Just Giblets

Little Seen Film of the Day – Last Life in the Universe

11th May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Last Life in the Universe

Last Life in the UniverseSurreal and dreamlike, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE features strikingly memorable imagery and strong performances by leads Tadanobu Asano, Sinitta Boonyasak, and Laila Boonyasak.  Asano is our central character, a librarian named Kenji, who is trying to commit suicide but is continuously interrupted until he ends up bonding with Noi, whose twin sister Nid is killed in a horrific car accident.  Kenji’s self-absorbed brother Yukio is yakuza — a Japanese gangster, has slept with his employer’s daughter and now has an assassin on his tail.  All this action also involves Noi and Nid, but when Nid is killed in the accident, Noi and Kenji spend time in Noi’s disastrously unkempt beach house.  Kenji spends his time cleaning the house, which Noi perceives as the house cleaning itself, but the two gradually fall in love until life, in form of the yakuza, intrude in their pseudo-idyllic fantasies.

I had seen Ratanaruang’s previous film, MONRAK TRANSISTOR, which was a wild, surreal musical, but he pulls it all together for LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE, which, while difficult to follow the plot, and decipher what is real and what is fantasy, comes together visually and emotionally as a powerful, and satisfying film.  Both Asano and Sinitta Boonyasak were nominated for Chlotrudis Awards for their roles, as was the film and the director, but on the whole, the American public missed this bizarre film completely.  Highly recommended.

posted in Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 6:29 am | 0 Comments
10th May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Kitchen Party

Kitchen PartyRevolving around two very different yet linked parties, Gary Burns’ sophomore film, KITCHEN PARTY cannily depicts the behaviors of suburban teens, and the more bitter and biting actions of their parents.  Scott decides to throw a party while his parents are out at a party of their own.  The problem is, Scott’s compulsive mother, whose discrete vacuum pattern on the carpeting is deliberate, and would be telling if the party spread any further than the kitchen, hence the film’s title.  The party includes Scott’s friends, hanging out, drinking, and the usual teen antics, and his girlfriend, Tammy, who plays a dangerous adolescent game flirting openly with Scott’s arch-nemesis, his brother Steve, who spends hours in the basement listening to loud rick & roll music.

Across town, several of the kids’ parents get together, get a little drunker than their kids, and things get even messier.  Their party runs a fine balance between the inadvertent, and yet pop-culture symbolism of over-sharing, and the sad fact that these people have very little to say to each other.  Instead, a fight ensues when Scott’ father suggests that another’s parent’s child is gay.  Naturally events at both parties spiral out of control, and it all wraps up with a terrifically absurd finale that seems somehow fitting.

KITCHEN PARTY features a young Scott Speedman in the lead role, who has gone on to enjoy a busy career in indie and Hollywood films, and television as well.  Girlfriend Tammy is played by Laura Harris, who also gained steady work including a lengthy stint on the television show “24.”

posted in Canada, Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 6:52 am | 0 Comments
9th May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Hollow Reed

Hollow ReedHOLLOW REED is a tough, British, family drama from 1996 about child abuse.  Oliver lives with his mother Hannah, and her boyfriend Frank.  He still spends time with his father, Martyn, a general practitioner, who becomes suspicious of Frank after Oliver suffers a series of mysterious injuries which he cannot adequately explain.  Eventually, Martyn is convinced of Frank’s abuse, despite Oliver’s silence, and Hannah’s refusal to believe such a thing, and he begins legal proceedings to obtain sole custody.  At this point, Hannah’s lawyer brings up Martyn’s gay relationship with Tom to prove that he is an unsuitable father figure.

Director Angela Pope brings up a lot of tough and frustrating issues in this well-constructed film written by Neville Bolt and Paula Milne.  Hal Hartley alum, Martin Donovan, is remarkable, British accent and all, as Martyn, a role quite unlike what he’d played to that point.  The rest of the cast, including Joley Richardson, Ian Hart and Jason Flemyng are all outstanding, especially young Sam Bould as Oliver, whose stoic, silence is powerfully offset by the hurt, fear, and confusion in his eyes.  It’s unfortunate that Pope’s filmmaking career didn’t go much further than this powerful film.

posted in Homo, Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 8:11 am | 0 Comments
8th May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Suspicious River

Suspicious RiverThis Canadian drama directed by Lynne Stopkewich (who made another great little seen film, KISSED) was based on a novel by Laura Kasischke.  It’s a harrowing tale of sexual dysfunction and violence centered on Leila, the hotel desk clerk of a remote roadside hotel.  Leila offers the hotel customers sex in exchange for money, and through this activity she meets Gary, who gets pretty rough with her during their first encounter.  When he returns to apologize, she accepts, finding that she enjoys being roughed up during sex.  Through a series of events, Leila and Gary grow closer, and her trust in him grows.

Leila’s only confidante is a young girl who plays around the inn.  This girl comes from a difficult family life and Leila is drawn to her.  As the film spirals to its intense climax, hidden secrets are revealed and Leila finds herself in deadly danger.  A revelation from her past shines light on her recent destructive behavior and she must fight for her life.

Stopkewich tackles pretty heave subject matter, and the film’s star, Molly Parker shows in this early film in her career, that she’s not afraid to tackle yet another taboo subject.  She turns in a powerful performance in this surreal and difficult film.

posted in Canada, Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 6:49 am | 0 Comments
7th May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day: Jellyfish

JellyfishJELLYFISH won the Golden Camera, and the Screenwriter’s Award at Cannes in 2007 when I saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival, but it was little seen here in the States.  The theme of JELLYFISH is disappointment. There are three central stories in JELLYFISH, involving three young women living in Israel. All three of these women have suffered severe disappointments, the first years ago during her childhood, another just a day ago at her wedding. Batya lives alone in a rundown apartment, working as a waitress for a wedding caterer and continuously being overlooked by her parents. Joy is a Filipina domestic who doesn’t speak Hebrew and is trying to raise enough money to return to the Philippines to be with her young son. Keren is just married to Michael, but their honeymoon has been curtailed after she ends up in a cast at an embarrassing accident at their reception. The three women’s stories intersect at various points of the film, and it isn’t until the conclusion that the theme of the film unfolds.

Directors Geffen and Keret employ gentle magical reslism, most notably in the form of a mysterious little girl who appears from out of the sea to Batya and leads her without speaking to a path of realization. To tell anymore of the plot would surely take away from the enjoyment of watching things play out while enjoying the film. This is a delightful film, worthy of the accolades it has already achieved, and definitely worth the time of anyone to see it.

posted in Film Festivals, Memes, Movies | at 7:51 am | 0 Comments
6th May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day: Colma: The Musical

Colma: The MusicalA charming if somewhat amateurish indie musical that tells the coming-of-age stories of three teenagers recently graduated from high school living in Colma, CA.  Billy, Rodel and Maribel are facing the challenges of young adulthood, and chasing their dreams.  Billy aspires to be a performer, and auditions for the regional musical where he meets a college student named Tara, who is also an aspiring actor.  Rodel is being raised by a single parent and is struggling with how to tell his father that he is gay.  Maribel just can’t figure out what to do with her life.  When Billy’s ambitions threaten to tear the three friends apart, all three must re-assess and find away to move on.

With its micro-budget and low production values, COLMA: THE MUSICAL is a tiny movie, but it has a really big heart.  The musical numbers are strong.  COLMA is the debut film by  Filipino-American H.P. Mendoza, who stars, co-wrote the screenplay, and wrote all the music and lyrics.  Director Richard Wong also co-wrote the film.  There aren’t a lot of films out there telling the Asian-American experience, and it’s nice to see one that is so fresh and accessible.  The film is far from perfect, but it’s a lot of fun and worth a screening.


posted in Homo, Memes, Movies, Musicals | at 7:52 am | 0 Comments
5th May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Blues for Willadean

Blues for WilladeanBLUES FOR WILLADEAN is not a perfect film – far from it.  However it’s got heart, it tells an important story that will resonate strongly with some, and it features amazing performances from three spectacular women that make a viewing worthwhile no matter what you think of the film as a whole.   Beth Grant is a fantastic character actor known for her comedic appearances in such films as DONNIE DARKO, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and most recently on the television show, “The Mindy Project.”  It’s incredibly rare to see Beth in a leading role, and a dramatic leading role to top things off.  And it’s wonderful to see.  Beth is a real talent, and she gets to show her stuff in this tough role for which she won all sorts of awards on stage.  Backed by Octavia Spencer and Dale Dickey, this is one power trio that knows how to infuse a movie with heart and soul.

Willadean is the wife of a blue collar truck driver, who attempts to escape the abusive prison she is trapped in.   She dreams of one day getting a job, supporting herself and reuniting with her son who has escaped to live his own life.  Her neighbor and best friend LaSonia does what she can, but as is often the case with domestic abuse, it is difficult to interfere, but with her own experiences with domestic violence driving her, LaSonia can’t stand by and do nothing.  Then there is new neighbor, Rayleen, who is the catalyst for Willadean’s final rebellion.  The three women, as well as Willadean’s husband, J.D. portray the different aspects of abuse with chilling truth.  But Shores wisely infuses the dark tale with plenty of humor, and it is those scenes of humor, that also show the women bonding, that are really powerful stuff.

posted in Beth Grant, Friends, Memes, Movies | at 6:16 am | 0 Comments
4th May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Whisky

WhiskyAmong my friends in the Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film, WHISKY is not a little seen film as it was a Buried Treasure nominee at the 12th annual Awards Ceremony in 2006.  But among non-Chlotrudians, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has heard of, much less seen this little film fromUruguay.  And that’s a shame, because it’s quite marvelous.

Jacob is the taciturn and solitary owner of a run-down sock factory, whose successful, younger brother, Hermán, is coming to visit from Brazil for the first time in years for their late mother’s Matzeivah ceremony (at which her tombstone will be unveiled).  Jacob asks Marta, his forewoman at the factory, if she will pose as his wife while his brother is in town.  With Hermán’s arrival it becomes clear that Jacob resents him for running off and becoming successful, while he cared for their mother in a nursing home rather than focusing on his own career.  Yet when Hermán asks Jacobo and Marta to accompany him on a visit to a seaside resort where they spent time as children, Marta is keen to go and Jacobo reluctantly agrees. During the holiday Marta and Herman grow closer. Jacobo remains cold and unemotional towards both the other characters and seems keen for the experience to end.

This charming film is short on dialogue and filled with subtle, black humor.  The characters manage to convey quite a bit despite their unexpressive faces and their minimal conversation.  Filmmakers Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll crafted an endearing story that yields great rewards if the viewer can manage to stick with it long enough.  Sadly, Rebella committed suicide at age 32.

posted in Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 9:11 am | 0 Comments
3rd May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Double Happiness

Double HappienssThis Canadian film is notable because it is Sandra Oh’s first feature film, released in 1994.  In DOUBLE HAPPINESS, directed by Mina Shum, Oh plays Jade the dutiful daughter of a very traditional Chinese family living in Canada.  Jade’s parents want nothing more than for Oh to marry a successful Chinese man and live a happy, prosperous life.  Jade’s desire to be an actress is frowned upon by her parents for its instability.  As Jade’s parents continuously find eligible Chinese bachelors for her to date, she finds herself living a double life, keeping the life that her parents wouldn’t approve of, such as her burgeoning romance with the slightly awkward and completely Caucasian English teacher (played by Callum Keith Rennie, in one of his first features) hidden from them.  Much of what drives Jade’s behavior is the fact that her older brother was disowned by her parents, a situation that causes them significant pain.  Naturally with such a delicate balance being played in secret, things are bound to be discovered, and so it is in DOUBLE HAPPINESS.

This was a great debut for Oh, who has since appeared in a number of Canadian and U.S. films, and achieved significant success on the television show “Gray’s Anatomy.”

posted in Canada, Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 6:22 am | 0 Comments
2nd May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – All Over Me

All Over MeAlex Sichel’s coming-of-age film, ALL OVER ME, is one of the plethora of earlyish LGBT films that focuses on the coming out experience, but it’s also one of the better ones.  Allison Folland (so compelling in TO DIE FOR) plays Claude, a teenage girl living in Hell’s Kitchen, struggling with her awakening sexuality.  She is in love with Ellen, a friend with whom she wants to start a punk band.  Problem is, Ellen has a boyfriend, and they may of may not have been involve with the death of a gay musician and neighbor of Claude’s.  The storyline focuses on Claude, in the throes of first love, doing everything she can to make Ellen understand how much she loves her without really saying it explicitly, while slowly realizing that Ellen is not the only person out there, and that there might be more suitable people to share her life with.

The tone is somber, and filled with the appropriate angst that any teen coming-of-age drama, especially one that involves homosexuality, should have.  In addition to Folland, the film stars Tara Subkoff and Cole Hauser, who both went on to successful film careers.  There aren’t a lot of U.S. gay films that I enjoy, and this is definitely one of them.  I was disappointed to see that director Alex Sichel didn’t really have much more of a career in film after this.  She clearly had talent, and I chalk it up o the challenge of making indie films focused on women.

posted in Homo, Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 6:32 am | 0 Comments
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