Tag Archives: Movie review

Movie Review: Impossible Choice

[Content Note: Homophobia]

Last night, as I scoured both Netflix And Amazon Instant Video for gay-themed movies to watch, I came across Impossible Choice, an extremely-low budget film that came out in 2012. The brief description on Amazon caught my eye:

For the minister’s son, Brandon, this is a summer of awakening and acceptance of his homosexuality. For his father, this is a challenge to his roots in the bible.

In many ways, that description reminded me of the movie Rock Haven, which I love (and still wish I could find my copy of). I decided to watch it.

After watching it, I skimmed through the customer reviews on Amazon. This is a movie where it seemed like either reviewers loved it or hated it. In many ways, I agree with the negative reviews, as they all brought up great points. This was an extremely low-budget film. The writing was awful. The story — actually at least two different plots that were only related by the fact that they happened at the same time and in the same place — jumped all over the place. And there were several questions the story left unanswered. (Like whatever happened to the criminal charges that were brought against Lance? You get the sense that they were trumped up, but it’s never shown that the police learn this fact.) Or there was the sudden shift of Captain Dan from being totally opposed to the idea of running a gay cruise (in the first scene or two, he throws around the word “fag” quite liberally) to being entirely in favor of it and defending the idea in front of the people of Palmyra. In fact, I had to go back and verify that the virulent homophobe I remembered from the first few scenes really was Captain Dan, because they seemed like completely different characters.

The best part of the movie — as many of the negative critics noted — was the ten minute “play within,” a play created by some of the movie characters for a college drama class. In the “play within,” Matthew Shepard and Tyler Clementi meet up in the afterlife and tell each other about the events leading up their eventual deaths. It was well acted, moving, and possibly the only truly memorable part of the entire movie. It also really didn’t seem to have any bearing on the rest of the movie, which made it odd in context.

I will admit that despite all its technical flaws, I do have some warm feelings toward this movie. This is partly because its setting is local to me, as the gay cruise that serves as subject matter of one of the plotlines and the setting for the climax of the other takes place on the Erie Canal and starts from the nearby town of Palmyra New York. There’s something about seeing shots of local geography — and having it recognized in the film as such — that’s just touching to me.

Also, the themes of the movie, while poorly executed, are near and dear to my heart. Granted, in many ways, that makes the poor execution of the movie all the more sad. In the long run, I think it would have been better if those who made it would have focused either on the work to get the gay cruise approved or on the story about Brandon’s relationships with his father and his love interest, Lance.

Would I recommend watching it? If you have a couple hours to spare and access to Amazon Prime, sure. Especially if you live in or around Monroe County New York. Especially if you’re also gay.

But if you have access to a movie like Latter Days or Rock Haven (and haven’t already watched it to death), you may want to check one of them out instead.

 

Movie Musings: The Covenant

Seeing as I’m still only working part time, I had today off. One of the things I did to pass some of my day off was to watch the copy of The Covenant that I had rented. It was an interesting movie, and I mostly enjoyed it. I’m certainly glad that I did not waste the money to see it in the theater, however. It would not have been worth the extra expenditure.

The basic premise of the movie was actually quite good, and the special effects were about what you’d expect in such a supernatural thriller. (Though to be honest, I’m not sure it deserves that designation.) There were certain plot elements that were rather noteworthy, such as the idea of one person being able to will their power to another with the caveat that doing so would mean death for the one giving up their power. Unfortunately, these concepts were underdeveloped in many cases. Also, the concept of a darkling was introduced, but never sufficiently explained. Indeed the appearances of the darkling in the movie served little purpose, other than providing a convenient way to let the main characters know someone was “using.”

The other poorly emphasized plot element was at the end where Caleb’s mother visits her aged and dying husband. As a result of that meeting, Caleb’s father wills his power to the younger man, enabling him to defeat Chase. Such a sacrifice deserved much more attention than the brief blip in the final battle.

Of course, like any good thriller, they left the obligatory opening for a sequel. In the end, no sign of Chase was never found, leaving the characters and moviegoers alike to wonder whether the power-mad youth was truly gone or merely biding his time for another attempt at his goal. To be hoenst, I think that such a movie that shut all the doors on the possibility of a future sequel would be a refreshing change of pace.

When this movie originally came out, several friends in the Pagan community expressed their concern about it. They were concerned that this movie would create an insurge of youths with warped ideas of what real magic and Pagan spirituality was about looking to form “covenants” and gain the kinds of power wielded by the characters in this movie. And this concern is not unfounded. After all, I’ve fielded my own share of requests for spells to change one’s hair color or eye color from girls who had recently watched The Craft.

However, I think that the life-threatening aspect of “the power” in this movie might mitigate the tendency for boys and young men looking for the fast path to power after watching this movie. After all, I don’t know of many youths who are prepared to sacrifice their youth, let alone their lives, in the pursuit of power. So as long as said youths don’t try to separate that aspect of the movie’s premise from the rest, I’m hopeful that we won’t see an upsurge of “Covenant wannabes” in the near future. Indeed, in some ways, I’m thankful that Hollywood imposed some “price” on these characters in exchange for their powers, as I’m tired of magic being presented as a “get everyhing for nothing” ventures.

Personally, I think the bigger concern is that too many people will take the cautionary message in this movie too much to heart. I can see this movie reinforcing popular images of magic and the occult arts involving some sort of pact in which a person gives up their lives, youth, soul, or other “thing of value” for power. Unfortunately, this notion is no more realistic than the “something for nothing” concept expressed by other movies.

Of course, the underlying problem behind both concerns is the simple mater that we no longer require our youths to develop the ability to distinguish between fact and fiction, espcially when that fiction is presented to them via a large screen and surround sound.

Movie Review: Latter Days

This past weeken, I watched Lattere Days. This is a tale about a gay man, Christian, living in Los Angeles who meets, sets out to bed, and eventually falls in love with anotehr young man by the name of Aaron. Of course, Christian’s plans are complicated by the fact that Aaron is a missionary for the LDS church, just starting his two year mission.

The remarkable part about this movie is that it’s not just a movie about a young man from a religiously conservative background coming to terms with his sexual orientation and being excommunicated from his church (and presumably biological) family. This is also a movie wherein a cynical and superficial gay man begins to take a closer look at his own life and initiates a search to give it deeper meaning. In effect, this movie seeks to strike the balance between criticizing harmful repression and taking an honest look at the emptiness that can come from the superficiality we sometimes fall into while trying to escape the latter. In effect, both boys face their own demons as a result of coming into each others lives.

The scenes between Aaron and his mother after he’s found out and sent home are well done. Particularly, the scene where Aaron challenges his mother to actually look at him is quite incredible, and something that I think most gay people with religiously (or otherwise) conservative parents can appreciate on some level. Of course, even Aaron’s mother has her moment, when confronted with Christian’s act of love in coming to Idaho just to tell her how sorry he is for the loss of her son (at this point, Christian was falsely led to believe that Aaron had committed suicide).

This was truly a touching movie, and one I think many people will be able to connect with on one level or another.

Movie Review: FAQs

Apparently, I started an unplanned tradition when I wrote my previous review of the movie, Dorian Blues a couple weeks ago. This past weekend, I decided to watch the 2005 movie, FAQs, and I find myself with the desire to similarly review it.

First of all, let me just say that producer Everett Lewis did an excellent job in this movie. It’s a truly moving tale about a group of gay men (and one young lesbian, though she plays such a bit part, unfortunately) trying to not only survive in the face of the hate directed towards them, but to be themselves and thrive because of it. India — a young man living on the streets of LA after his homophobic parents disowned him — is rescued from a pair of gaybashers by an old drag queen, Destiny. Destiny gives India a home and begins to teach him to protect, love, and respect himself. Destiny, India, and Lester (a young lesbian Destiny similarly saved and “adopted” in years past) are soon joined by Spencer, who becomes India’s main love interest in throughout the rest of the movie. The plot of the movie then revolves around the dual themes of “saving” India’s would-be bashers (who turn out to be closeted queers themselves) and India trying to convince Spencer to give up on his plan to kill his parents, who had abused him until he ran away. These dual themes perfectly frame the central message of the film: Love conquers all if you just give it a chance. One of my favorite quotes from the movie was when India tells Spencer, “Our kisses are like bombs going off in the straight world.”

Of course, the movie itself had plenty of “bombs.” There are several highly erotic scenes in which various boys are shown caressing, kissing, and rubbing up against one another. And while no genital contact is shown (though there are a few scenes involving full frontal nudity in non-sexual settings), I imagine that this might be a bit “explosive” for some viewers. (Personally, as someone who often wryly jokes about “gratuitous straight sex scenes” in most movies, I found it a nice change.)

One of the problems that I had with this movie, however, was that it was too optimistic. There were several potentially dangerous scenes (some of which were created by an overly-optimistic India who tended to make unwise decisions) in which someone could have died, yet everyone made it through the movie virtually unscathed. The particular scene which bothered me was when Quentin — one of the bashers from the start of the movie — shows up at the boys’ home with a gun after having gotten their address off his answering machine from a message India told Guy to leave. Considering that the movie had been building up a highly distrought Quentin — who not only held a gun under his chin at one point, but also was shown firing said gun at a roadside sign fantasizing about killing his former friend “turned fag” — it just seemed like a poor climax. It also sends the message that doing something stupid like giving your home address to a known basher — even one you think is really gay and needs to be “saved from himself” — is okay. It’s not. It’s dangerous, and it’s stupid. So Lewis gets points taken off for being too optimistic and implicitly encouraging needless and foolish risk-taking.

In closing, I would like to say that I particularly liked the final scene. Without giving too much away, I will just say that I found it appropriately cyclical.

Dorian teaches to let go

I just finished watching Dorian Blues. It’s a curious movie that I had never heard of until I ran across it in Blockbuster’s tonight. I have to say that I’m glad I rented it, as it was well worth watching.

The movie centers on Dorian, a young man who discovers he’s gay and attempts to deal with his self-discovery in light of his less than supportive family. The movie takes us through his senior year at college, his conversations with his therapist, his first sexual experience, his coming out experience, his first relationship in college, the eventual breakup, and the resulting depression. All through these experiences, Dorian consistently demonstrates himself an intelligent and wonderful man, held down by past hurts and his unwillingness to let them go.

Most of Dorian’s problems stem from his relationship with his father, an overly demanding man whose general displeasure with his older son only became more intense when Dorian came out to him. This situation was further exacerbated by a mother who would do anything to avoid a confrontation and a younger brother, Nick, who loved Dorian but was constantly held up by their father as the “perfect” son, who Dorian should strive to be more like. This of course, created a strain in the two brothers’ relationship, though the two tried their best to support each other in their own way. This emotional baggage weight down Dorian in every aspect of his life, causing him to be bitter and edgy. This cost him more than one friend and even the perfect relationship.

In the end, Dorian and Nick — who had been visiting his older brother at NYU — end up making the trip back home to attend their father’s funeral. Their father had died of a heart attack due to stress — most likely due to the fact that Nick had been cut from Syracuse University’s football team earlier that week and had therefore lost his scholarship.

The bes scene of the movie was the conversation between Dorian and his mother outside the church just before his father’s funeral. In it, his mother confronts her son about the fact that he had become mean and disapproving lik his father. She tells him, “I want you to be a good man, despite the fact that your father was never good to you…and your mother never stood up to him and made him stop.”

I cannot express how appropriate this theme is. Far too often, coming to term with one’s sexual orientation is the easy part. The hard part is learning to let go of all of those past hurts and fears, as well as the defense mechanisms and bitterness that we tend to build up in the process. Learning to let go of these things so that they don’t continue to affect our current lives is a painful and difficult process. Watching this movie enabled me to revisit this lesson, identify with Dorian’s character, and experience this letting go process one more time.

And I have to admit that scene where Dorian is franticly brushing his teeth was well worth a laugh.