Week 2 of QFest Brings More Fascinating Docs and Surprising Performances

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Sassy Pants
Haley Joel Osment’s game turn as a swishy gay teen with a lip ring, tats and frequently no shirt is the main draw of this indie comedy, but beware of buyer’s remorse: His role is merely supporting, complimenting a thumb-twiddling tale of a less interesting character coming out of her shell. Ashley Rickards plays a mousy home-schooled teen who runs away from her domineering mother (Anna Gunn) and into the home of her once-closeted dad (Diedrich Bader). Gunn tries to shade her monster with traces of vulnerability, but the rest is paint-by-numbers, and by the time the score is drenched in earnest indie rock, it’s not even theoretically funny. (M.P.) Fri., July 20, 9:30pm; Sun., July 22, 5pm, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.

Audre Lorde-The Berlin Years 1984-1992
The life of Audre Lorde—in her words, “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” as well as Columbia professor and the official poet of the state of New York from 1991 to her death in 1992—has been covered by many. So, kudos to the doc by activist Dagmar Schultz, which focuses exclusively on the many trips she paid to West Berlin. There, she encouraged and emboldened the city’s black population, all the while arguing that it’s not differences that divide us but people not dealing with them. Home footage, including much on group meetings, highlight this intimate work, which is as moving when it’s covering her life as it is when she is succumbing, with an ever-defiant face, to cancer. (Matt Prigge) Wed., July 18, 6pm, Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St.

 

Facing Mirrors
Iran’s first transgender drama—about a pre-op woman (Offside’s Shayesteh Irani) trying to escape the clutches of her disapproving father (Homayoun Ershadi)—is bold, if little else. Irani plays Adimeh, whose travels wind up involving a young taxi driver (Ghazal Shakeri), who grows from an initially unwitting accomplice to her seen-the-light defender, and though Negar Azarbayjani’s film touches on the country’s gender issues—girls can feel like boys, but after a certain point, they have to be regulated to the shackled life of a woman—the story rarely feels more than rote. Only Ershadi, the relaxed, haunted star of Abbas Kiarostami’s A Taste of Cherry, complicates this simplistic drama, eventually suggesting that what motivates him is badly misdirected love. (M.P.) Sat., July 21, 5pm; Sun., July 22, 2:30pm, Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St.

 

I Stand Corrected
Early in this eye-opening documentary by openly gay director Andrea Meyerson, jazz vocalist Ginger Berglund recalls thinking that “a fantastic bass player would not want to be a middle-aged woman.” Yet that’s precisely what her friend and fellow musician John Leitham yearned to become. A talented, in-demand player, Leitham performed regularly with notables like Mel Tormé, but hid his true self from peers. Only in the privacy of his home could he be Jennifer, the name given to him by the woman he eventually married. Since undergoing gender reassignment surgery in 2002, Jennifer’s life has improved dramatically. Now living openly and leading her own band, she finally seems comfortable in her skin, a point made by Doc Severinsen and others interviewed. Sure, there were difficult moments, including a painful divorce and a serious medical complication that occurred during surgery, but Jennifer appears to be adapting well to her new life. She’s even begun playing the bass while standing, something she avoided in the past for fear of looking like a girl. Although Jennifer’s private life is never fully revealed, that’s a quibble. Throughout, the director focuses on the two most important things in Jennifer’s life: her music and being transgendered. (Raymond Simon) Thurs., July 19, 7:15pm; Fri., July 20, 5pm, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.

 

Kiss Me
Like last year’s Weekend, Alexandra-Therese Keining’s Swedish romance unearths the kind of plot that would have been told in ’90s gay cinema just to judge the state of homosexuality today. The results here are less exciting: Ruth Vega Fernandez whimsically cheats on her fiancé with a woman (Liv Mjones), but it becomes quickly apparent that the sexuality of the characters is largely unimportant, as homosexuality has, especially in Sweden, become essentially normalized. Change a couple lines of dialogue, and this could be a standard hetero affair saga. Keining and her actors do their best to infuse the proceedings with some freshness, and would have gotten away with it, too, were it not for that dim third act. (M.P.) Sat., July 21, 12:15pm, Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St.; Sun., July 22, 7pm, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.

 

Mommy is Coming
Cheryl Dunye, a Temple grad who segued from post-Go Fish gay indies (The Watermelon Woman) to a disastrous Hollywood stint (My Baby’s Daddy), rematerializes with this colorful, energetic porn hybrid, a light farce that just happens to include the odd penetration shot. Papi Coxxx plays a character of fluctuating gender identity who winds up the sex partner to a woman and her visiting mother. This builds to a climax that genuinely pushes a button, but the tone is never less than giddy and playful, and the end product has the formal excitement of Dunye’s famed student films, including “interviews” with the actors as they break character. (M.P.) Wed., July 18, 8:15pm; Fri., July 20, 9:30pm, Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead St.

 

Nate & Margaret
Depicting the May-September friendship between a nascently gay teen (Tyler Ross) and a grouchy 50-something (“Roseanne’s” Natalie West), Nathan Adloff’s feature debut is as likable as its leads, which is to say extremely. Though Adloff has worked with the likes of Joe Swanberg and Frank V. Ross, his version of an Amerindie is more modest and retro, content to simply sketch an unlikely friendship amidst life’s various disappointments. Bonus points for the section on Margaret’s floundering stand-up career, which features some believably terrible amateur jokes. (M.P.) Wed., July 18, 7pm; Thurs., July 19, 5pm, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.

 

A Perfect Ending
The latest from Nicole Conn, she of the obnoxiously purple ’90s gay “classic” Claire of the Moon , ladles relentlessly sappy music over the romance between an uptight middle-aged trophy wife (Barbara Niven), who claims to have never achieved orgasm, and an unfailingly patient call girl (Jessica Clark), who likely has more patience with Niven’s reluctance than the viewers. This is pure Red Shoe Diaries territory, albeit minus the return to hetero “normalcy.” If only Conn had another directorial trick than the dissolve or if the script didn’t run out of ideas once the two (quite belatedly) hook up, unless you count cribbing Erich Segal as an idea. John Heard also pops up, reminding you that the scene-stealer of Cutter’s Way deserved a better career. (M.P.) Sat., July 21, 7pm; Sun., July 22, 2:15pm, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.

Au Pair, Kansas


J.T. O’Neal’s debut film has a number of winning qualities, including its rural Kansas setting and an attractive cast. This quirky comedy stars Traci Lords as Helen, a widow trying to rebuild her life after the death of her husband, a bisexual who inspired both love and resentment in her. Left with two young boys, Helen hires a male au pair from Norway. Oddmund, played with amiable charm by Håvard Lilleheie, is an overgrown boy who makes up for his difficulties with English by speaking the universal language of soccer. The movie’s offbeat tone is reinforced by Helen’s conversations with her husband’s ghost and colorful characters like the attractive butch lesbian sheriff and the cross-dressing art teacher. Viewers, however, can only suspend their disbelief so much. When Oddmund’s attempt to help one of Helen’s sons is misconstrued as an inappropriate sexual advance, the movie takes a darker turn, one that doesn’t ring true. That feeling is compounded by the nagging sense that a crucial scene or two was left on the cutting-room floor. (R.S.) Fri., July 20, 7:30pm; Sat., July 21, 9:30pm, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.

Taking a Chance on God
This slender doc tells of John McNeill, a Jesuit priest who became one of the first members of the cloth to argue—with a master’s grasp of scripture, ethics and morality—that gay relationships are healthy and should be embraced by churches. McNeill, who outed himself on national TV, was first silenced by the church, then removed, which had the ironical effect of making his beliefs more widespread. The film doubles as a history of gay rights, revealing, among other things, that the current pope once penned a screed condemning homosexuals and saying that any violence they receive was brought on by themselves. So, that’s fun. (M.P.) Sat., July 21, noon, Ritz East, 125 S. Second St.

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