Frameline 40 is about to kick off and here are five movies that well represent this year’s festival. From coming of age stories, great docs, emerging sexualities and comedy-dramas there is something for everyone at this year’s fest. Here are five great choices.
Like a gay Donnie Darko with a Disney sidekick and an Xavier Dolan sensibility, Oscar (played to perfection by American Crime’s Connor Jessup in one of the best performances of the year) is a quiet and artistic teen in this absolutely stunning queer coming-of-age story. Since childhood Oscar has a flair for the dramatic and is now an aspiring makeup effects artist. Still haunted by two major events in his childhood (his mother unceremoniously leaving him and witnessing a savage assault on a gay kid, both of which turn his once adoring father into a brooding alcoholic) Oscar is prone to flights of whimsy and fancy that express themselves in the form of a physical manifestation of an internal turmoil and most pleasantly, a talking pet hamster played by Isabella Rossellini. She provides both levity and conscience to Oscar.
It’s an extraordinary debut from Stephen Dunn and features adventurous camera work and superb score and soundtrack.
Dean (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) is a graphic designer for film posters in Los Angeles who is hitting a creative wall. When he receives a late night email from a long since gone fling it ignites something in him and he packs up for his 2nd home in Joshua Tree to meet up with Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis). When Alex arrives it’s a joyful and exciting flashback to what once was but that quickly changes when truths both past and current arise and the two are forced to deal with them face on face.
Lazy Eye is a great example of the economy of gay cinema. Rarely having a budget for high-profile locations or a large cast, you need a smart script, good actors and confident direction. Tim Kirkman (director of the great gay films Loggerheads and Dear Jesse) does that in a film that is that assured and mature.
In 1990 Madonna forever changed the lives of seven male dancers hired for her Blond Ambition World Tour. Detailed in the documentary film Truth or Dare, their lives were thrust into the spotlight. Strike a Pose finds them 25 years later, some happy, some with secrets they’ve held until now. The film is a superb look at the meteoric rise to fame and the eventual plummet that can often follow. Drug addiction, lawsuits, disease and even death followed the dancers after the tour ended and their eventual reuniting sparks a truth or dare of its own. The final sequence is likely to not leave a dry eye in the house. A great film, directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan.
A group of 30-something friends converge on a family summer home in Savannah presumably to see each other before their friends Annie and Matt get married. But what’s really in store is that Annie (played the brilliant Melanie Lynskey in one of the year’s best performances) wants the group to tell Ruby and Peter (the viscerally superb Cobie Smulders and Vincent Piazza) that their passive-aggressive marriage is so toxic that they need to divorce immediately. With a supporting cast that also includes great performances from Jason Ritter, Ben Schwartz, Alia Shawkat, Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall (in her directorial debut, which she also wrote), The Intervention may not break new ground but manages a humor and pathos in a wonderfully observant female-driven dramedy (both in front of and behind the camera) with something for everyone.
When her girlfriend dies, struggling artist Lauren returns to her home in Oklahoma where her mother (played by the incomparable Beth Grant) is welcoming but utterly dismissive of Lauren’s sexuality and relationship. There she finds her brother also back at home, bringing along his new girlfriend Carrie (wonderfully played by The Big Bang Theory’s Laura Spencer). Lauren and Carrie are polar opposites but find solace and comfort in each other in an hour of need, forming an inextricable bond that throws their family dynamic into chaos. Velinda Godfrey, who plays Lauren, co-wrote the script that is full of warmth and honesty and is fantastic in her feature film debut.
Featuring a majority cast and crew of women, Heartland is one of the best lesbian films of the festival.
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