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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Romancing the Big Apple

I’m as susceptible to flattering attention as the next guy. Maybe more.

So when a filmmaker gives me a chance to see his or her brand new film without even having to go to a film festival to see it, well, I tend to reward that gesture with a bit more attention than I might otherwise have lavished on that film.

Last autumn Steven Tylor O’Connor let me see his 10-minute short A Fairy Tale. It was sweet and funny and more than a bit fanciful. A story about the perennial teen dilemmas surrounding prom night, it reworked a familiar theme into a modern (as the title implied) fairy tale. As I wrote at the time, “There is promise here all right, but we will need to see something even more ambitious (and probably costing a bit more money) to judge exactly how much. Hopefully, we will get the chance.”

Well, now we have something more ambitious. O’Connor’s latest is a half-hour opus called Welcome to New York.

I have to confess that, when I saw O’Connor’s latest email with the subject line “Welcome to NY,” my first thought was that he had very quickly hit the big time and was sending me an airline ticket to attend the premiere of his new feature film in Manhattan. Oh well, maybe next time. It’s been a dream of mine to discover the next Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen and to be known as the critic who made them known to a wider audience. Okay, that’s not going to happen. But there is something satisfying about seeing and being able to talk about new talent.

The good news is that Welcome to New York is a perfectly charming film. Broadly speaking, it is one of those omnibus romcoms that jump from one story to another (I think I counted five), with some overlap among characters and plot strands. The narrative is tied together by the device of having each story told by a client in a psychologist’s office. The central role of the professional confidante is played by Sherry Vine (aka Keith Levy), who played the fairy godmother in O’Connor’s first film. (One of the funniest moments in the flick is the look on Nick Page’s face when Vine expresses befuddlement over the notion of working as a drag queen.) Ms. Vine is very funny, and in a way that doesn’t rely on the inherent humor of a man dressing as a woman. For some reason, she reminds me a lot of the actor Sylvia Miles.

Cramming so many stories into 30 minutes might seem a bit crowded, but each one is simple enough that we don’t feel that we’ve gotten short shrift on plot development. The strongest involve a “meet cute” scenario involving a very appealing Megan Kane and Matthew Watson and an awkward first date with Sean Paul Lockhart and Alex Ringler that could have been drawn from a Seinfeld episode. Lockhart is particularly endearing as an apparent young innocent—a neat trick considering that he has quite a few years under his belt in the gay porn industry (under the name Brent Corrigan).

Perhaps the best compliment I can pay O’Connor’s movie is that it ended too soon. It could easily be expanded to feature length. While it is clearly low-budget, it does not look cheap. And it has a nifty soundtrack that includes tracks by Eric Williams, Brandon Hilton, Bryan Fenkart and Chris Salvatore.

The question that inevitably arises with a 30-minute film is, who will get to see it? The obvious outlet is the film festival circuit. Fortunately, in this day and age there are other possibilities, including cable and satellite TV, the internet and DVDs.

The other question that must be asked is whether this can find an audience beyond the gay community or what might be called the gay-friendly community. My guess is that is precisely where it is aimed and where it will be embraced.

And that gets to another question. Should a young talented filmmaker like Steven Tylor O’Connor be satisfied to addressing his art to a single community or should he aim next time for a broader (“mainstream”) audience? That, of course, is up to him. And there is no reason he cannot do both. But personally, I would love to see him take on a feature film that goes beyond the community and world that he knows so well. Whatever he does in the future, though, I am sure it will be interesting.

So, thanks for the opportunity to see your film, Steven. And don’t forget me when you hit the big time.

-S.L., 11 August 2012

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