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Todd Verow’s
Bad Boy Street
Aka: rue des mauvais garcons
Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by Todd Verow.

Starring: Yann deMonterno, Florence d’Azemar & Kevin Miranda

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Todd Verow is one of the most audacious and prolific gay-indie filmmakers working today. It’s hard not to get excited (all puns intended) about his new work.

With Bad Boy Street he has ventured out of his beloved New York and set his film in Paris, France. And, like Woody Allen last year (Midnight in Paris), Verow has made a gem, possibly his best film to date.

Always forgiving the low-budget--sometimes the sound issues and messy-video quality actually add to the enjoyment of his work—this particular project has Verow veering into very current debate areas, but he does so by creating two characters and focusing on their raw passion for one another instead of grandstanding or polemicizing.

The movie begins with fortysomething Claude (Yann deMonterno) literally picking up a mid-twenties hottie lying in the gutter and bringing him back to his home. Is this boy homeless? A hustler? A con? A murderer? Could be all of the above since this is a Verow film. Claude puts the guy into his own bed and sleeps downstairs on the sofa. The next morning, our hunk walks down the spiral stairs (the cam lovingly following his perfect ass—that you Verow!) and he proceeds to thank his savior by blowing him. He must be a hustler…that nasty, trepidacious, wholly-Verow feeling sets in…and we take a collective breath…

But we soon learn that “Brad” is actually a sweet-natured American—who begins falling for Claude and those feelings are reciprocated. But Brad has something he is hiding--his true identity. And when the truth comes out it threatens this oddball but completely believable and enchanting union.

**********SPOILER ALERT************

Please skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to know who Brad is.

Brad turns out to be a big Hollywood star, currently filming a superhero movie in Paris. He’s been forced to hide his sexual orientation. With this reveal, Verow insightfully examines Brad’s lost world and what living a lie can do to a person. And the person he loves. He also has a ball poking fun at craptacular Hollywood franchise movies.

But the main focus is always on our two protagonists.

The relationship between Claude and Brad is deeply affecting thanks to the rich performances Verow elicits from his two leads. deMonterno blends deep desire with the fear of rejection most gay man over forty feel. And the stunning, sexy French actor Kevin Miranda sizzles as “Brad.” A perfect physical specimen, he also happens to be an astonishingly good actor. So much so that you can forgive the fact that this “American” who is supposed to know little to no French, actually speaks with a French accent.

Also notable is Florence d’Azemar’s lovely performance as Claude’s devoted friend.

As always Verow’s shots mesmerize, whether they’re of the Parisian streets, a simple coffee mug obstructing one of the characters or of our two lovers in naked, carnal embrace. With Bad Boy Street he is urging a type of honesty that is difficult but can be transcendent. And in doing so he’s created a richly satisfying film you’ll want to watch more than once.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 


 


Thom Fitzgerald’s
Cloudburst
Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by Thom Fitzgerald.

Starring: Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker, Ryan Doucette, Kristin Booth.

Mini-review by Frank J. Avella

Two Academy Award winners play a couple of elderly lesbian lovers in Thom Fitzgerald’s poignant and engrossing new feature, Cloudburst. Olympia Dukakis (in her best role since Steel Magnolias) portrays Stella, a gruff, cantankerous and outrageously profane bulldyke, as if she were born to the role. Brenda Fricker (not this good since My Left Foot) is her sweet, obliging partner, who happens to be blind. These two divine ditties embark on a twisted Thelma and Louise-esque adventure in order to stay together. Along their journey they pick up a gorgeous hitchhiker (sexy Ryan Doucette) who becomes a surrogate son of sorts.

Fitzgerald, who adapted the story from his own play, has a lot of important things to say about gay marriage, but the story is ultimately about the power of true love and how we should cherish our moments together when we find it.

Cloudburst is one of the best films playing at Qfest and Newfest. See it for Dukakis’s Oscar-worthy performance. See it for the delightful Brenda Fricker. See it for shirtless Doucette, who you’ll want to eat with a spoon. Or just see it because it’s so damn good.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 


 



Terracino’s
Elliot Loves

Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by Terracino.

Starring: Fabio Costaprado, Quentin Araujo, Elena Goode, Robin deJesus, Jermaine Montell, Erin Fogel, Tillman Norsworthy, Elaine del Valle, Guillermo Ivan, Monte Bezell

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Newcomer Terracino’s exhilarating portrait of the direct and sometimes-damaging influences parents can have on the lives of their children, Elliot Loves, is that fabulous anomaly of gay cinema: a film that isn’t about coming out but is about what molds and shapes one gay boy’s identity.

The story is told via two specific ages in the life of our protagonist, Dominican-American Elliot, first as a nine-year old—a defining and influential time in his life and then as a twenty-one-year-old, in search of love. And the viewer instantly adores both Elliots—which goes a long way towards wanting to enter his world, and stay there for a spell.

We first meet young Elliot in his bathroom recreating a ‘long and sassy’ shampoo commercial. A few scenes later we encounter older Elliot in a bar meeting a buff guy named Joe (Monte Bezell), who brings Elliot back to his place and makes him feel special. In the morning, Joe’s boyfriend arrives and Elliot feels betrayed. Again.

The film bounces back and forth from both time periods, sometimes juxtaposing the two, to great effect. We are never quite certain which direction Terracino will take us in which adds to the delightful and bracing experience.

As a child, Elliot watches his mother (Elena Goode)—a dreamer with exciting ideas—fall into the pattern of dating abusive men (one in particular) and becoming enslaved by them. Women are still taught in most cultures that they must be with a man—as if that is their most important quality. Her need to be with someone no matter how much it hurts her and her own son, is a very real theme in many single-parent households that is too often dealt with melodramatically or absurdly. Terracino strikes just the right balance.

Elliot inherits his mother’s fear of loneliness—that need to have a partner who loves them exclusively--as well as her dreaming of better things. Another refreshing thing here is that as much as we see, first hand, just how Elliot’s mother has fucked him up, we are also painfully aware of just how much she loves her son and wants the best for him—even when she is looking the other way as he is being abused (in a fascinating scene where she does look the other way, it isn’t as much her fearing her boyfriend as it is her also being annoyed with Elliot.)

Terracino has a great knack cinematic storytelling—putting forth his own dizzyingly exciting filmic style. His dialogue is sharp, witting and organic to the film’s characters and milieu. And his actors kill it.

The wonderful Elena Goode imbues mom with a great spirit. She is trying her best—and she is quite aware that she is failing more often than not. Goode is so good (sorry I had to) that more major roles should soon come her way.

Quentin Araugo is smart and spunky as young Elliot. It’s hard to imagine this boy was ever anyone’s ‘mistake.’

And Fabio Costaprado handles the older Elliot masterfully, giving him just the right dose of longing and hope.

Elliot reminded me of Charity Hope Valentine, the female protagonist in Sweet Charity who just wanted so desperately to be loved. Like Elliot, she was a dreamer who ‘lived hopefully ever after.’

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 



Glenn Gaylord’s
I Do
Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by David W. Ross.

Starring:: David W. Ross, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Alicia Witt, Maurice Compte, Grant Bowler, Patricia Belcher, Jessica Tyler Brown, Mickey Cottrell, Mike C. Manning.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Former Brit boy band sensation David W. Ross proves to be a double-filmic-threat with I Do, the new movie he wrote and stars in, a Centerpiece at this year’s Qfest and one of the best I’ve seen so far.

Ross plays Jack, a gay Brit citizen living in the U.S. Severely damaged by the freak-accidental death of his brother seven years before, Jack has helped raise his niece while bouncing from one night stand to one night stand. When he discovers that his work visa has been denied, the only way he can remain in the states is to marry so he turns to his lesbian best friend/co-worker Ali (a moving Jamie-Lynn Sigler). They marry and things get quite complicated when Jack meets and falls for Mano (Maurice Compte) and Ali gets cold feet.

The film is smartly written (by Ross) and ably directed by Glenn Gaylord (Eating Out: All You Can Eat). The photography (by David Maurice Gil) is impressive as is the use of music (including a terrific song that ends the film by Ty Herndon).

Ross delivers a star-making turn imbuing Jack with all the proper pain and angst. He is a man who wants to forgive himself and move past the guilt he feels about his brother’s death. He is also a gay man who is ready to fall in love and Ross allows us a glimpse inside the excitement, trepidation and capitulation involved in such a step.

Besides rugged Ross and the surprisingly good Sigler, Alicia Witt has a few weighty scenes and, on a superficial level, Mike C. Manning is pretty delicious.

Besides the compelling narrative, I Do brings up the very current and quite important issue of how, despite gay marriages being recognized by some states, these unions are ignored at the federal level so there is no equality for two same-sex people who love each other and want to remain together—when one is not a U.S. citizen. This theme is never polemical giving it even more potency.

The movie also deal exceptionally well with the love vs. friendship aspect of the story. The film’s only real misstep comes in the final reel where things get a bit too melodramatically messy—but then very Hollywood-happy. Still, one can forgive all that since so much of I Do is so damned right and real.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 



Travis Mathews’s
I Want Your Love
Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by Travis Mathews.

Cast: Jesse Metzger, Ben Jasper, Brontez Purtell, Ferrin Solano, Brendan Gregory.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

There is a lot of sex in Travis Mathews’ first narrative feature, I Want Your Love—and it’s pretty hardcore, but it never feels like porn.

Mathews uses sex to explore character—a highly unusual yet quite effective device of sorts. While it will probably be compared to John Cameron Mitchell’s wonderful Shortbus, because of the raw sex, I Want Your Love has more in common with Andrew Haigh’s seminal Weekend—a film that taps into the intertwined and sometimes-unintertwined emotional/sexual connection between men.

A quite good Jesse Metzger portrays a young artist about to leave his friends and exes in San Francisco for Ohio. These friends gather together to throw Jesse a going away party. In between some semi-raunchy sex sequences, we are given a glimpse into a handful of these gay men as we watch them interact with one another. Mathews' frequent use of close-ups is an eerily effective way of penetrating (no pun intended, okay maybe a little pun) the inner worlds of his characters.

Jesse is a bit lost: “I’ve spent the last ten years of my life distracting myself from myself,” and in many respects represents today’s gay man—with no real agenda or purpose—floundering. It’s exactly such insights that make the film much more than just another gay movie.

My main complaint is that I would have liked more actual scenes--a bit more character development. At 70 minutes, I felt a bit cheated. No matter, kudos to Mathews for giving us a refreshingly ballsy look at gay identity via sex.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 




Ferzan Ozpetek’s
Loose Cannons (Mine Vaganti)
Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Written By: Ferzan Ozpetek & Ivan Cotroneo

Starring: Riccardo Scamarcio, Nicole Grimaudo, Alessandro Preziosi, Ennio Fantastichini, Lunetta Savino, Elena Sofia Ricci

In Italian with English subtitles.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

It takes courage to hold a mirror up to a people and force them to see themselves and their paradoxical behavior.

It takes fortitude to explore the ridiculous repression of homosexuality in a country where the practice is only accepted as long as it’s hidden.

It takes passion to make a film about love and family, even when the definition of family is blurry at best. And to try and comprehend the demands a parent makes on a child and the reasons why.

It takes genuine artistry to create a motion picture that tackles so many important and highly personal themes and still make a hilarious and thoroughly entertaining work.

Ferzan Ozpetek is one of the few Italian auteurs working today who is unafraid of presenting the foibles and hypocrisies of the Italian culture—especially when it comes to depictions of human sexuality—in an honest and brave manner. Yet his films do not attempt to wave a finger or indict a people, they simply present situations in an honest – not in the “surface” way most Italians would like them to be depicted.

And he does so with a satiric flair Billy Wilder would be proud of.

Italy is steeped in centuries of Roman Catholic influence that has created a culture of subjugation, guilt, confusion and fear of eternal damnation.

In Loose Cannons, Ozpetek does not mention religion. He doesn’t have to. Even those who do not consider themselves religious are affected by the repressed nature inherent in the culture. And Southern Italy is especially conservative. Ozpetek’s gem of a film takes place in Lecce, located in the deep south,

Tommaso (Riccardo Scamarcio) is a struggling writer who lives in Rome with his boyfriend Marco (Carmine Recano). His family has no idea that he’s gay or that he’s a writer (they think he’s in business school). He is about to come out and come clean at a family gathering. The night before, he confesses this to his estranged brother Antonio (Alessandro Preziosi). At dinner the next day, before Tommaso can speak, Antonio beats him to it—announcing his own homosexuality. Their father (a perfectly embarrassed Ennio Fantastichini) instantly kicks Antonio out of the house, then has a heart attack but not before telling Tommaso that he must now run the family pasta making business. Tommaso must now decide whether he should step in and save the family business or be true to himself, at the risk of losing his family for good.

Scamarcio is one of Italy’s most talented actors. He’s delivered terrific turns in Romanzo Criminale (Crime Novel), L’uomo Perfetto (The Perfect Man) and Texas, to name a few. Here he anchors the film as the delightfully conflicted Tommaso. He nicely conveys Tommaso’s struggles, not just with not wanting to disappoint his family but with feelings he begins to have for his working partner Alba (the beautiful Nicole Grimaudo). Ozpetek knows how complex human sexuality is and is daring enough to present many areas of these complexities.

The entire ensemble work magnificently together, lending their tremendous talents to tell a multi-layered, and mosaic-like story of a family trying to hold their secrets at bay while presenting a plaster-perfect veneer to gossipy outsiders while trying to hold their own world together. Ilaria Occhini has a particularly poignant and amazing final scene.

The screenplay, by Ozpetek and Ivan Cotroneo deftly blends a splendid mix of comedy and drama, never overdoing either. The use of music is fantastic as is Maurizio Calvesi’s camerawork.

Ozpetek’s films are universal without being cliché. His observations are dead on, without being didactic. Loose Cannons is one of his best.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 



Rob Williams’s
The Men Next Door

Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by Rob Williams.

Starring: Eric Dean, Michael Nicklin, Benjamin Lutz, Heidi Rhodes, Mark Cirillo, Christopher Schram, Devon Michael Jones.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Rob Williams, director of the terrific and thought-provoking Role/Play, continues to explore atypical areas of gay life in his new gay rom-com, The Men Next Door.

Hot pilates-instructor, Doug (Eric Dean) is about to turn forty and all his friends have abandoned him on the big day. Distraught, he assumes a cute stranger at the door is a stripper sent by his brother (after a female stripper leaves) and proceeds to treat him as such. Before you can say, ‘gay sex,’ the boys are romping away and Doug soon develops a crush on the sweet thirty-year-old (Benjamin Lutz) who happens to live next door. Problem is that Doug has also been dating a fifty-year-old (Michael Nicklin) as well, whom he also likes.

Doug’s two lovers turn out to be father and son.

Giving away any more plot would take away from the funny and often-poignant riches found in the film. Suffice to say the men are quite competitive and Doug is eventually asked to choose but not before writer/director Williams examines themes that young filmmakers don’t bother with such as men coming out later in life and how they’re sexual beings, too. In addition, we get a portrait of a gay father and a gay son--in love with the same person—with little judgment and a lot of understanding and empathy.

The script is smart, the narrative clean and the performances excellent, especially Eric Dean, who makes Doug’s inability to decide, endearing.

Williams, sometimes, relies too much on double-entendre and cock-size jokes—which is so unnecessary since he writes funny with seeming ease. And he tends to explain too much in the last reel. But these are minor quibbles.

The Men Next Door does what movies should: it presents a fairly odd and near ridiculous situation and not only makes us believe it—it makes us believe in the trio at the center…and it goes that one step further and makes us root for all three characters. Kudos to Williams and his team for pulling that off magnificently.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 


 



Robert Hasfogel’s
Men to Kiss (Männer zum knutschen)
Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Written by Andre Schneider, Frank Christian Marx, Juergen Hirsch.

Starring: Frank Christian Marx, Udo Lutz, Alexandra Starnitzky,

In German with subtitles.

Review by Frank J. Avella

Robert Hasfogel’s Men to Kiss is a mildly amusing, sitcom-y, flick made much better by the central performance of its co-writer, Frank Christian Marx—who bears a resemblance to Jon Hamm.

In this crazycrackers German comedy, Ernst (Marx), a straight-laced banker, falls hard for the nutty tres-gay Tobias (Udo Lutz)—but the situation becomes uber complicated when Ernst’s best friend Uta (a delightfully unhinged Alexandra Starnitzky) arrives in Berlin and, quite literally, threatens Tobias’ life if he doesn’t leave Ernst.

Hasfogel choreographs the zaniness nicely and has cast the ensemble with a potpourri of bizarre types. Udo Lutz does his best to play what is a very cartoony character. Ditto, Starnitzky.

The wackiness of certain moments and situations keeps the audience laughing while the delectable Marx keeps the proceedings grounded with an honest and heartfelt portrayal of a clueless guy trying to bring his boyfriend and best friend together, not realizing that one of them is a thundering loon.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 




Nathan Adloff’s
Nate & Margaret
Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by Nathan Adloff & Justin D.M. Palmer.

Starring: Tyler Ross, Natalie West, Conor McCahill, Gaby Hoffmann.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

A Harold and Maude for the new millennium—only without the romance—Nate & Margaret is a sweet yet bold take on the buddy story—that is until the filmmaker forces an unnecessarily nasty confrontation in the last reel. Until then, and even in the end, the film is an endearing study of a quite unconventional friendship between a gay teen boy and a quite-older unattached woman.

Nate is a naïve and closeted 19-year-old film student whose best friend is a 52-year old crotchety stand-up comic-wannabe. Both are quirky oddball-types who live in the same building. We are given no family background at all on Nate and we know Margaret suffered physical and emotional abuse from her father.

Margaret is a terrible comedienne who gets better as she develops her material and makes it more about her past abuse. (Personally, I never found any of her comedy funny.) She attracts the attention of an agent who begins booking her in venues and her career begins to take off.

Meanwhile, Nate has met an aggressive and out boy at a party and embarks on a tumultuous (first) relationship with him. One of the many things director Nathan Adloff gets so right is the sexually-charged feelings in any new relationship mixed with a wanting to please—even when the partner is being unfair and sometimes cruel.

Adloff (and co-screenwriter Justin D.W. Palmer) also does us a favor by not making Nate’s gayness such a plot issue but, instead, just focuses on his two important relationships.

The situations are real as are the characters and the dynamics are—for the most part—handled with genuine care and love so instead of seeing Nate and Margaret as misfits, we see those aspects in them that we can relate to—making us root heartily for the duo.

And the performances by the two leads guide the film—even when the dialogue and behavior becomes a bit forced near the end. (There was no necessity for the obvious and clichéd misstep that forces the two apart.)

Known mostly for her long stint on the TV-sitcom Roseanne, Natalie West’s dry and sour delivery defines the frumpy, misanthropic, deeply-wounded, yet loveable, Margaret. Even when she’s being a bitch, we forgive her.

And newcomer Tyler Ross, amazing in The Wise Kids--also featured at Qfest, perfectly captures the excitement, tentativeness and angst of a boy dipping his toes in his first relationship. That sense that you want to be with the person all the time—no matter you might be hurting someone you love. Ross is so endearing we even forgive Nate’s out-of-character walking out on Margaret, after she planned an evening for Nate and his new beau.

Adloff is to be commended for presenting a relationship between two very different people that is natural and symbiotic.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 



Bavo Defurne’s
North Sea Texas (Noordzee, Texas)
Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by Bavo Defurne & Yves Verbraeken.

Based on the novel by Andre’ Sollie.

Starring: Jelle Florizoone, Mathias Vergels, Eva van der Gucht, Nina Marie Kortekaas, Ben Van den Heuvel, Katelijne Damen, Luk Wyns, Thomas Coumans.

Belgium (In Dutch with English subtitles)

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella


When we first meet Pim (Ben Van den Heuvel and, a few years later, Jelle Florizoone), the quiet, introspective protagonist of Bavo Defurne’s freshman feature effort, North Sea Texas, he’s barely a teen and he already seems to know more about who he is than most adults—dolling up in his mother’s clothes and donning lipstick as well as collecting certain items that remind him of certain boys.
His slightly slutty mother Yvette (Eva Van der Gucht having a delightful time) is more concerned with her social life than in mothering so Pim ends up spending a lot of time over at Marcella’s his surrogate-like mom (a moving Katelijne Damen). Marcella has two children, the shy Sabrina (Nina Marie Kortekaas) who crushes on Pim and the ruggedly handsome Gino (Mathias Vergels, playing up the swagger to great effect).

Pim and Gino enjoy fooling around with one another. A lot. Mutual masturbation leads to kissing leads to…well everything and by the time Pim is fifteen he has fallen hard. Gino, however, has just turned eighteen and feels he should move on to girls—devastating Pim, who now has his sights set on the gypsy tenant, Zoltan (Thomas Coumans). Zoltan has other ideas.

North Sea Texas isn’t afraid to show what little gay boys think about and do in the privacy of their rooms. Pim saves Gino’s undies, for instance and likes to draw sexy pictures of his beau. In addition, the film does not shy away from delving into teen sexuality. The movie also provides portrait of a single parent that is far too real, a woman who selfishly seeks out her own desires instead of caring for her child. I also appreciated Marcella’s attitude towards her son and Pim’s relationship. A mother always knows. Her last moment is priceless.

The film, set in a coastal Belgian town in the late 60s/early 70s, is beautifully shot and the ending is richly rewarding.

Defurne is to be applauded for not compromising and doing his first-gay-love- story justice. And the cast is to be commended for very real and touching performances—especially Jelle Florizoone as the older Pim who allows us just enough of a glimpse into Pim’s world to be intrigued, but never too much. After all it’s HIS world. And he’s allowed that. We all are.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

North Sea Texas will also be part of Newfest which runs July 27-31 at Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th Street, NYC.

For tickets: http://www.filmlinc.com/films/series/newfest-2012


 

Coley Sohn’s
Sassy Pants
Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by Coley Sohn.

Starring: Anna Gunn, Ashley Rickards, Haley Joel Osment, Diedrich Bader, Jenny O’Hara

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Coley Sohn has assembled a terrific cast for her oddball tale of an awkward teen’s desperate attempt to escape the clutches of her horrifically overbearing mother.

Bethany (Ashley Rickards) is a socially awkward eighteen-year-old who has been homeschooled by her freakishly protective mother (Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn) so she flees to her gay dad—who is a selfish mess in his own right and is shacked up with a boytoy aptly named Chip (a grown up and refreshingly scary Haley Joel Osment). Bethany wants to be a fashion designer but the only person who supports her is Chip.

Sassy Pants, Sohn’s debut film, wants to be a satire but isn’t insightful enough. The script suffers from characters that aren’t fully dimensional. And each gay character is a ridiculous stereotype. It’s up to the actors to flesh them out as best they can, and, for the most part, they rise to the occasion. Jenny O’Hara, in particular, is hilarious and makes us care about grandma. And Martin Spanjers excels as Bethany’s goth-wannabe brother.

Sohn shows directorial promise and I appreciated the story she puts forth. I just wish the realization was more palpable and less cliché.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 





Simon Chung’s
Speechless

Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by Simon Chung & Lu Yulai.

Starring: Pierre-Mathieu Vitali, Gao Qilun, Yu Yung Yung.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Simon Chung’s lyrical, enigmatic new film Speechless, begins with a gorgeous young European who strips naked and immerses himself into a river. A few cine-moments later young Chinese villagers are poking at him with sticks after he has washed up on shore. The police arrive and are confounded by the fact that the man should be able to speak but, alas, either cannot or will not. What ensues is a compelling, evocative and deliberately paced movie that takes the viewer on a journey involving the dangers of repression and the deep, searing pain caused by the loss of a loved one.

The film has some important things to say about intolerance (towards homosexuality, in particular) in the East but there is deeper, less clear, idea of this Christ-like figure appearing seemingly out of nowhere and being dismissed as insane because he doesn’t conform to norms. Not dotting all the i’s is part of the wonder of Speechless.

The only time the film feels forced and fake is when it veers away from the story of the “foreigner” and delves into unnecessary subplots.

Pierre-Mathieu Vitali does an exquisite job of maintaining the puzzling yet passionate charm of the protagonist—all without speaking.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 



Ryan Gielen’s
Turtle Hill, Brooklyn
Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by Brian W. Seibert & Ricardo Valdez.

Starring: Brian W. Seibert, Ricardo Valdez, Holly Lynn Ellis, Adam Harper, Carlos Alberto Valencia, Krista Kujat, Peter Gregus, Chantel Cherisse Lucier, Joie Bauer, Jose Joaquin Perez, Cooper Shaw, Deirdre MacNamara.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

An assortment of contemporary New Yorkers assemble for a friend’s 30th birthday party in Turtle Hill, Brooklyn in…well…Turtle Hill, Brooklyn.

Brian W. Seibert (who co-wrote the snappy, perceptive script) plays Will, the birthday boy, who is struggling with some secrets. Will is a gay man living with Mateo (Ricardo Valdez, who also co-wrote the script) and their relationship has hit a bit of a rough patch. Early in the AM, Will’s sister arrives and is horrified to discover that her brother is a homo. This revelation hangs over the day like a fascinating and revealing cloud--that as well as an unspoken infidelity that threatens to tear the two men apart.

In Turtle Hill, Brooklyn, the party’s the thing and the guests at this party are lively, political and decidedly fun—allowing for debates on most things gay including marriage (the film was made before New York voted gay marriage into law). We even get to hear from a log cabin Republican. And before the night is over, a major secret is revealed, someone gets punched, a piñata is broken open and a lot of banana monkey cake is consumed.

Director Ryan Gielen uses handheld-cam to great effect, allowing a second cam to record people’s feelings about Will.

The film is quite enjoyable but left me wanting more--not necessarily a bad thing, but…I never quite believed the relationship between Will and Mateo. It felt forced and that had more to do with Valdez’s overdone performance than the writing. In contrast, Seibert’s subtle turn struck just the right chord as a man at multiple crossroads.

In addition, it was a shame Will’s sister was such a one-dimensional being and in a very important scene, Valdez’s histrionic performance destroys any chance that the two sibs could actually discuss Will’s homosexuality.

I did appreciate the vignetty approach that gave the movie a real gay-slice-of-Brooklyn-life feel.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 




Stephen Cone’s
The Wise Kids
Qfest 2012
July 12 - 23rd
Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and
Ritz at the Bourse
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Written by Stephen Cone.

Starring:: Tyler Ross, Molly Kunz, Allison Torem, Matt Decaro, Sadieh Rifai and Stephen Cone.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Stephen Cone’s The Wise Kids had me enraptured from the very first scene. This remarkable gem of an indie is so true to its plot and characters it should be used as a template for how to create a genuine story with living, breathing people that behave in real and complex ways.

Rich with repression, bubbling over with conflicting feelings and doubts about faith and, well, most things, the teens in the title (three in particular) are Baptists living in the Bible Belt (SC), going to church regularly and dealing with their own respective crises.

Molly Kunz is Brea, the strikingly beautiful minister’s daughter who is questioning the existence of God, but cannot discuss it with anyone.

Tyler Ross plays Tim, a sweet and loveable boy who happens to be gay, but refuses to believe he can’t be both gay and devout.

And Allison Torem is the intensely Christian young girl who is truly disturbed by her friends’ deviations.

Writer/Director Stephen Cone perfectly captures the small town setting, but never condescends to his characters. Cone knows that there are highly intelligent, religious people in the world and doesn’t feel the need to judge them. There is no screaming about fire and damnation here, just contemplation, discussion and prayer.

Cone, himself, plays a repressed preacher, Austin, who must somehow deal with the fact that he truly loves his wife but desires Tim. And in a remarkably powerful scene near the end of the film, Austin confesses his feelings of uncertainty and turmoil to Tim. Cone is as good an actor as he is writer and director.

The magic of The Wise Kids is in just how invested the viewer becomes in each character and their sagas. So much of that has to do with Cone’s insightful work as both writer and director. Of course, the ridiculously talented ensemble of actors he has cast doesn’t hurt beginning with Kunz who takes us on a slow and painful journey from blindly following to simply rejecting.

Tyler Ross (so good in Nate & Margaret) is revelatory here as Tim. Playing yet another film student, his Tim accepts himself in a way that feels healthy yet contradictory. In a particularly uncomfortable scene with Austin where they both, momentarily give in to their desires, Ross perfectly captures that cap-off-the-shaken-soda-bottle explosion that most gay teens feel when they finally give into their sexual craving.

Sadieh Rifai is quite effective as Austin’s patient wife, Elizabeth and, in their scenes together, we truly feel the desire they both have for one another but the unspoken knowledge that, sexually, it is one-sided.

Cone never feels the necessity to introduce melodrama, instead we are given a subtle yet effective glimpse into the subconscious of these characters—where much conflict but some semblance of truth lies.

Qfest runs from July 12 to July 23, 2012, the 18th edition of Philadelphia QFest opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Elliot Loves and closes eleven days later with the East Coast premiere of BearCity2: The Proposal.

Qfest boasts 107 films that include 42 feature films, 13 documentaries, and 52 short films – and 7 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 2 U.S. Premieres, 16 East Coast Premieres, and 26 Philadelphia Premieres.

Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse. For more information on QFest, visit www.qfest.com or call 267.765.9800; and follow the festival on Twitter: @QFEST and Facebook: www.facebook.com/qfestphilly. Screening locations for QFest 2012 are the Ritz East Theatre 1 and 2 and the Ritz at the Bourse

 


 

 


 


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