Lovely Signs of Life

I’ve just had the chance to view a screener of Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Adam Wachter’s short film Sign and if I had to sum it up in one word, that word would be “beautiful.”

Sign is the story of a relationship told entirely through sign language. It’s a bold choice, using a language that the vast majority of your audience is likely not to know and to eschew title cards or captions. It is, however, the correct choice.

John McGinty and Preston Sadleir are the couple at the center of the piece and there is never a moment when they are not sublime. McGinty has one of the most expressive faces and, for a young actor, he shows such a masterly of subtleness that I found it difficult to pull my focus away from him. That, of course, would be my loss, as Sadleir matches him note for note.

As a deaf actor, McGinty is, perhaps expectedly, a master signer and his signing is effortless. Sadleir, the hearing actor, who, in the story, learns ASL to better communicate with his new boyfriend, has a nice arc as you watch the clumsy early signing become more and more deft as the story progresses.

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Preston Sadleir (l) is Ben and John McGinty is Aaron in the terrific short film, Sign.

Keenan-Bolger is, of course, one of Broadway’s Keenan-Bolger siblings whose individual and collective talents seem utterly boundless. He has, in addition to acting and singing and dancing, made quite the second career as a content creator, director, YA author, and filmmaker. He’s a dab hand behind the camera as well as in front. A gifted comedic actor (do yourself a favor and watch him in the web series Submissions Only, which he co-created with Kate Wetherhead), he shows a more sensitive and mature side here. His direction is smart and his cinematography shows he’s ready for a full-length project next.

Don’t think he’s given up the cheeky wit, though. Here, Sadleir’s Ben is seen teaching himself ASL with a Signing for Dummies book; our main couple watch a program on television that’s actually another Keenan-Bolger short, The Ceiling Fan; and he even puts his real-life boyfriend in as a Grindr trick!

Sign is billed as a “silent film,” but that’s giving short shrift to Wachter, whose score is note perfect throughout. It is the foundation upon which these vignettes rest and it seems to me that it functions more than mere underscoring and, instead, buttresses the scenes as a recitative for sign language. His variations on the same musical theme work to ensure that this series of short, disjointed scenes mesh together in a cohesive whole. It might help that Wachter wrote the story as well.

The “truth in journalism” part of this is that I had access to the screener because I gave to the crowd funding initiative for this film. It was worth every penny. Find out if its playing at a local film festival by visiting their website or following the film on Facebook and if you find that it’s playing nearby, then go! You’ll not regret it.

Takei “Disappointed” in Gay Sulu

With all due respect to George Takei, whom we can all agree is awesome, I think the revelation that Hikaru Sulu is gay in the soon-to-be-released film Star Trek: Beyond is a fine thing.

Screenwriter and Scotty portrayer Simon Pegg says that it was done as an homage to Takei, who is openly gay, but Takei says he’s disappointed in the choice to take a character who has always been straight and suddenly make him gay 50 years after he was introduced in the original series. He says it’s against the vision of creator George Roddenberry.

Takei may have something there; after all, no one involved in the film reboot of the original series has had the benefit of knowing and working with Roddenberry. That said, I think if Roddenberry were alive today, he may well have approved.

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(clockwise from top left) George Takei as Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek, the original television series, John Cho as Sulu in the latest Star Trek motion picture series, Zachary Quinto as the latest Spock, and Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scott, the chief engineer on the starship Enterprise. Pegg also wrote the screenplay for the latest film.

Zachary Quinto, who portrays Spock in the franchise had this to say, as reported on Towleroad:

I was disappointed by the fact that George was disappointed. Any member of the LGBT community that takes issue with the normalized and positive portrayal of members of our community in Hollywood and in mainstream blockbuster cinema…I get it that he has had his own personal journey and has his own personal relationship with this character but, you know, as we established in the first ‘Star Trek’ film in 2009, we’ve created an alternate universe, and my hope is that eventually George can be strengthened by the enormously positive response from especially young people who are heartened by and inspired by this really tasteful and beautiful portrayal of something that I think is gaining acceptance and inclusion in our societies across the world, and should be.

Quinto’s remarks buttress Pegg’s in The Guardian:

He’s right, it is unfortunate, it’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character’, rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?

Justin Lin, Doug Jung and I loved the idea of it being someone we already knew because the audience have a pre-existing opinion of that character as a human being, unaffected by any prejudice. Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic. Also, the audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek Universe from the beginning (at least in the Kelvin timeline), that a gay hero isn’t something new or strange. It’s also important to note that at no point do we suggest that our Sulu was ever closeted, why would he need to be? It just hasn’t come up before.

Pegg continued, saying:

The viewing audience weren’t open minded enough at the time and it must have forced Roddenberry to modulate his innovation. His mantra was always ‘infinite diversity in infinite combinations’. If he could have explored Sulu’s sexuality with George, he no doubt would have. Roddenberry was a visionary and a pioneer but we choose our battles carefully.

And he ended the interview with a sentiment that, I believe, we can all agree with:

Whatever dimension we inhabit, we all just want to be loved by those we love (and I love George Takei). I can’t speak for every reality but that must surely true of this one. Live long and prosper.

For Trek geeks, I think the point that the TOS (the original series) timeline and the Kelvin (movie reboot) timelines are different and therefore the canon is different. For folks pushing for inclusion, I can’t imagine a better universe to do that in than Star Trek. Except, perhaps, for our own.


Somewhat Related Post from 2013: Here

Kiss Me, Kill Me, Watch Me

I was one of the lucky ones — I got to attend the “virtual premiere” of the new Casper Andreas film Kiss Me, Kill Me last weekend. Instead of heading the the Windy City to watch the real deal at the Reeling Film Festival — which certainly would have been fun — I got to watch it from the confines of my own living room. Ain’t technology grand!

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“Coming soon … with a bang” — my vote for best copywriting this year.

It was just a fun movie. A very gay take on the old fashioned film noir pot boiler, it was more of an homage than it was a send-up. It didn’t take itself too seriously, then again, it didn’t camp it up too much either. That’s Andreas’ seasoned hand at the tiller.

David Michael Barrett’s sneaky story — one switchback turn after another, twisting and turning until the bitter end — and no, I’m not handing out spoilers — was full of surprises and puns and quips; the kind you could imagine Nick and Nora Charles coming up with. I love those old film noir detective movies and pulp paperback stories; smirky gumshoes throwing shade before anyone knew what shade was, thumping the bill of their rakish fedora as they threw the cherry end of a Lucky under their heel and crushed it out, walking out of the frame into the fog.

This was like that, only gayer. Much gayer.

After their premiere earlier in the week in EastSiders, it was fun to see Van Hansis and Kit Williamson playing opposite each other in wildly different roles. It was also great to see Hansis play off of the always-terrific Gale Harold. Craig Robert Young and Brianna Brown were lovely, too, as were Yolanda Ross and Jai Rodriguez as the detectives assigned to the case. And Jonathan Lisecki should be the store clerk — or snarky best friend — in every film ever.

Kiss Me, Kill Me proves, yet again, that indie talent is flourishing out there and it’s just as good as — often better than — the corporate pablum we’re so often spoon-fed. In fact, just today I read Richard Lawson’s scathing review of Stonewall in Vanity Fair. He writes:

[Stonewall] was directed by a gay man, written by a gay man, with an obvious intent to educate, uplift, and inspire, in this particular political climate, and is still so maddeningly, stultifyingly bungled serves only to show us how ridiculous the concept of a monolithic “gay community” really is. Stonewall at least does that bit of good: it illustrates how systems of privilege and prejudice within a minority can be just as pervasive and ugly as anything imposed from the outside. And that’s an outrage. So how long until someone throws a brick through the screen?

Well, sorry, Richard. You chose the wrong gay movie to see. My choice was well-acted, well-directed, easy on the eyes and interesting. See it next time you’re looking for a good time at the cinema.

Gayby: The Little Movie That Could

gayby-posterI saw a piece on Decider.com this week about Gayby, Jonathan Liseki’s 2012 indie comedy about best friends who decide to have a baby. I bookmarked this piece, Was It Good For the Gays: Gayby, by Tyler Coates because I was assuming that he would have something negative to say and then I would have to refute him.

To my great surprise, we are completely simpatico: he loved it and so did I. And I said so, way back in 2013. Now, I think I may go and watch it again.

Shamelessly Suggesting Visiting Valhalla

Watched a delightful little flick this week. See You In Valhalla is the latest from brothers Jarret and Brent Tarnol. Brent writes. Jarret directs. They both produce. Their star and fellow producer is Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland.

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Sarah Hyland and Steve Howey in See You in Valhalla. |Image: Arc Entertainment

This is a nice turn for Hyland. Johana is a meatier, more fully realized part than the airheaded — but adorable — Hayley Dunphy on Modern Family. Also, for her freshman turn as a producer, Hyland made some smart choices. Her co-stars have some chops, too, especially Bret Harrison, who plays one of her brothers.

Johana’s family is reunited when one of her brothers commits suicide. It’s a comedy. About a funeral.

And this would be a run-of-the-mill slightly macabre comedy if it wasn’t for Steve Howey. Now, I am a straight-up, unabashed fan of Showtime’s Shameless and Howey has been a rockstar as bartender Kev Ball for all five seasons, but I’m telling you, nothing has prepared you for him in this film.

Howey has mastered the art of playing very broad and very specific at the same time. He is completely over-the-top, but at the same time, he’s not showy. Consequently, he steals absolutely every scene he’s in as Johana’s brother’s Hawaiian (or maybe Hawaiian-adjacent?) boyfriend Makewi. Pretty as you please, he effortlessly walks away with this movie and leaves you utterly convulsed. He is brilliantly funny and completely worth the price of admission.

As my viewing companion noted when the credits rolled, “He needs to be in every movie ever made from now on.” I agree.

P.S. to Fellow Shameless Junkies. Magnus, the brother that dies in this movie, is only seen in flashbacks. Alert viewers will recognize him as Jake McDorman, who, as Mike Pratt, the scion of Worldwide Cup in Seasons 3 and 4, tantalized Fiona with the prospect of a “non-Gallagher” life only to be in inadvertent catalyst for her downfall.

Hermione and Harry?

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Has smart and sexy Emma Watson waved Hemione’s wand and conjured up a ginger prince? Or is it all a bit of rubbish? |Image: Glyn Lowe/Wikimedia Commons

The big old rumor mill is all atwitter — as is Twitter — with the salacious gossip that Hollywood royal Emma Watson may possibly be dating English royal Henry Charles Albert David.

He’s of House of Windsor fame, you know, of course — the cheeky 30 year-old chappy who’s the son of the Prince of Wales and the late Princess Diana and fourth — soon the be fifth — in line for the English throne.

There’s no confirmation yet and, frankly, I would rather like this to be false because the “news media” is so ridiculous these days.

Still, we all know Hollywood and we all know that real life comes directly from the movies, so what’s the one thing that we can determine? That’s right: Hermione loves herself a ginger.

The Rumor That Emma Watson And Prince Harry Are Dating Has Shaken Muggles Everywhere.

Retake Kickstarter: Fund This

Hey, folks! I’ve been absent of late, because, well, life. But, I have backed the Kickstarter for the new feature film RETAKE and I think you should too. This is another in a string of important independent LGBT voices that need to be heard. Please join me and help them raise about $45,000 to bring this project to fruition.

Nick Corporon is the writer/director/jack-of-all-trades, Sean Mandell produces, Luke Pasqualino and Kit Williamson star. Make sure that these talented folks get a chance to make this film.

Fund Them.

We now return you to radio silence, already in progress.

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