Showing posts with label Cinema. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cinema. Show all posts

March 2, 2013

Daren Kagasoff Will Star in Male Lead ‘Delirium'

Actor Daren Kagasoff, who plays hunk Ricky Underwood on the long-running ABC Family teen drama ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager’, has landed the male lead in the FOX drama pilot ‘Delirium’.
Kagasoff will play Alex, the forbidden love interest of Lena (Emma Roberts). He’s a uniformed police officer who on the surface appears tough, smug and a rigid enforcer of the government’s rules. Underneath, he’s a man with a secret agenda.
‘Delirium,’ based on the book by Lauren Olivier, is set in world where love is deemed illegal and is able to be eradicated with a special procedure. But with 95 days to go until her scheduled treatment, defiant teen Lena Holoway does the unthinkable and falls in love. Can’t blame her.. who wouldn’t fall in love with this hottie!
He’s 25.

October 7, 2012

Gay Cinema Comes To Brooklyn

James Lyons in Todd Haynes’ 1991 “Poison.” | BAMCINÉMATEK/ PHOTOFEST

BY GARY M. KRAMER(Gay City News |
 It’s been 20 years-plus since New Queer Cinema burst on the independent film scene and provided a voice for LGBT filmmakers. Many of the writer and directors were activists responding passionately to the anger and anxiety they felt in the age of AIDS. They often shot personal, semi-autobiographical stories on shoestring budgets to represent rarely seen queer identities.
These films — including Tom Kalin’s “Swoon,” Rose Troche’s “Go Fish,” and Todd Verow’s “Frisk” — were innovative, sometimes raw, and generally experimental. And they were enthusiastically embraced by audiences hungering for something different, something dangerous, something political, something personal, something joyous — and something queer.
“There was a real sense of possibility,” said filmmaker Ira Sachs about that heady time, in a recent phone interview. “You were making work that was important to you — not part of an industry. There were small aspirations, and we were inspiring each other. I knew Rose’s work and Todd Haynes’ work, and [out producer] Christine Vachon.”
Sachs likened his participation in this film world to “being a sophomore, where Todd and Christine were the seniors.” One only has to look at Sachs’ remarkable “Keep the Lights On” to see how far these New Queer Cinema filmmakers have come in the past two decades.
While much has changed — in both the queer and filmmaking communities since the early 1990s — there is something special about the films from this period. They have a gritty, DIY aesthetic that is ingratiating. They are heartfelt low-budget gems that speak to viewers thirsting for queer stories and characters. These were films audiences could appreciate, relate to, fantasize about, and even fall in love with.

The 25 shorts, features, and documentaries showcased at BAMcinématek’s October 9-16 “Born in Flames” series include many classic films from this incredibly vibrant period. Haynes’ influential film “Poison,” a triptych that investigates stories about outsiders, is paired with a stunning, erotic short “Sodom,” on Friday October 12 at 6:50 p.m.  
The series presents the first feature film by an African American lesbian, Cheryl Dunye’s “The Watermelon Woman” on Tuesday, October 9 at 6:50 p.m. This funny, sexy, and very clever mix of fiction, documentary, and direct address — the filmmaker calls her work “Dunye-mentaries” — considers identity politics, past, present, and future. Dunye directs herself as a young lesbian who makes a journey of self-discovery when she researches the life of Fae Richards, a fictional African-American actress who intrigues her.
Dunye spoke enthusiastically about her involvement in New Queer Cinema in a recent phone interview.
“It was about community,” she said. “It was a way of entering what it meant to be lesbian or gay. A multitude of voices were being heard for the first time. We had success — and we became visible. We were trying to express ourselves as artists in a medium that represented who we were sexually as well as who we were creatively.” 
Telling stories of queer African-American life was a critical component of New Queer Cinema, and two extremely important films depicting African-American gay male identity are paired at BAMcinématek –– Isaac Julien’s “Looking for Langston” and Marlon Riggs’ “Tongues Untied” on Monday, October 15 at 4:30 and 9:30 p.m. 
Marlon Riggs’ 1989 “Tongues Untied.” | BAMCINÉMATEK/ PHOTOFEST
Julien’s film is a luminously shot black and white tribute to Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. A vibrant, ecstatic, erotic love poem, “Looking for Langston” features archival footage and voiceover readings by the author along with atmospheric romantic scenes of breathless sexuality.  Riggs’ remarkable “Tongues Untitled” astutely mixes spoken word, personal testimonies, and music to celebrate gay black male identity, acknowledge racism, and even teach snap lessons, as it presents empowering voices of activism.
Empowered African-American queer men are also the subjects of “Paris Is Burning,” showingFriday, October 12 at 4:30 and 9:30 p.m. Jennie Livingston’s breakthrough documentary chronicles the men who participated in the fabulous drag balls in 1990 New York. The film deftly shows how issues of race, class, and sexuality influence the lives of these men of color who compete for “legendary” status by emulating the life and look of rich white people in America in underground ballroom circuit contests.
Issues of race, class, and sexuality are also at the core of Sachs’ impressive debut, “The Delta,” which screens Tuesday, October 16 at 9:30 p.m. This stylish mix of naturalism and realism is a sensitive portrait of a closeted white teenager, Lincoln (Shayne Gray), who befriends Minh (Thang Chan), the mixed-race son of African-American and Vietnamese parents. The boys’ clandestine relationship is provocative drama, and Sachs’ distinctive and effective approach to telling his semi-autobiographical story is to eavesdrop on the characters. It is a seductive technique that pulls viewers in and asks them to identify with — or confront — the unspoken issues the characters face.
Another notable film in the series is Gregg Araki’s totally enjoyable “Totally F****d Up,” which plays Saturday, October 13 at 6:50 p.m. Araki addresses the topic of queer teens and suicide rates by documenting the lives of a handful of friends. The characters speak candidly — to each other and directly to the camera — about sex. They take drugs and listen to punk rock, their teen angst and nihilism both effectively conveyed. Seen today, the film is surprisingly fresh and funky, despite some dated elements.
In an email exchange, Araki admitted his films from the New Queer Cinema era — which includes the classic HIV-positive lovers on the run flick, “The Living End” — were “totally a product of that time and that sensibility — very queer and very new wave. Like all Queer New Wave films, I think ‘Totally F****ed Up’ is an amazing artifact of a really important and significant time in our culture.”
Another enfant terrible, Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, is represented here by “No Skin off My Ass,” which depicts the relationship between a hairdresser and a skinhead. It playsSaturday, October 13 at 9:15 p.m.
LaBruce also expressed his thoughts about “New Queer Cinema” via email, observing, “The New Queer Cinema outbreak was kind of short-lived, which makes sense because at the time it was new. If it continued, it would have had to be called Old Queer Cinema. All the filmmakers lumped together in that group went in pretty different directions… but the audience continues to expand.”
These films had tremendous influence on the medium and on their creators themselves. This is why these shorts, features, and documentaries deserve to be reconsidered two decades later. It is critical that audiences see these films — again or for the first time — so they can understand and appreciate the achievement and lasting impact these filmmakers and their work contributed.
BORN IN FLAMES | BAM Rose Cinemas | Brooklyn Academy of Music | 30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Pl. | Oct. 9-16 | Screenings are  $12 |

October 5, 2012

Queer Cinema } The Gay Experience and Everything it Involves

(A still from Ira Sachs' Keep the Lights On. Photograph: Jean Christophe Husson)
Ira Sach's new film, Keep the Lights On, follows the decade-long relationship between two men who meet on a New York phone-sex line in 1998. It includes explicit sex and copious drug use; it also includes domestic squabbles, quotidian work hassles and meals with friends, straight and gay. No one comes out or dies, and everything is shown with the same fluid, elegant transparency. "I feel very few films convey the communal nature of urban life these days, the lack of boundaries," Sachs says. "'Those are the gays over there' – that's not how we live any more."
Keep the Lights On is at once very good and conspicuously ordinary. Like several other recent features about gay characters by gay directors, it deploys naturalism – often shooting handheld in found locations and using performances that smack of improvisation – to tell a story rooted in psychological specificity, but with universal resonance. Andrew Haigh'sWeekend, released last year to widespread acclaim, used a similar approach with its story of two guys hanging out after meeting in a Nottingham club. And Travis Mathews's forthcoming I Want Your Loveexplores a twentysomething San Francisco artist's social circle in a comparable style. It's a peculiarly powerful mode that represents a welcome shift in queer cinema – an embrace of the real.
Substantial representations of unambiguously gay characters were rare on film before the 1980s. Just as shoots were showing through – 1982'sMaking Love was a watershed – the Aids crisis derailed gay life and its representation. The on-screen reaction of the late 80s and 90s came to be known as New Queer Cinema: film-makers such as Gus Van Sant, Todd Haynes and Gregg Araki responded to the threats of terminal illness, political disenfranchisement and social exclusion with expressionistic films in which poetry met porn, genre pastiche rubbed up against surrealism and apocalypse came in a pop-culture package. Their radical instability reflected their context.
In the 1990s, reality stabilised thanks to breakthroughs in Aids treatment and progress in legal recognition. Political and aesthetic sensibilities began to take a back seat to story and character. Challenges such as being openly gay or dealing with HIV, though still present, were more readily absorbed into conventional film-making. For Hollywood, the weepy problem movie was the form of choice (hello, Philadelphia!) but low-budget, gay-produced indies settled on the romantic comedy. The success of Jeffrey (US, 1995) and Beautiful Thing (UK, 1996) set a template for upbeat, accessible features for which LGBT film festival and home-video audiences constituted a viable market. Arguably, too viable: more titles were turned out, formula set in, then mediocrity; 2006 saw the production of a parody of such films, Another Gay Movie, which in turn spawned Another Gay Sequel. Assimilationist works for assimilationist times.
There are exceptions to these generalisations, and huge differences between New Queer Cinema's activist expressionism and the generic populism that succeeded it. But both could be seen in terms of a reality deficit. "You can look at queer film-making in the past 20 years and say we often reverted to using metaphor as a way of telling our stories and avoided the stories themselves," says Sachs. He has done the opposite: Keep the Lights On is autobiographical, revisiting in often excruciating detail the relationship between Sachs and his former partner, a crack-addicted book editor. Compulsion and codependency, deception and desperation lace the narrative, but there are no heroes or villains and no melodrama. "I wanted to invert the secretive nature of the story by making a film that was very open," Sachs says, faithful to the small, telling details of these experiences.
There is an element of wish-fulfilment to romantic comedies, suggests Haigh, "of wanting to see happy, well-adjusted lives on screen". Mathews agrees: "Like any minority group, when you start making your own media it might be really exciting just to see representations of yourself," he says. "I don't want to sound like an asshole, but a lot of movies got greenlit because of representation regardless of the quality of the work. People are hungry now for stories that respect their level of intelligence and their actual experience."
Weekend and I Want Your Love developed independently, but simultaneously. "I suppose there was a frustration that came from the kind of queer films we were seeing at festivals and wanting to do something that we felt represented the real lives of gay people," Haigh says. "They were showing a world I knew nothing about – a superficial, frothy romcom look at gay life. You want to be able to describe the gay experience in all its complexity without worrying that your film has to represent a community."
These film-makers seek to describe the experience of being queer today through stories that resonate beyond that context. There can be a perception among straight people that the troubles of non-straights are over, at least in the west. Sachs, however, stresses the lifelong consequences of growing up queer. "Individually, we're still affected on a day-to-day level by having discovered our sexuality with fear and shame and self-hatred. My film documents that. On the other hand, my identity is not questioned on a daily basis in the way that it was 20 years ago. I'm not so troubled by identity, so nor are my films."
Haigh too says: "It was important to show [in Weekend] that there are still lots of subtle things we have to overcome. No gay person would say everything's fine now. But we can move away from the big issues and go a few layers deeper, which makes the films more accessible to a lot of people because they're about more universal issues. These characters' struggles aren't just about being gay – they're trying to connect with someone, to sort out what to do with their lives."
These films share a frank approach to sex. The intimate scenes in Weekend and Keep the Lights On highlight how perverse it is that most films about couples neglect this aspect of relationships. "I wanted to depict sexual behaviour as it is," says Sachs. "It's a part of everyday behaviour, even if people often compartmentalise it. There's a continuity of experience in the film."
"If you're trying to do an honest depiction of a relationship, sex is part of that," says Haigh. "There have been a lot of queer films with sex in them and a lot of it has been for titillation or out of happiness that we can show gay sex on screen at all. For me, it's part of the story you're trying to tell rather than a case of trying to shoehorn sex scenes in for their own sake."
Mathews's feature has more – and more graphic – sex scenes than Haigh's or Sachs's. The sex in I Want Your Love is plentiful, explicit and unsimulated but also illuminating in terms of numerous characters' relationships with one another. "There's so much communication, so much information exchanged between two people when they're having or attempting to have sex," he says. "It surprises me it's not played with more as a story or character device."
Mathews had already explored sex as subject matter in a series of documentary shorts called In Their Room, which helped him secure funding for I Want Your Love from porn studio NakedSword. Given the near-impossibility of finding mainstream backing for a film with such hardcore content, he had few qualms about getting into bed with the company. "I knew the people involved and how much creative freedom I was going to have," he says, "and it was an extension of what I was already doing [with In Their Room]. I knew I was going to deliver something that was going to provoke arguments over whether it was art or porn, and I hoped it would encourage other projects within the porn world that pushed those boundaries." It remains to be seen whether that will happen.
Not that gay directors have a monopoly on explicit sex, as Steve McQueen and Lars von Trier's recent projects show; James Franco has approached Mathews about collaborating. Indeed, Sachs stresses the importance of non-gay influences on his work: as well as Fassbinder, Pasolini and Jarman, he was inspired by Cassavetes, Dogme and Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine; Haigh also cites the influence of recent straight "low-budget American cinema trying to do something more realistic".
In a queer context, Mathews suggests these movies are "picking up where things like Making Love left off. Aids put things on hold – turned things urgent and political and experimental. We're going back to measuring everyday life." Strikingly provocative slice-of-life antecedents include Ron Peck and Paul Hallam's Nighthawks (UK, 1978) and Frank Ripploh's Taxi Zum Klo (West Germany, 1980).
There is nothing new under the sun. But in uncertain times for both cinema as an art form and queerness in mainstream culture, it is heartening to see talented, ambitious film-makers embracing the real – mess and all. As Haigh puts it: "We're not afraid now to tell stories about flawed gay individuals who are fully rounded characters and just as fucked up about life as everyone else."
• Keep the Lights On is at the London film festival on 16 and 17 October and is released in the UK on 2 November. Weekend is out on DVD and Blu-ray. I Want Your Love will be released next year.

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