Tag Archives: Gay/Queer


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DIRECTED BY: Kelley Kali

FEATURING: Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Shannon Woodward, Shein Mompremier

PLOT: A young art curator who is having mysterious blackouts and confused memories meets a potential girlfriend who seems too good to be true.

Still from Jagged Mind (2023)

COMMENTS: Billie is a stunning, smart, lithe second-generation Haitian with a chic job at an upscale art gallery. Her periodic blackouts and memory lapses—which she suspects may be a result of very early onset Alzheimer’s—must make her a pain to be around; that’s the only possible explanation as to how she could have any problem landing, and keeping, a high-class girlfriend. She does have minor but unexplained sores on her thigh, and she does tend to go into a fugue state whenever a voodoo priest accosts her while jogging, but other than that, she’s a prize. So thinks Alex, who comes on to her with a smooth, practiced approach, buying Billie a glass of expensive wine when she spots her alone at a Little Haiti bar—multiple times, because Billie never remembers their last meeting. Is Alex merely taking advantage of Billie’s neurological condition, or is something even more sinister going on?

The fractured first act grabs your attention for the first fifteen or twenty minutes of Jagged Mind‘s runtime, but unfortunately, the script doesn’t capitalize on this strong setup. Let’s face it, Groundhog Day was three decades ago, and the “time loop” plot device is now approaching the point of cliché. It takes some real inspiration to find a new angle on it, and Jagged Mind isn’t up to the challenge. One major problem is that the movie drops in its twist at an awkward juncture, about midway through, meaning there is no guesswork left for the final act. People hoping for a twisty psychological thriller will find that the mystery resolves too quickly, while the opening is too baffling for those expecting a popcorny horror-thriller. Furthermore, the mechanics of the plot device are illogical: for one thing, it’s not satisfactorily explained why Billie, specifically, must solve the paradox herself rather than, say, the apparently competent voodoo priest. It gets less satisfying the longer it goes on.

Having said that, while it’s not exactly good, Jagged Mind is nowhere near as bad as its 4.3 rating on IMDb might suggest. The script is weak, but the film is made quite competently, with the cinematography (capturing Miami’s neon glow and Little Haiti’s colorful charm), the editing, and Woodward’s villainous turn coming close to being standouts. The central relationship is presented believably, and it addresses serious issues. The sapphic element is sexy but not exploitative; lesbians should enjoy seeing themselves as central characters in a horror movie, but straights will not feel alienated (or titillated) in any way. There’s a lot of promise here that doesn’t get capitalized on, but Jagged Mind is a workmanlike entry that fits into its value-added free-on-Hulu slot: the kind of thing you can watch on an impulse and not feel cheated (which you might if you paid good money for it). It’s the kind of movie you might watch once, then catch again later because you’ve totally forgotten you saw it.


“Presenting a potentially fractious relationship by way of a fractured narrative, the story and technique of Jagged Mind are much more intriguing on a theoretical level than they are in practice. “–Mark Dujsik, Mark Reviews Movies (contemporaneous)


La vaca que cantó una canción hacia el futuro

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DIRECTED BY: Francisca Alegria

FEATURING: Leonor Varela, Mía Maestro, Alfredo Castro, Enzo Ferrada

PLOT: When her father is hospitalized from shock after her long-dead mother appears to him, Cecilia returns to her family’s dairy farm to care for him.

Still from The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future (2022)

COMMENTS: Fans of cows singing songs will surely be satisfied with The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future; the bovines croon quite well, although it is up for debate just how far into the future their tunes echo. The rest of us will at least be willing to hear the movie out: it contains much intriguing strangeness, while also held back a bit by a tangled thicket of themes and the sometimes underwhelming familial drama.

The film begins with a shot of a mouse corpse that leads to a long pan over a forest floor to a riverbank where a carpet of beached fishes sing a song about death. This is followed by the appearance of Magdalena, who arises from the water wearing a motorcycle helmet and walks silently into town. We then turn our attention to Cecilia, a single mom doctor raising two children. We meet the elder, Tomás, trying on women’s clothes and discussing a vintage newspaper article about a woman who committed suicide by riding her motorcycle into the river. Cecilia rushes to her father’s side after he collapses from shock after catching a glimpse of what he believes to be his long-dead wife, looking just as she did the day she died. Cecilia and her children settle in at the family’s dairy farm, where her brother Bernardo attempts to revive the herd’s failing fortunes while the patriarch complains about his effort. Also on site is superstitious stepmom Felicia, the first to directly interact with silent revenant Magdalena, who gradually reveals herself to the others. Meanwhile, the cows get loose at night, while back in town people stage protests, blaming a local pulp plant’s pollution for the plague of dead fish.

I’ve tagged this movie as magical realism—it’s a rule that we must do so for any moderately strange movie hailing from south of the U.S. border—but at times, Cow feints towards actual surrealism. If Magdalena’s strange and unexplained return from the dead was the only thing going on here, Cow probably could be confined to the realm of magical realism; but the magic here extends beyond the realistic. There are, of course, the choirs of singing fish and cattle. There is Magdalena’s strange relationship with technology: she’s obsessed with cellphones and her mere presence turns on microwaves. A mysterious wound appears on Cecilia’s head, quickly healed and never explained. The zombie mom briefly takes up with a lesbian motorcycle gang. So, despite a primary focus on drama, things do get weird.

But The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future arguably attempts to deal with too many themes at once. The family dynamics are the primary focus, with the mystery of Magdalena’s death and return illuminating and catalyzing the interplay between the others. Ecological collapse forms the background: the deaths of fish, the disappearance of bee colonies, a sickness affecting the cattle herd.  There’s a nod to issues of how conservative Latino societies deal with LGBTQ members, and even a critique of industrial dairy farming practices. But, although everything connects, to a large extent, spreading all of these concerns over the course of a 90 minute movie means that each one gets short shrift: we never uncover the source of the river’s pollution, Tomás’ transgenderism subplot feels imported from a different movie, etc. Furthermore, the big family secret is not weighty or surprising enough to justify its delayed reveal; it’s delivered in a single sentence. Still, Cow works out well in the end, generating an optimistic feeling of rejuvenation and resurrection. The postmortem resolution of Cecila and Magdalena’s relationship loosely parallels the notion that there is still time for us to atone for our sins against the environment.


“Rife with evocative symbolism, Chilean director Francisca Alegria’s feature debut is an audacious, surrealistic expression of acute ecological distress and various ideas pertaining to contemporary agita.”–Kat Sachs, Chicago Reader (contemporaneous)



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FEATURING: Mauro da Costa, André Cabral

PLOT: Concerned about the environment, the prince of Portugal chooses to become a volunteer fireman and falls in love with a co-worker.

Still from Will-o'-the-wisp (2022)

COMMENTS: There was a 1974 softcore sex spoof called 2069: A Sex Odyssey. Pretty hilarious title, huh? Will-o’-the-Wisp opens on almost the same joke, conspicuously setting its flash-forward prologue in 2069. This is not a promising opening for a supposedly serious art film.

A lot of the insubstantial Will-o’-the-Wisp comes off exactly as on-the-nose as that opening joke. Among the film’s incompatible parts is a general dedication to environmentalism (which motivates its protagonist to semi-abdicate his royal commission to volunteer as a firefighter). We know of Alfredo’s convictions because he interrupts family dinner to read Greta Thunberg’s 2019 U.N. speech off his phone, speaking directly to the camera. So when it comes time for a sex scene, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that it goes unambiguously explicit. The film contains a lot of hoses, and some actual hosing, but almost no firefighting—although Rodrigues shows, in a CPR-training scene, that he is perfectly capable of conveying eroticism indirectly. The finale features a singer substituting the word “falo” (phallus) for “fado” (folk song) in her dirge. Subtlety isn’t always a virtue, but with a project as wispy as this—even at 67 minutes, its plot feels stretched-out—a little could have gone a long way.

Will-o’-the-Wisp flits as lightly over its surrealism as it does every other element (with the exception of male full-frontal nudity, which, honestly, is the film’s major theme and raison d’être). Muscly, nude firemen re-enact various classical paintings (humorously), and the final funeral scene is suitably strange, with a pair of female mourners played by gossipy, ambiguously-gendered ladies. Perhaps most notably, the film is proffered as a “musical fantasia,” with pauses in the action for song-and-dances. The slim runtime only accomodates three numbers, however: an a capella ode to trees sung by schoolchildren, the closing funeral fado, and the centerpiece, an athletically choreographed fireman’s techno-ballet where the protagonist gets spun around like one of those twirling signs by his future lover.

The musical element makes Will-o’-the-Wisp resemble the queer absurdity of Rodrigues’ To Die Like a Man (2009) more than the ambitious surrealism of his Ornithologist. Wisp lacks the emotional heft of that 2009 effort, however, because it doesn’t spend enough time developing Alfredo and Alfonso’s characters into much more than romantic pawns playing their assigned roles. This phantasm of a film feels dashed-off, an under-budgeted pandemic-era project made to keep busy while waiting for something bigger to come down the pike. That said, other critics were more forgiving: 97% positive on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of publication, in fact. One would presume Wisp would also play well with a niche gay art-house audience, while lacking crossover potential. (I will point out that gay-friendly art-house patrons are the only ones likely to pick it for a screening, however; and, returning to the Tomatoes numbers, the paltry 32% audience score suggests that even they weren’t impressed. I suppose this is more of a critics’ movie: other critics, that is.)


“…hilarious and yet still heartfelt, extremely weird but wonderful…”–Lee Jutton, Film Inquiry (festival screening)


Kondom des Grauens

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DIRECTED BY: Martin Walz 

FEATURING: Udo Samel, Peter Lohmeyer, Marc Richter, Leonard Lansink, Iris Berben

PLOT: Hard-boiled detective Luigi Mackeroni sets out to stop a  malevolent predator resembling a prophylactic that uses its razor-sharp teeth to perform impromptu penectomies on the patrons of sex workers at a grungy New York flophouse.

Still from Killer Condom (1996)

COMMENTS: Does anyone go into a movie titled Killer Condom with high expectations? Before you’ve seen a frame, you’re already primed for an experience that will be trashy fun at best, exploitative and gross at worst. And your reservations will only be reinforced when you learn that the title is in no way metaphorical; the movie really is about a killer condom. 

Reality turns out to be much better than expectation, because that title monster—a ravenous rubber that looks like a Snapchat logo but with the teeth of a fluke—is an ideal metaphor for the movie itself. So much of Kondom des Grauens is about misleading appearances. For one thing, it’s distributed (though not made) by , with all the crudeness, grotesquerie, and DGAF attitude attached to that label, and yet it has a sweetness and enlightened viewpoint not often found in films produced by the studio. For another, it’s a movie about the seedy side of gay culture that is decidedly pro-gay, complete with a central romance and an unexpected level of empathy for a trans character. Most significantly, it’s a typical New York police procedural that’s distinguished by the fact that everyone in the film is speaking German.

It’s a measure of how much Western audiences have been trained to accept their stories in English, regardless of time or setting, that the language is the part that feels most bizarre about the film. And while turnabout is fair play, the lengths to which the filmmakers go to provide some verisimilitude only adds to the confusion of seeing this parade of New Yorkers delivering their lines in German. Ample Manhattan location shooting magnifies the many tropes that die Deutschen leave intact: the gruff black police chief who frequently threatens to take the hero’s badge, the tough-as-nails medical examiner with a blindness for social niceties, the parade of undesirables who wander through the fleabag flophouse (bearing the name “Hotel Quickie”). Killer Condom could pass for a low-budget Charles Bronson flick, if not for the Teutonic dialogue. 

Foremost among the required elements is our hero, the impeccably named Luigi Mackeroni. Like many a downtrodden movie cop, he spends his days wandering the streets of the Big Apple, monologuing in voiceover about what a dump it is and how he would maybe be better off in his native Sicily (again, this is all in German). He’s pretty Continue reading IT CAME FROM THE READER-SUGGESTED QUEUE: KILLER CONDOM (1996)


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Unidentified Objects is currently available for VOD rental.


DIRECTED BY: Juan Felipe Zuleta

FEATURING: Matthew Jeffers, Sarah Hay

PLOT: Peter, an irritable gay dwarf, reluctantly agrees to go on a last minute road trip with sex worker Winona, who believes she has a date to be abducted by aliens in Canada.

Still from Unidentified Objects (2022)

COMMENTS: Ralph Waldo Emerson could have made his famous declaration “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” as a motto for the road movie genre. The road movie formula structures its plot as a series of challenges meant to reveal its characters, force them closer together as they overcome obstacles, and eventually rip them apart (before they reconcile in the finale). Unidentified Objects fits firmly within the road movie genre, with a couple of twists: it focuses on one of its two travelers much more than the other, and it’s spiked with hallucinatory sci-fi interludes.

Not to slight Sarah Hay—who is excellent as a sex worker Winona, a woman who appears wacky in her alien obsession yet is far more down-to-earth than her companion—but Unidentified Objects belongs to Matthew Jeffers. His portrayal of Peter perfectly embodies the script’s magnificent creation of a misanthropic, deeply depressed homosexual dwarf who’s an expert on Anton Chekov. If Jeffers had hit a single false note, the movie might have quickly come to a screeching halt. Fortunately, Jeffers is always a joy, prickly and sarcastic but achingly vulnerable. Peter is a natural hermit—a sort of homegrown alien in, as he complains, “a world with little to no patience for bodies not of a highly specific make and model”—so Winona’s main function is to give him an excuse to travel out into the world, as well as to challenge his cynicism. She’s a platonic pixie dream girl.

Along with their road encounters with drug-addled survivalist, lesbian cosplayers, and horny teens, two or three dream sequences provide serious character development for Peter. I’ll leave it to the viewer to discover the details for themselves, but the first major set-piece is effectively horrific and supplies backstory and motivation for his journey, while the second emphasizes his loneliness in a way that a real-life scenario never could. These scenes (and others) are accompanied by disco-pink lighting that emphasizes the tale’s otherworldly queerness. Although Winona sets a dreamlike tone early on by asking, “ever wake up from a dream and it’s like you’re still dreaming?,” in practice the movie does the opposite: it’s always clear when a dream has ended, but not when one has begun.

Some may complain that the ending, while not overly ambiguous, shies away from the cosmic promise of the premise—but remember, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. Winona abducts Peter from his lonely apartment, where he feels like he has every reason to stay locked away from humanity with his volume of Chekov. His courage in choosing to face a harsh world that was not built with him in mind is ultimately a more impressive achievement than being chosen to be whisked away to some celestial paradise.


“Thankfully, this cinematic trip embraces its intimacy the further it ventures into colorfully surreal territory.”–David Lynch (not that one), KENS5 (festival screening)