Outfest 2016: Greg’s Best of Fest!
Outfest handed out its official awards on Sunday but today comes Greg’s Best of Fest.
I attended the festival 10 out of the 11 days and saw 25 movies including the Boys Shorts and Skin short film programs and a Transparent panel. It was such a solid year with very few disappointments and wonderful surprises.
Here are my top 5 films plus a handful of runners-up:
1. Being 17 This superb French film from Andre Techine was so absorbing and well-acted. I really cared about the two main characters, Damien and Thomas, who are enemies at school but must co-exist when Damien’s mother, a doctor, invites Thomas to live with their family while his pregnant mother is in the hospital. They have complicated feelings about each other and the film takes its time sorting those out and you happily settle in and go along. The movie won the Outfest Jury Award for Best International Narrative Feature.
2. Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo Okay, the movie begins with a 15-20 minute orgy at an underground sex club in Paris but that’s not the only reason it made my top five, okay?. The orgy scenes are very well done but this drama told in real-time is so much more. You have the title characters so attracted to each other as the meet in the middle of this orgy that after having sex, they spend the rest of the early morning hours actually getting to know each other. The bicycle through empty streets in Paris and I loved the scenery. Then they realize an HIV test is needed and the drama unfolds. It’s an absorbing movie described as Shortbus meets Weekend. There’s lots of nudity and actual sex but it doesn’t feel cheap.
3. Spa Night This ended up being so much more than I thought it would be. I thought we’d see lots of sex and intrigue inside this spa with a gay hook-up culture where a closeted teen goes to work to help out his financially struggling parents. But it’s a bigger story than the teen’s repressed sexual desires. It’s about his Korean immigrant parents and their dreams for him and their own crushed dreams. Leading man Joe Seo is a revelation as he conveys the weight of suppressed emotions and familial obligation. The film won the Outfest Grand Jury Prize the Best US Narrative Feature Film and Seo received the jury’s Special Mention for Outstanding Performance.
4. Esteros This is such a sexy movie – and it’s in Spanish! It’s the beautiful story of childhood friends in Argentina who had a deep connection as boys. They are reunited more than a decade later and by that time one of them is openly gay while the other is engaged to a lovely woman who he brings with him on a visit to his old stomping grounds. It’s a movie that elicits feelings of nostalgia of your own adolescence (it sure did for me!) and those long-lost loves you never really forget. The leads are both so good, so natural and so sexy and the movie is very satisfying.
5. Miles Molly Shannon really was the MVP of the festival with a stupendous performance in this wonderful film about a gay teen who is desperate for a college scholarship and goes out for the girl’s volleyball team because there is no boy’s team at his high school. Shannon plays the teen’s mom and the film is as much about her growth as it is about her son’s. I was ready to say this is Shannon’s best-ever big screen performance but then I also watched her in Sunday night’s closing film Other People in which she plays the mother of a gay son who comes home to take help take care of her as she loses her battle against cancer and she is equally good in that. BTW, Miles won the Outfest Audience Award.
Runners-up: Departure, Lazy Eye, Other People, Major! Strike A Pose
I highly recommend each of these films and congratulate all involved in them for a very successful Outfest.