“Kept Boy”: gay dramedy about a Hollywood sugar daddy breaks out into some bigger issues

Kept Boy” (2017), directed by George Bamber and written by David Ozanich, starts out as if it could be just a silly, facetious comedy about younger gay men living off of rich but aging sugar daddies in Tinseltown. Indeed, there are prior example-setters, like “The Houseboy” (2011) and “The Mudge Boy” (2007).  But the film, however compact at 89 minutes, gets into other areas, international and scope, and turns serious and pertinent as it progresses.

Dennis Racine, played by British actor Jon Paul Phillips, dropped out of college in LA a decade ago and essentially became a houseboy of now 50-something TV producer Farleigh Nock (German actor Thure Reifenstein).  Thure produces a reality TV show about fashion and interior decoration, and probably hasn’t taken Blogtyrant’s advice to heart on how he could increase his fan base and ratings by nice blogging.  Having undergone angioplasty, he denies his health problems. He faces being cut off by investors, who like Nate Berkus better.  (Nate’s show, which I liked, is no longer on, and Nate lost his male partner Fernando to the 2004 tsunami that hit Sri Lanka – a catastrophe depicted in the 2012 film “The Impossible”.)  Complicating the question as to whether Thure can “afford” Dennis any more is the fact that Dennis approaches his 30th birthday.  And another boyfriend Jasper (Greg Audino, who becomes the most likable character in the story) could take Dennis’s place.

Dennis may, in fact, be showing his age and preparing to go downhill fast.  He smokes electronic cigarettes, which probably have nicotine. His body is just too smooth, especially in the legs.

The movie takes an interesting plot turn at midpoint (again, interesting from Hauge’s theories on how all good screenplays are structured) as the characters visit the coastal resort city of Cartagena, Colombia.  They run into a closeted gay drug lord who creates some complications in protecting his own empire. If you look at a map, you see that Cartagena is not too far from Venezuela, and is facing bigtime refugee and asylum issues, brought on by Communism.  Maybe another movie?  A friend of mine visited Cartagena last year, before his very recent passing as I learned about from Facebook. I’m also reminded of the 2001 film “Collateral Damage” whose release was held up by 9/11.

The DVD will be available August 8, 2017 from Breaking Glass Pictures (theatrical was TLA).  Expect more than just the usual happy ending;  tragedy happens.  There’s a lot more material under the covers that one could explore. I can remember once being counseled (at the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s) that I ought to be open to being sponged off of.

Picture: Mine, manga doll in a bar last night

Name:  “Kept Boy”
Director, writer:  George Bamber, David Ozanich
Released:  2017
Format:  1.78:1
When and how viewed:  2017/2/23, complimentary private Vimeo screener
Length:  89
Rating:  NA (probably R, a few explicit gay scenes)
Companies:  Breaking Glass Pictures, TLA Releasing
Link:  announcement

(Posted: Sunday, July 23, 2017 at 6:30 PM EDT)

“Heli”: a young factory worker in Mexico protects his sister after she accidentally draw him into a drug ring

Heli” is a gut-punching dramatic film about involuntary family responsibility in the third world, specifically rural Mexico in an area overrun by drug cartels. The film (in Spanish with subtitles) is directed and written by Amat Escalante, with other writers Gabriel Reyes, Zumurt Cavusgolu, and Ayhan Ergusel. The film was shot in 2013 and has shown in Cannes and Sundance and is now becoming available on DVD from Strand Releasing (June 27).

Heli (Armando Espitia) is a an slender, appealing young man, about 20 with wife Sabrina (like the 1955 film name, Linda Gonzalez), 12 year old sister Estela (Andrea Vergara), and father (Ramon Alvarez). Dad works at the local auto assembly plant, which looks very modern (and perhaps tried to take American jobs – to Donald Trump’s consternation) and Heli has been working the night shift for some time. Estetla has a boy friend Belo (Juan Eduardo Palacios) who seems to be going through paramilitary training (maybe from a drug cartel) where he is forced to roll in his own chunky vomit.

Belo stores drugs in the family’s house, and when Heli finds them, he destroys them by throwing them into a well. But soon the house is raided, we think by police but they may be drug dealers disguised as troops. Dad is shot, and the rest of the family, as well as Belo, are captured.

The film’s middle section has one of the most graphic torture scenes ever filmed I’m recalling New Line’s “Rendition”, where Jake Gyllenhaal’s character witnesses “my first torture”) in which Belo’s private parts are set on fire, as if to imply permanent castration and epilation, and affront to “the virtue of maleness”. But soon Belo dies and his corpse is hung from a bridge in a public lynching.

The film had opened with a shot of Belo and Estela in the back of a pickup truck, leading to the lynching, as a prologue before the opening titles, a story preview familiar from the films of Jorge Ameer.

Heli is spared with worst but still injured. He eventually talks to police and is in the position of being the sole protector of his younger sister as well as wife and baby. The sister has become pregnant. Heli’s injuries cause him to be inefficient working on the factory assembly line, and soon he gets fired. But, as in typical screenwriting, he must prevail.

A reasonable comparison could be made to Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 film “Traffic“.

Guanajuato archeological site, near where film was shot (Wiki).

Name:  “Heli
Director, writer:  Amat Escanante
Released:  2013, 2017
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Strand private screener on Vimeo, 2017/6/22, DVD BluRay available 2017/6/27
Length:  105
Rating:  R
Companies:  Strand Releasing
Link:  BluRay

Picture: Big Bend, mine (Thanksgiving 1979 Sierra Club camping trip, looking into Mexico).

(Posted: Friday, June 23, 2017 at 10:300 AM EDT)

“Carlito’s Way” seems like a stereotyped Mafia movie in today’s world; great shoot-out scene at end

Carlito’s Way” (1993) is a big-budget gangster movie from Brian de Palma.  But it’s not quite as engaging as the “Godfather” epics of the 1970s or maybe either some of de Palma’s earlier films (like “Dressed to Kill” (1980) or some comparable films by Scorsese (“Scarface”).  It’s long and bloated at 144 minutes.

The film is based on novels by former judge Edwin Torres, who says he wrote out his novels in longhand.  (So did J. K. Rowling when she began writing as a welfare mom.) The first screenplay was supposedly a “turkey”. The final adaptation is by David Koeep.

Carlito Brigante is played by a younger and mustachioed Al Pacino.  From Puerto Rico, he’d like to have the suave whiteness and social acceptability of a Geraldo Rivera or maybe (in today’s world) Josh Garcia.  His rather evil lawyer Dave Kleinfeld, a younger Sean Penn (who shaved back his hairline for the part) gets him out of prison on a technicality before a doubting judge in an opening scene, and Carlito promises to go straight (not literally). Fat chance.

Gradually his associates and girlfriends and Kleinfeld drag him back into the Mafia, with many scenes in the bay around Rikers Island.  Kleinfeld is a cokehead, with one scene where be nearly vomits in the bay, as if to invoke Roman Polanski.

Other characters in line are Benny (John Leguizamo) and Gail (Penelope Ann Miller).

When the revengeful elements of the plot send Kleinfeld to the hospital, Carliot pays him a sympathy visit and gives him a lesson in self-defense.  It doesn’t do any good.  (Torres says that Kleinfeld, murdered by a police imposter in the hospital, survives in the novels.)

The film has a famous shootout in Grand Central station (rather like the bank shootout in the 1996 film “Heat”, also with Pacino)  One problem is that I think that the Amtrak train south leaves from Penn Station, which I have been in enough times.

The metaphor at the end, for slipping into Paradise (based on entering a billboard) is a nice rendering of how the afterlife might start.

The movie starts in black-and-white with the final shooting, and returns in color.  There is an alternative universe ending where Carlito wore a bullet proof vest.

The script has lots of topical references, like to “Walk on the Wild Side” and in being “Watergated” (maybe now that’s “Russiagated”).

The Mahler-esque score was composed by Patrick Doyle.

Name:  “Carlito’s Way”
Director, writer:  Brian de Palma
Released:  1993
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD, 34 min “making of” included
Length:  144
Rating:  R
Companies:  Universal
Link:  Blu-Ray

(Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT)

“Halloweed”: comedy horror about the pothead kids of a serial killer still follows an old formula

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Name: Halloweed
Director, writer:  LizReal Leason, Michael Bussan
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed: private Screener Vimeo free from distributor; available Nov. 8
Length 101
Rating R
Companies: Screen Media
Link: official


Halloweed” (directed by LizReal Leason, based on a story by Michael Bussan)  is a comedy horror film, taking off on a legacy of many others (ranging from the “Halloween” franchises, to “Pieces” (1981), which means exactly what you think it does).

The film has an extended and handsomely drawn animated prologue with the credits, before it switches to an electric chair execution scene, where the victims have shown up in costumes for a Halloween party. The chair is no longer used in California, but dear old Dad (Tim Sizemore), a serial killer, fries on camera as the audience cheers.

His son Trent (Shannon Brown) and mildly charismatic gay stepbrother Joey (Simon Rex) decide to move to a small town, Moosehead, in the California valley to disappear and start over.  Cell phones abound in the film, so it’s not so clear how they escape the Internet.  They have plenty of street smarts, hitchhiking on a rig (I never pick them up), and hooking up with an elderly man eager to take in roommates sight unseen. Did he use Craigslist (and could he use Airbnb?) Is that how asylum seekers are to be housed?

Enter a judge running for mayor, with an agenda, while Joey makes a living hocking semi-legal pot.  Pretty soon bodies start piling up, brutally stabbed and sliced to death by a “mutant” – so his costume makes him look like a star child.  The two bro’s have to clear their reputation again, but it isn’t hard to guess the perp (as in “Pieces”).

The script and photography has some minor references to physical shame; there’s one reference to what my Army buddies used to call “thmooth”, and the old landlord guy isn’t afraid to run around in skivvies showing his balding legs. Holden Caulfield (“The Catcher in the Rye”) would not be impressed.

Picture: from The Lodge, Halloween party, near Hagerstown MD

(Posted: Monday, Oct. 31, 2016 at 6 PM EDT)

See also “Augustine: Killer Toy Robots” (index).

“American Honey”: teens sell door-to-door to support an on-the-road commune

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Name: American Honey
Director, writer:  Andrea Arnold
Released:  2016
Format:  1.37:1
When and how viewed:  2016/10/11 Angelica Mosaic evening small crowd
Length 163
Rating R
Companies: A24, Film4
Link: official

American Honey”, by Andrea Arnold, presents the world of door-to-door selling, which I had thought antiquated, with a twist:  it’s done by a vagabond of teenagers and young adults with a kind of on-the-road intentional community.

Star (Sasha Lane), some “white trash” from Texas nearly gets arrested by security in a suburban Kansas City supermarket, when she gets “hired” by the crew in the parking lot.  It’s led by Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and Krystal (Riley Keough), who labels her as a “honey”.

“Hiya” Shia is now 30, and begins to look it, with just a slight pot,  You want him to remain perfect, a role model, even with his past scuffles with the law.  Imdb says LaBeouf got twelve tattoos during the filming (or were they the new temporary digital tattoos from Microsoft, the so-called DuoSkin?)

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Most of the rest of the teens are tattooed and rather guttural, although that doesn’t always hold when they hit the road.

The crew has a business selling magazine subscriptions.  I can remember being approached and buying one of these around 1979 after moving to Dallas, and I even bought an unnecessary life insurance policy this way.  Two of the salesmen, it turned out, played chess, and I actually lost a game with White to one of them (I think to a Two Knights Defense – slurp!).

The crew starts out by canvassing one of the most opulent neighborhoods in suburban Kansas City, around the fountains.  I would think rich people, having a lot to lose, would refuse to admit door-to-door people out of fear of home invasion.  Even saying that is dangerous and seems to invite radical class warfare – insularity of the rich would keep a lot of people from being able to make a living at all.  But this one rich woman admits them and offers them refreshments out of Christian radical hospitality – until Star acts up around her kids and everybody gets kicked out.  The sales pitches play up the hokey poverty and charity angles.

Later the crew goes on the road to the North Dakota oil fields, with a stop in the Bad Lands.  Here it’s appropriate to note the artistic decision to shoot this 16-minute Altman-like film in 1.37:1, in order to focus on the closeups, 40s style.  But I wanted to see the outdoor stuff.  There’s a spectacular shot of downtown Kansas City, which I remember well from my graduate school days in the 1960s at KU (in Lawrence, KS).

With oil workers, the crew encourage blue collar mentality, which could make sales easier;  and finally they wind up selling to poor native Americans, who have nothing to lose (except diabetes).

Gradually, and predictably, Star begins to offer her body to make sales.  She starts developing an uneven relationship with Jake.  She teaches Jake how to use his pistol, which Jake uses to rescue Star from a barbecue where she may be about to be raped.  But the “home invasion” never happens.  The kids actually don’t want to harm anyone.

The film also shows a couple thunderstorms, and I wondered if there was going to be a tornado sequence (like the frogs in  Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia”.  This movie also reminded a bit of Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” (1993).   Another comparison would be Brent Huff’s 2002 comedy “100 Mile Rule”, about the “always be closing” aspect of sales culture.   (There was another Brent in the screenwriting group in Minneapolis in 2003 who was floating a script “I Hate Speed-dating”.  I wonder if it got anywhere.)

Near the end, there is a curious scene where a female bear accosts Star outdoors, and lovingly sniffs Star, as if to tell Star that she (Star) is pregnant.  Will animal mothers know these things about moms of other species.

As for the sales culture in the film – it presents the idea that a lot of people live in a world where everything is about manipulating others to play ball with you.  That’s how Donald Trump (who gets mentioned) thinks.

Pictures: Mine, 2006 (Flint Hills, KS and KC Star press)

(Posted: Wednesday, Oct, 12, 2016, 10:30 AM EDT)

“The Infiltrator”: Bring back the filmmaking style of the 80s

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Name: The Infiltrator
Director, writer:  Brad Furman, Ellen Brown Furman, Robert Mazur (book)
Released:  2016/07
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, late 2016./7/15, fair audience
Length 127
Rating R
Companies: Broad Green
Link: official site 

The Infiltrator”, directed by Brad Furman, adapted to screen by Ellen Brown Furman and based on the book by the same name by the subject, Robert Mazur (aka Bob Musella), opens in a bar or bowling alley in Tampa FL in 1985, with Mazur’s branding and initiation or “tribunal”, in my parlance, at least.  In a confrontation, his wire shorts out, burning a scar and disfiguring permanently the chakra area of his chest. Yes, some manly hair is gone, for life.  Remember the scene in “Se7en” where Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman shave down before wearing a wire?  I wonder how common this is.

Then we are launched into an 80s-style movie, with slightly overexposed reddish tones in the film stock, and  a sense of old-fashioned tropical heat all the time. The film is not as an intense as Brian de Palma’s “Scarface”, which seems to be a source of homage.

The plot, of course, concerns how Mazur went undercover as Custom’s agent and brought down the US operations of Colombian Medellin drug lord Pablo Escobar.  It’s a little bit conventional and understated, with fewer than the usual number of car chases and crashes.  But the fake wedding at the end (Amy Ryan) makes enough mockery of heterosexual, traditional marriage.

The film has clips of Ronald Reagan’s television moralizing about drugs, and references to Nancy’ “Just Say No”.

The end credits give some history of what would later happen, including a note that the CIA would divert some of this to the Contras under Oliver North.  Is this film a supplement to CNN’s “The Eighties”?

Picture: Tampa, channel, my trip, July 2015

(Posted: Saturday, July 16, 10:15 AM)