1) Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
"Straight" from Sundance, CLSASS might just be the most hilarious film of 2011. This deliriously demented celluloid laugh-fest was screened the other night by Rooftop Films, the weekly summer venue that showcases "independently produced shorts and feature-length films" for a rather hip crowd on a Big Apple roof.
Before the film could begin, however, the hyperkinetic, all-girl, punky Japanese band The Suzan energized the audience, prompting several couples to start dancing in the aisles.
Then there was breaking news: the New York State Senate had passed the Gay Marriage Bill. The attendees roared with glee.
What better ways are there to get an audience fired up for the ultimate lesbian comedy?
CLSASS begins with a calamity on a faraway planet. It seems the inhabitants of the same are experiencing a crisis with their ozone layer. The cause of this disaster: three lesbians who love too much. To cure these baldheaded and gilled lasses of their malady, they are sent to Earth to experience heartbreak. Why? Heartbreak will make them numb to tender passion, and then they'll become model citizens and be able to return to their planet.
Immediately on that pronouncement, a spaceship lands the trio in New York City, where two of the gals find getting dates with earthling lesbians quite easy, although transforming these encounters into soul-shattering affairs is not. In their search to experience dramatic depression, the only things that really shake the gals up is the sad sight of cheesecakes moving away from them continually on those revolving dessert trays in better diners, and the calling of Lotto numbers on TV.
Zylar (Susan Ziegler), the deliciously obtuse third alien, though, snags a lonely, hefty gal pal, Jane (the superb Lisa Haas), who works in a stationery store, and the two do fall into a meaningful relationship even though Zylar's version of kissing is holding onto Jane's nose.
If this weren't enough, throw into the mix two dysfunctional U.S. government agents keeping their eyes upon all of the above proceedings.
With a sure hand, director/writer Madeleine Olnek wittily captures how the aliens fumble and bumble lovingly with modern dyke mating rituals. Imagine When Harry Met Sally meets Ellen meets Planet 9 from Outer Space.
Kudos also to Nat Bouman's solid black-and-white cinematography, Curtis Grout's inventive editing, and Rebecca Conroy's campy production design.
2) Cars 2
Having viewed Cars 2, I can only count my blessings I missed its predecessor. Even with its highly adroit usage of 3D, this animated exercise in busyness has an incomprehensible James Bond-ian storyline that should baffle young ones as much as it grates on their elders.
Ben Queen's exacerbating screenplay takes place in a dimension solely populated by automobiles. Sadly, motor vehicles have as many character flaws as homo sapiens, so it's no wonder jalopies fond of gasoline are about to terrorize Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and the other participants in the World Grand Prix race. You see, all of the entries will be running on an alternative fuel, and if the bad guys...I mean the "bad sedans"...succeed, ecology will be dealt a deadly blow.
Well, who can save the world? Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), a bumbling, rusty tow truck can, with the aid of two British spy cars.
Charmless and out of gas, this offering does offer a great excuse for walking -- out of the theater. - Brandon Judell
Mr. Judell is currently teaching "Queer Theater" and "Intro to Mass Communications" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, The New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton).