Thursday, June 13, 2013

Reverend’s Preview: Laffs at LAFF

The 2013 LA Film Fest (LAFF), once again presented by venerable Film Independent, kicks off tonight with the Los Angeles premiere of I’m SoExcited, Pedro Almodóvar’s slight but delightful return to early, campy form (it will open in US theaters beginning June 28.)  The Oscar-winning Spanish filmmaker is obviously using the Airport disaster movie series of the 1970’s as his template, but instead of singing nuns, little old lady stowaways and George Kennedy he employs flamingly-gay flight attendants, bisexual pilots, horny newlyweds, a virgin psychic, and Almodovar regular Cecilia Roth as a middle-aged dominatrix with political ties.

Following a pre-flight mishap perpetrated by an inept runway attendee (a funny cameo by Antonio Banderas, distracted by his pregnant girlfriend played by Penelope Cruz), the crew of Peninsula Airlines flight 2549 discovers that their landing gear has been crippled.  In anticipation of an emergency landing, the plane is forced to repeatedly circle a remote airport and burn off fuel until a vacant landing strip becomes available.

Ever stalwart in the face of danger, flight attendants Joserra (Javier Camara), Fajas (Carlos Areces) and Ulloa (Raul Arevalo) take to drugging the passengers in coach as well as their female co-workers, mixing excessive amounts of cocktails for themselves and those guests in first class, and performing a show-stopping rendition — complete with full, hilarious choreography by Blanca Li of the title Pointer Sisters hit.  As one of the stewards tellingly declares to their leader at one point: “When you act the heroine, you scare me.”  Meanwhile, passenger and soap opera actor Ricardo Galan (Guillermo Toledo, giving one of the few understated performances in the film) has to deal with his suicidal ex-girlfriend via non-private phone calls from 35,000 feet, and Blanca Suarez’s psychic sniffs out an on-board assassin.  Will anyone survive???

Some critics, perhaps younger ones unfamiliar with the director’s early 1980’s fare, are grousing about how low the openly gay Almodovar has “sunk” in the wake of his more recent, masterful dramatic films such as All About My Mother, Talk to Her and The Skin I Live In.  I thoroughly enjoyed I’m So Excited!, though, both on its own merits and as an over-the-top take on those silly old Airport movies.  It may well turn out to be the most deliriously funny movie for adults, and definitely the gayest, to come out this summer.

There aren’t many other specifically GLBT-interest films screening during LAFF’s ten days and nights from June 13-23.  This weekend’s world premiere of Yoruba Richen’s gay politics documentary The New Black is one notable exception, as are the lesbian drama Concussion (screening June 19 and 21), out director Sebastián Silva’s Crystal Fairy (June 14 and 18) and the short films Alaska is a Drag, F to 7th - Interchangeable and She Said, She Said.  For the full festival schedule and to purchase passes or tickets, visit the LA Film Fest website.

Call Me Kuchu, an eye-opening documentary that had its US premiere at LAFF last year, is opening theatrically in New York this Friday and in Los Angeles on June 21.  It is a must-see for GLBT Americans and all those concerned about international human rights.  Co-directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, the powerful film focuses on the late David Kato and other openly gay citizens of Uganda who have been enduring incredible persecution by the African nation’s government (Kato was brutally murdered in 2011 for his activism).  Anti-gay American religious leaders are revealed to be among the primary instigators of Uganda’s homophobic political policies.  Don’t even think of not seeing it.

Reverend’s Ratings:
I’m So Excited: B
Call Me Kuchu: A-

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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