Tag Archives: GLBTQ Issues

Free Fall (2013)

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That awkward moment when you realize a woman’s touch just can’t compare to the caress of your bosom cop buddy.

Free Fall as been described as the ‘German Brokeback Mountain,’ a comparison that will have movie fans cheering and homophobes running for the hills. I haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain for years (not since I was twelve or thirteen) but I remember I had a problem with not finding the characters very likable. Free Fall suffers from a same issue, but not to the same extent, and unlike Brokeback Mountain, which is a straight-out tragedy, Free Fall has a dark but redemptive quality to it, and features a realistic but somewhat hopeful and satisfying ending. The actors show enormous potential, and while the characters are often infuriating, they’re also authentic, and their motivations ring alarmingly true throughout.

Marc (Hanno Koffler) is a fresh-faced young cop-in-training whose wife Bettina (Katharina Schüttler) is pregnant, and whose interfering parents are living right next door and are getting a little too involved with the couple’s lives. In the police academy, Marc is paired up with his new roommate Kay (Max Riemelt) and they get into a testosterone-fueled scuffle almost immediately after meeting one another, but reconcile shortly thereafter. Marc is not a particularly great runner, so he and Kay practice by taking jogs together in the woods. One day on one of their excursions together Kay kisses Marc, and Marc reacts with predictable surprise and disgust. But there was something about the kiss; something that makes Marc (who previously never considered himself to be nothing other than a typical, heterosexual man) experience something he’s never felt, something that makes him crave more. And Marc can only disguise his feelings for so long…

I always feel bad for the wives in films like these. In Katharina Schüttler as Bettina we have a strong and determined actress, but due to a script that doesn’t emphasize much on it’s female players her character comes off a little flat. Her main role is to pry (where were you tonight, Marc? What are you playing at, Marc?) and fret while her swollen belly and innocent features give her a kind but vulnerable look. She never really comes into her own or displays any interesting personality traits. Which brings us to the romance between Kay and Marc.

Kay and Marc are both very flawed characters at times, which makes for a fairly interesting dynamic. While Kay tends to be a little aggressive and interferes with Marc’s life, Marc can be appallingly cagey and disloyal, refusing to acknowledge what he is even to the expense of protecting Kay from prejudiced bullies on the work force. The main big bad bully in question is Gregor Limpinski (Senja Lacher,) a somewhat stereotypical but also unfortunately fairly true-to-life sexed-up misogynist and homophobe struggling under the weight of his own machismo. When Kay is discovered to have been going to a gay club, the bullying begins, and Marc doesn’t find the strength to stand up for his lover at the expense of his own reputation til the very end.

Kay and Marc have kind of an aggressive sexually charged thing going, pushing each other  and delivering some rough in the throes of passion. Marc has feelings both ways and even enjoys sex with his wife to some extent, but Kay provides him with an experience he never could have thought he’d find so weirdly irresistible. But considering his emotional dishonesty and considerable disloyalty to Kay, it’s a pretty good bet that the relationship will never get past it’s trial period. It’s kind of surprising that Kay puts in the time and energy. Although their relationship isn’t healthy by a long shot, the men actually have good chemistry and a highly potent sense of eroticism going on between them.

The characters and situations presented in this film are fairly realistic, with a genuine vibe and minimal melodrama or blatant tearjerking. Marc’s lack of likability is a  bit of a problem. It seems Marc, while not a bad person at heart, has a knack for hurting the people in his life and evading his own moral responsibilities. Free Fall isn’t one of the all-time great gay films (and it’s plot has a bit of a sense of the old been-there-done-that) but it is, as they say, ‘well-done’ and features good performances across the board.

Marc’s sexual ambiguity is another interesting aspect in an all around effective film- can you be a lover of both men and women but show a preference for one at a time considerably after adolescence? Marc’s story is a warning for all those people who make assumptions about their preferences and their part in the bigger picture too early in life, and discover that they made all the wrong decisions. Most people know whether they like men or women from the time they learn to masturbate. For some, it’s harder. Marc reminds us of that, and tells a pretty good story in the process.

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Tangerine (2015)

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Trashy people doing trashy things, set to the score of an interminable Dubstep soundtrack. The most interesting thing about this movie (shot on a cheap cell phone camera) is how it got the critics jizzing their pants over it.

I won’t deny that Tangerine is probably a pretty accurate reflection of a certain way of life, but in the process of portraying a transgendered working girl’s gritty urban existence, the film makes commits two unpardonable filmmaking sins- it completely lacks a interesting narrative or characters worth investing your sympathy in. The actors possess a certain naturalism and finesse for a movie with a budget this low, but who gives a shit about this story? The non plot combined with an instantly unlikable protagonist make Tangerine tedious as just over eighty minutes long.

Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez)- seriously, that name- is a transsexual prostitute (and still the possessor of male sexual organs) who get out after a short stint of jail to find out from her bestie (Mya Taylor) that her man and pimp has been screwing around on her. The entire movie concerns Sin Dee traipsing around L.A. trying to find her guy (James Ransone) so she can raise some hell. An admittedly much more interesting subplot concerns an unhappily married Armenian cab driver (Karren Karagulian) with a preference for trans hookers that still have their cocks intact. Unsurprisingly, this causes some tension with his wife and mother-in-law.

However, this plotline is never resolved as the narrative focuses on the unbearably catty and self-absorbed Sin-Dee as she spends Christmas Eve in Los Angeles seeing her quest through. Sin-Dee talks, looks, and acts like a character in a reality television program and I can imagine most people would only play along with her bullshit for so long. You keep your hands off her man, you hear, or otherwise she might just have to bust you up! Some viewers might find her sympathetic, I didn’t. It’s not that people like her don’t exist, they emphatically do, but I was utterly disinclined to watch her throw a hissy fit for eighty minutes.

If there’s a discernible plot to this movie, I’d be enthralled to know what it is. There’s some sex, some drug abuse, a catfight between Sin-Dee and her boyfriend’s new lay (Mickey O’Hagen.) There’s a lot of Sin-Dee wandering around the ghetto spewing profanities and man-handling various people. It’s hard to care about a story that goes absolutely nowhere and harder still to care about a trashy queen with a flair for drama and seeing others anxious or upset. If you want to see a trans woman struggling with her gender identity in an inner city environment, watch Gun Hill Road. That was an amazing film that grabbed your heart and didn’t let go.

I’ll admit, Tangerine looks passable compared to other independent films shot on cell phones. it even has an element of realism, and I don’t fault the actors one bit for my utter disinterest in the film as a whole. They took what they had to work with and they ran with it. But Tangerine  is not funny and it is not dramatically satisfying. Being that Sin-Dee scarcely shows a sympathetic human side, instead choosing to bask in drama and the heartache of her friends and neighbors, it’s really hard to like or empathize with her. I admire the good ideas this film incorporates into it’s script, but it’s so hard to sit through as a whole. A film needs a plot to carry its characters to a chosen destination, and it is in that area that Tangerine seriously lacks.

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Nightingale (2014)

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“Nightingale” is essentially a one-man show; you should know going in that David Owelowo is virtually the only actor in the film so you can avoid disappointment at not seeing a story play out in a more standard fashion. I payed no notice to Owelowo before seeing this movie, despite seeing him in some previous films, but I’ll make sure to keep a close eye on him now.

In this film he plays a homosexual, delusional ex-military man named Peter Snowden. Peter Snowden has been a bit of a mama’s boy most of his life; he is desperately at odds with her while still wanting her to see him for who he is and accepting him in earnest. Unfortunately,  his Conservative Mama only sees what she wants to see; his flamboyance, his limp-wristed sensibilities, and her Christian friends aren’t doing either of them any favors.

However, when Peter is first introduced to us, his mother is no longer in the picture, having been murdered by him in a fit of rage only hours before. Peter, psychotic and dangerous, essentially offers us a long monologue in the form of his video blog, telephone calls, and his back-and-forth conversations with himself (and sometimes with his murdered mother) as he prepares for a very special dinner party. His mother’s lifeless corpse is splayed out on the floor of her room, but that doesn’t put a damper on his plans or his overall positivity.

The ‘guest’ for the dinner date is Edward, an old army friend (a very close friend, if you get my drift *wink*) and the object of Peter’s unadulterated obsession. Perhaps Edward is long dead, we think, more likely, he doesn’t want to see the crazed Peter. We soon learn that Edward is married to a woman Peter despises, Gloria, and has a couple of kids and what no doubt is a clean-cut, traditional suburban life.

You couldn’t have in less than an actor of an exceptionally high caliber running this show, and Owelowo delivers on this promise and more. He’s commanding but not showy, if that makes sense. Intense and often darkly funny (but maybe that’s just me) Owelowo keeps your eyes glued to the screen for the whole 1 hour 20 minutes of him just talking. Delusional, murderous, and spectacularly self-absorbed, Peter is not a likable character, but you do sympathize with him at some points- maybe genuine empathy, maybe abject pity, it’s hard to tell.

He callously murders his mother with little remorse, holds no regard for the feelings of those close to her, and disparagingly remarks on the developmentally disabled employees he works with as ‘retards’ (I laughed when he used this word, mostly because he resembles me at my worst, making cruel sport of people who can no more be cunning or stick up for themselves than a person in a wheelchair can get up and walk.) He seems more concerned with what fabulous gear he’s going to wear for his big date than the fate of his much-despised mother.

Even though we understand somewhat the dark nooks and crannies Peter’s  mind by the closing credits, there’s a lot about him we don’t know. Were Edward and Peter lovers, and Edward, by extension, a closeted homosexual living a lie, or is Peter just a crazed stalker? What, exactly, is Peter’s illness? (I have seen he has been deemed a victim of PTSD online, but it seems his issues are rooted much deeper in his past, and frankly, he could just as easily be an unmedicated Bipolar patient or Paranoid Schizophrenic.)

Peter is complicated. He’s camp and tormented and fantastically manipulative and he makes a mean Salmon Steak with  Walnut Sauce. he’s kind of a black Norman Bates for the iPhone generation, but Norman didn’t have this much style. Along the way, we get vague feedback on how this mother-son relationship went so desperately  wrong (from the monumental, like her rejection of his sexual identity, to the infinitesimal, like how she’d rather spend her money on frivolous things than buy him a subscription to HBO.)

There’s certain symbolism to savor in the film’s intelligent script, from Adam and Eve, Peter’s new tropical fish pets (he buys them because they’re a favorite of Edward’s, and in fact, ‘Eve’ is just Adam’s reflection staring back at him) to the masculine military haircut and demeanor Peter adopts towards the end of the movie as he contemplates suicide (trying perhaps, in his own twisted way, to please Mother one last time.)

By the end of “Nightingale,” we cannot condone Peter’s actions, but we understand his point of view a little better, and ultimately, we feel a little more complete for having known him.

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I Killed My Mother (2009)

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Yes, the mother depicted in this film is a chode. But, to be perfectly honest, so is her completely self-involved, angst-ridden son. Nature and nurture, one does not necessarily cancel out the other. Although actor/director/writer Xavier Dolan’s semi-autobiographical first feature is sometimes burdened down by largely unsympathetic characters (the son’s big-hearted, sarcastic boyfriend was the only one I can say I ‘liked,’) it does strike a chord with it’s real and darkly funny portrayal of that gray area between childhood and adulthood where your parents seem to be the worst people on earth.

The difference being, of course, that Hubert (Xavier Dolan)’s shrill mother (Anne Dorval) is a pretty awful person, not to mention a piss-poor parent. Initially I was repelled by Hubert’s cruel antics toward his cold, passive-aggressive mama but I will admit that I came to a sort of understanding of him halfway through the film. That’s not to say liked him, ‘like’ would be too strong a word and not at all accurate to what I’m feeling, but I had a moment of realization where I was like, “Yeah, she’s awful.”

A little background on the plot- Hubert is a gay high school kid who considers himself quite the intellectual, constantly filming himself jabbering about supposedly ‘deep’ subjects. Okay, some of his musings are significant, but not as witty or clever as the self-obsessed Hubert imagines them to be. Hubert is a bright kid, but he needs to realize he’s not the center of the universe. He really needs to show appreciation for his boyfriend Antoine (Francois Arnaud,) who is super supportive and cool but doesn’t get nearly the respect he deserves.

The bane of Hubert’s existence is his mother, Chantale. Chantale seems quite put out that she has a kid to look after, let alone this contemptuous, heatedly angry man-boy, and Hubert in turn hates everything about her- the way she eats, the way she puts on lipstick, the way she lashes out at him with ice-cold rebuttals. Although I can relate to Hubert’s angst to some extent, having been an angry, sullen teen, I always knew deep down that my parents had done more for me than I would ever be able to realize.

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I never ‘hated’ them- more just treated the pair of them with indifferent annoyance. And I never would have gotten away with screaming obscenities at them the way Hubert does. My adolescent relationship with my parents doesn’t even skim the surface of the dysfunction portrayed here (although I do have some mental health stories that would make your toes curl) 😛 The difference is, I was never out of control hateful and disrespectful. In our house, I knew that there were things you could get away with, and there were things you couldn’t. And my parents were, and continue to be, awesome people. 🙂

I wasn’t sure what the role of the teacher (Suzanne Clement) was in this story. Initially I thought she had a ladyboner for Hubert that made in of interest for her to help him (it’s not completely unheard of- she’s young, he’s cute, and maybe it hasn’t struck her yet that (a she could go to jail and (b he’s like, totally gay.) I didn’t trust her intentions; thus, I didn’t find her a likable character. I liked the fantasy sequences strewn throughout. They flesh out Hubert’s character.

The main things that puzzled me about “I Killed My Mother” were the sudden and unexplained shifts in the character’s behavior and the abrupt ending that didn’t really resolve anything. I think if this film were a novel I might have been able to understand the motivations behind character’s behavior better.

It’s painful to to watch a teen behave in a disgustingly disrespectful way to his mother, but it is even more painful to see that the cold, distant parent has created an emotionally impotent monster. We reap what we sow I guess. What’s particularly interesting is that assuming this movie’s protagonist, Hubert, is based on Dolan as a teen, the director makes little attempt to justify his self-absorption or all-around terrible behavior.

That’s nothing if not brave. Not portraying his mother, who was obviously in many ways emotionally abusive, as a claws-out harpy, devoid of redeeming qualities, adds gravity to a story that could have been just another ‘shitty relationships in a pretty language’ miseryfest. Another thing that strikes me is the contrast between the boyfriend Antoine’s permissive, fun-loving mother, whom Antoine has an almost peer-like relationship to, and the chilly, emotionally distant Chantale.

It seems we should strike a balance if are to become parents. “I Killed My Mother” (the killing, luckily, is metaphorical; there’s no matricide to be found here) is certainly promising, occasionally infuriating, and rife with dark humor. It seems increasingly like a handbook on how not to parent, lest we continue the cycle of dysfunction that raises it’s ugly head in far too many families.

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The Tricky Part by Martin Moran

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Memoirist Martin Moran has a skillful touch when it comes to prose, but “The Tricky Part” is so disturbing and sad that it will probably end up being a read-only-once book for most people. What makes “The Tricky Part” different from most sexual abuse stories that feature heavily in books and TV and get paraded around the media is Moran’s ambivalent feelings toward his molester. It also makes it a whole lot more interesting than the average pervs-messing-around-with-kids book.

When Martin was twelve, he was an eager-to-please, bright-eyed boy who had his whole life to discover sex and intimacy all in due time. His camp counselor, Bob, took all that away from him. And yet… and yet what? Martin fell for Bob. He was a quite willing participant in a ‘relationship’ (a love affair only in the loosest sense) that lasted several years. Of course a twelve-year-old child cannot consent to sex with a thirty-something-year-old-man, but Martin believed he had something special with his abuser. He loved him. He hated him. He was so fucking confused and he sook out his attention like a moth to the flame, even when it was destroying him.

He felt like Bob’s one and only, even when there was a harem of young boys slipping in and out of Bob’s designated love nests under Martin’s nose. After a fraught adulthood rife with dysfunction and sex addiction, Martin decided to seek out his abuser. This is his story. The first half of this book can be a little hard to read because of the graphic depiction of pedophilia, but it articulates 12-year-old Martin’s confusion and desperation well. This isn’t just a tawdry ripped-from-the-headlines abuse story, it strikes the reader as extremely brave and cathartic for Moran to write.

Moreover, it is interesting to see how Moran got a career in musical theater and came to balance his childhood Catholic beliefs with skepticism and new-age curiosity. Martin is an extremely interesting person, though you can tell he’s been through the ringer emotionally and sexually. You might not agree with everything he does (trying to fuck a fifteen-year-old boy in the men’s lavatory anyone?) and his continual dishonesty to his lover, Henry, is as heartbreaking as it is reprehensible (I’d be so done with him for cheating on me multiple times with guys he didn’t even like, let alone want an intimate relationship with; but Henry never seems to give up on Martin.)

However, you can’t help but feel for Martin. I don’t think his continual abuse at the hands of Bob is an excuse to cheat on his lover repeatedly, but it helps you understand the heartbreaking compulsion that overtakes him again and again. It’s like what Atticus FInch said in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” You step into someone’s shoes and walk around in them. Books help you do that, which is part of what is so great about them. You look at someone’s action from the outside (like Moran’s infidelity) and you go “wow, that’s dickish” but looking inside his mind by reading something he wrote helps you understand.

The second half of “The Tricky Part” is more about Moran’s therapy and gradual healing, which is easier to read psychologically but can get a little wordy in terms of mental health and dream analysis. Despite the transitions between Moran’s childhood and adulthood the two pieces of the book fit together pretty well. It will come as a relief to hear less about Bob in the later chapters. He is truly a monstrous human being.

This book will twist your gut. It will break your heart. It might even make you laugh sporadically. It will make you wish Martin had castrated his abuser for the emotional damage he eked out, rather than forgiving him his transgression. But bloody revenge, as good as it might feel at the time, does not salve the soul like forgiveness does. Forgiveness isn’t just ‘letting it go’ or ‘pretending it never happened.’ It’s healing. And Martin needed all the healing he could get. He couldn’t just be two broken halves of a whole his entire life.

“The Tricky Part” isn’t my favorite memoir, but it’s one of the rawest and most honest. Martin Moran lays bare his soul all to see. There’s nothing not brave about that. I recommend this book to those interested in the effects of childhood sexual abuse and readers of memoirs in general.

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Creep (2014)

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Warning: “Creep” is only horror in the very loosest sense. On the other hand, if you have a sick, supremely fucked-up sense of humor like me, it will be revealed to you as a superbly executed black comedy. Shot on a cheap handheld camera, featuring only two actors and a couple of sets, “Creep” doesn’t seem to have a terribly high potential for being watchable, but a uproarious performance by Indie darling Mark Duplass, a pitch-black sensibility, and a generally eerie mood throughout ensure that it will keep your eyes glued to the screen, if only in horrified fascination.

Actor/director Patrick Brice plays Aaron, a naïve amateur filmmaker who meets a guy on Craigslist who wants Aaron to meet him at his woodland cabin and film him for unknown purposes. Seems legit…? Being the wimpy, eager-to-please guy he is, Aaron departs from his home in the city and visits Josef (Duplass),) who reveals that (1 he is dying of cancer and (2 he wants Aaron to film him as a video diary for his unborn son, ‘Buddy.’

That’s when things get weird. Between Aaron somewhat homoerotically filming Josef splashing in the bath engaging in ‘tubby time’ (“my dad used to have tubby time with me,” Josef confides, “and it was the best… time… of… day”) to Josef doing an extremely creepy song-and-dance routine as ‘Peach-fuzz’ the benevolent werewolf, Josef reveals himself to be a seriously sinister human being. That Aaron is fascinated and to some degree encourages Josef is one of the strangest ideas the movie gets in it’s twisted little head. But I don’t think the movie would work if Aaron wasn’t slightly skewed too.

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“Creep” sometimes gives off the impression of a dark, dark home movie, and although there’s some stupidity pertaining to the found-footage genre (Aaron traipsing through a back alley while being stalked by Josef and rolling his video camera all the while) the concept and execution of this project are surprisingly workable. Duplass is oddly effective as a likable sociopath, while Brice brings some sympathy to a character who is aggravatingly passive and foolish at best, a complete idiot at worst (within how much time of a man in an isolated locale joking about killing you with an ax would you get the hell out?)

The humor seems most akin to Ben Wheatley’s British black comedy “Sightseers.” The laughter “Creep” evokes hits a sour note, because the topic of the humor is human depravity- the unlimited potential for insanity and senseless destruction among the human race. It’s dark stuff, and if you don’t find mirth in the blackest of comedies, it might be too much to swallow. But if you find batshit crazy people to be funny (in the movies, not so much in the headlines-) Patrick Bateman, Jack Nicholson’s The Joker, “The Voice”‘s Jerry Hickfang.- this movie will ring a chord within your black, black soul. Plotholes and unanswered questions aside, this movie might be the best mentally ill homosexual stalker comedy since Miguel Arteta’s “Chuck & Buck.”

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Roxanne (2014, Short Film)

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In Paul Frankl’s low-key short film, a jaded transgendered prostitute is unwittingly thrown into the motherhood role after saving a homeless little girl from some unsavory types. It sounds like a recipe for melodrama, but Frankl shows remarkable restraint directing real trans woman Miss Cairo and Thea Lamb as the unwanted girl.

First of all, you don’t get a litany of boo-hooing about the direction Roxanne (the man, er… I mean woman of the night)’s life has taken. She’s remarkably self-possessed at best, fully resigned to the life she is leading at worst. But although the living situation between her and Lily, the little girl who’s mother has left her and whose mother’s boyfriend is a grade-A asshole. is less than ideal, it does make Roxanne reconsider her aloneness and the lifestyle she has taken for granted.

“Roxanne” is a very well-shot short film. The scenes at the night club where Roxanne cruises for the willing sex partner are dreamy and virile, while the sequences at her apartment, in the company of the young girl, are more akin to a Ken Loach kitchen-sink realism film. The cinematography (such as the cigarette smoke wisping through the cheap lace curtains ) always seems to articulate the feeling it wants to, and, more importantly needs to under the circumstances.

Miss Cairo has kind of an openness about her even when she’s being cagey, and despite her character’s waffling feelings towards the girl, it’s hard not to get sucked into her story and believe the best in her. I would have liked a more complete ending; the conclusion of “Roxanne” feels more like a ‘to be continued,’ but at least this leaves room for a possible sequel. I guess it’s too much to ask that Roxanne drop her life to assume full-time care of this girl, but I’m not ashamed to say that’s what I hoped for. Instead we got kind of an ambiguous ending, which I guess is better and more realistic, but not as satisfying.

It’s hard to make the viewer care for a duo of characters that exist on screen for a mere fifteen minutes, but directed Paul Frankl has pulled it off. I wanted the two heroines to find happiness in each other, and I would be happy to see a follow-up short or a film adaptation.

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Electricity by Ray Robinson

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Lily O’Connor’s neurology is a wild, untamed beast that knocks her on her face time and again. Afflicted with epilepsy, Lily knows the condition is more than the general public believes it be, and she determined to live as normal a life with the condition as possible. Saddled with a rough (and I mean rough) family (her mother is entirely to blame in causing the injury that led to her disorder, in an act too ghastly to mention,) Lily has learned to hide the hurt away, armed with a misanthropic wit. But the death of her beastly mother, grouped with the arrival of her gambler brother and the mystery of another sibling’s disappearance, shakes up Lily’s life in ways she never could have imagined and sends her on a quest for reconciliation on the dirty, chaotic streets of London.

So, apparently this is a movie now. It’s hard to picture how a film adaptation would work, to be honest. Electricity is a otherworldly experience, an journey through the senses shedding light on a condition no one would wish on themselves or their loved ones. How will a movie give us such an unyielding look into this woman’s mind? How will a movie explain how the seizures feel? But the miracle of this novel is that Lily O’Connor is so much more than her disability.

She’s tough, complicated, seriously flawed but fundamentally decent. The strength of Lily’s character ensures that Electricity will not a textbook slog through issues of disability and dignity. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever read so much onomatopoeia in one book. The book has an interesting feminine perspective on sexuality, as well as a heartbreaking take on sexual abuse (what if I didn’t fight back! What if I liked it?)

Lily believed she was in love with her mother’s boyfriend when she was about nine years old, and appreciated the attention in a time when she was all too often ignored and overlooked. But does that make it any better? Of course not. Sexual misconduct with a preteen is abuse whether or not the child thinks they enjoy it or not. In a way, Lily has to move past her own feelings and perceptions about the event just as much as she has to move past the abuse itself.

Lily is often a hard character to like. But you can’t hate her. You just can’t. She’s too vulnerable and damaged and real for that. However, the circumstances of her upbringing seemed a little too dire at times. That coupled with her truly horrific experience with men (only her wig-donning mentor, Al, emerges unscathed) makes Electricity a sometimes disturbing read. Lily is an often sexually ambiguous character; she reports to enjoy sex with men (although she can’t climax,) while her less-than-sisterly affections for her lesbian buddy Mel makes the reader wonder what side of the fence she’s really on.

The only parts of the book I felt were lacking were the sex scenes between Lily and her boyfriend, Dave. Here we are subjected to analogies such as “He licked my breasts like lollipops” that fall short on insight into a woman’s experience of sex. They were a little corny, to be frank. They didn’t quite fit in the otherwise smooth, flawless jigsaw puzzle that was this novel. Mostly, what stands out in Electricity was the close inside view of a misunderstood condition and Lily’s unique, dialect- and profanity-salted voice. Lyrical yet not tweedy, Electricity is a engrossing read.

Blue is the Warmest Color (2014)

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Dare I say that I didn’t quite fall in love with this film the way everyone else seemed to? I’ll be the first one to say that “Blue is the Warmest Color” is altogether a very well-made movie. But it, like anything else, has it’s faults, The first and second halves of this film seem like entirely different movies (and are individually each the length of a separate motion picture, Good God is this movie long.)
The first half is full of joy and vitality, while the second portion, the more inferior one by far, ploddingly deals with the tragedy of a doomed love affair. While Adele, the heroine, is a compelling, likable character at the beginning, by the end she is a pathetic needy husk of a woman, lacking a shred of dignity or decency. Furthermore, by the conclusion it’s hard to root for the broken lovers to reunite. Frankly, they’re toxic to one another! But I digress. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos), who is fifteen when this story starts,  is a voracious reader and insecure beauty who is still navigating her intrinsic passions and inner desires, Although Adele hangs with a group of friends in her local high school, she finds she cannot relate to their banter concerning boys and hookups. Adele dates a male classmate for a little while, even sleeping with him at one point, but Adele finds she desires something that young men can’t offer.

When Adele spots Emma (Lea Seydoux) in a crowded street, it’s lust at first sight. Emma awakens something in Adele that she hasn’t experienced before, a kind of intense longing. Emma, a blue-haired, charmingly tomboyish artistic type, is older and more experienced than the youthful Adele, but she takes to her from the moment they officially meet.

Emma and Adele kiss in the park, discuss art and literature, and have sex. Lots and lots of sex. In fact, for a hetero chick, the prolonged sequences of lesbian love-making seemed a little bit excessive. There was one scene in particular that seemed to go on for ages and feature about eighty different positions. “Blue is the Warmest Color” is not porn, but it does seem to cross that line disconcertingly often.

If there’s any fault to be had in this critically acclaimed movie, it’s certainly not in the acting. Both leads, especially Exarchopoulos, blew me away with their incredible performances. The script, similarly, is often exceedingly natural and compelling. However, a film should only be three hours long if not a dialogue or shot is wasted. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with “Blue is the Warmest Color.”

A passionate embrace, a mere mention of skin can say more than a handful of borderline pornographic sequences ever can. Are these scenes necessary to show the love the heroines feel for each other? No. Moreover, the realization that the actresses didn’t have a good experience with this director makes me wonder if filming this movie was awkward or degrading for them.

Mostly, though, the movie was just too long and the second half too uneven for me to give the movie more than 3.5 stars. The actresses are lovely and fiercely talented, and the film is worth your time (if you happen to have a spare three hours to watch a movie,) but I found I just didn’t love it as much as I should’ve.

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The Imitation Game (2014)

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Being a genius ain’t easy. However, being a latently homosexual genius with undiagnosed Asperger’s in a time where being different was not just detrimental to your social status, but dangerous is damn near impossible. “The Imitation Game” is a (sorta) true story of Alan Turing, who saved thousands of lives by cracking the Germans’ enigma code during World War II and may have cut the war short more than two years.

Turing is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, your go-to guy for Brit quirkiness without going too off the radar. Just look at the guy. He looks like he was born to play an eccentric-slash-asocial genius. And while many found “The Imitation Game” to be generic Oscar Bait, I was thoroughly engrossed by the troubled life of Alan Turing. Tragic, yes. But also fascinating.

My interest was largely based on Benedict Cumberbatch’s amazing acting job (it should also be mentioned that Alex Lawther, who played young Alan, also gave an outstanding performance) and the fact that I had reasonably low expectations. A drama about codes and mathematics? Bor-ing! Everybody who knows me knows perfectly well that math is not my strong suite. But a fascinating lead and an arresting storyline? That I can get behind.

If this movie is true at all to the real man, Turing had a brilliant mathematical mind, but he was not someone you’d invite to a squash game. In fact, he most likely isn’t the kind of man you’d associate with at all. He’s a genius, yes, but he knows he’s a genius, and that makes him all but insufferable. He’s actually a bit of an arsehole, but you still can’t help falling a little in love with him, as some (not me) were endeared to Sheldon in “Big Bang Theory.” Turing is a much better written character, but he possesses the same offhand arrogance, somewhat effeminate softness, and distaste for the common man. Not to mention his lackluster (to say the least) social skills.

When Alan Turing is hired to break a German code under almost unbeatable obstacles, he is convinced he can do it himself, aided by nothing but his big old brain (not to mention one hundred-thousand pounds government funds.) But he finds an unlikely ally in Joan Clarke (the lovely, if worryingly thin, Keira Knightley,) a girl who seems rather ordinary on the outside, but who possesses a keen mathematical mind.

Flash-forward to Turing being interviewed by a skeptical officer (Rory Kinnear) afted he is arrested for sexual indecency (i.e. homosexual acts.) Turing recounts to the policeman his efforts working for the military cracking codes as well as his childhood bullying at the hands of the other students and hopeless crush on his schoolmate Christopher (Jack Bannon.)

The film itself  is apparently fairly historically inaccurate. This has bothered some purists, but I say, so what? Sometimes biographical honesty is the best policy, and sometimes the story just turns out better when you take it in a different direction altogether. And yes, sometimes the story does feel conventional, with characters having dime-store epiphanies when the plot requires them to, but any occasional  lack of depth the script is overtaken by the fantastic acting. If  nothing else, this movie will make you think about the liberties we take for granted today concerning our sexual practices.

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