Wednesday, September 30, 2020

"Hydroalcoholic": Two gay men realize that sex may be safer than normal socializing

Roberto Perez Toledo (Spain) presents “Hydroalcoholic” (5 min).

Two attractive young gay men meet with their masks on. One of them realizes that taking masks off might be more dangerous than sex, because he has a vulnerable grandmother. They interview each other about exposures. 

Then one them finds a solution to their dilemma with hand sanitizer, as a body lotion.  Maybe the answer should be to take Truvada (Spain has a study to see if it inhibits the coronavirus as it does HIV). 

As for masks, we may be headed toward a world where everyone wears N95's (for much better protection against aerosols) but then men have to give up their beards for tight fits. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

"Our Time Machine": an artist writes and produces a puppet show to help his dad, with Alzeheimer's, stay in touch with his life

Beijingrailwaystation night


Our Time Machine” (2019, directed by S. Leo Chiang and Yang Sun on PBS POV Monday, September 28, 2020, only slightly condensed from 86 minutes), is indeed a layered story about creativity. Here is the best PBS link. It's in Mandarin Chinese with titles. 

In Beijing, artist and puppeteer Ma Liang (a.k.a. Maleonn) learns that his father is suffering from Alzheimer’s. He decides to write a puppet “screenplay” and then produce it reviewing his dad’s life through the intricate puppet show, with lots of detailed costumes and mechanical drives and wheels underneath.  He believes this will help his dad recovered his memory. The play will be called “Papa’s Time Machine”.

In his family, there is a controversy over whether he should continue producing “beauty” for the world, or just be a good son during the last year of dad’s life.

But then a son of his is born, and that changes the dynamics.

The film was followed by “Negative Space”, by Max Porter (short, 12 minutes, 2017), animated. A child watches his businessman father pack his grippe for travel and learns proper habits that way, until his dad passes away and is remembered in a funeral.

Picture: Beijing railway station, Wikipedia embed, click for attribution 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

"The Tunnel": Imagine if a harbor tunnel were used for population control


Tunnelen” (“The Tunnel”), directed by Andre Overdal, about 12 minutes, from Gimpville and Eldorafo Films, Demmark.

A  family is returning to the city from the beach, and all traffic must go through a “harbor tunnel” that produces “population reduction without discrimination”.

The kids are appropriately frightened.  All the cars are totally electric.  The city is vast. 

The family does an illegal lane change within the tunnel and gets away with it.  Then the wall to stop things comes down.

The tunnel reminds me of I-395 in Washington or the Big Dig in Boston.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Connor Franta gives us "An Honest Update"


Connor Franta (Minnesota-Wisconsin) celebrates his 28th birthday, now living well off media income in West Hollywood by (1) waking up to his security camera catching a burglar trying to get into his house; the burglar runs (2) he gets rear-ended by his neighbor some distance away from the comfy Santa Monica Blgd;  (3) here is an earthquake. He titles this recitation "An Honest Update". 

But he manages to create an impressionistic collage to make this (socially distanced) monologue all into film anyway.

At least he hasn’t been affected by the wildfires and seems to be healthy and staying away from Covid. The white male gay community seems to be the safest of all in big cities in not getting infected.  But he says 2020 has just been weird.

I had prodded him to make a video by commenting on Instagram yesterday when he encouraged everyone to plan their voting now and request mail ballots if possible.

Picture: West Hollywood near The Abbey, May 2012, my visit. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

"Men Don't Whisper": A gay couple tries to early two gold stars on a business trip to a sales conference

Men Don’t Whisper”, from Cinelease, and a short at Sundance, is offered on the Powerful Channel.

John Firstman directs, written with Charlie Rogers.

They play a gay couple who have been hired as salesmen.  At a sales conference, they get a lot of sales culture (the “always be closing” stuff) at a motivation session (like in “100 Mile Rule”) and then go to the hotel bar.


 They meet a pair of women and decide to test their masculinity to see if they can earn their gold stars.

The women don’t catch on at first, in their hotel room, but get really mad when they figure out the joke.

The film says it was shot in the Hotel Angelino, on the 405, and I stayed there four days in 2012.  Valet parking only. Pictures here are mine, taken in the room. 

The film was placed on YT recently.  It probably would get an R rating (for one explicit scene, and coarse language).

Of course, I’m reminded of the title “Boys Don’t Cry

Thursday, September 24, 2020

"No Clothes": witty gay male satire set in an East Village laundromat (and apartment building) about what really matters


 Hugo Kenzo presents a 10-minute short LGBT film “No Clothes”, based on a laundromat encounter (not the first time in the movies) that allows some layered satire. As a 2020 festival film, I wondered how people behave in laundromats now during the pandemic.  You would think they would have to go back to their apartments or wait outside.  But then are their clothes safe?  Ask Thomas Carlyle ("Sartor Resartus"). 

In a big coin laundromat in the lower East Side in NYC, Alan (Jordan Firstman, as “hairy”) meets Joseph (Tony Lewis, “thmooth”).  While Alan waits for his clothes to finish, Tony disappears.  When Alan goes to the clothes dryer, he finds his clothes gone.  A homeless woman says “don’t worry, your friend took them”.

Alan finds one of his socks in front of a brownstone walkup near Baxter Street, goes up the “Vertigo” staircase (it’s a rather obvious reference to Hitchcock and seems a little trite now) and lets himself into Tony’s apartment with a credit card. (It’s that easy to break and enter.)

But, there is a kind of reconciliation.  Maybe it’s payback, maybe its universal social justice.

I once had a “trick” (back in NYC) in 1978 take money and leave my wallet in the bathtub.  He didn’t mean to harm me.  He was just that desperate. 

You wonder, however, whether superficial personal appearance does matter for casting parts sometimes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Movie studios reach agreement with unions in returning to work in the COVID pandemic


Bryn Else Sandberg writes for the Hollywood Reporter, that Hollywood studios and unions have reached a return-to-work agreement with respect to COVID safety.    Many of the provisions include guarantee of pay when forced into quarantine after a positive test.  There are also provisions for rapid testing and rules for social distancing and safety.  But generally if actors are tested regularly and reliably, they have more confidence they can work together.

Deadline has a similar story by David Robb. 

The provisions should apply in other filming locations (Louisiana, Austin Texas, Atlanta, Vancouver, etc).

It would be interesting to see how COVID affects future screenplay pitch fests, if some of them would be virtual. It's Carlos Maza who always makes fun of the demand "Get back to work, baby!"

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

"In My Blood It Runs": a gifted 10 year old aborigine boy can't fit in to "mainstream" Australian school

Alice Springs, 2015 (01)


In My Blood It Runs”, directed by Maya Newell, is a curious documentary presented Sept 21 by PBS POV, originally 84 minutes but condensed to 56 minutes on television, also from Closer Productions and Bonsai Films,  The PBS site is here.

Near Alice Springs, Australia, an aboriginal boy Dujuan Turner can speak three languages (Arrernte and Garwa as well as English) at age 10, can hunt and live off the land, and can heal other kids like a shaman.

But he is a disciplinary problem in the state run school system, which wants to “mainstream” him.  His gifts seem to separate him from others as a person before he can connect back to them.

Picture: Embed from Wikipedia (click for attribution), Alice Springs in Northern Territory, Australia (not far from Ayers Rock). 

Monday, September 21, 2020

"Two Friends that Meet Over Years" on "Gay Awesome" channel


 “Gay Awesome” presents “Beautiful Gay Story of Two Friends that Meet Over Years”.

A young man recovering from a wrist injury finds that his sports doctor is a former classmate, whom he remembers as a geek who bulked up.

The young man has already married, I think divorced, and had a kid.

There will be an invitation home.

Now this film seems to celebrate “cis masculinity”, which is not in fashion these days.

This is a “soft core” channel but there is very little that is explicit in this film (relatively speaking), 11 min,

The film has an annoying “subscribe” banner in the lower left corner that blocks some of “the view”.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

"The One You Never Forget" (your first date for a dance)

Morgan Joe Fox presents an 8-minute short film “The One You Never Forget”, in many LGBT film festivals.

A black teen (he) will take a white teen (he) as his date to his first high school dance.  He tries to conceal it from his father, but the father winds up wanting to take a picture.

Starring Tasha Smith, Charles Malik Whitfield, London Curtis, and Owen D. Stone.

A very simple concept for short film. But it won't work again until we control the pandemic (despite being an Aug 2020 post). 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

"Bisexual": a straight college student feels reticent about his girlfriend after an accidental encounter at a houseparty


Connor Barker presents “Bisexual” (2019).

In middle class London, Jonathan, a 19-year-old straight student, has gone to a house party and woken up in bed with another man.

As he leaves for home, he tries to remember the encounter.  The film is sketchy and dark as to details.

He gets home, and soon his girl friend, Amelia, lets herself in.  Jonathan finds he is reticent and not in a hurry to go out with her but finally does.

There is music from FreeMusicWave (the song “Birdy”).

 Picture: 17th St in Washington DC, recent 

Friday, September 18, 2020

"Did We Just Detect Life on Venus?" Well, the atmosphere stinks (with phosphine)


 Did We Just Detect Life on Venus?”  Well, maybe.  

Cool Worlds explains how Venus may have had water on its surface until 750 million years ago.  Then some massive volcanic event resurfaced the planet, so this doesn’t seem to have just been global warming. Since Venus doesn’t have plate tectonics, it had no other way to vent its internal heat.

The announcement was based on the discovery of phosphine gas in the high atmosphere, where bacteria (extremophiles, able to deal with an acidic environment) had bubbled up billions of years ago.

National Geographic maintains that on rocky planets phosphine is made naturally only by biological processes.   

However phosphine is made deep in the atmospheres of gas giants like Jupiter.

Picture: Venus near the horizon (Wikipedia embed, click for attribution) 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

"Capitalism and the American Pandemic Response" from "Second Thought" (back in March)


Capitalism and the American Pandemic Response”, from Second Thought, on March 28, 2020, certainly pits the “ethics” of capitalism against handling the coronavirus.

Toward the end, the speaker pits saving the lives of the elderly against the financial stability for everyone else.

But lower income working people definite take contagion risks that white-collar work-from home "nerds" don't have to take, and the latter group still seems to have very little illness.  

There is a lot here about the failures of our system in health care.  Insulin costs $300 here and #32 in Canada.  Truvalda costs $8 in Australia and $2000 in the US (and related drugs might work against coronavirus).

The top “0.1%” owns as much as the bottom 90%.

The speaker insists that workers organize and accept the idea of class struggle and considers rentiers parasites and criminals.

He also says that landlords don’t “work” for a living.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

An indie journalist records "What Portland, Oregon Looks Like Right Now", and it is in ruins

Portland Protesters in Tom McCall Waterfront Park on June 3, 2020

 “What Portland, Oregon Looks Like Right Now”, by NALF.  He says he will do another video soon on the aftermath of the Oregon wildfires, dated Sept. 9, 2020.  

This is an unedited tour of the barricades and homeless camps, everywhere, after over 100 days of protests and rioting after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. The protests seem to have stopped with the smoke and nearby wildfires. 

One comment said that downtown Seattle looks the same.

Why did Portland’s and  Oregon’s politicians allow this to happen?

I visited Portland in 1996 when I was researching my first DADT book.

Picture: Wikipedia embed, protesters at Waterfront Park, click for attribution., 


Monday, September 14, 2020

"Unravel": a male couple unravels (short)


Travis Bryant presents a new gay short film, “Unravel”.  

He appears to play one of two gay men in a breakup of a relationship which has gone on for some time but become stormy.

Music by Los Leo. 

I think Travis plays the “smoother” man.  I could lose the tattoos, as for the other partner.

The film has the air of a Terrence Mallick meditation.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Ethan Lusby: "Escaping the Wildfires in Oregon"

Downtown Portland from SE Portland during 2020 wildfires - 2020-09-09 - tedder

 Ethan Lusby, an 18 year old adventurer, has a channel called “Van Life”, and the latest episode is “Escaping the Wildfires in Oregon: Vanlife Update”.  

He woke up at 4:30 AM in a trailer park and could smell the smoke, and drove away from Oregon, toward California, and got to safety.  He had to get gas in a station running on a generator without power.

It will be interesting to see if he reports further on the wildfire catastrophe in northern California and the Pacific Northwest (which should have some rain).

Ethan, in other videos says he is gay.  Right now, he travels to outdoor areas alone with his dog, and seems to be making YT a business.  His speech manner is gentle.  He is quite accomplished at outdoorsmanship and backpacking, and at some athletic skills like diving and swimming in natural environments. He is much better at this stuff than I was at his age (which would have been 1961) and that really matters to me now. 

I hope Ethan can provide more reporting on the wildfire crisis!

Picture: Portland after during wildfires, unclear if the smoke will stop the protests for a while 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

"T-Cells and COVID-19 Immunity": short from SciShow

Blausen 0625 Lymphocyte T cell (crop)


“What Do We Know About T-Cells and COVID-19 Immunity?” from SciShow, narrated by Hank Green.

The speaker explains that T-cell “immunity” refers to the T-cell response, in directing memory B cells to make antibodies to a virus similar to ones it has seen, and killing infected cells.  It does not make one immune to COVID by itself.

He notes a rather disturbing observations:  strong T-cell response in females correlates with a worse outcome, but in some men it has resulted in cytokine storms.

However, we’ve noticed that outdoor protesters (who use masks sometimes but shout a lot) don’t seem to be getting severe COVID, and neither do the journalists who cover them (male or female).  

And there are numerous reports of severe illness even in young women. What seems to be a common denominator may be size of exposure, in a prolonged indoor event or in a large household.

Wikipedia embed:  3-D rendering of a T-cell, click for attribution 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Will diversity inclusion standards from the Oscars affect creativity (at least for "Best Picture")?

The Oscars have announced some diversity representation rules for “Best Picture” Oscar, as explained in the New York Times by Nicole Sperling.  

The most visible provision might be at least one major or major supporting role be not white.  But an alternative includes up to 30% of other characters from underrepresented groups, which can include LGBTQ.  But a cis white gay character probably would not be perceived by audiences as meeting the standard because of being part of the establishment.  It would be interesting to ponder “Call Me By Your Name” in this regard.  It could be controversial when straight men play gay characters, but maybe not “cis” characters.  The full standards don’t take effect until 2024.

A sensitive issue occurs in a male LGBT film is a white character is attracted only to other cis white males.  There are anthropological reasons why this happens.  

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

"Portraits and Dreams": a record of Kentucky coal country in pre-digital amateur photography

PBS POV stations (although not in DC) aired a 52-minute film “Portraits and Dreams” on Sept. 7. 2020 (PBS Streaming Link).

This episode was advertised as a POV TV episode and film both, and appears to be complete.  It is directed by Elizabeth Barrett, Wendy Ewald, and Robert Sayler.

The film examines some rural Kentucky families, largely in the coal mining area (hint, probably Trump supporters in 2016) whose grownup had, as kids, learned manual photography back in the 1970s and how to develop their own pictures, in the time well before digital photography.

Some of the pictures are touching, as of a boy who would commit suicide.

Another sequence describes a family that became homeless and begged for places to stay and actually found neighbors to take them in.  But they had the pictures.

A lot of people are living in rural shacks or trailers having lost jobs or fallen into ill health in coal country. Almost all are white.

In those days, it was common for people to buy cartridges of 27 frames at pharmacies and send them out for processing.  That remained common until a few years ago, and eventually pictures were usually put on CD’s.

But there were earlier cameras, like the Brownie Hawkeye, of the 1950s.

There was one sequence that showed the scenery around Cumberland Gap, which I visited in August 2016.

Monday, September 07, 2020

"The English Teacher" (short): a teacher is invited to tutor an immigrant hiding a tragedy


The English Teacher”, posted in May 2020, 12 minutes, is a new short film from (Vietnamese I think) director Blake Ridder.

Blake plays a young man who purports to need to learn English to pass a citizenship exam in the UK.  He contacts a (white) widower Robert Brammel (Louis James) who offers private English tutoring to immigrants.

When Brammel arrives at the immigrant’s flat, the lesson goes well enough even if awkward.  There is a disquieting discussion about payment.

Later, at home, Louis gets a “.mov” file sent to him on Microsoft one drive (which I have never used  to share videos privately, but it can be done – I am more used to Google drive).  The video is a “movie within a movie”, an embed or backstory, and contains a confession.

There had been a hit-run bike accident that killed Louis’s wife (Sophie Cardona).  It is even possible it was the cyclist’s “fault” (riding the wrong way, when drivers don’t have time to see them at intersections).

There is a feature film from 2013 by Craig Zisk by this title, reviewed here April 15, 2014.  Let’s not forget Anthony Minghella’s “The English Patient” (1996).

Sunday, September 06, 2020

"How to Make a No-Budget Short Film" when the story comes from your resources

Ryan Camp explains “How to Make a No-Budget Short Film”, for the Piedmont Motion Picture show.

Camp shows a dilapidated barn in the background, as if for a horror short.  What comes to mind if “The Blair Witch Project” (1999), which was shot in a state park in the Catoctin Mountains not far from Frederick, MD, I thought.

His main idea is that you write your script inside out, from the people (as characters) and locations available to you for no money.

He does give a rundown of the minimal equipment you should have.  This video reminds me of the way 48-hour film contests work. 

Friday, September 04, 2020

"Birdie": what can a short film make of a woman getting on a commuter train?

Shelly Lauman’s short film “Birdie” is offered by Fox Searchlight Pictures (a real studio) on the Alter Channel on YouTube.

A young woman (Maeve Dermody) finds herself in a staring game with a young man in a commuter rail station, probably in London.
He eventually maneuvers the situation to sit by her.  It’s a bit of a stretch to call this a horror film. Maybe a touch of attractive  The young man is attractive and hairy-chested.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

"Dinah": a ghost story about the evils of lookism

Dinah”, from Grave Lake Media and directed by James Williams, presents the tragedy of lookism.

A young woman whose face had been destroyed in childhood by flesh eating bacteria has committed suicide (with her own arson of her mom's country house, probably in Canada).

But she left a Facebook video showing herself.  A lonely hermit (man) clicks dislike on the video, and her ghost from the afterlife starts to taunt him after a power outage.

This film (11 min) has won a lot of horror film awards (released March 2020).

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

"Bubble": teenager caught up in her parents' foreclosure crisis in 2008 and rescued by her girlfriend


“Bubble”, by Alyssa Lerner, presents a Filipina teenager confronted on the front lawn by the sheriff foreclosing on her family’s house and car, during the 2008 financial crisis, in California.

The officers ponder whether to approach the child first or wait for the parents.

But the teen has another resource, her own girl friend.  She can actually look for a place to stay. This is another family losing everything. 

Filmed in a narrow aspect ratio, just released (17 min).

The teaser is shown, but the full film appears on Youtube, as well as a brief QA.

“Bubble” was also the name of a Steven Soderbergh mystery in 2005, which was offered online and in theaters at the same time.