“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)

“Laerte-se”: the life narrative of a male-female transgender cartoonist in Brazil

Laerte-se”, directed by Lygia Barbosa and Eliane Brum, is a biography and self-focused life narrative of transgender Brazilian cartoonist Laerte Coutinho.

Laerte, now 65, didn’t start crossdressing until 2009 and announced herself as a woman soon thereafter.  The film has a lot of childhood 8mm reels of the boy Laerte who looks rather cis.  His family seemed somewhat understanding.  But Laerte says that as a man she was more reticent about homosexuality than gender change.

The film shows a lot of her cartoon work and paintings, and tries to convey her life narrative by metaphor in the cartoons.  She says that conservatism is capable of progressive ideas but moves to slowly.  Her cartoon activities were in support of the Left in Brazil, including some demonstrations in Sao Paolo. She has also covered professional soccer and likes to follow sports teams.  While the film gets into political polarization sometimes, it never takes up something as dangerous as, say, the (radical Muslim) cartoon controversy in Europe (Jyllands-Posten and Hebdo).

But the personal side of her transgender experience becomes quite telling. As the film opens, she is hesitant to start the interview process with the filmmaker, as there is an exchange of emails about the utility of time.  She says that sometimes transgender women who have completed the surgery believe they are “better” or more entitled that those who have not.

About 20 minutes into the film she talks about removing male body hair, and says doing so revealed a new person underneath.  This observation seems more relevant because she is Caucasian (European Portuguese descent) than it would be if she were any other race.  There is a shower leg shaving scene that reminds me of a bathtub scene in Sydney Pollack’s 1982 comedy “Tootsie” (Columbia) where Dustin Hoffman plays an unemployed actor who depilates and cross dresses to get work.  Actually there is a similar in “Magic Mike” (2012, directed Stever Soderbergh (Lionsgate) where Channing Tatum’s character winds up explaining to his girl friend why he “shaves his legs for work”. And don’t forget what happens to Troy McClain when he “took one for the team” on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice”. In fact, Serbian author Bazhe, who escaped the violence after an eldercare situation, explains his forays into cross-dressing in his 2003 book “Damages”.  In fact, modifying one’s body to join the group used to be the point of hazing ceremonies, like the “Tribunals” at William and Mary in my lost semester in 1961, where “they” shaved the (freshman) boys’ legs.  I played hookey on that one.

She gets into some ruminations about “the body” as I have.  But I tended not to pay enough attention to my own appearance until I was old enough, 29, to come out a second time. (“My Second Coming” in my DADT-1 book). I was already going bald.   I didn’t have the experience of other gay men of being “desired” for a CIS body.  Ironically, I went bald in the legs in middle age.  No I didn’t smoke or have diabetes.  It all seems like a moral reflection.

Laerte has two cats, one of whom becomes a constant character in the film, demanding attention a lot.

The film (100 minutes) ends with a rather shocking nude scene of Laerte and one other woman not completely done with transition.

Sao Paolo long shot picture (Wiki).

Picture: “Lady Valor” Kristin Beck at gathering in Arlington VA December 2016.

Name:  “Laerte-se
Director, writer:  Lygia Barbosa, Eliane Brum
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1  (in Portuguese with subtitles)
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play
Length: 100
Rating:  NA (“R”)
Companies:  Netflix (first from Brazil)
Link:  Metacritic

(Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at 1:30 PM EDT)

“Sundown”: the kind of spring-break comedy I get emails about (asking me if I want to write another one)

Sundown” (directed Fernando Lebrija) is another stereotyped teen spring break comedy, the kind that I get emails about asking if I a screenplay to submit in this genre. It offers the novelty of a setting in the Mexican coastal resort of Puerto Vallarta, for rich people.

Logan (a handsome Devon Werkheiser) and his best friend Blake (Sean Marquette) will be the tag team. Blake seems like a younger Seth Rogen, as if the producers wanted another comedy that would see if they could anger North Korea into another hack (which apparently just happened).

Logan’s dad (John Michael Higgins), having raised him in some LA Valley suburb, often pesters Logan during Logan’s home disco mixing sessions, as Logan seems to aspire to be a disco electronics music composer. That’s not bad. Dad wants Logan to take care of the house while parents go away, and gives him grandfather’s metal Rolex watch, worth thousands.

One cardinal rule, it seems to me, is that you don’t give a teen boy a metal band wrist watch before he gets through puberty, should his wrists become hairy and the watch grabby. In these days of DuoSkin maybe that won’t matter.

Logan and Blake sneak out by airliner (no electronics ban yet) to Puerto Vallarta for heterosexual circuit parties. That’s not before they get some weed from Eugene (Reid Ewing, who gets more of a part in the closing credits). Once there, the taxi driver (quite reckless on a two-lane road) almost takes the watch for barter. Logan gets involved with a call girl Gaby (Camilla Belle), and wakes up from the drugs to find the watch gone. I know the feeling. That’s not until a scene where she vomits into his mouth trying to kiss him.

The rest of the comedy is about getting the watch back, sort of (the viewer’s hook for the screenwriter), and dealing with the Mexican mafia, which is hardly of MS-13 caliber, but it does play to the hustling mentality of the poor when dealing with guest rich white people. Logan will wind up rescuing Gaby from a pimp (remember “Hustle and Flow”: indeed, it’s hard our here for a pimp). Then Logan has to return and make up with his dad.

The film has been criticized for the casting of Gaby, as if an affront to Mexico. The film seems especially deadpan given the current political debates over immigration and asylum.

Logan and Blake endure a lot, including some drag paintball makeup on their bodies, maybe simulating the DuoSkin.

In the film’s “middle”, there is a rather offensive cock fight, which Logan has to get himself out of.  It seems rather cruel to animals. But a backstory chapter in my novel draft “Tribunal and Rapture” (later morphed into “Angel’s Brother”) depicts a cock fight in Florida in giving the background of one of the characters (a “retired” FBI agent). It was good for me to be reminded of that scene.

Somehow this film reminds me of the little 2001 comedy “The Mexican” with Brad Pitt about a cursed gun. It has no connection to “Hurry Sundown” (1967), a film, which because of reference to the draft, I probably need to see.

Wikipedia picture of Puerto Vallarta beach (not as pretty as San Sebastian, Spain, for my money.)

Name:  “Sundown”
Director, writer:  Fernando Lebrija
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon Instant $3.99 (also on Netflix Instant)
Length:  104
Rating:  R
Companies:  Lionsgate, Pantelion, Netflix
Link:  Indiewire

(Posted: Friday, May 19, at 12:30 AM EDT)

“Beach Rats”: working class gay teen boy comes of age in Brooklyn, but may stumble into creating a tragedy

Beach Rats” (2017), directed by Eliza Hittman, makes the case that some young cis-male men are indeed bisexual, or at least ambiguous.

The protagonist is the rather smooth Frankie (Harris Dickinson), who lives near the beach apparently in Coney Island (Brooklyn) and helps take care of a father dying of cancer. He has a girl  friend Simone (Madeleine Weinstein) and gets intimate with her, but has some trouble performing.  In the mean time, he sneaks down to the basement and connects with older gay men on a webcam.

In time he meets peers (the “rats”) closer to his own age, who want to meet up on the beach, maybe for sex, maybe to trade and smoke weed.  Frankie demonstrates his street smarts in various ways, like the way he uses pawn shops to get cash. He does demonstrate some sense, as I recall, in asking about condoms.  As the film progresses, one of the other men only slightly older than him becomes a target.  A robbery on the beach may leave the other young man drowned, and the movie ends with Frankie not knowing if he has been party to murder.

The story reminds me of the real life case of Justin Berry, whom Kurt Eichenwald wrote about in the New York Times in 2005. The real story did not end so tragically, as far as I know.  Older men who contact underage teens through webcams may be breaking the law (depending on age of consent) or may run afoul of federal child pornography laws.

The film has a handball sports scene near a boardwalk.  I remember a place called Seaside Courts on the Coney Island boardwalk, with paddleball courts, which created a small personal sequence for me in 1989-1990.  It is north of the aquarium.  I don’t know if it is still there, as I was last in the area in 2004.

The film won best director at Sundance. Apparently it was shot in super 16, but looks quite crisp.

I saw the film at the Maryland Film Festival in the third floor auditorium of the newly renovated Parkway Theater in Baltimore, on North Ave. and Charles Street.

Name:  “Beach Rats
Director, writer:  Eliza Hittman
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1 (16 mm)
When and how viewed:  2017/5/7, Parkway Theater, Baltimore, Maryland Film Festival, sold out
Length:  98
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Neon
Link:  Lincoln Center

(Published: Wednesday, May 10, 2107 at 6:15 PM EDT)

“Staying Vertical”: A filmmaker goes on a bizarre road quest in rural France

Staying Vertical” (“Rester vertical”) is a bizarre new erotic mystery film by Alain Guiraudie (“Stranger by the Lake”). The film sometimes seems like high class porn with a story, but we really wonder whose narrative is really being told.

A thirty-something filmmaker Leo (Damien Bonnard) explores a rural area in Provence looking for material for a new film, an contacting people who come across as alter-egos.  As the film progresses, we learn he gets money wired by a benefactor or sponsor (Sebastien Novac) whom we will eventually find may have some supernatural motive of his own.  (I’m reminded of the 1980 film “Wolfen”, as well as all the cattle mutilation stories).  When he gets back to some secret motel he tries to write a screenplay (in Final Draft).  But most of the time he hangs around this sheep farm, crashing and trying to make himself useful.

He has taken a liking to the teen Yoan (Basile Meilleurat) who is properly suspicious as he takes are of his dying dad. But soon he settles with a farm family and hooks up with the daughter Marie (India Hair) and quickly has child with her.  We learn that the film is spanning many months when the film shows the childbirth explicitly. Soon (without explanation) Marie leaves him to care for the baby as he wanders in his own wildnerness.

There are a couple of bizarre sequences where Leo kayaks (with the baby) through a bayou to a cabin in the woods occupied by a sage nurse, who hook his body up to electrocardiographs and brain monitors.  Conveniently, he has little chest hair.  Then he gradually starts attracting attention of other older gay men who fear he cannot take care of the baby.

Near the end there is sequence where Leo gives Yoan’s dying father an erotic  wish to remember for eternity as he dies.  Imagine if you stay fixed in time as you die in your last moment.  Maybe that’s what I would want.

The film presents a very loose way of life, crashing in people’s homes or farms and expecting to be offered radical hospitality, and even winding up homeless and destitute with child, begging from strangers (pandhandling), and somehow recovering.  It’s odd that a screenwriter would need to learn to live this way, off the books and off the radar, very good at creating his own immediate, local social capital.  But sometimes, like the Rich Young Ruler, one can have too much to lose.

The film showed at the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center and supposedly some women walked out.  There is the impression that a lot of sex acts happen “out of need”.  The comments about the euthanasia-sex scene occur at about 20:00 in the QA.  Another comment is that in the film men care for other men than for women.  Oddly, the director doesn’t perceive the film as suspenseful.  But I did – what is going on?

Wikipedia scenery from Provence, link.

Wkiipedia scene of Brest, France, where the urban scenes were filmed, link. (Bayeux and Caen are the closest to here I have gotten, in 1999).

Other image: Mine, near Mineral VA (2011 earthquake site) and “Twin Oaks” intentional community, which I have visited before.  Also, near Lincoln Center.

Name: “Staying Vertical”
Director, writer:  Alain Giraudie
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed: Private screener free on Vimeo from Strand; was at New York Film Festival in Lincoln Center
Length:  101   (Language: French with subtitles)
Rating: Not given but would normally be NC-17. This is what Roger Ebert would have called a legitimate film for adults, that needs to be very explicit, especially to deal with unusual sexuality and personal identity issues
Companies:  Strand Releasing, Wild Bunch
Link:   Strand    Book date May 2, DVD available May 17 

(Posted Friday May 5, 2017 at 12 Noon EDT)

“Aquarius”: a woman in Brazil holds of greedy real estate developers, while her recovery from breast cancer provides another metaphor

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Name: Aquarius
Director, writer:  Kleber Mendonca Filho
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1 (Cinemascope)
When and how viewed:  2016/10/21 Angelika Mosaic, QA, festival, nearly sold out, large auditorium
Length 142
Rating Not available (would be NC-17, necessarily [because of cancer issues] very explicit in some scenes; this film provides a good argument for why NC-17 should be regarded as legitimate for some content intended for “grown ups”, as did the film yesterday)
Companies: Vitagraph
Link: official

Angelika theaters provided QA with actress Sonia Braga before or after shows of “Aquarius”, by Kleber Mendonca Filho, the new Brazilian drama about an elderly widow fighting off real estate developers who want her to sell her unit in a condo.  She is the last holdout.

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The film is largely “interior” (remarkable when it seems to be shot in true “Cinemascope”) and it’s not clear from the exteriors (in Recife), which building t is – although the script says that it is the two-story building “Aquarius” built in the 1940s as an old-fashioned family resort..  The developer apparently wants to raze the building and replace it with a 60-story luxury high-rise (resembling Miami Beach), an event that would exacerbate the issue of affordable housing in the city.  The film occasionally opens up, to show the coastal city with the divisions of rich and poor, and opens with some black and white historical stills.

But it is metaphor behind the story of the widow Clara (Sonia) that sets up the tricky ending – which may send any homeowner to look at his pest control situation. The film (142 minutes) comprises three parts. “Clara’s Hair”, “Clara’s Love”, and “Clara’s Cancer”, the last of which transfers as a metaphor.

The first part takes place in 1980, at a party, when Clara is a young woman who has undergone one breast removal and chemotherapy for cancer occurring unusually young.  At the time, the use of combination chemotherapy was still relatively new and grueling.  The film, while in still in part one, jumps forward three decades to show Clara fully recovered, able to unwind her hair.

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The middle section sets up some intimate situations, at least two where men come on to Clara and have to deal with discovering one breast gone.  The film obviously makes a statement about sexual attractiveness (of women) after cancer, or after any personal catastrophe (like in the film “Marathon” Oct. 18).  In the meantime, the pressure on her to move increases as the developers encourage loud parties and sex orgies in the unit above.  The film moves into NC-17 territory here. The film also brings in other families, especially several younger men, as well as a character, Diego (Humberto Currao) who has learned how to sell ruthlessness (Donald Trump style) in business school.  (Is this about Making Brazil Great?)

The third part sets up the nauseating (for the developers) conclusion, with the help of Cleide (Calra Ribas).

QA Clips:

1

2

3

 

Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2016 at 11:30 AM 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)