Metro Weekly

Rocks and Hard Places

Reel Affirmations 2009

Review by Sean Bugg

Rating: starstarstarstar (4 out of 5)
Sunday, 10/18/2009, 3:00 PM
Shorts presentation, $10 at

Rocks and Hard Places purports to be about the difficult choices and situations men face when putting themselves into relationships with other men, though the program strays a bit in both theme and quality.

One of the better entries is Hide (), a story of two older men with empty-nest syndrome who meet online and have a year-long affair. Rick wants to go public with the relationship, Matthew asks, ”What would be the good of it?” Even with some not-up-to-par performances dragging it down, the film doesn’t shy away from the downer ending you just know is coming.

Two Brazilian seniors carry on an obviously long-term relationship in  (After Everything) (), having a date night in an apartment so familiar to them both that they needn’t even bother turning on lights to find their way. As a frank and refreshing portrayal of sexual intimacy between older men, Depois presents a lot to be admired; as a story, however, not quite as much.

Two younger black men are the heart of the affair in Check-Out Time (), meeting weekly in a hotel for trysts. Greg is married and overly paranoid about their relationship being discovered, Neil obviously wants something more than a regular hook-up. Nicely performed, the film ends not on a moment of resolution but resignation.

Riding On the Bus (), young Jeremy agonizes over his crush on super-hunky classmate Sean, carrying on an imaginary conversation with the object of his unspoken affection. With some prodding from both the imaginary and the real, he may be ready to make his feelings known. Cute.

In Teddy (), Londoner Tony heads to New Zealand with hopes of reconciliation with his ex, who moved there to start a new life. ”Poor guy,” you think of Tony, although flying 26 hours to the other side of the world in hopes of hooking back up with your ex who has a new husband is, well, a bit of a stretch in terms of expectations. Ultimately, it’s only a teddy bear that can offer him solace.

Brian is getting ready to move to South America with his hot boyfriend, Manuel. Brian is at the beck and call of his mother. Brian is cheating on the side and interrupts having sex with Manuel to take a call from a former trick, who’s calling to report a positive HIV test. All of that and more makes Portrait of a Couple () actually more a portrait of an asshole, and rather grim.

In Come Clean (), Jeremy still blames himself for the death of his boyfriend in a vicious hate attack because he was late to meet him on the terrible night. Now, as he washes his clothes in a laundromat, a bloody young man fleeing two angry men may offer him a chance to save someone. Naturally, things aren’t what they seem. Unfortunately, it’s too obvious what things actually are.

Take the Gay Train () takes on a subject that should be more widely explored — the gay aspects of the Harlem Renaissance — but labors underneath overly stylized presentation that renders the film far less engaging and interesting that it should be, leaving you hoping that the filmmakers take another shot at it.

It’s hard to criticize Finding Family (), a short documentary on gay adoption across the nation, given the nobility of the topic and the presence of cheek-pinchingly cute children, but it’s baffling why it would be programmed here. One of these things is certainly not like the others.

Well, except for Weak Species () which is so unlike anything else in the program it’s as if its being beamed in from a planet where Mysterious Skin and Hostel are a Nickelodeon double-bill. A violent, disturbing and twisted story of two gay high school students — one pathologically narcissistic and one deeply damaged and suicidal — has merits to defend it as a film, but this isn’t the program for it. It should have played as a double-bill with the creepy thriller Pornography, instead of alongside a film on the joys of adoption.

Rocks and Hard Places
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