You’re Killing Me a Scary, Gorgeous Good Time

This review originally appeared on Same Same.

“He’s not scary, he’s gorgeous.”

In another movie, a darker more serious movie, a line like this by George about his new mysterious boyfriend Joe may be cause of interrogation. A moment of dialogue symbolic of the darker side of the gay sexual liberation where many men put the pursuit of sexual gratification before any clear and rational reasoning. Where the hunt for dick blinds us to the very real danger in front of our faces. But, like I said, that might be another movie. You’re Killing Me is not that movie.

That’s not to say this deliciously amusing gay horror comedy from director Jim Hansen isn’t saying anything. Quite the contrary, it actually has a lot to say about the shallowness that is prevalent within gay culture. But, first and foremost, You’re Killing Me is about entertainment. And in that it succeeds.

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Spear Ought To Be a Must See in This Age of Diversity

Stephen Page’s Spear is the most extraordinary of dance musicals. Something completely and utterly new in Australian cinema. A work of such unique flavour that it’s hardly surprising to see it released on just a few screens nationwide. It’s true that this indigenous-themed journey across time and identity is not the sort of film that was ever likely to break out into wide audience recognition – to be sure, it’s closer in spirit to a mash-up of Warwick Thornton’s Samson & Delilah with Wim Wenders’ Pina if you can imagine it – but that its existence has come with but a mere whisper suggests something deeply frustrating.

Is it that the people who like to shout loudly, predominantly online, about (cue new buzzword) diversity on screen and a desire for an industry that truly represents this country’s great cultural mix, simple don’t care enough to actually go and see a film such as Spear? Or it that the film’s shortcomings such as repetitiveness and a foggy, vague narrative thrust, make it harder for the film to resonate when it is already a tricky sell at best? Well, I guess, people have to see it before they’d know that. Spear won’t be for everybody, but it deserves a better shake of things than it will get. That many audiences will no doubt scratch their heads in perplexed bewilderment throughout is actually somewhat refreshing – it means it is challenging and curious and the sort of movie lovers of art cinema ought to be running towards.

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This Film is a ‘Nasty Baby’

This review was original published at Same Same.

If you’re unaware of the works of Sebastian Silva, then Nasty Baby is probably a good place to start. His best film yet, and certainly his most accessible, it’s a wonderfully funny tale of modern gay life that never lets its audience get too complacent by giving a third act plot twist that irrevocably changes the course for all involved. Winner of the Berlin International Film Festival’s Teddy Prize for queer filmmaking, Nasty Baby should not be missed.

Click here to read the entire review at Same Same.

 

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‘Tab Hunter Confidential’

This review was originally published on Same Same.

What famous Hollywood actors might we be seeing documentaries about in 40 or 50 years’ time discussing how they kept themselves in the closet for fear of losing out on a career as a leading man? We all have our theories – who doesn’t love a bit of insider gossip? – but the question is the furthest thing on the mind of director Jason Schwarz who returns with another examination of queer cinema history after the deliciously entertaining I Am Divine (2013). Still, the question looms over this charming if rather one-dimensional documentary like The Ghost of Hollywood Future. Audiences can’t help but speculate even if the filmmakers won’t.

Click here to read the full review at Same Same.

 

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Angry as a ‘Cut Snake’

This review was originally published on Same Same.

The crime drama has become the de facto Australian genre of choice. Whether we like it or not, local film and television creators are infatuated with the sordid goings on of criminals and other seedy underworld types as well as the people who chase them for a living. Sometimes they are great like Chopper (2000), Animal Kingdom (2010), Jane Campion’s feminist text Top of the Lake (2013) or the first season of Underbelly. Other times they’re terrible like the fourth season of Underbelly. Either way, it is extremely rare to find one of these projects with a queer bent.

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Playing it Safe on the Streets of Melbourne

Play it Safe feels like a breath of fresh air amidst the Australian films of this and recent years. It’s a not a great film, but it’s an encouraging and admirable one that feels like it is attempting something few others have been allowed to. It’s a film that looks at the lives of young people, something that much to my own bafflement is rarely seen on Australian screen (actually, it’s not all that surprising given how long it can take a local film to get off the ground – filmmakers are no longer in their 20s by the time they get to make it and are either dealing with their childhoods or more mature themes). It’s a film that some might mistake for slight, but instead is just more concerned with smaller moments in the life. Moments that other movies might not think are important, but which feel keenly observant when viewed by people for whom little moments are the fabric of life.

Director Chris Pahlow has a history in music videos and has taken his cinematic inspirations from the American independent cinema scene, recalling most of all of Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. From Sherwin Akbarzadeh and Jaque Fisher’s crispy grey-toned black and white cinematography to even similar story beats of late twentysomething life-hopping, it nonetheless lacks the strengths that come with an established screenwriter and team of performers like that film had.

playitsafe01What the film does have going for it and what is ultimately Pahlow’s finest achievement is its very real sense of its time and place. This feels like a movie about modern people who look and sound and talk like real people existing in an unengaged Melbourne. I’m not going to admit I did not see myself in some of the characters here, feeling restless in a city, trying to find our place in a city that we are so routinely told has everything we could want yet which we still find lacking. Pahlow’s film captures the quiet side of the city, the highways and train-lines and poorly-attended weeknight bars with such a delicate grace that suggest he has a real talent for seeing the city and its people in a fresh way that hasn’t been done time and time again. Like other local youth-oriented flicks Love and Other Catastrophes, Burke & Wills, Further We Search and Occasional Coarse Language, Playing It Safe is more concerned with recreating that feeling of what it means to simply attempt an existence. It’s a fine debut and one that suggests stronger things are on the horizon.

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A Film is a Naked Director

It’s impossible for Les Blank’s A Poem is a Naked Person to not be taken in by audiences as above all a time capsule. Emerging in 2015, 40 years after its initial completion due to legal and personal wrangling, the film’s primary service and entry point to modern audiences will likely be as a never-before-seen look at a time and place that in the years since has been romanticised and obituarised beyond rational comprehension. The film, and the story behind it for that matter, is far more interesting than that though and watching it now is a curious thing indeed for not just those time capsule elements that are indeed fascinating, but also for its historical context as an important work of non-fiction filmmaking due in large part to the radical formal experiments that Blank employs in the aid of what could have been a fairly rudimentary documentary about a genius but rudely temperamental artist that merely copies the structure of D.A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back.

A Poem is a Naked Person was completed in 1974 from some 60 hours of footage filmed by Blank while on the road in Oklahoma with blues and folk rock singer Leon Russell and his entourage. Disagreements between Blank and Russell lead to the film being effectively blackballed from release over rights issues and was only ever shown with Blank in attendance and with proceeds typically going to charity. He continued to tinker with the film until his death in 2013 and now, thankfully, has been allowed to see the light of day with the help of Blank’s son Harrod, an author and occasional filmmaker, as well as Leon Russell, who has admitted to not liking the film.

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