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.