Archive for the ‘Independent Film’ Category

BPM (Beats Per Minute)

March 19, 2018

Robin Campillo’s French language film, BPM (Beats Per Minute) tells the story of Paris ACT-UP in the early 1990’s at the height of the AIDS epidemic just before the new medications became available which would save millions of lives worldwide. BPM is without a doubt the best feature film ever created focusing on the AIDS crisis. Perhaps it is because the filmmaker is 55 years old and was alive during the worse part of the epidemic. Campillo crafts a story filled with anger, activism, frustration, creativity, love and sex. Blended together, these elements tell the accurate story of what it was like – the immediacy of life during this pivotal moment in gay history. Activism was important as dancing which was important as sex which was important as community. BPM rightfully snagged six Cesar Awards (French Oscars), including best film, original script, male newcomer, supporting actor and music. BPM is a pitch perfect film with a cast of mostly young actors who lose themselves in their roles as activists fighting for their lives and the lives of the people they love. BPM is essential viewing. 5 out of 5 for this instant masterpiece.

BPM was released on disk, digital, and on-demand this past week.
Buy a copy at Wolfe Video and support lesbian owned and operated business.
Read Reel Charlie’s list of important feature films and documentaries on the subject of HIV and AIDS.



2018 César Awards: ‘BPM’ Wins Six, Including Best Film

March 4, 2018

On Oscar day 2018, I want to honor a French film which didn’t make the cut. BPM just won six César Awards including Best Picture. Césars are the French Oscars. The Oscar submissions for Best Foreign Film come from each country. Only one nomination cam be made per country. France indeed did the right thing and sent BPM over as their selection. The Oscar voters chose to ignore BPM and nominated films from Chile, Hungary, Lebanon, Russia, and Sweden. Those are all great countries.

I haven’t seen BPM yet. I have the DVD pre-orded from Wolfe Video. It’s scheduled for release in the U.S. on Tuesday so it should be in my mailbox any day now. I rarely assume I will love a film after reading the hype, but I am sure I will love BPM.

Read more about the film’s César wins on Indiewire.

Before Moonlight: 10 films that celebrate the African American LGBT experience (LGBTQ Nation)

February 23, 2018

Great list from LGBTQ Nation featuring ten fantastic films celebrating the African-American LGBT experience. I’ve seen 9 out of 10. The only reason why I haven’t seen them all is I’m waiting for Saturday Church to come out on DVD. I’ve ordered a copy for the library’s collection. Seven are stellar films in their own right and I’d mark them as classics:

The Watermelon Woman – Cheryl Dunye’s indie masterpiece
Moonlight – Oscar finally got something right
PariahMudbound‘s Dee Rees’ debut film
Tongues Untied Marlon Riggs’ late 80’s doc on gay, black men
Brother to Brother – Anthony Mackie’s breakout performance
Looking for Langston – Isaac Julian’s love story to the Harlem Renaissance
Tangerine – Trans women of color in a film shot on an iPhone.

Looking for Langston – Isaac Julian (1989)

Be My Gaylentine 2018

February 14, 2018

When I first heard the word Galentine, I thought it meant Gay Valentine. Silly me. Anyway, it got me thinking. So here’s my Gaylentine, Leslentine, Bilentine list of my favorite LGB films filled with romance and love. Click on the link for Reel Charlie’s review.

Beautiful Thing
Freir Fall (Free Fall)
Giorni (Days)
God’s Own Country
Go Fish
Ha- Buah (The Bubble)
I Do
The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 Girls in Love 
Jongens (Boys)
My Beautiful Laundrette
Parting Glances
Reaching for the Moon

Shared Rooms (not exactly take 2)

February 5, 2018

I love Christmas. I also love sweet gay male indie films. So Shared Rooms piqued my interest. Also I loved filmmaker Rob Williams’ earlier holiday film, Make the Yuletide Gay.

Ugh, wait. I just went to save the DVD box cover art for this review and realized I already had it in my folder. Which means I already watched this film. Full disclosure, I started this review after watching a few minutes of the film, figuring I could queue it up and get the rest of the review done quicker. No need to worry about any of that because I’ve already reviewed the film a year and a half ago in 2016! And I even purchased a copy of the film! Oh well, I’ve always said Reel Charlie acts as a memory jog. Guess I need to jog a bit more these days.

Here’s the original review.

Call Me By Your Name

January 25, 2018

Regular readers to Reel Charlie are aware of my trepidation for the new film, Call Me By Your Name adapted from the novel by André Aciman. For background, take a look at my post Call Me By Your Name: Straight Man. I realize there are a million stories to be written about love and sexuality. Actually there are probably as many stories to be written as people existed. Since my previous post focused on the novel and marketing of the film, let me now focus on the film. I’m glad I watched it. I almost bailed halfway through, but I persevered and saw the entire film. I’m happy to now have the complete experience to review.

A lot of people loved this film: 96% of reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes and 88% of viewers. And specifically several people I know whose film opinion I respect. So did I watch a different movie? The first half was lackluster. Armie Hammer’s stilted acting, moments when it felt like the two leads were reading lines from a teleprompter. It didn’t feel like passionate acting to me. I assumed I would have to eat crow over this film and so I was expecting it to exceed my expectations. Instead it proved to be a very uneven film. In the end, Timothée Chalamet carried the film. Elio’s story proved complex and compelling. The rest of the characters served as window dressing to his journey of first love. Hammer’s Oliver blossomed in the second half of the film. But he never did embody the irresistible charmer and erotically charged stranger every character touted him to be. Perhaps his big lug American presence was enough to sway the small town? We’ve all known men like him. Conflicted beings who might open up for a moment only to slam shut once again after they go back to their conventional life. Did that experience make Elio stronger? I hope so. I had an experience like Elio’s when I was 19. It lasted six months with an older man of 25. It took him 10 years to marry a woman, but marry a woman he did. When I look back at the loves of my life, he doesn’t even make the top 5. Perhaps that’s why I personally wouldn’t waste story time on a character like Oliver. Olivers never stand the test of time. They end up dull and quietly miserable with their life. The final scene with Elio and his Dad spawned mixed feelings. I certainly appreciated the openness his father’s sharing allowed, but his Dad’s logic felt less like sage wisdom and more like a middle-aged man who could only approve of passion and authenticity for teenagers. I hope viewers realize the nuance of that scene. Every morning you wake up is the right time to seek passion, adventure and love. If you didn’t get it when you were young, the only moment when time has truly run out is literally when time has run out.

Finally, I want to address the sex scenes, or rather the difference between the male/female and the male/male. Female/female are in a whole other category due to the patriarchy. Normally when I watch a gay male film, there ends up being more straight sex scenes than gay. That’s a marketing ploy to get more than just gay men to watch the film. I have a feeling Call Me By Your Name deliberately attempts to make the straight sex scenes rough and the gay scenes infused with a sense of sacredness. Of course everyone should evolve to the point where they respect all sexualities and points of love. From my 2018 vantage point, many films still feel unbalanced. So much so, I am in awe when filmmakers present gay male sexuality with the same openness as their straight counterparts. I know, I know. I’m so binary. Whatever the reason, most films continue to shy away from showing two men in a sexual situation as equally as they show a woman and a man.

I didn’t hate Call Me By Your Name. The infusion of openly gay director Luca Guadagnino  and a script from James Ivory helped soften Aciman’s awkward story. I think it does a disservice not to pepper the script with conversations around bisexuality if that was indeed the original point. Instead we are once again fed the trope that some men seek out other men when they are young, but in time they find a nice woman to settle down with and live a conventional life because that is what real men do. The only openly gay men in the film were made fun of by the family and given a split second of screen time. I wish Call Me By Your Name presented as a film for us to digest and love or not. Instead, it continues being heralded as the best film of the year, and finally a post-gay film which doesn’t focus on gay identity or AIDS or any other tedious aspect of modern gay male life. Reality check: we still don’t live in a post-gay world. And what does that even mean anyway? I don’t want to be post-anything. I like the perspective I have as an openly gay man in a culture which more often wants to suppress rather than celebrate who I am. 3 out of 5 for Call Me By Your Name.

Lady Bird

January 23, 2018

Someone once commented to me on what I believe is one of the best gay male films ever produced, Weekend. The friend (who is straight) told me he just didn’t get the hype. To him it was just a movie about a weekend affair. To me, it represented so much more because I rarely see my stories on the big or small screen. Certainly that has been slowly changing, but it’s still a thrill to see LGBT stories come to life. I say all this because although Lady Bird didn’t necessarily speak directly to me, I get the hype. I get why people and particularly women I know are loving it. It’s a beautifully made indie film. And one of the purposes of an indie film is to speak to a specific group of viewers. I believe Lady Bird does just that. It speaks to people who’ve been raised Catholic (full disclosure, that actually is me). Lady Bird also speaks to mothers and daughters. And daughters and mothers. Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, and Tracy Letts compliment each other beautifully as high schooler Lady Bird, her mother and her father. Lady Bird is a simple story with a lot of heart. It’s a true coming of age film. The additional scene at the end didn’t make sense to me. Seemed like the natural ending to the film happened as she left for college. Other than that, it was a satisfying film. 3.5 out of 5 for the much-heralded Lady Bird.

The Big Sick

January 21, 2018

I probably wouldn’t have normally watched a film like The Big Sick. The previews made it seem too “aw shucks” for my taste. But it’s being considered for awards this year, and since I like being as well-versed as possible for our Oscar program at work, I took the plunge today. Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani took their real-life relationship and turned it into a screenplay. It’s a tight, smart moment in time for the two as they explore a new relationship, hide truths from each other, experience culture clashes, and face up to their families while trying become an adult. The melding of cultures is far from easy for them. So many things could have gone wrong with this story. Gordon and Nanjiani walk several fine lines between worlds and do it within the context of humor. Certainly not an easy task. Bravo to casting Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher, and Zenobia Shroff as the four parents. Hunter is always so reliable and always so Holly Hunter. And Zoe Kazan as Emily did a solid job. But it is the star and writer, Kumail who really brings this all together in subtle and convincing ways. A great way to spend a winter Saturday afternoon. 3.5 out of 5 for The Big Sick.

Hofesh Gadol (Summer Vacation) (short)

January 9, 2018

Amazon Prime apparently now has short films in their catalog. I found the Israeli film, Summer Vacation quite by accident. I enjoyed this 22 minute short. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but the director does well in telling the story of a young father of two, married to a woman and suddenly confronted with his former male lover. Of course his now wife has no idea he had relationships with men before her. The spark between the men has never extinguished. Will the man explore his repressed feelings for his former love? Will there be a declaration to his wife? Watch and see. 3.5 out of 5 for Summer Vacation.


January 7, 2018

Samsara, the film according to Wikipedia,

is a 2011 non-narrative documentary film, directed by Ron Fricke and produced by Mark Magidson, who also collaborated on Baraka (1992), a film of a similar vein. Samsara was filmed over five years in 25 countries around the world. It was shot in 70 mm format and output to digital format.

Saw Samsara on Blu-ray and yes the images are beautiful. But having access to all kinds of art and media digitally online, I wonder if films like this are even necessary today? Also, there was no theme or organization to the scenes. But my biggest pet peeve: nothing was titled. So one minute you’re watching a beautiful scene in well, is it Nepal? And the next you are in, is it Central America? Arizona? Next is flood-ravaged buildings. Is it New Orleans? You never know. I could see having the ability to turn this feature on/off depending on your experience. But to not have access at least to locations left me frustrated. I just didn’t see the point. 2 out of 5 for Samsara. Next.

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