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Cold November (2017) poster)

Cold November

All around the world, children, on the cusp of puberty, go through a rite of passage. These rituals symbolize their transition into adulthood, a journey that’s only just beginning. Deep in the woods of Minnesota, this rite of passage is deer hunting.

Cold November movie

Cold November follows the story of Florence (Bijou Abas), affectionately nicknamed Flor, a 12 year old girl who is about to hunt her very first deer. Her mother Amanda (Anna Klemp) and grandmother Georgia (Mary Kay Fortier-Spalding) have been preparing her for this moment. She learns how to properly use and care for a hunting rifle, a family heirloom, how to dress for the hunt, what to do in the look out spot, how to shoot the deer, and what to do with a deer or buck once it’s been killed. In the midst of all this Flor gets her period, another sign that womanhood is just around the corner. For this family and their community, deer hunting is not for sport; it’s for survival. The process is treated with respect and the animal is not a trophy, rather a means to feed the family. It’s a ritual passed on from one generation to the next and in this matriarch this is a treasured tradition. Visiting Flor and her mom are aunt Mia (Heidi Fellner) and uncle Craig (Karl Jacob). The couple are going through their own transition as they deal with the loss of their daughter Sweeney. We follow Flor as she prepares for her first hunt, how she deals with frustration on multiple hunts that result in no kills and what happens when she finally gets the opportunity to use all the knowledge and training she’s acquired but has to do it all on her own.


In his director’s statement, Karl Jacob writes “I hope to challenge the stereotype that the hunting ritual is an inherently male practice. I grew up in a similar situation to Florence, where my mother, aunts, and grandmother played a huge part in my life and had also gone through this hunting experience as young women.” Jacob’s character Craig is the only male character in the film. This is truly a story about women. Three generations in a matriarch and how they prepare their youngest for the life ahead. The female perspective is highly valued and respected in the story. Flor’s first period is a significant moment in the story and it’s given time. Foreshadowing the hunt in the future, Flor has to deal with this change all on her own.


The movie is spare and beautiful. It gives itself room for the characters to have their moments and for the story to live and breathe in its own world. There is no rush to get anywhere but its also expertly paced. I loved the cinematography especially the bright colors of the hunting clothes against the stark backgrounds. It reminded me of Track of the Cat (1954) where Robert Mitchum wears a bright red coat against a muted color palette of the backwoods during winter. My only minor criticism with Cold November is that I didn’t care for the one scene when the camera shoots from inside a deer carcass looking out. This felt unnecessary to me.

In order to truly appreciate the film, you must be comfortable enough to watch the women handle dear carcasses. You won’t see the moment of death nor will you see the animal suffer. In one scene you’ll hear a buck call out in pain but its quickly shot to put its out of its misery. The film makes an effort to show respect for the deer and the hunt. Craig reveals to Flor how he thanks the animal after a kill. Flor’s mother Amanda talks at length about how they use the meat for sustenance, how not to kill more than you need and not letting the animal suffer. If you are vegan, vegetarian or a member of PETA, you probably won’t want to watch this film. I’m an omnivore and I have enough respect for the cycle of life and the killing of animals for meat that I know when to criticize the process. For example, I refuse to eat veal and salmon because of what I believe are unethical farming/hunting methods. Cold November treated hunting for deer and the consumption of venison with great respect which I appreciated.

Cold November won the 2017 Memphis Indie Film Festival Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature. It began as a Kickstarter project and is now available on iTunes, Vimeo and Amazon Prime.

This is a fantastic indie film with wonderful performances, stunning cinematography and a great care for its subject. I highly recommend you give Cold November a try.

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My Favorite LGBTQ Films for Pride Month

Happy Pride Month! I’ve been on a major LGBTQ film kick this year and have been discovering and re-discovering some great movies. To celebrate Pride I thought I’d share with you my favorite LGBTQ films and what I love about each.

CMBYNCall Me By Your Name (2017) – To say this film changed my life is an understatement. It awakened something in me that’s been dormant in my life. It led to an identity crisis that took me a few months to sort through. I’m a card carrying CMBYN fanatic. I have the Blu-Ray, the Andre Aciman’s original novel, James Ivory’s screenplay (and yes I’ve read both) and the Mania tee inspired by Ivory’s shirt he wore for the Oscars. I talk about this film all the time to anyone who will listen. I introduced it to my friend Vanessa who fell in love with it even more than I did (read the post about her experience here). CMBYN begs to be obsessed over. Set in one of the most beautiful places on earth with two dynamic actors Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer playing two of the most wonderful fictional characters Elio and Oliver, there is little not to love about this movie. There are so many wonderful scenes that it’s hard to choose a favorite but the moment two have in a little nook as Oliver helps Elio with his nosebleed is tender, sweet and sexy in a way that makes me want to fall out of my chair every time I watch it.

MauriceMaurice (1987) – Think CMBYN but released three decades earlier and set in the beginning of the century and you have Maurice. Directed and co-written by James Ivory, the story is based on E.M. Forester’s posthumous novel by the same name. It explores the story of Maurice (James Wilby), a young man at university who falls for fellow student Clive (Hugh Grant). When a fellow classmate goes to jail for indecency, homosexuality was illegal back then, Clive tries to go straight. Maurice then finds love with Clive’s groundsman Alec (Rupert Graves). You can see the parallels between Maurice and CMBYN down to the picnic scenes and train station farewells. Maurice has a much more satisfying ending though and lifted me up when CMBYN got me down.

Further reading:  James Ivory on the making of Maurice (1987) and the appeal of Call Me By Your Name (2017) #TCMFF

below_her_mouth-1Below Her Mouth (2016) – When I first watched this movie I wrote it off as an overly erotic lesbian drama. I’m glad I gave it a second shot because it quickly became one of my favorite LGBT movies and it rivals CMBYN for the #1 spot. Below Her Mouth is about a roofer Dallas (Erika Linder) and a fashion editor Jasmine (Natalie Krill) who develop an intense physical attraction for each other. The problem is Jasmine is engaged to a man. Linder and Krill have the best on screen chemistry I have ever witness in a movie EVER. It’s so palpable. They’re a perfect match. This film is nothing if not erotic. There are several graphic sex scenes and one could say not enough relationship building. But the sex comes from a female gaze and is more real than anything I’ve ever seen. The production team consisted of an all-female crew (a true rarity!) led by director April Mullen and producer Melissa Coghlan.

CarolCarol (2015) – Set in the 1950s, Carol is based on Patricia Highsmith’s story The Price of Salt. I was worried because of the period that this would break me but lucky for me it didn’t. It stars Cate Blanchett as the title character Carol. On the outside she seems like the perfect rich housewife, but wipe off the veneer and you see a struggling woman in the middle of a divorce and dealing with a society that won’t accept her sexuality. One day Carol meets and falls in love with shop clerk (Rooney Mara) and the two set off on a road trip together. The story is so good at building up the sexual tension that when the two finally have their love scene it was such a welcome relief. The costumes and set design are fantastic. While the film holds the viewer at a distance emotionally, I still felt that this was a sweet love story and depicted the reality of being a lesbian in mid-Century New York City.

MoonlightMoonlight (2016) – This coming-of-age film is beautiful and stark and relentless in its portrayal of the principal character Chiron in three different stages of his life. All three actors who played Chiron, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert brought so much to the role. I’m fascinated that although they didn’t work with each other their own interpretations of Chiron were consistent with each other. Moonlight is haunting and raw and its a story that needed to be told. It’s an example of why representation matters. The final scene when adult Chiron has a tender moment with the only man who ever touched him, Kevin (Andre Holland), is powerful. When I watched this for the first time it was at home and I replayed that final scene over and over and over again until I finally convinced myself to let it go. I also loved the scene when Mahershala Ali’s Juan explains the word f***** to child Chiron. It’s what earned Ali his Oscar that’s for sure.


Brokeback Mountain (2005) – Directed by one of my favorites, Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain stars Jake Gyllenhaal and the late great Heath Ledger as two ranchers who fall in love but have to hide their relationship and live on as straight men. The title has become synonymous with gay romance. I love the famous line “I wish I knew how to quit you.” And that sad final scene with Heath Ledger embracing the shirt on a hanger left me sobbing and gasping for air. I avoided LGBT films for a long time because this one shattered my heart into a million pieces.

BlueisWarmestColourBlue is the Warmest Colour (2013) – This is a long film, told in two parts and clocks in at 3 hours. The story follows a teenager named Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) as she blossoms into womanhood and falls in love with the older Emma (Lea Seydoux), a sensual woman with a shock of blue hair. The story is about finding yourself and losing yourself and it is so relatable in many ways. It’s a problematic film, caught in the male gaze of director/producer Abdellatif Kechiche, who was said to have treated his cast and crew poorly. I question the lighting for the sex scenes between two women. If it wasn’t for Adele and Emma, two fascinating and dynamic characters, this film might have been a wash for me. Watch it for those two and the talented actresses who play them.

princess-cydPrincess Cyd (2017) – While the lesbian love story between Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) and Katie (Malic White) is just a sub-plot, it’s also the only interesting part of the whole movie. Cyd is a teenager whose family suffered a traumatic loss and when her father can’t deal with the aftermath she spends a summer at her aunt Miranda’s house. The two initially butt heads, Cyd an opinionated and free-spirited teen and Miranda, a famous author who needs to live a little, but soon come to learn from each other. Miranda’s story is depressing and hard to watch and on repeat views I found myself fast forwarding just to get to Cyd and Katie’s beautiful little love story. Malic White is a punk rock star turned actress and I love the on screen chemistry she has with Pinnick. Watch it once for the whole story and again just for Cyd and Katie. In fact I wouldn’t mind a sequel where these two are reunited.

All of these films are available on Netflix streaming or on DVD Netflix for rental.

What’s your favorite LGBTQ movie?

Pressing On: The Letterpress Film

“Printing is a privilege”

When Johannes Gutenberg invented moveable type in the 15th century, the world changed forever. The printing press ushered us out of the Dark Ages into the Age of Enlightenment. Fast forward today’s Information Age and we still have much to thank Gutenberg for how the printing press revolutionized the world. For centuries, letterpress, a form of of pressing ink into paper with the use of engravings carved into wood, metal, linoleum or zinc cut plates, was the standard for creating books, newspapers, magazines, brochures, pamphlets, posters and many other forms of printed words on paper. Over the years, the craft of letterpress was fine tuned byartisans who learned how turn type into an art form. Unlike today’s flash in the pan technology which quickly becomes replaced or obsolete, letterpress machines were improved upon in such a way they became timeless. A machine from a century ago could still function the way it was intended if handled with care. With the birth of offset printing in the mid-Twentieth Century and the advent of computers, letterpress became obsolete. But a group of letterpress printers who value the art and craft of the process are keeping it alive and hoping to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.



Co-directed by Andrew P. Quinn and Erin Beckloff, Pressing On: The Letterpress Film is a love letter to this art form. It asks the question, why is there still a love for this obsolete technology? The documentary seeks out to answer this with interviews of letterpress printers, both professionals and hobbyists who honed their craft, appreciate the process and ultimately find joy in it. The film revels in the romanc and nostalgia of this form of graphic design. The beat up blocks, the machinery, the colorful designs, the beautiful typography are all part of a long tradition handed down from generation to generation. The interview subjects hail from mid-west and mid-Atlantic. We hear from people who operate independent presses whether at established shops or out of their garage. We learn about the long tradition of Hatch Show Print in Tennessee which made concert posters a collectible art and the Hamilton Museum which keeps the history of letterpress alive. I was particularly taken with the interviews with hobbyist Dave Churchman who collected, you could even say hoarded, letter press equipment. He passed away in 2015 and within the film we also hear from his son who was left in charge of the vast collection his father left behind.

Dave Churchman

There is a “pressing” need to pass on the knowledge of the art of letterpress to the next generation so it won’t be lost. Today we can appreciate the unique aesthetic of letterpress as a form of graphic design (everything you do in your Adobe Suite is influenced by letterpress!) but can we save the process? When the master printers pass on, who will carry their torch?


Pressing On: The Letterpress Film is a sensitive and reflective documentary that is clearly in love with its subject. It’s joyful about the form but melancholy about the future. If you have any interest in the history of technology, in graphic design or even in what drives people to pursue their passion, I would highly recommend watching this film.

Pressing On premieres on digital today. You can find it on iTunes, Vimeo or your favorite VOD platform. It’s also available on DVD and Blu-Ray which you can find on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Best Buy!

Pressing On: The Letterpress Film Official Trailer


Aesthetic and Process: Exclusive Clip

Beauty Mark

A timely story for the #MeToo era, Beauty Mark (2017) explores the ramifications of sexual abuse and how the cycle affects multiple generations. Written and directed by Harrison Doran and inspired by a true story, Beauty Mark follows Angie (Auden Thornton), a down-on-her-luck single mom as she struggles to make ends meet. She’s the primary caretaker of her Autistic son Trey (Jameson Fowler) and has to deal with the prejudice that comes with raising a mixed race child. She’s also taking care of her addict mother Ruth Ann (Catherine Curtin) who refuses to work and can barely stay sober enough to take care of her grandson. When their home is condemned by the local authorities, Angie must secure the funds for a down payment for an apartment. Haunted by the memory of former pastor Bruce (Jeff Kober) who sexually molested her when she was 5 years old, she fights back hoping that suing him help her get the money she needs to keep her family off the streets. She reaches out to other victims but when faced with a system that protects abusers and driven by the urgency of her situation, she gets help from her stripper friend Lorraine (Laura Bell Bundy). Can Angie fight back or will she have to give in?

“It’s not about sex. It’s about power.”


Catherine Curtin as Ruth Ann in Beauty Mark
Auden Thornton and Jameson Fowler in Beauty Mark

Star Auden Thornton delivers in her performance of the sympathetic and complex Angie. There are two distinct phases in Angie’s story line. There is one of an overworked mom at her wits end, searching for a way to fight back. Thornton’s physical appearance contrasts greatly to the second phase when she breaks down from sheer exasperation and finds a job as a stripper. There are several heartbreaking scenes throughout the film that linger long enough to give viewers a sense of the desperate circumstances Angie is dealing with. I was particularly impressed with Catherine Curtin as the strung out grandmother who is both a pathetic and repulsive figure. I enjoyed her performance in Victoria Negri’s film Gold Star. Curtin is a modern-day Shelley Winters and one to watch.

Beauty Mark is an engrossing movie with a poignant message. It’s a warning, a call-to-action but most importantly a candid look about a serious problem that’s been swept under the rug for far too long.

Beauty Mark is available to own or rent on digital HD today.

Update: Beauty Mark is now available on DVD. You can purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Best Buy.

“A powerful film. Survivors must no longer be silent.” – Ashley Judd

Exclusive Clip


Official Trailer


Six L.A. Love Stories

6 couples, 6 different stories, 1 afternoon in L.A.

Directed by Michael Dunaway, 6 L.A. Love Stories is a raw and bare bones look at the complexities of love and relationships. It offers six different vignettes, not interconnected in any way other than they all take place in Los Angeles. Ashley Williams and Ross Partridge play strangers at a pool party whose conversation gets off to a rocky start. Matthew Lillard plays a husband who just discovered his wife, Carrie Preston, has been cheating on him. Jennifer Lafleur is a stage manager who reconnects with her ex-girlfriend, a motivational speaker played by Ogy Durham. Jamie Anne Allman is a Hollywood studio exec meeting up for a drink with her struggling actor ex-boyfriend Marshall Allman (both actors are a couple in real life). Director Michael Dunaway and actress Alicia Witt play a divorced couple who rediscover their emotional and physical connection. And the final vignette, which is my personal favorite, follows a Will Rogers scholar, Stephen Tobolowsky, as he battles with a Will Rogers estate tour guide, Beth Grant, who is strictly by the book.

6 L.A. Love Stories offers multiple insights into relationships, how they can go wrong and how couples can reconnect. Three of the couples are exes, two are meeting for the first time and one is at a crossroads in their journey. Legendary director Peter Bogdanovich has a small role as a speaker in the Lafleur/Durham vignette. He delivers a motivational speech using a “big stick”, in reference to president Teddy Roosevelt. His daughter Antonia Bogdanovich served as producer and production designer on the film.

Available on DVD, digital and VOD today from Random Media, 6 L.A. Love Stories is a quiet unassuming indie film that offers a genuine look at relationships.

Six L.A. Love Stories from Random Media on Vimeo.

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