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Monday 04.16.18

HIRAETH

A new romantic short film about nostalgia and memory

My introduction to NYC-based artist Marcelo Gutierrez was last spring. I had just moved to New York and one of my first GAYLETTER assignments was to chat with him about his previous film, Tender Roses for Tough Climates. Its kaleidoscopic visuals stood out to me as well as the degree to which Marcelo holds his craft, which includes make-up, directing, writing and cinematography. In the year separating then and now, Marcelo has finished his latest project, another short film called Hiraeth.

 

“Hiraeth; (n.) a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.” So opens Marcelo’s latest, two years in the making. After this definition introduces us to the film, we get three things almost immediately. First, a bright but twisted twinkling original score by Brooklyn artist Liam Benzvi. Second, a subtle self-reference to his last film via a Titanic screenplay that, if you blink, you could miss. And lastly, an unpretentious bologna sandwich.

 

 

 

 

Hiraeth is a film rooted in the artist’s obsession with biographies, memories, and how they’re retold. Beyond the glitter, satin, warm pink hues, and letters written and recited, those roots are the essence of the film — memories and how they warp over time. It’s up to the viewer to decide if the character — played, written, and co-directed by Marcelo — is delusional or imaginative; if the memories are real, fictionalized, escapist, or puerile. …

Tuesday 03.20.18

Love, Simon

Free of shame, funny as hell and the first of its kind.

LGBTQ-films are usually produced by indie-studios, and appeal to critics’ taste because of directors’ choices or actors’ portrayals. Because of the marginalized context, LGBTQ-narratives are a great lens for finer aesthetics. There aren’t any beautiful landscape shots in Love, Simon, and the camera doesn’t really linger in any scene, which makes the $17 million dollar 20th Century Fox production seem more like John Hughes‘ Sixteen Candles rather than Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name. Rather unconcerned with aesthetics in general, Love, Simon sets just one goal: Get the title character the love story he deserves.

 

At its core, the film is another big-budget teenage romance. Directed by Greg Berlanti and adapted from Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens’ Agenda, the film follows Simon Spier (the bucolic Nick Robinson) and his group of close friends in an affluent suburb of Atlanta. We begin with Simon discovering a Craigslist-like posting that results in emailing Blue, another closeted-student at Creekwood High School. Most gay men watching will revel in the glory of chasing anonymous men online considering some of us are doing just that every day, but Love, Simon isn’t caught up in the throes of subversive desire. It’s PG-13 realness. There isn’t any back-alley cruising; no quick cuts of naked, damp flesh. Simon only says “Fuck” once, and he’s really mad. He’s like Sam in A Cinderella Story —  uninterested in eroticism but desperate for companionship. The film is 100 percent family friendly (as are most films that co-star Jennifer Garner) and that’s what makes it profound. …

Wednesday 03.14.18

Film: MIX NYC 30 Presents: FLUID0

Film is probably the one visual medium I lack most in my life. Every once and a while I’ll clock something at Sunshine on Houston (soon to be R.I.P.), or maybe if I’m feeling myself I’ll try and browse Netflix before I begin to feel senile. ‘Cause I’m a big old gay man, naturally my browsing goes for anything with a LGBTQ bend, which I am finding is most anything these days, but it takes actually gay artists who truly know the full scope of the experience to make deeply contextual work that doesn’t mooch off the aesthetics of closeted-homosexuality and place it Somewhere In Northern Italy for public viewing pleasure. Shu Lea Cheang lived in NYC through the 80s and 90s when AIDS ran rampant and killed of many of his friends. Fresh off of the Berlin festival circuit, Shu Lea Cheang’s FLUIDØ is set in the post-AIDS future of 2060, where the Government is the first to declare the era AIDS free, mutated AIDS viruses give birth to zero-gen humans that have genetically evolved in a very unique way. These genderfluid ZERO GENs are the bio-drug carriers whose white fluid is the hypernarcotic for the 21st century, taking over the markets of the 20th century white powder high.” I haven’t seen the film, as it’s the very first screening as a part of this year’s MIX (30 years celebrating queer experimental film), but the stills are quite juicy. There is lollygagging galore, a very heightened sense of color, and nudity. The ides of March are upon is, so why not take a chance? The worst that could happen is seeing a delicious, juicy-peach-like movie about and born from genuine queerness. Get tickets.

$9, 7:30PM, Brooklyn Bazaar, 150 Greenpoint Ave. Brooklyn, NY.

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Saturday 12.30.17

Film: Sunshine at Midnight: Stop Making Sense

The Landmark Sunshine Cinema is about to close which is a real bummer as it’s an amazing neighborhood cinema with a lot of history. They have been running their Sunshine at Midnight series for many years. This Saturday (December 30th) is your chance to attend one of their last with a screening on Stop Making Sense, Jonathan Demme’s “innovative and lively record of the Talking Heads during four nights of live performances captured here in all their quirky, New Wave glory.” The film features performance by David Byrne and band of some of the Talking Heads biggest songs including “Take Me to the River,” “Once in a Lifetime,” “Psycho Killer” and “Burning Down the House.” It was filmed at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles in 1984. If you’re not that knowledgeable about the Talking Heads then this is a brilliant introduction to the iconic band. Their songs have been used endlessly in movie trailers and TV shows over the years so a few songs will probably sound familiar to you. I personally am a big fan of the group. Their music has a trippy, intelligent appeal that is a perfect backdrop to travelling or exercising. This screening is a perfect night before NYE thing to do. And it’s a great chance to visit the Sunshine before it closes. Enjoy!

From $12, 11:55pm, Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema, 143 E Houston St., NY, NY

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Sunday 12.17.17

Film: CHRISTMAS AT METROGRAPH, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS

There is only one thing gay enough to get some queens out the door. No, I’m not talking about dick (though that’s not a stretch in the slightest), I’m talking about Judy Garland. J-u-d-y. Queen of all queens, mother to all faggots and high-priestess to the countless Judys in the world. In case you didn’t know why gay men were once called Judy, it’s because of Ms. Garland. As a part of their Christmas at Metrograph series, the cinema is showing Meet Me In St. Louis on 35mm. A dear friend to GAYLETTER has listened to nothing but Judy Garland: Live at Carnegie Hall for the past four months, and so as a result, I’ve got a bit of an education in the late star. Aside from Wizard of Oz (her debut), Judy Garland was a powerhouse vocalist, whose live concert at Carnegie Hall won the Grammy for album of the year in 1961. Imagine Ariana Grande doing that? Me neither. I guess she really isn’t a gay icon afterall. According my local Judy correspondent who has seen the film, he said to really pay attention to the trolley scene. It’s got an iconic song, one that Judy would go tour up until her death. He also said “she sings Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas when she’s wearing the red gown and that embellished veil headpiece that she removes mid-song.” Who doesn’t love a little ruveal? Christmas is just next week (eek!) and we’ve already been touched by our first snow. In Meet Me In St. Louis, Ester stays home for love. I don’t have a boyfriend, nor do I want one, so I’m thinking it’s in my best interest to grab my very favorite Judy Rao and take him along to this early morning screening. What’s better than being in love with your friendship? Pick up your coffees, order a warm croissant and snuggle up to each other in your favorite cashmere. It’s the holidays — kiss the boys you’ll always like best!

$15, 11:00AM, Metrograph, 7 Ludlow St. NY, NY.

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Wednesday 11.29.17

Film: TANGERINE AT NITEHAWK CINEMA

Just two years ago, transgender actors and actress were still mostly marginalized by Hollywood. With the help of showrunners like Jill Soloway, and actresses like Laverne Cox, the market for transgender performance has exploded across the television and film industry. When Tangerine came out in 2015, it was considered a breakthrough dramedy, both for its focus on two transgender leads who also happened to be sex-workers in Tinseltown. The film follows Sid-Nee, fresh out of jail, and Alexandra, her bff and trusted confidant in the trade game. They have whip-sharp mouths and walk a mile a minute. When Sid-Nee discovers her pimp has been unfaithful while she was behind bars, the two go nuts (respectively). Scenes include car-wash blowjobs and smoking meth in dive-bar bathrooms. Though the content of the two girls lives are incredibly dramatic to them, it’s easy to laugh at their grandiosity. Their inherent suspicion for everything in the world comes from a place of marginalization and trying to survive in a reality that would prefer them dead. On Wednesday, Nov. 29th, Nighthawk Cinema will be hosting a screening of the film with an intro by the director Sean Baker. Something to remember was that Tangerine was filmed entirely on an iPhone, featured two transgender women in the lead roles and wasn’t mentioned at the Oscars. That’s garbage! A portion of the evening’s ticket and drink sales (including a Bourbon cocktail called Sid-Nee) will go toward the Ali Forney Center — the NYC based LGBT center helping homeless LGBT youth. It’s sure to be a lovely evening.

$16, 9:30PM, Nitehawk Cinema (Williamsburg), 136 Metropolitan Ave. BK, NY.

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Friday 11.24.17

REVIEW: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

The film is succulent at the center, though not necessarily cooperative at first bite

Set “somewhere in Northern Italy,” Call Me By Your Name takes an emotional microscope to Elio Perlman’s stale summer. He lives on a villa with his father, a professor of archaeology, and his mother who is also an academic. Both are highly literate, and their son is the same. The three read and lounge respectively, joining together for every meal where their shared love and respect for one another seems paramount regardless of who they may share their table with. It is only when Oliver, the professor’s summer apprentice, arrives at the Perlman’s that the three seem distracted, yet further bonded, by their mutual admiration for the American student.

 

To pass his time, Elio transcribes classical piano, finishes books beside a secluded pond, rides his bike every which way and loses his virginity to Marzia, and then finally, to Oliver. Both romances are boyish, and Elio (the pure-faced Timothée Chalamet) falls in love while struggling to understand this new part of his life that seems to lack adequate language.

 

 

Oliver (Armie Hammer) is only with the family for six weeks, so the budding tension between he and Elio is heightened by an approaching end to the summer. Oliver, in his 20s, wastes no time and makes the first move on Elio who is just 17-years-old. Their ages aren’t celebrated, thankfully. (With the sexual scandals unrolling out of Hollywood, this minor detail would have tainted the film.) Oliver offers Elio a backrub, but Elio seemingly misses the hint, and appears frustrated by his own sexual discrepancy. …

Friday 11.10.17

Film: TOM OF FINLAND

A few weeks ago, Abi, Tom & I found ourselves on 65th St. riding an elevator with an attendant who wore white gloves. On our walk over the subway, I clocked a Loewe Puzzle Bag and a Hermes Kelly within a one block radius. We were yasssing the other women on the UES as we headed to the Finnish Consulate’s apartment to celebrate the extravagant biopic Tom of Finland with a light Monday cocktail hour and Finnish treats. (They love carbs, fish and vodka, so no wonder Finns celebrate fags!) Directed by Dome Karukoski, the film traverses through the valiant life of Touko Laaksonen, who later became known as “Tom of Finland” after his drawings of beefy, uniform clad men changed the American physique obsession by highlighting discreet, super hot gay sex. With a script that is tender and to the point (by Aleksi Bardy) ToF delves into Touko’s life in Finland where homosexuality was a crime and the only place to act upon your sexual desire was in damp parks during the night, or in the cloudy backrooms of bars.  Touko seemed to frequent both locales, a bravery picked up from WWII where many off-duty officer sucked dick or bottomed out in the middle of god knows what battlegrounds. Expect to be hard while you watch this film. What I found most cute about Touko (played by the foxy Pekka Strang) was that he was a total salesmen. Before he got down to business he’d quickly ask his partners, “Do you want to see some art?” (Let me know if you’ve fucked an artist who didn’t mention their work, I’m curious). Finland has chosen the film as their submission for the Oscars, so don’t miss out on what may be a mighty win for leather daddies everywhere.

$15, Various times, The Quad, 34 W. 13th St. New York, NY.

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Wednesday 11.01.17

Film: JOAN DIDION: THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD

I’ve tried to remember why, as a college student, Joan Didion came onto my radar. My only memory is a literature professor’s fierce tote, emblazoned with a photograph of the American writer. That same professor also had excerpts from Didion’s Blue Nights in the curriculum and over one Thanksgiving break I devoured the memoir over 48 hours. Purchase College had a dated library, but they had many of Didion’s works and I took to reading a great deal of her collected writings in “We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live.” Her prose has always been effortless; fiction or reportage, Didion’s storytelling is crisp. Released last weekend on Netflix, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is the long awaited documentary on Didion, who Barack Obama called “one of [America’s] sharpest and most respected observers of American politics and culture.” The documentary is chronologically biographic with interviews given by Didion’s nephew, the actor and the doc’s director, Griffin Dunne, opening a whole new side of the writer’s already written down life. A majority of the doc is footage from the late 60s/70s when Didion and her late husband John Gregory Dunne wrote countless magazine articles and socialized amongst the most noteworthy rock stars and Hollywood elite. Didion, now 82, reads from her books throughout the film with a calmness I found totally jarring in comparison to the interviews where she pulls her answers by physically grasping at thin air. This is a delicate, detailed portrait of one of America’s foxiest wordsmiths, a writer whose unperturbed nature is best shown in an old home movie: Didion, smoking a cigarette on some glorious, black leather sectional. A book’s in her lap. Undisturbed by the camera recording, she turns the page and blows smoke.

Available now on Netflix

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Wednesday 10.25.17

Film: GEORGE MICHAEL: FREEDOM

Sometimes my mom is reductive and tells me that I look like George Michael. To be honest, we have similar hair. My references are often retro but George doesn’t cross my mind unless Everything She Wants by Wham! is stuck in my head, and that happens bi-weekly. Funny enough, on Sunday night I was home with my mom when her Facebook feed alerted her to Showtime’s George Michael documentary airing. “Do we have Showtime?” she asked me. We’ve had it for four years, so I put it on. Besides some really corny editing choices, Freedom, which credits George Michael as co-director mostly centers on his tumultuous battle to be released from his Sony contract. He, like so many other solo artists, struggled with the artist his label wanted to sell versus the artist he felt compelled to be. “This is so dark!” is all my mom kept saying during the film because Freedom, while a narrative about creative expression, it is also about the struggle to find sexual freedom in the limelight. George’s own voiceovers talk of his late lover Anselmo who died of HIV/AIDS related complications in ‘93. Sir Elton John is in it for a bit, and so is some really underrated footage from George’s uber-90s music videos from the ‘96 album “Older,” which he called his total coming-out record. With Prince dead, Bowie, Whitney Houston, and George Michael too, a terrific generation of sexually obscure and gender-flexing recording artists have left a large hole in music that no one will probably ever fill. Freedom is another testament to these figureheads from the 80s and 90s who are integral to the present day charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent seen throughout the LGBTQ community. Lest we not forget Freedom is a Supermodel anthem. Gag!

AVAILABLE ON SHOWTIME

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