Review compilation

So I have run into sort of Writers block with in depth posts, so most of my recent writing have been on letterboxd(my profile is here). In this time, I’ve also tried to watch more movies focusing on gay/bi men and figured i would compile some of those reviews here.

I Am Jonas– The movie uses a flashback/flash forward with Jonas being presented as an extremely troubled man who seems to be spiraling in the present. In the flashbacks we see a relationship between him, and the new classmate Nathan emerge. Nathan’s wild and rebellious personality stands in contrast to Jonas’s more reserved persona, but this difference also makes their scenes fun to watch.

The younger scenes are lit far more brightly, coding them as a happier time then Jonas in his current life with much harsher visuals. There is also some background music that fits into Jonas’s damaged mental state we see. Overall, I felt it was a pretty good examination of trauma, guilt, and how those feelings can linger in a person.

Dear Ex– A story of people unexpectedly finding the humanity of others in unexpected circumstances. In the beginning both the kid and the mom assume the father’s lover is a schemer who was trying to get the father’s inheritance, but first the kid and then the mom start to see there is much more to them. I don’t exactly know what things are like for LGBT people in Taiwan, but it was clear neither the father or his lover felt like they could be totally open. The movie treats there relationship with compassion and tenderness, while allowing audiences to feel for how blindsided the mom felt. Beyond that, the kid and mom also become closer to each other by the end. In the end, no one was a complete villain, just dealing with the fallout of a unfortunate situation.

Handsome Devil– An examination of misogyny, and how toxic masculinity can operate like a cult. Isn’t drastically different from the thematic material of most gay coming of age/teen romance stories, but i still enjoyed it. And one thing that doesn’t differentiate it a bit, is that there is a 3rd older closeted gay character struggling with the same pressures of the teens. This adds a generation-spanning feel which i feel isn’t typically seen.

And Then We Danced– A exploration of how homophobia and extreme nationalism coalesce. Going into this i wasn’t that familiar with Georgian culture, but the film did a good job of getting across what it is like. The life of a dancer is a tough one in most movies, but here the inherently difficult pressure of that life is mixed with a hyper-masculine culture. The specter of toxic masculinity and homophobia is raised early in the film, and it lingers in the background of the burgeoning relationship.

The warmth of the relationship draws you in, making the emotional and physical toll the pressures of society wrecks on Merab that much more impactful. Once Merab has a true taste of passion, it becomes clear he can’t fit into society like he did before. There is also some great camerawork in the film, both in terms of the dancing and a particular 1-shot sequence that stood out to me.

Rift– One of the creepiest movies i’ve seen in a while, this one got to me in a way i didn’t expect. There’s an element of surrealism to it that as the movie goes on, makes the movie feel almost unconformable to watch. But at the same time my eyes were glued to the screen. The music, along sparse but crisp visuals all contribute to an intense atmosphere. The movie focuses on mood and tension to fright to great effect.

I can be picky with how much ambiguity I can vibe within a film. Most of the film is more in the ambiguous direction then I normally prefer, but it was so well done I didn’t mind it. It felt kind of like a surreal nightmare and gave me strong David Lynch vibes. My only complaint is that the ending of the movie felt a bit abrupt, but overall, with how engaging the movie was i still recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of intense psychological thrillers.

God’s Own Country– Johnny isn’t the easiest character to root for. But behind his brash demeanor, we gradually learn most of that comes from feeling stuck on the farm. The growing relationship challenges him to change his ways and look beyond his own perspective. Gheorghe is clearly the more well put together of the too, and Alex imbues him with a quiet intensity and strength that acts as great contrast to Johnny.

Your Name Engraved Herin– The film fluctuates between unflinching depictions of homophobia and tender, intimate scenes between the two main characters. While these changes are impactful it never feels like the script or direction is losing track of the tone, and this tightrope ends up keeping you engrossed in the fate of the main couple.

There is also theme of how even when it seems big social change is happening on an official scale, the day-to-day attitudes of people can be slow to progress. And the staff of the main school featured in the film have a hard time letting go of their power even when government has changed.

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Team Wars

I’ve noticed in the last couple of years, people have seemed to turn films into sports teams to cheer or root against. Now I get wanting to support a work of art that resonates with you, and I don’t think any work is above critique. But in the current landscape it feels like it is less about discussion and more about dividing people into polarized sides.

The first big example that I found weird was when some Alita was positioned as the anti-SJW answer to Captain Marvel. I personally felt like they were going for different things, and the way certain alt-right people latched onto Alita I felt like it was less about the film and its themes and more just latching onto to any random female lead film they could tokenize. And considering how a sizable amount of trans viewers felt a strong connection to the protagonist and her journey, it makes even less sense why it was positioned as “anti-SJW” in the first place.

But what really caused this trend to explode was when the Scorsese/MCU wars started. I think we all remember when it started when Scorsese wrote about them not being cinema to him. When it first came out, I disagreed with his phrasing, but I could see where he was coming from with studio’s not giving space for the types of films he grew up with. I think sometimes it’s helpful to be able to see some points a person is making without feeling that you must agree with everything another person said.

But most of the internet didn’t even attempt approaching it with any nuance, and people quickly settled into their respective teams. MCU fans quickly dismissed Scorsese’s long legacy and history as a filmmaker, and some Scorsese fans just went for easy potshots. And entertainment coverage didn’t help, as almost every journalist asked whoever they could to weigh in. And unfortunately, most of those people seemed to take the bait. It seemed like no one wanted to have an actual conversation, and the possibility of any actual discussion about tangible things like Disney’s excessive power over the industry became a lost cause.

This team mentality surfaced sometime later, when Birds of Prey and Sonic got pitted against each other. Again, part of this was because BOP got labelled as “SJW” material, but again this match-up still seemed rather random. It seemed to me like they were going for mostly different audiences, and people were just looking for something they could use as a counter to the whole SJW label BOP got stuck with.

On Facebook and Twitter, I’ve seen some people say they don’t want to talk about certain movies because of how polarized debate around them got. Most of the time, these stemmed from reactionary criticism coming from bad faith with movies like TLJ and Captain Marvel, which I think caused others to become stiff in their positions. While I did like both TLJ and Captain Marvel, while a lot of people came at them for bigoted reasons, I don’t think anyone who ended up not liking them is a sexist or racist or whatever.

Now when it comes to human dignity having principles you don’t budge on is a good thing, especially in these times. And if critique is coming from a clearly bad place, I think calling that out can be important. But I think letting people disagree with you on media can be a good thing. If someone is coming from a place of good faith and I feel I will be listened to, I am generally open to discussion on almost all movies/tv. And I think listening to each other more would help discussion of media grow.

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Tribute to HTGAWM

In the beginning I have to say I found pretty much all the leads hard to root for as everyone seemed unsympathetic. But I wanted to give the show a little more wiggle room to catch me, because back then and even now I know it can be hard for shows focusing on dark-skinned black women to get made.

Now at the end, I am glad i gave the show some time. Examining those characters now, it is clear their unsympathetic qualities mostly came from them dealing with unresolved trauma. And when these trauma’s started to leak through, and they had to start facing them in a more head-on direction, it gave them the vulnerability needed to move me.

These traumas would also sometimes bring them closer or put characters at odds. And sometimes it would lead to them showing great kindness or lead them to making horribly selfish decisions. And regarding those selfish decisions while you generally understood why they did it, it never felt like the show let them off the hook for those decisions. And in regard to the racial diversity of the show it managed to make some strong points about how unfair and prejudiced the criminal justice system without making all the POC saints. They struggled with traumas, guilt, and all the other messy parts of a well-defined character. But they also had their moments of vulnerability and kindness for others.

The plot got more complicated as it went on, leading to some twisty moments that left me in shock. And when talking about the show with my dad, he would often jokingly ask if they got away with the murder yet. But looking back i think a major theme of the show is that while you may sometimes be able to get away with something horrible legally, dealing with guilt is a whole other matter. The leads all manage to get away with some seemingly heinous acts legally, but the compounding trauma stemming from those incidents still linger. And that to emotionally move forward in life, you have to find a way to make peace with any residual guilt and trauma from those incidents.

A good illustration of this is the ultimate fates of Connor and Michaela. While Michaela managed to legally get away scot-free her friendship with Olivier and Laurel is clearly left damaged. And while she seemingly got to pursue her legal career, her lack of presence at the funeral of Annalise implies those friendships were never repaired. Because her childhood left her so scared of legal consequences, she lost the friendships she made.

Connor however decides he to face his guilt head-on, and accept legal consequences rather than further it by leaving Annalise out to dry. It does seem like he is sacrificing his marriage, but him and Olivier’s presence at the Annalise’s funeral at the end implies they get back together again after he served his sentence or at least managed to keep on good terms.

The other characters fates all revolve around this same theme. Nate decides to stop solely blaming Annalise for their affair, and on the stand even though he has the moral high ground to implicate Annalise for framing him before instead he decides to say what he knows about the FBI knowing it will weaken there case and he will lose out on their financial offer. And later we see him start a center for men that have been hurt by the system like his father. By seeing her humanity and refusing to compromise his morals when it would have benefited him the most, he won out in the end just like Connor.

Annalise takes responsibility for dubious actions she has taken up to the point in a confession to the jury.  She can live a full life with a healthy, loving relationship by owning up to her past. And in a meta-sense, I think that scene challenges the audience to look at themselves and their own actions in a more critical light, and to take responsibility for people we may have hurt in our own lives. And to not run away from our past and trauma’s we may carry, but to face them so they don’t end up turning us into a lesser version of ourselves.

One major complaint I had in the first season, was how the show handled one of Michaela’s love interests having had a past hook-up with Connor. As a bisexual it left an extremely bad taste in my mouth. But later with the introduction of Eve I felt they rectified that, and hearing Annalise taking on the label of bisexual in the courtroom scene touched me on a deeper level.

For those reasons, HTGAWM will stay with me as a personally important show.

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Tribute to The Magicians

Coming into this show, I was a bit wary of it leaning too heavily on the whole “Harry Potter but edgy” shtick the marketing for the show has been leaning on. But something about it also grabbed my curiosity, and i have to say after its conclusion I’m happy I gave it a chance.

The show does like to fit in some pop references every now and again, and most of the characters do fit certain archetypes. But as the show went on, it used its setting to explore some heavy material in a way that felt surprisingly deft. I distinctly remember when it first broached the subject of sexual assault, mentally I was just like “no this can’t be happening.” But through its various seasons it has managed to plunge some real emotional depths without it feeling exploitative and still giving the audience some fun, snappy moments.

One of the themes the final season focused on was grief. And in early February this theme became closer to me then I ever anticipated, when a close friend of my oldest brother committed suicide. Because of this, one scene where Alice talked to a new character about handling grief, and if it gets easier hit me in a personal way. It took on a deeper more intense feeling, mirroring my own emotional journey.

Plot-wise, it felt like the writers had more they could have gone on. But knowing the circumstances of what they had to do, I feel as a series finale it felt as good as the audience was going to get absent any further continuation. I’m sure this show would have held a special place in my heart even without those emotional circumstances. But it did end up being an unexpected comfort in helping me through my own grief, and for that I will be thankful for. So instead of focusing on what more I could have got, I will appreciate the show for what it did manage.

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Witcher Season 1 Review

A fun fantasy, with some deeper themes hidden underneath. One of these themes seemed to be the classic “Man is the real Monster” trappings. In almost all the monster of the week style episodes, it turned out said monster either was human or the monster was reacting to humans being terrible.
And most of the named human characters don’t come off too well, but there are some who you end up rooting for more than others.

And the lore of the show is slowly revealed to seemingly be a cycle of conquest. The action is well done, and the performances are great across the board.
My only gripe is that the way the show goes back and forth in the timeline gets really confusing at certain points, and I’m not sure it made things better. But overall, i would recommend this.

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The Farewell

A exploration of clashing social values, the film manages to show differing views on handling imminent loss of a loved one without vilifying either viewpoint. And while i haven’t been faced with this particular situation,i think anyone who has come from immigrants can relate to experiencing culture clashes within a family. And the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter made me think of my own grandmother,who i was close with. The film has a mostly somber tone, but it does manage to weave in moments of levity that make the serious moments pop out even more. There are a lot of close-ups and the cuts are slight,giving the film a intimate feel.

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End of a Era

In the season finale of Arrow, Diggle says this in reference to Oliver leaving Star City. But for me,it took on a meaning outside of the plot itself. A major theme of the episode was legacies, and i would definitely say the show has had a big impact on my life. When the show started,i was 22. So it has been around for most of my adult life,when my tastes in cinema and television had started to solidify itself.

Throughout its run i would sometimes talk about particular moments that struck out to me with my dad and oldest brother. And while they never watched it, i still enjoyed those discussions. So in a way the show had become part of the family. I’ve gone through many changes and tribulations since the show started, but one thing that never changed was my love for the show.

This doesn’t mean i thought it was perfect. There were plotlines and moments that didn’t jive with me. But the lows never outweighed the highs, and the show provided me with more then enough memories to keep me invested. A example of that is when they had Felicity’s mom talk about wanting a Jewish wedding,and since my dad is Jewish i felt i had to share it with him.

There is still one season to go, which i am, eagerly anticipating. The show will always hold a special place in my heart, both as a creative influence and just something that became a big part of my life.



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Pose, and my own mother

I watch a lot of TV shows, and so due to that and a few other factors i have to go through shows slowly. Pose recently had its season finale,but i am still slowly catching up. I had gotten to the Mothers Day episode,which i had rad about being quite emotional. But even with that,i wasn’t prepared for how hard the storyline with Blanca and her mom would hit me.

Those who know me,know ever since coming out to my mom things have been difficult. Not to say things were perfect between us before, but things definitely went to a whole different level after that. Initially things got pretty bad, and while things have calmed down a little it still isn’t back to the way it was. Evey so often i’ll be reminded she truly doesn’t accept me being bi yet.

In the storyline with Blanca,through dialogue and a flashback we learn Blanca’s mom never accepted her being trans,and that Blanca was never able to reconcile with her mother before she died. And i couldn’t help but think of me and my own mom,and my fear that i won’t be able to find peace with her regarding my sexuality.

Another factor in this is that professionally i’ve hit something of a stumbling block. While i currently do have a movie theater job, i’ve been trying to get into production assistant work on films sets and such. Unfortunately i’ve been rather unsuccessful, and while i am trying to keep at it i keep feeling like im trying to push through a brick wall. Add to this my hair routine ended up being more costly then i anticipated, and i’ve dealt with some stressful financial problems.

And i keep feeling like this lack of professional progress just makes things with my mom worse. And i just keep getting scared that i won’t ever be able to get my mom to feel truly proud of me. And that episode just brought that out of me,and i had to stop myself from crying during certain points in the episode

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The DC CW-verse had there second crossover recently,using Earth-X as a way to to do a “what if our heroes were Nazi’s type”  type plotline. This is not a new one,as various shows and movies have touched upon this idea from time to time. However,i think in this particular run had a grounding to it that most takes on this don’t have. Those come from two main moments.

One of them involves’ Felicity standing her ground against the Zani version of Green Arrow. For those unfamiliar, Felicity  is specifically jewish,which gets referenced every now and again in Arrow. Now she has become a divisive character in the fandom mainly due to the handling of her will they/wont they with Olivier. And when the promo for the crossover was released with a small bit of this some thought she was a odd character choice for a scene like this. But after watching it in the show,i think it was a perfect decision.

The other scene had to do with Sara Lance, who’s father in the alternative universe ended up a Nazi. The father mentions her fitting the Nazi ideal, when she proudly claims her identity as a bisexual women. Then it is revealed the father killed the Sara in the  alternative universe because of that.

These two scenes gave it’s take on the “what if they were Nazi’s” shtick a grounding i didn’t expect. It reminded you this was a real ideology and not just a plot device. Now this is still a superhero crossover with time travel,but i think the use of specifically  marginalized characters fighting back gave the whole thing a bit more impact then if it was just a bunch of straight white dudes fighting dimensional nazis.

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So im now working at a movie theater,so with the job searching worry out of the way i’m hoping to get back to posting more frequently on this blog. Also i’m trying to get back to short film making so hopefully there will be more updates on that front too.

Get Out- This one had a great balance of suspense and comedy, without its tone spinning out of control. It also does a good job of keeping you guessing what exactly is going on for most of the film. The film also has deeper meaning,using horror movie tropes as social commentary on racism.

Logan- Now between his other 2 solo flicks and the way his prominence seemed to increase with each X-men movie i had started to get tired of him getting the limelight. But honestly this one impressed me a lot. It was in the dark/gritty vein of superhero movies but it felt natural to the world and the characters. It was kind of like a cross between a superhero flick and a western. To me,it pushed the Wolverine character as far as possible,and was a great send-off of him.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2- Loved this one. While on the surface it definitely seems like one of the lighter,goofier superhero movies out there, it manages to achieve a surprising emotional depth. It really makes you care about its characters,and brings surprising humanity to 2 of the villains from the last movie. Largely the film was about family,and how it can mess you up when it goes wrong. I also think the main villian was one of the more interesting ones to come from a marvel movie in recent years/

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