Film Review: Wild Nights with Emily

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History isn’t always written by the winners. Sometimes, it’s written by mediocre opportunists capitalizing on the talents of others. Regardless, history has always had a patriarchal hue, even when written by women. We now know that Emily Dickinson was not a spinster recluse, but a passionate and vibrant woman who understood that if she wanted to follow her heart in the 19th century, she would have to do so in secret.

Madeleine Olnek’s third feature film, Wild Nights with Emily, is more than just an attempt to right the way history has wronged Emily Dickinson (Molly Shannon). Though the story takes a few narrative liberties, a great deal of it is based in fact. Olnek used Dickinson’s letters and poems – with permission from Harvard University Press – in order to piece together an honest supposition regarding Dickinson’s personal life. She suggests that the person responsible for creating and perpetuating the myth was likely also a victim of her time. Mabel Todd (Amy Seimetz) forged Dickinson’s persona without ever actually meeting the woman. Furthermore, she did so whilst carrying on an affair with Emily’s married brother, Austin (Kevin Seal). Seimetz plays Todd with a lighthearted humblebrag swagger atop a desire to do what she felt was necessary to get Dickinson’s work published. Todd erased the name “Sue” from many of Dickinson’s more impassioned works. It’s likely that she wasn’t acting completely out of self-interest. She thought that the world wasn’t ready for a lesbian poet, but that Dickinson’s verse was too revolutionary to keep hidden…

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H2N Review: Handome Devil

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Few things can make you feel more alone in this world than being surrounded by people whose priorities are completely at odds with your own. Ned (Fionn O’Shea) knows this pain all too well. He’s the only artistic fellow in a posh Irish all-boys boarding school where rugby is religion. If you aren’t part of the game, you’d best be cheering from the sidelines. And if you aren’t doing that, you’re in for a rough time. But when Ned gets stuck rooming with the new kid, a fetching rugby prodigy named Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), he finds kinship in an unexpected place.

Writer/director John Butler knows a thing or two about rugby fanatics. While the film isn’t autobiographical, per se, he did base the school in Handsome Devil on his own childhood alma mater. Ned is a suitable “every freak,” with a general interest in the arts, minus the talent to focus on any particular area. He gets good marks for writing, but only because he passes off song lyrics as his own. That all ends when a passionate and hip younger man (Andrew Scott, TV’s Sherlock) replaces the doddering old English teacher, and immediately spots the plagiarism.

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Handsome Devil played at the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival.

 

 

SIFF Review: Finding Kim

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There has been a recent surge in films about trans people, both narrative and documentary. And it’s about time. Trans rights have long been either lumped in with the rest of the LGBTQ issues, or ignored altogether. According to Kim, a trans man and the subject of Aaron Bear’s first feature documentary, Finding Kim, the Ls, Gs, Bs, and Qs have been some of the worst offenders for undermining trans equality. Trans women in particular have been excluded from women’s events as if they were devious cisgender men in disguise.

Fortunately for Kim, he lives in Seattle, where he has a supportive group of friends and can utilize his health insurance to cover his first surgical procedure, done by a sympathetic specialist. This has been a long time coming for Kim, who didn’t come to terms with being trans until his late 40s. Raised as a girl, Kim was often called a boy by peers, as if it were an insult. His classmates also barred him from using the bathroom at school – any bathroom. He never told his parents what he was going through, resulting in a very lonely existence. When he was older, he thought he might be a lesbian, but after spending time in that community, he still didn’t feel quite right. He finally had his life-altering breakthrough when he met a therapist who told him that all those masculine feelings he had were because he was a man. Within a couple of months, he was taking daily testosterone shots (called “T”) and finally starting to feel at home in his own body…

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