Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Beefcake: Travis Hansom


Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Single Man (Movie Review)

Julianne Moore could bring back the Twist, the sixties' dance craze, with her elegant wriggle in A Single Man.  Hers has much more erotic traction than Travolta and Thurman's little homage to Chubby Checker in Pulp Fiction.  Of course, Colin Firth mucks it up a bit by joining in, but only because her solo dance, to Booker T and the MG's "Green Onions," is so much better than I ever remember the Twist having been before.

A Single Man, based on Christopher Isherwood's 1964 novel and directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, his first effort at directing, is composed of many small moments of this sort.  In fact, we are directly told at the end of the movie that life's purpose and energy derive not from the big events of the day (in this setting--i.e. southern California in the early 1960s--the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation), but the small personal moments--the scent of a puppy, the curve of eyeliner, a shared glance between men--which, added together, are really what make life more or less meaningful and worthwhile.

The movie begins and ends with a death.  The first death is the impetus for the chain of almost random events we see portrayed in the film, shot with an elegant eye to color and composition by cinematographer Eduard Grau.  Its depiction of the era is comparable to the self-conscious sense of style in the television series Mad Men (in fact, we hear the voice of Mad Men's star Jon Hamm over the telephone at the beginning of this movie).   Grau and Ford vary the saturation and intensity of the color expressionistically, to portray characters' levels of vitality and sensuous involvement in the world.

Some could, with reason, complain that the movie is rather like 101 men's cologne commercials strung together--it does in fact possess a high sense of style that occasionally works against the emotions of the characters, but before we see this as a flaw born of the director's background in fashion, let's remember that Stanley Kubrick always used style to undercut emotional involvement in his films and the principal character here, played by Colin Firth, is somebody whose isolation (through grief and his homosexuality in 1960s America) and his ironic wit and usual British reserve discourage sympathy, anyway.

The last death is not exactly the death that the film leads us to expect--and it comes as sort of a shock--but it is the avenue through which the protagonist is able to articulate his discovery about the importance of life, until then crowded out by his grief over the loss of his lover.

The film's artsiness takes nothing away from the performances.  Colin Firth gives his best performance ever, as the grieving college English professor.  And Julianne Moore, besides twisting with such style, gives her most interesting performance since Safe--all the more remarkable because Moore has made a career out of choosing interesting and daring projects to work in.  Here she plays the protagonist's friend, who struggles with her own sense of loss.

The film's "pretty boys"--Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult, and Jon Kortajarena--are, yes, very pretty, but Ford, Isherwood, and they do not make the usual harsh Judeo-Christian judgment on beauty that we might expect in a Hollywood film--that is, they are not vapid, manipulative, self-centered, superficial, and unworthy of our respect.

Rounding out the cast of characters that Firth encounters, again with apparent randomness, are a number of familiar television actors--Lee Pace, Gennifer Godwin, and Erin Daniels--whose appearances here are something more than cameos, but rather fully rounded characters that this film just so happens not to be about ... or let me correct myself, it is "about" them, since the film ultimately concerns our connection with people who initially strike us as peripheral to our own personal dramas and crises.

Our "deep" involvement with casual strangers--co-workers, tricks, neighbors--is the spiritual center of Isherwood's novel and Ford's film.  However much we choose to rank our relationships with strangers, one-night stands, acquaintances, friends, and lovers, creating hierarchies based on our sense of self-importance, it is in fact people we hardly know--whose names we may not actually know or remember--who make the largest impressions on our innermost self and whose values, fears, and willingness to reach out (or not) shape our individual lives at least as much as free will or chance does.

Tennessee Williams' Blanche DuBois says famously, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."  That kindness--taken seriously, and not as neurotic prattle--is the subject of (the ironically titled, it turns out) A Single Man.

Sunday Beefcake


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Remember (4)

I remember something that happened to me in junior high school in North Miami Beach, Florida, over forty years ago.  After school, these jocks, big smiling guys with sinewy shoulders and arms, singled me out, cajoling me into a fight with this other slim guy (I was about 5'10" and under 150 at the time), a friend of theirs, a stoner with long scraggly hair and buck teeth.  I refused.  I didn't like fighting at the time and didn't know how to fight.  A few days later they pushed this kid into me in the hallway.  The kid had a straight pin ready in his hand and jabbed it in my thigh.  Thus provoked, I fought back.  Actually I didn't do badly ... weed definitely slowed my opponent down ... but some other guys (upstanding jocks who ran for student government and sometimes looked out for brainy sissies like me) intervened and pulled us apart.  There was nothing the least bit erotic about the fight for me, though in retrospect it became a focus of a few masturbatory fantasies, not at all because of my opponent, rather entirely because of the leering, muscled guys looking on and licking their lips, touching their bellies under their sweatshirts, pushing me to punch the stoner and take some knocks in return.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Beefcake


I Remember (3)

I remember wandering in a wooded area outside the town limits of Fussa.  I was with my friend Rhonda, a missionary's daughter.  This was in 1964 or so.  We came upon a well in the middle of nowhere.  We dropped stones into the well and heard them echoing down the sides of the well for almost a full minute before they dropped out of hearing range.  It seemed to me that the well must plunge miles into the earth below us.  The idea that it was perhaps bottomless filled me with an eerie but beautiful sense of dread.  Later, we came upon a shrine, a boxlike structure, not much larger than a tool shed.  Rhonda told me that her father had told her that people left food and saki in these squat buildings so the insane and the demon possessed could rest and eat.  We peeked inside and saw a bearded man eating rice out of a bowl with his fingers.  We ran away.  As far as I know, the man never looked up at us.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Too Beautiful

I have not been listening to golden-oldies radio (have not done so for years, I would guess) and have not been watching sixties-nostalgia on TV, but for some reason the Small Faces' "Itchycoo Park" has been thrumming through my head all day, occasionally bursting out in vocalized yowls of "What will we do there? / We'll get HI-I-I-IGH / What will we touch there? / We'll touch the SKY-Y-Y-Y-Y."  Where it came from, I cannot guess.

I am feeling especially blissful today, this very moment included, so somehow it must have popped up as soundtrack to my inner monologue.  I am lucky, I guess, in having these long, fairly regular spells of euphoria, bordering on rapture, that have practically nothing to do with outward reality.  I am as broke as ever, boyfriend-less (and effectively asexual), periodically stressed over work, and struggling to keep the place warm in freezing weather.  The world is still in shambles, with Christians feeling persecuted by the mere fact of homosexuality's existence (queerdom is for bible believers what the state of Israel is for Islamicists), melting icecaps and shrinking biodiversity, a couple of wars going on that nobody seems to be able to justify, so nobody even tries anymore (except to keep them funded and supplied with fresh young meat), and an economy that is growing by leaps and bounds for 1% of the population (or less), while the rest of us wait (as we're told to) for the trickle-down effect.

But I do have an aged dog who thinks I'm a fresh helping of god, modestly good health as I draw near to age 57, and a fairly active imagination supplying a fantasy world of my own that makes Avatar look like The Seventh Continent.

I'm feeling "light and breezy," which ought to trigger some Rodgers and Hammerstein, but, no, it's still head music, as I feel fourteen again, vaguely inebriated on youthful horniness and the bouncy, clear colors of acid on a late summer's afternoon.

Sunday Beefcake: Adam


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I Remember (2)

I remember having a rash as a child.  Pre-school age.  My mother stuffed one of her nylon stockings with oatmeal and put it in the bathtub with me and hot water.  I remember the silky texture of the water as the oats softened.  I remember the nutty smell of the steam, a smell I would later in life associate with jism.  I still like oatmeal.  It's the one sure thing always in my kitchen cabinet.  After the bath, my mother dabbed my pink spots with calamine lotion.  I can almost remember the smell of calamine, remember liking it, can still see and feel the grainy, pastel pink cream drying on my skin, haven't smelled it for decades now.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Remember (1)

I remember Vincent Price on Hollywood Squares back in the 1970s.  Peter Marshall asks him, "Is the Shakespearean comedy called A Midsummer's Night Dream, or is it A Midsummer Night's Dream?"  Vincent Price says, "That's a very good question!"  Then he gives the correct answer:  the latter.  I think the contestant agrees with him and wins that square.  Anyway, the thing I remember is that for years afterward I agreed with Vincent that it was indeed a very good question.  Now, I'm just not so sure.

I'm starting something new here.  Old new.  Joe Brainard did this over 40 years ago. 

New to me, then. 

What I'm going to do is record fleeting memories, not necessarily "big" memories with elaborate narratives and obvious relevance to subsequent events in my life, but small, disjointed recollections that don't seem to add up to anything. 

Why, other than an inflated sense of self-importance, would anyone do this? 

Well, for one thing, it's just such tiny happenstances that make up a person's life, and if anything seems likely to be true about what matters in life it is that, as John Lennon said, 30 years ago, "Life is just what happens to you / While you're busy making other plans."

Then there's synchronicity, Jung's idea that meaning is as valid a way to classify events as cause-effect.  

But meaning, as we know, does not exist outside of context, so how can these random non-events gather meaning, stacked willy-nilly in a series of blog postings?  I don't know.  Probably they can't, unless of course the blog itself provides a context ... or unless there's a meaning why, particular to nothing I was doing on campus today, my mind shoved out this decades' old memory of Vincent Price on a game show. 

I can't say for how long I'll pursue this navel-gazing experiment, but just as recording your dreams helps you remember more of them and more details in each one, perhaps recording these fleeting memories will lead me on to something else ... to some other collage version of my life, apart from cause and effect, that may spin together new possibilities of meaning to my life.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Poor Poor Put-Upon You

Dr. Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission has published last year's "Top Ten Anti-Christian Acts" and wonders aloud, "If these are not bona-fide examples of persecution, [then] I wonder how much more it would take?"

He might start by reading Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563) for a clue ... or even the Book of Acts in the New Testament.  St Stephen should only have had it so easy as to be forced to watch HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm this year!

And with only two of the ten acts involving bodily harm to Christians, he might have to admit that Christians are considerably less persecuted than, say, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and bisexuals, whose bashings and murders have seen an increase in the past ten years, higher than crimes committed against all religions, according to FBI statistics.

Of course, Cass is unlikely to admit this because at the very top of his list of anti-Christian attacks, is the Federal Hate Crimes Bill, which, in his twisted mind, somehow prevents him and other hate-mongers from telling the "truth about homosexuality."  He seems less concerned that he is tacitly embracing "hate" and "crime" as values he defends and espouses.

Most ridiculous of all, the inclusion of a gay marching band in Obama's inauguration parade earns Cass and others a martyr's crown as well.  (How much greater is the daily bombardment of televangelism on TV and a Gideon's Bible in every motel [the poor man's den of iniquity] in the nation?  If he's going to scrape the bottoms of barrels for examples, it would appear that just about everyone is persecuted ... and largely by professed Christians.)

I would think that, right now, Cass and his organization are among the biggest thorns in the side of twenty-first-century Christendom, because people like him have taken the legacy of those brave souls persecuted in the first century to justify their persecution of just about everyone else ever since:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.  (Matthew 7.3-5, New International Version)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Beefcake: Nick Manzoni

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

Photos from obvious


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...