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
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
1st May 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Or (My Treasure)

Or (My Treasure)For fans of bleak foreign films that make you want to slit your wrists when you’re finished, don’t miss this hard-hitting, powerful film by Israeli director Keren Yedaya. Or is a hard worker. She collects discarded recyclable bottles, goes to school, and works washing dishes in her neighbor’s restaurant. She uses the money she collects from her bottle returns to buy food for her mother, who is just being released from a clinic. This mother-daughter family is struggling to make ends meet on the sporadic incomes of Or’s job. Oh, Or’s mother Ruthie works as well: as a prostitute, and while her work can occasionally bring in some money, Or is doing everything she can to get Ruthie to quit the business. She even goes so far as to find her mother a job cleaning the house of a wealthier (an slightly eccentric) mother of a friend. The problem is, while Ruthie loves her daughter, and realizes her chosen profession tears Or apart, she doesn’t really seem to want to stop. To complicate matters, Or is quite popular with the boys, and is pretty sexually active. Yedaya plainly shows us the difficulties life throws at these two women, and some of the joys as well. But it’s all short lived, as we can tell from the tone of the film. And the film spirals toward an inevitable conclusion despite possibilities that convince us that things might work out all right.

The talented actress Ronit Elkabetz is tragic and flawed as Ruthie. Young Dana Ivgy is heart breaking as Or, struggling mightily against forces beyond her ability to control. Yedaya bathes her film in realism, and many scenes seem so raw, naked and personal that I felt uncomfortable viewing them.

posted in Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 6:58 am | 0 Comments
30th April 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Beijing Bicycle

Beijing BicycleBEIJING BICYCLE is a startling film that begins as a charming, warm-hearted tale of a country boy struggling to cope with life in the big city of Beijing, and ends as a cynical, pointed look at today’s society, and the hardened values that are needed to survive. Guei is the central character, a young man, recently transplanted from the country, who finds work as a bicycle messenger. Just as he is about to pay-off his new bike, it is stolen. When he finds Jian, a school boy from the city, riding his bicycle things become very complicated. The bicycle is certainly a ubiquitous symbol in China, as they fill the streets and quickly become essential possessions for these two young men. The startling, and serious ending to this film really draws out the thought and discussion.

Director Xiaoshuai Wang has made several films since 2001’s BEIJING BICYCLE, but I have not seen any of them.  I would be curious to see some of his other films.  He does a remarkable job in this film making a compelling films whose central characters are difficult to relate to.  Lead actress Xun Zhou has starred in several Asian films including SUZHOU RIVER and BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS

posted in Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 6:30 am | 0 Comments
29th April 2014
by Michael

Little Seen Film of the Day – Apartment Zero

Apartment ZeroAPARTMENT ZERO is a most unusual film that made a big impression on me when I saw it in the late 80’s.  Written and directed by Martin Donovan (who later went on to write DEATH BECOMES HER), this combo black comedy/thriller stars Colin Firth as Adrian, a repressed and socially awkward Brit living in Argentina who is struggling to make ends meet operating a repertory theatre with a dwindling audience while paying for the care of his mother in a home.  Despite his social anxiety, he is forced to look for a roommate, and after a series of unsuitable possibilities, settles on the ruggedly handsome Jack, played by Hart Bochner, with whom he is instantly attracted to physically.  The two start up an bizarre relationship, with Adrian intrigued by the charismatic Jack, but more unexpectedly, Jack seeming to share a similar affection for Adrian.

Adrian’s neighbors in the apartment building are an eccentric bunch who immediately take a liking to Jack after being repeatedly rebuffed socially by Adrian, several of which both male and female, become physically involved with Jack.  Adrian resents the connections Jack is making with the neighbors, and begins to put demands on his accommodating roommate.  Adrian’s friend Claudia is involved with a political committee that’s investigating a series of murders that bear a striking resemblance to those committed by members of death squads that operated in Argentina in the 70s.  When she discovers a possible tie between Jack and these death squads, a confrontation between the two leads the film into a violent spiral of revelations and twisted actions.

When I saw APARTMENT ZERO I still wan’t out to many people as a gay man, and the homoerotic undertones of the film fascinated me.  The black humor is exceptionally handled, and the performances by the two leads are terrific, especially Firth as the repressed Adrian.  Sadly, the theatrical cut contained more homoerotic content that was edited from the home video version.  I’m not sure if that version is available to screen.

posted in Homo, Memes, Movies, Nostalgia | at 7:04 am | 0 Comments
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