Saturday, 22 December 2012

Pre-Xmas Movie Reviews

I have only one thing to say: Charlie Hunnam. Was there some dumb thriller going on around him called Deadfall…well I kind a missed it cuz I was looking at him! In case you don’t know.,.. Charle Hunnam also appeared as Nathan Maloney in the British version of Queer As Folk (much better than the dumb uptight American one). OMG! Proof that some cute blonde boys don’t grow up to be fat old men but even cuter blond hunks. I want to eat his shorts but really his thighs because they are probably sprinkled with a fine blond fuzz. (Actually I think I saw his thighs in the movie: worth the price of admission….)

Oh I don’t know.  I’ve already forgotten it.

Hyde park on Hudson
A lot better than the reviewers said but not good enough. Since the movie practically opens with a hand job it’s sure to turn some people off.

I was right. Tony Kushner is not a very good writer. OMG! This was so boring I watched the first hour I really tried but there was nothing but debate about issues no human beings for Chrissakes Tony Kushner get your head out of your own too-intellectual-show-off ass and write about people! That’s all any of us really care about….

Late Quartet
I cried through most of it. But of course I love Catherine Keener so much I would pay to watch her pee.

The Dangers of Religious Freedom

I always read the National Post
 It’s important to know your enemy.
And yesterday they featured a trio of articles on the subject religious freedom -- certainly a hot topic these days, especially for the religious right.
            Yes, a great deal of ink is being spilled over the vital question: how do we balance human rights and religious freedom? What if a lesbian wants a man's haircut and a Muslim barber refuses to give her one? This ‘crucial’ conflict sure sets tongues a-flappin.’
            The latest bunch of highly controversial issues gracing the front page of the National Post include: a Muslim woman fighting for the right to where her niqab in court, a Montreal woman halted from holding mass in a rented room because of an obscure bylaw, and Canadian Jehovah’s witnesses fighting for their right to abstain from giving children blood transfusions. These three burning news items (no other paper covered them -- with the notable exception of the niqab controversy) were on the front page of yesterday’s National Post. Last week the National Post was agog over the possible abolition of ‘Merry Christmas signs’ on Saskatoon buses. All of this comes hot on the heels of last summer’s spirited debate over whether or not birth control should be offered as part of ‘Obamacare.’
            In each of these instances ‘freedom of religion’ is pitted against government interference. The implication: we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, because our governments – and much of the populace -- have become Christianphobic (I’ll admit it, I am!). As Mike Huckabee recently observed about the massacre at Sandy Hook – why did Adam Lanza kill those 20 children? Because “God has been removed from our schools.”
            Freedom of religion has morphed into something scary. The American first amendment “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion.” So it looks like the founding American fathers wanted to make sure folks could worship the God(s) of their choice and speak freely about their religious beliefs. Sure, makes sense to me. But ‘impeding the free exercise of religion’ sure is a sticky wicket. Is my freedom to exercise my religion being impeded when the government demands that I remove my niqab for a trial? Or when the government uses my tax dollars to pay for abortions?
            I would argue: absolutely not.
Regardless of what the American founding fathers meant (who cares about those slave-holding patriarchal puritans, anyway?) the only religious rights that count are the right to worship, and the right to speak openly about your faith. But no one has the ‘right’ to demand that the government pass laws that take into account their religious beliefs, and no one has a right to disobey laws because they go against their ‘deeply held religious convictions.’
This may sound brutal. But the alternative is worse. What if your ‘religious conviction’ is that 50% of all female babies should be killed at birth? What if your ‘religious conviction’ is that all people of colour should be crucified and burned? If the government is to going to allow those who demand religious freedom to tamper with the law then there’s no turning back.  Because remember, one person’s crazy idea is another person’s ‘deeply held belief.’
It’s pretty simple: the North American religious right is championing the cause of religious freedom in order to kill the separation between church and state and bring back state sponsored Christianity. If you doubt this, look back at the three articles in that recent National Post. Interestingly, the paper comes out firmly against the issue of women being allowed to wear a niqab in court, but firmly on the side of the woman who is told she can’t hold mass in a rented room. In North American religious freedom means the freedom of Christians to run the government, and our lives.
            I’ve always believed that people should keep their religion to themselves. After all, isn’t it all about what goes on between you and your God? What business is it of anyone else’s?
            If I had my way, religion would be practiced in private, and sex would be practiced in public.
            I think it would make life healthier and happier for us all.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Eaten by the Life Section

I know that newspapers are dead but I still read them.
I’m interested, for instance in seeing what Margaret Wente is going to plagiarize next. (Margaret Wente is one of those columnists who likes to pretend she doesn’t lean one way or the other but is terrifically dumb and right wing. Why doesn’t The Globe and Mail fire her already?! )
What scares me most about newspapers lately is not Margaret Wente but the fact that most Toronto newspapers have decided to combine the ‘arts’ (or as it is sometimes called the ‘entertainment’ section) with the ‘life’ section. What scares me about this is that when I’m looking for the ‘arts’ section I keep reading the ‘life’ section by mistake. (Thankfully The National Post puts their ‘arts’ section in with ‘sports’ and there is no danger of me accidentally reading ‘sports’.)
What’s so scary about ‘life’?
Well, it makes no sense to me that the ‘arts’ should be put together with ‘life.’ I know the justification: a barely hidden, sexist agenda. Newspapers must compete with digital media so they have no choice but to be subtly sexist. Political correctness to the contrary, we all think men and women have vastly different interests. Newspapers think only women (and femmy men like me) read the ‘arts’ section and so ‘the ‘arts’ should be paired up with the ‘life’ section (which is really the‘women’s’ section of the newspaper renamed so it won’t offend anybody). But this makes no sense. I’m sure straight, masculine men read the arts section, as well as the life section, too.
But my objection runs deeper than that.  Philosophically, ‘life’ and ‘art’ have nothing in common.
For one thing the ‘life’ section is family friendly. I opened up the ‘life and arts’ section recently and by mistake began reading an article about a woman who was angry because schools claim to be ‘nut free’ zones, yet have trees around them that drop acorns. Obviously this is of great to concern to family obsessed, nut-obsessed, nuts. But lady…are your children running around eating acorns they find in the road? Then they have problems that go far beyond food sensitivities. Adjacent to this, I was treated to a picture of a pregnant woman lifting weights, and an article exhorting  me to understand that yes, pregnant women do need exercise.
The ‘life’ section is all positive energy; about families and kids.
            The ‘arts,’ on the other hand, has always been anti-family and anti-kids. Ever since Medea killed her children -- and on to Tennessee Williams' play about a mother who pushed her son to a point where he was eaten by cannibals -- art has concerned itself with things that upset families and challenge them.
            Also, the ‘arts’ are also generally unhealthy, and by placing the ‘arts’ section inside the ‘life’ section, there is a very real danger that the ‘arts’ may be eaten by health.
            The point of all the articles about health is not just to keep you healthy, but to convince  us that we can control our lives by, simply, eating good food, exercising, and hanging around with nice families. In contrast, art -- at least all good art -- is about this one fact: death, sex and loneliness are inexorable, inevitable realities of existence. The ‘life’ section of the newspaper fosters the myth that we ultimately can control our own health and therefore our lives, whereas the arts constantly remind us that illness, unpleasantness and promiscuity are inescapable.
            The incredibly paradoxical, contradictory melding of the ‘life’ section and the ‘arts’ section came to a nonsensical climax this week with the news about Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash having sex with a 16 year old boy.  Finally the perfect article for ‘arts and life’! Disapproval of an unhealthy lifestyle! (Of course if an adult male heterosexual puppeteer had sex with a 16 year old girl, his pals -- and most of the patriarchy -- would cheer him on…) And there is the ‘entertainment news’ factor! Kevin Clash has, respectfully, taken a leave of absence from Sesame Street!
            Well let me warn you, the ‘arts’ will ultimately never be healthy enough -- or family friendly enough -- for ‘life.’
So ‘life’ is sure to eat ‘art.'
If it doesn’t eat my brain first.


Adding Insult to Injury: The Sessions
What a stupid, sanctimonious and quite enjoyable picture. Yes it’s well done -- but what lengths do we have to go to these days in order to excuse ourselves from watching two people fucking? First of all the poor disabled guy who wants to hire a sex surrogate has to go to a priest (William H. Macy in a thankless role) to get permission. And just so we don’t confuse her with a prostitute, Helen Hunt explains the difference: “A prostitute is interested in getting your business again, I am not.” Oh, I see. So if a client saw you once and then phoned the sex surrogate agency and said “She was really bad at her job fire her” you’d be happy, Helen? I don’t think so. This movie is an insult to prostitutes everywhere. The lengths it goes to in order to differentiate between prostitution and sex surrogacy are insulting. The truth: PROSTITUTION AND SEX SURROGACY ARE THE SAME THING, unless of course you hate sex and women. Prostitutes perform a service. Sex surrogates perform a service. Both are paid. Both have sex with clients because it is a job, for money, to satisfy the clients sexually, not to satisfy themselves. This movie -- though warm and entertaining -- is full of shit around sexual politics. Maybe we’re just all so glad to see some sex on the screen that is ‘okay’ for us to watch, maybe we’re just such HYPOCRITES that we’ll ignore even the height of hypocrisy to get our fix. Read my lips. Sex is okay. Prostitutes are okay. Sex surrogacy is okay. You don’t need a fucking priest to give you permission for ANY of it, dummy.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

October Mini-Reviews (kinda late...)

The Paperboy
OMG. Zac Efron’s body. Just think. It’s already OLDER. He has aged since this film was made and, like, it’s not quite as perfect as it was when they shot it! That says something about the vagaries of time, doesn’t it? So……Hollywood goes and makes a movie that deals with ‘homosexuality’ (in the past) -- because there is nothing ‘gay’ here -- (the homosexual and the desiring woman – Nicole Kidman, acting as if she is a human being, for once -- of course, both die). I suppose we’re supposed to be happy because – oh yeah, well, for one brief moment the straight brother (Zac) kisses the gay one (Matthew McConaughey) on the cheek.  And then audiences are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO shocked, and it’s a grande scandale at Cannes and… well -- it’s the end of the world folks….

Yes it was suspenseful. (yawn!)

End of Watch
With these movies I always have to weigh my issues around valorizing The American Police Force against my enjoyment over watching Hunky Men In Uniforms running, jumping, and generally acting frisky.
Jake Gyllenhall stars in it.
What issues?

Yes, it was scary. (yawn!)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Tony Kushner Screws up Again!


            I never liked Angels in America. I thought the first part (which I have seen) was better than the second part (which I have only read). What was good about it was that it seemed like a very smart TV show -- predictable humour married to pithy sounding Shavian debates.  But ultimately it was all just bad melodrama. Yes Tony, I think gay men are angels too. But sentimental prejudices like that don’t great theatre make, they just put bums in seats. The reason Angels in America was so successful was that it complimented audiences in ways they love to be complimented. It allowed them to think that they were very smart and -- most lucratively for him -- it allowed them to think that they loved homosexuals.
            How did Kushner manage to write a play with significant gay content that was so embraced by straight audiences? Well he placed his very gay central characters in a frame that was terribly, terribly straight. In other words, though  campy Prior heads the cast, the context of the play is a very heterosexual, very much a traditional zeitgeist; the play does not move outside of Mormonism, Christianity, the patriarchy, or monogamous, family-oriented notions of love and sex. Where is the gay mythology? Where is the gay CULTURE? If Angels in America is to believed, all we fags are good for is making self-denigrating jokes about ourselves as we die. This genius notion guaranteed Kushner a Pulitzer Prize. (If you’re interested in hearing more about how straight people and ambitious gays and lesbians can write gay and lesbian plays that make big bucks -- read Sarah Schulman’s analysis of Rent in her fascinating memoir/essay Stagestruck.)
            So I’m not surprised that Kushner wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Lincoln. Advance notices tell us that even though the flick is ‘a bit long’ it has ‘Oscar worthy performances’ and makes you ‘know what it means to be an American.’
            I figured Tony Kushner might betray us again.
            Cuz, haven’t you heard?
            Lincoln was gay.
            Who says? Well C. A. Tripp does, in his book The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln (2005). Well maybe he doesn’t actually say it – in fact the website for the book goes a bit crazy trying to suggest that Tripp doesn’t claim that Lincoln was gay, only that he had intimate relationships with men. (“If you purchased the paperback edition of the book you will see references to Lincoln as gay. This was NOT authorized by Dr C. A. Tripp, the author of this book. Dr. Tripp was not a gay activist as he has been portrayed in the paperback but a serious clinical psychologist.” That’s all fine and good, but, like, why are you getting in such a state about it? )
            Tripp’s book has been roundly criticized (it’s on sale on Amazon for $1.33) and I think hardly anyone has read it. But after all, why would they? C. A. Tripp worked for the notorious Alfred Kinsey when he was young. And all of us know now that Kinsey has fallen into disrepute (did you know that Kinsey was a bit gay himself, and actually slept with some of his interview subjects? –- tch, tch tch!) Tripp’s other book -- The Homosexual Matrix -- is probably the most lucid, fair, and informed analysis of the ‘causes’ of homosexuality that has ever been written. And it is completely free of homophobia. For that reason alone it will probably remain forever unread.
            The only problem with dismissing C. A. Tripp’s theories about Lincoln is that they are based on fact. No, his book does not state conclusively that Lincoln was a homosexual, but it does reveal the content of Lincoln’s letters to Joshua Speed, the man with whom he shared a bed for four years, and the man whom Lincoln definitely (on some level at least) loved deeply. There is very little evidence that Lincoln had the same feeling for his wife. There is also evidence that Lincoln had deep relationships with other men that went way beyond ‘just buddies.’  Of course all this can be explained away by the notion that men in ‘olden times’ had terribly florid ways of speaking about their feelings for each other (but really, did they ALL talk that way?) and that before 1900 and Oscar Wilde, homosexuality didn’t exist, in any case.
             The New York Times said, of The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln: “The man who saw liberty and equality as facets of the same thing….this is the Lincoln that matters. The rest is biography.”           
            Because, of course, ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’ don’t have anything to do with homosexuality.
            So the New York Times -- and pretty well everybody else -- thinks that if Lincoln had more deep, intimate, perhaps sexual relationships with men than he had with women, it’s well, just (I’m sorry) irrelevant
            But really, Tony, do you think so too?  
            I have to say, I’m terribly disappointed.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Are You Happy Now, Richard Florida?

This week saw the David Mirvish make a stunning statement. Standing next to a model of three 80 story high rise condominiums, he stated: "I am not building condominiums. I am building three sculptures for people to live in.”
This statement is, I would posit, not only evidently ludicrous, but a symptom of a much larger ill. I remember being very impressed -- in the days of my teenage devotion to Ayn Rand -- with her analysis of the origins of communism. She said that Stalin’s ‘statist’ philosophy did not appear out of thin air, but was, instead, a result of the general public’s complacent acceptance of many years of ‘collectivism’ and ‘mysticism,’ going back to the philosopher Kant. Far be it for me to compare David Mirvish to Joseph Stalin. But -- like the ideas of that famous dictator -- Mirvish’s nutty statement has its roots in notions that have been floating around for some time.
These ideas originated with Richard Florida.
Richard Florida is the photogenic U of T professor with the gorgeous wife and the jet set lifestyle, who, (in 2002) famously coined the term 'the creative class,’ in his bestselling The Rise of the Creative Class.
Florida’s revolutionary theory was that money and industry are not the only elements that drive cities – urban areas require a high concentration of artists, gays, and lesbians to achieve economic success. Artists, urban developers, and queers lept on Florida’s theories like cats in heat. The idea was not only revolutionary but seemed to provide a positive spin on art and artists, and give an always needed boost to  gay and lesbian self esteem.
            The problem is that by labeling queers ‘high bohemia’ Florida contributed to our demonization. Florida’s blithe, hipsterly ‘acceptance’ of our culture fed into the general misconception that gays and lesbians are more arty, creative, and rich than straight people. Straights seem to adore the homophobic fantasy that decadent queers lead luxurious lifestyles while they – the hard working heteros – quietly raise families. Florida’s generalizations not only ignore gay plumbers, but also the multitude of gay men who are passed over for positions of power and authority because they are visibly effeminate (and ‘creative’).
Now when it comes to artists, there is a grain of truth in Florida’s theories. Yes, we do often lead the vanguard of urban gentrification by moving into working class neighborhoods and creating art studios and theatres in crumbling buildings. But the efforts of artists in these situations are na├»ve and idealistic, not profit driven. And nowadays these efforts are immediately appropriated by entrepreneurs who (citing Richard Florida) claim to represent the arts community in order to make a fast buck  (recent gentrification on James Street North in Hamilton is a case in point). Ever since Richard Florida theorized that artists are a fundamental motor for urban success, those who are interested in making a profit have neatly disguised their capitalist aspirations with creative ones. Watch out for anyone who talks about the arts ‘industry,’ or the arts as an economic engine of a community; they are probably carrying an 80 story condo in their back pocket.
            I am not impressed with David Mirvish’s proposal. I am appalled by it. And any Torontonian in their right mind should be appalled too. Have you noticed that the new condos they are presently building by what used to be the O’Keefe Centre, are called  ‘Concert’ and ‘Backstage’? The problem is that at the same time these massive moneymakers are being built – using culture as a selling point  -- The World’s Biggest Bookstore is about to close down, The Princess of Wales Theatre is to be demolished, and working spaces in downtown Toronto have become prohibitively expensive for Toronto artists to afford. Toronto’s culture is, ironically, being destroyed in the name of culture.
I’m not saying that David Mirvish doesn’t hold some affection for the arts; I’m sure he does.
So does Garth Drabinsky. 
            But let me tell you something; they love money more.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

September mini-reviews

Celeste and Jesse Forever
Andy Samberg is smoking hot (almost as hot as Michael Pitt who plays the ever kissable pouting Jimmy Darmody on Boardwalk Empire SPOILER ALERT I’m so depressed Michael Pitt got shot at the end of the second season. Is there any way he can come back to life – as a semi-naked ghost in a see through nightshirt and that deliriously sexy haircut -- in the third season?). Yes and the movie was okay too.

The Words
Ughg. Um why are great writers always supposed to be like Ernest Hemingway (drunk, smoking, fucked up, straight) not like Tennessee Williams (drunk, smoking, fucked up, gay)?
You tell me.

The Master
Wow. Joaquin Phoenix. Wow.

Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky
It’s kinda depressing to see all those great performers sucking up to a shyster producer just because they want a job from him when he gets out of jail

Wagner and Me
Double ughh. Stephen Fry trying to show us how cultured he is. For old ladies who don’t go out much.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Yes! Shit Girls Say IS Offensive!

It was a tough one coming up with an opinion about Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey’s Shit Girls Say. Someone sent me the link ages ago; I found it funny-ish, but nothing to write home about. I didn’t think about it much, because it was one of those silly viral videos that I figured was viral for faggots alone. But low and behold, it gets shown at TIFF -- and suddenly women are getting offended. And everyone is wondering if Shit Girls Say is misogynistic.
Someone has to call a spade a spade. Because behind all this (although no one is talking about it) is the idea that gay men are by nature misogynistic, and, of course, that drag is inherently misogynistic too. Let me say it now, once and for all, gay men are not misogynistic and neither are drag queens -- at least not more so than anyone else.  Men don’t prefer to have sex with men because they dislike women. In fact a lot of gay men I know like women a lot better than men. (Is this news to you? We don’t always LIKE who we screw….). I would venture to say that nothing could match the misogyny that you would be privy to if you happened to eavesdrop on a bunch of young straight dudes discussing their girlfriends. But the fact of the matter is that our entire culture is racist, sexist and homophobic. So I don’t think you can blame anybody in particular, just patriarchy in general.
But, although neither gay men nor drag queens are essentially misogynistic, Shit Girls Say IS.
So ahh…how did that happen?
Do Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey hate women?
We’ll never really know. But I think what has happened here is very interesting. This ruckus all has to do with the mainstreaming of gay culture.
I don’t think Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey are particularly misogynistic, but I would say that they know how to make a buck, and they sure know how to get their names in the paper. Beyond that they aren’t too thoughtful.
You see, Shit Girls Say is camp humour. It’s about how silly and stupid women are. This kind of thing belongs is in a gay bar on a drag stage; it belongs ONLY there.  Straight men don’t need to see demonstrations of how stupid women are. Why? Because, unfortunately, they are all too often quite eager to believe it’s the truth. The oppression of women is based on the idea that women are dumb; that oppression is still alive and well.
Everything depends on context. Who watches drag shows in gay bars? Well -- gay men, lesbians, straight women, and the occasional straight guy who stumbles in (supposedly by mistake). If you’ve ever seen one of Toronto’s great, nay brilliant drag performers – queens like Keith Cole, Donnarama, Miss Conception or Georgy Girl -- you would notice that despite the outrageous things they do and say, they create an atmosphere that is inclusive (and equally abusive) to everyone -- male, female, straight, gay, white, and non-white.
But more importantly, gay men have a special relationship to women and to femininity, which is directly related to homophobia. As much as we try, we will never in our lifetimes be ‘real men’ in the eyes of straights – who will never forgive us for all the sexual acts that make us appear essentially feminine in their eyes. Camp culture is about owning our femininity – rather than having it hurled at us accusingly or gossiped about behind our backs.
What Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey have done is taken camp – true camp (it’s as serious as it is funny, and involves devotion to women as well as making fun of them) and drop it into the middle of straight culture, saying – ‘we’re all the same, aren’t we, and we all laugh at the same things, don’t we?’
Well sorry to repeat myself yet again, but -- we’re not, and we don’t. Nothing distorts and misrepresents gay culture quite as much as yanking it out of context and dropping it into straight culture and hoping straight people will like it.  It’s like taking your mother to the backroom of the Eagle on a Saturday night.
Am I saying gay culture SHOULD be a secret? No. I’m simply saying that like it or not, it IS a secret, and always will be, as long as there’s gay and there’s straight.
Probably Kyle and Graydon are just hopelessly optimistic -- like a lot of gay men are right now. They think they’re doing gay men a favour by pulling our culture out of a darkened gay bar and into the light.
It’s an unfortunate but true fact about oppression that none of us are ready for that.