01 December 2012

Introjection, A Challenge

in the key of Ferenczi

I am not your angel,
not your guru,
not your redeemer.
I am not your Darcy,
not your father,
not your mother.
I am not what you think you see of me,
not what I might have accepted of what you think you see of me,
not what I have accepted of what you think you know of me.

I am not your angel and
I am not your demon.

VIII Introjection
ןıuǝ oɟ ɟןıƃɥʇ
Orange Wit
Leader of the Opposition

19 November 2012

Book Review: Queer Japan

Barbara Summerhawk is a Japanese Professor of English and American Literature at Daiko Bunka University. This is one of several anthologies of the stories of Japanese lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. It was originally published in 1998 and was considered the first in-depth view of LGBT life in modern Japan.

I was most affected by two stories. The first was the "lesbian grandma" interview with Nakamura Yu. Born in 1922 out of wedlock, Nakamura was a geisha in her teens during war period in Japan. She was kept as a mistress and ended up in a 38 year plus relationship with one woman. There was something in her frankness and "big view" of her life in the context of the times that I found refreshing.

The other story that affected me was from Kazuo. His narration of how he found his life partner at the end of his high school time and the positive, transformative effect his life partner had on him especially with the non-issue of his deafness was really just lovely. There is also an element of tragedy in this narrative to which I'll let you discover. I hope one day his story is turned into a movie.

There were a lot of good stories throughout. I found the confessionals from Japanese about the problem of shame and community "harmony" enlightening about some of the inner workings of the Japanese individuals that I have been friends with in my life.

The version I read was a 216 paperback published by New Victoria Publishers (June 1, 1998) ISBN: 978-1892281005. The book is written in English. The lowest available priced book is used at amazon.com.

17 November 2012

Movie Review: What Happens Next

At first I wondered whether this would be one of those movies that were made for the big named actress and everything else: plot, set, other actors, were all just implements for the actress to have a clever role, like Vilma Santos in In this Life. Wendie Malick does a great job in her role and I enjoyed it. And this is not one of those movies I just mentioned. The acting was okay overall and I thought the story the film was trying to tell was an interesting one.

When I think of someone coming out of the closet in their 50s and claiming not to have ever thought about their own sexuality in a meaningful way to either be lying or suffering from a major split personality. This film, I think, tries to humanize the experience of someone with a major split in their personality so that he can be a workaholic, then mastermind his own retirement (without realizing it) and then be confronted with his own sexuality.

I thought some of the interactions with the openly gay actor were not well enough thought out but it wasn't distracting. The entire movie is a very light-hearted screwball comedy in some ways and in other ways melodrama. And Wendie Malick is VERY funny. Hope you enjoy.

15 November 2012

Movie Review: 1313 UFO Invasion

I wish I had something interesting or clever to say about this movie. If white boys prancing around naked save their briefs in an otherwise abandoned mansion somewhere in New Mexico or California (it isn't clear) while a scary looking woman stabs them with something that looks like a syringe without the needle and then they become automatons in an otherwise plotless movie, this is your movie.

Otherwise, I'd just skip it. In fact, I think I might skip giving it labels. It's that bad.

10 November 2012

Movie Review: GF*BF | 女朋友。男朋友

Mabel, Liam and Aaron all come from the same rural, provincial town in southern Taiwan. They lived in a tropical paradise among jasmine and camphor trees that is structured by martial law. Aaron is in love with Mabel. Mabel is in love with Liam. And well, if you can catch the southern Taiwanese drift, Liam is in love with Aaron. Liam plays best friend to Mabel who is frustrated by the implied rebuff and finally succumbs to Aaron's persistence.

Mabel, Aaron and Liam then move, along with Taiwan, into the 1980s and join the social revolution contesting martial law in Taiwan at their local provincial high school - grafitti, seditious poems and a flash protest during morning assembly.

In college, they continue the struggle in Taipei joining the Wild Lily Movement and as they move into their adult lives, the close bond is broken by the unspoken truths that have bound them together.

In the final part of the movie, we are taken closer to the present day where as adults with experience in life, the three come together again. Aaron has gone from revolutionary to son-in-law of the democratically elected premier. Mabel has gone from soul mate to the other woman in Aaron's life while Liam has become the other man to a guy he met during his military conscription.

From a technical perspective, problems begin to mount after the Wild Lily Student Movement part of the narrative, but I still enjoyed the movie nonetheless. I was troubled by the ending -- in a good way -- not sure if it was tragedy or final resolution.

In some ways, this fulfills my alternate fantasies of what Jules Bartolome in Dekada '70 would have done if he were gay or if Jun in Muli had a barkada in which he was in a love triangle.

Aaron is played by Rhydian Vaughan who reminded me of a cross between James Duvall -- in the Gregg Araki Trilogy -- and Tom Cruise. His acting was distracting and I never really decided if it was purposeful or not.

02 November 2012

Kakambal, A Challenge

"...but look upon the circles, even the most remote
until you see his seat the King
to whom this realm is subject and devoted...

...And at the midpoint, with outstretched wings,
I saw more than a thousand angels making festival,
each one distinct in effulgence and in ministry.
I saw there, smiling to their sports and to their songs,
a beauty which was gladness
in the eyes of all the other sinners.
And had I equal wealth in speech
as in conception, yet would I not dare
to attempt the least of his delightfulness."

VII Individuation
ןıuǝ oɟ ɟןıƃɥʇ
Leader of the Opposition

16 October 2012

Movie Review: Two Weddings and a Funeral

I have seen a number of films on Korean gay life, but I think this is the most nuanced and uses the day to day hustle and bustle of Korean gay life as the backdrop to this tragi-comedy. The movie deals with the most difficult subject, coming out and being openly gay in homophobic, macho Korean culture, with humor -- and without caricature of gay life.

The short of this is that a gay guy marries a lesbian -- both have their reasons. The guy has some family and professional needs while the lesbian wants to adopt an orphan in her care. Both are medical doctors at the hospital. This arrangement seems to work out half-way well. The guy's mother drops in unannounced every so often and snoops around which creates stress. Then, the guy finds the love of his life -- his first real intimate relationship. The lesbian's life partner lives in the flat across the way while the guy's partner moves in. Everything is all and well until the nurses at the hospital start spreading gossip about the lesbian. Then the whole thing begins to unravel.

I have seen way too many coming out movies. In fact, there is a whole industry in Hollywood that churns these out made for cable coming out movies. But this is movie takes the whole thing to another level and does so in a way that personalizes the everyday struggles of gay society in Korea. This is another must see.

15 October 2012

Movie Review: It Gets Better ไม่ได้ขอให้มารั

I did not know what I was going to be watching except that there were going to be multiple stories about Thai gay life. This movie definitely has three stories and all involve transgenderism. The first is of the woman pictured above, an aging post-op transgender on a vacation to the bucolic Northern Thai country side. The second is of a young Thai man returning to Thailand from the US to deal with his recently deceased father's business. The third story is of a Thai adolescent who enters the monastery after his father catches him parading about the house in his dead mother's clothes.

These stories show the multiple facets of transgender life in Thailand from multiple angles and perspectives where sometimes gay and transgender blur and sometimes gay and transgender are in sharp relief, sometimes there are neither good nor bad guys and sometimes there are good and bad guys. Most importantly it sheds light on the complexities of transgender life in a country where tolerance of transgenderism is not the same as acceptance or understanding of transgenderism.

It is a touching story with a number of very handsome actors. If you are transgender or gay in an Asian country, it would be impossible not to like the movie. The story that I felt most drawn to was the third story of the Thai adolescent who entered the monastery. He did not want to enter the monastery until he sees one of the senior monks -- who the boy decides is a hottie. The story really addresses the limitations of classical Buddhist monasticism (vinaya) with sexuality and gender variation.

Anyone who is raised Buddhist and had extended contact with monasteries is familiar with the very gay atmosphere. Yet, it is a shadow feature of the monastery where a young monk simply has to watch his ass. The story teased at why I decided not to go the route of full ordination as a monk and instead lead the life of a householder. This story is the most minor of the three stories but the one I identified the most with although I felt affinity to all three.

I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to more movies with this kind of nuance in Thai cinema.

08 October 2012

Book Review: God v. Gay?

Jay Michaelson is a Ph.D. candidate in Jewish Thought at Hebrew University and has taught at Boston University Law School, Yale University and City College of New York. He has written on spiritual thought and the law.

This is a fascinating book. I have not extensively read in LGBT focused theological writings although I have extensively read about the historical closeness between the LGBT movements and the religious right in the U.S. -- I have reviewed a few books on this topic here on this blog such as How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism, Straight to Jesus, God Hates Fags, Recruiting Young Love.

Perhaps the only other book that I've reviewed that deals with this subject is The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology and perhaps Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe.

Although I am Buddhist, Christianity informs the immediate world around me historically and ideologically and much of the political and legal regulation of sexuality in this world is based upon various interpretations of Christian and Jewish scripture. I have been waiting for a compelling and thorough examination of the issues with regard to sexuality.

Michaelson makes this case. As he says,
We should not suppose that the only religious values that attach to sexuality are tied to marriage and family. Every sexual act is an opportunity for ethical choice, and even for spiritual transcendence. Is a spiritual encounter loving, passionate, ethical, respectful, consensual and safe? Does it celebrate the energies of the body, and invite in holiness, as you understand it? These are ethical, moral and religious questions that present themselves in all sexual experiences, whether in traditional contexts or not. Yet there is only a small constituency interested in asking them. On the conservative side, there is a great deal of moral discourse but only a limited range of acceptance. On the liberal side, there is a wide range of acceptance but only a limited amount of moral, ethical and spiritual discourse. This is a shame, because asking such questions can be empowering and liberating.
Michaelson case is simple: intimate relationships heal the primary flaw of creation, a loving God could never want the 'closet', love demands authentic compassion for others, sexuality diversity is natural and part of God's creation, honesty and integrity are sacred and 'coming out' is a religious act, and inequality is an affront to religious values. His arguments are simple and elegant. It will likely not persuade the most reactionary of fanatical believers who are driven by a psychological complex tightly wrapped up with gay sex and sexual shame, but it should persuade at least thoughtful individuals who do not accept sexual diversity as part of God's creation to do some soul-searching about this issue.

The only limitation on Michaelson is that there are shadows of judgments against other sexualities outside of his expanded range of normative sexualities. His chapter on authentic compassion does the closest to working out this problem. It is significant as The Trouble with Normal and Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times both discuss the dangers, in different ways, of narrowly redrawing the lines of normalcy.

Michaelson's limitation is that he does not present a robust and coherent account of all of the sexualities that he doesn't think is normal and what the religious, ethical and moral response to those might be. It wasn't his intention to present that case so it isn't his fault, but it is an area of further consideration and argument that a theology of sexual diversity will need to consider. This is a minor consideration, however.

If we can educate the members of Congress and the Senate to this understanding, the direction of Philippine law and the good life will be radically transformed as God's will will not be understood to be a product of reasoning in legal formalism, but rather, on the basis of love, honesty and integrity. This is a theological basis to Alikpala's God Loves Bakla.

The version I read was a 232 paperback published by Beacon Press (May 8, 2012) ISBN: 978-0807001479. The book is written in English. The lowest available priced book is used at abebooks.com.

01 October 2012

Spirit, A Challenge

raised in the land across the river
one day i awoke to find myself lost
in a world of gods and men, angels and demons
i had forgotten my homeland
in the struggles of gods and men
of that place of
no obstruction, no teacher, no center, no periphery
a pulsating love radiating in all directions
engulfed in the beautiful vision of that darkness

raised in the land across the river
one day i awoke to find myself lost
in a world of gods and men, angels and demons
i had  forgotten my homeland
in the struggles of gods and men
and in those brief infinitesimally small moments
when i am again in the land of my birth
this is my heart's sorrow:
no one drinks from the well

raised in the land across the river
one day i awoke to find myself lost
in a world of gods and men, angels and demons
i had forgotten my homeland
in the struggles of gods and men
in the center of my heart, through the curtain
passed the initiations, beyond the voice of the teacher
i return to the place of my childhood
into the song of the clear light

Challenge VI: Spirited Away
 ןıuǝ oɟ ɟןıƃɥʇ  
 Spiral Prince 
 Leader of the Opposition

28 September 2012

Book Review: And the Sun Pursued the Moon

Thomas P. Gibson is an American Professor of Anthropology at the University of Rochester. He wrote this book after extensive field research in South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

I was somewhat hesitant to write a review about this book because ostensibly, any book written about symbolic knowledge and traditional authority on any ethnic group can be characterized as dealing with gender and sexuality issues.

Nevertheless, I think there are a number of things LGBT and gender studies related that can be said about this book especially in the contest of the Philippines and thinking about Philippine sexualities and genders.

As we all known, the various Austronesian language speaking peoples of Indonesia are our close linguistic and cultural relatives. Austronesian peoples across the Pacific and Indian Oceans share strong similarities in a variety of cultural practices because we all descended from the same group of sea-faring people who left the Southern Chinese coast several thousand years ago, several groups colonized Taiwan and one other group then moved South and split into a few closely related (linguistically and culturally) branches going in different directs (Madagascar to the West, Hawai'i to the East and Papua New Guinea to the South). If that interests you more, there are plenty of books to read and websites to surf on this subject.

It's use in our context and the entire purpose for this review is to suggest how we can use discussions of indigenous Makassar mythology and symbolic knowledge to both triangulate our own historical context and also to suggest alternatives to the dominant paradigm in contemporary Philippine culture. As is commonly recognized and also noted in Neil Garcia's Philippine Gay Culture, there was a class of individuals within communities who were spiritual mediums/practitioners who were hermaphroditic/gender variants in indigenous pre-contact times. This is also true of Makassar culture even to the present day.

While Gibson does not focus on the intricacies of a modern day hermaphrodite's personal life, he does focus on a modern day hermaphrodite's social life in the context of his spiritual and other roles within the Makassar community. At once, the transgender medium has the markings of a Eliade shaman and at the same time a Catholic priest!

This all links back into Gibson's grand narrative of symbolic gender structures that bring order to the chaos of life and death. The hermaphrodite in Makassar society plays a significant "medium" or medial role between the order and chaos, bringing order to disorder, that world with this world. One such transgender medium, Demma Daeng Puga, of course, also seemed to be something of a clever businesswoman and was routinely accused of charlatanism by her main transgendered rival and had been arrested for fraud on occasion by barely tolerant authorities. This did not stop her from having a major following among various communities in South Sulawesi.

I have to admit that with some of the mythological analysis, my eyes glazed over. I have read and/or heard many mythologies of the universe, cosmos, etc., etc., but there is something about comparing a dozen versions of the same story, collected over a three hundred year period, that gets to be so tedious, you feel your brain is going to implode. Mine didn't, but that chapter was difficult to get through. It was a necessary chapter and done well so I can't fault the author.

I found Gibson's approach to the engenderation of political and social life among the Makassar with the use of folklore, mythology, ethnography, genealogy and cultural studies to be just the kind of methodological inquiry gender and sexuality studies needs the most to create culturally specific understandings of gender and sexuality through history.

I read the 262 page hardbound version in English, 978-0824828653, from the University of Hawai'i Press (March 23, 2005). The lowest available price seems to be used from amazon.com.

25 September 2012

Movie Review: Love 100 Degrees C

While I do not typically write reviews of short films, I decided to break the rule on this occasion. Love 100 Degrees C is just brilliant. The movie is about an introverted, deaf boy named Min-soo. His younger brother who is apparently extroverted, etc., actually acts like the "first son" in the family and along with classmates torments Min-soo.

One day, all this changes when Min-soo is left to go to the public bath alone and gets involved with a scrubber/masseur that works in the baths. It's actually very beautiful and touching and tragic and beautiful. Make sure if you find a copy of this that is hasn't censored the simulated sex scenes because Min-soo's facial expressions are so natural and touching that to miss those few seconds would change much of the movie.

24 September 2012

Movie Review: Seeing Heaven

The cinematography of this movie is really good but unfortunately was not enough to overcome the deficiencies otherwise in the movie. It had all the hallmarks of a being a really disturbing psychological movie. In fact, after the first ten minutes, I started to have a concern that this would be like Mysterious Skins and told myself if it went down that road, I'd stop watching and prepare myself before continuing. Well, that never became a problem.

Paul, who is an escort, is looking for his twin while he experiences disturbing visions and dreams. Having rough sex apparently triggers some of these visions which he then somehow passes onto the people he's having rough sex with. (This is perhaps the most interesting part of the movie that never fully gets fully explained, unfortunately.) Through a serious of events, he ends up in a artistic porn film director's social milieu where he thinks someone might be out to kill him -- this comes from teh dreams and visions. He trusts no one, suspects everyone.

The movie poster is about as graphic as it gets. But I know some of the readers of this blog like looking at white European boys, so if you're into it, then watch for that reason. Otherwise, let me be clear that I reserve the right to say I told you so.

23 September 2012

Movie Review: Prayer for Bobby

This was really just a great movie. I vaguely remember having heard of this movie but at the time it was coming out, I didn't watch it. Then, ♔ıǝɹɯɐı♔ referred to it in a comment on The Seminarian. I don't see the parallels. This movie is what In My Life was not. Sigourney Weaver portrays PLFAG activist Mary Griffith.

Mary had a son named Bobby. Mary is a thoughtful woman who struggles between her son's homosexuality and her own rigid understanding of the Christian Bible. Her rigidity regarding her understanding of the Christian Bible gets injected into her concern for the "intactness" of her family in the hereafter. Bobby embarks on a urban gay life. He finds a boyfriend and is able to create a counterpoint to his mother's rigidity. However, when he learns that his boyfriend is not the "committed" type, the tension snaps back like a rubberband and Bobby kills himself.

We return to Mary, who is confronted with the rigidity of her thinking when she realizes at the death of her son, that under her rigid thinking, Bobby would not "be in heaven" with the rest of the family violating the 'higher' principle of keeping her family intact. The movie is about Mary's conflict -- not really Bobby's. This movie is about Mary, not Bobby. And this is why Sigourney Weaver can thank the writers of this movie where Vilma cannot for In This Life. There was no psychological tension for Vilma -- just the shame of having a gay son and simply tolerating it.

The struggle and development of Mary's character is so profound and deep that every parent should watch this. And so should every child.

18 September 2012

Movie Review: Back Soon

I have no idea how this movie got into my queue for watching and even more strange, the previous movie that I watched and reviewed, Long Term Relationship, co-starred the same two actors stars of this film, Matthew Montgomery and Windham Beacham. I'm not sure what was missing in this movie was a stronger script or excellent directing. In researching, I realized the writer was the director which always is a danger. There is something to the story itself that I think is useful and worth watching. In spite of these significant limitations, I say make it happen. The best scene for the main actors itself was the last scene in the movie.

Windham Beacham plays Logan who suffers the death of his wife. In his long grieving process, he finally sells the marital house and the buyer, Gil (Matthew Montgomery). They develop a friendship that awkwardly (and unsupported in the story) turns into a bromance which transforms into a sexual-romantic situation while the two do not have an interest in any other man and are confirmed by supporting characters not to emotionally react as a 'gay' person should. The movie delves into post-modern Western concepts of life after death and the nature of romantic love and is a bit more hopeful it its outlook than Bungee Jumping of their Own. It also kind of reminded me of the Whoopi Goldberg/Demi Moore/Patrick Swayze movie Ghost.

Unfortunately, Bungee will continue to be one of my all time favorite films and this will not. I do give it high marks for the effort. The writer would have been helped by workshops with other people and also to have a director other than himself directing. Alas, this was not filmed on an unlimited Hollywood budget. The Mexican theme was, well, written by a white guy and in the attempt at making a comment on racism seems to be doing a little of it as well. (This is not the only time where the movie does what looks like caricaturing of itself.) Regardless of these negatives, I still think its worth watching perhaps on a date night with the boyfriend.

16 September 2012

Movie Review: Long Term Relationship

I guess it's at least partly true, never judge a book by its cover. I saw this movie poster and decided not to see it. There was something a little bit too 80s I guess. Not sure. But somehow it ended up in my queue and I watched it.

Glen starts to feel the single life has reached his limit and he is looking for more. He looks to the printed personal ads, places one and gets a number of responses -- mostly of people looking for a quick hook up. An attractive Southern man, Adam, responses. It's a little bit awkward, from my point of view, how they "hit it off" but they do. Things are great and magical, etc., until a couple of wrinkles complicate things.

First, Adam is a Republican. Second, he is not good in bed. Glen's gay roommate pushes him to go single again while his straight friends push him to make it work. Although the story isn't the most complex, it works and the production value carries the movie along. But it does express and represent the problems that beset the gay man who having "grown up" in a single-centric social scene begins to look for something different.

15 September 2012

Movie Review: Ma Saison Super 8

I was promised that this would be an invigorating drama that paid "homage to the remarkable revolutionaries who bravely began France's gay and lesbian movement." It failed. The loose plot is that a student activist, Marc, speaks up for gay rights, classes with his police officer father and the homophobic Left and starts a relationship with a factory worker who is sexually ambivalent. Spliced in this loose plot are moving images of either 1968 Paris or reconstructions of 1968 Paris. It lacked production value and felt like someone shoving a 50 minute lecture on the French Left and gay liberation into a 74 minute movie. It's a shame because it had promise and with some reshooting and re-editing, it might just be something.

14 September 2012

Movie Review: Food of Love

I'm not a fan of intergenerational romance -- at least not when the younger person hasn't breached his thirties. It doesn't quite shake off its exploitative characteristics (although I freely admit that all of the scenes in Lihim ni Antonio involving Uncle Jonbert were hot).

Now, Food of Love really has nothing to do with food or love and I may have missed the one line explanation during the film, if it existed. The movie is apparently an adaptation of a book entitled The Tale of Love by David Leavitt. The story itself has a number of very broad archetypal themes but the short of ti is that Paul is a music student who is commissioned to work as a page-turner for famous classical pianist Richard. Paul meets up with Richard again in Barcelona where Paul and Richard enter into a sexual relationship. Barcelona ends and Richard moves on. Paul studies at Julliard and tries to look up Richard only to stumble upon Richard's boyfriend, his agent and a powerful classical pianist producer. The web starts to get really entangled at this point in a teleserye fashion.

It has superior production values, no question about that -- who has the budget to do live shooting in Barcelona? The actress who plays Paul's mother does a good job of being a psycho. If anything I've just said sounds interesting, watch. Otherwise, skip.

08 September 2012

Movie Review: The Seminarian

This movie helped remind me why I never got a degree in theology and why I am not a Christian. I find discussions of the nature of the divine interesting especially when those discussing it are using their own experience as the touchstone of their beliefs. For something that is so personal, I just find it difficult to accept that something outside of psychology or epistemology can tell us anything rational or definitive about the subject (yes, I'm a Jungian.)

In any event, the seminary/theology aspect of this is really just an overly thought out backdrop (but good nonetheless) to the real story here. The seminarian is in this evangelical Christian seminary with many other seminarians and they are all working on their thesis. The Seminarian is struggling with intimacy and love issues and suffers from the fact that he is gay in an anti-gay school. The angle of suffering between right and wrong, good and bad, is the Christian metaphor of the ages. I'm not sure that was focused well enough on and the ending wobbled a little.

It was well shot and directed and the acting and script lacked nothing that I can recall. If this is an accurate depiction of a seminary where the seminarians are not required to be celibate, I find it fascinating just on that level alone. Definitely watch if you found Alikpala's God Loves Bakla remotely interesting.

07 September 2012

Movie Review: Be Mine

Since it my policy to never terminate viewing a movie before the intended end, I did watch the whole movie. Essentially, the main character has time warped from 1950s American TVland and is "just out of college" and waiting for his first kiss. He ends up entangled with a guy who is testing the waters of a gay identity.

This would have had an interesting theme to it if in fact the main actor was actually in the age range of "just out of college" and not in his mid to late 30s AND he did not have a fully realized gay identity and strong network of gay friends. It is plausible and I have known a few guys who were either asexual or so closeted to their families that they had no sex life until their mid-20s. When they decided to explore, they didn't do it with a fully realized gay identity or with a strong network of gay friends. That's something that has to be developed.

That is what makes this movie merely the implausible nostalgia heavy fantasy of the writer and director and because the fantasy makes no comment on human development or ideological critique, it makes it a bad gay movie.

03 September 2012

The Mean Reds, A Challenge

a little speck of dust
in the cold morning
on the path to my death
enveloped by the deep
dark, terror of the shadow
is the black body radiation
that cannot escape
even after every last drop of life
has been squeezed from our veins
and only the powder of our bones
in the cold morning
on the path to my death

Challenge V: The Mean Reads
 ןıuǝ oɟ ɟןıƃɥʇ  
 Spiral Prince 

25 August 2012

Movie Review: Like a Brother

This could have just as easily been called Like a Movie. At 55 minutes, it was really just over the line for a long short. But it wasn't quite a movie. In fact, the movie ends right around where a full length feature film would come to a climax and then the denouement. But unfortunately, we get two scenes before the climax and the credits roll. Boo to the producers for failing on budget, I'm sure.

The story develops where Sebastien (left) is a confused gay growing up in a town in the province. He has a crush on Romain (right). It isn't totally clear where he's at in his new life except that he's come to the capital region, Paris, to make a new life as Zack. He now has a boyfriend, a new life and then keeps flashing back to his adolescence in the province. He has a huge crush on Romain, who never really reciprocates until one night when his girlfriend stands him up/dumps him/somehow dismisses him. Then Romain does reciprocate the flirting and so forth. You'll have to watch where this eventually goes in his flashback but it seems it wasn't a Tong/Nathan ending ala Lihim Ni Antonio.

Sebastien/Zack is living his life in Paris when Romain calls and says he's starting a new life in Paris and wants to visit Sebastien/Zack. They meet up and ambiguously the story ends.

The concept is interesting but the sudden ending before the story is finished makes you wonder if the movie is one of those French films where the joke is on the audience. But it's not as bad as the last film I just reviewed so it wouldn't hurt to watch it. Maybe it needs a new set of eyes to figure out how to finish it. Maybe the point is for the audience to figure out what the ending ought to be?

24 August 2012

Movie Review: We Were One Man

There's just something about formal movies that I don't like. Please don't get me started on 100 Days Before the Command. This movie wasn't that bad. But the plot summary I read before watching it was misleading. I will copy and paste the plot summary I read and then will add things to the summary, which in my mind will make it truthful, by underscoring those additions and bolding them in red for contrast and striking through words that are misleading or untruthful:
In this unexpected and often touching love story set against the backdrop of World War II, a kindhearted mentally ill, mentally retarded or Autistic French peasant saves the life of an injured German soldier and spends the bulk of the movie prancing about the French countryside vacillating between calling him "Murderer" and treating him like his best friend. He is ultimately surprised when he develops feelings a full blown mental crisis of life and death epic proportions for a man he thought was his enemy. What emerges from director Philippe Vallois's moody and romantic character study is has been described by some as a questioning of the arbitrary borders that separate us, rendered meaningless in the face of true love.
 It wasn't like this plot summary was totally false, it was just misleading a bit. I actually found the last twenty minutes of the movie to be the most interesting and the first hour could have been cut or summarized. In fact, the ending was not just disturbing but that it was an expression of someone's psychological state using the time period involved in such a manner at the time it was produced (the late 1970s). Unless you're really into watching every gay movie ever made or are into period pieces about World War II Europe, this may be one to skip.

21 August 2012

Movie Review: Garçon Stupide

For some reason when this movie came out, I avoided it. Part of it had to do with an alternate movie poster which showed the main character, Loic, played by Pierre Chatagny, as an emaciated teenager. I just thought anorexic twink and the title "Garçon stupide" just sounded stupid. However, I was surprised with the issues the movie attempted to grapple with. Loic struggles with intimacy versus isolation (in the form of night time trysts with strangers) until he develops a real crush on a local celebrity. I imagine, had Herbs not emigrated, this might of been the Swiss version of his life.

(Ania ti kunam, Manila Bitch?)

There were parts of the film that just seemed random to the overall point of the film. But nevertheless, I think the attempt is worth enough of 90 minutes of your attention to see. I found the Swiss French variations of tryst sexuality to be exotic, to say the least.

20 August 2012

Movie Review: Sebastian

Somehow I missed this film when it came out. I recall later hearing about it but never watched it. It's a Norwegian film about a Swedish boy in Sweden coming out in the middle 1990s. In the middle of the movie, Sebastian (on the left there) kisses his friend Ulf (Swedish Taylor Lautner look-a-like). In all the synopses I had read, it seemed like that's where the craziness was supposed to start, but actually it all started in the scenes leading up to the kiss. In a post-gay digital world, I wonder if the person have a gender crisis isn't the putative straight Ulf (Swedish Taylor Latner look-a-like).

I'm just not sure if Svend Wam had this experience or wanted this experience but there is something about the parents and friends response that seems inconsistent with Sebastian's fears and complexes. I can't really put my finger on it -- nor was it interesting enough to really think through. I would put this at the very beginning of a long line of easy going coming out stories.

09 August 2012

Movie Review: Romeos

This movie made it into the queue because it listed with the other movie I just reviewed of a similar name. Here's a snap shot at the plot: FTM transgender Lukas is going through the process of gender reassignment. She moves to Cologne and is helped out by her former bestfriend (maybe ex girlfriend, it's not clear) and lesbian Ine. When they go out for the first time, Lukas falls for Fabio, the local bisexual casanova. 

But nobody but Ine knows that Lukas is still in transition from her former life as Miriam. That conflict or omission doesn't stop the sparks from flying until, well, it does, and then the real sparks start flying.

Although Lukas is played by a boy named Rick Okon who is just soft enough and the added breasts just start to fuck with your mind. He's a great actor and with the director it's just great. I don't know much about FTM transgenderism but the question of identity, community, integrity and personal truth is not foreign to me.  To top it off, Fabio is played by a Franco-German hottie so its easy to fall into identification with Lukas/Miriam.

What is the nature of gender? Attraction? Sexual identity? Belonging? This is certainly not one to miss.

08 August 2012

Movie Review: Coffee Date

I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie since I was only given what to expect for the first ten minutes: Todd shows up at a coffee shop to meet a blind date named Kelly that his brother had arranged for him via an online dating service. The first sign of something not being quite right is that they meet a a gay coffee house. 

With only one table, he shares it with Wilson Cruz' character where they discuss common interests while Wilson Cruz' character also waits for his blind date. It turns out that they are waiting for each other since Wilson Cruz plays Kelly in the movie. Todd decides to get back at his brother/house-guest by coming home with Kelly and pretending to hook up with a man.

Todd's brother, Barry, goes a step further and tells Todd's mom who immediately flies out to Los Angeles to be with her son. Suddenly there is a social cascading of Todd being outed although he professes his "straightness"..

What I found so fascinating about this film was the challenges it makes to attraction, sexual orientation and gender and the relationship of the individual to the community and the nature and source of identity. I found the mother's very funny "case historicizing" her son's new found, always already present homosexuality.

I'd have to say the surprise ending is well surprising, but I'll leave it at that. It's funny and is able to very easily move through quite heavy topics without seeming wonky.

07 August 2012

Movie Review: Private Romeo

Now, there is a 50/50 chance you'll have the same reaction that I did to this movie. In one school of thought, the movie was "an earnest experiment in don't-ask-don't-tell drama as indebted to shirtlessness as to iambic pentameter." See Jeanette Catsoulis' full review here. In the other school of thought, "Get a bunch of male hotties reciting Shakespeare's most immortal love poetry to one another and you have a hot movie, right? Wrong!" See David Noh's full review here.

I have watched all sorts of versions of Romeo and Juliet, live, filmed, video-ed, etc., and I have never really felt like any have captured the essence of the Shakespeare's story. There is something about this film that is missing something but it hasn't anything to do with Shakespeare's story.

O God! did Romeo's hand shed Tybalt's blood? 

It did, it did; alas the day, it did!

I have read and watched performed these lines hundreds of times and yet it was only in this movie that it had some kind of emotional meaning for me. How strange? Eight cadets are left behind -- for some reason unclear -- for a long weekend at their all-male military high school. There are two factions among them and through their study of Romeo and Juliet, literature blends into reality as the newest reenactment of star crossed lovers.

This is worth watching and deciding which camp you fall into. Of course, maybe you just want to watch a bunch of shirtless hotties (citybuoy, Manila Bitch) belt out iambic pentameter? Be forewarned though that the actors have great stage presence and chemistry and play their roles well and so that aspect of it really is just a little bit of a bonus.

01 August 2012

Default, A Challenge

nagpalya ang makina
kahina-hinalang paraan ng pagkita ng salapi
umuumbok ang supot dahil sa kapupunan
nawalan ng kahinahunan ang lalaki
ang mga taimtim na hinaing sa mga diyos ay nagbuhat sa lahat ng altar
lubusang pagtatakwil sa paniniwala

nagpalya ang kaluluwa
huli siya

Challenge IV: Late
 ןıuǝ oɟ ɟןıƃɥʇ 
Manila Bitch 

10 July 2012

Movie Review: Eating Out, The Open Weekend

After Drama Camp, I did not have high hopes for this installment. However, of the latter films of the Eating Out franchise, this has perhaps got to be the best and even as a stand alone, it's great. The dialogue is really what makes this movie what it is. It deals head-on with the issue most important to the young gay man, intimacy. And unlike the earlier films of the Eating Out franchise, this does not follow the fairy-tale cookie cutter movie story.

Casey and Zach return for this installment except that they are not together. Instead Zach's new boyfriend Benji has signed them up to go for a weekend to Palm Springs, California for a weekend of debauchery which requires, among other things, an open relationship "for the weekend." The movie primarily follows Zach with his intimacy conflict until, upon arriving in Palm Springs, Casey appears, single also signed up for a weekend of debauchery. 

Because of the conflicts, Zach implies that he and Casey are in a committed (not open) relationship. Casey, having been reintroduced to a previously fat and overlooked high school classmate named Peter, fabricates the story that he and Peter are also in a committed relationship. Casey and Zach have also brought their straight female doppelgangers, Lily (also in Eating Out 4, Drama Camp) and Penny who both have the hots for the only straight guy at the hotel, the Latino bartender/janitor/poolboy.

As an aside, I also enjoyed Brocka's comment on the many who rushed to get married during California's brief period of legalized same-sex marriage.

09 July 2012

Movie Review: Redwoods

It's funny because this has been recommended to me many times and I've ignored those recommendations. Everett (Brendan Bailey) is in a long term relationship with Miles. They are also raising Miles disabled (autistic?) child. However, his life and relationship have stagnated. When Miles and the son go on a trip somewhere, Everett happens to be happened upon by a writer named Chase (Matthew Montgomery). The story is very much like a gay Bridges of Madison County, only it ends with a twist. It slowed down a little in the middle of the movie but it ended at a good clip.

I wonder about the premise of the movie since it doesn't seem like Everett does any real soul searching regarding why his life or relationship has stagnated. The American redwood trees are beautiful nonetheless reminds me of the mountains of Apayao.

08 July 2012

Movie Review: Weekend

This is an interesting movie after Russell parties with his straight friends, we goes into a gay bar and meets Glen. They have a one night stand that turns into a partying, drunken, drug intoxicated weekend where they learn about each other, both their narratives and their emotional character. This is very much a character driven movie since it only very loosely has a plot. I think I've covered everything about the movie so I'm not sure what else to say. It wasn't bad. It's just a character driven movie.

05 July 2012

Movie Review: Kawa

I have previously thought out loud about 'indigenous' experiences of sexuality. Kawa is a cinematic representation of one of those experiences through the New Zealand Maori lens. Kawariki is a married man who works as a manager of his father and father's friend's shipping business. Weeks before his father is set to retire and pass the family mantle to Kawariki, he separates from his wife because he's gay. When he tells his parents, they are adamant that they reconcile especially in light of his father's retirement. The story ambles through the problems a married gay man goes through in the process of coming out in mid-life. And of course, no coming out story would be sufficient without a handsome young man, meteing Kawa's son Sebastian.

Pana Hema Taylor as Kawariki's son, Sebastian

Maybe he looks familiar since apparently in Spartacus, he plays a middle eastern warrior named Nasir who has a gay, man-on-man thing with another white warrior (my research on this topic points me to Season 2, Episode 5).

In any event, the movie is definitely not another Whale Rider or Once WereWarriors, but it does give us a bit of the flavor or the struggles a middle-class New Zealand Maori goes through as a middle-age man, he comes out of the closet.

04 July 2012

Movie Review: The Bubble

I decided to watch this movie because I thought it would be a light-hearted boy-meets-boy and really get together with a little help from their friends. Instead, I was confronted with a modern gay filmic version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet set in Palestine and Israel. Most of the movie was tremendously textured and nuanced and was able to convey that nuance emotionally. The only criticism would be that the end felt rushed. The last scene had tremendous cinematographic value, it was just rushed into.

I remember once glorifying, in the most convoluted, postmodern linguistic psychobabble terms, the suicide bomber. But through the movie, when you are confronted by its complexities in the life of the suicide bomber and those that are bombed, there is nothing glorious. There is just the naked facticity of existence, of life and death, and the nothingness between the two. It is that pain and how humans negotiate it among and between tribes, hostile tribes that the film speaks to.

This is a heavy movie that requires much attention and thought so I wouldn't watch it on a first date.

03 July 2012

Book Review: The Great Divorce

Ilyon Woo is an American scholar who lives in New York City.

Perhaps you wonder why I am writing a review about The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother's Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times. In the broadest sense, this book falls within the sexuality and gender studies genre of books I review. I decided to review this bok because  among the RH bill, proposals to legalize divorce, thoughts on same-sex marriage, and the TomKat divorce, I thought that it would be worth posting here. And, I just finished reading it.

Eunice Chapman, the subject of this book, was the only woman to ever directly obtain a divorce from the New York state legislature. New York state was the last American state that allowed for no-fault divorce and that is one of two innovations in family law made in the last ten years in New York state. The other was allowing same-sex marriage.

You see, in the U.S., divorce for a very long time was similar to a criminal proceeding. The petitioning spouse would have to prove that the responding spouse had done some bad thing -- adultery being the only bad thing that permitted a divorce in New York state for a long time. Until recently, couples that had no animosity between each other that wanted a divorce, were required to hire professional perjurers who would lie either as the home-wrecker or witnessing adultery! In a "no fault" divorce state, no blame is assigned and the marital property is divided equally between the parties (what constitutes the marital property and what doesn't is slightly different in every state). Some states that have no fault divorce maintain the divorce for cause, while others don't.

However, in the early 1800s, in New York state, there was no divorce really. When a woman married a man, she became dead legally. Her property became the property of her husband and their children were also his property. This was known as a law of coverture (coverture in a convoluted way refers to a married woman being 'covered' as opposed to single)!

Mrs. Chapman happened to marry a man more than ten years her senior. She had three children by him. But the chemistry was not there and although she resisted his proposals for marriage and then submitted -- only because in her mid-20s, she was starting to enter into 'old maid'hood. Well, her independent personality and his deadbeat personality clashed and he eventually found God in the Shaker variety.

The Shaker religious sect, also known as a the Shaking Quakers (as in Quaker Oats), believed in celibacy, living in communes and sublimating that pent up sexual energy into dancing (originally ecstatically and then ritually) and making fine woodworks like furniture and boxes. They invented some very useful and very common things like clothes pins (for drying washed clothes), wheel-driven washing machine, circular wood saws, cut nails and putting planting seeds in envelope packets for trading and selling.

Anyways, Mrs. Chapman's husband became a Believer and left his wife and chlidren destitute (actually, I think it was the other way around) but the outcome was the same. Mr. Chapman wanted the wife and kids to come with him into his new found paradise. The Shakers were very progressive in gender issues. The founder of the religion was a woman and the leader at the time of Mr. Chapman's becoming a Believer was also a woman. It is likely that Mrs. Chapman might have become a Believer herself except that the part of the Shaker beliefs that their founder was really the second coming of Christ, was too much.

When the Shakers wouldn't accommodate her non-Believing ways, they trying to give her the Amish treatment. And legally, that would have been the end of it. She had no legal existence or standing and her children were his property. But she couldn't accept that -- not for her children.

The book is then how she went about eventually obtaining a divorce from the New York state legislature. You see, when we say divorce law, we are referring to a general law of a state that permits a mechanism for anyone to go through a procedure to obtain a divorce under the proper conditions. But what Eunice got was a special law that simply divorced her from her husband. She was able to use the sexist, misogynistic understanding of women and coverture against the system to obtain the divorce. But she also used the eccentric beliefs of the Shakers against the Shakers and her husband and that is the most interesting aspect of it all. She used the Shaker's own challenges to patriarchy as a means to mount her own successful challenge to patriarchy.

Those who campaign for no fault divorce laws or same-sex marriage laws ought to read this -- especially in a country like ours that is politically dominated by right-wing religious hysterical clerics. Of course, our own jurisprudence includes the story of Alejandro Estrada v. Soledad Escritor which puts the same ideas into play.

The version I read was a 416 page hardcover published by Atlantic Monthly Press (August 10, 2010), ISBN-13: 978-0802119469. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was used at abebooks.com

01 July 2012

Ariel, A Challenge

Ariel did not live happily ever after with the prince. That is Disney revisionism of the poor little mermaid. The prince mistakes his bride-to-be princess as his savior when he was lost at sea and Ariel stands by and does nothing. The prince even tells Ariel, "You will rejoice at my happiness; for your devotion to me is great and sincere." She watches his night time wedding and when the bride and groom kiss, she knows at first light, she will be dead.

Her sisters have sacrificed their hair to give Ariel the opportunity to return to the ocean as a mermaid. The octopus witch has given the sisters a magical dagger in exchange for their beautiful hair. In order to redeem herself from her previous agreement with the octopus witch, Ariel must stab the prince in the heart and with the blood put on her human feet, she would be transformed back into a mermaid to live out her three hundred years 'under the sea.'

But Ariel does not do that. She entered the marital tent on that ship to look one last time at the now married couple sleeping in a conjugal embrace and as dawn appeared, she threw herself overboard into the sea and became sea-foam, which had been her agreement with the octopus witch. In her new and unfamiliar state she asks aloud, Where am I?

The surrounding sea foam answered: "Among the daughters of the air. A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of another hangs her eternal destiny. But the daughters of the air, although they do not possess an immortal soul, can, by their good deeds, procure one for themselves. We fly to warm countries, and cool the sultry air that destroys mankind with the pestilence. We carry the perfume of the flowers to spread health and restoration. After we have striven for three hundred years to all the good in our power, we receive an immortal soul and take part in the happiness of mankind. You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your whole heart to do as we are doing; you have suffered and endured and raised yourself to the spirit-world by your good deeds; and now, by striving for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul

After three hundred years, thus shall we float into the kingdom of heaven. And we may even get there sooner,” whispered one of her companions. “Unseen we can enter the houses of men, where there are children, and for every day on which we find a good child, who is the joy of his parents and deserves their love, our time of probation is shortened. The child does not know, when we fly through the room, that we smile with joy at his good conduct, for we can count one year less of our three hundred years. But when we see a naughty or a wicked child, we shed tears of sorrow, and for every tear a day is added to our time of trial!

Challenge III: Disney Princesses
 ןıuǝ oɟ ɟןıƃɥʇ 
Manila Bitch 
Orange Wit
Spiral Prince

27 June 2012

Movie Review: Change of Heart

I only realized this was a Made for TV movie about 5 minutes into the film. It definitely has the "afterschool special" to it.

Here's the plot: Dr. Joe Marshall is the archetypal father and husband is well respected in the medical community. Dr. Marshall has a secret that begins to force its way out of his well crafted mask. Because Dr. Marshall starts to act a little strange around his wife, her interest is piqued when she (administrative officer of the medical institute he works at) adds an appointment to his calendar and sees he that his calendar has him at a local hotel with room number. Mrs. Marshall goes there conflicted about finding the other woman. When Dr. Marshall opens the door in a bath robe thinking he is room service, Mrs. Marshall is more stunned than him to find a grown man behind him in a bath towel. Ay kasta!

Like In This Life, this movie is not about the struggling gay man. It's about the mom. The movie gives a strange late 90s account of how American families dealt with the phenomenon of a gay dad. Because its PG and made for TV, there are no serial killers nor any S/M trannies. It's a Made for TV movie so I wouldn't go out of my way to watch. I'm still not sure how I ended up watching this.

26 June 2012

Movie Review: The Green

I avoided this movie for several months. I did see Julia Ormond and Illeana Douglas on the cover, but I thought, not another one of these movies. I'm glad I was wrong even about Cheyenne Jackson. Wow! What a great actor! Although some of the critics have called this a "bare-budget" movie, compared to some of the stuff I watch, the actors make up a hundred fold for any defects in the financing of this film.

The story is fairly simple. Michael and Daniel leave New York City for an idyllic life in an upper middle class country town in Connecticut. Daniel runs a cafe and catering business while Michael is a restless high school drama teacher. The community more or less accepts the couple. That is, until a troubled high school student that Michael has been helping accuses him of molestation. This complicates life as the accepting community turns into its seventeenth century New England Puritan double and even the people closest to them begin to turn their backs.

While one of the interesting themes is the precarious position gay men remain in regarding accusations of sexual misconduct, the most interesting theme has to do with the relationship between Michael and Daniel and what intimacy means in the long-term perspective.

This is definitely an excellent cuddle/date movie. It did not have a theatrical release.

25 June 2012

Movie Review: This is What Love in Action Looks Like

Now if you've watched But I'm a Cheerleader or you've read Straight to Jesus, you may be familiar with the "ex gay movement" and their Twelve Step/Christian Monastic Asceticism method of "treating homosexuality." The stories in Straight to Jesus are compelling and personal and I actually could feel the pain, torment and suffering of the people that Erzen interviewed. However, the book ended without what I would consider to be satisfactory resolution.

Well, This is What Love In Act Looks Like is. It provides a resolution to the a story of Zach Stark whose evangelical Christian parents sent off to a "Christian camp" -- that he discovers days before going is actually a camp to treat his homosexuality based evangelical concepts. He posts the pamphlets and rules and regs of the camp on his blog and asks his friends on his blog or on his myspace for help.

His friends decide to get into action and they protest in front of the nondescript compound in a suburban area of Memphis, Tennessee. This small action turns national attention on the ex-gay movement and most of it was not positive. Ex-gay ministries have since the 1970s been much an "adult" thing especially, as Erzen demonstrates in her book, because of the Twelve Step/Christian Monastic Asceticism thrust of the "ministry".

I didn't know what I was going to be watching when the movie went on but I'm glad I had the opportunity to watch. I don't recall reading anything about this story in the newspapers or on the listservs. But it had a significant impact on the national debate regarding gay teens in the U.S. The documentary was done and did not seem to be overly polemical -- and at the end we learn that most of the ex-gay movement people refused to be interviewed which explains why their side is most presented in their other interviews to there-local and national media during the actual drama.

24 June 2012

Movie Review: Longhorn

I did not have any thought that this movie might have anything significant to say about life which is why I was surprised that I ended up giving it my undivided attention. The first couple of minutes had, what I thought, was a misplaced and gratuitous heterosex scene. However, as the scene neared its end, it became clear.

If I were to imagine Victor as a Mexican-American going to college in Texas in the early 1980s, the main character's main supporting actor, Cesar, would be that person -- at least in my imagination. Cesar is played by Derek Efrain Villanueva and well, just reminded me over and over again of Victor. You'll have to watch and be the judge of that.

Without dating myself, I can assure you that college in the 1980s was not how it is depicted in this movie. In fact, this movie seemed to have part-American Pie, part-Porky's with two teaspoons of gay for good measure. I think overall how it told the story was done well although at times I thought some of the dialogue may have been a little bit strained -- through no fault of the actors.

In fact, I enjoyed the fact that Dylan Vox was cast as the Southern straight womanizer who doesn't mind a little help from his best friend now and then. I've only seen Vox in a few roles and they were all so supergay, so it was nice to see him in a straight, dabbling with gay, but actually straight Southern role. Very funny. Although, if I were the director, I would have kept the shirts on for the "buddies jerking off together while watching straight porn" scenes.

This can be a good date movie although be alerted that it has indirect sex scenes throughout of the American Pie/Porky's variety.