Aimee Schoof

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Brother To Brother Review


OK
Perry (Anthony Mackie) has a lot going on. He's young, black, and gay, and studying hard at Columbia while also working at a homeless shelter and trying to get noticed as a painter. Disowned by his homophobic parents, he's looking for love, meaning, purpose... all that good stuff. "There's a war inside me," he thinks to himself.

So can he end the war in the course of a 90-minute movie? Brother to Brother tackles so many issues that there's no way Perry will find all his answers, but he does make a good start with the help of the elderly Bruce Nugent (Roger Robinson), a minor figure in the Harlem Renaissance whom Perry encounters on the street and later at the shelter. Nugent, who's also gay, takes Perry back to the days of wild Harlem through a series of black-and-white flashbacks. It's there that we meet the young Bruce (Duane Boutte) along with the superstars of the era: Langston Hughes (Daniel Sunjata), Zora Neale Hurston (Aunjanue Ellis), and Wallace Thurman (Ray Ford). By listening to Nugent's stories, Perry realizes that all the prejudices he's fighting -- black vs. white, gay vs. straight, light-skinned vs. dark-skinned -- are nothing new.

Continue reading: Brother To Brother Review

Anything But Love Review


Good
The production values in Anything But Love are primitive, the story is derivative, performances are sometimes awkward and, yet, there's a reason it did well in eight festivals. This courageous film takes itself completely seriously and expresses an ardent vision of its subject: the music and styles of the '50s.

Though it's too limited in scope and budget to be -- as the ad copy would have it -- a celebration of the "style and sensibility of Technicolor musicals," co-writers Robert Cary and Isabel Rose have put together a fairytale story line with a Sweet Home Alabama dilemma: Their heroine has to choose between the rich guy and the dedicated, artistic type; between financial independence and a hazardous career.

Continue reading: Anything But Love Review

Besotted Review


OK
This exceptionally strange romantic drama masquerades as a supernatural comedy, but at heart it's another hyper-realistic story of mature romance (as opposed to the usual teen rom-com). Director Holly Hardman plays a witch of sorts who gets tapped to aid in a case of unrequited love that local town drunk Shep (Jim Chiros) has for lady lobster fisher and ex-lover Vicky (Susan Gibney). Hardman moves statuettes around a magic chessboard of sorts for 90 minutes, with unpredictable, yet not terribly compelling results. Strangely, the DVD case describes this as "an illuminating experiment with the creative process," but there's nothing experimental on the screen. Besotted comes across as just another indie romantic drama that didn't really go anywhere. (If something kooky is happening behind the scenes -- like they shot the movie without a script or something -- I'm clueless about it.)

XX/XY Review


Weak
Coles Burroughs, the selfish protagonist played by Mark Ruffalo in Austin Chick's unexceptional debut XX/XY, proclaims early on to his girlfriend Sam (Maya Stange) "I'm never growing up," and then proceeds for the film's hour and a half to prove himself right. A spineless rascal guided by his sexual urges and fear of commitment, Coles is an aspiring filmmaker who meets Sam and her freewheeling roommate Thea (Kathleen Robertson) at a party in 1993, and winds up having a ménage à trois with the alluring strangers. The ensuing fallout finds Sam and Coles in a relationship and Thea on the outside as a full-time friend/part-time lover, and this uncomfortable setup leads to a pervasive fear of infidelity - as Coles later states, "There's no room for honesty in a healthy relationship." An untrustworthy lothario, Coles is all too happy to confirm such a statement, and the three soon discover that they cannot deal with the jealousy, deceit, and anger created by their current circumstance. The trio disbands, and the film jumps ahead ten years to find the former lovers reconnecting through a chance encounter. Yet while their situations (and hairstyles) are noticeably different, very little about Coles has changed for the better, and it's not long before the sparks are once again flying between him and Sam.

The problem is, Coles is now living with the devoted Claire (Petra Wright) - who proves both her love for Coles as well as her great cinematic taste in one fell swoop by getting her beau a box set of Claire Denis films for their anniversary. Her introduction, in a refreshing twist, allows writer/director Chick to deviate from his heretofore typical romantic comedy setup. Rather than cast Claire as the icy bitch Coles has, in the wake of losing Sam, been forced to settle for, Chick wisely pulls the rug out from under us, portraying Claire as almost frighteningly ideal. After Coles and Claire get together with Sam (who has shunned an engagement proposal in London and recently returned home) and Thea (who is now married to a restaurant owner) for dinner, Claire confronts Coles about the possibility that he might still harbor feelings for his one-time love; the forthrightness, respect, and clear-headed compassion and understanding she conveys while openly discussing the issue with Coles is, in its sincerity and equanimity, shocking. With Coles once again feeling magnetically drawn to Sam, Claire's goodness is the film's most delightful surprise, and winds up complicating what initially seemed to be a rote tale of lost love rediscovered.

Continue reading: XX/XY Review

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