DEKKOO DISPATCH 067 – ‘BUGCRUSH’

Title – ‘Bugcrush

Director – Carter Smith

Starring – Josh Caras, Donald Cumming, Eleonore Hendricks, David Tennent

Release Date – 2006

 

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Well it’s a very dark and yet exciting day here in Dekkoo-world with the launch of Carter Smith’s award-winning short-ish film from 2006 ‘Bugcrush‘! This is absolutely, positively, my favorite short film ever – it’s disturbing, sexy, and gorgeously made. The photography, sound design, and choice of locations all come together to reach a level of perfection for my particular aesthetic interests. The short premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film! Based on his success at Sundance Carter Smith went on to direct the Summer blockbuster horror film ‘The Ruins’ and later in 2014 the intimate ghost love-triangle film ‘Jamie Marks is Dead’.

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Bugcrush‘ is set in a small town in the forest-heavy state of Maine. We meet Ben – a mousey nerd-ish loner type who happens to be the first person to talk to the dark, mysterious, and sexy new kid in school, Grant who immediately upon arrival gets an immediate detention for smoking. What does Ben do then? He gets detention on purpose so he can stare at Grant for a couple of hours. Ben’s friends try to talk him down from his obsession with Grant. They warn him that he’s just a straight guy that’ll beat him up if he knew Ben was into him. But none of this deters Ben who proceeds to work up the courage one school day to propose a hangout with Grant that leads to a very bumpy night to say the least…

The film is an adaptation of a short story by Scott Treleaven, an artist who founded the queer pagan punk ‘zine ‘This is the Salivation Army’ back in the 90’s. It was collected in the queer horror anthology ‘Queer Fear 2’ which is where Carter Smith first read it. “The moment I read the short story the very first time, it was like being hit by a bus,” Carter Smith said, waiting in a Dallas airport for a changeover flight to Salt Lake City. “I was like, ‘This is the film that I can make better than anybody else. This is the film I have to make.’ It just sort of clobbered me over the head.” Before making ‘Bugcrush‘ Carter Smith was a professional fashion photographer and commercial director. He was certainly able to bring over his keen instinct for stylization and photography to create a dark and foreboding landscape of teenage angst and sexuality.

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The film was shot on 35mm and the color timing is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Greens have a corpse-like quality to them (except when it comes to Ben’s eyes which seem to be leaping out of the screen at you) and the roads at night are a gorgeous yellow-grey color. Another part of the production that leaps out at you is the sound design. The entire film is filled with eerie moans and distorted childish voices that promote the escalating tension in everyday normal situations like school hallways. The idea to un-synchronize the sound during the driving scene at night is totally brilliant! And so was the idea to have lots of whispering voices giving you additional info about characters. Turn up your volume!!

This movie has everything! Pretty guys, teenage crushes, weird drugs, sexy smoking, metal music, awkward hidden sexuality, creepy straight guys, and cockroaches! Watch ‘Bugcrush‘ with your ‘crush’ tonight!

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Watch it with: Someone you have a dark crush on…

Mix it with: Vodka.

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 066 – ‘SHORT FILM ROUNDUP!’

Title – ‘Turn It Around

Director – Niels Bourgonje

Starring – Valentijn Avé, Tonko Bossen, Timo Dries, Faye Gunther

Release Date – 2017

Title – ‘Breath

Director – Margien Rogaar

Starring – Yannick de Waal, Moo Miero, Roeland Fernhout

Release Date – 2007

Title – ‘It Gets Better?

Director – Stephen Riscica

Starring – Gys de Villiers, Luka Fric, Samuel Ashkenazy, Adam Davenport

Release Date – 2016

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Three short films – Three snapshots of queer life at three different points in a gay man’s life. I’ve been focusing too much on features lately so this week I decided to take a glance backwards at some of the short films that have been added to Dekkoo’s catalog. I found three recent additions that speak of love at different stages in life and they’re all exquisitely crafted! I’d recommend starting from young to old. In this case from ‘Breath‘ to ‘Turn It Around‘ to ‘It Gets Better?‘.

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‘Breath’ is an heartwarming poetic coming-of-age short film from The Netherlands. Infused with a warmth you can only get from shooting on real film, ‘Breath‘ focuses its camera on 12-year old Erik. He’s fascinated by the world around him and constantly observes his surroundings with the remnants of child-like awe. His friend Sophie invites him to the beach where he meets her handsome and playful father. Clearly Sophie has a bit of a crush on Erik, but Erik has his eyes on her father. Margien Rogaar definitely has an eye for colors, occasionally flashing us with bright swatches of color reminiscent of scenes from ‘Beginners’ by Mike Mills. The whole film felt like falling into a dream for me – a dream that put me in the shoes of my childhood self and reminded me of what having a crush at that age was like.

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Ten years later in the same country Niels Bourgonje created ‘Turn It Around‘. A film set squarely in the post-‘It Gets Better’ world with the coming out process being awkward rather than difficult. In the short 15-year old Bram is attending a house party with his girl crazy friends. We can tell immediately that he’s your typical closeted gay teenager – lazily reacting to girls his friends point out as ‘hotties’. But then Bram spots Florian at the party and immediately falls for him. In the span of just ten minutes we’re witness to the beginning of a really adorable love story. If you can only watch one of these shorts make it this one! Soooo cute and heartfelt.

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Lastly we enter old age with ‘It Gets Better?‘. Getting older is something very few people (especially gay people!) want to happen to them. This feeling is programmed into us from a very young age where being attractive and youthful is prized above almost everything else. Slowly, but surely more narratives are changing that view point and ushering the values of old age corresponding to wisdom and insight into the cultural consciousness. In this short we meet an older man who’s watching an ‘It Gets Better’ video on the internet. In the video we see a teenager repeating the same monologue we’ve heard a million times before, but it’s affecting this man differently. Instead of being calmed by it he’s agitated by the teenager’s words. After drinking a heck of a lot of wine we finally hear what’s on his mind. Gys de Villiers (who is actually a pretty famous South African actor) is unbelievably compelling as the anonymous older gay man who tries to impart some of his wisdom (and melancholy) to a jaded modern culture.

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Watch it with: A friend or two!

Mix it with: A glass of white wine.

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 065 – ‘GODS AND MONSTERS’

Title – ‘Gods and Monsters

Director – Bill Condon

Starring – Sir Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave, Lolita Davidovich

Release Date – 1998

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“To a new world of gods and monsters!” 
— Dr. Pretorius to Dr. Frankenstein in ‘Bride of Frankenstein’

We’ve got a wonderful treat for you this week on Dekkoo! The Academy Award winning film ‘Gods and Monsters‘ by Bill Condon! Released theatrically in 1998 it went to on win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for two other categories – Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. The script for the film was based on a biography of famous director James Whale called ‘Father of Frankenstein’ by Christopher Bram. Before we jump into talking about the movie I think it’s important to talk about the background of our protagonist: James Whale.

James-Whale A quick background on the real James Whale:
While James Whale directed nearly 20 films by now only a few have survived the test of time. Most notable among those are ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’, ‘The Invisible Man’, and ‘The Old Dark House’. Born in 1889 Whale was one of seven children and had to stop attending school in his teens because of money issues in the family. He started as a cobbler and ended up using his blossoming artistic abilities to paint signs for neighbors. When World War I broke out in 1914 he decided to enlist in the army and avoid the draft that he knew was inevitable. In 1917 he was captured in Flanders and remained imprisoned for more than a year. During that time he used his creative talents to amuse and entertain his fellow soldiers with amateur productions. After the war he spent his time trying to sell cartoons before eventually finding his calling directing plays which he did from 1922 to 1929. After the success of various productions he ventured to Hollywood where producers were looking for directors that had experience with dialog since Hollywood was going through a transition from silent films to talking films. He started off at Paramount Pictures and eventually made his way to Universal Pictures where he met Carl Laemmle, Jr. who offered him the chance to direct any property the studio owned. He chose Frankenstein.

The movie takes place in the 50s – long after the glory days of ‘Frankenstein’. In the 50s James had settled into his Pacific Palisades abode and had used the pool to his advantage; throwing pool parties where large groups of young men fooled around with each other while he watched. After having a small stroke in 1956 he became more withdrawn and hardly left the house. Enter Clayton (played by Brenden Fraser) – the new beefcake gardener. Some have noted that his tall lanky appearance is similar to that of the monster from ‘Frankenstein’. James takes an immediate liking to him and invites him to pose for some sketches. During these sessions they get to know each other and quickly become friends. There are some speed bumps though mostly owing to Whale’s tendency to lapse into memories about parties, sex, and boys which makes Clayton wildly uncomfortable. Watching from the sidelines during this tentative courtship/friendship is Hanna (played by Lynn Redgrave and nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars), his loyal housemaid who clearly disapproves of his homosexuality and tries to place herself in the middle of anything she deems suspicious.

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The film oscillates between these sketching sessions, memories from Whales’ childhood and later career, some interactions with fan, (‘take off your clothes and I’ll tell you everything’) and a past lover. Bringing the fun down a notch is Whales’ medical conditions – his strokes have left him severely ill and he toys with the idea of suicide. Ian McKellen is absolutely wonderful in the role of James Whale. He inhabits the playful, sexual, tormented, and reminiscent mind with the skill someone only of someone his caliber can deliver. He truly delivers a performance worthy of winning Best Actor at the Oscars, but sadly he was only nominated for it. The film is also a wonderful accomplishment for Bill Condon who later went on to direct ‘Kinsey’ and ‘Dreamgirls’ along with a host of other more mainstream fare like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn’. It’s a film that will stay with you long after the closing credits. A beautiful swan song to creativity and a life lived honestly.

 

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Watch it with: A group of your creative friends.

Mix it with: Champagne.

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 064 – ‘IN BLOOM’

Title – ‘In Bloom

Director – Chris Michael Birkmeier

Starring – Kyle Wigent, Tanner Rittenhouse, Adam Fane, Jake Andrews

Release Date – 2013

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Love is always best in the early stages when it’s ‘In Bloom‘. Chris Michael Birkmeier’s first feature film captures the innocence and tragedy of first love with a delicate touch reminiscent of Andrew Haigh’s ‘Weekend’. Although whereas ‘Weekend’ features leads from the UK that you can barely understand, ‘In Bloom‘ takes place in Chicago with super cute clean-cut American boys that definitely speak our language 😉

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As the film opens we’re introduced to Kurt and Paul who after running into each other awkwardly at a party try to be amiable with each other until… flashback! :SEVEN MONTHS EARLIER: A much more carefree Kurt smokes a joint in his bedroom while a frazzled Paul stocks shelves in bland looking grocery store. They’re a couple still in the early stages of love where they live separately, but spend all their time together. They go to the beach and play the ‘which guy is the hottest’ game, they have hot sex, and they go to parties together. We quickly find out the reason why Paul’s working hard and Kurt isn’t is because Kurt sells weed. Which isn’t to say selling weed isn’t hard work, but… it just isn’t.

Kurt and Paul’s relationship is tested by the arrival of Kevin, a new client/customer of Kurt’s. A wildly cute young-and-carefree type he definitely is someone that Paul could never be – younger, cuter, and a non-paranoid stoner. We can tell immediately that Kurt is trying his best not to be unfaithful to Paul, but it’s hard when Kevin is the one to make the first move and kiss Kurt. Gasp!! Of course this throws Kurt into a realm of uncertainty about Paul if he’s his one true love. Is he supposed to commit to this person if he’s interested in someone else? If only he didn’t smoke so much weed… Paul also is going through his own issues. “Don’t you get tired of doing the same thing over and over?” He wants to go to Paris and explore. Kurt just wants to ‘chill’ and have sex.

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When I first saw this film I was really taken aback by its honesty and its emotional connection that I could completely relate to. I was lucky enough to meet the filmmakers at their screening at Outfest and was thrilled to meet a group of people who were just like the film they created – smart, in touch with the gay community, and eager to make more films. The director has cited most of the film coming from his own life experiences and it totally shows. Here’s to hoping he creates more feature films – in the meantime he’s been busy creating queer music videos in Los Angeles.

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Watch it with: An ex you’re friendly with.

Mix it with: Beer and weed!

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 063 – ‘BONES OF CONTENTION’

Title – ‘Bones of Contention

Director – Andrea Weiss

Release Date – 2017

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“When the pure forms sank in the cri-cri of daisies, I knew they had assassinated me. They combed the cafes, cemeteries and churches, they pried open the wine-casks and closets, destroyed three skeletons to take their gold teeth. Still, they didn’t find me.”
– “Fabula y Rueda de los Tres Amigos” by Federico Garcia Lorca

Bones of Contention‘ by Andrea Weiss is a documentary that shines a light on a dark period of Spain’s history – the persecution of LGBTQ people under the reign of Franco (1939-1975). During his time in power over 120,000 murdered people were buried in unmarked graves along the roads of Spain. Many of these people were persecuted for political reasons which included their choice to live their queer lives out in the open. Federico Garcia Lorca was one of Spain’s most famous citizens – a poet, playwright, and theatre director. He was friends with other famous Spanish artists like Salvador Dali, Emilio Aladren, and Luis Bunuel. The film focuses on LGBTQ people in general but does focus quite a bit on Federico mainly because he became the most famous missing victim of Franco’s 120,000 victims that were buried in unmarked mass graves. To this day the body has never been found.

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Known as the ‘Spanish Hitler’ Franco rose to power with support from Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and was responsible for the deaths of over 500,000 soldiers and civilians by the time he became Spain’s dictator in 1939. The aftermath of the civil war was horrible for Spain as thousands of prominent doctors, politicians, teaches, lawyers, and other professionals who had supported Spain’s Republic were forced to flee or possibly be jailed/murdered.

Because Franco’s Spain was very Catholic, sexuality wasn’t discussed in the open. Eventually though the government saw that they had to address the growing concerts of homosexuals and transvestites and so they created the ‘Law of Social Dangers’. It provided the police with a way to arrest anyone that appeared to endanger social mores in public OR in private. A funny exclusion to this rule were lesbians. The machismo ruling class saw women as so insignificant that they wouldn’t have ever thought of women as having the possibility of being homosexual. Sadly women were preoccupied with other injustices like no divorce and no birth control.

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The film does a great job of providing a myriad of subjects: scholars, gays, lesbians, ex-cons, and even a cabaret singer who was jailed for being a transvestite. They look at the past offenses to LGBTQ people under Franco’s rule, but more importantly they look to the future to map a path that will make them proud of living in Spain, a country that they all obviously have a love of.

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Watch it with: Yourself or a friend that enjoys emotional documentaries.

Mix it with: Probably water for this one.

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 062 – ‘SASHA’

Title – ‘Sasha

Director – Dennis Todorovic

Starring – Sasa Kekez, Predrag Bjelac, Ljubisa Gruicic, Zeljka Preksavec

Release Date – 2010

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It’s Wednesday and tonight you deserve a good ‘ole heart-warming hump day movie! I  proudly present to you the crowd-pleasing gay coming-of-age/romance/daddy film ‘Sasha‘ directed by Dennis Todorovic. This film went under the radar back in 2010, but it really shouldn’t have and Dekkoo is the perfect place for you to re-discover this gay gem!

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Sasha‘ rises above movies of it’s ilk due to a few factors, but the most noticeable one is the fact that Sasha comes from a family of immigrants. Mistaken for the most part as Serbians (although really from Montenegro) Sasha’s family now lives in Germany and are outsiders for the most part. The only piece of Sasha’s life that really connects him to his peers is his love of music. He’s a piano player and a very serious one at that. He trains hard to be accepted to the best music school in Germany and that’s where our love interest comes into play. Sasha’s love of music isn’t the only thing propelling him forward, but also his instructor who he’s madly fallen in love with. Enter Gebhard – the classic stereotypical hunky German guy in his late-30s who’s passionate about music, life, and swimming in really skimpy swim suits!

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When Gebhard tells Sasha he’s leaving the city Sasha realizes that the next few weeks are his ‘now or never’ moment. If he wants to be with the love of his life (Daddy!) he needs to come out and confess himself. If only it was that easy… He also has to focus on the upcoming piano audition, pay attention to his best friend Jiao (a violinist) who’s totally in love with him, and deal with his crazy immigrant family – of which his father is pretty homophobic, so there’s that all to deal with.

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Fun Fact: Gebhard (played by Tim Bergmann) played another gay man 14 years earlier in ‘Regular Guys‘ which is also available on Dekkoo! So if you’re in love and can’t get enough Gebhard there’s more!

 

 

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Watch it with: All of your romantic-leaning friends.

Mix it with: A German wine.

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 061 – ‘CAS’

Title – ‘Cas

Director – Joris van den Berg

Starring – Kevin Hassing, Wieger Windhorst, Felix Meyer, Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing

Release Date – 2016

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Hallo from the Netherlands (or Holland if you’d prefer)! The home of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and the inventor of solid chocolate! Ooh la la! It’s also home to a boatload of cute gay couples just waiting to invite you into their apartment so you can sleep on their couch while you worm your way into their lives without realizing it. Well at least I assumed from the movie ‘Cas‘ I just watched that that’s the case. Well I’ll just pretend to myself that it happens allll the time. You’ve gotta live for something…

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Cas‘, a film directed by Joris van den Berg is actually a made-for-TV film which makes me instantly sad that I don’t live in the Netherlands and can’t have something like this broadcasting over the air permeating my entire body with it’s emotional and sexy brilliance. Running at only 48 minutes it’s a breath of fresh air as to what Joris is able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. The way in which the viewer enters the film and is quickly able to take stock of the current situation of the relationship is incredibly strong. We’re immediately aware that we’re in the presence of a couple that’s at the make-or-break stage. They love each other, but they both have long-term needs that could conflict.

Enter our main character Cas who will decide for them if they’re made for this pairing or if they just wish they were. Invited by Sjors to crash on their couch while he looks for a place to live, Cas shows up one day to Pepjin’s surprise. While we’re a little confused at first how the two met, it’s eventually revealed that Sjors had met up with him a few times previously. Pepjin’s reluctance gives way to a welcoming attitude once Cas’ love of 80s music and ‘Twin Peaks’ comes to light. Eventually after a drunken night out the three end up sleeping together and then the real relationship tests really start.

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There’s so much to like about this film. Pepjin’s emotional fragility, Sjors’ tender daddy personality, and Cas’ puppy dog-like charm are a few of them. But other topics like the contrasting desires and goals in a relationship and the nature of monogamy are explored with such a delicate yet strong touch that reminded me of my own relationships and made me question what I want in my future relationships. All in all this is a fantastic 48 minute film and I can’t wait to see what Joris van den Berg is able to do with 96 minutes next time!

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Watch it with: Your boyfriend and your houseboy.

Mix it with: A Heineken (it’s from the Netherlands!!)

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