Nonsense! I'll be in my office

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Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy team up for an Oscar nominated entry in the screwball comedy genre in Jack Conway’s Libeled Lady (1936).

Also starring adorable Walter Connelly as Loy’s millionaire father, the plot revolves around a newspaper that prints a story about a rich heiress (Loy) who is supposedly a home wrecker. When the story breaks and the paper is up for a libel suit, newspaperman (Tracy) puts his marriage on hold to Harlow and hires Powell to set up Loy and prove that the fabricated story is true. The results are hilarious, the stars never better and it proved to be one of the best comedies of the Thirties.   Steve Hayes

Beware the ides of March

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In black ink my love may still shine bright

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Under love's heavy burden do I sink

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Le1f

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"I'm very honored to be featured on the new Teengirl Fantasy album 8Am as my new name Khalif Jones. I'm still doing some Le1f shows these next few months, but expect new music next winter," Le1f wrote on Facebook. Hmm. Here's the video...

Bipolar Sunshine

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Here's the new video for Manchester-born gone-LA Bipolar Sunshine's Are You Happy? It's gorgeous.

KAOS at Flare 2017: Pushing Dead

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"This San Francisco-set black comedy by Tom E Brown opens with wannabe writer Dan’s struggle against health insurance bureaucracy, as he faces losing the drugs that have kept his HIV at bay for over 20 years. We’re soon rooting for Dan as he risks failure in almost every part of his life."

The tagline for director Tom E Brown's debut feature is "an AIDS comedy". A what? Yes, an AIDS comedy. That's not without precedent, of course. Jeffrey was an AIDS comedy, of sorts. But is Brown's Pushing Dead funny?

Yes. James Roday is utterly charming as the self-deprecation Dan, the kind of guy most boys would love to bring home to mother. Robin Weigert is adorable as the requisite fag hag. Danny Glover is also adorable as Grumpy Old Man. It's the kind of cast that's just a joy to watch.

The downside is the whole thing feels a bit dated. A bit 1995. There's a reason for that - Brown's been working on it for nearly twenty years. The sweet, self-deprecating gay guy, his kooky, forever single hag, and their friends the Huxtables. Even the notion that a comedy about AIDS is risqué is just... passé.


But that doesn't really matter. It's a good movie. It's a good, solid cast. It's funny. And I'm glad it was the last film I saw at this year's Flare. We went out on a high.


KAOS at Flare 2017: Body Electric + Miles

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"Elias is a handsome young deputy manager in a garment factory in São Paulo. When he’s not working, he enjoys casual encounters in the big city. The arrival of a young African, Fernando, on the production line piques his interest and Elias finds himself increasingly drawn into socialising with his work colleagues."

If Jesús represents the brutal, nihilistic side of Latin America, Corpo Elétrico (Eng: Body Electric) is the joyful flipside of the coin, a film inspired (director Marcelo Caetano told us in the Q&A afterwards) by Walt Whitman’s poem I Sing the Body Electric.

Caetano's film is electrifying yet understated, a good hearted celebration of Brazilians that doesn't go quite where you expect it to. But that's okay, because it's easy to let yourself be carried away by the people in this film.


It's hard to believe this is Caetano's debut feature. There's an incredible tracking shot following the gang down a street, drawing us into the group, giving each character time to shine. It's an ambitious - but incredibly rewarding - shot, and indicative of Caetano's generosity: each one of the group matters, not just the leads.

Corpo Elétrico is an incredible achievement, and hands down the best film at this year's Flare.

Read an interview with Caetano here.

"When the sudden death of his father leaves his family bankrupt, out and proud high schooler Miles fears his dreams of escaping to college will evaporate. However, he learns of a volleyball scholarship that might be the solution to his problems. There’s only one catch – his school only has a girls team."

It would be churlish to be mean about Miles, director Nathan Adloff's debut feature. It's so soft and inoffensive it would be akin to kicking a puppy.

But visually it's dull (small town America can be lensed spectacularly - see Akron) and the script somewhat inert, but the cast pull it together. Tim Boardman and the omnipresent Molly Shannon are a believable mother and son, but everyone is upstaged by a scene-stealing Monika Casey as a dick-obsessed widow. The Simpsons' Yeardley Smith also makes a cameo appearance.


Miles won't set the world on fire, but nor is it hurting anyone either.

(Rogue "Marbie" Scott was there with me, and liked Miles more than I did. Watch what he thought here.)


I’ll follow thee and make a heaven of hell

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KAOS at Flare 2017: Jesús

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"18-year-old Jesús lives with his stern, somewhat unaffectionate father in Santiago, Chile. When not doing drugs, having casual sex or simply slouching in front of the TV, Jesús and his friends perform in a K-pop boyband. But his routine is thrown into chaos one evening when he and his drunken posse viciously assault a young gay man and leave him for dead. It’s an act that propels Jesús into a profound moral crisis which have severe consequences."

Jesús isn't so much a "gay movie" as a Latin American millennials movie, in the same vein as last year's stunning From Afar, or the rather more underwhelming I Promise You Anarchy. Nicolás Durán is mesmerising as the titular Jesús, whilst Alejandro Goic (in the relatively thankless role of the kid's single father) will, unexpectedly, floor you. Chile's tourist industry won't thank director Fernando Guzzoni for making Santiago look like a dystopian hell.

The sex and violence in Jesús is explicit (we were warned beforehand that some scenes were "triggering"). The attack is graphic and unrelenting, but showing that violence is necessary. The same can't be said for the sex scenes, the one thing that bothered me about Jesús. It seems to be part of a growing trend in cinema: erect penises and real (non-simulated) sex. Now, I'm no prude [see The KAOS Top 30 Porn Stars], but something about this just doesn't sit well with me. It takes you out of the film; instead of thinking the character is having sex, you're thinking about the actor. It is the actor who is physically aroused. It is the actor who is actually having sex. They're not faking it. Why are they not faking it? To titillate, provoke, to get bums on seats? There's an erect penis in Mørke Rum, too. As Tegan Jovanka said of Logopolis, "I'd prefer to see a lot less of it."

But Jesús is a gruelling drama-thriller that builds to a devastating climax (From Afar features a not dissimilar finale) and will haunt you for a long time afterwards.


Jussie Smollett

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Jussie Smollett doesn't hold back in his new video F.U.W., which he also directed. “This song is for the oppressed. That’s why I feel like people will connect with it because it is very broad, because oppression is so broad,” he says.

Sit by my side, and let the world slip: we shall ne'er be younger

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KAOS at Flare 2017: Shadow & Act

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Reluctantly Queer
Shadow and Act is another series of shorts, curated by the adorable Jay Bernard, "that compel you to know yourself, live freely and speak the truth to power."

Reluctantly Queer (director: Akosua Adoma Owusu) is described as "a beautiful letter about migration, identity and love from a young Ghanaian man [Kwame Edwin Otu] to his family." It is: beautiful, and incredibly poignant. Watch the trailer.

Hattie Goes Cruising
Hattie Goes Cruising (director: Konstantin Bock) is an absolute joy. It follows "an ageing African-American couple give a how-to on cruising and what it was like being young, queer and pretty in 1970s and 1980s New York." Well, who could possibly resist? The titular Hattie is a hoot, and I'd gladly spend hours listening to his stories. Twenty minutes, and I feel like we barely touched the sides Always leave them wanting more...

Still Burning is a joyful love letter to the ballroom scene, directed by Nick Rowley. In it, "a young migrant from Guadeloupe on the French vogue scene cares for his younger brother who is getting ready for his first ball." It's one of this year's #FiveFilms4freedom, so you can watch it for free!



Bayard and Me
I Am Woman (Kai Fi åin and Azara Meghie direct) is a spoken word piece. It's short, but it packs an almighty punch.

Bayard and Me (director: Matt Wolf) is an incredibly poignant remembrance of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin by his younger partner Walter Naegle.

Our Skin (director: João Queiroga) combines the audio of a series of phone calls between a trans woman and a war veteran. Whilst worthy, the abstract visuals bored me.

KAOS at Flare 2017: Moonlight + A Romp Through Classic Camp + Transcendent Tales

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"Moonlight tells the story of Little, who becomes Chiron, who becomes Black; a young African American boy who changes from timid child, to bullied teen, to remote and reticent man."

Are you sick of Moonlight yet?

Let me clarify that. Are you someone who hasn't seen Moonlight, and is sick of hearing about it? A think piece here, another interview with one of the cast and crew there, yet more news about award nominations (or that Oscar controversy). How many times have you seen that same still of the actors in the ocean? Or that amazing poster? The hype started a long time ago; it might even predate the US election campaign that never ended (and then it did, and we wish it hadn't). You might get to feeling, "Moonlight: Meh! I haven't seen it, but I'm just sick of it now. Enough!"


But set aside all that noise and hype. Moonlight is subtle, delicate, beautiful, something we should be whispering to each other, because it is everything it's hyped to be, and more. It belongs to us, not the masses who've jumped on the bandwagon.

There's not much I can say that hasn't been said already, except to say that, of all the incredible performances, I found Ashton Sanders' (as the teenage Chiron) the most powerful. At times his performance is so raw it's almost impossible to look at him. But when you do, you'll never forget.

A Romp Through Classic Camp
With A Romp through Classic Camp, new Flare programmer Zorian Clayton takes us on a "whistle-stop tour" through the history of camp cinema.

Carmen Miranda, Kenneth Williams in Carry On, Elizabeth Taylor in BoomPink Narcissus, and an utterly mesmerising Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar - what's not to love? Billed as a "clip lecture", I couldn't help but wish the lecture element had been delivered by Flare's droll (and camp classic) Brian Robinson. The clips presented here left me wanting more; that's not a bad thing, is it? (I saw this with my bestie, Rogue "Marbie" Scott, who was less impressed.)

Kopřiva
Transcendent Tales ("bold and beautiful fictional shorts from first inklings to years after transition") opens with Kopřiva (Eng: The Nettle).

Directed by Piaoyu Xie, Vojtech Hrabák plays Nikola, whose doubt and confusion is palpable in a dreamy Czech Republic.

Diane From The Moon
Tear Jerker (director: Amy Adler - read an interview with her here) is a strong piece about Elliot (Sam Joans), a trans guy. There's an agonising scene in which he's confronted with his ex and her new alpha male jock boyfriend. Who wouldn't empathise with that?

Diane from the Moon (Hanna Ladoul and Marco La Via direct) stars Mya Taylor (Tangerine - read an interview about her new role here) as a "pagan priestess who takes no prisoners". Sold?

I could watch Taylor reading a bus timetable, and she doesn't disappoint in this clever film with a heart-in-the-mouth ending.

MUM
Victor XX (director: Ian Garrido) tackles trans and racial issues in Spain. Alba Martínez is superb as the titular Victor.

"Trans theatre pro" Kate O’Donnell stars in the autobiographical MUM (director: Anne-Marie O’Connor), a touching (and funny) ode to the Irish family. O'Donnell was present to help introduce the film, looking stunning in a sparkly top. She has an incredible presence, and I'd love to see a lot more of her (there's a great interview with her here).

KAOS at Flare 2017: Brief Encounters + Jewel's Catch One

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1992
It's March and that can only mean one thing: Flare, the official London LGBT film festival. I'll be looking in on eleven screenings this year, and reporting back here at KAOS (you can find reviews of previous years here).

First up, we have Brief Encounters, "four films about getting what you want, or what you think you want."

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is (to coin a phrase) a hideously white series of shorts. It's hard to fathom why the BFI would (yet again) think it's okay to present a series of shorts on the LGBT experience in which all of the films are about white gay men.

3 Friends
This isn't a criticism of the individual films, which are (largely) excellent. 1992 (director Anthony: Doncque), about a bold high school teen living with his single father, takes us down that well-trodden path of setting the film in the recent past. It's unclear why so many filmmakers choose to do this; aside from adding a frisson of nostalgia, it adds nothing, and we end up playing "anachronism eye spy". But that's a niggle; it doesn't take away from the film, which has a refreshing take on the arty gay son/working-class father trope. 1992 is well worth visiting.

Herculanum
3 Friends (director: Michael Moody Culpepper) is based on a short story by Colm Tóibín. It might be helpful to read it first, since what ends up on screen is as nebulous as the Cork scenery is beautiful. This felt more like a trailer than a piece of its own. It's also unclear how 3 Friends fits into the Brief Encounter theme.

Herculanum (director: Arthur Cahn) is set in a gorgeous Paris apartment. It's therefore no surprise that it's also agonisingly romantic. It's gorgeous. There's a volcano. I loved it.

Mørke Rum
Mørke Rum (Eng: Perpetual) is the jewel in the crown of this series. It should be mandatory viewing for every baby gay. Or maybe not; because whilst Perpetual is brutally instructive, its last shot is devastating. (On a purely superficial level, lead Nicolas Wollesen is an absolute stunner.) Watch it here. Read an interview with director Peter Ahlén here.


Back in 2015, I saw Kate Kunath's heartbreaking documentary We Came To Sweat, about Brooklyn's pre-Stonewall, black-owned gay bar the Starlite Lounge, which was facing closure (spoiler: it closed) after fifty years. Jewel's Catch One is in a similar vein, with director C. Fitz racing against the clock to preserve history. And what history.

Jewel's Catch One
If you don't know about Jewel - or Catch One - it's a fascinating story that touches on racism, sexism, homophobia, the AIDS crisis, substance abuse, celebrity and gentrification.

The key difference with Sweat (apart from tone - whereas as that was a story about a losing battle, this is a joyful celebration) is the focus on Jewel herself. Jewel is Catch One, and this film is about her as much as it is her legendary club.

Jewel was actually present at the screening (with Snap! vocalist Thea Austin, who serenaded the great lady), and her very presence permeated the room with a sense joy and goodness. She's an inspiration, and a beacon of hope. She's something to believe in.


How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is!

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Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms

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In black ink my love may still shine bright

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Men in rage strike those that wish them best

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Nina Chanel Abney

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Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall

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Lovers and madmen have such seething brains Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends

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Forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum

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Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind

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The fire next time

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First published in 1963, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time stabbed at the heart of America’s so-called “Negro problem.” As remarkable for its masterful prose as it is for its frank and personal account of the black experience in the United States, it is considered one of the most passionate and influential explorations of 1960s race relations, weaving thematic threads of love, faith, and family into a candid assault on the hypocrisy of the “land of the free.”

Now, James Baldwin’s rich, raw, and ever relevant prose is reprinted in a letterpress edition with more than 100 photographs from Steve Schapiro, who traveled the American South with Baldwin for Life magazine. The encounter thrust Schapiro into the thick of the movement, allowing for vital, often iconic, images both of civil rights leaders—including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Jerome Smith—and such landmark events as the March on Washington and the Selma March.
Rounding out the edition are Schapiro’s stories from the field, a new introduction by civil rights legend and U.S. Congressman John Lewis, captions by Marcia Davis of The Washington Post, and an essay by Gloria Baldwin Karefa-Smart, who was with her brother James in Sierra Leone when he started to write the book. The result is a remarkable visual and textual record of one of the most important and enduring struggles of the American experience.  Taschen

It's a terrible thing to hate your mother. But I didn't always hate her. When I was a child, I only kind of disliked her

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Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury in an Oscar nominated role, bring one of the greatest political thrillers to the screen in John Frankenheimer’s legendary The Manchurian Candidate (1962).

The suspense builds to a chilling climax as a group of soldiers, rescued from the Communists, gradually realize that something has been done to their brains and they are being used in a plot to overthrow the government. You will be on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.   Steve Hayes

Maro Itoje

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