Boarding School

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When troubled 12-year-old Jacob Felsen is sent away to boarding school, he enters every kid’s worst nightmare: A creepy old mansion, deserted except for six other teenage misfits and two menacing and mysterious teachers. As events become increasingly horrific, Jacob must conquer his fears to find the strength to survive.

Horror films have begun a redefinition in recent years, a deeper representation of horrors of the world personified. Monsters have generated new fears in the silent haunting of A Quiet Place, while racism has found its own sadistic representation within a reinvigorated form of the body snatchers with last year’s Get Out. This year, re-innovation has found itself in Boarding School, a film by director Boaz Yakin that examines the ostracized differences perceived in others and in one’s own self.

Boarding School is not without its flaws, yet its meanings and representations dive deeper than the typical thrillers that have come before it. History is imbued between the lines of exposition and dialogue, discovering who we are and what will come to pass to become who we will be. I was pleasantly surprised at the depth Boarding School is able to achieve, as well as the entertainment it was able to maintain – placing itself within this new generation of horror.

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Troye about Conversion Therapy

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Learning about the harmful messages of conversion therapy for the film Boy Erased led gay musician and actor Troye Sivan to imagine the effect on vulnerable young people, he said Thursday night on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

“When we arrived on set day one, they gave us the resources kids would typically get when they arrived at the [conversion therapy] camp, like actual printed-out resources,” Sivan told Colbert. These packets outlined the strict rules queer kids are given at the camps, including limited body contact as well as a mandatory dress code that required girls to carry purses and wear skirts while forbidding boys to wear tight-fitting clothes.

“I remember being so relieved when I came out to myself because I was like, OK, this is not something that I can change. It’s not something that I have to fight anymore,” Sivan said. This added a weight to learning that youth in “ex-gay” camps are told, “No, this is not you, you weren’t born like this. This is a God-shaped hole you are trying to fill with these homosexual tendencies,” he explained.

Filming Boy Erased caused the singer to imagine “being 15 again when I was sort of at my most vulnerable and having that put back on me, and being set up with that impossible task of trying to change this thing that is ultimately unchangeable.”

Sivan hopes parents see the film and learn that “your reaction to your kid coming out can really shape their lives.” Boy Erased will play at the Toronto International Film Festival Saturday and open in U.S. theaters November 2.

Sipping

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Santiago and Jared , two teenagers of opposite personality spend an afternoon together looking for ways to overcome their differences. After an act that begins as a game their senses will find the space to coincide. Click the subtitles button in the bottom left corner of the player if the subs don’t appear automatically.

Reinventing Marvin

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Reinventing Marvin, winner of the Queer Lion award at the Venice International Film Festival, explores the painful relationship a young gay man has with his past. Marvin grows up amid a gruff and boorish family in a French village. Artistically inclined, with a nascent attraction to other boys in his class, he’s the victim of aggressive bullying at school and home.

When he gets into a Parisian drama school and meets a more welcoming peer group, he has the opportunity to craft a completely new identity. He changes his name and meets a wealthy older man who introduces him to Oscar-nominated actress Isabelle Huppert, whimsically playing herself. But his childhood experiences still haunt and call to him, leading him to write a theatre piece that brings him into the public eye but causes recriminations back home.

Director Anne Fontaine creates a scenario that fluidly drifts between Marvin’s past and his present, revealing the frequently fraught moments from adolescence that make the man.

We the Animals

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Jonah crawls beneath the crowded bed he shares with his brothers, his flashlight suspended between the pages of a journal. His legs splay half into the room as the camera flickers over the scrawl of his pencil beginning to draw. A blank page envelops the screen like a promise.

In We the Animals, a vivid and restless queer coming-of-age film in theaters August 17, the raw feelings that Jonah spills onto the page aren’t the sort he’s able to articulate aloud. In fact, Jonah hardly says much at all as a 10-year-old growing up in a small, volatile home with two older brothers and combative parents. Based on Justin Torres’ semi-autobiographical novel about his childhood in upstate New York, the film plunges into the mind of its young protagonist through his frenetic and expressive drawings.

It’s more than a stunning visual technique; Jonah’s escape into the blank pages of his journal illustrates the particular value of artistic expression for queer youth. “Art assists with identity formation,” says Daniel Blausey, PhD, a practicing art psychotherapist in New York City. “It is a safe place free from social judgement.” Jonah’s empty journal offers freedom from external rules and expectations that attempt to set limits on who he might imagine himself to be. If self-determination outside of social strictures is the basic liberty that all queerness demands, We the Animals demonstrates that sometimes, art can be one’s only means to achieve it.

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The vast gap between how the US and Europe think about teens & sex

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Eighth Grade is a highly-acclaimed coming-of-age movie about a 13-year-old American girl enduring the trials and tribulations of modern adolescence. But while teenagers in the US might well relate to the movie’s heroine, they won’t be able to see the movie in theaters—unless they’re at least 17 or accompanied by a parent or guardian. That’s because the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave the film an R rating for “language and some sexual material.”

There aren’t many other ratings to compare that against. The movie has only been shown overseas in two countries–the United Kingdom and Canada. But in Canada, Eighth Grade was given a 14A rating, meaning that everyone older than 14 can see it without an adult. Meanwhile, the movie played at the London Sundance film festival, but hasn’t yet been released for commercial viewing in the UK. The British equivalent of the MPAA, the British Board of Film Classification, hasn’t yet rated Eighth Grade, but it’s a good bet that, when it does, the movie will be rated more leniently.

Scene from the Swedish teen film The Ketchup Effect

The discrepancy in Eighth Grade’s Canada and US ratings is symbolic of the difference between the US and the rest of the world, according to the movie’s director Bo Burnham. “There seems to be a strange double-standard between sexuality and violence,” he tells Quartz. “It’s a little weird how much violence you can have in a PG-13 movie.” That’s because, as Charles Bramesco argues in a recent piece for Vox, movie ratings reflect what a culture deems acceptable content for children. And the US and Europe are on very different pages about what they view as child-appropriate.

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Good Job, Good Girls

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Izzy Stannard as Sadie in Good Girls

NBC‘s new comedy Good Girls (also available on Netflix) is about three women who, in the midst of financial emergencies, decide to rob a supermarket. The show has its central characters being unwittingly pulled into an even bigger criminal operation. The writing is smart and sharp, funny and a bit dark, and the chemistry between the leads is amazing.

As we are introduced to the characters, we learn that their primary incentive for the crime is supporting their family, more specifically, their children. Annie is the youngest of the trio. She is a single mother, though her ex-husband is very much in the picture, and the primary caregiver to Sadie, her 11-year-old daughter that has begun exploring their gender identity.

And, this might be the most exciting part, Sadie is portrayed by an actor that actually is non-binary himself. A refreshing decision in today’s TV business.

The FostersShamelessBillions, and Madam Secretary are among the shows currently featuring adult non-binary characters. What is unique about Good Girls‘ take, however, is that Sadie, at 11, is still figuring themselves out, and hasn’t expressed whether they identifies as female, male, or otherwise.

While a large part of the show highlights the struggles of everyday life for the main characters, that Sadie is non-binary or potentially trans is not one of Annie’s problems. The fact that Sadie is wearing boy’s clothes or has short hair is irrelevant, and Annie’s dedication to her child is such that she doesn’t miss a beat in completely shutting down her ex-husband’s suggestion to enroll Sadie in Catholic school, or that Sadie should be in therapy, as if there is anything about them that needs to be fixed.

Though Annie is portrayed as being the least responsible one of the Good Girls, it’s refreshing to see her become resourceful when it comes to her child. She enlists a dangerous criminal to go to Sadie’s school in order to scare the living daylights out of her bullies for pulling Sadie’s pants down, where he promptly breaks one of the kids’ fingers (like I said, it’s a little dark). Most of her money goes to hiring an attorney to help with maintaining full custody.

It would have been so easy for Good Girls to have taken the lazy route by making Annie’s dilemma that her kid is being difficult and won’t just put on a dress to make things easier for everyone. Instead, Annie’s distress comes from seeing Sadie navigate childhood, which is often times more cruel than adulthood. Her greatest struggle is making sure she’s doing all the right things to bring up Sadie in a safe space that will allow them to be strong and confident.

If the writers continue their approach in season 2, Sadie’s journey promises to be a satisfying one. Seeing a child who is non-binary on network television not have a completely miserable home life is the future. Let’s have more of that, more happy home life, more of Annie bringing Sadie to expensive stores and having her fitted for awesome suits. More of the Super Mom all kids deserve, when she’s not partaking in clumsy criminal activity.

 

Good Manners

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There is the family you are born into, and the family you make; lovers who stay with you a long time, and ones whose time with you is brief, but make a lasting impact. What then is the nature of love and devotion? Can we love both the person and the monster inside? In  Good Manners, a magic-realist fairy tale, love and devotion, class division, and the monster inside us all are deftly explored.

Clara  is a lonely nurse living in poor conditions who takes a job as a nanny and housekeeper to the equally lonely Ana , a wealthy white woman soon expecting her first child. Clara moves in, and the two women quickly form a strange but powerful bond that moves beyond friendship. As Clara learns the truth behind Ana’s unexpected pregnancy, she finds she must take on a far greater burden than she had originally intended, with devastating consequences.

The film begins as almost an erotic love story and particular view of class struggle: Clara, a black woman, is looked down on by her counterparts, even though she is a native Brazilian; her taciturn nature and verbal economy make her a mystery, perhaps even to herself; in contrast, Ana is little but verbose, constantly moving whether in exercise and dance, to the point of sleepwalking. Ana’s home, and her view of the city, is given as a kind of fairy tale, one that should be filled with the handsome prince and the princess (Ana in the tower); but this princess has been deserted by her family and left to her fate, and it is Clara instead who must come to her rescue.

After a fast labour and childbirth that ends in Ana’s dramatic and bloody death, and birth to a child that is more than just a baby, Clara must again come to the rescue. She takes the infant, whom she names Joel away, from the fairy-tale city of pink skyscrapers and cold, emotionless surroundings, to the poor streets of her home. Clara might be poor, but her home and heart are filled with love that she focuses on Joel, and the importance of raising a good son. A few people bat their eyes at the black mother and her white son; but despite their working class conditions, Joel grows up healthy and happy. Well, somewhat healthy; his strange persona requires Clara’s constant protection, and attempts to stop his more dangerous, innate nature that she hopes he will never become aware of.

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Will Albus Dumbledore be gay on the big Screen after all?

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In January, David Yates, director of the Harry Potter spinoff sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, said his film will “not explicitly” show the homosexuality of Albus Dumbledore, the crossover character from the original Harry Potter book series who appears as his younger self. News that the upcoming film wouldn’t definitely make Dumbledore gay made some queer fans very upset.

But now Jude Law, the actor playing Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts, has hinted that future films might reveal Dumbledore’s sexuality. Of course, considering there’s five more films left in the Fantastic Beasts series, it’s unclear when this Jude Law gay prediction might ever prove true.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Law says, “As with humans, your sexuality doesn’t necessarily define you; he’s multifaceted.” He continues, “What you’ve got to remember is this is only the second Fantastic Beasts film in a series, and what’s brilliant about J.K. Rowling’s writing is how she reveals her characters, peels them to the heart over time.”

Law adds, “You’re just getting to know Albus in this film, and there’s obviously a lot more to come. We learn a little about his past in the beginning of this film, and characters and their relationships will unfold naturally, which I’m excited to reveal. But we’re not going to reveal everything all at once.” Law adds that his film’s character doesn’t even have any scenes with Grindelwald, the evil wizard who we know Dumbledore eventually develops feelings for.

In October 2007, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, revealed she had long envisioned Dumbledore as gay. According to Rowling, Dumbledore — headmaster of the series’ wizarding school, Hogwarts — hadn’t been explicitly gay in the books because his love for his wizarding associate Grindelwald ended so tragically. Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in a duel to stop him from becoming a magical Hitler, basically.

Since his one romantic attraction had ended tragically, Rowling claims, Dumbledore lived a solitary life for the rest of his days, free of any outward romantic or sexual attractions.

Queer fans have long felt divided about Rowling’s claim. While some were happy to have a major character in a massively popular fantasy book series be gay, others claim Rowling “queer-baited” queer fans by claiming Dumbledore is gay without providing anything explicit to back that up.

After all, is it really queer representation if a character is never actually shown to be queer, only said to be so offhandedly by his or her creator? Especially considering that Rowling pulled the same stunt on several other characters, making them bi-curious, black and otherwise diverse after the fact.