific location in Havana, which we had visited but some of the conflicts, which the film portrayed so well. David (Vladimir Cruz) is a college student very appreciative of this communist revolutionary government, which has allowed him, from a poor family to go to college and choose to study political science. David subsequently is having chocolate ice cream in a public square and he meets Diego (Jorge Perugorria) who is symbolically having strawberry ice cream since it turns out that he is clearly gay and very attracted to David who we learn early in the movie is clearly attracted to women although rejected by one (Marilyn Solaya) who married someone else while he remains a “virgin “. Diego is not only gay but he is someone who is a free thinker in regard to art music, literature and invariably in regard to politics. He loves Cuba but can’t love the revolutionary Cuban government, which rejects all types of creativity from the non-communist world and of course completely rejects homosexuality. David’s college roommate Miguel (Francisco Gattomo) is a rigid pro government ideologue who encourages David to befriend Diego in order to spy on him and turn him in. Nancy (Mirta Ibarra) is a neighbor and friend of Diego who may be a prostitute, with a “heart of gold.” The inflexibility of some people in their views on homosexuality are used as a metaphor for rigidity of the supporters of the Cuban government to consider the contributions of other non-communist cultures and vice versa. There also is depiction of the ability of human beings to love and connect with each other that goes beyond sexual and political orientation. These are special ideas and Directors Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio made this story with a very sensitive touch. This included many scenes of the characteristic grandiose but now decaying Spanish architecture as well as the lovely settings by the water of this historic island. (1994)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign
February 14th, 2014 — 11:48pm
Facing Fear-sp We doubt very much that most of the readers of this blog will see this short documentary film (20 minutes) that has been nominated for an Academy Award. However, when it turns up on TV you should take the time to see it and if you are involved with educating people about bullying, overcoming prejudice and similar issues, you will want a copy of this DVD when it comes out.
As a 13 year-old, Mathew Boger was literally thrown out of his house when he told his mother that he was gay. He ended up spending most of the next few years living in the street of Los Angeles. Tim Zale grew up part of neo-Nazi Skinhead gang with a large tomahawk hair cut on his mostly shaven head. He and his buddies would cruise the streets of Los Angeles getting into fights and bullying some of the homeless people they encountered. This was to be the case late one night in front of a well- known LA hamburger place where Zale and his pals encountered Boger alone in the street. They beat him up and while he was on the ground Zale delivered kicks to head and face with a boot that had a razor in the toe. They left him believing he was dead.
Boger survived, but the hate and persistent anger at his attackers was part of his fantasy life for many years. Both young men moved on with their lives. Zale went to school, ultimately received a Masters Degree and had a family. His thinking began to change when he saw some of his hate and prejudice towards various groups being verbalized by his own son. Boger established a long-term relationship and eventually got a job as an administrator in charge of tours at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. By coincidence, Zale began to volunteer to give tours and lectures to the public at this iconic museum, which is best known for graphic depiction and personal stories of the horrors caused by Nazis during the Holocaust. During his time there Zale would share how his thinking had evolved over the years. One day they both were lecturing a group together and by the details Zale was describing of his youth, Boger realized that Zale was part of the group that almost killed him. They began to have private discussions and both immediately knew that it was Zale who delivered the nearly fatal blow to his new colleague at the museum and left him for dead twenty-five years before.
Director and Producer Jason Cohen very skillfully weaved the narrative told by both men with very effective images of the streets of Los Angeles. There were some photographs of Zale and his buddies in their earlier days as skin-heads but there were no photos available of Bogart as the homeless street kid. Miraculously, Bogart’s sister had some old films of him as an infant and a small child with his very attractive mother. Credit should also be give to Director of Photography Svetlana Cvetko, who won an Academy Award for Inside Job and veteran Editor and Co-Producer Tom Christopher who has worked in the past with George Lucas and others.
The tremendous value of this film is to watch up close the ruminations of Bogart and Zale as they examine their feelings about each other and what happened in the past. Bogart’s incredible journey to forgive not only Zale but also his mother is quite remarkable. Zale’s task to face Boger and ask for forgiveness and then also to forgive himself is also quite dramatic as well.
We cannot think of a better teaching tool to show to students as well as victims and perpetrators of prejudice. It can only be a wonderful instrument to stimulate discussion, self-reflection and insight. The filmmakers, having received this unexpected recognition of an Academy Award nomination, plan to have their work available to those who want to see it and use it for these purposes. For more information about the film you can go to their website: http://www.facingfearmovie.com/ (2014)
Comment » | 5 Stars, Documentary
April 13th, 2013 — 7:53pm
The Perks of Being a Wallflower-nf. Stephen Chobosky wrote the book in 1999 and it became #1 New York Times Best Seller for Children’s Paperback Books. 3 years later in September 2012 this PG- 13 movie was released with Chobsky as Director and Screenwriter with ensemble of young actors including Logan Lerman, Emma Watson (fresh out of Harry Potter ), Mae Whitman (from the TV hit Parenthood), Ezra Miller, Johnny Simmons along with some veteran grownups such as Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott and Joan Cussick. They all seem to hit it out of the ballpark and come through with a very successful movie. It certainly is a film that appeals to teens and beyond. In fact, anyone who can remember his or her high school life or even more important appreciates the serious struggles, and at times traumas that young people may go through, will relate to this film on many levels. It would be over simplifying to describe this as a coming of age film which of course it is . However, it captures the ability of young people to connect with each other, understand, empathize and help each other through the normal traumas of life as well as the some real bad ones that nobody should have to experience. The storyline on one hand is not typical. Charlie (Logan Lerman), a high school freshman with more baggage than most, is dreading the four years in front of him. He befriends two high school seniors Pat and Sam ( Ezra Miller and Emma Watson, who completely loses her British accent for this movie) and hangs around mostly with them and their friends. The setting is a high school in Pittsburgh (the author, screenwriter and Director’s town) and the time would seem to be early or mid 1980s as judged by the music, type of telephone and cars and even the typewriter on which the main character writes his story. There is the requisite lonely time in the lunch room, going to your first party, getting high on a marijuana brownie, truth or dare game, first kiss, the struggle of a gay friend, a lunchroom fight, applications to college etc,. But at the same time these milestones of high school are shown, there is a painful plot and character development with meaningful relationships, which you know, are never forgotten no matter how and where we grow up. Chobosky is writing and directing a film about the 1980s and the music will help bring those of that generation back to their high school days. However, the themes are universal enough to attract today’s youth ( as indicated by the success of the book and movie today) Even us old timers give it a “thumbs up” (with a nod to the movie critic Roger Ebert who died last week.) It would not surprise us if the movie moves towards a cult status and as these young actors make names for themselves, it will be especially interesting to look back at these youthful performances. Any such retrospective should include the Netflix commentary special feature where the actors comment on how it felt making this film about typical teenagers when they admit their teenage life was far from typical. (2012)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance
December 25th, 2012 — 1:07am
Any Day Now- rm This film clearly highlights the homophobia.and the discrimination against gays in the 1970s which unfortunately still lingers in our modern society. The story which supposedly is inspired from a real life situation tells of a gay couple that wants to adopt an abandoned child with Downs Syndrome. The reaction of the legal system , specifically the judges interpretation of the law reflects the cruel bias of much of society which in this case deprived a child, who nobody else wanted from being cared for by a loving responsible couple. The film was a tour de force for Alan Cumming, currently well known for his role as a political consultant in the television series The Good Wife. He plays Rudy Donatello a flamboyant female impersonator who displays great sensitivity, anger, a great sense of humor and also shows that he is a talented singer. The film is directed by Travis Fine who co wrote the script with Arthur Bloom. Garrett Dillahunt plays Paul Fleiger, a quiet laid back recently divorced lawyer who works in the DA’s office and falls in love with Rudy during his first outing and their first meeting. Isaac Leyva realistically portrays Marco, the child with Down’s Syndrome, who says few words and is usually happy except when he realizes he is being abandoned. While the film makes the social and political points that are certainly worth making, there is something to be desired in the contrived story line even if based on reality. We see the unlikely couple falling in love although we don’t really get a glimpse at their chemistry. We also don’t initially see what draws them to this child other than our inference that he is misunderstood and treated unfairly as they are also being treated by society. The film is good enough to stir people up about the injustice portrayed and the variations on it that are still around us. (2012)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama
March 14th, 2012 — 5:29pm
Beginners- nf We chose to see this movie after Christopher Plummer was awarded the Oscar as best supporting actor for playing a dying 75 year old man who reveals to Oliver his son (Ewan McGregor) that he is gay and wants to come out. He finds a lover , Andy (Goran Visnjic-we remember him from the “ER” TV series ) and has his brief time as a man in love. During this time Oliver meets a quirky beautiful French actress (Melanie Laurent). They are both drawn to each other and it becomes apparent that they both have trouble with relationships perhaps because of the nature of their parent’s relationships. He, having a hidden gay dad, a mom who thought she could fix him and was depicted as not feeling fulfilled. She, with a father who confesses his despair and suicidal thoughts to her rather than to his wife. Director Mike Mill’s put together this story based on his own relationship with his own father and attempts to fill in the picture with mostly skillful shifts of time sequences. It isn’t the story that gives the movie value but it is the complex portrayal of the characters which is done very well. However, with the exception of Oliver we don’t have much of a back-story of the other characters, so in the end, the movie didn’t meet it’s full potential or our expectations. (2011)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama