Wednesday, June 12, 2019

What about straight pride? And other fun facts

The first "Pride Parade" was celebrating a police riot started by trans women of colour.  Stonewall was a riot against the police. This is part of why so many people are uncomfortable with police at Pride.  There's a long history and in most cities there still is a lot of police hostility and aggression toward queer people all of the rest of the year.

Pride is not for everyone! That's ok! The goal is not and never has been to be for everyone, or about "loving and accepting everyone!" It is a highly political celebration of defiance for continuing to exist even when people keep trying to murder you. Kind of like Hanukah.

It is for queer/rainbow/lgbt+/umbrella-term-of-your-choice people. This does not include cis het kinksters, allies, or people who just really like rainbows! This does include asexuals, aromantics, anyone who falls even partially under the trans umbrella, bisexuals, pansexuals, and anyone who considers themselves queer! Even if they're in what appears to be a "heterosexual relationship". The gender of their partner does not define their sexuality or gender.

"What, so you're saying because I'm cis and heterosexual that I can't/shouldn't go to pride?" No! Not at all! I'm saying that you need to understand that you are not the target demographic. You are not the person it is for. If you go just be mindful of that fact, and don't center it on you. Think of it like going to a friend's wedding of a different culture than your own. It isn't about you, you are there as a guest to participate and enjoy another culture's traditions, and you're going to defer to the members of that culture while there.

"What about Straight Pride?" No one has tried to kill heterosexuals for being heterosexuals. There have not been mass shootings or legislation against them existing, or getting married. People recognize their personhood! That's good! Also, Straight Pride is being organized by Nazis. I find a really helpful litmus test of "Is this something I want nothing to do with and should be actively against?" to be "Are nazis for it?"

"Ok so what does wearing glitter booty shorts and a feather boa on a float have to do with survival?" Pride is a celebration of life, and presence. Sometimes that involves nipples.

"So, what should I do to celebrate Pride?" FIGHT THE SYSTEM. No, really. Call your reps about systematic injustice. When people make shitty bigoted jokes, don't laugh along. Call it out, and if you can't do that, a flat cringe and "wow, so, anyways" can do wonders. Don't go to businesses that are bigoted. Support queer artists and creators. Buy their stuff, promote their stuff, not the corporations wearing rainbows. When queer people talk about their experiences, listen. Donate to queer organizations! Punch nazis! Brush up on bystander intervention so if you see someone getting harassed, you can use your privilege to help!

Have a happy (and political!) Pride!

(This is an edit of a Facebook post I wrote ages ago.)

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Things to Keep In Mind Going Into Pride

Time for Another Educational Post for Pride! Here's some things to keep in mind going into Pride Month

Pride started with Stonewall, which was a riot against the police by poor trans WOC.
Because of this, Pride is inherently political.
This is also a big part of the reason people don't want police at Pride (it gets more complicated, but that's a post for another day).

"Why are people half naked at Pride? How is that political?" Pride is a lot of things to a lot of people. One of those is a celebration of resilience. People have and continue to try to kill us, and failed. We're still here. Sometimes celebrating life involves having a picnic with loved ones. Sometimes it involves standing on a float in a rainbow g-string throwing condoms and glitter out to a crowd.

People who are not cis gay/cis lesbians belong at Pride. Anyone under the queer umbrella belongs there. That includes aro/ace folks, that includes heterosexual trans folks, that includes bi/pan/any other sexuality and gender that is not hetero/cis.

If you are cis het and want to go to Pride, remember that it Isn't About You. That's a good thing! It means no one has been trying to murder or systematically deprive you for your sexuality or gender! Go, enjoy, support your queer friends! Resist the urge to center it on yourself.
If you are cis/het and go to Pride a good way to be supportive is putting yourself between bigots and the people they would harass. Look into by-standard intervention. Film cops that are giving people a hard time (DOUBLY SO IF THEY ARE A POC).

A lot of people set up shop at Pride events, try to support queer artists/shops with your money rather than hetero "allies" and corporations.

Remember to be safe, have fun, and punch nazis!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Queer Words

With Pride starting tomorrow, I'm going to do a string of Educational Posts. Today, we're doing some vocabulary for orientations and gender! Suggestions and requests for future topics are welcome. I am not most of the things on this list, so if you see one that applies to you that I didn’t get Quite Right, please tell me and I’ll edit in corrections. Please feel free to share this, just don't remove credit.

Heterosexual (hetero) - Base word hetero, based on the Greek word for different. Attraction to different genders.

Cisgender (cis) - Base word, cis, is Latin for "same side". People who identify with their gender as assigned as birth. So, if you popped out and they said "Congrats, it's a girl!" and you're like "Yeah ok" you're cis!

Cis Het – A combination of the two above, and as almost all umbrella terms refer to “not these things” I wanted to be very clear on this one.

Homosexual (homo) - Base word homo, meaning same. People attracted to the same gender.
Gay (so many other terms) - Means "happy" and usually refers to men attracted to other men. It is also often used as an umbrella term for not cis het folks (EX: Gay rights, gay marriage) to keep things nice and confusing!
Lesbian – “From the island of Lesbos” aka where Sappho, a poet known for writing love poetry about other women is from. Despite being known as “the biggest lesbian to ever lesbian” Sappho was actually bi, fun fact!

Queer – Means strange, and is an umbrella term for “not cis het” with a lot of baggage. Historically it’s been a slur, but has been reclaimed since. However due to said history a lot of people have mixed and complicated feelings about it. Some people like it because it’s provocative and has history, other’s dislike it for those same reasons.

Bisexual (bi) – Base word meaning “two”, the Official Definition By Bis is “two or more” or “same and different”. This does NOT mean “man and woman” because those are not the only genders, and it is possible for a bisexual to be attracted to women and non-binary folks but not men and they are still bi. I’ll do a longer form post on bisexuals and pansexuals later.

Pansexual (pan) – Base word meaning “all”. Meaning just that, they are attracted to all genders. Many folks will use bi and pan as SELF IDENTIFIERS for themselves interchangeably, but not everyone does, so be aware and respectful about that.

Asexual (Ace) – Little to no sexual attraction or desire. That does not mean they however that they don’t have ROMANTIC attraction (there will be another more in depth post on the difference between sexual and romantic attraction later)

Aromantic (aro) – Little to no romantic attraction or desire. They don’t want to date anyone.

Aro ace – Aromantic asexuals, they have no use for tinder and sound like fighter pilots.

Demisexual (demi) – Root word is half, or less. These folks are on the ace spectrum and do not experience sexual attraction before having some sort of mental or emotional connection. You will often see things like “demisexual biromantic” which roughly translates to “I am open to dating multiple genders but we’re gonna go slow kay?”

Gray asexual (gray ace) – Some but not much sexual attraction.
Transgender – Root word for “across”, someone who does not agree with their assigned at birth gender. So when they popped out the doctor was like “It’s a girl!” and they’re like “Nah”. Also used as an umbrella term for “not cis”

Trans man/Trans woman – Men and women who are trans. Two words. “Isn’t transgender one word?” yeah I know English is fake. Also the consensus was compounding it distanced them from other people of their gender so, two words.

Non binary (NB) – Someone who does not fall within one of the binary (male/female) genders. Often used as a smaller umbrella within the trans umbrella.

Agender – A lack of gender. Genderless. They reject your concept of gender and are using that space to store snacks.

Gender fluid – Gender is inherently fluid, but for these people it flows more quickly and to wider extremes than most folks. So, depends on the day, you should ask.

Gender nonconforming (GNC) – These people do not subscribe to a binary gender.

Demiboy/Demigirl – Almost but not QUITE whatever the second part is. If gender is a scale of 1-10, with 1 and 2 being men, and 9 and 10 being women, with 4-7 being most non-binary genders, demigenders would be the 3 and 8.

Two Spirit – A term used to describe Native gender concepts that don’t map to European binary gender concepts. Wiki page below.

LGBTQA2s – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer (and/or questioning), Asexual (NOT ALLY), and Two Spirit

If there are any terms you’ve seen floating around that I don’t go over here that you think I should cover, let me know and I’ll try to add them in!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Death Note: Rules, principles, and the purpose of a remake

Oh, hello friends.  I didn't see you there.  Please, come in.  At the time of writing, I just finished watching the Death Note remake on Netflix and it proved to be the perfect material to break the ice on this long-forgotten snark platform of ours.

(I wish I could say this is the start of regular blogging here again, but that tragically seems unlikely.  I do have a twitter now, and of course the blogqueen has been tweeting prolifically for years.  We'll see if I can follow in her illustrious keysteps.)

Death Note (The American One, Mostly)

(Content: death, murder, sexual assault, misogyny.  Fun content: that depends on how much you missed me.)

I feel like any adaptation--whether it's book to film, or a series reboot or reimagining, whatever--has two extra criteria for judgment that original creations can ignore: 
  1. Does this story stand on its own, without already knowing the source material? 
  2. What value did the adapters get by changing whatever they changed?
And I feel like, regardless of one's opinions on the original story, the American Death Note fails completely on both of these points.  Its protagonist, Light, is changed in bizarre ways that sabotage the thesis of the original, while the supporting leads Mia and L are burdened with new rubbish flaws all too typical for the treatment of women and black men in US cinema.

Death Note (as in 'notebook') started out as a hit manga, which got turned into a hit anime, which got turned into a bunch of other supplementary materials and movies and such, all of which were Japanese and all telling the same core story of high school student Light Yagami, who gains magical murder powers and gets into a years-long battle of wits with law enforcement as he slaughters hundreds of criminals for the supposedly greater good.  It was far from perfect, but it was compelling and creative, telling a story of a seeming paragon of his community who didn't need to be corrupted--he just needed the opportunity to be evil and he'd drag himself down without a blink.  In the name of saving the world from dangerous criminals, he'd kill innocent people to cover his trail, to protect himself, or just to make a point.  He'd manipulate people's emotions, twist and control them, sure of his own perfection and his justified ends.

Light Yagami is a model student, a star athlete, an Encyclopedia Brown-grade genius who helps his cop father solve crimes, and gorgeous heartthrob with legions of girls swooning over him.  He might have gone on to become a brilliant lawyer or miracle doctor or follow his dad's path and be a legendary detective, but he finds a magic book that can kill people and he thinks why not be a god?  Death Note is a story about how someone who's basically modern nobility might actually be the worst kind of monster.  (Before it meant anything else, 'aristocracy' meant 'rule by the best people'.  Sometimes we have to remind ourselves not to trust that idea.)

Light Turner, the protagonist of the Netflix movie, is not this*.  Instead of the outwardly perfect superman, he's a standard American teen protagonist: a nerdy outcast, smarter than bullies but still getting into trouble, with a recently-dead mother and a crush on a cheerleader.  Where the original story makes the Yagamis a magazine-perfect family with mom, dad, and 2.3 kids, Light Turner lives with his dad in a tiny house next to a freight rail line for no apparent reason.  Class politics aren't part of this story, it's just a truth universally acknowledged that a sympathetic teenage protagonist comes from a working-class family.

Where Light Yagami showed vulcan-ish logic and emotional control, Light Turner is every inch the awkward teen, ineffectively confronting bullies and stuttering when pretty girls acknowledge his existence.  Where Light Yagami started experimenting with the killing book of his own accord and didn't hesitate to start offing detectives getting too close to his trail, Light Turner has to be pushed into using it for the first time (to rescue another student), and ultimately goes through the whole movie without killing anyone who hasn't already committed some ghastly crime.  (His second kill is the mafia goon who killed his mom in a traffic accident, who apparently went free because the mob bribed the jury.)

I spent most of the movie trying to figure out if the adaptation writers had intentionally chosen to make their protagonist nothing like the original, or if they thought we were supposed to sympathise with Light.  I think it was intentional, but good lord, at what cost?  Let's talk about the women of Death Note.

Light's mom is not significant in the original story, and she's already been killed for plot fodder in this one.  Other women were mostly extras or quickly killed.  His sister got left out of this version entirely.  The only major female character in the original is Misa Amane, a model who hero-worships Light for killing her parents' murderer and becomes his willing accomplice and nominal girlfriend.  She's clever by normal standards but, of course, foolish compared to proper geniuses like Light, and thus spends most of the story being his willing plaything, killing as he directs and absorbing whatever casual cruelty he shows because she just wants to be useful to him.  It's awful, and the audience is meant to condemn Light for his treatment of her, even if she is also a killer.

In this version, Misa becomes Mia Sutton, and she is the Real Villain of the story.  Mia is the one who pushes Light to kill more people, more publicly, to kill anyone who dares challenge him, and possibly manipulates his emotions to keep him on her side.  I'm sort of impressed that the adapters managed to substantially increase female agency while also keeping the misogyny, and even bumping it from 'evil people mistreat women' to 'the only woman is pure evil'.

Mia is introduced early in the story as the cheerleader that Light watches from the sidelines like an earnest shy creeper.  He's shocked that she knows his name (as American movie tradition demands), and the minute she shows any interest in the book he's reading, he tells her everything about it.  He even declares that she "of all people" should understand the potential of the book, indicating she has some important backstory that got cut from the final version of the movie.  They talk about being able to bring peace to those who have been let down by cops and politicians, and inventing a god of justice to make people too scared to commit crimes.  And then they have sex, because (again) American movie tradition demands it.
[Light and Mia sneak past his dad, sleeping in front of the TV, and up to his room.  Light leans toward her, then hesitates.] 
LIGHT: Can I kiss you? 
MIA: You're not supposed to ask. 
We actually have scenes where they are actively making out or undressing each other while googling war criminals to kill off.  This is just apparently their fetish. (ERIKA NOTE: Just saying, Drawn Together picked "murder and wreckage" as a fetish for one of their episodes and probably handled it better. That is not a high bar.)  They also decide their murdersona needs a name--where the Japanese public just started referring to the force murdering all these criminals as Kira ("killer") in the original, Light intentionally chooses the name in this version, with the justification that it means 'light' in Celtic and Russian, and then tries to use the Japanese connection to throw off suspicion.  It doesn't work, and that's when we meet L.

In all versions of this story, L is the counterpart to Light.  Light appears normal, trustworthy, and pretty, and he is an utterly amoral murderer-protagonist.  L is weird, no one trusts him, he looks creepy, and he's the virtuous antagonist.  He's Light's only intellectual equal, tracking down an untraceable killer just as fast as Light can cover his tracks.

Like everything else in this story, the adapters appear to have missed or ignored the point.  Even just consider the following:

Pictured: the live-action American Light played by Nat Wolff, an archetypal gawky Movie Teen, next to the cool and precisely styled anime version of Light.

Pictured: the anime L, an unkempt man with an unsettling stare, and his American live-action counterpart, Lakeith Stanfield, who is more attractive than any human really needs to be.

Granted, apart from making L hot, the adaptation's initial depiction of him is pretty solid.  He's still eccentric, still obsessed with sweets, and they even cast a black actor in this heroic role (I'm generally for this!).  We find him inspecting a Japanese crime scene (cameo by producer Masi Oka) and then boarding a jet with his assistant, the elderly Watari, the only character who stayed Japanese through this adaptation.  L is a Sherlock-esque consulting detective, smart enough to have already narrowed down Kira's true location to Seattle.

(While the original story spends immense time on the details of Light and L's battles of wits, this movie glosses over most of them for the sake of time.  I will summarise because I have a question.  L realised that, before the Kira name started going around, a guy in Seattle in a standoff with police suddenly set his hostages free and then died in a convenient traffic accident, inexplicable events typical of Kira's murders.  To confirm his theories, L started seeding older criminal files into police databases in the Seattle region, and Light apparently used one of those to kill off gangsters in Japan.  When we first see L, he's examining a club where said gangsters appear to have killed each other, but the staff working the club are also dead.  Light wouldn't have been writing the names of the club dancers or waiters unless they were also violent criminals.  Was that just literally a Villains-Only club, or did a bunch of innocent people get killed as well?  That's not supposed to be how the Death Note works.  It has rules.  It has so many rules.**)

Once L arrives, the hunt for Kira amps up, and Light realises he's being tailed by an FBI agent (on the grounds that Light may have access to the police database, which they know Kira does).  Light, as our sympathetic protagonist, gets scared and wants to stop using the Death Note entirely, even though public faith in the justice of Lord Kira is taking off.  Mia says they just have to find out who all of the agents on the team are and kill them simultaneously, to scare off further investigation without implicating Light specifically.  Light is shocked, shocked to hear Mia suggest they use murder to solve their problems.  He's a sympathetic protagonist, after all!  All he's done is kill a few hundred bad guys.  That's what American heroes are supposed to do!  But Mia isn't an obedient girlfriend in this one--she steals a page from the book and kills the FBI agents herself, while Light just thinks it was the work of Ryuk.

(I haven't mentioned Ryuk until now because, in this version of the story, he's basically irrelevant.  Ryuk is the death god who originally owned the book, and he pushed Light to initially use it to kill the school bully who was at that moment threatening to rape another student.  In the original story, of course, Light needs no tempting, and Ryuk mostly exists so Light has an audience surrogate to explain his schemes to.  In this version, he has Mia to help with plot exposition, and she handles the corruption for him too.)

In the aftermath of the agents' mass "suicide", Light's cop father makes a public challenge to Kira, and when he doesn't die for it, L immediately concludes that Light is the killer.  (They have a showdown which is actually pretty good, because Lakeith Stanfield is a top-notch actor.)  To save himself, Light uses the book to compel Watari to go find L's real name.  (The book can "influence" someone's actions for up to two days before killing them, but One Time Only you can burn a page from the book to spare someone's life even after condemning them, so Light is planning to save Watari once he's got the information he needs.  Light's a protagonist, after all, and therefore a good guy!)

I said at the start that adaptations need to stand on their own without knowing the original version***, and this is once of the places where Death Note faceplants.  In the original story, L and some of his colleagues have a complicated and mysterious backstory that is only occasionally hinted at over the course of many chapters.  In this version, the compelled Watari phones up Light and hypnotically explains that L is an orphan raised in a special program that conditions its subjects from childhood to become ultimate detectives.  L was only initiated into the program when, at the age of six, he was able to endure the requisite seven months in solitary confinement without a complete mental breakdown.



Look, in a fifty-episode anime or a hundred-volume comic book, okay, I guess you can spread out the heavy lifting that it takes to introduce those sorts of concepts organically, but in a robotic monologue from a hypnotised butler in the middle of this movie about the corrupting influence of power, that's fuckin' weird.  (Not to mention also being much more backstory than Mia ever gets!)

The conclusion of this is that L's name can only be found in the abandoned orphanage's records, which the writers could have done without the bizarre Ender's Game For Detectives exposition slam.  Watari goes off to hunt for the name, and his disappearance immediately causes L to crack.  Now, far be it from me to object to rational characters acting irrationally when people they care about are in danger, but for the rest of the movie L becomes an increasingly loose cannon, starting with storming the Turner house to accuse and threaten Light's life face-to-face.  That's not something the original L would ever do, and it's at best uncomfortable that they've decided to add this uncharacteristic emotional unhinging after making him the only significant black character.  (It only ramps up after the plan fails, Watari dies, and L, who hates guns, grabs a gun and steals a cop car to chase down Light.  But I'm getting ahead of myself; there's more feminine evil to discuss first.)

Lest we forget just how incredibly American this version is, the climactic events all occur on the night of the homecoming dance at Light and Mia's school.  There's some very weak misdirection involving a top hat that's supposed to let Light slip away from the dance, get L's name from Watari by phone, and then burn the page to save him, but Light discovers that page has already been taken from his book by Mia.  This knocks Light into realising that Mia, not Ryuk, was behind the deaths of the FBI agents--as she explains, she was "protecting" him, both from the cops and from his own cowardice.  She doesn't want to ever stop meting out death in judgment, so she demands that he make her the official owner of the book.  As insurance, she's written his death into it, but since she stopped him from saving Watari, the One-Time-Only Takeback can still be used to spare him.

(Side note: like a lot of the schemes in this movie, this doesn't actually make sense.  Light knows where the book is; Mia does not.  To save himself, he doesn't have to give the book to her, he just has to go burn his own page.  Mia does have one page that she stole, but that's not the one with Light's name on it.  There's no reason for him to give her the book now.)

A prolonged chase scene across the city ensues.  L manages to corner Light at one point, and Light starts to spill everything, but a random bystander shows up on the scene.  L makes the mistake of saying that he's caught Kira, and rando knocks L out with a plank because he is a true believer in Lord Kira.  Light and Mia have their final confrontation on a Ferris wheel.  Light asks her to Choose Love and give up on the book, but as soon as he's distracted she grabs for it and they both fall from the wheel.  She dramatically lands on a flower stall and dies amidst petals, while Light falls into the harbour and gets rescued.  The page with his name on it 'coincidentally' lands in a literal trash fire.

(There's then an incredibly uncomfortable scene in which a bunch of old white cops tell L that Light, currently hospitalised, is clearly not Kira and that, while L might not get jailed for his false accusation, he should know that he ain't welcome in their town anymore.  In a better movie, that kind of implicit threat would be an intentional reflection of police racism.)

Light wakes up from a two-day coma.  He's alive because everything that just happened was according to his last-ditch plan.  He used the book to compel a couple of sex offenders to rescue him from the water and hide the book while he was in his medically-induced coma, then kill themselves when their job was done.  He wrote his own survival into the book as part of their deaths, which... should not work according to any rule we've seen.  It's a book that kills, not saves.

He also wrote Mia's death in, which he admitted to her during their confrontation, but he insisted that it was a conditional thing that would only happen if she tried to steal the book.  This is presented as if it's something we should believe, but according to the rules as presented to us, the fact that he wrote 'she dies after taking the book' means she was magically compelled to steal the book, even if she really did want to Choose Love instead.  Was that what the writers intended?  Was this supposed to be a tragic mistake or a cover for a sinister plan?

Finally, Light's dad arrives and declares that he's realised Light really was the killer--no one else would have caught the connection, but the mafia goon who killed Mom Turner died right before the Kira business started.  Neither of them seems to know what to do now.  Meanwhile, L continues on his Emotionally And Morally Compromised Quest and searches Mia's home (she seems to have lived alone in an apartment, what was her backstory?!) until he finds the page of the Death Note she stole.  He twitches and cries and laughs as he stares at the page and at the nearby photo of Mia and Light together, obviously trying to decide whether to kill Light or not****.  Ryuk pops up to remark to Light that humans are "so interesting!"--and roll credits.

In summary, the white male protagonist gets rewritten as a misled but principled antihero, the white female lead gets powered up from amoral accomplice to ruthless evil mastermind temptress, and the black hero actually on the side of peace and justice goes on a rampage for revenge because he can't control his emotions.  Nothing remains of the original story of an apparent paragon of humanity becoming an unfathomable supervillain just because someone gave him the chance to act without accountability.

So what exactly was the point of this remake?


*When people first heard there was going to be an American remake of Death Note, many people pointed out the worst implications due to cultural differences (like American school mass murders, and the overfilling of US jails with black prisoners).  At least they avoided some of that in this script?  Which isn't to say there isn't still plenty of racism and xenophobia to go around: when we see Kira execute a military commander who's been torturing prisoners, they make sure it's an officer in some east Asian military, not American.  Acknowledging evil within the US army is going too far even for this Super Edgy movie.

**The rules of the Death Note are a central part of the original story, and we get every single one of them in detail over dozens of chapters.  This is a good choice for a battle of wits, because the audience understands exactly what the terms of the game are, and it helps us not feel like conflicts are just being resolved by someone pulling a new superpower out of their ear.  Here in this movie, we get a half-dozen rules and the rest are just blurred past with various exclamations of "Why does this thing have so many rules?"  I can see why they would do that to save time, but it does sort of undercut the characters' supposed cleverness, and Light Turner writes various things that the original rules would never have allowed.

***My personal go-to for failure on this is Star Trek Into Darkness, which wants the audience to be shocked and terrified by the revelation of the name Khan, a character who hadn't been featured anywhere in 30 years, let alone in this storyline.

****They obviously wanted to be able to pick it back up for a sequel if they could.  I'm guessing if they did that, L would in fact kill Light's dad to cause Light to suffer as L has, and then it's back to one-on-one cat-and-mouse between them because no one trusts L or believes Light is Kira.  I would protest the loss of the original conclusion as well ("teamwork > loner geniuses"), if it weren't so obvious that they're hoping to continue this story.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Prognostication and obfuscation

Hello everyone!  This blogpost serves several purposes.  First, I can assure everyone that Erika and I are alive and well--okay, we're alive, she's still got CFS and I'm currently coughing so hard that pain ripples through my back and all the way to my thumbs.  But we're doing okay.  Erika sends best wishes in particular to Erin Jeffreys Hodges.  Also, today we finally got around to watching Jupiter Ascending as well, which is DEFINITELY getting a post because I went into that expecting a beautiful mess and it was Everything.  We both have much to say.  With any luck, other posts will follow; it's been A Time lately for everyone.

We would also like you to know about this sugar glider that gets excellent reception:

Pictured: a sugar glider wearing a cone around its neck in typical cone-of-shame style.

On a more concrete bit of good news, I saw flyers posted in my neighbourhood last week that specifically called upon "fellow white people" to reject any fascist organisations in the area (naming various, some of which I'd never heard of before) and be on the look out for their activities.  The fight's going to get even more intense for the next few years, I guess, but personally I'm feeling punchier than I have in a long while.  Hope everyone's staying safe out there.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Hallowthon 2016 Anthology: What even is fear

It's the most wonderful time of the year again, friends and readers.  Like I said last October: "There are a hell of a lot of horror movies out there and a lot of the same things to be said about most of them: exploitation cliches with sexualised violence against women, weak women predated upon or protected by strong men, and people of colour treated as expendable for shock value.  Racist stereotypes as a source of villainy.  Sex corrupts the young and then they get murdered while the pure girls maybe survive.  We could do a hundred posts and they would all look basically the same."

So once again it's time for the Something Short And Snappy Hallowthon 2016 Anthology, in which the blogqueen and I provide you with quick notes on a dozen horror movies to swiftly judge them and help you find something worth watching on these cold dark nights.  This year's selection leans a bit towards the surreal and unusual, because that's just the tone 2016 has set for us all.

(CN: gore, murder, body horror)
Will: Blurbs for this movie describe it like a typical slasher, and the first few minutes make it look like it's going to be an unwatchable slasher--the blogqueen and I both considered whether we just wanted to switch it off.  We did not, and we were rewarded.  This movie is not a slasher.  This movie is a sci-fi Freaky-Friday-swap human-animal-hybrid alien-abduction time-travelling-space-bear reading-ahead-in-the-script-for-your-own-movie carnival of WTF.  I've never been high, but I'm 80% sure Detention makes equal amounts of sense regardless of your level of intoxication.  'Good' and 'bad' cease to be useful descriptors for this movie.  It is an experience that I do not regret including in my life.  That's not a recommendation, exactly.  (It does definitely have a share of jump scares and gore, but they're not the main feature by far.)

Erika: This movie is absurd, and I think I mean that in a good way? I struggle to find words for it, mostly just emphatic hand gestures while I make a series of vaguely confused squeaky noises, but that doesn't translate well to text. If you plan to actually sit down and watch a movie, this one could be a good call.

(CN: blood, murder)
Will: (Merciful spoiler: the cat is not harmed.  I actually liked most of this movie, so the fear that something would happen to the cat was a major damper.)  A deaf author moves out to a remote country home to work on her second novel, and a masked killer decides to hunt her.  While he's got various advantages, she's smarter and incredibly brave, so the battle of wits that makes up the bulk of the film is actually interesting, rather than just having a lot of a woman screaming as she runs uselessly from an implacable monster.  Most of the fear comes by ambiance and anxiety rather than jump scares.  The third act unfortunately trends back towards typical bloody slasher, and it felt like the writers couldn't decide between three different climactic fights so they just decided to use all of them in sequence.  On the other hand, having a deaf hero means that 90% of the dialogue is signed (if that's something you're looking for in a movie) and while Maddie explicitly views her deafness as a flaw for much of the story, she also--minor spoiler--ends up using the killer's hearing against him in the end, so I would tend to give the movie overall a good score on ability/ableism?

(CN: Sexual violence, misogyny, gore, torture, murder, dragon)
Erika: I've seen Hellraiser twice now. I tried to talk Will through it, touching on villainous female sexuality, weird fetishes, and at one point a dragon if I remember correctly? I struggle to form a cohesive image of it in my mind. Largely because despite having seen it twice, it doesn't stick that vividly for me. Despite having a female protagonist, the movie is steeped in toxic masculinity. The one male character I actually liked was supposed to be laughed at for not being masculine enough and letting his wife be so awful to him. Because his wife mistreating him is a character flaw for him? It's got the usual sexist nonsense that many horror movies do, and I'm struggling to find anything interesting to say about it. It does have some really cool practical effects, and really gross gore stuff. If you're just in it for the grossness, sure, watch Hellraiser, but like a lot of Classics, you're not really missing anything.

The People Under The Stairs
(CN: Racist language, mutilation, torture, sexual violence, animal abuse. Just--everything. CN for All Of It)
Erika: Okay, so we were watching this movie while playing Sushi-Go, and I sort of only half saw the first half? This is important because I think there were a lot of black ghetto stereotypes in there but I'm not positive. It starts with a little black boy (unfortunately only ever called Fool, because that's what came up when his sister did a tarot reading for him) wrangled into helping case a joint to get money for his mother's surgery. The house they're casing has people who basically own the town and have been gentrifying the poorer neighborhoods.  They've chosen it because apparently they have gold in the basement, and not because they're just going to Robin Hood that shit. What is supposed to be a simple robbery goes very, very wrong when the two adults get killed by the owners of the house, and Fool finds out there is a hoard of pasty teenage boys in the basement. Not a subreddit--they're mutilated by the owners of the house, stolen by the couple (who are actually siblings because this wasn't gross enough already) but deemed "impure".

It's tense, it's gross, and a lot of the actually scary parts come from how deeply fucked up the people in it are. Actual distressed noises were made as I watched it. It does have some troubling issues with racism, but it also seems to be trying and do some interesting things with it? As I said, I missed chunks of the movie so I can't speak with confidence on the topic, but Fool is clever and tenacious and likable. SPOILER: the evil dog does die.

The 2016 American Presidential debate trilogy
(CN: Misogyny, racism, Trump)
Erika: Ok, so I didn't catch the first installment in this terrifying series, but I did see the second two. The whole premise seems laughable at first. A highly qualified woman is running to be president of the US against a bigoted angry cheeto. And they really amp up how absurd the Cheeto is. The viewer is often left wondering: how could anyone take this character seriously? But viral marketing aspect really helps with that, showing support outside of the actual debates on twitter and the like. I think the writers realized that and toned him down in the third installment, but the character still seems entirely unreasonable to me. That said, the meta stuff they've put out with it is what makes it truly horrifying. Have you seen some of those news articles on The Cheeto's actions? And the reactions to it? Pure horror because it starts to just feel so real. I feel and hope their conclusion will be obvious, but those of you able to vote in the US on which of these wins should go out and do so! If only because I'm not convinced the writers realized that The Cheeto isn't a legitimate option and need to understand that he isn't.  Make them understand. Vote him out of existence.

(CN: Comedic gore and violence,  ableism)
Erika: If you want a movie to put on in the background at your Halloween party that people might occasionally catch half a scene of and go "Wait what?" I highly recommend this one. It is campy and cheesy and absurd and the acting is about on par with porn. At one point they throw shoes at the leprechaun while running away so it has to stop to clean them to buy them time. It doesn't take itself too seriously, which personally I enjoy. I was too sober when I watched it, so I noticed there is one character who the writers wrote as "slow". There are a lot of unfortunate 'fat stupid comedic relief' tropes around him, and I don't think the writers knew they were coding him as autistic. With that in mind, there is some interesting dynamics around how other characters treat and react to him (mostly with kindness and affection). If someone else wants to sit down and actually pay attention to it (I do not recommend that; I was rooting for everyone to die so hard) I'd urge you to consider the accidental layers there as you do.

(CN: Gore, violence, misogyny, gross monsters)
Erika: If you follow me on twitter, you probably saw me tweeting through this. I'm bitter at the husbeast and the Alexs for making me sit through this when I can't drink and they all can. It opens with MANLY MEN BEING MANLY AND BY THE WAY DID YOU KNOW THEY WERE MEN WITH GUNS AND PENISES WHO ONLY THINK ABOUT PUTTING SAID PENISES AND GUNS IN WOMEN? No, really, that's 90% of the character development. This movie was unsure how seriously it was taking itself, but it was still too seriously. If they had just given up and gone full camp it could have been fun, but they didn't, so it's just kind of a sexist mess. The only named female character who is a doctor is called a "dumb woman" because she believed the people she was working for weren't evil. The Rock is Lawful Evil in deeply unbelievable ways. Karl Urban wins a fight against The Rock which, even having been weakened by CGI, is just not believable. Also Good and Evil are genetic? There is one scene where it goes into first person shooter mode that's absurd and kind of fun, but I'd give this one a pass.

Rites of Spring
(CN: gore, torture, murder)
Will: This is not a story.  This is one third each of two separate stories mashed together, which by my math still leaves us one third short.  One plot starts strong with a Bechdel-passing scene of two women in a bar discussing corporate politics, one trying to decide whether or not to admit that she was responsible for a recent failure after someone else has taken the blame.  They immediately get kidnapped by a gruff old man whose motivations are never fully explained.  I mean, it's not hard to piece together from incidental information: every spring, this small town sacrifices several people to some kind of monstrous entity to magically ensure good farming.  But I suggest a general rule: if your story is such a cliche that you just pull an Avril ("Can I make it any more obvious?") maybe it's such a cliche that you should do better.  The other plot, tangentially related, concerns a small conspiracy of people planning to ransom a rich guy's daughter.  Dunno about y'all, but I don't watch horror movies for disturbingly mundane and realistic murder scenes.  These two plots collide by chance and provide our unexplained monstrous entity with a crew of criminals to kill in the final act.  There's supposed to be something clever going on, because the well-meaning desperate dude in the ransom gang is the guy who took the fall for the captured heroine's mistake at work, so maybe they were going for some kind of weird reap-what-you-sow thing (that coincidentally suggests that our Final Girl brought all this horror on herself)?  There is a distinct lack of ending as well, although not as grievously as our next entry:

The Midnight After
(CN: blood, death, rape)
Will: A Hong Kong horror movie that I didn't realise was supposed to be satirical until I read its wiki page.  To again spare you my pain, let me say first that this movie literally has no ending and none of the weirdness is explained, which makes it all weird for weirdness' sake, and I don't know if I don't get it because I'm not from Hong Kong or what.  Which is too bad, because it's mostly pretty good weirdness: seventeen people riding a bus together at 2:30am find themselves abruptly alone in the world and desperately try to figure out what's going on.  Time travel?  Ghosts?  Some kind of magic disease?  A nuclear disaster?  David Bowie?  The answer appears to be 'yes to all' (especially Bowie), except that the movie ends as the survivors finally get on the road to finding possible answers, so we don't actually know.

There is a plotline that definitely requires some further discussion, because amongst all the other mystery and death, one woman is found dead and apparently raped, and we then later see that scene play out in flashbacks as the rapist is revealed by his accomplice.  I'm not sure why the writer thought this was an important thing to have, but the treatment of it is at least decent?  The actual scenes are played for revulsion rather than titillation, the victim isn't stripped for the camera or anything.  To my particular surprise, while some of the other men briefly argue for "rape is bad but what are we going to do about it now, kill him?", the women respond with "yeah, I have a knife right here" and everyone agrees this is as close to a court of law as they can manage when they're the only people in the world.  The actual execution is variously played for pathos and grim humour as each person stabs him once, some more enthusiastically than others.  The whole thing still feels rather unnecessary (fewer pointless rape plotlines in anything, please) but ultimately I can only complain so much about characters agreeing that rapists get no mercy.

It Follows
(CN: blood, death, sexualised violence)
Erika: There was so much hype about this movie, and it really didn't live up to it. I feel there was a lot of symbolism and depth this movie thought it had that I just wasn't getting. Like, I know the pools/water imagery was supposed to mean SOMETHING, but I'm not 100% sure what. Is that supposed to represent the main character's relationship with her sexuality? Peace of mind? There were some aspects I loved: the main character, upon becoming an assault victim, is rallied around by everyone rather than dismissed and questioned.  Although people do at first question if she is literally being followed by a demon or something, they don't try to talk her out of her fear, they just try to make her feel safe, which is refreshing. It would be more refreshing if consensual sex didn't lead to murder demons, but you know, take wins where we can. I also liked how the women were often shown in typical horror movie girl poses/outfits (the opening scene has a woman in a sheet tank top, shorts, and heels running around) but rarely are they filmed as sexy. We see Jay in underpants or a swimsuit often, but she's shown in granny panties and a one piece. The girls aren't wearing loads of make up that were supposed to believe is just what they look like. Their clothes aren't skintight and played off as comfortable and casual. It's weird, and worth a watch, but I wouldn't put it at the top of my list.

Will: The premise of 'what if the Terminator was an STI' is certainly horrifying, and the movie is pretty visually effective, but like the blogqueen I also spent a lot of time trying to figure out why the writers made various choices.  Was there a ton of symbolism I was missing?  If the monster takes the shape of 'whatever it thinks will get it close to you', why does it keep picking such bizarre and creepy forms instead of something compelling and comforting?  It does sort of do that eventually, appearing as the protagonist's father, but it has previously appeared as completely naked people (first female, then male), or as apparent murder victims, or various other disturbing forms.  Mostly I feel like this movie suffers because the problem becomes a sort of logic puzzle, like "Couldn't you make a deal with someone in Asia where you fly there every year or so to have sex, passing the curse back and forth, so that every time the monster finally climbs out of the Marianas Trench it suddenly realises it has to change direction again?"  And the characters never really try to get clever with the solution like that, so I'm just left with more thought experiments that I can't see in action.

The Devil's Hand
(CN: blood, nudity, brief sexual assault)
Will: Both better and worse than I expected.  The setting is an Amish commune in the modern day, where they have a prophecy about 'the Drommelkind' (devil child?) that seems to start coming true when six girls are all born on the same night.  There is much muttering and grumbling about whether they can be redeemed or should be killed for everyone else's protection.  So, there's the pretty swift Bechdel pass when most of our main characters are women, and it's at least sort of interesting to have Amish characters not presented as inherently backwards and wrong--but there are also the tiresome standbys like the Evil Stepmother, and the horror sequences mostly consist of the girls dying one by one at the hands of a hooded figure.  The primary antagonist is the leading elder of the town, who we also quickly and clearly see is a creeper and probably repeat molester, and there was some potential for interesting dynamics when one of the girls insists they rally people against him while others cling to excuses and veneers of religious purity.  Overall, I was hoping this was going to be a movie that argued 'the devil' is unnecessary when we're capable of justifying evil to ourselves in the name of righteousness, and maybe a self-fulfilling prophecy where it's the moral panic and vicious response that causes disaster after all... but that is not what we get.  The final scenes of the movie don't make a lot of sense (the killer's identity is easy to spot on a meta level, but comes out of nowhere plotwise) and, like Ender's Game, we're sort of left wondering whether the story is claiming the 'bad guys' were right after all or what.

Mr Jones
(I'm not sure any particular warnings apply, but I'm open to suggestions)
Will: This is that rarest of creatures: the bloodless horror movie.  Our protagonists are a young couple whose marriage is a bit rocky, who decide to move out to the middle of nowhere for a year to film the Greatest Nature Documentary Of All Time and discover that their closest neighbour is a famously reclusive anonymous artist dubbed "Mr Jones".  Of course, Mr Jones isn't actually an artist; he's some kind of supernatural sculptor with ulterior motives involving the world of dreams and nightmares.  I really don't know why the writers decided this needed to be done in 'found footage' style, especially since they abandon it repeatedly, but I still enjoyed several aspects of the movie.  Rather than being a stock Nagging Wife, Penny actually gets to have some depth and agency, and she's at least as important to the investigation as Scott.  The aesthetics are satisfyingly creepy without falling back on blood, and after spending the first act shouting "Your neighbour is clearly a killer warlock" at the protagonists, I was gratified by the slow realisation that the expected cliches didn't apply.  It's not as striking and artistic as it wants to be, but overall I approve.


That's all we were able to get our hands on this month, but as a supplement the blogqueen also suggested this list (by quality individual Joey Comeau) of horror movies without sexual violence.  And at some point we really will post something in regards to Scream Queens, the comedy/horror/satire slasher series that occasionally does interesting things with terrible people.  It'll be surprisingly deep for something that is intentionally super shallow.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

My Queer Queue, August 2016: Objectification for all

I don't watch as much stuff off Netflix's "Gay and Lesbian" section as you might expect.  Someone (I can't find the source, but I know I first saw it on tumblr) coined the phrase "If it's not sad, it's bad" to describe the conflict of LGBT cinema--we have a lot of tragedy and bittersweetness in our stories, and the cheerful ones are often terrible.  And, since the LGBT community is actually an agglomeration of several communities (what I heard one person name the Alphabet Soup Suffering Coalition), it's tragically common to see one identity celebrated at the cost of another.  Certain topics are also much more common, like sex work, which could be interesting if it weren't an excuse to sexualise and fetishise the characters.  There are seriously so many movies about the Troubled Chemistry between a Normal Person and Some Kind Of Sex Worker, Probably A Stripper Because That's Not Going TOO Far.  Ugh.

While we're on the subject, content warning for death and coercive sex work.

Anyway, despite my trepidation, I do venture in there once in a while, usually when I get tired of screaming to just let Captain America and the Falcon go on a goddamn date already.  And I probably don't have enough to say about most of the things I watch to make an actual full post about any of them, but if we go for a bunch at once we start looking at commonalities and exceptions and themes, so let's try that and maybe it'll become a regular thing.

This month's selection leans towards dude stuff (more ladies if/when the blogqueen gets in on this):
These were all movies that I picked out because they looked like they were about guys falling in love and not suffering horribly.  Which they... mostly... were.  "Mostly" in this case meaning, like, 55%?  We'll start from maximum tragedy and climb upwards from there.


How To Win At Checkers (Every Time) was kind of fascinating, even if it immediately dashed my hopes of "happy".  It's a Thai movie about a boy named Oat (oh-at), who lives with his aunt and idolises his older brother Ek.  Ek's deeply in love with his boyfriend Jai, and their best friend Missy is trans, and probably the thing that threw me the most about this movie was that it avoided any explicit homophobia or transphobia 98% of the time.  The rich bully in the neighbourhood never throws slurs at anyone, even while he's being a jerk.  The overbearing aunt tells Ek "You can date any boy you like, but dating across class lines is going to cause trouble".  Missy is characterised as a gorgeous badass, unabashedly trans, and the hot girl all the high school boys want to get with.  No one questions her gender at all.  (Oat does snap something transphobic at her in a heated moment, but he's 11, he's upset and lashing out, and he immediately gets told off for it.)

That said, literally the first scene of the movie is 20-year-old Oat flashing back to watching his brother die horribly.  It both is and is not a spoiler to say that we eventually see this dream didn't really happen, because Ek still died horribly, just in a different way, later on and out of sight.

With homophobia off the table for conflict, the plot instead focuses on class divides, because Oat's family is just getting by, while Jai is sarcastically described as "taller, richer, and whiter" as we watch him blow out candles on a birthday cake in a stereotypical suburban home.  Ek and Jai are old enough for the annual military draft lottery, but Jai's parents are rich enough to bribe the local black market boss into ensuring their son won't get chosen.  Oat tries to do the same for his brother, but he's 11 and not good at subterfuge, so his plan backfires and Ek ends up on the boss's bad side.

Upon realising that this movie wasn't going to feature Evil Bigots, I began to wonder why they had so many queer characters--not because I disapproved, but because you and I both know that the rarest of all LGBT cinema is "totally normal storytelling except not heteronormative".  I didn't have to wait long for the answer, because in the aftermath of the draft (Jai was not chosen, Ek was, and Ek is disgusted that Jai would use his class privilege to dodge his duty as a citizen) we also see that the black market boss owns the queer club where Ek works, and has reassigned him from bartending to sex work.  I kid you not.  So we get an uncomfortable scene of no one stopping Oat from walking upstairs to find his brother in bed with an unpleasant man twice his age, and then the local bully drags Jai up there to see as well, everything falls apart, Ek and Jai break up, Ek goes off on military service and gets randomly murdered by someone targeting soldiers on patrol.

When discussing Life Is Strange and the rarity of a non-customised bisexual protagonist, I mentioned to Erika that I didn't think the game would have been made with the genders swapped, because (even when otherwise pretty good!) there was still objectification going on, and our culture is a lot more comfortable with objectifying women than men.  The programmers wouldn't have been so on board writing and modelling a flirtatious scene of a male Max and Warren going skinny-dipping in the school pool.  No voyeuristic fun to be had there.  By a similar token, someone writing about a desperate guy getting forced into sex work isn't going to write about a straight dude.

And there are some good reasons for that--for sure, the relationship between sexuality and isolation and taboo and survival sex work is a complicated and important one.  But this isn't a nuanced exploration; this is a single scene about a hot guy getting fucked to illustrate his powerlessness, desperation, and humiliation.  That's about as artistically deep as an exploitation film.

So, even in this film with zero evil homophobes, the primary arc is still about a gay man being stripped of his agency, powerless to protect himself, and finally die a cruel and pointless death.  This is the inescapability of queer tragedy in film that we have to deal with.


Weekend is a film that desperately wants to be artistic, and is a good study in how "indie" is itself a film genre even though it conceptually shouldn't be.  Archetypal techniques include group scenes with no sound filtering (to really get that "unintelligible home video of Christmas with the family" feel), montages of main characters trudging soulfully through urban landscapes, and smash cuts to totally silent tableaus.  It takes place over the course of a weekend, when a couple of guys randomly hook up at a bar, spend a couple of days realising that they would actually really like to try a relationship together rather than a casual fling, and then part ways because one of them is going to an art school thousands of miles across the sea.  The bulk of the movie comprises odd conversations they have along the way, like Glen's explanation of his current art project (audio interviews/monologues with all of his casual sex partners), with breaks for mundanity (a montage of Russell's day job as a lifeguard), very specific sex scenes (like, you do not ever have to wonder what precise acts they enjoy), and a frankly hilarious quantity of drugs.  So many drugs.  I don't know what's up with the drugs in this movie.   Forget pot.  They will literally pause a conversation to snort three lines of cocaine and then go back to talking, with minimal indication that this might somehow affect a human brain.  It is so weird.

They do part ways in the end, in a very sweet and anguished and MAXIMUM INDIE scene, with a goodbye kiss at the train station and parting words that we can't hear because, again, no sound filtering, that's how you know it's artistic.  I can't say the movie doesn't have a plot, because it's very much about how much these guys affect each other over the course of a weekend, with Glen losing some of his affected casualness and hipstery detachment, and Russell (the less-out one) overcoming some of his internalised homophobia.  And at least it's not outright tragedy.  If you want a movie that is about The Generic (white cis male) Gay Experience and common issues around affection and masculinity, I guess I might recommend it?


North Sea Texas is of the same ilk, but it's about teenage boys in Belgium and features more homophobia.  (The name has nothing to do with the US Texas and everything to do with the local bar.)  It covers the teenage years of a boy named Pim who lives with his mom and befriends neighbour boy Gino.  Pim and Gino grow closer in increasingly sexual and romantic ways before Gino breaks things off, gets a girlfriend, and starts saying that the "playing around" they did was something people grow out of.

Now, obvs, this is not my favourite way for potentially-bisexual characters to be presented, and it's irritatingly common.  Like, yes, experimentation is pretty normal and doesn't always mean someone's not straight, but the fewer Treacherous Flipfloppers in media the better.  But we'll come back to Gino.

Marcela, Gino's sister, clearly has a crush on Pim, and when she realises he's into her brother (by prying through Pim's room and finding his Shirtless Gino Sketchbook) starts trying to cause trouble.  Their mother refuses to believe it anyway.  (Aside: one of my relatives once asked about my dating life in a way that vaguely allowed for the possibility I wasn't straight.  My mother immediately leapt in to talk about the last girl I dated, four years earlier, though I haven't dated anyone since.  I'm sure she meant well.)  Pim's own mother (who regularly talks about what a free spirit she is), happily rents a room to Zoltan, twentysomething vagabond and hottest man in Belgium.  He's around and shirtless just long enough for Pim to start getting his hopes up before Pim walks in on Zoltan and his mother in bed, and they run away together the next day, literally abandoning Pim.  Gino and Marcela's mother dies as well, but on her deathbed brings together Pim and Gino's hands, and in the aftermath they are passionately reconciled.  (Whether Gino's really bi or was just temporarily trying to convince himself he was into girls is not addressed.)

Apart from being a slow indie movie with lots of silent scenes and withdrawn characters, North Sea Texas stands out as a movie in which the central couple of queer teens end up together (I think?) and yet still manages to be impressively cruel to its heroes, with parents dying and abandoning them left and right.  So it's not exactly feel-good, but it's still the first one on this list that isn't apparently aiming for a sad ending.


Finally, we have Seashore, which is arguably the most upbeat on this list, but also the least that's actually like a movie.  By which I mean a lot of these indie movies seem like they started filming with an idea rather than a story, and forgot to fill in all of the blanks.  Seashore is set in Brazil (I wouldn't have guessed; everyone is white) and focuses on Martin, sent by his parents on family business that is never explained at all.  He's got to deliver a message to someone on the coast and get a response?  Or something?  The script knows that this is 100% an excuse plot and doesn't pretend to flesh it out.  The point is that, for moral support, he is accompanied on this trip by his BFF Tomaz, who spends much of the movie trying to decide whether or not to come out to Martin.  It gets increasingly awkward, not least since Martin ends up having the great idea that they should pick up hot chicks and take them back to the cottage for (non-group) sexytimes.  Tomaz dodges it by being all "Whoops, I got way too drunk, can't have sex with you but you seem like a super nice lady, thanks" and eventually finally takes the Plunge of Truth the next day.  Martin, professional good role model, is just "Oh, really?  Hah, I can't believe I tried to set you up with a girl yesterday" and all is well.  When his family mission ultimately fails and his family back home is loudly disappointed with him over the phone, Tomaz remains his best moral support, and their banter quickly progresses from "No one gets to be your boyfriend unless I approve of him, lol" to "So what is it like to kiss a dude anyway" to "Gosh, where did all of our pants go".

(The sex scene was a little uncomfortable, maybe because I'm used to actors of this age playing 15-year-olds rather than their actual ages, and while it's not porn, it's--like Weekend--very clear and specific about what's going on.  I understand the script was vaguely-autobiographical, but I also definitely wondered how much of this was just about titillating the creators.)

I thought for a moment that it was going to go for Maximum Artistic Angst and Martin would end up drowning himself in the sea the next morning, but then I remembered that the ocean is literally textbook 'rebirth' imagery and this film is all about people finding themselves.  So while the pacing of this film is ssssssssoooo sssslllllowwwwww that multiple reviewers wondered if it had a script or just really awkward improvisors, it actually gets the highest score here on Queer Boys Being Sweet And Affectionate And Not Suffering.  Which is apparently the niche-iest of all niche genres.


Since this is a new post idea, I'm more interested than usual in feedback: is this a thing people would like to see as a monthly series?  Are there specific movies that y'all think I should check out?  Do you want more investigation of specific themes and cliches in the field?  Sound off, my friends.