03 May 2014

Movie Review: Geography Club

The overall theme of this movie is thus. If you're in the closet, a high school student and want to connect with other high school students, create a student group that nobody will join like the Geography Club.

The protagonist of this story is Russell (below, left) who tries hooking up with someone anonymously online by agreeing to meet him at the local park. The person never shows but he does bump into and meet Kevin (below, right) who is on the high school football team. Kevin also has his best friend Gunnar who is overweight and hoping to leave high school not a virgin.

Russell and Kevin end up connecting at some kind of school camp situation and make out in the open one night by Min, a fellow student. That puts Kevin into panic mode and he gets Russell onto the football team to avoid blowing his cover. That occurs through another unlikely series of events.

I have to admit that the fascinating thing about this movie is the theme of the conflict between what Russell thinks is "true love" and his integrity. This is definitely a great date night movie.

02 May 2014

Movie Review: The Happy Sad

Marcus and Aaron are a young black couple living in New York. Annie and Stan are a young white couple living in New York. This story revolves around the stories of these two couples and how they intertwine. Marcus and Aaron decide to open up their relationship at the time that Annie breaks up with Stan at the cafe that Aaron works at. Stan demands to know who the other man is and Annie says its her fellow schoolteacher Mandy.

Marcus and Aaron begin their awkward open relationshiphood and Marcus ends up landing a hookup with Stan. At the same time, Annie ends up getting much closer to Mandy and they end up having sex. Mandy is having a life meltdown.

The story swirls and swirls and finally calms to a "happily ever after." I'm not sure I really like the resolution but perhaps because I couldn't easily identify with the experiences of the characters. I was never a twenty-something in New York City. It's an interest study of the current life of twenty-somethings in New York.

01 May 2014

Movie Review: G.B.F.


If this movie had come out when I was in high school, it would have been almost incomprehensible. In fact, my life in and around high school -- in my backward province -- was much more like Gregg Araki's Totally F**ked Up. But in an alternate reality, this might have been more like my high school experience.

Brent, Tanner, Sophie and Glenn are the central barkada of this feature film. Brent and Tanner are gay. Sophie is their faghag friend while Glenn is the straight Asian who is assumed to be gay because he hangs with the gays. The group supports Brent's interest in looking for a boyfriend. Somehow he uses Tanner's cellphone to sign up for Grindr or a similar service and that phone is confiscated by a teacher of Brent's. Meanwhile, the popular, mean girls in school Fawcett, Caprice and 'Shley have decided that to be the most popular, they need a "gay best friend." They also sign up for Grindr or a similar service. 

Tanner finds out Brent had Tanner's phone confiscated and goes to the classroom to retrieve it. It is there that the mean girl trio use Grindr to find Tanner's phone and Tanner at the other end of it. At this point, Tanner is outed to the entire school. The trio fight to become the GBF of Tanner and in that process, he distances himself from his barkada -- including getting into a major fight with Brent. The movie revolves around the conflict of popularity in high school and his organically developed barkada.

This movie is along the lines of fairytale fantasy but is definitely a date night movie.

24 January 2014

Movie Review: Love Free or Die

This is Gene Robinson, and the documentary Love Free or Die, is the telling of the story of troubles in the Anglican communion through the biography of Gene Robinson. In 2003, Gene Robinson was elected bishop of the (Episcopal) diocese of New Hampshire, USA. In 2008 when Rowan Williams convened the Lambeth Conference for all the bishops in the Anglican Communion, Robinson was not invited. Robinson went anyways and held dialogs with those bishops at the conference who would listen.

Robinson's consecration sparked a crisis for the Anglican communion when conservative American bishops withdrew from their dioceses and attempted to establish a non-local all-USA diocese of conservative churches. They attempted to take their Anglican church property with them and learned, as did Gregorio Aglipay in November of 1906, that hierarchical churches, such as Roman Catholicism and even more loosely hierarchical churches such as Anglicanism, are the title owners of their church property and the existence of a particular human bishop only holds a beneficial, possessory interest even if legal title to property resides in the name of a particular bishop. In other words, you can leave but the church stays, father.

It should be noted that in 2006 Anglican Americans elected a woman to be primate, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United State, Katharine Jefferts Schori. She was the first woman to be elected to such a post, further infuriating conservative Anglicans.

Subsequent to the Lambeth conference in 2008, American Anglicans installed Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian as a suffragan bishop of the diocese of Los Angeles. This led to outrage by the conservative African bishops. Americans went a step further to adopt a policy permitting the consecration of openly gay bishops and permitting the blessing of same-sex unions where recognized by law.

This is a great documentary that tells this story with narrative focus. It's worth watching as a matter of understanding and history how those with strong religious beliefs deal with their brethren with regard to sexuality.

23 January 2014

Movie Review: Let's Get Frank

Barney Frank served in the US House of Representatives from 1983 to 2013 and is considered to be the best known openly gay politician in the United States. In 1987 he came out of the closet and shortly thereafter, he referred a relationship he had with a male prostitute to the House Ethics Committee to clear his name. The Committee cleared Frank of any wrong doing that had been lodged against him by his ex-boyfriend although it did recommend a public reprimand for helping his ex boyfriend fix 33 parking tickets. Before 1987, he was seen as the prime candidate to be the first "Jewish" Speaker of the House. However, after coming out, that prospect became dim. Some Republicans, led by then Representative Larry Craig (later becoming famous in 2007 for his arrest for lewd conduct involving "foot tapping" in a bathroom stall in a Minnesota airport), pushed to have him censured and expelled from the House.

Frank ended his career as the Chairman and then ranking minority member of the House Financial Services Committee.

Okay. Enough with the history lesson which summarizes most of this movie. The movie actually focuses on another special role Frank had in the history of the US House of Representatives. He was a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee when it proceeded to recommend filing articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton. Frank was Clinton's most vociferous defender.

This is a documentary about Frank's life from the vantage point of Clinton Impeachment Period.

22 January 2014

Book Review: Love, Sex and Tragedy

Simon Goldhill is Professor in Greek Literature and Culture and fellow and Director of Studies in Classics at King's College, Cambridge. He is also Director of CRASSH, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities at the University of Cambridge.

After reading this book, I feel like my eleven years and several advanced degrees in graduate school could have been compressed in half had I read this book when it was first published. But I guess the real question would be, would I have understood the implications?

One of the things I find entertaining is discussing the existence of God with people who believe in it with certainty, especially when my interlocutor is highly intelligent. When they are not intelligent, its boring. This book expands the topics with which one may discuss the existence of something believed to be eternal, immutable or universal. He adds love, sex and democracy to the equation.

For example, the ancient Greeks are one of the "great" origin civilizations of modernity. In debating issues involving sexuality, it never fails for both sides of any debate to raise the ancient Greeks. The theory goes that Greeks engaged in homosexuality on a fairly universal scale and thus, it cannot be deemed "evil" but only bad because of recent historical developments regarding cultural norms. The opposing argument is that Greek civilization "fell" because of its shortcomings and permitting and promoting such "rampant" homosexuality was one of those causes.

Goldhill gives us much more context on this issue. For example, the exemplary homosexuality of ancient Greece is not the exemplary homosexuality of late capitalist modernity. The favored homosexuality of today assumes that two partners are equal or near equal in status, social standing, age, etc., and that a long-term committed partnership will develop into a same-sex marriage.

The favored homosexuality of ancient Greece was of older men (free, slave-owning citizen kind) leering at post-pubescent, pre-facial-hair teenage boys/gym bunnies (the sons of free, slave-owning citizens). The older men would engage in a lengthy courtship of these teenage boys and in the end, usually engage in sticking their cocks between the boy's thighs to get off. If the boy was virtuous, he would not be aroused by this activity. When facial hair appeared, he would cease the activities and at some point become the pursuer. The older men were supposed to "mentor" the teenage boys on virtue and being an upstanding citizen. Being what we would call gay, as a free, slave-owning citizen, was disfavored not because of the gender, but because of the focus on desire - which Greeks saw to be mostly dangerous. Having sex with your wife for pleasure was a greater sin. And the greatest Greek sin of the time was to be a bottom. As a highly misogynistic and patriarchal culture, a man receiving man love was the ultimate violation of manhood. Of course, as a slave or other non-citizen, there was no real violation because you weren't an embodiment of symbolic manhood. But for a citizen to bottom, that was the most unvirtuous thing to be done.

Anyhow, Goldhill goes into many topics related to sexuality today. He looks at the origins of romantic love. He also spends about a third of the book going into the origins of Christianity -- as a reaction to Greek and Roman cultures in antiquity. If you don't know anything about early Christian views of the flesh, this would be a great introduction. Then he moves onto politics and democracy -- which was the slowest part of the book for me, surprisingly. Nothing like nineteenth and twentieth century European politics to bring things to a bore.

The version I read was in English at 352 pages in cloth published by the John Murray Publishers Ltd (May 10, 2004) with an ISBN-10 of 978-0719555497. The least expensive version I found online was at amazon.com

21 January 2014

Movie Review: Yossi

Yossi is the sequel to Yossi and Jagger. It was filmed and takes place a decade after Yossi and Jagger. In this film, Yossi has left the Israeli Defense Forces and is a closeted doctor at a hospital and has gained some weight. He struggles with his homosexuality. One day, he notices a fellow doctor will be performing some kind of examination on someone he wants to do the examination for. He does and the woman vaguely recognizes him but doesn't.

As soon as she leaves the examination, he tries to run to her in the elevator but misses the door. He runs down the stairs, gets in his car and offers her a ride home. She accepts. He drops her off. We come to learn that this woman is Jagger's mother. He eventually decides to go to Jagger's parents' house and tell them the truth about he and Jagger before his death. The father accepts it while the mother asks Yossi to leave.

Yossi decides to go to Sinai for holiday -- where the security situation is lacking. Along the way, he watches some young soldiers interacting, with one that is gay, and invites them to ride with him until their destination. Against the rules, they do. They encourage him not to go to Sinai and after denying their entreaties, he decides to book a room at the resort they are getting their R&R at. He is smitten by the gay soldier, Tom. Eventually after some majorly awkward closet-gay stalking, Tom and Yossi go on a sort-of-date which ends when Tom, having stripped, frolicking in the ocean naked, steps on a sea urchin. They go back to Yossi's room where he takes the spikes out and maybe sews up something.

This has to be the longest part of the movie especially given Yossi's social awkwardness regarding dating, courting, etc.,. I will leave the ending for you to see for yourself, but this is much a better ending that the extremely tragic Yossi and Jagger.

This movie very powerfully presents how the closet deforms the soul and creates social and developmental disabilities for those trapped in its prisons. But it also provides hope that such deformations can be remedied.