Friday, May 29, 2009

Toy Story 3 Teaser!

The day is here at last. Holy wow.

Monday, May 25, 2009

First Look At Gilliam's Imaginarium

This is one of three clips from the upcoming film The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, the latest creation of Terry Gilliam (best known as a member of Monty Python and the director of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, Brazil, 12 Monkeys and The Brothers Grimm).

From what little has been revealed about the plot, it seems like it's partly a retelling of the Faust tale. Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is a thousand-year-old theater troupe travelling around London with his imaginarium show, a mirror that can take you to an entire world that exists in your dreams and imagination. Long ago he won a bet with the devil, Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), to have immortality. Now that he's met his one true love, he makes a deal to exchange his immortality for youth. Nr. Nick agrees, so long as the doctor gives up his future daughter on her sixeenth birthday. The years have gone by and the time is approaching for the devil to collect his due - but Dr. Parnassus makes one more bet, and now the race is on as a myraid of wild and surreal adventures await Dr. Parnassus, his daughter and those they meet - including a young man named Tony (Heath Ledger, as well as Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) they rescue from suicide who may or may not be working for the devil himsef.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Queer Film Spotlight: The Sum of Us

The Sum of Us (1994) - This film is a lot more fun to watch than it should be. Even when it's serious, I laughed. Although the screenplay is nothing special - and sometimes a little flat - that's certainly not to say it was a terrible film; on the contrary, The Sum of Us is a great comedy that shows a side of the gay lifestyle I've never thought about. Typically, both on and off screen, parents of gays and lesbians range from the reluctantly supportive to the angry rejecting type. This film shows us a father who's very supportive of his son - but not in a "I don't like what he does but I support my gay son" way. More like in a "Bring your date over so I can get to know him and make sure he's nice, and we'll even sit in the swing and have a couple of beers" way. Often the biggest wish a gay guy could ever have is the support of his father. But is there such a thing as too much? As Jeff (Russell Crowe) laments, "For fuck's sake, how can you be too bloody domestic?"

It helps to know that this film was directed and written by David Stevens, who based it on his own play, because the film breaks fourth wall pretty often and it might throw you off guard when Jeff and his dad Harry start talking to the camera the first couple of times - but probably not nearly as much as their candid and honest reflections might. And that's what this film is about. Honesty and love. Jeff is conflicted about love because he's been rejected before and felt it was about him; now he fears that his dad's love comes between him and receiving love from any other guy. His dad feels like love is love in whatever form it comes in, although he's been through hard times to learn that and might take even longer to learn how to actually get things right. So in the end the nods to the audience are invitations to share in the story, in this exploration of how love works between men and women, former wives and widowers, "blokes" and "blokes," and sons and fathers. How it's all very much the same...and really not the same at all.

It made me laugh and cry. Dammit.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why Michael C. Hall Is Hal Jordan, The Green Lantern

It's a quarter after 3 AM and I wanna rant.

I've been watching Six Feet Under again (finally...holy shit, and I'm progressing through season three), and I've had a revelation. Michael C. Hall should be the Green Lantern.

Michael C. Hall is the titular character of Dexter, but I'm only familiar with him as David Fisher on Six Feet Under. David's my "favorite" character (I use quotation marks because you really "can't" have a "favorite" character on Six Feet'd have to watch to understand), so maybe I'm slightly biased.

Nonetheless: director Greg Berlanti should forget about the rumored Bradly Cooper and tap Michael C. Hall. We can begin just with his physicality. Hall's eyes are green (not clearly green, but Cooper's are bright blue); it's kinda gimicky, but Hal Jordan's eyes are green in just about every portrayal I've come across. And Hall doesn't have the body of a Greek god, but the athletic build is there. He can work on it. I also think you can see Hall in a flight pilot jacket and an emerald green mask a lot better than Cooper. The former would look like a respectable and admirable superhero and the latter might look like a crowd-pleasing pretty boy. (Photoshop, anyone?)

More importantly, as far as physicality goes, what I like about Hall that I see in Six Feet Under is that he can definitely be charming, but when he's serious, he pulls it off like a heart attack. He also brings a subtle physicality to repressed internal conflict and emotion; you can tell if he's embarrassed, hurt or suffering from indigestion just by the way he shuffles his feet or fidgets, or the way he frowns, but not in unrealistically dramatic ways. You can actually believe that he's fearless in some situations and that he's terrified but brave and putting on a fearless face in others. Hall can strike an oddly poetic balance between the two. (Yeah, "poetic." Work with me here.)

Hal Jordan is always drawn with the aesthetic of an American god, with fine brown hair, completely square jaw and chistled muscles. He's known as a man without fear, and he is, but he also struggles with being afraid of one thing - actually being fearless and what kind of person he could become with his unlimited power as the greatest Green Lantern in the universe. He doesn't express his internal feelings very often (unless he's blurting them out). The loss of his father, and the subsequent impact it had on the loss of his mother, make for some interesting Freudian shit. Beneath his Herculean exterior, Hal Jordan's past and his conflict with his own will to power make him interesting. So he needs an actor who will play someone who's clearly mythological but bring in enough subtlety to make him believably human, too.

Seeing Hall in interviews, I think he pays close attention to the psychological processes of his characters and tries very hard to make their responses to situations as authentic as possible. From what I've watched of Dexter, I think Hall's also very aware of how to get certain responses from an audience that both wow you in a "It's only fiction" way and yet make you believe the character could be a real person. Whomever plays Hal Jordan needs to bring this sensibility to scenes like finding a dying alien in the middle of the desert, discovering that the universe is overseen by a group of short blue guys, and reciting a sacred oath to recharge his ring. It requires a fine balance between taking the role seriously and having a ton of fun with it, and Hall seems capable of striking such a balance (again, "poetic" - work with me here).

Berlanti can save Bradly Cooper for later; Cooper's repitoire suggests that he might be better suited to play Guy Gardner - the more cock-sure, womanizing and arrogant Green Lantern. But Michael C. Hall has a more solid acting career, I think, than Cooper. He's just basically kinda perfect for the part. Michael C. Hall for the win!

Can you see it? Yes, of course you can.

...P.S. As long as I'm admitting that I've recently started watching
Six Feet Under again, if the powers-that-be settle on John Stewart instead of Hal Jordan, we oughta try to get Keith's actor, Mathew St. Patrick. He's a fantastic actor who can balance good humor, intimidation, vulnerability and rage all in one performance (at least on the show), which pretty much describes John Stewart. Plus he's huge and doesn't make being bald look stupid.

...P.S.S. NO, I do NOT secretly think Hal Jordan and John Stewart should get together. Really, I don't. David and Keith belong together only on
Six Feet Under, and I didn't know until tonight that Berlanti is gay. ...Interesting coincidence, though.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Torture Still Happening Under Obama & Clinton "Stabalizing" Haiti

Jeremy Scahill, award-winning investigative journalist and author of the bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, recently wrote an article for about the "Immediate Reaction Force," a sort of thug squad or riot squad that is currently deployed at Guantánamo Bay. The Immediate Reaction Force employs horrific torture and abuse methods to use on prisoners who attempt to resist restraint. The squad uses waterboarding, uses human waste and chemicals, gagging and hogtying, putting tubes down the nostrils, and several other agressive tactics that have been known to permanently harm detainees.

On Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman interviews Scahill, who calls out Obama on "cosmetic changes" and rhetoric.

Additionally, Scahill also published another article on about another scandal: today Bill Clinton might be named the U.N. envoy to Haiti. The Washington Post has coverage from Reuters quoting U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saying that Clinton could help stabilize Haiti. Scahill writes that such a move "would be humorous for its irony if the reality—and Clinton’s history in Haiti—wasn’t so deadly serious. The fact is that, as U.S. president, Clinton’s policies helped systematically destabilize Haiti." Amy Goodman talks with Scahill about this article as well, and Scahill says that the U.N.'s choice to name Clinton is "grotesque" and that he believes anyone who strives for justice and peace in Haiti "should rise up" to say Clinton has no business there.

I'll have to talk to my dad about this later tonight, and I'll try to update the post when I do. In other news, Obama may have been inspired by Star Trek as a child to invest in politics...I love what he says he's learned from the Republican Party during the past 115 days: "Right now they're sort of trapped in the pattern of having to appeal to the most ideologically pure wing of their party as opposed to thinking a little bit more practically."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stupid Mondays.

Lindsey had her psychology class today, where her most recent stalker (this one a slightly neurotic R.M.) would attempt yet another advance. So I went down to campus just before her class was ending and waited outside until class got out. I said "Hey, m'dear" when I saw her and we made sure we were were hugging when the guy turned to get up from his desk. We left the classroom as I asked what we'd do for dinner.

We'd just gotten to the bus stop when we realized "he" was behind us. I took off my headphones and bookbag and suggested that I read something to Lindsey. I had Notes From Underground with me, and she told me I had to read it in a seducing voice. The guy now approached the stop and stood nearby. I opened the book and began to read, in a provocative Barry White voice, "I am a sick man...I am a wicked man. An unattractive man. I think my liver hurts." You'd be surprised how well some of Notes translates. I think the gas station worker taking the trash out must've been annoyed with our giggling, as was anyone else near us.

The bus was just coming down the hill towards us when I got a text from Cameron saying that Ben had just gotten injured. I called him and asked what was going on. He told me, in bits and pieces, that they were playing a game and then Ben slide into a base when he heard a snap, and then someone called the cops, and then someone took away the kids and the trees, and now Matt (Ben's little brother) was here. Make sense? Of course not, and I was trying to explain to Cameron that I couldn't understand what he was saying when the bus arrived, and the guy took advantage of my phone conversation to ask Lindsey what I was reading. "Notes From Underground by Dostoevsky," she answered. He replied that he'd never heard of Dostoevsky and asked if it was written in Russian.

As Lindsey and I got on the bus, the stalker trailing behind, Cameron kept talking to Matt and then me at once, then finally saying he'd call me back in a few minutes. I hung up and knowing he'd never call back, I called Matt to see what the hell was going on since Cameron was making no sense. Apparently, Ben had been playing kickball at our ward's F.H.E. when he'd broken his ankle. They'd called an ambulance and then cops came by to make sure there was a "legitimate reason" for an ambulance, and finally Ben's dad arrived to go to the hospital.

I got off the phone with Matt right when I got off the bus with Lindsey...which is also right when I realized that, during the nonsensical conversation with Cameron, I'd never picked up my headphones. I turned around and rushed with Lindsey to catch the next bus, but by the time we got back down to the campus stop, my headphones were nowhere to be found. I usually try to have faith in humanity, but I had no stock in the integrity of anyone who'd happen to pass by $60 SkullCandy headphones that are barely a month old just lying on the ground by a bus stop. I slumped on the ground, angry and annoyed.

I was angry and annoyed because it seemed like the reason I'd left them behind was because I was so caught up with being worried about Ben and trying to get a straight answer out of Cameron. It wasn't that it was Cameron's fault, but more like in an odd test of when I place priorities in think-on-my-feet situations, I become completely focused on just one thing. And I really don't feel like that's a good thing. I feel like it could lead me to trouble.

This was what was on my mind when a bus finally arrived and right when Lindsey and I were about to get on, the driver held a hand up to me. I was too distracted by my thoughts to realize a woman was coming down. Then as I came on before Lindsey, the driver said, as if to chastize me, "Ladies first!" before I took a seat. When Lindsey sat down next to me, I was mumbling profanities. I realize that the guy was just trying to encourage me to be polite...but I don't pay $30 out of my tuition for a bus pass so that you can teach me manners, buddy. I pay you to drive the damn bus and shut your mouth. I'm sick, I've had a bad day finding a job, my best friend is hurt, and I've lost my headphones. Fuck you.

I got off before Lindsey did. As I stood waiting for her, I heard her say to the bus driver, "So, is that being polite to women, or being polite to white people? Because that's just cruel." And then she stepped off as the driver hollered, "...Well...ladies first!"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mainstreamed Fags: Why I Don't Like the HRC

The Human Rights Campaign should not be supported by the queer (LGBT and non-gender identifying) community in the U.S. - or anyone else, for that matter. The HRC claims to fight for human rights while betraying its own, collecting dirty money and further boxing up the queer community into mainstream America.

My main issue with the HRC is their advocacy for gay marriage, but some of the more minor reasons are that the HRC hypocritically pushes for equal rights for everyone while openly neglecting transgendered people. As one protester last Febuary put it, there are many gay and lesbian celebrities on TV while thousands of transgendered Americans have to risk just using a public bathroom without getting ridiculed, beaten or even arrested. HRC has a history of leaving transgendered people out of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and even tried to cover up their hypocrisy to make their recent support of a more inclusive bill more legitimate. It's pretty clear to me where the HRC's loyalties lie: a public image that can appeal to more mainstream straight audiences.

HRC also deals in dirty funds. The HRC has a fairly long list of corporate sponsors on their website, and a little research on any of these corporate giants will reveal an adjoining list of human rights abuses. Just a few of these companies that fund the HRC include:

- Nike
, who admitted in 2001 that it had empolyed children 10 years and younger from Third World countries to work in sweatshops making shoes. While Nike is doing a little better, they must account for abusing women workers and immigrant workers in Malaysia (basically human trafficking; this Aussie news exposé video will shock you) as recent as last summer. Not to mention the its part in the complete commercialization of American culture (such as its contribution to the rise of American "sneakerhead" subculture; excuse my language, but who the fuck owns over six hundred Nike sneakers when the barefoot workers who made them live on six dollars a day?)

- Shell/Royal Dutch
, who was illegally supported by the U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service last year to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska, harming endangered bowhead whales, polar bears and other marine animals as well as threatening to destroy native Alaskan communities near the drilling area (a plan that was only recently dropped). Moreover, this month in Manhattan, Shell will stand trial for allegedly supporting the Nigerian dictator General Abacha by directly assisting in the illegal execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian poet, environmentalist and human rights activist. Saro-Wiwa, along with other activists, were hanged in 1994 for protesting Shell's wrongful drilling in their homeland, Ogoniland, which began in 1958 and has boosted the Nigerian community while bringing nothing but frequent oil spills, acid rain and death to farmland and cattle of the starving and poor Ogoni (not to mention an increase in cancer and respiratory diseases).

- Chevron, who (claimed to be involved in the illegal trials of the Ogoni activists to a somewhat lesser extent but complicit nonetheless) is also responsible for devastating the Nigerian environment, including disregarding Nigerian law to re-inject gas into the earth and instead pollute the air by flaring it. Additionally, Chevron has been accused of encouraging widespread human rights abuse in Burma such as rape, murder and forced labor. Chevron has also been accused of polluting the air of Richmond, California (where almost half the population is African American) as well as neglecting its oil spills in the Amazon rainforest.

- Chase Bank, who, among other abuses, stated in January 1995 memo that the Mexican government "will have to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and security policy." The Zapatistas (an armed but nonviolent indigeounos group of Chiapas who have fought for autonomy for decades) had just come into the public eye for their New Year's Day insurrection.

The other big banks and companies on the list show that the HRC is committed to advocating rights for the LGBT community so long as it's on terms and conditions set by their clearly mainstream backers. These terms and conditions consistently prove that actual human rights are as far from these goals as an ant is from the surface of the moon.

Lastly, the HRC seeks for gay marriage which is, as I've said, not something I support for several reasons, too many to list here. In general, marriage is not something that gay activists from the civil rights era would have focused on, as it institutionalizes the very image of "straightness" along with awarding the privileged few with rights to health care and economic stability denied to thousands of others. Instead of pushing for married gays and lesbians to get married in order to have tax cuts, hospital visitation, housing, fair treatment in the workplace, etc., a legitimate progressive group (in my opinion, anyway) would fight for these rights to be given indiscriminately to all people who identify as queer, be they a Christian gay man, an atheist lesbian or a homeless transgender (speaking of homeless, by the way, between 7,000 and 10,000 of the homeless in New York City are LGBT teenagers, and the HRC does little to aid the local shelters there).

Now, this isn't to say that the HRC hasn't done anything of value. I'm saying that instead of supporting the HRC, queers should support local movements that fight for the homeless, poor and marginalized while standing for human rights everywhere. Instead of paying for an annual debit card/membership with the HRC, donate to the Zapatistas or to environmentalist groups. Instead of responding to mass emails about writing legistlators about creating national laws, seek out grassroot campaigns and local efforts to change local laws that help the homeless, end domestic abuse and assist in gay/lesbian teenage suicides.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Moon, the Moon

The birds outside of my apartment make a complete cacophony out of 6 AM in the morning. It's like the only difference between the noise of the noonday cars, their rushing impatient metals and smoking, filthy heat all smashed together, and the desperate shrieking of early morning birds at Starcrest Drive is that the birds make a more precise harmony. It's almost conversational. It's almost like they are all talking to each other. Maybe the cars do, too. You can never know.

I went outside to watch the moonset after staying up late again. I can't sleep. I still can't sleep and I can no longer shrug it off in pithy remarks about how "I rewired my body's sleep schedule when I stayed up during finals using several cups of coffee" because that happened six months ago. I know what it is now. It's that I choose not to fall asleep. I just don't want to. I can feel it each night, my body's own sense of displacement when I lay down on that bed. It's stiff underneath my sheets, the insides tighten under my weight and the springs grind with frustration. The whole thing is only held together with a few nuts and screws. It's not my frame, it's Sylvia's. Her father gave it to her. I've met her father before but I can't remember his face. I remember he had a kind one, though.

I stayed up watching Knocked Up. Alison was just barely going into labor when I noticed the window turning blue. I looked outside and saw a single brave bright star above Provo. I sat back down and continued to bite my knuckles, grinning stupidly to nobody but the damn screen, giddy as I always get whenever I watch this movie, especially this part, the one right here where Alison and Ben are together again and now in the hospital and Ben is ready. Because he is going to be a daddy.

When the credits roll, I put my new sandals on. I go outside and I stare at the craters in the moon. Every time I look at the moon, if I look long enough, the craters start to look like little black shadows blinking and dancing, even waltzing in circles all across that cold white surface. A smell hits my nostrils and my eyes widen because I recognize the smell from something very long ago. Which is puzzling. The smell triggers a thousand memories in my head. They are memories of me and Ammon, specifically me and Ammon camping in the summer - and specifically that certain summer. That trip. And soon successively other memories clink along with it like the chain of a ball rolling scattered and confused behind the railroad worker. Smells from other camping trips. I remember Sand Hollow and Billy Brown and Strawberry Resovoir and Kevin Mitchell. I see the moon again and for some reason all I can think about is the word "daughter."

My sandals skid across the dead twigs and the crusty old ground as I walk back inside. They cost me more than thirty damn dollars, and I got them from where Mike works. I remember that Mike recognized me from the picture on that website that pretends to be gay Facebook - and he actually walked up to me. I remember finding out later that evening that Nick no longer comes up on gay Facebook when I search because I always put "single" in the search. He's no longer single. Tonight, or last night I guess, Zack started texting me again right when Lindsey was complaining - and, well, complaining isn't the right word. She was lamenting that "he" wasn't calling her.

And I remained despondent. Because I'm so sick of the guys who keep texting me and the guys who won't. I am mad like Ben Stone because stupid idiots all around me won't fucking love when it's handed to them. And the ones who like to take their love and smear it all over their faces like war paint. You assholes. Stupid idiots, stupid fuckers. What the hell are you people thinking. Huh?

What the hell is the matter with all of you?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Queer Film Spotlight: Yossi & Jagger & The Trip

This post gonna kick off a new series of movie reviews I hope to write throughout the summer. I'll be reviewing films that focus on gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgendered characters and/or romances. Most of the films will likely be American but a few will be foreign, as exemplified by the first gay movie:

Yossi & Jagger (2002) is an Israeli film about two secret lovers in the Israeli military. Yossi is the commander of a small unit near Lebanon who is close to his second-in-command, Loir, who is nicknamed "Jagger" because he is "handsome like a rock star." Two girls arrive at the base, one of whom starts to fall for Jagger at the same time Ofir, another officer, falls for her - all happening as Yossi prepares the unit for an ambush that evening.

One thing I loved about this film was how short it was - barely an hour. Another thing I liked was that in other hands, the story could have been very weak. Two gay soldiers, a girl and a love triange. It could have been cheap, but the characters were all very believable and the story was paced slowly to let the audience digest the different emotions. The love between Yossi and Jagger was performed well - the comedy, the tension, the pain and the caring. I didn't mind the tangent story with Ofir most of the time, but at times it seemed like the main romance was playing second fiddle to it.

I couldn't complain much about film other than the slow pacing. (That, and I thought Yossi was kinda unattractive. He didn't have to be some hot Adonis, but sometimes the pairing with the clearly attractive Jagger felt weird.) I enjoyed it because it cared more about developing solid leading men who love each other during wartime more than it cared about forcing itself to be dramatic and emotional. It was good filmmaking and good acting despite its low budget.

The Trip (2002) is a bit uneven but enjoyable. It spans the years 1973 to 1984 and chronicles the romance between Alan and Tommy, the one a staunch straight Republican and the other a carefree gay activist. Alan is working on a book with the intent to threaten the gay rights movement and asks Tommy for an interview. What starts out as innocent curiosity soon sways to a secret love affair that soon becomes threatened by jealous others and the Christian right. Alan and Tommy part ways only to meet each other for one last time in the mid-eighties when the AIDS epidemic threatens every homosexual relationship, including their own.

The film's low budget doesn't make the production suffer but the writing does. One bad line made me cringe during what should've been a fantastic ending. It's definitely paced more quickly than Yossi & Jagger and while this doesn't fault the story's delivery, the stitching starts to come undone towards the film's climax, and by the end the conclusion seems decently developed but way too rushed. Alan's transition from straight to gay is clumsy but the two actors make the bumbling road fun to watch. For that matter, all the actors make up for the just-below-decent writing in delivering heartfelt performances.

Despite it's many faults, I liked this film because, unlike other American gay films I'm familiar with, it's clear about its own story. Most other gay films are so clearly marketed to horny gay men who fantasize about straight men that it can be cliche, trite and mostly annoying. They make it clear their makers were trying to make a "dick flick." The Trip doesn't try to be anything. The scenes are directed and performed in a way that lets you know that those who worked on the film knew they weren't making Titanic or A Walk To Remember. It's honest - sometimes flawed, but at least honest.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"With God On Our Side..."

Today I decided to finally sit down and watch The Laramie Project - the HBO film about the murder of Matthew Shephard. The most disturbing scene to me - and simultaneously the most hopeful - was the one where there is a group of fundamentalist Christians protesting outside his funeral, and the friends of Matthew Shephard dress as angels and stand in front of them. The former group echos, for me, the complete disrespect shown towards Heath Ledger and his family from the Kansas Westbro Baptist Church (both in a news release and a subsequent letter). All of these things are still pretty fresh in my mind, especially after seeing Jesus Camp.

It's with little coincidence that Democracy Now! came out with a report today about a recent footage released by Al Jezeera, who have alleged for some time that Christian U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are attempting to convert Muslims. The Pentagon has denied their claims and, for the most part, has ignored the journalists that have investigated the subject. Now today, Al Jezeera released recent footage of a miliary chaplain discussing how to talk to Muslims about Christianity and hand out translated Bibles.

Amy Goodman interviews Jeff Sharlet, who wrote an article in Harper's article called "Jesus Killed Mohammed." The article tells the story of a soldier who, after seeing Passion of the Christ, goes on a destructive rampage in Iraq, claiming success because God is on his side.

Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism At The Heart of American Power, can be a come off a bit heavy handed, but he argues that this is an extremely serious problem that threatens U.S. military credibility overseas. Mikey Weinstein, Air Force veteran and author of With God on Our Side: One Man’s War Against an Evangelical Coup in America’s Military, also comes on the show and concurs with Sharlet, saying, "We look exactly like the crusaders of 1096 to the Iraqis, and now the Afghans."