Woodkid (Support: Awir Leon)

Woodkid played a show in the Gasometer in Vienna supported by Awir Leon.
Seen on: 23.4.2022

Having seen two live shows recently (in relatively small locations and with mask mandates in place), I threw caution into the wind a little and went to see Woodkid (a show that was originally planned to be open air and two years ago) in Vienna’s second biggest concert location. Indoor. With a recently lifted mask mandate. My friend and I wore our masks anyway, but I was surprised by how few people opted to wear masks on a voluntary basis, and I’m not keen to repeat the experience any time soon, I have to admit. But my anxiety was not so bad that I left the concert early. Or maybe the concert was so good. I mean, it was definitely really good.

Woodkid standing in a uniform that is vaguely reminiscent of an astronaut's suit, a hardhat under his arm, in front of some machinery.
Woodkid.
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Rimini (2022)

Rimini
Director: Ulrich Seidl
Writer: Veronika Franz, Ulrich Seidl
Cast: Michael Thomas, Tessa Göttlicher, Hans-Michael Rehberg, Inge Maux, Claudia Martini, Georg Friedrich
Seen on: 23.4.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, fascism

Plot:
Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas) is a “schlager” singer whose heyday has long been over. He lives in Rimini now where he barely gets by with performances for busloads of German-speaking tourists, the occasional sex work and renting out his house to fans while he himself goes to stay in a shabby room in one of the many hotels that are empty for winter. When his estranged daughter Tessa (Tessa Göttlicher) shows up to demand money from him, Richie needs all his (more or less sleazy) survival skills to comply with her request.

Rimini is a typical Seidl movie in a way, but there is an almost optimistic note at the end of the film that is rather untypical. In any case, it’s the portrait of a sleazy man that spares nothing, as it is the portrait of a tourist town without tourists.

The film poster showing Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas) performing on an empty stage in front of a glitter curtain.
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The Female Closet (1998)

The Female Closet
Director: Barbara Hammer
Seen on: 22.4.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

“Plot”:
The documentary looks at photographer Alice Austen, dada artist Hannah Höch and painter Nicole Eisenman, considering their lives and their sexual orientation, how that relates to their art and the way they are spoken about.

I wasn’t really familiar with any of the three artists portrayed in this documentary before, but The Female Closet serves as a nice introduction to their work as well as to the erasure queerness and queer people face in the art world, also suggesting a historic trajectory that may be questioned.

The film poster showing a photograph by Alice Austen with four women who are holding each other in pairs as if slowdancing.
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Maurice (1987)

Maurice
Director: James Ivory
Writer: Kit Hesketh-Harvey, James Ivory
Based on: E. M. Forster‘s novel
Cast: James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, Denholm Elliott, Simon Callow, Billie Whitelaw, Barry Foster, Judy Parfitt, Phoebe Nicholls, Patrick Godfrey, Mark Tandy, Ben Kingsley, Kitty Aldridge, Helena Michell, Catherine Rabett
Seen on: 22.4.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, classism

Plot:
Maurice (James Wilby) meets Clive (Hugh Grant) at Cambridge University where they connect over philosophy and music. Their friendship quickly deepens and when Clive confesses his love for Maurice, Maurice is thrown at first but finally able to admit his love for Clive as well. Only that Clive wants to keep sex out of their relationship, especially since homosexuality is still forbidden in the UK. Trapped between (internalized) denial and a longing for happiness, Maurice and Clive have to make some important decisions.

Maurice is a beautifully crafted film that – given the time it is set in – I thought would be much sadder. Instead it is a powerful and very romantic call to live your truth.

The film poster showing Maurice (James Wilby) leaning over Clive (Hugh Grant) who is turning his face away.
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Red Rocket (2021)

Red Rocket
Director: Sean Baker
Writer: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Cast: Simon Rex, Bree Elrod, Brenda Deiss, Suzanna Son, Ethan Darbone, Judy Hill, Brittney Rodriguez, Shih-Ching Tsou
Seen on: 19.4.2022

Content Note: grooming

Plot:
Mikey Saber (Simon Rex) used to be a rather successful porn actor, but the tides have turned for him recently. Not knowing where to turn, he ends up in his Texas hometown, on the steps of the house where his (ex-)wife Lexi (Bree Elrod) and her mother Lil (Brenda Deiss) live. Despite knowing better, the two allow him to stay, at least for a while. Mikey immediately tries to find his footing again, but only really comes to life when he meets 17-year-old Raylee, called Strawberry (Suzanna Son). In her, Mikey sees the possibility of a new start.

Red Rocket may not have won me over quite as much as Baker’s earlier films, but it is astonishing in how it manages to show all of Mikey’s despicable qualities and not excusing his actions, but still keeping him kind of likeable. It’s a difficult balance to pull off, and Red Rocket does so exquisitely.

The film poster showing a naked Mikey (Simon Rex), his hands covering his dick, stuck in a giant pink donut around his midriff.
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Shortbus (2006)

Shortbus
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Writer: John Cameron Mitchell (together with the cast)
Cast: Paul Dawson, Sook-Yin Lee, PJ DeBoy, Lindsay Beamish, Jay Brannan, Raphael Barker, Peter Stickles, Mx Justin Vivian Bond
Seen on: 18.4.2022

Content Note: stalking

Plot:
Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee) is a couples’ counselor. She herself is happily married to Rob (Raphael Barker). But in her first session with James (Paul Dawson) and Jamie (PJ DeBoy), she has a bit of a breakdown and finally confides in them that she has never had an orgasm herself. James and Jamie, who actually wanted help with the growing distance between them, in part due to James’ depression, and were thinking of opening up their relationship, invite Sofia to Shortbus, a club run by Justin Bond (Mx Justin Vivian Bond) filled with queerness, art and sex. That invitatione sets all of them on new paths.

Shortbus is a movie made for queer people, extending a kind of safe space for the audience where everybody is welcome and free to explore. A part of that is also sexual exploration, but that’s only one part of a grander vision of queer community.

The film poster showing about 20 (clothed) people lying together in a pile.
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Restrained Desires (Katherine McIntyre)

Restrained Desires is the third novel in the Rehoboth Pact series by Katherine McIntyre.
Finished on: 17.4.2022
[I won this book in thr LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, fatmisia

Plot:
After years of her mother chipping away at her self-esteem, Kyle is convinced that she will never find the woman who is right for her, who will find her attractive. Even despite her best friend Aubrey’s attempt to be her wing-person. The only person Aubrey would never try to set her up with? Her little sister Chelsea, straight, freshly divorced and out to have a good time, now that she’s free again. But that doesn’t keep Kyle from finding her gorgeous. When Kyle confides in Chelsea that she has announced to her family that she will bring home a girlfriend, Chelsea offers to accompany her. And when Chelsea mentions that she would like to explore her kinky side, Kyle is there to go to the BDSM club with her. As the two start to spend more and more time together, they become closer. But could they actually work as a couple?

Restrained Desires is a sweet romance that reads quickly. I expected it to be a bit more sex-driven and kinky than it is, but I can’t say I minded that it concentrated on the fake dating trope, definitely a personal favorite. In short, I really enjoyed it.

The book cover showing a woman hugging another from behind, both smiling.
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Black Canary: Breaking Silence (Alexandra Monir)

Black Canary: Breaking Silence is a novel by Alexandra Monir. It is part of the DC Icons novels.
Finished on: 16.4.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other DC Icons novels.]

Content Note: cissexism/gender plague

Plot:
Dinah Lance lives in Gotham City under the rule of the Owl Council who have made sure that the women in Gotham City don’t have a voice – figuratively, but also literally: singing is outlawed for women, and has been made physically impossible, much to Dinah’s chagrin. She dreams of singing, and of the one time she is sure she remembers hearing a girl sing when she was a child. When she and her friends Ty and Mandy try to find out more about the female singers of the past, Dinah gets in deep trouble though, drawing the attention of the Owl Council, with worse consequences only avoided through the intervention of her cop father Larry. Dinah should be keeping her head down under the circumstances, but with an old friend of her dead mother, Barbara Gordon, making an appearance, and new and very cute student Oliver Queen arriving at her school, Dinah can’t help but continue to question the way things are. And maybe she can find her voice after all.

Black Canary: Breaking Silence takes a very different approach from the other novels in the DC Icons series so far, setting its story decades in the future in an dystopian version of Gotham. While that’s interesting, a lot of it seems a little half-baked and not quite thought through, making it a little disappointing despite its obvious(ly) feminist mission.

The book cover showing a drawn blond girl with bandages across her mouth, a black canary on the shoulder of her torn leather jacket.
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De uskyldige [The Innocents] (2021)

De uskyldige
Director: Eskil Vogt
Writer: Eskil Vogt
Cast: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit, Kadra Yusuf, Lisa Tønne
Seen on: 14.4.2022

Content Note: ableism, racism, animal abuse and death

Plot:
Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum), her autistic sister Anna (Alba Brynsmo Ramstad) and their parents (Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit) just moved into a giant apartment complex. Ida is not particularly happy about it, or the attention her parents pay her sister who she likes to hurt, convinced that Anna doesn’t feel pain because she can’t express it. When Ida sets out to explore her new home, she meets Ben (Sam Ashraf) with whom she shares her cruel streak. Ben also appears to have special powers, able to move a bottle cap by thought alone. And Ben isn’t the only one there with powers, it seems. There is also Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim) who has a telepathic connection with Anna. The four set out to explore their abilities, but things start to spiral out of control.

De uskyldige is a tense and atmospheric film with excellent performances by the children, but also a couple of pretty problematic tropes and an ending that was a bit of a let-down.

The film poster showing Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) lying on a tire swing looking up, only that the swing rack and the ground are above her.
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In the Shadow of the Moon (2019)

In the Shadow of the Moon
Director: Jim Mickle
Writer: Gregory Weidman, Geoffrey Tock
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine, Michael C. Hall, Rudi Dharmalingam, Al Maini, Quincy Kirkwood, Sarah Dugdale
Seen on: 10.4.2022

Plot:
Locke (Boys Holbrook) is a police officer hoping for a big career move. When a mysterious killing spree hits Philadelphia, he connects the dots and traces the bodies and their unusual way of dying to a mysterious woman in a hoodie (Cleopatra Coleman). This realization is only the start of decades of obsession for Locke – and the end of his life as he knew it.

In the Shadow of the Moon has a couple of interesting ideas, but it didn’t quite win me over. I think that’s because it chose the – to me – wrong angle to tell its story.

The film poster showing half of Locke's (Boyd Holbrook) face. Superimposed over his shoulder is a street at night, a giant moon in the background, and Rya (Cleopatra Coleman) wearing a hoodie and holding a strang weapon in the front.
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