When it’s decision time about what to rent or stream over the Thanksgiving holiday, the choices are limitless. Unfortunately, some titles get overlooked.
With that in mind, here are short takes on a couple of recent LGBTQ-themed features released by Breaking Glass Pictures along with two gems available from Wolfe Releasing.
“My Best Friend”: Essential in crafting a successful coming-of-age drama is the creation of characters that are interesting and a storyline that is evocative, even provocative. Filmmaker Martin Deus and his talented young cast (Angelo Mutti Spinetta and Lautaro Rodriguez) have done just that with a poignant tale about unanticipated friendships and sexual discovery. When the troubled son (Rodriguez) of a family friend moves in, bookworm Lorenzo (Spinetta) finds his sheltered, lonely and well-organized life in a Patagonian town getting disrupted in important ways. Deus adopts a low-key approach, but still navigates his story into some tough territories. It’s always authentic and forever true to its characters. Watch it and you’ll see why it has a 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. (Available to rent on Google Play)
“My Big Gay Italian Wedding”: The title of director Alessandro Genovesi’s bubbly romantic comedy perfectly sums up the persuasive predictability of this breezy, if minor confection based on an Off-Broadway show. The nuptials of two Berlin-based lovers (Dino Abbrescia and Cristiano Caccamo) in a small Italian village where one grew up triggers introspection, unresolved relationships and, of course, family drama. Undemanding in every way, it’s an upbeat crowd-pleaser. (Available for rent on Google Plus, iTunes, Vudu, Vimeo)
“Anchor & Hope”: Two lovers (Oona Chaplin and Natalia Tena) who live unfettered by commitments on a wandering houseboat in London consider having a baby, a decision that leads to rough waters ahead. Carlos Marques-Marcet’s feature anchors itself around a group of fine performances, including one from Geraldine Chaplin. (Available on various platforms)
“Mario”: Two of soccer’s rising stars become roommates and lovers in Marcel Gisler’s sexy, realistic story that illustrates how athletes are urged to stay in the closet. Leads Max Hubacher and Aaron Altaras are sensational in a heartbreaking drama that’s exceptionally well-directed. (Available on various platforms)
The Mill Valley Film Festival winds up its first weekend today and there’s something to appeal to any cinematic appetite.
But let’s talk about yesterday first.
A slew of celebs swept Saturday through downtown Mill Valley and San Rafael, while the Mind the Gap Summit kicked off with a panel addressing “Conscious Inclusion in Film and Tech.”
As for the stars, Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, director Felix Groeningen and writers David and Nic Sheff appeared at a packed special presentation of “Beautiful Boy” at the Christopher Smith Rafael Film Center. Many scenes featured in this true story based on the memoirs about the struggles of a father and son as the son becomes addicted to meth were filmed in the Bay Area.
Over at the Sequoia Theater in Mill Valley, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer and Denis O’Hare were stunning on the red carpet for the national premiere of their “The Parting Glass,” a personal story about the aftermath of suicide. O’Hare wrote it and Moyer directed it.
Today, the festival hosts numerous screenings and spotlights, including one focused on “The Hate U Give’s” Amandla Stenberg and another on “Boy Erased’s” Joel Edgerton. Can’t wait to see “The Hate U Give.”
Which movies should you see? Here are my recs of the ones I’ve watched.
“Boy Erased”: Lucas Hedges again delivers a knockout performance, sensitively portraying a young man sent to a gay conversion camp after he announces to his religious parents (Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe) that he is gay. Edgerton wrote, costars and directs with an observant, perceptive eye, one that’s focused on the devastating effects and a family’s path to healing and understanding. Based on a true story. (Oct. 7, Oct. 9)
“El Angel”: The soulless evil that lurks behind the angelic looks of a teen gets plumbed in a disturbing portrait of a cold-hearted thief and killer. Set in the ‘70s in Argentina, director Luis Ortega’s journey benefits from strong performances and a striking view of the period. (Oct. 7, Oct. 8)
Another one not to miss is the world premiere of “Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn?” Here’s a link to my take on this documentary with UC-Berkeley ties.
Finally, if you haven’t seen “The Favourite,” the latest from one of the most unique and exciting storytellers working today — Yorgos (“The Lobster”) Lanthimos — you have on more shot at the fest to be amazed by this twisted period piece about a tug-of-war for Queen Anne’s affections and time. Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman give a trio of Oscar-caliber performances, with Colman’s standing ever so tall. The mesmerizing film is Top 10 material by a long shot; it screens again Oct. 10.
The Mill Valley Film Festival enters its first full weekend and there’s a tempting menu worth devouring.
Here are some of my must-see recommendations.
“Little Woods”: This sobering character-driven drama captures the claustrophobic plight of a North Dakota woman (Tessa Thompson) trying to remain legit after getting busted for dealing prescription drugs. A domino chain of no-win circumstances test her and her sister’s resolve in Nia DaCosta’s remarkable feature debut. WINNER of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle Best Indie Narrative Feature in the Mind the Gap initiative. (Screens: Oct. 6 and 11)
“All These Small Moments”: Melissa Miller Costanzo presents Molly Ringwald with one of her juiciest roles in years in a perceptive coming-of-age story about a family grappling with marital issues while a teenaged son crushes hard on an enigmatic woman he meets on a bus. “Small Moments” has a big payoffs. (Oct. 6 and Oct. 7)
“22 July”: The first 30 minutes of this unsettling docudrama are excruciatingly painful to watch, horrifically recreating the 2011 Norway massacre perpetrated by a lone extremist that left scores of teens and adults dead at a summer camp and, in a separate attack, others outside of the Prime Minister’s Office. Paul (“United 93”) Greengrass ventures into the aftermath, showing us the unrepentant killer’s trial along wit one young man’s struggle back from death. .It’s too long, but it is powerful. ( Oct. 6, Oct. 9)
Two films in this year’s Frameline film festival passionately address the issue of homophobia in sports and how athletes are encouraged to stay in the closet. One is a documentary, the other a narrative feature.
“Alone in the Game” is a slickly produced and well-made documentary that is filled with insightful interviews from LGBTQ athletes. Olympic medalist Gus Kenworthy and soccer player Robbie Rogers are just a few of the notable stars who talk candidly about the stifling culture and their decisions to come out. It screens June 23 at the Castro and airs June 28 on DirecTV
“Mario” (screening again June 23 at the Victoria), on the other hand, is not only one of the best international narrative features in the festival (it’s from Switzerland), but one of the best LGBTQ-themed films I’ve seen in 2018
Max Hubacher stars as the title character, a driven soccer player with an overly invested father and an unwavering ambition to hit the big time. Once Max becomes roommates with the confident and handsome new player Leon (Aaron Altaras), he finds himself becoming more and more attracted to his less tightly wound fellow player. Complications arise when gossip spreads about their ensuing relationship, a major concern to sponsors, agents and a few other players.
Marcel Gisler’s exquisite drama never hits a false note as it intensely and intimately captures the internal pain and external pressures that both of these young lovers experience. It’s a moving feature about being an athlete and enduring influences that encourage leading a double, hollow life in order to achieve your dreams for playing a sport you love.
One of the pleasures of being a critic is discovering a filmmaker you not only admire but know will be a force in the years to come.
Such is the case with Zack Wilcox, director of the icy, intense and well-made neo-noir “Hunting Lands.”
Wilcox takes his cues from the Coen Brothers and Hitchcock with this voyeuristic thriller about reclusive ex-war vet Frank Olsen (Santa Rosa’s Marshall Cook) stumbling upon the dumping of a woman’s body. Olsen succumbs to his old ways, observing and inviting into his lair the man who did the dirty deed. It’s a “Fargo”-like experience.
While “Lands” slips a bit in its final act, it is — for the most part — a mesmerizing, bracing feature set in the frozen, isolated upper area of Michigan. The first 15 minutes are wordless and wave a distinctive spell.
“Lands” plays tonight at Cinequest. It is one of the best films I’ve seen in the festival.
(Show sat 5:50 p.m. Saturday, March 3 at the Century 20 Redwood City, Screen 11
If Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri” makes you uncomfortable, it has entirely accomplished it’s job.
Beautifully written and observed, it’s a masterpiece. I don’t say that lightly. So many insults have been hurled at this film, and I ask those people to watch it again. There are no superheroes, no saviors…just realistic portrayals of flawed people with so much grey you would think that a storm front is blowing through. And let’s get real now. “Get Out” is so much better than “Lady Bird.” I mean, really?
Hope you do see this film. It will make you squirm. Make you uncomfortable. Above all, it will make you think long after you leave the theater.
Love this film. It’s ingenious. Just as his “In Bruges” was. Go see it. Support films that rattle us.