Moving Pictures from an Institution: Movie notes

Four films linked by a really depressing theme!Scum: Our institution: a 1970s Borstal (juvenile prison). Does exactly what it says on the tin, not quite two hours of violence and contempt. The use of rules as abuse, creating impossible demands (guard throws a prisoner back into his cell, spilling the guy's mug of soup, then snaps: "Dirty cell, you're on report"); use of prisoners' self-created hierarchies to divide and conquer. The scenes where suicidal prisoners are mocked and beaten are... … [Read more...]

From Girlhood to Sublimity: Watching “The Fits” Again

It is the last dream of children: to be forever untouched.--Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name The AFI Silver theater in Silver Spring is doing this terrific series where they feature movies from the past year that you might have missed. I believe The Witch is later this week and yes, go see The Vvitch, it's vvonderful. (It's vvreally sad!) But what I saw in this series was The Fits, Anna Rose Holmer's extraordinary feature debut. It was the best movie I saw last year and now that … [Read more...]

Taking the Rough with the Smooch: Movie notes

A couple quick hits before we move to our main event, viz. a trip back in time to Gay 1986.Habit: Do you like artsy bisexual '90s vampire movies, but found Nadja too cold, The Addiction too smart, and everybody too good-looking? Boy do I have a film for you. Habit follows a startlingly disheveled and run-down dropout type (writer/director/star Larry Fessenden) as he meets a cute early-'90s chick at a party and begins to wonder why people are disappearing. The direction is really sharp--the … [Read more...]

I review “I Am Michael,” The James Franco Ex-Gay Biopic

for America: For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.”As James Franco vehicles go, “I Am Michael” may be the James Franco-iest. Directed by Justin Kelly and based on a true story, “I am Michael” follows a gay activist who finds Jesus and proclaims himself no longer gay. The film dedicates equal time to threesome makeout scenes and chapter-and-verse Bible q … [Read more...]

“‘Roe’s’ Missing Stories”: I’m at First Things

playwatching: Roe, the new play from Lisa Loomer about the woman at the heart of the 1973 Supreme Court case legalizing abortion, is much like its main subject: easily distracted, unbalanced, but undeniably compelling. Roe (at Arena Stage in Washington, DC through February 18) at first suggests that it will be a story of two women. The play opens with Norma “Jane Roe” McCorvey (Sara Bruner) and lawyer Sarah Weddington (Sarah Jane Agnew) speaking in unison. We're encouraged to think that their l … [Read more...]

No Horror But the Class Horror: Short movie reviews with an unexpected theme

Compulsion: The other, other Leopold and Loeb flick (after Rope and Swoon, although idk, maybe Swoon is one of those things Only 90s Kids Will Remember) and it's definitely worth watching if that sounds like your bag. Unlike Rope, Compulsion focuses on the social context: Prohibition--the law that everybody was above!--and the Golden Age of the gutter press. The KKK burning a cross outside the Clarence Darrow-analogue's window. The fake surnames in this one are super Jewish, is what I'm … [Read more...]

“Tenderness in Moonlight”: I’m at First Things

reviewing a movie, and also contemporary American Christian masculinity: Years ago I was reading testimonies from people who had experienced abusive corporal punishment. One man reached adulthood before he was able to give the right name to something for which he was frequently beaten. His parents had called it a lot of things, but the true name of his crime was “tenderness.”Moonlight, written and directed by Barry Jenkins from a story by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, tells the story of … [Read more...]