Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson





Building façade in Cannes, France

Love in the age of apps

Who needs to go to Cannes anyway?

Okay, I do. And someday I’ll go. I mean go at a time when the film festival is on. Like it is right now (through Sunday).

In the meantime, I am fortunate in that people keep letting me watch their new movies. Last month it was Eric Casaccio with his short Narcissist. This month I got a sneak peak at another fine short film, thanks to Steven Tylor O’Connor, who is one of the producers as well as being in charge of the casting. You might recall that I previously wrote about two films that Steven directed, A Fairy Tale and Welcome to New York.

This new film, directed by Zachary Halley, is called Grind and it’s in a whole different league from most short flicks that come in over the transom. It has serious resources and established talent devoted to it. Judging from the acknowledgments in the closing credits, Halley may have even gotten some help from the crew of the TV series White Collar, where he is a production coordinator.

The star is Anthony Rapp, whom we remember as a standout child actor in Adventures in Babysitting and who went on to appear in films like Dazed and Confused and Six Degrees of Separation and originated the role of Mark in Rent on Broadway as well as in Chris Columbus’s film adapation. Rapp has matured into a comfortable and likeable screen presence—sort of like a younger James Spader—and something that is essential for this tricky role.

Grind is a film that works perfectly at the length it is (32 minutes) but which we can’t help but wish could find a way to be expanded somehow into feature length because 1) it’s that good and 2) more people would have a chance to see it. It’s also one of those movies that the less you know beforehand, the more you are going to enjoy it.

So, at the risk of disregarding my own advice, I’ll tell you this much. It is a musical, and the music is upbeat and infectious. Derek Gregor and Selda Shahin have done a great job with the tunes and lyrics. The musical numbers are put together in a way that reminds you both of 1960s teenager musicals and of MTV in its early heyday. In the beginning the story seems as though it might be an update to Cyrano de Bergerac, with Rapp wishing he had his male model friend’s good looks and his hot friend (Pasha Pellosie) wishing he had Rapp’s wit and intelligence.

The title has multiple meanings—not limited to a dance reference or to the grind of trying to sort out relationships in the modern world—but the most obvious allusion is to the Grindr app, which uses GPS to facilitate quick and easy hookups with “gay, bi, curious guys for free near you.” The casualness and anonymity made possible by the technology is initially presented as carefree and fun, but gradually the dark implications emerge.

It’s all quite thought-provoking while at the same time being very entertaining. The first thing we seen onscreen is the words “Based on actual events.” Nearly the last thing we see is “Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. But it probably feels true.” The actual last words are “You never know who you’re talking to.” I expect that viewings of the film will inevitably be followed by lively discussions.

The cast are all first-rate. As already mentioned, Rapp makes his central character work very well—the importance of which doesn’t become obvious until the end. Pellosie is appealing and engaging in a part that could easily be dismissed as “the pretty one.” As their friend Autumn, Claire Coffee will be familiar to viewers of General Hospital, Franklin & Bash and Grimm. Many scenes teem with interesting faces in passing which get listed in the credits with names like “Zero Body Fat Boy” and “Glam Goth Boy.”

While Halley’s film is clearly aimed at the gay audience, the music and the human aspects of the story and its theme of relationships in the age we currently live in will no doubt have wide appeal. Here’s hoping the widest audience possible gets the chance to see it.

-S.L., 21 May 2014


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