The Babysitter

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Fresh to Netflix this week is The Babysitter from the minds of McG and Brian Duffield. While the film is a really fun watch, it at times does give a little wink and nod to the holiday classic Home Alone. Don’t be fooled though, The Babysitter is more than a slapstick romp.

At the heart of this film is a 14-year-old underdog named Cole. The script taps into the audience’s adult memories of being a socially awkward kid and finding comfort with the incredibly fun and exciting older babysitter. In the film, said babysitter, Bee, is just that.  Everything, especially for a young boy, a kid can dream of. Bee is beautiful, funny and always has Cole’s back, or so he thinks.

Cole discovers a very dark side to Bee and her satanic friends. Which sets off the terror, gore, and hilarity. The balance of executing a horror comedy without being too “jokey” is not an easy task. McG pulls it off exceptionally well with The Babysitter. The sharp wit and biting sarcasm of the ensemble cast of teenagers, along with the standout performances of the actors make the movie one the audience actually cares about. If you’re looking for a comedy to celebrate the Halloween season, The Babysitter is on Netflix now.

The Mess He Made

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A man spends 15 minutes waiting for the results of a Rapid HIV test in a small-town strip mall.

“This is a film about getting tested for HIV in 2017 — two decades after President Clinton announced that finding an effective vaccine would be a top national priority. Five years after the FDA approved PrEP for reducing the risk of sexually acquired infection. One year after my first Grindr hookup.

This is a film about queer rituals. This is a film about grappling with gay shame. And this is a film about a man who is terrified of winding up alone, but on some level thinks he deserves to be.

I feel very lucky (and terrified) to have so many of my own demons on display in this work – it has been more personal, therapeutic and creatively fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. I’ll always be grateful to my remarkable cast and crew, who stomped into Scranton, PA with me the week after the election, when the world suddenly felt so unfamiliar, and carved out a space for this fierce little film.” – Matthew Puccini, Director

Simon says Goodbye to his Foreskin

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Simon says Goodbye to his Foreskin”—a title as straightforward as this comedy’s charm. Twelve-year-old Simon Grünberg approaches his Bar Mitzvah in the midst of his parents’ marital separation. His recently observant Jewish father advocates for his circumcision, seeing the significance of his son’s covenant with God as a non-negotiable rite of passage. His mother, a fiery and headstrong erotica author, finds this appalling and refuses to subject her son to circumcision for the sake of pious rules. Simon, for lack of a better term, is torn.

To complicate matters, Simon’s new Rabbi, Rebecca (Catherine De Léan), is a warm, beautiful, intelligent woman—and he’s not the only one who notices. With well-meaning strategic help from his buddies Ben and Clemens, Simon sets off to win her heart before his father can. When an especially intimate tactic (that drew groans of all kinds from its North American Premiere audience) becomes public fodder for a private feud, Simon considers more drastic measures. His desperation to attract a first love twenty years his senior drives him to bond with God on his own terms.

Stereo

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What if we lived in a world where it was common, even expected, for boys to wear dresses? Meanwhile, girls don’t do theater, they try out for the football team. That’s exactly what the short film Stereo explores about gender stereotypes. 14-year-old Ella Fields made the film in the Cinematic Arts Academy at Millikan Middle School in Los Angeles last year.

12 Notes Down

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How do you decide when it’s time to let go? For young Jorgis, the star voice of the Copenhagen Royal Chapel Choir, the moment is upon him. With just a few weeks to go before an important concert, his voice has suddenly begun to break, forcing the 14-year-old into a state of transition he is not prepared for. He must choose between damaging his vocal cords trying to hit the high notes and dashing his hopes by walking away in this tender portrayal of a universal, yet intensely personal, rite of passage.

Shower – A dark Short about Repressed Sexuality

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A man enters the shower after working out, but is soon side tracked by an unidentified noise. He decides to seek out the source and enters a situation that leave him completely exposed.

Moiré

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Each house locked away the secret of a family. For one hour a day Sergio, helped by his grandmother, carry out his desires in a home dominated by his grandfather. A twist will force Elena, his mother, to make a decision that will change their lives.

Heartstone

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Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson makes a promising debut in this tender, slightly lopsided study of teenage friendship and inchoate sexuality.

There’s a vast, storm-hued majesty to the jagged coastal edges of Iceland that inspires hushed awe in tourists, armchair travellers and filmmakers alike, but to a teenager growing up — and, more trickily still, coming out — in this brooding idyll, it can seem like a smallest place in the world. That’s the cruelly frustrated perspective shared by two best friends in Heartstone, at least until they realise that they’re no longer experiencing the same coming-of-age crisis. Richly atmospheric the film toggles its main characters’ arcs for a stretch, before giving preferential treatment to the less dramatically challenging of the two. Still, first-time feature director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson steers proceedings with enough serenity and sensitivity to soften stonier hearts in the arthouse market.

In its positioning of the rural Icelandic landscape as a kind of silent, ever-present antagonist to its principals’ progress, Guðmundsson’s formally imposing debut visually and tonally recalls the work of his compatriot Runar Runarsson — whose own somber 2015 coming-of-ager, Sparrows, deployed similar physical terrain to much the same emotional effect.

The boys’ conflicted, even hostile, relationship to their environment is viscerally symbolised in a startling opening scene, which in which 14-year-old Thor and Kristján, together with a group of pals, savagely cull a school of fish in the local dock, plucking them from the water and bashing their heads on dry land. This kind of hormonally fevered destruction is what passes for fun in their sleepy maritime village, where Thor lives with his single mother — who has recently, to her children’s aggrievement, re-entered the dating scene — and two older, somewhat bullying sisters. Kristján, meanwhile, weathers a consistent stream of abuse from his hard-drinking dad.

While the two boys have a supportive social circle (including some girls with whom they make halting attempts at romance), it’s clear that they’re the most important people in each other’s lives. Tall, sturdy Kristján, already accelerating into manhood, acts as something of a protector to the less mature, none-too-aptly named Thor — who, in one of several wry observations on the occasional tedium of adolescence, fashions a merkin from hairbrush debris as he waits for his pubic hair to grow in.

But as the kids horse around and venture into tentative sexual explorations, it’ll become clear to audiences — if not quite yet to Thor himself — that Kristján’s devotion to him isn’t purely platonic. For many LGBT audiences, such inchoate, unrequited desires will register as a familiar rite of passage. Guðmundsson maps the subtle, even subconscious, strain this development places on the relationship with tact and intelligence, aided by the open, naturally expressive performances of his two young leads. But as the film drifts further into Thor’s not-quite-comprehending headspace, Kristján recedes into the background, even as his character negotiates a compelling maelstrom of warring feelings and external obstacles — including the homophobia of his own parents, as adulthood comes with its own limitations in this stymied community. To quote an Emiliana Torrini song that Thor’s sisters blissfully listen to: “If it’s so good being free/Would you mind telling me/Why I don’t know what to do with myself?”

Sympathetic as Thor’s journey to awareness is, Heartstone’s languid, rollingly repetitive storytelling never quite justifies its weighted focus on his character at the expense of his friend’s more active anguish; a more judicious edit could place both in sharper relief. (The question of how assured Thor is of his own nascent sexuality, meanwhile, is only skirtingly addressed.) Later, Guðmundsson returns to the fish motif in slightly more contrived fashion, as a bullrout is briefly taken from the water and thrown back in, plummeting briefly before finding its gills. Not everyone in this thoughtful, lyrical, slightly over-deliberate tour of a beautiful teenage wasteland gets his own sink-or-swim moment of catharsis.

My 13

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Jonathan is in love with Julie. Unable to gather the courage to speak to Julie, Jonathan formulates a plan to steal her diary, which he believes would reveal to him the way to impress his crush. The plan includes befriending Julie’s brother Charles who is Jonathan’s classmate. Thanks to Charles, Jonathan gets an invitation to a party at their house.

During the party, Jonathan manages to steal the diary, excuses himself and heads home to read it. On one of the pages of the diary, he finds a drawn heart and the name …Jonathan. He is overjoyed until he realises what’s really going on…

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