Excellent Collection of Innovative Gay Shorts
ILuvFilm | Reisterstown, MD USA | 11/18/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Four top-notch shorts comprise this latest installment in Strand's Boys' Life series, ranging from the super-funny (LTR) to the super serious (O Beautiful.) Luckily, it's organized that way (from funny to most serious) so it's not as jarring as a film festival shorts program..."LTR" is Phillip Bartell's fall-down funny "mocumentary" about a "long term relationship" between two guys in their twenties... Fans of the Boys Life series may recognize the younger-but-taller curly-haired boy; he previously appeared as the cute blonde jock in Phillip's earlier short film, Crush... (PS: our uncredited narrator and "cameraman" is none other than Phillip himself, who I think gives a GREAT performance, even though he's never onscreen.)"Bumping Heads" is the latest from Director (and BL4 Executive Producer) Brian Sloan, whose short "Pool Days" kicked off the original "Boys Life" and whose feature "I Think I Do" is a must-see comedy. Gay film festival audiences have become accustomed to queer shorts that are set up to be funny; and while BH has a LOT of funny moments (many from Andersen Gabrych, buffed up from his days on the "Edge of Seventeen"), it's a more thoughtful piece, carried in large part by indie film veteran Craig Chester. Romantics will "get" Craig's performance in BH in a BIG way; ("club kids" could pretty much stop at LTR.) Interestingly, this short was extremely well received by straight audiences at mainstream film festivals, who seemed to "get it" more readily than some gay audiences (probably because mainstream film festival fans are more accustomed to short films that are more like short stories than one-liners.)"This Car Up" is a fantasy on bike messengers that's the "flip side" of "Bumping Heads." (But to say any more would spoil their plots...) I think this is a piece that works better for folks who live in big cities (the title didn't even mean anything to me until a recent visit to NY, where I saw the phrase above countless elevators), but for a fantasy, the guys are cute, the situations are hot; who could ask for more?"O Beautiful" wraps up this collection on arguably one of the most serious notes in the entire Boys Life series. The story starts with a physically beaten young man abandoned in a remote corn field (shades of Matthew Shepard), and kicks off when a high school Eagle Scout/jock arrives in his truck and tries to help him.The only way to watch "O Beautiful" and "buy" it is to embrace its "theatrical" nature, which Director Alan Brown assists through the use of split screen. The dialog is about how society can atone for specific types of violence (like hate crimes), and more specifically whether atonement is EVER possible. Since it's a short film, it asks questions, but doesn't answer them... though it does aim the viewer at some conclusions.Whereas the earlier short "Bumping Heads" has an almost squirmy realism to it, "O Beautiful" has an edge that arises out of its lack of realism... The dialog between the boys in the field isn't "realistic;" it's the steup for commentary on the violence at the core of the story. Further, the reactions of the characters are equally unrealistic; in fact, they're "stage-ey." (A number of women at a screening I attended commented on the fact that the victim wouldn't have been COHERENT when faced with someone who looked like his attackers, let alone able to hold up his end of a discussion on anti-gay violence...)In a lot of cases, this would be a negative criticism, but I think this is what the director was "going for" (as it would take a MUCH longer piece to make the same points otherwise) In any event, "O Beautiful" is (purposefully) a much rougher ride emotionally than fans of the Boys Life series probably expect (but WORTH IT for any serious fan of gay film.)Overall, a great collection of shorts, and probably a "must have" for any collector of gay cinema. Probably one of the strongest collections of gay shorts available."
Interesting compilation of rather unique shorts
Bob Lind | Phoenix, AZ United States | 12/19/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"At 84 minutes total, the fourth compilation in the series, "Boys Life 4 - Four Play" seems to be the shortest, but the four short features included are better than average for such works. I'll rate the separately:"l.t.r" (2003) is a "mockumentary" (acted film which claims to be a documentary) about a filmmaker's study of a young twinkish couple, Michael and Riley, who are together several months (Golly!) and are sure they will be "forever." As you can likely guess, the relationship unravels as soon as the cameras start rolling, and the filmmaker drives the final nail in its coffin by supposedly sleeping with the younger of the two. Interesting in that the dynamics of the couple are rather realistic, and I'm sure you'll see others you know in what is said. (2 stars out of 5)"O Beautiful" (2002) opens with a high school student coming to the rescue of a schoolmate who had been brutally gaybashed by a group of athletes from their school, and left without his pants in a corn field. As the plot plays out, it becomes apparent that the rescuer could and should have acted sooner, as he was with the young man's attackers. It soon becomes apparent that his belated efforts, as well as his suggestions that the attacked boy "stop this gay stuff", may mask his own insecurity about his sexuality. Very eloquent and powerful in its message, though I could have done without the "split screen" gimmick used throughout. The ending is also a bit ridiculous. (4 stars out of 5)"Bumping Heads" (2002) is the most professionally shot of the compilation, and features indy (and openly gay) actor Craig Chester as a 35 year old who has a crush on a 24 year old friend, Gary, who wants to remain "just friends" (which becomes more emphatic when Craig - the name of his character as well - meets his boyfriend who just moved there to NY.) The story is told in flashbacks, with most of the humor coming from the differences between the pragmatic Craig and the "cool dude / himbo" Gary, to the point where you realize Craig is after someone who really isn't good enough for him, although not being able to have him still hurts. (3 out of 5)"This Car Up" (2003) starts with an chance encounter between a businessman and a punkish bicycle messenger, who eventually realize they are infatuated with each other. I usually don't like cinema "gimmicks" in film, but this one is uniquely suited to the story: We follow the business man on the bottom left of the screen, and the messenger on the bottom right. Above them is a reflection of their individual thoughts (which often coincide), shown as a slot machine "reel" spinning and registering. Would probably drive one nuts in a full-length film, but it's cutesy for 16 minutes. (4 stars out of 5)Incidentally, each film has a separate site on IMDB.com, so you might check that out for additional feedback on each title. If you average my reviews for the four shorts, you get (just over) the 3 rating I gave the compilation. Since most compilations tend to contain at least one or two "stinkers" (except for Boys Life 1, which I thought was unusually good) this is as good as most you'll find."
This was even better than Boys Life 3
Drake-by-the-Lake | State of Euphoria | 09/25/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Boys Life 3 was dampened by a French dud. Boys Life 4 is all-American, and rocks!
Now, granted, we're not talking high art, or anything. What you're looking for here is entertainment a gay man can relate with, that doesn't insult your intelligence, and makes you think.
Boys Life 4 fits the bill. I don't understand why other reviewers are dissing this product. My hunch is, they see the first story, about gays on drugs, and it offends their political sensibilities ("What! we're being portrayed smoking pot!" & etc.)
So let me tackle the first story head-on. It's a mock-documentary about a "long-term relationship" of a STUNNING two weeks' duration between two twinks. Now if you don't see the humor, sorry for you. I remember back in the day, a week was SERIOUS. This show is supposed to be funny and sad at the time. Anyway, obviously twink #2 is hitting the pipe too much and twink #1 (almost unbelievably cute, cuter than DiCaprio ever was, though both are cute) is dismayed by it all. The worst blow comes when twink #2 boffs the camera guy! This seems like a satire on these silly "reality" shows that are all the rage these days.
Story #2 takes place at a hospital bed, where an older guy is recuperating from a fight last night. Turns out he was "protecting" his younger buddy who actually, maybe, could become his boyfriend. An interesting skit that really is unusual. But once again there is a reference to drug-use, which again, will appall some people. But drugz happens to be an unfortunate reality in the club/single/young gay scene.
Story #3 covers the aftermath (thankfully, not the instance) of a gay-bashing from an angle we've never seen before. It is a rather perceptive, painful, but unpredictable drama. I like the exploration of the many moods, feelings and thoughts of the characters. The characters are intelligent, straight-up, real, breathing, red-blooded, and types you've never seen before.
Story #4 was also a very unusual short story about a courier and the business guy customer who meet during a package delivery--a perfectly ordinary, humdrum daily business transaction. They can't forget each other. It is lust at first sight. What's so unusual is, the film is shot with four frames, shown at all times. One frame shows the business guy, one frame the courier, and the two frames above display their thoughts. I've never seen anything like this and thought it was very original.
All in all, well-deserving of four stars. Whether this is worth twenty-plus dollars though, I can't say, as I rented it out, a recommended practice, besides buying used copies... Probably, they need to include a couple additional stories, to make a total of eight, before marketing this thing. Four is indeed stingy. Times have changed and we can get gay shows from TV nowadays.