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Film
What's Up For Today?

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Christian Martin & Darren Flaxstone’s
Buffering

Newfest
July 21 - 28
Various Locations In New York City


Written by Christian Martin & Darren Flaxstone.

Starring: Alex Anthony, Conner Mckenzy, Jessica Matthews, Oliver Park, Bernie Hodges.

(UK, 80 min.)

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Christian Martin & Darren Flaxstone are responsible for the disturbing and bleak films Shank and Release; both have merit despite their brutality and extreme pessimism. Their follow-up film, Buffering, is quite a departure for these prolific filmmakers.

A young Brit couple (Alex Anthony & Conner Mckenzy) find themselves in dire financial straits and, in order to keep their suburban home, they turn to vidtaping themselves and posting their sexual escapades on the internet while charging viewers a fee. As the money begins to roll in, the relationship begins to suffer and these two “digital whores” decide to do one last showing—with a third party.

There are fun moments in Buffering, but it is mostly silly and predictable.

Oliver Park is refreshingly elusive as the couple’s hot neighbor and delivers the film’s best line: “I’m not gay, I’m progressive.”

Buffering offers the viewer lots of flesh and fucking but very little else. It’s almost as if the filmmakers deliberately wanted to show that they weren’t nihilistic misanthropes so they created a mindless comedy with a happy ending to prove it. Sure, the film says something about how difficult it is to survive in these economic times but it’s flimsy at best. Had the boys gone on to amass a fortune and then had to deal with those repercussions, that may have been interesting but ‘the strain on the relationship’ plot is tired and done.

NewFest, the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Film Festival runs July 21-28 at various locations in New York City. NewFest.org


 


Casper Andreas's
Going Down in La La Land
Newfest
July 21 - 28
Various Locations In New York City



Written by Casper Andreas. Based on the novel by Andy Zeffer.

Starring: Matthew Ludwinski, Allison Lane, Michael Medico, Casper Andreas, John Schile, Jesse Archer, Bruce Vilanch, Judy Tenuta, Alec Mapa.

(USA, 105 min.)

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Casper Andreas is to be applauded for being so prolific even when his efforts yield mixed results. He’s given us a true gem (Between Love and Goodbye), a fun fab frolic (The Big Gay Musical), a silly comedy (Violet Tendencies) and a downright bore (A Four Letter Word).

Last year, in my review of Violet Tendencies, I wrote: “I wish he would truly challenge himself with his next project. We shall see in about a year.” Well, I’m elated to report that Andreas has made his best film yet with Going Down in La La Land, an incisive and sometimes biting look at fame and power in Los Angeles.

Don’t let the title fool you, this film is an admirable attempt to scrutinize Hollywood and the tele-closet that exists for popular actors (something I’ve written about extensively) and Andreas truly captures the desire for fame and fortune that seems to envelop everyone in tinseltown. In addition, he has a good handle on how drugs and backstabbing permeate the culture.

Matthew Ludwinski plays Adam, our tour guide through the pitfalls of “la la land.” He’s arrived in LA, from New York, and hopes to make it big but ends up starring in gay porn. This gig leads to his turning tricks for some wealthy and closeted men—among them is one of television’s most popular sitcom stars (play winningly by Michael Medico). These two unlikely bedmates actually fall in love and someone leaks the relationship to the tabloids. Before you can say “paparazzi’ our TV star must decide between his career and the boy he has fallen for.

Ludwinski is incredibly appealing, adorably handsome and can actually act. He brings a genuine poignancy to Adam, making the viewer fall for him and root for him, even when the odds are stacked against him.

Andreas gives himself the thankless role of Nick, the photog bf who turns to Meth. And he’s really good--so good, I wanted to see more of this character.

Allison Lane chews some scenery and steals some scenes as Adam’s fag-hag bestie who will do just about anything for her 15 minutes.

Andreas is to be commended on so many levels including how well he captures the decadent yet alluring look of Hollywood. His adaptation of the script, based on Andy Zeffer’s novel, is well-structured and quite clever.

SPOILER ALERT

The wholly unbelievable happy ending can even be forgiven, although the film seems to end where the story would get even more interesting. Perhaps a sequel, Casper?

NewFest, the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Film Festival runs July 21-28 at various locations in New York City. NewFest.org


Rashaad Ernesto Green's
Gun Hill Road
Newfest Closing Night
July 21 - 28
Various Locations In New York City

 

Written by Rashaad Ernesto Green.

Starring: Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, Harmony Santana, Vincent Laresca, Robin de Jesus, Miriam Colon.

(USA, 88 min.)

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella


Esai Morales realistic portrayal of a hyper-masculine Latino father who must deal with the fact that his son is not the boy he left three years ago when he was shipped off to prison, is one of the major strengths of Rashaad Ernesto Green’s gritty and dark first feature, Gun Hill Road.

Another reason to recommend the film is Judy Reyes, who delivers a nuanced performance as a woman torn between two men, who is fiercely protective of her child, whom she loves, no matter what his choices are.

Finally, the stunning Harmony Santana, a real transgender teen, is so believable as Michael that I was certain she was actually a boy playing transgender, yet as Vanessa, she had me believing she had to be a female. Santana’s quiet moments truly take us into the mind of what it must be like when the world tells you there’s something wrong with you, yet you feel you’re finally finding who you truly are.

Gun Hill Road pulls no punches as it graphically depicts Vanessa’s sexual experiences. And the tone of the film is quite harsh and depressing (echoing the dark moments in The Crying Game).

Morales’ character, Enrique, may seem cliché yet he is true to life, although when Enrique brings his son to a hooker it made me squirm in my seat. However, Green takes that scene and makes it a perfect example of what that situation must be like for a boy like Michael. There’s no comic bit here, it’s sheer torture and difficult to watch.

My main quarrel with Gun Hill Road is that I was rarely moved by it and I wanted to be. In going for grit and audacity, somehow relatability and empathy were lost in the cine-translation.

NewFest, the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Film Festival runs July 21-28 at various locations in New York City. NewFest.org



Benjamin Cantu's
Harvest (Stadt Land Fluss)

Newfest
July 21 - 28
Various Locations In New York City

Written by Benjamin Cantu.

Starring: Lukas Steltner, Kai-Michael Muller, Karin Butsch, Markus Franke, Holger Merten, Uwe Schaezel, Walter Schulze, Petra Thymian.

(Germany, 85 min.)

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella


One of the most lyrical films about ‘coming out’ hails from Germany of all places. Benjamin Cantu’s Harvest literally takes place on a farm (most of the action, anyway) where two cute, young farmhands, training to be certified farmers, find each other and embark on a friendship filled with sexual tension and desire.

Be warned: Harvest is not loaded up with tons of nudity and soft-core porn scenes nor is it action packed. It takes its time as we get to know both boys and their environment (the third star of the film—along with the cows!)

Part of the compelling nature of the narrative is how it painstakingly details the mostly mundane toil of the farmer and how devoted these workers are to what they do.

Marko (Lukas Steltner) is the more tentative of the two, concerned with appearances, while Jakob (Kai Michael Muller), having come from the big city, is more comfortable with his sexuality. The two eventually embark on an excursion to Berlin where their relationship dynamics change for good.

Both actors are mesmerizing to watch as is the film itself.

NewFest, the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Film Festival runs July 21-28 at various locations in New York City. NewFest.org





J.T. Tepnapa's
Judas Kiss

Newfest
July 21 - 28
Various Locations In New York City


Written by J.T. Tepnapa & Carlos Pedraza,.

Starring: Richard Harmon, Charlie David, Sean Paul Lockhart (aka: Brent Corrigan), Timo Deschamps..

(USA, 94 min.)

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella


J.T. Tepnapa's Judas Kiss is a very ambitious work that lives up to a lot of what it promises.

Prolific gay actor Charlie David (Dante’s Cove) has his best role to date as Zachary Welles, a has-been at 35, who was once the most promising film student at his University. Zack is grudgingly coaxed into returning to his Alma Mater to judge a student film festival and immediately has a one-night fling with a gorgeous student (Richard Harmon).

Turns out that the trick’s name is Danny Reyes, Jr. and his film, Judas Kiss, is the most talked about entry in contention. Zach thinks someone is playing a cruel prank on him since he is Danny Reyes, Jr. and it is his film that is being judged. But that was fifteen years ago, so how can this be happening now?

Zach soon realizes (with a little help from an older friend) that he is there to try and prevent Danny (himself) from winning the festival so his life won’t turn into the empty mess it has become. But that won’t be easy since Danny is a cocky, superficial jerk whose dream is to be rich and famous.

The notion of going back in time to change one’s past is a very popular one in entertainment for good reason, but here Zack is not going back in time since both Dannys exist in the present making Judas Kiss spellbinding and slightly maddening. It would have been nice if the writers worked these dynamics out a bit more since it sometimes takes away form the enjoyment of the film. Still, if you buy into the premise, there’s a very suspenseful and entertaining time to be had since the movie has a lot to say about misguided ambition and true success. And good films ask more questions than they answer.

The film contains some terrific acting, especially by Richard Harmon (currently in The Killing on AMC) who provides just the right mix of petulance, sexual swagger and true pain to make us care about Danny and his future.

Sean Paul Lockhart is sweet and shows great promise as an actor. I’m sure one day he will appreciate a review that doesn’t feel the need to mention the fact that he’s also a gay porn star.

I wish the pic had dealt with the fact that Zach slept with himself (so many possibilities) or addressed the fact that he didn’t recognize himself (although I get the big picture implications there). Imagine if Zach had romanced Danny, the two had fallen for one another and then Zach realized who Danny really was…

Judas Kiss features good camerawork by David Berry and boasts a wonderfully penned confrontation scene between the two Dannys near the end. Oh, and there is a final twist (that I did not see coming) that is just outstanding.

NewFest, the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Film Festival runs July 21-28 at various locations in New York City. NewFest.org




Andrew Haigh's
Weekend
Newfest
July 21 - 28
Various Locations In New York City

Written by Andrew Haigh

Starring: Tom Cullen, Chris New.

(UK, 96 min.)

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella


Since filmmakers like Todd Haynes and Gregg Araki introduced an exciting and non-apologetic style of Queer Cinema into American culture, new helmers have had more freedom to explore all aspects of gay life and truly delve into gay issues. Yet they’ve often chosen the simpler stories about coming out and infidelity.

The Brits, however, have always been ahead of the US with honest and edgy “gay” films that go much further in their explorations of all aspects of gay life (Maurice, Another Country, Beautiful Thing, My Beautiful Laundrette, Get Real, Prick Up Your Ears, to name a few from the 80s-90s).

Writer/director Andrew Haigh’s intense and atmospheric new film, Weekend, is a simple yet powerful work where, around the structure of a hook-up, we get to know two very different gay men and how they cope with life, love, sex and simply trying to find their way in the world. The film assumes audience intelligence—which is a rare and bold thing nowadays.

Tom Cullen plays Russell, a guy who is very uncomfortable in his own skin and even more uncomfortable with the fact that he likes other guys. On a Friday night, after a fairly dull family event at his best friend’s home, he finds himself at a gay pub and picks up Glen (Chris New) a brazen, near-militant gay boy who begins to challenge Russell’s beliefs—once they are both sober.

The two embark on their own queer version of Brief Encounter, sans the melodrama and infidelity, but chock filled with significant dialogue about what it means to be a gay man in todays world—a world that has finally begun to accept homosexuality, slowly and with stipulations.

Amidst the raw and honest sex and drug taking, Haigh provides a window into the lives of two guys, who happen to be gay, trying to get along with each other and trying to figure out where they fit in.

Weekend is terrifically shot by Urszula Pontikos in a most effective peeping tomish style. Haigh’s direction is deliberately stylized but not pretentious. The script is crisp and smart. And the two actors are riveting and both have moments where they reveal quite a bit without saying much at all.

My only complaint (as a non-Brit) is that sometimes the dialogue was unintelligible, but that just makes me look forward to viewing the dvd twice more at least—once with subtitles and another time so I can simply watch the fascinating faces of these two actors go to places that are real and penetrating.

NewFest, the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Film Festival runs July 21-28 at various locations in New York City. NewFest.org

 


 

 


 

 


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