“Kiss Me, Kill Me” gay noir mystery comedy, with some borrowed plot twists

imga1571

Name: “Kiss Me, Kill Me”
Director, writer:  Casper Andreas
Released:  2015
Format:  2.35:1 (imdb is wrong)
When and how viewed:  private vimeo screener
Length 100
Rating NA (R)
Companies: Spellbound, Breaking Glass (?)
Link: official

Kiss Me, Kill Me”, directed by Casper Andreas and written by David Michael Barrett, is a gay “neo-noir” comic murder mystery which actually builds on the wrongful conviction concerns of recent documentary film directors and producers (like Andrew Jenks and Ryan Ferguson).

The “hero” is Dustin (Van Hansis), a soap star, and companion to producer Stephen (Gale Harold).  Dusty becomes more likable and charismatic as the film progresses.  Stephen throws a big party at his West Hollywood pad, with a transgender magician providing entertainment.  When Stephen and Dusty go to a convenience store, “The Pink Dot”, afterwards, the store is robbed while they are there and Stephen and the store attendant are shot dead.  Dusty wakes up after a concussion and soon finds the persistent LAPD officers (Yolinda Ross and Jai Rodriquez) think he staged the robbery to get rid of a partner with a life insurance policy.

Later the officers will try go get him to plea bargain, trying to fake him out, before the DA drops the charges.  But that’s only an interlude.

Its all pretty cynical.  You wonder how Dusty has so much freedom when out on bail, to solve his own mystery, with the help of a rogue psychiatrist (Craig Robert Young) who hypnotizes him.  Another boyfriend Graigery (Matthew Ludwinski), who bears that “Liquid Sky” look at first looks unsavory but turns out the be a redeemed Shane.

The underlying situation is serious enough: that somebody could get framed for a convenience store robbery-hit-murder that seems random.  The comic style of the film, with the noir jazz music, undermines the horrible tragedy that is possible (which is what filmmaker Jenks works on in his documentaries).

At this point, the plot becomes like a Clue game, and more bodies pile up, and the plot takes on some ideas from other movies and shows, including Jenks’s “Dream.Killer”, the use of hypnosis in “Days of our Lives”, and the mystery wills of “The Dark Place”.  But because the movie wants to have a comedy and “40s” look, it seems less engaging.  I didn’t fund myself caring about the characters in this film as in some stronger dramatic gay films in the past (like “Judas Kiss”).

The condo in my picture above is visible along the 405 from the Angelino Hotel in which I stayed in 2012; I thought I spotted it in the film.  The West Hollywood disco scene is quite well done technically.  I remember that in West Hollywood  there is no street parking, but you pay a flat $10 a weekend night to park at the library.  That’s how all bar parking should work.  My favorite bar was the Abbey; not sure if that is the bar in the movie.

(Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016 at 11:45 PM EST)

“Lazy Eye”: two middle aged gay men reunite in CA 15 years after their pre-9/11 relationship in NYC

imga1612

Name: Lazy Eye
Director, writer:  Tim Kirkman  (art direction: Frances Lynn-Hernandez)
Released:  2016
Format:  2.39:1
When and how viewed:  Screener from distributor; available 2016/11/15 with Director’s Cut; Theatrical release is 11/11/2016
Length 88
Rating NA
Companies: Breaking Glass Pictures (distr.), T42 (production); at Outfest, Out Here Now KCMO, qPflix (Philadelphia), CinemaQ (Denver); world premier was at Provincetown 2016/6/17
Link: official


Lazy Eye” (2016), directed and written by Tim Kirkman,  and produced by Todd Shotz (“Timber Falls”), starts out with its protagonist, Dean (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) hidden by an ophthalmologist’s machine.  Soon the doctor explains his amblyopia.  Dean sees this as a threat to his career as a successful Hollywood graphic designer.

Then, at home Los Angeles, alone because his husband is out in the field working, he gets an email from a long lost “ghost” boyfriend from New York fifteen years earlier, Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis).  Alex drives out alone to a second home in a spectacular desert area near Joshua Tree in the Mojave.  Soon Alex shows up, and they spend the weekend together, catching up, and sometimes fighting.

The analyze one of their favorite films from the past, “Harold and Maude” (1971, Hal Ashby), which I remember seeing in a dollar house near Baily’s Crossroads then. They they get into why Alex went dark on the Internet, without much explanation.

Actually, that might have happened to me around 2005 or so had I become a regular teacher (I took a stab at this whole conflict of interest problem on my legacy blog back around 2000, here  or here )   In fact, I have another friend now who prefers to remain dark, so I just wait.

Dean had moved to California just before 9/11, but after they broke up.  But Alex had also been concerned that Alex could have been in one of the WTC towers on 9/11.

.

The film has some flashbacks of how the met in New York, and at one time Alex thought he would “support” Dean working on Wall Street so Dean could focus on becoming an artist. I’ve been challenged as to whether I would be game for that (one particular time at the Ninth Street Center in the 70s).

They also have a conversation, about the idea that the only way to prove you’re a grown-up is to have and raise kids, and be ready to “step up” for someone else’s needs.  I use the word “Step Up” in my own DADT-III book epilogue.  Of course, some people feel they step up to meet a pet’s needs.

The idea of meeting someone after moderate aging is interesting.  Both men would be about 40 now, starting middle age, and just barely show it.  But the wonders of the past may have settled into reality.

The tone of the film reminds me of Louis Malle’s “My Dinner with Andre” (1981).  The tone of the film, with the reaching into the mysteries of the past, reminds one a bit of the work of Jorge Ameer.

(Posted: Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016 at 10:45 PM EDT)

“Front Cover”: in the fashion world, a young gay man of Chinese descent explores multiple identity issues when he works with a charismatic actor from China

img31234

Name: Front Cover
Director, writer:  Ray Yeung
Released:  2015
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Vimeo screener from Strand, private
Length 87
Rating NA
Companies: Strand, Fortissimo
Link: official


Front Cover”, directed by Ray Yeung, poses a situation familiar to me:  a young gay man is “invited” into the life of a somewhat charismatic and strange (supposedly) straight man who tantalizes him  Jorge Ameer has explored that theme in the shorts series “Straight Men and the Gay Men Who Love Them.”

But this film transposes the situation to the world of other races and ethnicity – non-white males, where the ideas of attractiveness so familiar to me don’t necessarily apply.

Ryan (Jake Choi) works as a fashion designer in the garment district in New York, who fights off his Chinese heritage which his parents want him to be proud of.  He says he dates only Caucasian men.  (I sometimes heard this when I was living in NYC in the 1970s (sometimes in conversations about Filipinos).  His flippant boss (Jennifer Neala Page) pulls him off an assignment he likes to style a photo shoot for a flamboyant young Chinese actor Ning (James Chen), who has starred in a popular genre film “Springtime in Nangking”.

Ning plays the “China is your friend card” (which we know Donald Trump detests) of geopolitics, and insists that Ryan come to his palatial hotel suite to work with him.  Ning insists he is interested in women but keeps teasing Ryan with somewhat intimate situations, such as a situation on an outdoor dock shoot where Ryan has to wash his feet (Biblical style) to clean up the shot.

The film also sometimes brings up interesting sidebar scenes, like when a female model gets a sudden allergic rash to a bra she has to wear.

The basic plot setup structurally parallels my own story “The Ocelot the Way He Is” in my own DADT-III book, although I go in a totally different direction.

The screen credits mentioned Fortissimo Films, which was present at a screenwriting pitch seminar in 2006 in Washington, where I pitched my “Titanium” screenplay.

(Posted: Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016 at 8:45 PM EDT)

“From this Day Forward”: a filmmaker’s father makes a transition to female

800px-fulllakeoftheclouds

Name: From this Day Forward
Director, writer:  Sharon Shattuck
Released:  2015
Format:  HD
When and how viewed:  PBS 2016/10/10
Length 75
Rating an
Companies: Argot, Full Fork, PBS
Link: official

In the new PBS POV film “From This Day Forward” (75 min), director Sharon Shattuck returns home to the Michigan U.P. to visit her parents, including her dad who had transitioned to female while staying married (despite a near divorce) when Sharon was in middle school.

Part of the film looks at Sharon’s mother, with the obvious, nearly existential trauma of keeping an intimate relationship with a partner transitioning from male. I can’t imagine being game for this myself.  The parents announce a divorce, which then never happens and “goes away”.

But then it moves to focus on preparing for the wedding (reminding me of a 2002 film Melody Gilbert’s “Married at the Mall”, referring to the Mall of America near Minneapolis). There is the artistic detail of sewing the gown, and an omnipresent playful cat who seems not to care at all about the gender of humans in her life.

Sharon’s dad is a painter, emphasizing natural scenes, but has painted a picture of her former male self as a clown in disguise.  The film does briefly describe some of the reassignment surgery, hormones, epilation.

The film was shown on PBS Oct. 10 along with the short film “Pink Boy” (Sept. 13).

The film has no connection to the 1946 film with the same title. To get the new film to come up on imdb, you have to search by the director’s name, not the title. (Some films, especially with title duplication, on imdb will not come up by title, seems to be a database index problem.  It is common for unrelated films to use the same title, especially by translation, unless the title is the name of a branded franchise.)

Wikipedia attribution link for picture from Porcupine Mts of Michigan, p.d., by Troy Heck

(Posted: Monday, Oct. 10 at 11:30 PM EDT)

“Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America”: the narrative of Moises Serrano in North Carolina

IMG_6103

Name: Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America
Director, writer:  Tiffany Rhynard and Heather Mathews (with Moises Serrano)
Released:  2016/7/12 (at Outfest in Los Angeles)
Format:  HD digital video, standard aspect, very high technical quality
When and how viewed:  2o16/7/7, Private Vimeo screener
Length; languages 82    (some Spanish)
Rating N.A.  (PG-13?)
Companies: Sisters Unite, Pony Pictures
Link: official site

In January 1979, over a weekend when I was moving from New York to Dallas, I happened to be running around in a rental car near the border near El Paso, I passed a checkpoint.  The immigration offer waived me on without even looking at my driver’s license, seeing that I looked “European” and spoke English with no accent.

Moises Serrano, in his mid twenties, looks “European” (Spain is part of Europe) and speaks natural  with no accent, having been brought into the U.S. “illegally” when he as 18 months old. Now, he goes on public speaking engagements, mostly around his home somewhere in the Winston-Salem NC area in the Piedmont (and at least once at UNC) and pushes for the rights especially of the kids of undocumented immigrants, and applies for his own college scholarship (Sarah Lawrence College near NYC), a source of suspense for the narrative of this film.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  I am reviewing the screener for “Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America” (2016), directed by Tiffany Rhynard and Heather Mathews, which screens July 12, 2016 at Outfest in Los Angeles.

The film begins with a recording of Donald Trump’s goading speech about “Building the Wall” which his demonstrators chant for him at one of his rallies.  I wondered, do I think I’m “too good” to chant anything in anyone’s rally.

Moises then introduces himself and his own narrative, always very articulate. In 2007, North Carolina passed a law which effectively made it impossible for kids brought into the country in his circumstances to renew his driver’s license.  The publicly over his situation would cost his younger sister a job for a while.

The film does cover President Obama’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”  and the stalled DREAM Act bill.   (Republican congressman Lou Barletta from Pennsylvania explains the Supreme Court’s “return to sender” 4-4 tie on the expansion of Obama’s DACA and DAPA policy here. The New York Times, in a piece by Alicia Haeyoun and Alicia Parlapiano explain “who would have gained protection but did not” on June 23, here.) The upshot is that in theory Moises would be eligible for citizenship only if he went back to Mexico for a 10-year waiting period, if I followed the narrative right. He also would normally not be available for instate tuition to go to college (even though public schools and colleges follow a “don’t ask don’t tell” on undocumented status, which sounds ironic indeed now).

The film also documents Moises’s relationship with Brandon, who looks a lot like him given the way the camera sets up their scenes together.  It covers the Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA (but overlooks Obergefell)

Moises says, “True power is holding those in elected office accountable.”  He meets with a conservative congresswoman who says “I don’t support DREAM, but I support you personally.”  What a contradiction (remember, Ayn Rand had titled a section of “Atlas Shrugged” as “Non-Contradiction” which seems to apply to the morality of politicians).

Moises also mentions a local screening of the documentary by Dennis Michael Lynch “They Came to America: The Cost of Illegal Immigration” sponsored by a local right-wing sheriff (story about the film )  I have not seen this film and don’t find availability on Netflix or Amazon.

This film reminds me of “Documented” (May 2014) by Jose Antonio Vargas, former Washington Post reporter.  My reviews of other films on immigration issues on Blogger are here .

The film certainly makes me ponder the different views of social capital. When is it morally compelling that a person be loyal to and “look after his own” rather than respond to fairness and equality “in the world as a whole” or express solidarity with new groups?  Mr. Serarano’s personal narrative is quite compelling (as is that of Mr. Vargas), and it is quite different from my own (which I spend so much effort on) largely because he is over four decades younger.

(Published: Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 2:00 PM EDT)

Picture: Brown Mountain from NC 226 to the west, my trip, 2013;  I sometimes get down to these areas.