Monday, April 22, 2013

The Great Gay Film Festival of 2012

     So, my associate here at TheMovieFrog...who gets a kick out of me calling him The Social Media Salamander...recently chastised me for not covering more films with gay themes since I have this forum in which to give them exposure.  I took it to heart and (with the help of a recently published list on one of my favorite sites: Awards Daily) decided to do just that.  I've got a few more films that I added into my list from 2012 that will be scattered in among my normal reviews, but I figured I might as well lump the first three in together.
     Oh, and about the Salamander...if you discovered this site through Google+, Pinterest, Discus, TheMovieFrog Facebook fanpage, or just about anywhere else on the web, you have him to thank for it.  His participation in TheMovieFrog has increased my readership exponentially, and I would just like to take a moment to thank him myself.  He has been my partner in many things for many years now, but I had no idea when I started this blog a year and a half ago that he would end up playing such an integral role.  Thanks baby.
     Now, without further ado....

  Gayby - This film actually got a little bit of critical attention culminating in an Independent Spirit Best First Screenplay nomination for writer/director Jonathen Lisecki.  Unfortunately, I can't say that I quite agree with the hype.  I myself found the screenplay, and the movie, fairly unexceptional.  It tells the story of two best friends, a gay man and a straight woman, who decide to have a baby together.  Hence the title.  The rest of the film is just as much of a groaner.
     The whole thing plays sort of like a lost season of Will & Grace.  The main character (Matt) is sort of a neutered version of a gay man, a lot like Will on the show.  He is dating, but he only wants to cuddle.  I felt like his whole existence as a sexual being was diluted into something palatable for a straight audience, which might be why it got more mainstream attention than gay themed films often do.  He even has a flaming buffoon of a gay best friend, much like Jack on the television show.  The only thing missing from the Will & Grace formula was a Karen, who was the only character from the show that I found engaging.
     The acting stand out was actually the straight best friend, played by Jenn Harris.  In fact, rather than a film that raised awareness of the gay lifestyle, this film seemed to relegate gay men into the same old two stereotypical groups: lisping sissies straights can feel superior to and asexual butch guys who would be happier if they just realized that they were in love with their (female) best friends all along.  Just like Will & Grace, except in this movie he actually has sex with her...2 of 5 stars.

  Farewell, My Queen - This is my first exposure to the work of writer/director Benoit Jacquot (A Single Girl).  I found the movie to be a stylish period piece that was a little lacking in substance.  It tells the story of Sidonie (Lea Seydoux), the official reader to Marie Antoinette (Dianne Kruger) and the questionably sapphic devotion she holds for her regent.  The Queen herself is in love with the newly appointed Duchess (Virginie Ledoyen).  The French Revolution begins and that is pretty much the storyline.
     Despite the lack of much narrative structure, the picture is elevated immensely by two strong lead performances from international stars Seydoux and Kruger.  Kruger (who American audiences probably know best from Inglorious Basterds) is equally charming and detestable as the Regent: spoiled, stylish, and slightly sinister.  Seydoux (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) has her own unique screen charisma, and her performance makes Sidonie completely accessible to the audience as she slowly comes to see her monarch for what she truly is.
     I should take a moment to commend the production team, as this was a very well crafted costume drama.    This is of course the perfect segue to start off with the work of costume designers Christian Gasc and Valerie Ranchoux who created some truly sumptuous outfits.  They played nicely against the ornate production design of Katie Wyszkop.  Cinematographer Romain Winding also did a very nice job of capturing the palace in all of its opulent excess.
     I enjoyed Farewell, My Queen, but found it a little lacking in substance or thrills to justify a second viewing.  However, it was a well made and well performed film...3 1/2 of 5 stars.

  A Perfect Ending - So, when I was in my teens and twenties I remember that one of the main stereotypes used by Conservatives (what an ironic name when the last Republican to do anything about conservation was Teddy Roosevelt) to try and demonize homosexuals was that we were always trying to recruit poor innocent heterosexuals into our lives of debauchery.  We used to laugh about that.  So when I see a film, like A Perfect Ending, that seems to be a lesbian propaganda film aimed at recruitment, it bothers me a little bit.  Okay, one part recruitment propaganda, one part soft porn.
      Now, don't get me wrong.  It was a well written and very well acted movie.  Star Barbara Niven, in particular, is really pretty fantastic.  The chemistry between her and young co-star Jessica Clark is electric and their love scenes definitely convey the passion that can exist between two women.  I just wish that film maker Nicole Conn didn't seem to feel that she had to portray all men as either philandering and neglectful (the husband) or vapid, inept, and comparably undeserving (the sons) to drive the point home.  I don't know where this stereotype of man-haters comes from...2 1/2 of 5 stars.

     Well, unfortunately, the Great Gay Film Festival of 2012 was not so great.  I am happy to report that the Great Gay Film Festival of 2011 (coming shortly) bore much more impressive fruit.  Look for it soon...

     Related Articles: Muppet Impossible: Life or Deat Protocol (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol review)

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