Saturday, May 31, 2014

"X-Men", like "The Proles", sweep across the 3-D screen; what really ended the Vietnam war (and Nixon's presidency)


I can remember Anderson Cooper’s tweeting that he likes X-men movies, and maybe that convinced me to see the recent “musical offering”, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”.  Bryan Singer directs, and there isn’t much question that there is an intentional parallel between coming out as a “mutant” and coming out as gay, because in the 1970s that idea might have held.

I’ve always been suspicious of backward time-travel stories, because of the “time arrow of physics”.  That is so, even as I enjoyed the television series “The 4400” a few years ago.  Nevertheless, because most of the action takes place in a “relived” 1973 (the year that I “came out” for good), the story rather worked. 

I’m not into all the Marvel comic characters enough to keep them straight, and there are plenty of detailed plot synopses on the Web now.  The basic idea is that Charles (Professor X, Patrick Stewart, in 2023) decides to go back to 1973 to prevent a Nixonian plot to destroy the mutants.  Logan (Hugh Jackman) will team up with the younger Charles (James McAvoy) who is paralyzed but has telepathic abilities and a lot of charisma.  If he ever walks again, he gives up his psychic powers.  I think the nerdy guy guarding him was played by Nicholas Hoult (he seemed more like me in 1973).  Pretty soon, the story is focused on the end of the fighting in Vietnam, and then the Paris peace talks, which in history resulted in a settlement at the end of January 1973.  There’s also a mutant who had assassinated President Kennedy, imprisoned in the bowels of the Pentagon.  The script gives various references to the international politics of the time, including even the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Later, a caricature of Nixon (Mark Camacho) appears on the White House Lawn, while the mutants have scalped RFK Stadium (the hapless Washington Senators baseball team had left in 1972) and dropped its iconic shell around the White House lawn. 

My own novel manuscript of “The Proles” (1969) has an episode set in Viet Nam with some supernatural stuff (a bizarre flux and ray gun) fired by a character based on someone who had been a buddy in the barracks at Fort Eustis, a Berkeley doctoral candidate who called himself Rado Suhl.  As I recall, he left the shelter of a “professional” assignment and went to Vietnam before he got out of the Army.  I thought, the Vietnam sequence simulated what he wanted to see when he went “over there”.  Indeed, I wondered what inspired Singer and the screenwriters to delve into this troubling period of American military and diplomatic history that is already being forgotten.

The official site is here

I saw this film late Saturday afternoon at the Angelika Moasic in Merrifield VA in 3-D before a substantial crowd. 
The picture shows the garden apartment in Caldwell NJ where I lived at the time of the 1973 sequence in this movie. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

"Documented": a Pulitzer Prize journalist (Jose Antonio Vargas) tells his story as an ("illegal") immigrant caught in a Catch-22


The Pulitzer Prize journalist (the reward based in part on coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings) for the Washington Post Jose Antonio Vargas (and then the Huffington Post) outed himself  (in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, link  as an undocumented immigrant, arriving from the Philippines at age 12 in 1993 when “smuggled” into California for a better life by arrangement of his mother, whom he may never be able to see again, except through Skype.  The film “Documented”, by Vargas (and co-directed by Ann Rafaela Lupo, who shot the many scenes in the Philippines on location) tells the story, gives his autobiography. Vargas and three female immigration lawyers were present for the QA at the West End Cinema this evening.

Vargas generally would not be challenged to prove he was here legally, but could never get a green card or visa.  He was able to purchase a social security card to help make himself look legal.

Another irony is that Vargas is gay.  One hope was that he would legally marry an American woman, and be able to make his stat here legal that way.  It’s rather transparent that legal recognition of gay marriage can become critical in immigration cases.

In 2012, the Obama administration announced that “Dreamers”, people who had been in the US as minors and who had become educated and employed, could get legal status if under age 30.  Vargas was 31 by then.  He can no longer work for anyone legally now (including the Post) but has his own production company.
  
Vargas goes around the country and talks to a lot of ordinary people.  There’s a scene at an outdoor café in Birmingham, AL, a place that I had just visited myself.
  
Vargas has founded an organization “Define American”, link here
  
   
The official site is here  The film is being distributed in a limited theatrical release by CNN and will air on CNN later in 2014. 
  
The Philippines is still a popular location for American companies to hire less expensive labor.  And the country is one of the most vulnerable in the world to typhoons. 
    
In the QA Vargas noted the paradox that he faces as a journalist: he must be objective, yet passionate in living something. The New Yorker has articles by him about Mark Zuckerberg (link) which suggest that others at Facebook thought Zuckerberg should have tried to stop the making of “The Social Network”.  


Update: July 15, 2014

Vargas has been held by authorities after protesting at McAllen, TX during the child migrant crisis.  CNN has details here.  This is a developing story and the legalities seem murky right now. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Godzilla": The EMP-monster movie


Godzilla” does seem like a bloated, and somewhat plot-complicated, remake of the classic Japanese creature (“Gojira”, 1954) flick, where an enormous dinosaur topples buildings in a large city and people scurry like mice.  Directed by Gareth Edwards with a new story by Dave Callaham, for Warner Brothers and Legendary, the film builds up the creatures over decades, in castes that seem to resemble social insects.
  
The film opens with the infamous hydrogen bomb test in 1954, and then quickly moves to 1999, where scientists find the artifacts of a huge creature in a collapsed mine in the Philippines, with possible escape of the young.  Then Aaron Taylor-Johnson, a young Naval officer with a “normal” family in San Francisco, travels to Japan when his dad, also a senior officer, has been arrested for trespassing.  It’s rather complicated, but the government is trying to cover up the creature activities as an earthquake.

The film will then progress to destroy Hawaii (with a tsunami), Las Vegas and San Francisco.  (That’s three cities ruined, rather just one as in “Cloverfield”.)  It seems as though there are eggs (from pods rather like those in the “Alien” movies) that hatch into winged “MUTO’s”, and there is the original Godzilla.  The battle among the creatures and Godzilla becomes the secondary “plot” leading to the final irony of the film. The primary plot is the relationship between father and son, and son and his own family, although it is all rather stereotyped.

There’s an interesting sequence late in the movie where a “glow train” is carrying the nuclear parts to San Francisco and is attacked by the creatures, at night.  It rather looks like something on a model railroad.
But the most important “point” in the script may be the treatment of electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which the creatures (the MUTO’s feed on radioactive waste, which triggers an attack on Yucca Mountain)  emanate.  Electricity is knocked out on Navy ships and in cities at various points before there is other physical destruction.  Sometimes the electricity comes back on, which would not happen after real EMP damage.  But local non-nuclear EMP weapons exist;  the US Army uses them in deployment (as in Iraq and Afghanistan).  That point is covered particularly on my Books blog in Maloof’s work (April 13, 2014).  In the past, I probably would have covered this movie on my “Films on major threats to freedom” (or “cf”) blog, but I’m not using that now for commercial theatrical films.  

The script says that the MUTO's had bred deeper underground, near sources of radiation.  This reminds one of the premise of the NBC series "Surface" a few years ago.
 
I also recall a similar film in the 50s, "The Giant Behemoth". 


The official site is here.

The music score is by Andre Desplat, and provides a crunching “noir” fast-paced exposition for the opening credits, and then a full concert tone poem for the closing credits.  I would have preferred that the very end remain fortissimo rather than dying suddenly, but the piece seems well constructed. 

Wikipedia attribution link for Yucca Mountain entrance.  I was near this location in May 2012.  
       
I saw this in a small auditorium at Regal Ballston, although the 3-D presentation and sound were effective.  But “go big or go home” doesn’t seem to apply when Regal uses a small screen.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"The Normal Heart": Larry Kramer's play makes a powerful film, and recreates what it was like in the early days of the AIDS epidemic


I got myself setup on HBO GO and watched “The Normal Heart” today, having missed it while on my “business”  trip through Southland (Dixie) the past few days (and having misread the motel cable guides).

I believe I saw a production of the play in a small theater in Washington DC (maybe Church St) in 1992, and I did buy a copy of the play (review on the Drama blog, July 3, 2009).  But the film really does a great job of communicating what the early days of the AIDS epidemic were really like, in a way difficult to do on stage.  The film is not a set piece;  it goes outside and provides a cinematic experience, often emphasizing New York City in winter, as well as Fire Island in summer. 

The film, running 133 minutes, is directed by Ryan Murphy and had Brad Pitt and Mark Ruffalo (as Ned Weeks) on the executive-production team. Larry Kramer wrote the film screenplay based on his own play, which is not as long as one would expect.

The film opens on Fire Island in the early summer of 1981, with the party scene.  One young man has a seizure on the beach, a foreshadow of what is to come.  I remember, back in 1978, making LIRR trips to Sayville, taking the Ferry, and walking from Fire Island Pines to Cherry Grove, sometimes on the beach, sometimes through the real “grove”.  In those days, there was someone I wanted to run into; and a little health crisis involving Hodgkin’s Disease was actually in the news.  No one grasped what would happen in a few years.  In fact, the script mentions a secret government experiment at Fort Dietrich in 1978 that fits into conspiracy theories.  Copies of “The New York Native”, which covered the epidemic in detail in the 1980s, appear in the film.  I actually corresponded by owner Charles Ortleb myself, while living in Dallas (Ortleb was advancing theories about a bizarre arbovirus and Plum Island -- and and insect-born virus would have been a very bad thing for the gay community politically.)   I met his friend John Beldakas.  I was at a meeting (with the Dallas Gay Alliance) with Jim Curran in a Dallas hotel very late in 1982 when the term “AIDS” (instead of GRID) was coined.  

Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) is supposed to be Larry Kramer himself. Much of the play relates how he fell out with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) which he founded in his own apartment.  He wanted to be out, vocal, and loud, and passionate in public.  The more conservative leadership, under ex-Marine Bruce Niles (Taylor Kitsch – again a preview of battles over gays in the military to occur in the following decade), feared that no one would work with a group that called itself “Gay”.  The other big thread of the story is his relationship with the handsome New York Times reporter Felix Turner Mat Borner), who develops AIDS.  Borner had to lose 40 pounds for the role toward the end (as had Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyer’s Club” – not good for actors’ health).    Julia Roberts plays Dr. Bruckner, who treats patients from a wheelchair and tells a harrowing back story of how she got polio as a little girl and was suddenly paralyzed. She also starts out in the early days by telling gay men to stop having sex. 


The film is quite graphic in showing the wasting of people withj AIDS, especially in depicting numerous large Kaposi’s Sarcoma lesions.  KS is now known to be induced by a secondary herpes-like virus, which causes certain kinds of cells associated with blood vessel linings to proliferate, and it has become much less frequent than it was in the 80s.  There is, at one point, a discussion of the relative risks of homosexual sex and vaginal intercourse, which can be deceptive, but was often brought up by the right wing in the 1980s.  Dr. Bruckner quickly points out that in Africa AIDS has been transmitted heterosexually, probably because in third world countries women are more likely to have other STD’s that facilitate two-way transmission. There is plenty of homophobia in the hospital scenes, like a TV technician who won't enter the room of a "contagious fairy". 

Since I lived in Dallas in the 1980s., I saw the worst of the epidemic about two years later.  At least two men whom I almost dated would die of AIDS.  I recall one had called me a “soft man” in a bar in April 1981.  It seems that my being “less attractive” turned out to have a reverse Darwinistic effect.  Less popular and less attractive men were more likely to remain uninfected and survive.  It’s not always the best thing to have people attracted to you.


The film covers the stubborn response from not only the Reagan administration (Ronnie didn't mention the disease until 1985), and even NYC mayor Ed Koch, who had taken office on Jan. 1, 1978, is single and was thought to be gay by many people (so is California governor Jerry Brown). Koch has actually advanced the idea of filial responsibility in the past.

The film mentions past real establishments in New York City, including the Man's Country Baths.  I remember the Everard and the Club. 

The basic link for the film, produced by Plan B,  is here.  Both HBO and 20th Century Fox seem to be distributors.  A theatrical run, in arthouse type theaters, is in order (maybe the West End in Washington DC), so that the film could be in the Oscar races.  It deserves to be.     A good comparison would be HBO's "Angels in America" (Mike Nichols), "How to Survive a Plague" (about Act-UP) and "We Were Here" (set in San Francisco). 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Four": two sides of a family, two relationships in a small town; including a pairing of a black "business man" and a graduating teen; also the major short "Lucky Blue"


Four” may seem like a gay “Tyler Perry” movie of sorts.  Directed and screenwritten by Joshua Sanchez, and based on a play by Christopher Shinn, the film, set on a Fourth of July weekend in a small town in upstate New York, explores four characters in two interconnected relationships.

The lead is Joe (Wendell Pierce), an overweight African-American, has taken leave of his family, a teen daughter Abigayle (Aja Naomi King) left to care for her mother (Yolonda Ross) who seems to be mysteriously and sadly wasting away.  Joe, however, wants to discover himself, as he courts a gay teen (probably just graduated from high school), “June” (Emory Cohen), who was given that name after being born prematurely, after the month when he should have appeared.  June, quite attractive, has not told his family that he is gay, and seems shy and serious. 

The movie counterpoints Joe’s courtship of June with Abigayle’s own relationship with Dexter (E. J. Boilla).    I found it hard to believe that June would “want” Joe unless the tables were turned, and June were the more aggressive partner in the courtship.

Though relatively gentle, the movie is down to earth.  The characters, while sometimes seeming cultured, and still pretty earthy, with blue collar vices like smoking.

  

The official site is here.  It is available as DVD and Instant from Netflix.  The film is of modest lemgth (76 minutes).



For today's short film, try the Swedish film "Lucky Blue" (2007, 28 min, by Hakon Liu).  A shy boy, who helps his parents run a karaole dance business, is won over by an even gentler but oddly charismatic guest (both characters are about 18).;   A blue parakeet who escapes holds the plot togther; With Tobias Bengtsson and Tom Lifterud.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad All by Myself"


Tyler Perry’s “I Can Do Bad All by Myself” (2009) plays the family responsibility card. April takes over raising three delinquent relatives (a nephew and two nephews) when they loot Madea’s (Tyler Perry doubled up) apartment.  This may remind one of “Summerland.” She has a married boyfriend and wants little to do with relatives’ kids.  But when she meets a Colombian immigrant Sandini (Adam Rodriquez) her whole heart changes, even toward “other people’s children.”
   
There’s a great sermon in the middle of the film, saying you can’t help others if you’re still broken yourself. 
  
I can remember a boss at a debt collection company who said to me, "I know you don't wan to do bad." 
   
The film can be rented for $2.99.  It now often airs on the "Bet*" network. 



May 27:
Notes about HBO's new film of Larry Kramer's "The Normal Heart" are on the Drama blog July 3, 2009; will be expanded as soon as I see the entire film. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

"Never Lose Sight of Freedom" shown at Selma Interpretive Center


The National Park Service historical center in Lowndes County, AL, (the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail and the Lowndes County Interpretive Center, link) on highway US 80, shows a 22 minute short film “Never Lose Sight of on Freedom”, by David Raymond, giving the history of the freedom marches from Selma AL to Montgomery (about 40 miles) in March, 1965.  The first march was met with police and vigilante violence, but the intervention of Lyndon Johnson and his federalizing of the Alabama National Guard made a successful march late that month work.  The film shows many of the encampments along the way.


The film explains the way the poll taxes and other requirements kept blacks from voting. Even a half century later, the poverty rate among blacks is unusually high in the state, relative even to other states in the South.


The film made a lot of the personal sacrifices.  One speaker said that for the people who sacrificed, life was taken from them. Another person made the startling assertion that to continue living without freedom would be shameful and death would instead be appropriate.  Still another individual said that the Berlin Wall would not have fallen three decades later without the sacrifice.



The film has subtitles of the names of the spirituals, starting with “We Shall Overcome” and finally “Free at Last”.  Some images were shown on a second screen.
The film is one of the most passionate on the 1965 marches that I have seen.
A higher definition picture that I took May 23 of the Edmund Pettus Bridge is below:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

"Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci", ABC documentary film examines the theory behind Dan Brown's book, movie


Koch has released as a “film” a 2004 News documentary by Elizabeth Vargas for ABC News, “Jesus, Mary, and Da Vinci” (43 min).  Vargas interviews Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code” (Books blog, April 16, 2006), and a major film from Columbia in 2007, and various scholars.
  
Even the Church scholars agree there is no evidence that Mary Magdalene was of “ill repute”, but the Church may have had a motive to propagate such a belief.  But there is no evidence in official records of any blood line from Jesus in southern France, even though the “Priory of Zion” was supposedly formed to guard its families, and to invite esteemed persons into the group, which included Da Vinci.
  
  

Leonardo Da Vinci was a somewhat reclusive man, partly because he was likely gay, and also because he wanted to articulate a Renaissance belief in science in a time when this was not permissible.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"New Orleans Exposed" (or "NOX") is a gritty look at a corrupt pre-Katrina Crescent City through hip-hop


New Orleans Exposed: Before and After Katrina” (or “N.O.X.”) directed by Dwayne Morgan and “Video Wayne” (2006, from IL Mendez Productions, 63 min) is an independent documentary showing the underbelly of ghetto life in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. The film has many upfront comments by ordinary people talking in street language (often singing poetry in hip-hop, which pervades the film), as well as graphic scenes of poverty in the slums.  The city had tried to move 200 people away from the tourist areas before the hurricane.
   
The results of the violence are shown explicitly.  One man’s arm is scarred throughout with 22 pieces of shotgun shrapnel.  The film says that the public school system in New Orleans was (or is) one of the worst in the nation.

  
“If you can’t get in with the businesses, the next best thing is to hustle.”
  
The street language resembles what I heard in the barracks in the Reception Station when I was drafted in 1968.
  
The film reports that conditions in the African-American wards had deteriorated greatly with the crack epidemic of the 1980s.
  
The film also describes an incident in the 18th century where 250 slaves joined with local Indians to fight against the French.
  
  
Toward the end, there is a tribute to “Soulja Slim”, who was murdered in 2003.  (I was called “Slim” in Army Basic.)
   
The DVD is laid out in a way that is a little confusing it first.  If you click “Play”, you get a 4-minute hip-hop performance, accompanied by many street scenes.  The actual feature is “NOX”, the second link.

The extras appear to be previews of future installments, each about four or five minutes.  They are called "USA Kids", "Evacuated" and "Heart of the Street". The extras talk about life after the Hurricane, with the resettlement in Houston, through hip-hop. 
   
In September 2005, I did volunteer shifts (in Falls Church VA) for a while at the Red Cross, taking calls for people displaced by Katrina, but there was little we could do for most callers except tell them to call the 800 FEMA number, which had them wait on hold for hours. 
  
I visited New Orleans in Feb. 2006, over President’s Day.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Strand releases "Fun in Boys' Shorts" (7 films) in early June


Strand Releasing will release a series of seven short films called “Fun in Boys’ Shorts: The Best in Gay Men’s Cinema” on June 3, 2014.  The tile is not really pun; there are seven short films.  The release seems to follow the vein of the “Boys Life” series (Jan. 28, 2008), from the Frameline Film Festival. .  
  

Spooners”, the first film (13 min), was the most successful for me. Directed by Bryan Horch, the film has Nelson (Walter Reploge), at the urging of his husband Corey (Ben Lerman) shopping for a new mattress at “Drowsy’s”, and finding the mattress to be a giant computer recording his every move and instinct for all in the store (and on the Internet) to see before his husband shows up.  It’s a nice satirical piece on the loss of privacy in the modern world.

Housebroken” (15 min) by Wade Gasque, gives us an attractive gay man Paul (Mark Strano) visitng a swinging LA couple (Carrie Keranen and Justin Schollard).  The intimacy may be too much for the marriage.  The film has the short of humor of “10 Rules” (April 24). 

 “Skallaman” (“Bald Guy”, 12 min, Norway), by Maria Bock, has a young man returning home to his parents after being seen dating a “short fat and bald” guy, and then later another tall and thin bald guy. The musical, with quite a lilt in the songs, is a satire on lookism and “body fascism”.  This is one of the more remarkable films of the set.

Alaska is a Drag” (14 min), by Chaz Bennett, presents a drag queen doing a macho job in a cannery near Anchorage, and befriending a more conventionally masculine gay man, and teaching him how to take care of himself.

Desanimado” ((“Unanimated”, Portugal, Emilio 8 min).  An animated character goes into therapy to deal with how the real world treats him because he is “different”.  The film always shows him in a totally real background.  The therapy dialogue goes existential, as he ponders whether belonging to the world of others is a moral imperative.   Again, this film shows some originality.

Sabbatical”,  by Glenn Kiser, not to be confused with a more recent feature, 8 min), is a break in a marriage here. Phillip (Ross Marquand) returns home to his spouse (Michael Carbarano) after having traveled to Thailand and even recovered from Malaria.

P.D.A.”, by Patrick Hancock (8 min), has Pat challenging his lover’s aloofness (and his “inexpressive heart”).  I never knew that it offended people not to use hand saniitizers.   

This review was done from a private Vimeo screener link.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Palo Alto": spoiled teens behave badly in this "comedy" from the Coppola family, based on stories by James Franco


Palo Alto” may very well be where Facebook set up shop permanently, and I doubt Mark Zuckerberg would be able to find suitable high-tech hires among the spoiled high school kids who populate this comedy, directed by Gia Coppola (granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola) – and with that movie family (and American Zoetrope) you never know. 

The actors who play the kids (male and female) are surely much more cleancut in their own lives.  Jack Kilmer (Val’s family) plays Teddy, who gets busted for DUI and hit and run.  Yup, the kids are always smoking, drinking (underage), doing drugs, and experimenting, like there are no consequences.  Dr. Phil would say, they can’t see around corners.  Don’t believe it.  Teddy is a gifted artist, so his otherwise reckless behavior seems especially stupid, as he then blows his community service in the library, where “it’s free” – oh, and this is the children’s library, where they have “I’ve You Give a Mouse a Cookie” (it will ask for a glass of milk next).  His girl friend, April (Emma Roberts) has her own problems, so they grow apart, until the stud Fred (Nat Wolff) captures her.  In time, it will be Fred who turns out to be the most reckless (especially at the ending).  Wolff, now 19, is a musician and composer in his own right and composed one of the songs in the background.

The script is based on some short stories by James Franco, who has directed some impressive indie films in the LGBT area (as well as being well known in higher profile “indie” films).  Franco, now 36, plays the history teacher and girls soccer coach Mr. B, and his face looks a little more furrowed than in the past.  The soccer practice scenes are actually interesting and well done as far as the sport itself goes.  (Oh, yes, that reminds me, Washington DC wants to build a soccer stadium next to Nationals Park.  A lot of people really like the sport.)  Mr. B, however, gives in to temptation in a scene with a female student, and in California, the age of consent is 18.  (And it’s usually a crime to become involved with a public school student you teach or coach anyway.  The film never goes into the legal consequences.)  There’s another scene where another thirty-something friend makes a pass at Teddy.  I thought about my own screenplay “The Sub” (which I am embedding now in a bigger “Do Ask, Do Tell” screenplay) where I set p a “temptation” like this, and put the screenplay online for anyone to see, causing tremendous controversy and ambiguity when I was substitute teaching (in 2005).  Jeffrey Toobin (CNN) could have weighed in on all this.


The official Tribeca site for the film is here.

As far as the teen behavior goes -- even more remarkably since the material comes from James Franco -- it struck me by comparison how well behaved all the gay kids are in "Judas Kiss" (even Shane).
I saw the film at Landmark E Street at the early show Monday night before a light crowd.
  
There was a special showing in a rented theater of “Love Is a Verb”  I had not heard of the film but the people said it had showed at the Maryland Film Festival.  I once had a debate with a minister in Indiana on whether “love is a transitive verb”.  I asked if it was a Christian film, but that turns out to be a faux pas. The film is the story of Fethullah Gulen and the charity “movement that he inspired” which involved service and sacrifice in remote parts of the world.  I understand the DVD will be available in early 2015. It doesn’t come up on Netflix yet.

Wikipedia attribution link for aerial of Palo Alto CA (my most recent visit, 2002, more extensive in 1995 and 2000). 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"Million Dollar Arm" needs more baseball and less formulaic screenwriting; Should MLB host a celebrity charity home-run hitting contest?


I like baseball movies, but “Million Dollar Arm” (directed by Craig Gillespie, written by Tom McCarthy), Disney’s latest feel-good family pseudo-comedy starring a sports agent (J Bernstein, played by Joe Hamm), doesn’t give us much ball, and seems over formulaic and overextended.  It lacks the finesse, say of “Jerry Maguire” almost two decades ago.

The film actually gives us a little basketball and pro football first.  JB is struggling as a sports agent, but comes up with a scheme, backed by investors from China, to recruit major league pitchers from India, on the theory that MLB will get a huge television market there.  In fact, this is said to be a true story.  Singh and Patel are actually in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  Will the Nationals face them next weekend in Pittsburgh?

The back theory is that cricket “bowlers” could become pitchers.  I wonder if Prince William and Harry would agree. 

JB makes a big road trip to India, going to a lot of villages, until he find two young men who can hit the mid 80s on the radar gun and throw strikes, sometimes.  He brings Rinku and Dinesh back, two young men who have never left their villages.  They have some trouble adjusting to life in LA, to say the least.

In fact, JB insists he enjoys the life of a bachelor with a too-big house, and other properties.  He’s starting to develop a relationship with one of the tenants, Brenda (Lake Bell).  Apparently, he has sometimes been expected to board or babysit OPC (other people’s children).  Now, he extends radical hospitality, putting up the two young men in his home, sometimes teaching them to party.

The screenplay creates some stakes and crises, with the help of the Chinese investors, but with relatively little real baseball.  The boys eventually reach the low 90s in their pitching speed.
   
Alan Arkin and Bill Paxton add some humor as the scout and pitching coach. 
 
It struck me that a major league team, probably the Los Angeles Dodgers or maybe the Angels, could host a “celebrity” homerun hitting contest, or maybe a pitching contest, as a charity event.  How would obviously fit men like Ashton Kutcher, Jared Padalecki, or Tom Welling fare hitting batting practice pitches?  Probably pretty well.   The road trip to India reminded me of Timo Descamps’s video “Tomorrow”, where he seems to be traveling India (or Africa, drama blog, March 27) recruiting villagers into a future in show business (although India already has Bollywood).  So add Timo, Richard Harmon, and I think Reid Ewing to the MLB charity home run hitting contest. 

Because I was in the movie, I missed the progress of the Nationals’s 6-3 victory over the Mets this afternoon.  (Cell phones off!)  After the movie, I had supper in a nearby sports bar and watched NCAA women’s softball  (OK, LSU beat Arizona 5-1, and the underhanded softball pitches were around 60 on the radar gun, with home plate much closer than in baseball).

I saw the film at the AMC Courthouse, before a pretty ample Sunday audience.

The official site is here
    


It needs to reported that another (different) AMC property in northern VA had a serious “copycat” incident early Sunday morning at a “Godzilla” showing (I’m not in a hurry for that), WJLA report here.   It is still a developing story.  

Picture: ballpark for the Pittsburgh Pirates, mine, 2007 visit.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Chef": food, and a battle between a blogger and people engaged in "real life"


Chef” may be great comedy and offer visuals of “food porn”, but it has a lot to say about how people accomplish things in life, both by doing things themselves or writing about others who do, from a distance.



Jon Favreau stars in his own film, playing the master chef Carl Casper, divorced but with a devoted 10-year old son Percy (Emjay Anthony).  For years he has been bringing in customers to a Venice CA restaurant (although the outdoor scenes looked like Sherman Oaks, and the place itself resembled a big bar-restaurant that I ate at in West Hollywood just off of Santa Monica in 2012; imdb says that some shooting was done in Venice).  He wants to experience creative artistry in his cooking, perhaps serving the fictitious fare from Clive Barker’s Imajica (please not the roe, inside the fish within a fish, in the Third Dominion!)  The owner, Dustin Hoffman, wants to keep the fare the same because it is good business.  But a food blogger, made very prominent by the Huffington Post, gives him a snarky review, partly because of a chocolate lava cake that really is supposed to be mushy in the middle.  Casper is not Internet-savvy, but his little son brings him up to speed on Twitter very quickly. Casper sends a nasty tweet back to the blogger (John Leguizamo), thinking it is private, but it goes viral.  Soon there is a nasty confrontation in the restaurant, and the chef loses his job.  He has to go on all heart.  Overweight with forearms covered with tattoos, he doesn’t fit the older social stereotypes of commanding appearance, bit in this film that won’t matter.
 

The second half of the movie becomes a wonderful road trip. Carl and his son go to Miami Beach, and get an old friend to give him a food truck.  Carl teaches his son to clean and set up the truck, and soon the food truck is open on South Beach serving “Cubano” food, and becomes a big hit.  The truck goes on the road, to Orlando, New Orleans, Austin TX, and back to Los Angeles.   At this point, it’s welt to comment on the photography in this very professional film: it teases the eye with all kinds of exotic French and Hispanic dishes with raw sea food, and then opens up and shows us stunning Cinerama-like shots of the major locations it visits., including the Lousiana bayous along I-10, and Big Bend (TX) mountains.  (Some of the food shots resemble those on the blog of NYC classical musician Timo Andres, who often writes about cooking, too.)  See this film in a large theater with a full wide screen. I saw it in the AMC Shirlington in Arlington, which presented it in one of the larger auditoriums with a curved wide screen.  That works well here.
 

I don’t like to play spoiler, but the ending is important.  The blogger shows up at the truck, first refused service.  But then we learn he has sold his blog for millions (I couldn’t do that with mine) and wants to put money into a new company with Carl’s Food Trucks all over the country, probably as a  branded franchise.  He says the SEC wouldn’t let him do that if he continued to blog about food.  That’s a very interesting point.


Official site (Open Road) is here



Will I take a photo of my next meal before consuming it? 

Pictures: my own, from Everglades, Fremch Quarter, West Hollywood, Austin. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

"The Double": Jesse Eisenberg stars in a film concept that is becoming a bit trite


The Double”, an abstract comedy or satire directed by Richard Ayoade, based on the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, is rather like “Enemy” (March 22), if simpler and more bare-bones. 

This time, the acting gimmick comes from Jesse Eisenberg (as Simon and then James), who, as the film opens, works as an analyst in a dark office managed by “The Colonel” and a mincing underling played by Wallace Shawn (“My Dinner with Andre”).  The place has early 1950’s technology, which is exaggerated to become comic-book like, as if it were from Russia, or perhaps a parallel universe.  (The film was shot in the UK.)  The atmosphere is dark and subterranean and definitely borrows from David Lynch, to the point that I wondered if the Radiator Lady was going to show up.   Simon is a bit of a wuss, and has trouble fending off bureaucratic bullying, as well as approaching Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). He lives in a grungy flat that he reaches from a rickety subway (like the old LL Canarsie line in NYC).  One evening, playing “Rear Window” with a telescope, he witnesses a neighbor jump to his death.

Shortly, he starts glimpsing his doppelganger (James), who soon starts to interact with him, displaying a social assertiveness that the bosses like.  James starts coaching Simon, like a twin brother.  Eventually, conflict is inevitable, as is possible tragedy.  If Simon dies, will James in a sense become “both people” at the same time?

There’s a touching scene where James puts Simon to bed, and I thought about the scene from “Judas Kiss” where Danny becomes intimate with a copy of himself 15 years from the future.  There’s a touch of that idea here.

Jesse Eisenberg carries off both roles effectively.  He’s always dressed prudishly, with his top collar buttoned, and lock brown socks.  Oddly, he’s in short sleeves.  Now, who else could have played this part?  The real Mark Zuckerberg?  I don’t think he’d want to.   Timo Descamps is simply too assertive for the Simon role (the “Shane” charisma, which is rather like James in this film), but I can picture Richard Harmon (“the greatest of all time”) as being cast for this film, for both sides.

  
The official site (Magnolia) is here.  I saw this before a modest audience Friday night at Landmark E Street, but it was also screened by FilmfestDC, which says it cannot operate in 2015 without more funding (letter ).

Wikipedia reports that Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska, and is quite fond of cats and an advocate for homeless animals.  
   
Picture: model of the "training area" (on Titan) in my screenplay: "I" would be living in the barracks building represented by the red block. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Just Like the Son": fathering other people's children can tame young men


There are some young men who become “responsible” only when they have others depending on them, even when those charges are other people's children.  I’m not like that, but this idea seems to be the moral message of the 2006 indie film “Just Like the Son”, directed by Morgan J. Freeman (not to be confused with the well known actor). 

20-year-old Daniel (Minnesota-born Mark Webber, whom I think I met when I lived there) is a petty thief doing community service in New York City, and crashing with a friend in the Village.  One day, he is cleaning walls in an elementary school, and the teacher asks him to watch the kids for just a moment.  He intervenes to stop a fight.  Despite the reluctance of the principal and teachers at first, he becomes more involved with the kids, and is invited to read for them.  A couple of times he has responsibility for the class until the official “substitute teacher” arrives.  This is an environment with which I am personally familiar from my own days as a sub (2004-2007). 

Daniel bonds to one particular kid, Boone (Antonio Ortiz).  When Boone doesn’t show up at class, Daniel learns that the kid is in foster care.  Unbelievably, Daniel tries to adopt Boone, and is of course turned down.  Daniel “kidnaps” Boone from the orphanage and takes him cross-country to Dallas, where the boy’s much older sister supposedly lives.  He gets the state wrong; it’s not Texas, but the Fort Dallas area of Miami, so then he drives the boy to Florida.  Along the way, he becomes the perfect dad, talking about responsibility, taking him to sandlot baseball games and county fairs.  The cops, unfortunately, figure out his destination.


Screenwriting teachers will like this film, as it plays on obvious urgency, high stakes, perils, and ironies of characters.  Yet, I don’t like to make “heroes” of petty "criminals" in my own writing, even if I can root for
Jean Valjean your “Miserables” type story. But social conservatives like George Gilder or Rick Santorum will love the message of this movie.  
     
I saw the film from a Netflix DVD rental (Breaking Glass Pictures).  

Picture:  The Park Lane area of North Dallas, TX, where I owned a condo 1980-1981.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Bears" are like people, preferring "free fish" (and mollusks), according to DisneyNature


John C. Reilly’s “Bears”, for Disney Nature, is about the real thing.  Mama Bear wakes up with her two cubs on a mountaintop in the Aleutians, and has to travel down to the coast for the summer, and then back up a river to fish for salmon.  It’s a desperate race against time in a short summer. If she doesn’t eat enough and fatten up, she won’t be able to provide milk for her cubs, and they won’t survive.  The film says they are brown bears, although these are pretty big, almost like grizzlies.

Along the way, she watches an avalanche, and has to protect her cubs from a roving wolf. She finds a feast of clams at low tide, and finally some “free fish”.  But one good meal isn’t enough.  When she goes upstream, the salmon don’t show up until a heavy thunderstorm raises the water level.  But still he can’t find many of them.  Finally, she finds herself “On Golden Pond” (as in the 1981 film)  after a raven leads her and the cubs to it.  Corvids (crows and ravens) really will “help” large mammals find food or warn them about storms and fires.

What is so striking in this film is how the animals have personalities.  It takes brains to eat a varied diet from different sources in different places, and the bears, sometimes walking like bipeds, do seem a bit like people.  Where is the father?  Why do the women in bear society do all the work?  Well, bears don’t seem to have a familial social structure.  The right wing will love to moralize about this. 

The film also has a little subplot about two big males, with the larger one acting like a bully, stealing fish from the his runner-up. 

The film could be compared to Werner Herzog’s 2005 documentary “Grizzly Man”, about nature photographer Timothy Treadwell, who was killed with his girl friend by a grizzly on the same Katmai area in 2003. 

The new Disney film shows the photographers, working close to the bears, in the closing credits.  The bears seem to accept them.
  
I saw this in the afternoon at a Regal in Arlington, with limited showings remaining.  DisneyNature offers this featurette:


Wikipedia attribution link for picture of brown bear in Denali National Park, which I flew over in a private plane in August 1980 (and even attended a tour “party” at a cabin in the woods).  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:A047,_Denali_National_Park,_Alaska,_USA,_bears,_2002.jpg   

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Locke" and distracted driving: A man alone driving a UK freeway at night, providing suspense on the car phone


There’s a lot of hype over “Locke” (directed by Steven Knight) as a filmmaking exercise: how much can you accomplish in 85 minutes with one character in one setting (driving his car, talking on the phone – legally “distracted driving” perhaps).  British film likes set pieces (like the recent thriller “The Last Passenger”).  The comparison that comes to mind is (American) Marc Wolf’s monologue “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” based on his own play “Another American: Asking and Telling” (Sept. 19, 2011).

The film does make good visual use of the superhighway ahead and the traffic at night, seeming jarring to US viewers as he drives on the left side, from Birmingham, England to London.  There are many (other) characters in the story by voice, but the filmmaker resists the temptation to show flashbacks and stays within the car and highway environment. 

The one character on camera, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a construction manager.  The evening before (just at dark) a huge concrete pouring event for a new skyscraper in Birmingham,  Ivan gets a mystery phonecall.  He immediately heads toward London.  Desperately, he calls all his subordinates to talk them through the dig tomorrow.  It’s surprising how many “deals” it would take to get the job done. 

At one point, Locke tells a subordinate to get a particular manual, and it turns out the manual is in his own car, so he has to read the directions over the phone as he drives. (He’s well set up with hands free and Bluetooth devices.)  That reminds me of the fact that in the 1980s and 1990s I sometimes took critical listings home to “keep under the pillow”, a CYA practice that seemed necessary then but that would break security and privacy rules now.

Locke will lose everything he has as a result of this overnight trip and disappearance.  The setup of the film reminds me of a couple of occasions when I was very nervous about being out of town and away from work during a critical production run.  In the summer of 1976, over the last weekend of June, I went on vacation while an accounting closing would take place at NBC, where I worked.  I was so nervous about it that I returned from Seattle early (at little cost for breaking an air fare) and saw The Tall Ships instead.  (The “notebook” evidence was on a roll of terminal paper left on my apartment floor.)  I had one other incident like that later that year, over Christmas.  I regret both of them.  On New Years Day 1986, after my father had passed away that morning, I worked all day at Chilton in Dallas to support a year-end run for which I was responsible before flying home Jan. 2 to DC for the family funeral. 

I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler to say what Locke’s problem is.  Though a dedicated family man, he had indeed indulged in one fling with an unstable woman on a business trip.  The result was unintended fatherhood, the baby coming prematurely tonight.  I can cackle and say that this was a “heterosexual” problem.  But people can be put into family situations they did not choose, and the conflicts can be just as compelling.  The last story of my “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book, called “The Ocelot the Way He Is” sets up a situation where a character based on me faces this at home, yet goes on a road trip after getting a mysterious invitation.  My story would make a “road movie” but not a single set piece, as there are many visual elements:  the home (the doorway and basement), the “cabin in the woods” he visits, the gymnasium, and the nearby intentional community, and an approaching storm and possible terror attack, all provide scenery (as does the encounter between Bill and another character).

I suppose that Locke's subordinates and peers back home would feel they're making sacrifices for Locke's procreative choices -- the old problem of the childless filling in for people with kids in the workplace. 

“Locke” could have played up the plot possibilities more than it does.  What if he gets in an accident?  It’s amazing that a man can “do the right thing”, lose everything and remain so calm in the process.  After all, he becomes a dad.  He accepts the consequences of his own choices.  But in life not everything is about choice.  “Duty” can make things really interesting.


The official site is here.This new distributor A24 is coming up with interesting fare.  In the UK it is offered by Lionsgate. Given the unusual nature of this film, I wonder if the bombast of Lionsgate’s intro would be a distraction here. Play it on YouTube when you get home.

I did wonder about the choice of the 2.35:1 aspect when closes-ups on Hardy in the car are so crtical.

I saw the film at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA before a small Monday night audience.  I had mistakenly thought the film had already played!

Wikipedia attribution link for Birmingham, UK at night.  My only visit was in November, 1982 (train from there to London). 

Update:  Oct. 18

I "accidentally" got the DVD, which has an extra short, "Ordinary Unraveling" about the making of this unusual film. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

"Little Accidents": Altman-like drama looks at tragedy underneath the lives of families of coal miners


The closing night film at the Maryland Film Festival Sunday was “Little Accidents”, directed and written by Sara Colangelo, developed in a workshop sponsored by Sundance (working on the material of her earlier 2010 short film – an artistic progression that Jorge Ameer had enjoyed with “The House of Adam”).  It is filmed mostly around Beckley, W. Va., and rather than preaching about the environmental damage done by the coal industry, it sets up a drama showing how the work affects the lives of ordinary miners and their families.  It is structured like a Robert Altman film, with intersecting stories, that do include tragedy.  Since there is a loss early, and since there is so much detail about the gritty life of the people, one can imagine David Lynch having done a project like this, with simply a different take and feel, perhaps brooding but not weird.
 

The film, at the opening, seems to focus on a young miner Amos Jenkins (Boyd Holbrook), relatively handsome and likeable and clean cut now, as he recovers from a mine accident that had resulted in head injury, and a limp and difficulty with speech.  He takes a computer job with the mining company, to the anger of other union miners, because he wants the satisfaction that he can work again. (It’s interesting that he has the skills for the job.)  During the course of the film, he seems to recover of his speech and ability to walk and do physical tasks, without more treatment, all of this unexpected and fortunate.  He takes care of a father who will die of black lung, and develops a relationship with the single mom (Elizabeth Banks) of a boy who has disappeared in the woods.  He also takes on a quasi fatherly relationship with another middle school boy Owen (Jacob Lofland, from “Mud”). 


Now, there is another Altman-like plot thread that we know all along. About twenty minutes into this 105-minute film, Owen and the missing boy are playing in the nearby woods, at the base of a mountain hollow and undamaged by the coal industry so far.  They have an argument, and Owen throws a stone at the boy.  It hits him in the temple and he falls unconscious.  A third boy, apparently with Downs Syndrome, is with them.  Rather than run for help, Owen cowardly (I’m projecting my own values) hides the crime for most of the film, and bullies the mentally challenged younger companion into keeping quiet. How this will unravel becomes a major plot point of the film.  At one point, Owen is in the boy’s room, which the mother has preserved.


There is also another subplot, a little less directed, about litigation against the coal company for the accident.  One of the characters, a plant manager, gets fired.

 
The Sundance site is here. The theatrical distributor will be Amplify Films.  (I would have expected larger companies like TWC to want this one.) 
 
After the screening, sold out, at the large MICA Brown auditorium, there was an extensive QA, and then an after-party about a half-mile away at the Festival Shed north of the Charles Street area.  We actually took a school bus as a shuttle to the party! Such is the Charm City.  (Don’t arrive there while an Orioles or Ravens game lets out.)    


The sound and digital projection quality of the films in all the venues was top notch. 



Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Beckley W Va Exhibition Coal Mine;  I made a visit in May 1991. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Faults": a dark comedy about a cult deprogrammer, and a client who turns the tables


Faults”, as the title of a new indie dark comedy at the Baltimore, Maryland film festival, is the name of a mind-control cult.  But the film is really all about a lot more than that.  It’s directed by Riley Stearns, and according to the QA, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays Claire, the cult “victim”, and who looks very athletic herself in person, is his wife.  So again we see some husband-wife filmmaking, and some people will say that’s good for marriage. 

As the film opens, author Ansel Roth (Leland Orser) is desperately trying to hang on to freebies he gets from hotels where he gets put up, apparently by publicity deals organized by the “author services” company that put out his second book on cults, something about getting side the mind of the possessed.  Roth has no money, and apparently has gambled his entire future on this book.  The script has a confrontation with his “publicist” where the publicist chides him for his second book, which nobody needs or wants, and threatens to send hit men after him if he doesn’t pay the debt.  Now, I self-publish, and use companies that do this, but I’ve never encountered the shady world of thugs in the process.  So as a plot device, that connection seems a bit of an artifice.

Roth does a book-signing party at the motel; it goes badly and there is an angry confrontation.  But as Roth’s life spirals down, he suddenly gets invited by a couple of desperate older parents to kidnap and deprogram their grown daughter from “Faults”.  Can Roth get away from the life of a writer and do the "practical work" for real people? Pretty soon Roth is negotiating with the thug world (at least as it is in Long Beach. CA) himself, and is camped out in a sleazy motel with the young woman and the parents.

The movie takes some twists, which have in part to do with the psychic powers the woman learned from the cult.  And then there is the whole possibility of sexual attraction, and seduction.

The style of the movie borders on neo-noir, although without the intensity from a David Lynch (there isn’t the brooding music of “Twin Peaks” here).  The script focuses on the little things in an ordinary environment (like a motel), just as Lynch does. This is easier with a story set in 1986, before cell phones and Internet, where a rabbit-ears TV going into snow is effective as a prop. 

And Claire very much comes across with the charisma of Brit Marling’s character in “Sound of My Voice” (April 28, 2012). 


The official site (Hanway and Snoot) is here. Curiously imdb didn't show the site. 

The film was screened in the MICA Gateway in Baltimore, a facility that looked like the RoundHouse in Silver Spring. 

"Wild Canaries": fast paced "murder comedy" in Brooklyn, post Hurricane Sandy


Wild Canaries” seemed to be a big hit at the Baltimore, Maryland film festival Saturday night (at the UB Langsdale Library auditorium, very near Penn Station), with a sold-out crowd.  Director Lawrence Michael Levine pays homage to the comedy-mystery genre, a sort of mixture of Woody Allen “Manhattan” with a touch of Hitchcock (“The Trouble with Harry”) and some older TV series like the “The Thin Man”.  The film, shot in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn, is faced paces with a pounding music score by Michael Montes (whom I believe is wired into NYC’s current group of young composers) whose rhythm drives the action almost like it was ballet.


The film starts and ends with actual canaries (homage to “The Birds”, perhaps) – and I recall that during the Cold War, the word “canary” (beyond the coal mine reference) had some sort of significance to spies, as did “afterbirth”.
 

Noah and Barri, living together as fiancées, are played by Levine (who says he is 36 in the film and that looks about right) and real life wife Sophia Takal.  Almost at the beginning of the film, an elderly neighbor is found dead in a neighboring apartment.  Barri feels the need to play private-eye, which will strain the upcoming nuptials.   First she is suspicious of a greedy and perhaps mincing and lazy son Anthony (Kevin Corrigan), but soon has reason to wonder about the building owner Damien (Jason Ritter).  The film, in double time, develops the idea that Damien has been in financial trouble ever since Hurricane Sandy (he didn’t have flood insurance, which you need in lower Brooklyn) and needed to get rid of the elderly tenant.  Damien also has the hobby of making real life masks of all the other residents in the building and wearing them.  In time, Noah rightfully fears he could be framed for murder. 
 

Jason Ritter had played the hero Sean Walker in the NBC series “The Event”, where he had been a super-attractive young man who doesn’t know he is an extraterrestrial alien himself while fighting for his human friends.  Here, he pays the actor’s dues, looking unseemly as a villain.  He parades around shirtless, with love handles, boobs and a little bit of a gut, and scraggly but meager chest hair, far from the hero of his previous role. I felt rather put off;  I life my heroes to remain such forever.


The official site is here. It’s been screened in Austin (SXSW), Boston, Montclair NJ, and Baltimore so far, with Little Teeth pictures as the production company.  It is shot in full 2.35:1.  The shoot took 21 days, and the outdoor scenes all look like real New York, with many East River shots from Brooklyn.  The new One World Trade Center looks almost, but not completely, done in the film.


 There was a lively question and answer. 
First three pictures: around Red Hook, Feb. 2013, my own personal trip;  next two, near the festival site in Baltimore; last is at the screening. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Truth": Sean Paul Lockhart returns in a thriller with echoes of "Bugcrush"


I picked up the DVD of Rob Moretti’s new gay thriller “Truth” because I was curious, at least, to see Sean Paul Lockhart (Caleb) in another film, having seen him perform as a likeable character in “Judas Kiss”.

The premise is troubling.  The film is told in retrospect as Caleb (who works in a coffee store) having waived an attorney, talks to a defendant’s advocate (Blanche Baker) in jail.  The main sequence of the story is his stormy relationship with a slightly older man Jeremy (Moretti himself).  Gradually, the backstory of Caleb’s relationship with his mentally ill mother gets told.  Caleb steers the relationship with Jeremy into SM, and when Caleb assimilates the idea that Jeremy is heterosexually married, he loses it.  The film does aim for a violent and tragic climax.

What happens to Jeremy (and his wife) is indeed an issue, and the progress of the film makes one tempted to view it as a kind of “Bugcrush II” (Jan. 29, 2008). In the SM scene, Caleb actually places a tarantula on Jeremy’s chest, which appears to have been pre-shaved for the entire movie. 

The back story where a teen Caleb visits his mom in the mental hospital has a horrific scene, where mom screams that he destroyed her when he came out of her womb and then became “queer” (the language is very graphic).

  
The film has a subplot showing Caleb's interest in horses, which provides some relief.  
  
The word "Truth" is tattooed on Caleb's upper arm.  It's not so clear that he is "pscyhologically feminine" in the parlance of the polarity theory of Paul Rosenfels. 
   
The link for the film is here. It was filmed around Montclair NJ (where I worked for Univac in the early 1970s) and Fort Lee, NJ.  The film comes from Left-of-Center, TLA, and Canteen Outlaws.
  

The DVD has an extra “Stranger than Fiction” to depict the making of the film, and shows Sean throwing up after a shooting.  There deleted and extended scenes are quite extensive.

There is an interesting biographocal story about Sean Paul Lockhart, born in Idaho, on imdb, here. As a porn star, his screen name was Brent Corrigan.  The story is startling, if closed now;  it could probably become the subject of an independent film or a “Dateline” episode itself.  Apparently, someone else (Bryan Charles Kocis) had claimed his screen name before.  Apart from the story here, the issue of duplicate screen and domain names, in the show business industry and on the Internet as domain names, can lead to enormous legal problems, which I’ve discussed before on my other blogs. 
  
Pictures: Montclair, NJ, my own visit, July 2011.  The second picture shows where I worked for Univac on 1972-1973 on Claremont Ave, a couple blocks off Bloomfield Ave.