Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reverend’s Preview: Dead & Loving It at Outfest 2014

The dead are rising all over large and small screens nowadays. One new movie about a restless ghost/zombie, Jamie Marks is Dead, caused a homoerotic stir at January’s Sundance Film Festival. It will be making its Los Angeles premiere on July 11th as part of Outfest, which runs July 10th-20th.

Jamie is a bullied teenager whose body is found in the woods by a local girl, Gracie. Soon after, Jamie begins appearing not only to Gracie but to Adam, her track star semi-boyfriend. Adam finds himself increasingly drawn to the underwear-clad specter and, as he tries to discover how Jamie died, has to confront his emerging romantic feelings for his unusual friend.

It is rare for a film to be creepy, sexy and deeply moving, often all at the same time. Openly gay filmmaker Carter Smith (who previously helmed the horror movie The Ruins) walks an impressive high wire act with Jamie Marks is Dead, and the result is one of the best entries at this year’s Outfest. Smith chatted with me in advance of the event.

CC: What spoke to you about the novel One for Sorrow that made you want to film it?
CS: I randomly picked up the book in a book store. I was about halfway through it and thought, “This would make a great film.” Christopher Barzak’s story was beautiful and I loved the honesty in the relationships between Jamie and Adam, and Adam and Gracie. It felt very real and not a fictional version of what adults think teenagers are.

CC: Did you relate to this story on a more personal level?
CS: I grew up in a very small town in rural Maine that was not all that dissimilar from where the film takes place. I know what it is to live in an isolated way. I also responded to the relationship between Adam and Jamie as well as between Adam and Gracie, trying to figure out who they are. It isn’t really a coming out story but explores that more fluid time in a young person’s development.

CC: How has your film been received so far? Any unusual or surprising reactions?
CS: It’s always interesting to see how a film like this with a very specific milieu affects people outside it. I’ve had great conversations with middle-aged women and schoolteachers about some of the issues explored. Then there’s the Sundance crowd that just loves a good story.

CC: What led you to cast Noah Silver (best known as Benito Sforza on The Borgias) as Jamie and Cameron Monaghan (who plays Shameless’ Ian Gallagher) as Adam?
CS: We spent a long time looking, looking at people with a lot of experience and just a little experience. Noah actually put himself on tape two years ago playing both Adam and Jamie. It was when I put Noah and Cameron together that I noticed, “This is going to be an interesting contrast,” both physically and emotionally.

CC: How did out, Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, Skyfall) come on as a co-producer?
CS: I had met John and been friendly with him and at dinner one night he asked, “So, what are you working on?” I told him about the script and he was really interested. He asked me to send it to him. I did, and he read it and replied saying he loved it and really wanted to do it. He was passionate. He really wanted to stay true to the emotional aspect of it, as did I. We didn’t want it to become just a horror film.

CC: The film isn’t being billed as a gay-themed movie per se. Is this intentional? Are you wanting a broader audience?
CS: Hopefully it will play to a broader audience, but the LGBT community is going to respond to certain themes and parts of it. It’s also gotten a great response from the horror film community for the same reason.

CC: What’s next for you?
CS: I’m writing something which I’m really excited about but can’t really talk about yet. I’m also reading stuff and looking for ideas. But my day job is still fashion photography, which is where I got my start. I’m shooting Chloe Moretz (star of the Kick-Ass movies and the recent remake of Carrie) tomorrow for the cover of Allure magazine.

CC: Nice. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me. Best of luck with Jamie Marks and in the future.
CS: Thank you. I’m so glad you liked the film.

Outfest is never short on homoerotic or just downright erotic gay-themed films. A few I recommend this year are:

  • The Way He Looks, a Brazilian tale of two high school best friends who discover they have a deeper interest in one another. Oh, and one of them is blind, adding some needed novelty to the gay coming of age genre. It will screen in the International Centerpiece slot on July 14th.
  • Eternity: The Movie, a funny satire set in the 1980’s and focusing on the two men who make up the title R&B sensation. Any resemblance between Eternity and Hall & Oates is totally intentional. It screens on July 11th.
  • Tiger Orange, in which Frankie Valenti (a.k.a. porn star Johnny Hazzard) gives an impressive dramatic performance as one of two gay brothers (the other is played by Mark Strano) trying to bring closure to their troubled past. Never fear, Hazzard fans: he still takes his clothes off. The film will have its world premiere on July 18th.
  • Gerontophilia, Bruce LaBruce’s acclaimed dramedy about a young man who has the hots for decidedly older gentlemen, eventually falling in love with a resident of the nursing home in which he works. Screens on July 17th.
  • The Third One, who happens to be a sexy, younger guy invited by a gay couple he meets online to dinner and more at their home. This disarming, insightful and, yes, hot film from Argentina will screen on July 15th.
  • I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole, an explicit, revealing documentary about the ballet dancer/choreographer who became a pioneering gay porn filmmaker in the 1970’s. Screens on July 12th.

James Schamus, screenwriter (The Wedding Banquet, The Ice Storm, Taking Woodstock), producer (Poison, Swoon, Brokeback Mountain) and former CEO of Focus Pictures (Milk, The Kids Are All Right, Dallas Buyers Club) will be receiving the 18th annual Outfest Achievement Award during the festival's Opening Night Gala on July 10th. Outfest's highest honor, the Achievement Award is presented in recognition of a body of work that has made a significant contribution to LGBT film and media.

For the full film schedule and to purchase passes or tickets, visit the Outfest website.

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

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