Monday, April 17, 2017

Reverend's Preview: Back to the Beach

 

It may not be summer just yet but it isn’t too early to head to the beach. At least that’s true when it comes to the 18th annual Newport Beach Film Festival. The event will run April 20th-27th at multiple venues in and around its coastal host city. 


Celebrated as one of the leading lifestyle film festivals in the United States, the Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF) seeks to bring to Orange County the best of classic and contemporary filmmaking from around the world. Committed to enlightening the public with a first-class international film program, a forum for cultural understanding and enriching educational opportunities, the NBFF focuses on showcasing a diverse collection of studio and independent films from around the globe.
This typically includes a number of productions with LGBTQ appeal, and 2017 is no exception. Thousands of straight as well as LGBTQ attendees annually make NBFF a smash success. LGBTQ filmmakers participate as well.

Here are some of this year’s notable offerings, both short films and feature-length, of interest to our community:


Alzheimer’s: A Love Story is a potent yet hopeful documentary short that follows longtime gay couple Greg and Michael as they struggle with the title disease, which threatens to destroy the memory of their 40-year relationship.

My Mom and The Girl features a great, diverse cast including Harmony Santana, Valerie Harper and Liz Torres headlines this tale about a dinner with friends that takes a dark turn, leading a retired jazz singer and her caregiver to a proverbial crossroads on the streets of East Los Angeles. There, they encounter The Girl and the three very disparate — and desperate — women pull each other back into the light.

Writer-director Jerell Rosales’ sweet Please Hold details the aftermath when a condom breaks during a random hookup with a stranger. Fearing he may be infected with HIV, young Danny finds an unexpected new friend while awaiting his test results. Shown as part of the fest’s “Around The World In Shorty Gays” program.

Another short films program, ‘Til Short Do Us Part,” will include Thanks for Dancing. In this Norwegian production, a lifelong relationship is coming to an end as we examine two elderly men, both former athletes, during the last winter they are living together.

The North American premiere of The Dam, an Australian film about two lifelong mates (that’s Aussie-speak for “friends”) who revisit the monolithic dam that defined their young lives. An admission from one of the men cracks open a reservoir of silence, loss and regret, and feelings that were impounded long ago cannot be contained any longer.


Although gay marriage was legalized there several years ago, Mexico ranks second in the world in the rate of murders committed against the LGBT population. The documentary Pink Spring in Mexico (Primavera Rosa en México) spotlights the activists who have risked their lives to denounce these hate crimes, but impunity continues to surround the perpetrators.

Pretty M John, in which a 10-year old boy, Danilo, helps his mother run a guesthouse in the Philippines. When Mimi John (a transgender boxer from Manila) arrives, Danilo seizes the opportunity to connect with her as he finds out more about his own gender identity.

The Lavender Scare is an eerily prescient feature documentary. With the United States gripped in the panic of the Cold War during the 1950’s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower deems homosexuals to be security risks and orders the immediate firing of any government employee discovered to be gay or lesbian. This triggered a vicious witch hunt that ruined tens of thousands of lives but thrust an unlikely hero into the forefront of what would become the modern LGBT rights movement.

A couple living in Baja California makes preparations for their grand wedding in No Dress Code Required. There's only one problem: they are both men and their union is considered illegal. Cristina Herrera Borquez’s acclaimed film won the John Schlesinger Award at January’s Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Tickets for this year’s festival offerings may be purchased by visiting the NBFF website or calling 949-253-2880.

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Dearest... 2016: The Leftovers


Every year, many must-see films end up with Oscar nominations. And then there’s the rest, the movies I had no intention of watching but, thanks to the Academy, I now “have” to watch. And the nominees were… 


Deepwater Horizon:
Producer/star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg have cornered the market on inspirational “based on a true story” dude movies (see also: Lone Survivor, Patriot’s Day) where they can aim for a certain air of prestige while still blowing lots of shit up. Here they take on the infamous 2010 BP oil rig explosion, a real world catastrophe co-opted into a 1970s-ish disaster movie, complete with an all-star cast playing such stock characters as "scruffy veteran" (Kurt Russell), "devoted wife on telephone" (Kate Hudson) and "moustache-twirling corporate villain" (John Malkovich, in full finely-cured ham mode). The result is astonishingly awful in its lack of subtlety, originality or suspense. (3/10)

Marky Mark Meets Jane the Virgin

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi:
Like Wahl-/Berg, Michael Bay is also (in)famous for his overly-macho flicks (see also: anything with the word “Transformers” in the title). His latest is at least grounded in reality, inspired by the 2012 terror attacks on the American diplomatic compound in Libya. The bulk of the overly-long 13 hour 144 minute running time becomes repetitive: terrorists attack, lull in the action, repeat. What enlivens it considerably is the elite team of ripped, hunky hired guns (including The Office’s Jim and Orange is the New Black’s Pornstache) on display, often-shirtless and always sweaty. The testosterone practically drips off the screen, along with an expected heaping helping of Rambo-esque patriotism. (5/10)

Worst drive-thru ever.

Trolls:
If the thought of sitting through a Day-Glo hued feature-length commercial for those frizzy-haired dollar store dolls you see in claw machines and on pencil erasers everywhere truly horrifies you, take heart: it’s not that bad. Sure, the characters literally fart glitter and crap cupcakes, but kids love that kind of stuff and it blessedly zips along at a quick pace. Pitting the perky Princess Poppy (voiced by, naturally, Anna Kendrick) against a race of troll-eaters (that totally don’t look anything like the Boxtrolls), this musical adventure of course has the typical “embrace individuality” moral all animated flicks are required by law to have these days. (6/10)

"I never felt like this before..."

Passengers:
On a 120-year trek to a distant space colony, Chris Pratt is rudely awakened 90 years too early to a ghost ship, with only a Michael Sheen bartender robot to keep him company. After a year of growing a Matt Damon Martian beard he breaks down and wakes up his own sleeping beauty (Jennifer Lawrence). He fully knows he’s dooming her to an isolated life, but hey, at least he’ll get laid. This Sci-Fi Lite doesn’t quite know what to do with the moral questions it raises, and it devolves into an increasingly illogical series of protracted close calls during its second half. (6/10)

At least there's this.

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

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