23 October 2013

Movie Review: Elliot Loves

This does not have cinematic complexity. Instead, this film tells a story that resembles in many ways my experience as an adolescent. In short, we watch a twenty-one year old Elliot who is half Dominican and half Anglo live his life in his quest for "love". In many ways, it feels like caricature of the young person's life and in another way, it bespeaks the life of a young gay man. We learn through a copious amount of flashbacks, the psychological make-up of Elliot. His father was a one time fling with his mother when both were young.

Though its understated, we learn that Elliot's compulsive need for human contact and his majorly distorted path to finding "love" stems, in part, from the narcissism of his mother who neglects him half the time and dangerously comes near to incestuous closeness the other half.

Many of the mundane interactions of "hooking up" and such, were portrayed realistically in the urban working-class, ethnic minority setting in the U.S. There is the hook-up who fails to mention he has a boyfriend. There is the hook-up who springs the "lets do a threesome" after the clothes are off -- who can ever forget that experience in their adolescence. The hook-up who mirrors the almost pathological instant-in-love of the ego only for it wear off in two days.  The only thing that seemed a little fantastic was the range of gay identities among working class Hispanics and the absence of homophobic identity formation. Meaning, even the thugs in this film are all homo.

21 October 2013

Movie Review: Mea Maxima Culpa

While this movie is somewhat outside of the types of films and documentaries that I regularly review, but I thought the film was excellently produced and tells the story of how the Catholic Church, from Cardinal Ratzinger down to lowly diocesan bishops, the Church had an express policy of hiding and covering up child sexual abuse. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church prioritized the importance of the belief that a priest when consecrated changes ontologically -- merging with the Church -- over the robbed innocence of the children who were raped and abused by priests. The film shows the decline of a stricken church where legal formalism and clerical elitism rule and love is in decline.

The Roman Catholic Church elevated this principle: "If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God." (1 John 4:15) over "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them." (1 John 4:16)

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1) This documentary shows that there was no test and the will to power has reigned supreme in the house of god over love.

I hope that you consider watching this important and well produced documentary about the failures of the Roman Catholic Church in the past and in the present to deal with the great and unnecessary suffering it inflicts on the innocents who seek refuge and protection from it.

14 October 2013

Movie Review: Inspired the Voices Against Prop 8

I have to admit that after watching this movie I feel like I am somewhat from a different epistemological epoch than the current popular culture when it comes to political activism.

The documentary is not about the political action leading up to the vote in the U.S. state of California on the constitutional amendment known as "Prop 8". Instead, this is a documentary about the seemingly spontaneous street demonstrations expressing rage and dissatisfaction over Prop 8 passing after the elect. In fact, the documentary doesn't seem to really get involved in the legal challenges to Prop 8 that occurred after either.

When I was younger, I always assumed the "story" about a political action was generally the actions various tactics taken by the masses agitating for some change by the targeted decision-maker. In this story, however, the story is about protests after the decision-maker (the voters of California) had already made their decision.

It was only on the fringes that some of the real issues with American LGBT communities and political action come to light and only marginally. The main coordinating groups opposing Prop 8 were highly centralized, were not connected to the grass roots and suffered from elitism and insularity (of that professional, educated, upper middle class gay variety).

Like the first two U.S. state constitutional amendment ballot processes involving same-sex marriage (Hawai'i and Alaska in 1998), the same sort of insularity guided the process. While the right wing extremists made strictly emotional appeals to common sense of the average voter, the professional upper class gay "political strategists" were busy executing a two-part strategy of lecturing voters on seemingly irrelevant historical analogies and invoking highly abstract philosophical arguments. Apparently, this political organizing strategy persisted for a decade in the culmination of defeat of protecting California's constitutional right to same-sex marriage in 2008.

As soon as defeat was clear, these same insular out-of-towners packed up their bags and headed back to Washington and New York to leave the grassroots enraged with the collective decision of their communities.

I kept thinking to myself, as I saw the various video of the after-the-fact street demonstrations, where the hell were these people before the election? In Alaska and Hawai'i of 1998, although polling seemed to indicate the constitutional ballot questions outcome would be close, I think everyone involved in that time thought the chances of preventing a ban on same-sex marriage was remote. Polling firms did not account for substantial minimization of reporting opposition to same-sex marriage in their poll designs.

Prominent community leaders failed to clearly and unambiguously express their support for same-sex marriage. And the right wing extremists who acted as proponents of the bans pulled out all of the stops in the final week leading up to election day in Alaska and Hawai'i. Who can forget that one catchy ad in Hawaii comparing same sex marriage to incest marriages and marrying one's dog? It was not a surprise that 69% of voters in Alaska and Hawai'i voted to ban same-sex marriage in 1998.

But in California, in 2008, same-sex marriage as a constitutional right had been recognized in US courts since 1993 (in Hawai'i). Massachusetts and California were actually performing same-sex marriages at the time of the election (with Connecticut set to "go live" a week after the election). Several other states had civil unions for same-sex couples.

So the biggest moral of the story for this documentary is that entitlement is the biggest obstacle to political progress in this world. It seemed by the end, though, that these somewhat spontaneous protests in the streets did get channeled into efforts that would lead to real goals, like repealing Prop 8. I shouldn't let my pessimism about the disorganization of the group get in the way of the fact that I'm happy that the producer of the film took as its primary subjects, activists of color who had been and were organizing the grass roots and had been shunned by the professional, insular upper class elites of the No on Prop 8 movement.

Of course, back in 1996, if you asked me, I would never imagine that same-sex marriage would become the lightning rod issue for the American LGBT movement. In fact, if someone were to recount this story to me, I would have criticized it as being reactionary science fiction with a internalized, homophobic religious twist! In the 1990s, the American LGBT market was just consolidating as a niche market and local and regional community newspapers were folding in favor of glossy national ones and it was only vaguely becoming clear that revolutionary sexuality was yielding in favor of the gay version of "normal".