Nov 30

Gay Fatherhood Films: Stream at Home

Gay fatherhood.is portrayed in the following “oldies” you can stream at home. (Check with Amazon Prime, among other sources.)

I. In the Family (2012)

From IMDB about Patrick Wang‘s In the Family:

In the town of Martin, Tennessee, Chip Hines, a precocious six year old, has only known life with his two dads, Cody and Joey. And a good life it is. When Cody dies suddenly in a car accident, Joey and Chip struggle to find their footing again. Just as they begin to, Cody’s will reveals that he named his sister as Chip’s guardian. The years of Joey’s acceptance into the family unravel as Chip is taken away from him. In his now solitary home life, Joey searches for a solution. The law is not on his side, but friends are. Armed with their comfort and inspired by memories of Cody, Joey finds a path to peace with the family and closer to his son.

In most of the following unusual trailer, while seeing the various characters interact, what we hear is a voiceover from Joey’s new lawyer:

Roger Ebert: “What a courageous first feature this is, a film that sidesteps shopworn stereotypes and tells a quiet, firm, deeply humanist story about doing the right thing. It is a film that avoids any message or statement and simply shows us, with infinite sympathy, how the life of a completely original character can help us lead our own.”

II. Any Day Now (2012)

Any Day Now, inspired by real events involving gay fatherhood, was written by director Travis Fine and George Arthur Bloom. From the website’s description:

Winner of 10 Audience Awards at film festivals around the country…ANY DAY NOW is a powerful tale of love, acceptance and family. When a teenager with Down syndrome (Isaac Leyva) is abandoned by his mother, a gay couple (Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt) takes him in and becomes the loving family he’s never had. But when their unconventional living arrangement is discovered by authorities, the men are forced to fight a biased legal system to save the life of the child they have come to love as their own.

Selected Reviews

Frank ScheckHollywood Reporter: “Powerful! Superb! Depictions of custody battles have become a cinematic staple, but few register with the heartfelt emotion of Any Day Now.”

Ella Taylor, NPR:

It would take a heart of stone — or zero tolerance for soap — to resist Any Day Now, a full-throttle weepie about a West Hollywood gay couple trying to adopt a neglected boy with Down syndrome.

Melissa AndersonVillage Voice:

Straining for ‘teachable moments,’ the film has one noteworthy, unintentional function: to remind us that though LGBT rights are continually evolving, the laws of kitsch remain immutable.

So…Kitschy or not so kitschy? Here’s the trailer:

III. Beginners (2011)

The semi-autobiographical (written and directed by Mike Mills) and award-winning dramedy Beginners is the sweet story of a 38-year-old man named Oliver (Ewan McGregor) who’s dealing with both the recent death of his father (Christopher Plummer in a highly praised performance) and the difficulties of finding romantic love that lasts.

Beginnings:

  • Oliver gets a fresh chance to try romance again when, dressed as a Freud lookalike at a costume party, he meets Anna (Mélanie Laurent), who becomes his mock “patient.”
  • Oliver takes in Arthur, his father’s adorable Jack Russell terrier who’s enchantingly capable of revealing some of his thoughts to us.
  • Hal, Oliver’s dad, is seen in flashbacks coming out as gay at the age of 75, after his wife has died. A restart of sorts for both him and his son.

Below, the trailer:

David Edelstein, New York Magazine: “Mike Mills’s marvelously inventive romantic comedy Beginners is pickled in sadness, loss, and the belief that humans (especially when they mate) are stunted by their parents’ buried secrets, their own genetic makeup, and our sometimes-sociopathic social norms.”

Nov 27

How to Feel Safer, Be Safer in An Unsafe World

To be safer, we need to decrease actual threats and increase actual resources. To feel safer, we need to stop inflating threats and start recognizing all our resources. Then we don’t have to be afraid of not being afraid. Rick Hanson, PhD

It’s not just survivors of specific types of individualized trauma who often feel unsafe emotionally. It’s also every one of us who has lived through the high-level stress of recent national and worldwide events, never knowing when and how we’ll be dodging the next assaults. How do we address ways to be safer and to feel safer?

In 2015 Cynthia Kane, Washington Post, wrote about “three ways to help yourself feel safe in an insane world” (click on the link for details):

  1. Believe in Yourself: bolster self-confidence with motivational self-talk, for example
  2. Accept Uncertainty: a common life condition
  3. Be Present: that’s where your life is

“We’ll never be able to completely erase the worry and anxiety that keep us from feeling safe, but the more we return to these practices, the more quickly we will be able to return to feeling secure faster,” concludes Kane.

Following the 2016 election Robyn E. Brickel, MA, LMFT, had her own take on finding safety. She suggested the following eight ways. (Again, there’s more info at the link.)

  1. Remember your own self-care skills. 
  2. Grieve.
  3. Surround yourself with the people who make you feel supported and safe.
  4. Help the greater good.
  5. Be a safe space.
  6. Smile and honor those who just want to be loved.
  7. Keep a gratitude journal.
  8. Remember that NO means NO.

More recently Donna Sozio, Ecosalon, described “two powerful techniques to feel safe in the world again” (more at the link):

  1. Reclaim your emotional freedom: Being in the present, cultivating gratitude,and  helping others are some of the strategies to do this.
  2. Learn how to navigate your inner world: Relaxation techniques as well as becoming more aware of one’s physical and mental processes are two of the factors involved.

The article recommends, among other things, the “Four Questions and Turnaround” technique by Byron Katie. You can go to www.thework.com for further instructions about this type of meditation, but the distillation involves four simply stated steps:

  1. Notice (what you’re feeling)
  2. Write (the related thoughts)
  3. Question (address one related question and try to answer it)
  4. Turn It Around (are opposite thoughts truer? or not?)

Bottom line related to Sozio’s tips: “The more you remember that you control your inner emotions and reactions to outside events, you can reclaim your emotional security and feel safe in our world again.”

Jun 05

“First Reformed”: Body/Mind/Soul Collisions

Ariston Anderson, Filmmaker Magazine, briefly describes the plot of Paul Schrader‘s First Reformedfor what it’s worth, a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes:

Ethan Hawke stars as a former military chaplain, Toller, who can’t get over the death of his son. When he meets a radical environmental activist, Michael (Philip Ettinger), he doubts both his faith and his purpose in life. After Michael’s suicide, Toller finds a connection with Michael’s young widow, Mary, played by Amanda Seyfried.

Alex Arabian, Film Inquiry: “Toller puts on a brave front, but still suffers from his son’s death, so he drinks heavily. However, this is ill-advised, as he suffers from some form of advanced cancer. He decides to write longhand in a diary for a year.”

More about Toller’s character from director Schrader himself:

This guy has a sickness that Kierkegaard called a sickness unto death — a lack of hope, despair, angst. This sickness has manifestations. The cloth of the clergy is one, the diary is another, the alcohol is another, and finally the environment is a manifestation of his soul sickness. So he grafts this cause onto himself — in fact, picks it up as a kind of virus from another person. But if it weren’t the environment, it would be something else.

About Toller’s emerging “environmentalist obsessions” Greg Cwik (Slant) notes, “It’s as if the dead man has been reborn within Toller, as if Toller has found a new, invigorated faith, a fervid and politicized one. Suicide is, for strict Augustine Christians, a sin, unforgivable as the dead cannot confess, unless one is labeled a martyr, like Samson. Yet Toller begins to see in death the possibility for new life.”

See the trailer below:

Selected Reviews

Eric Kohn, Indiewire: “As a priest who may or may not be losing his mind, Hawke provides a compelling anchor for Schrader’s surprisingly effective religious-themed film.”

Justin Chang, NPR: “First Reformed is a stunner, a spiritually probing work of art with the soul of a thriller, realized with a level of formal control and fierce moral anger that we seldom see in American movies.”

Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press: “‘First Reformed’ is the kind of film that will stay with you long after the credits.”

David Sims, The Atlantic: “An embittered look at our world through the eyes of someone who’s increasingly horrified to be a part of it, and a film that’s one of the most searing experiences of the year.”

Stephanie Zacharek, Time:

Part of the movie’s understated triumph lies in its casting: Hawke is an actor who clearly cares, and worries, a lot–the tree of life is practically etched into his forehead. As the hyperconscientious Toller, he conveys both the selfishness and the true anguish of people who just can’t let go of their own pain. But he also offers a shred of hope in the idea that in the end, caring too much might be just the thing that saves us.

Jan 26

Check Out “The Dressmaker” Next

[P.J. Hogan] adapts the Rosalie Ham novel, a neo-feminist soap opera, to salute the indefatigable brotherhood and sisterhood of women and gay men who struggle to find acceptance and love. Armond White, Out, regarding The Dressmaker

As highlighted in my recent post about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and another on 2017 films, I believe this film has had particular appeal to women and other outsiders. And if you liked Three Billboards, I think you’ll also like The Dressmaker.

Barely accessible via theaters when it came out in 2016, The Dressmaker has been seen mainly by home viewers taking a stab at a relatively unknown film that happens to star a stunningly good Kate Winslet.

As Jenna Marotta (Decider) points out, The Dressmaker not only deserves our viewing but “should be a cause célèbre as the woman-directed and co-written adaptation of a woman’s novel, starring, fittingly, a woman.” In addition, P.J. Hogan, co-writer with his wife Jocelyn Moorhouse, happens to be a feminist and LGBT-friendly scribe.

Marissa Martinelli, Slate, sets up the story line, which involves Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Winslet) returning to her small Australian town 25 years “after being cast out as a child for allegedly killing a schoolmate, a crime she barely remembers.” What really happened back then is only gradually revealed.

While the years and a well-tailored wardrobe have transformed Tilly from duckling to swan, not much has changed in Dungatar: not the uptight, sadistic schoolteacher who served as chief witness against her (Kerry Fox); not the plain, sullen shopkeeper’s daughter who sold her down the river when they were kids (Sarah Snook); and certainly not the father of the boy she killed (Shane Bourne), a town councilor with some nasty secrets and an extremely disturbing domestic life.

Watch the trailer below:

What drives Tilly as she re-enters her town? Martinelli: “[She] never really seems all that interested in either redemption or revenge—just answers, really.”

Armond White (Out): “A sense of emancipation courses through The Dressmaker as Tilly confronts her oppressive past.”

The film uses both comedy and drama, notes Manon de Reeper (Film Inquiry), to highlight a variety of women’s and human issues, including “domestic violence and marital rape, misogyny, cross-dressing, even the use of medical cannabis by the elderly.” 

De Reeper’s critique conclusion is one I wholeheartedly support:

The Dressmaker is hilarious, touching, it’s visually pleasing, it’s well-written and has interesting characters, in particular the female ones, who are in control throughout the story…I daresay that if you want to watch a movie that attempts to break taboos (without punching you in the face with it), is a ton of fun, and if you enjoy a woman’s story told from a woman’s point of view, it certainly is essential viewing – even for men.

Dec 16

“Collateral Beauty”: Misguided Grief Therapy

Loving support is offered to grief-stricken Howard (Will Smith) in Collateral Beauty, the star-packed film with the interesting title and trailer you were hoping was this year’s holiday heart-warmer. Think again, say most critics.

“Love, Time, Death. These three things connect every single human being on earth. We long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death,” states Howard at the start of the trailer:

Plot development as described by critic Peter Bradshaw, Guardian:

This horrifyingly yucky, toxically cutesy ensemble dramedy creates a Chernobyl atmosphere of manipulative sentimentality, topped off with an ending which M Night Shyamalan might reject as too ridiculous. This isn’t Frank Capra. It is emotional literacy porn, like an aspirational self-help bestseller written by Keyser Söze. At the end of it, I screamed the way polar bears are supposed to when they get their tongues frozen to the ice.

Will Smith plays a super-brilliant ad exec with a Ted-talking visionary schtick about connectivity. But when he tragically loses his six-year-old to cancer, poor Will becomes a mumbling semi-crazy hermit who is in danger of running his company into the ground. He starts writing letters to abstract concepts like Death, Love and Time, to rail at them. So his sorrowing colleagues – Ed Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Peña – cook up a sneaky plan. They intercept the letters and hire three actors, played by Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore, to go up to Will in the street and argue with him, pretending to be Death, Love and Time. (They could also have hired Jack Black to be Eat and Morgan Freeman to be Pray – but I guess there were copyright issues.)

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter:

Even if it hadn’t come along so soon after Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan’s symphonic drama about a father emotionally crippled by loss, Collateral Beauty would look like silly high-concept Hollywood grief porn.

It’s a ludicrous plot device, right out of Gaslight, as Brigitte [Mirren] observes…

Good thing (?) Howard has his group therapy led by Madeleine (Naomie Harris), who’s also lost a child. Dan Callahan, The Wrap: “…Madeleine tells Howard about being at the hospital when an older woman turned to her to say that she must appreciate the ‘collateral beauty’ of her situation. Yes, Harris is actually made to say the ultra-lame title of this movie out loud — more than once — and she acts as if it is the most profound statement in the world.”

Peter Bradshaw, Guardian: Collateral beauty is “…like collateral damage only positive. Moments of loss are offset by revelations of human wonder at the resulting gestures of compassion and kindness. At least …I think that is how ‘collateral beauty’ is supposed to work because no-one in this movie spells it out – perhaps because doing so would reveal the concept to be dishonest nonsense.”

Matt Singer, ScreenCrush: “I still don’t know what ‘collateral beauty’ means.” Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com: “Forget ‘Collateral Beauty,’ whatever that means. This is ‘Collateral Schmaltz,’ the kind that has the power to close rather than open your heart as you rush out of the theater while the terribly named One Direction ballad, ‘Let’s Hurt Tonight,’ provides exit music.”

Leah Greenblatt, ew.com:  “These actors are too good to be entirely sunk by the sheer silliness of the material (with the exception of Smith, who seems fully committed to playing the role of a human frown-face emoji). But for all good Intentions, they can’t save a movie that so clearly wants to be something greater– It’s a Will-derful Life? Grief, Actually?—but mostly ends up a Collateral mess.”