“God’s Own Country” does seem like a “Brokeback Mountain II”

God’s Own Country”, directed by Francis Lee, may come across as a “Brokeback Mountain II” from Ang Lee a dozen years ago.

This time, the setting is in Yorkshire in northern England, apparently in the 1960s or so, before modern technology. Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor) seems a little squeamish over his farming duties – in the opening scene is vomits when getting up on a day he has to help a sheep deliver a baby.  His parents, especially mom, seem concerned about his manliness.  In a nearby town, he finds nelly boys who make him feel a little manlier by comparison. Gay life went on in rural England, even only a couple decades after Alan Turing’s tragedy (Britain decriminalized sodomy in 1967). When a roughshod immigrant, Georghe (Alex Secareanu) arrives from communist Romania, the new guy first intimidates Johnny because the comrade really is very good at doing everything on a farm.  The time of this movie may have actually been intended to coincide with the fall of the Soviet bloc and Ceausescu.  But soom Georghe’s dominating (very cis-male) behavior entices Johnny and they fall in love, with some passionate scenes when out on the range with bedrolls.

A family crisis ensues when dad has a stroke, and Johnny has to really take care of dad personally.  That leads to a whirlwind plot climax in the men’s relationship.

The film has graphic cinematography of the live animal birth scenes, with how farm boys really do this.  The animals “know” and “trust” them (“it’s only me”). I’m reminded of a live birth scene in Walt Disney’s “The Vanishing Prairie” (1954), a bit of a sensation at the time.

The film was preceded by a 10-minute short “Breakfast” by Tyler Byrnes. A young man David (Altan Alburo) invites a boyfriend Alex (Tommy Bernadi) (quite handsome but apparently with dysmorphia) with an eating disorder to share a fattening breakfast. The film contains David Lynch-like scenes with chest tunes invading.

The show, sponsored by Reel Affirmations of the DC Center at the Gala Hispania theater in the Columbia Heights area of Washington DC,  was preceded by a stand-up by Rayceen Pendarvis, advertising himself as 68, who got everyone one into a brief hug-fest.  That isn’t my own personal message, but that’s for another time.

Link for Yorkshire picture (wiki).

Name:  “Gods Own Country”
Director, writer:  Francis Lee
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Reel Affirmations, 2017/10/19 opening night, Gala Hispania, Washington DC, sold out
Length:  104
Rating:  NA (explicit enough for NC-17, artistic and dramatic film for adults, not considered pornographic)
Companies:  Samuel Goldwyn
Link:  official

(Posted: Friday, October 20, 2017 at 7:45 PM EDT)

“Bwoy”: A married gay man reinvents himself by connecting with a younger man in a poor, homophobic country

Bwoy”, directed  and written by John C. Young, is a suspenseful tale, centered around online chat and Skype sex, and the need for men to allow themselves to become vulnerable in order to help others.

Brad (Anthony Rapp), introduces himself to us with his chat comments through a mobile app mapped to a large desktop in his bedroom.  He is 42 years old, blondish, still youthful (sometimes he says he is 39) and says he wants to be a “daddy” to a young man.  Pretty soon he hooks up to Yenny (Jimmy Brooks) in Jamaica.  Besides providing the opening setting for the first James Bond film “Dr. No” (:Three Blind Mice”), Jamaica is known for its homophobic culture.

It gets pretty graphic, but pretty soon Brad is sending him increasing amounts of money, even allowing one session of emotional blackmail.

But gradually, we learn the circumstances of his life in upstate New York.  He works for credit card company as a primary bill collector (that’s not the same as a collection agency, which I worked for in 2003, and the script makes that clear).  He’s married to an attentive black woman Marcia (De’Adre Aziza), who would seem to be intervening less than expected. A few years back, he lost his young son to a swimming pool accident.  And he seems to have lost his license to practice medicine. So he is scraping by on the contingent job market.

Two thirds into the 85-minute movie, at the point of no return, it seems as though Yenny gets murdered on Skype, right before Brad’s watch.  Brad will need to make a dangerous rescue journey, borrowing even more money and getting more deeply into his own debt, to redeem himself as a human being.

This is a movie about risk taking and about exploitation, and about the moral responsibilities that come with privilege. It’s interesting that the movie, screened at Human Rights Campaign in Washington by Reel Affirmations, was also sponsored by DC Center Global, which assists asylum seekers.  Right now, unlike the case with refugees, there seems to be no way to host asylum seekers with the normal legal supervision that would mitigate risk; the entire ability to help them seems to ride on social capital.

Randy Shulman authors an interview with Anthony Rapp on Metro Weekly.

James Bond Beach wiki picture.

Director QA:

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Name:  “Bwoy”
Director, writer:  John C. Young
Released:  2017 (DVD April 4)
Format: 2.35:1
When and how viewed:  HRC event for Reel Affirmations and DC Center Global, 2017/3/24, well attended
Length:  85
Rating:  NA  (“R”)
Companies:  Breaking Glass
Link:  official

(Posted: Saturday, March 25, 2017, at 1:45 PM EDT)

“King Cobra”: James Franco acts creepy in a gay murder mystery involving a porn business dispute

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Name: King Cobra
Director, writer:  Justin Kelly, book by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway; James Franco produced
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon Prime instant video ($6.99 HD rent) was at Reel Affirmations closing night in DC; may have limited theatrical release
Length 92
Rating Not given, but would probably be NC-17; a legitimate art film and dramatic issue-oriented narrative for grown ups.
Companies: IFC
Link: official site


King Cobra”, directed and written by Justin Kelly, is a true story based on the book “Cobra Killer: Gay Porn Murder and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice” by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway.

The true story is controversial because it eventually provides a biography of actor Sean Paul Lockhart, who played the rule “Chris” in “Judas Kiss” (2011), and Sean’s tangential or accidental involvement in a bizarre murder over a rivalry in the gay porn business.

Partly because I am probably just two degrees of separation from the actor personally, I have to stick to facts, which are well summarized on imdb here.   Harlow (played by Keegan Allen) and Joe (played by James Franco, in probably his creepiest role ever) are serving life terms in Pennsylvania for the murder of rival producer Stephen (Christian Slater), which the film shows near the end, as happening when Harlow visits Stephen and feints seducing Stephen.  That’s the way to die, when your last memory is erotic.  The murder scene actually seems a little bit motivated by Hitchcock, especially “Psycho”.  Lockhart, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, had no prior knowledge of the murder plot and, although held by police briefly, was never charged and helped convict the other two men (as in imdb story).  The movie ends happily for Sean as his adult film career resumes.

The story involves a couple of interesting legal points.  When Stephen grooms Sean into the porn industry, he gives Sean the stage name of Brent Corrigan, and then trademarks the name. When Sean wants to go out and work on his own, Stephen litigates for trademark infringement.  Yes, in some industries “stage name” of a performer is very important for the business model to work, and performers and artists need to know this.  Sean, however, threatens to tell everyone that Stephen had filmed him slightly before Seann turned 18.  In addition, there’s already a nosey neighbor suspicious of the speculative possibility of child pornography next door.

Sean and Stephen seem about to reconcile, when two other producers (whose story is shown in parallel in the early part of the movie), Joe and Harlow, want to hire Sean as “Brent Corrigan”, setting up the rivalry that provides a motive for murder.

The film is now available on Amazon Instant video.  I missed it at the Reel Affirmations film festival last weekend because of a schedule conflict with a piano concert.

Sean does not play himself; rather Garrett Clayton takes the lead rule with a lot of charisma (but he is just too smooth, even his legs, in the opening scene, hinting at one of the plot twists).

The film should not be confused with a 1999 horror film of the same name about a real snake from Lionsgate/Trademark (which I saw in Minnesota).

“Theo and Hugo”: explicit gay film with a love story centering around containing HIV

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Name: “Theo and Hugo”
Director, writer:   Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Reel Affirmations, Tivoli Theater, 2016/10/15
Length 92
Rating NA (would be NC-17)
Companies: Wolfe
Link: link 


Paris 05:59: Theo and Hugo”, also titled “Theo e Hugo dans le meme bateau” or “Theo and Hugo in the Same Boat”, directed by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, is a gay love story whose alternate title amounts to a logline for the plot.

It’s also a porn film, arguably NC-17, with a real plot. Theo (Geoffrey Couet) mounts Hugoo (Franxois Nambot) in a sex club, as the film opens with an orgy in muted reds, the camera flashing a heavenly light on the couple when it appears.

Ove the next ninety minutes, until dawn in Theo’s tiny flat (remember “Zero M2”, Sept. 16) the couple wanders the streets of Paris, and into a hospital where Theo gets a prescription for some protease inhibitors after he confesses he didn’t use a condom, and Hugo says he is HIV+ but with undetectable viral load. It’s amazing how quickly the French health care system works at 4 AM for an “ASE” emergency. The film has some useful information on the practical risk to the “active” partner, and some info also on the side effects of protease inhibitors (which are much less severe than they once were;  Hugo looks pretty good).  I once had an incident in 1999 where I “criticized” the shocking appearance of a friend and was berated for lookism; but the “protease pot” seems to be a thing of the past, hopefully.

The last scene, if presented first, could have been erotic, because there could be some real tension before the characters go nude.  Theo is the “masculine one” – hairier, but slightly shorter.  Theo apparently works as a teacher (but can’t afford much in Paris); Hugo works as a notary, which got some laughs from the audience, which could have made a mental comparison to “The Accountant”.  Unfortunately, the orgy scene comes first, which, for me at least, drains the tension at the outset.  (In Catholic France, circumcision seems to be the rule, not the exception.)  Whatever the film title, there’s no “Quasimodo” in this film.

My “first experience” was in the Club Baths on the East Village in New York City on a Saturday night in January 1975.  I remember the experience vividly, as a fallen male (to quote George Gilder). The baths got closed in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis, at least in the U.S., but underground sex clubs started opening in the early 90s.  In the US they were usually in private locations where you had to call to get the address.

I saw the film at the Gala Tivoli in Columbia Heights of Washington DC as part of the Reel Affirmations film festival this weekend. But the show got started about 40 minutes late.

Wikipedia attribution link for Paris picture, by Zinneke under CCSA 3.0.  My most recent visit: May 2001.

(Posted: Sunday: Oct. 16, 2016 at 10:45 AM EDT)