Tag Archives: Movies

Boycott Ender’s Game: My Disappointment with Harrison Ford…

31 Oct

Ender's Game (2013) trailer HARRISON FORD (Screengrab)Let’s be clear from the outset. Every ticket sold for the movie Ender’s Game enhances the wealth and well-being of a notorious homophobe. Orson Scott Card has been an enormously successful science fiction and fantasy author and has used his wealth and fame to denigrate and oppose the LGBT community at every turn. Every outlet that promotes the film without acknowledging Card’s opinions and influence is colluding with his vile efforts.

I write this article with a great sadness and heaviness upon my heart, given the first major promotional piece I saw for the film. I was watching the Graham Norton Show as Harrison Ford was promoting the movieShame on Graham Norton for even giving airtime to the nefarious Card and sustaining a heterosexist culture. How ironic that precious minutes of his show were so exceedingly harmful to the LGBT community, including Norton himself.

As we were watching  Ford promote the movie, my husband wondered if perhaps Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, and Ben Kingsley (all three of whom I love and respect) were unaware of the harm done by the homophobic hypocrite Card.  Their ignorance of Card’s harm is quite possible, but this in and of itself speaks to a great amount of privilege that comes with obliviousness.

Sadly, Ford acknowledges the atrocities of the awful Card, but rationalizes and justifies the work by saying, “the movie is not homophobic.” I have considered Ford and the others to be allies of the LGBT community.  Sadly, even our allies have the luxury of retreating to the safety of the dominant culture and thus contribute to the oppression of LGBT folk around the world.

Orson Scott Card has referred to LGBT folk as “mentally ill,” and in his now famous essay from 1990  advocates making/keeping homosexuality illegal.  In 2008, Card actively joined the Prop8 movement and called same-sex marriage a “mortal enemy”  that he would seek to destroy.  Of course, he pulls out the pedophilia notion and tries to claim that homosexuals are pedophiles. He was a board member of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) until just recently and apparently resigned to minimize controversy before the film opened. The fact that Card asserts that paraphilia and homosexuality are linked, is evidence that this man is obsessed with man on man sex.  One wonders what is hiding in Card’s closet.  He and Ken Cuccinelli would make a great couple.

Lionsgate, the studio releasing the film, is pushing the “not a homophobic story” meme, hoping that the success of the novel will overwhelm the nastiness of its author. Card is suspiciously quiet, avoiding a screenwriting credit and avoiding the convention panels that an author would typically attend to promote a film. Even the details of his compensation are less public than usual. All of this smacks of an effort to quell controversy, so as to allow for greater income–income that will be used to hurt LGBT people.

Even if Card does not make another dime from the film itself, he has already profited from selling the rights. His books will sell because of the movie. He certainly will profit from the toys, games, and other merchandise. The more successful the movie, the more he is rewarded. For anyone who believes in fair and just treatment of the LGBT community, this is unacceptable.

Artists and their creations are separate things, and it is sometimes possible to appreciate a song or story or painting regardless of its creator’s personality. Sometimes however, the person overwhelms the work. Card’s steadfast efforts to destroy the lives of LGBT people around the world is such an example.

CALL TO ACTION: Boycott this film. Encourage others to do the same. Show the studios and moguls that promoting the work of a notorious homophobe is not profitable.

Parenthood: Childless

9 Sep

ParenthoodMy husband and I watched Parenthood last night.  It is one of my favorite movies. It was also the first time I fell in love with Diane Wiest, who does a great job of showing the difficulties of being a single parent with unconditional love for her two children.  The movie does a fantastic job of showing the tensions, troubles, and triumphs of being both a child and a parent. While I still loved watching the movie, I was also quite mournful.  As a middle aged gay man, I had always wanted children.  I always saw myself as a parent before I saw myself as a spouse. I was quite comfortable not having a husband and thought I would just adopt a child and live my life out as a parent.

My world changed about 15 years ago and I fell in love with a man who is nothing less than wonderful and amazing.  He is so amazing that I chose being married over being a parent.  Of course, there are times I still break down in tears that I don’t have  children.  in fact, a short time ago, my husband and I were at a restaurant and I saw this young child with dark skin and really curly hair and thought, “this could be my child.”  I started to weep over my hamburger.  While my husband was quite supportive, he did not feel the loss I was feeling.

Sadly, while watching the movie, Parenthood, I reflected on how neurotic I would have been if I had children and how overly involved I would have been.  Fortunately, we have some very dear friends who allow us to watch their four children — we love them dearly!!!  However, I am able to observe my neurosis even while spending time with the kids.  For example, when one of the kids wants to show me her head stand, it takes everything I have not to say “please don’t do that,” for fear she will hurt herself.

I am so elated that same-sex couples have children.  The same-sex couples I know who have children love them so dearly. Regardless of sexual orientation, children need structure, guidance, and most of all love.  How sad that Justice Scalia and his  merry little band of homophobes try to justify their homophobia under the guise of bearing children.  Where does that leave all of my heterosexual friends who either choose to be childless, or are unable to bear children?  Again, we see Scalia and his fellow haters on the wrong side of history.

Finally, I am also grateful for all of the children (now adults) that I have had the honor of teaching.  It is an amazing honor to see students grow up as adults and still keep in contact with you.  While I don’t have biological children, I am very lucky to have generations of kids in the past 25 years.

The Butler: The Personal is Political

23 Aug

OPRAH WINFREY and FOREST WHITAKER star in THE BUTLER My husband and I went to movie night on $5 Tuesdays here in Portland. We finally got to see the much acclaimed The Butler.  Of course, I would probably see anything with Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding, Jr, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, and Vanessa Redgrave.   This all-star cast did not let anyone down.  While all of them give fantastic performances, I have to say that Whitaker and Winfrey give nothing less than Academy Award winning performances.   Some may remember that Whitaker earned an Academy  Award for his stellar performance in the Last King of Scotland. However, sadly Winfrey was robbed of an academy award for her stellar performance as Sofia in one of my favorite movies of all time, The Color Purple. 

The Butler does a marvelous job of weaving threads of fiction and non-fiction to create a compelling story of one man’s awakening to the realization that the personal is political against a backdrop of our nations’ ugly history around race.  If only race relations could be relegated to the past, but they cannot be yet — we still have so far to go.   Everything we do and in every way we live our lives, we are making a political statement.

The movie does a phenomenal job capturing the series of presidents under which Cecil Gains (Forest Whitaker) serves.  While LBJ was not someone I would want to my house for dinner, he was a great president and one of his greatest legacies was the Voting Rights Act of 1964, which has now been gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Sadly, the movie also exposes the great flaws of the Reagans and how Reagan’s stand on apartheid put him on the wrong side of history.  Fonda does an amazing job of portraying Nancy Reagan.

I loved that the movie delved into the Freedom Riders and the need for the Black Panther movement.  However, I was sad that Bayard Rustin was not mentioned at all.  I am glad to see that both Rustin and Winfrey will be receiving awards later this year.

Winfrey is just as amazing in The Butler as she was in The Color Purple.  Her character, Gloria, is a complex alcoholic grappling with a husband working as a subversive — albeit he does not know his job is in and of itself subversive — and losing a son to the Vietnam War. (Another waste of human lives for a war that should never have been.)

Just to prove how much we need this movie, a theater in Kentucky has refused to screen The Butler.  So much for freedom of speech.  My esteem (while already quite low because of Rand Paul) just dropped even further.

We were glued to our seats during the entire movie and I so hope most people in the United States see this movie.  The Civil Rights Movement is not over–we still have a long way to go and we still so desperately need people like John Lewis.  Let me know what you think of the movie.

The Americanization of Emily: The Profits of War

19 Aug

the-americanization-of-emilyWe just watched Paddy Chayefsky’s The Americanization of Emily for the second time.  Wow!  What a brilliant movie that should be mandatory viewing.  As I have been reflecting lately on the cost of human lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the many other wars in the past 20 years, I have been saddened by the inability to justify any of these wars.  Granted, I am a pacifist and navigate the world in ways that hold me to my principals of what a pacifist means.

Chayefsky (writer of Network) does a brilliant job addressing the hypocrisy, greed, profiteering, and complexities of wars.  I don’t want to give a way too much of the movie, because I am hoping many of you will rent the movie or get it on the Hulu or however people rent movies today.  I will say that Chayefsky pushes the audience hard to think and reflect upon our core values, our core beliefs and ask us to look at how easily humans are manipulated.

Julie Andrews and James Garner give nothing less than stellar and complex performances and it is easy to see why their chemistry garnered another film,  Victor/Victoria nearly 20 years later.  Candidly, I was also amazed they were willing to make such a film that would question the American government and push back against sexism and misogyny in such a forthright manner. I’m not wholly convinced we have actors with such talent and moral fiber who would take these roles today. The movie is a clear indictment of the United States and of other countries that profit from warring and pillaging. It is also telling that both actors consider this their favorite personal work given the rich depth of experience they both have.

With that being said, I could imagine recasting this if an updated version were to be created — just for the record, I usually think it is a mistake to remake movies of this caliber.  However, I could see George Clooney in the James Garner role and Kate Winslet in the Jule Andrews role.  The movie also contains a homoerotic relationship between Charlie Madison (James Garner) and his superior, Adm. William Jessup, played by the late Melvyn Douglas.  This relationship would be interesting to explore in further detail.  Charlie Madison is a “Dog Robber,” so perhaps the homoerotic tension is an indication of the how accommodating a “Dog Robber” has to be.   I could easily see Robert DeNiro playing Adm. William Jessup.

I strongly encourage people to watch this movie and examine the word cowardice.  What does it mean in the movie what does it mean personally in a time of war as opposed to the word hero.  How many wars are defensible?  Feel free to share your thoughts.

Superman and Nostalgia

10 Jul
Message of Hope or Greed?

Message of Hope or Greed?

Last night, my husband and I went to the movies, something very rare indeed, but the cinema not far from us has a deal of $6 tickets on Tuesdays — great deal.  We decided to see Man of Steel, primarily because we both loved the Christopher Reeve movie Superman (1978) and we both liked Henry Cavill in Stardust.

Sadly, I was exceedingly disappointed. Cavill does a good job, as does Amy Adams as Lois Lane, but the whole movie lacked a sense of humanity. It missed the opportunity to demonstrate how we are all called upon to work for the greater good — a conversation that seems to be in desperate need of life support in the 21st Century.

Man of Steel made me quite nostalgic for the Superman movie with Christopher Reeve. The 1978 version presents a picture of humanity and develops characters that I feel invested in and want to watch. The movie also had a richness of pathos and wit.  Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor was nothing less than brilliant, and Ned Beatty just adds to that brilliance. I would also argue that the 1978 version is very family friendly — there is not a lot of gratuitous violence. Finally, I’m just not convinced that anyone but our Terrence Stamp (Bernadette from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) can play General Zod.

Henry Cavill does a good job of playing Superman and he is certainly easy on the eyes, but his character lacks the humanity that Superman had with Christopher Reeve. Amy Adams starts off as a wonderfully strong and independent woman, but the character loses all credibility as a strong independent woman with the awful awful line: “What if I have to tinkle?”  Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Jor-El is a bit over the top and certainly lacks all of the humanity that Marlon Brando delivered. Alas, I think the worst crime of this movie was the 35 minutes of non-stop gratuitous violence that does nothing to move the story along, nor does it make us feel more invested in any of the characters.  Rather than watching a movie about the plight and hope for humanity, I felt as though I was watching a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

When I watch the 1978 version of Superman, I leave the movie inspired and hopeful that humans are capable of a transformative experience and that we are dedicated to the greater good for the greater cause.  I left Man of Steel feeling grateful I only paid $10 for my husband and me to see an enormous amount of violence and a rather nasty nationalistic, almost jingoistic message of patriotism.

Bigot of the Week Award: May 31, Roman Polanski

31 May
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

I need to send out a huge thank you to my friend and LGBT ally, Jennifer Carey for her nomination of this weeks’ bigot! Outspoken director Roman Polanski managed to add to the wrong side of his legacy with some very misogynistic comments this week. Speaking to the press at the Cannes Film Festival, Polanski offered bizarre non sequiturs, medial nonsense, and vicious sexism–I suspect we need to up his Haldol dose significantly!

I think it’s a pity that now offering flowers to a lady becomes indecent. […] trying to level the genders is purely idiotic. I think it’s a result of, like everything else and I will be Marxist here, of progress in medicine and these are outcomes of it. I think that the Pill has changed greatly the woman of our times, masculinized her … that chases away the romance from our lives and that’s a great pity.

I’m not sure where to even start with this. The most innocuous bits are the strange idea that offering flowers is anti-feminist (perhaps he needs to work on his delivery…) and the nonsensical claim that anything he said is vaguely Marxist. (Remember, Marx was a  defender of women’s rights!)

Far more troubling is his absolute dismissal of any attempt at gender equity. Does he not understand oppression? This isn’t about all people being identical, it is simply about social justice — ensuring that all people have equal opportunity and access. Apparently he’s getting his science from the modern GOP, too, claiming that birth control masculinizes women and destroys romance. That manages to be a mix of medical lies and outright lunacy. One would think that a man who built his career on movies exploring sexual freedom — including the S&M picture that got him to Cannes — would be a bit more celebratory of science that makes sex more free from consequence.

Polanski may have directed a couple of classics and suffered some significant personal tragedies. One would think that being a Holocaust survivor and having his wife brutally murdered would have endowed him with a greater sense of empathy and the human condition. Alas, it has not. He also skipped town the day before his sentencing on unlawful sex with a minor after raping a 13-year-old. He’s been a fugitive from justice for nearly 40 years. It seems he’s also a fugitive from common sense and basic decency.

Happy Birthday, Leslie Jordan

29 Apr

LJordanToday I want to celebrate a person who makes the world more delightful by his presence. Fifty-eight years ago today, Leslie Jordan was born in Chattanooga, TN. Growing up small — his adult height is 4’11” — and effeminate in the South was no picnic, so he learned to use humor to cope. With a personality and sense of joy far larger than he looks, he eventually burst free and moved to Hollywood where he began his very successful career.

Jordan is notable for being openly gay since he got started, something pretty unusual in the early 80s. He’s also been happy to portray gay characters, preferring to have fun with a role than worry about stereotyping. By being himself, he’s made a wonderful success based on integrity as well as talent, thus opening the door for LGBT youth to see themselves represented in the media.

As with many, my first encounter with Jordan was in his Emmy-winning role as Beverly Leslie on Will & Grace. As Karen Walker’s charming, co-dependent nemesis, he was one of the brightest spots on the series. He and Karen traded barbs in an amazing style; one of my favorite lines is this greeting:

Why Karen Walker! I thought I smelled gin…and regret.

Jordan amazed and amused me again when my husband and I saw Sordid Lives, one of our favorite films. His turn as Brother Boy is a testament to the challenges of being true oneself. That he manages to make the character strong rather than pathetic is a testament to Jordan’s talent (and perhaps his love of Tammy Wynette).  If you have not seen Sordid Lives, I strongly urge you to rent it from the Netflix. It also stars Olivia Newton-John and Delta Burke.

I was fortunate enough to see his delightful one-man show, Like A Dog On Linoleum, in Atlanta a few years ago. I laughed ’til I cried and then had a chance to meet him in person. He is gracious and witty with or without a script.

In his many wonderful performances, his autobiography (and second one-man show) My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, and his willingness to be honestly and unabashedly himself, Leslie Jordan has made the world a better place. Happy Birthday, Leslie, and thank you!

Hero of the Week Award: April 5, Amy Pascal of Sony Pictures

5 Apr
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week is is a real pleasure to celebrate an entertainment executive who really understands the power of her industry to influence society — for better or for worse.

Amy Pascal is the co-chair of Sony Pictures and the chair of its Columbia TriStar division. She has been recognized as one of the most important women in entertainment by the Hollywood Reporter and one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes. She recently spoke at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center’s Gala and took her industry to task for the way it treats the LGBT community.

Brokeback Mountain, Milk, Boys Don’t Cry, Philadelphia, The Hours, Gods and Monsters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Single Man, My Own Private Idaho, Cloud Atlas – in all these movies, the main character is murdered or martyred or commits suicide or just dies unhappily. And there are far more pernicious and dangerous images that confront gay kids and their parents: the lesbian murderer, the psychotic transvestite, the queen who is humiliated and sometimes tossed off a ship or a ledge.

Pascal takes that analysis one important step further and asks two important questions. First, what is the impact of these messages?

The most benign stereotypes would have a gay kid believe that they will end up being the asexual, witty best friend of the pretty girl, or a drag queen, or a swishy hairdresser. The list goes on… Not every gay character needs to be defined by his or her sexuality. Can’t being gay be one stitch in the fabric of someone’s life? Can’t we depict men and women who just so happen to be gay – perhaps a lawyer or soldier or business executive or scientist or engineer?

More importantly, she issues a challenge to her peers.

We need to create an atmosphere that encourages people to speak up, so we get this right. How about next time, when any of us are reading a script and it says words like fag, or faggot – homo – dyke – take a pencil and just cross it out. Just don’t do it.

How perfectly put. Like it or not, movies, television, webcasts, video games, and the whole of pop culture have a significant influence on our lives and can help shape attitudes. We need more people like Amy Pascal to insist that this power be used for good.

Women’s History Month 2013: Ashley Judd

11 Mar

Ashley-JuddToday we honor and celebrate a powerful woman who embraces the term feminist and stands strong against double standards. Ashley Tyler Ciminella was born in California in 1968 to Naomi and Michael Ciminella. By the time she was in school, her parents had split and her mother took her and her half-sister Wynonna back to her home in Kentucky. The girls were raised with their mother’s birth name, Judd.

Ashley attended a number of schools, graduated, and went to the University of Kentucky. She studied French and women’s studies, including a semester abroad, while she began to develop an interest in acting. Rather than graduating with her class, she drove to L.A. and worked as a waitress while she looked for acting jobs. She found some television work (including a stint on Sisters opposite Swoosie Kurtz) and quickly picked up movie roles. She has worked steadily as an actor for two decades.

During that time, she developed a passion for activism and civil rights. She is an active member of the Board of YouthAIDS. In her travels for that organization she became increasingly aware of the global problems of poverty and has worked tirelessly to engage with organizations and leaders dedicated to broad political and social change. She has worked with Women for Women International and Equality Now and in 2011 joined the Leadership Council of the International Center for Research on Women.

Fully aware of how Hollywood treats older actresses, she also continued her formal education, receiving a a Master in Public Administration degree (MPA) from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2010. As a well-known celebrity with strong opinions, Judd has frequently come under fire by the Right and the press. She takes what comes and fires back, brilliantly using any attacks as an opportunity to expose hypocrisy and patriarchy.

Judd has indicated some interest in running for the U.S. Senate; she would oppose Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) in the 2014 election if she runs. The Teahadists are so afraid of her strong, smart presence that they’ve already started the attacks. Karl Rove is running context-free quotes in ads that slam her as an “out-of-touch Hollywood elitist”–elitist theatre, white power and privileged, sounds like Rand Paul to me. Conservative e-rag Daily Caller ran an ugly piece attacking her for having nude scenes in some of her movies. (Strange that Scott Brown’s centerfold spread didn’t seem to matter to them…)

Judd takes it all in stride, simply repeating that she is a feminist and a progressive and that her values translate well to what the people of Kentucky need.  Given the hollow grandstanding exhibited by McConnell’s junior counterpart, Rand Paul, someone with real values and a dedication to justice would be a welcome addition. The idea of a Sen. Judd joining Sens. Gillibrand, Warren, and Baldwin is pretty exciting.

No matter what she chooses to do next, we can count on Ashley Judd to stand up for women and for the marginalized everywhere.

Black History Month 2013: Gordon Parks

5 Feb

Gordon_ParksToday we honor and celebrate master photographer, film pioneer, and activist Gordon Parks. Born to a poor farming family in Fort Scott, KS in 1912, Parks attended a segregated primary school. The small town could not afford two high school, but the integrated facility did not allow African American students to participate in athletics or any official social activities. Parks was actively discouraged to consider higher education, despite his success in school to that point.

His mother died when he was 14, and he quickly left home, seeking a better life. He wandered the country, taking odd jobs. This included a stint as a brothel pianist, which led to later work writing music and composing a ballet based on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. He bought his first camera at the age of 25 and taught himself photography. He won a fellowship which earned him a spot working for the Farm Securities Administration alongside photography luminaries like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. He developed a distinctive style of capturing the social conditions of the day–finding his voice for social justice. After the FSA was dissolved in 1943, he was moved to the Office of War Information but left shortly thereafter, frustrated by the overt racism in the agency.

He began freelance work as a photographer and writer, most famously landing a gig with Vogue, earning a reputation for his images of models in motion. He composed a photo essay on a Harlem gang leader which brought him to the attention of Life magazine. He was hired as a staff photographer and occasional writer for the magazine, cracking the color barrier for professional photographers. There was plenty of racism in the industry, but his unique and powerful style allowed him to succeed in spite of this. He stayed with the magazine for 20 years, contributing many iconic images to its recording of American history. According to Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Center at Harvard University

Gordon Parks is the most important black photographer in the history of photojournalism. Long after the events that he photographed have been forgotten, his images will remain with us, testaments to the genius of his art, transcending time, place and subject matter.

In 1962, Parks wrote his autobiography, The Learning Tree. The book was well received, and in 1969 he wrote and directed a film based on it. This made him the first African American to write and direct a major motion picture. Two years later, he directed Shaft, one of the first “blaxploitation” films and a major box office success. He went on to direct a number of other films.

Beyond his pioneering work in photography, writing, and film, Parks was a dedicated activist, using his professional platform to chronicle people like Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and Stokely Carmichael. He also participated in the 1963 March on Washington. He described all of his work as being tied to the central theme of freedom.

Not allowing anyone to set boundaries, cutting loose the imagination, and then making the new horizons.

Parks died in 2006 at the age of 93. He left behind an amazing body of work, including items included in official Library of Congress registries. The Gordon Parks foundation makes his works available and provides scholarships and other funding opportunities in education and the arts. These are based on his tenet of “the common search for a better life and a better world.” What an amazing and powerful legacy.

As an interesting side note, never underestimate where one might learn about important historical figures. I knew about Shaft and had seen some of Parks’ most famous portraits but didn’t really know about his life and career. I was inspired to find out more when his daughter appeared on Chopped, identifying herself as the child of an African American film pioneer. (She came in second.) Inspiration comes in the strangest moments we find our individual and collective voices for social justice.

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