Thursday, 27 February 2014

Queers At The Drive-In: Beautiful Thing (1996)

Hi all,
For the closing day of gay film week, I've chosen to watch a film very close to my heart. This was one of the films I watched when I was coming out and it's no understatement to say that this story and I have been through quite a journey together as I discuss in my review. Needless to say, this is one of my absolute favourite movies and I think a perfect way to conclude this week, which despite being billed as a queer film week wasn't particularly queer. Sorry about that, they were just the five films I'd been wanting to see for some time... Anyway, what this week has proven is that there are so many different gay stories out there, it's just a matter of finding one that really moves you and that you relate to. By viewing such a diverse range of films, maybe I've helped you find a new favourite. Wishful thinking on my part, probably :)
 
 Beautiful Thing
1996, UK, Directed by Hettie Macdonald
It’s almost impossible to explain how much this film means to the gay community. Released at the height of British paranoia about homosexuality, it showed that two boys could fall in love and be happy, more than that. It showed that two boys could fall in love and be happy despite the hatred around them. It’s a harrowing and sometimes painful film to watch, which may have been the reason this film didn’t instantly become one of my favourites upon first viewing several years ago. I was in need of a happy gay story which had a clean-cut happy ending, like all heterosexual romances. I didn’t get it and that was why I disliked this movie so much. For years I thought that widespread public acclaim was a load of bollocks. It didn’t deserve it. And then I realised that I was incredibly stupid. Over the last year or so, this film has undergone a complete reversal in my mind. When I did my list of favourite films in April (of the 300 that I’d seen at that stage), it languished at No. 120. When I reached 500 in January, it shot up to No. 58. On my naïve first viewing, I wanted happiness and simplicity. Basically, I wanted a fairy tale without any struggle or pain. With the intervening years, I’ve realised that this is impossible. Being gay is hard. Homophobia and fear are huge problems and not just from the community, it’s also inside you, as you wage an inner battle trying to decide if you are able to follow your heart even if it is against society’s (and possibly your family’s) vision of normality. What makes Beautiful Thing special is that it’s all about hope. It’s about the ability of love to conquer all other problems. It’s about devotion and loss. It’s about how much our families sacrifice for us. But what it’s mainly about is the desperate attempt to find some small ray of hope within the darkest of times. The iconic final scene, where the main characters dance together to Mama Cass’ ‘Dream A Little Dream’, is all about this. Two boys dance together, ignoring the rest of the world and its homophobia, happy in each other’s arms. It’s a glorious and beautiful scene in the single most harrowing and hopeful gay film ever.
Sex/Nudity: 2 (a beautiful kiss and a few naked bums, but compared to yesterday, it’s nothing)
Glamorousness: 1 (there’s nothing glamorised about the gay lifestyle here. The main characters face homophobia and one of them is beaten up by his dad and brother)
Stereotypes: 1 (no screaming queens here. Well, except for the drag queen, but even that feels real)
Best Scene: The slow dance conclusion
Overall Verdict: 10
    For Australians, SBS is broadcasting the Mardi Gras event highlights on Sunday at 8:30pm. I know what I'll be doing Sunday!
   Also, on Friday of next week, I'll hopefully be introducing a new regular review feature on the blog. Just a hint, there's already a few reviews on here that could easily fit in... Just thought I'd give you a bit of a heads up.
Bye for now!
Thanks,
James

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Queers At The Drive-In: Flesh (1968)

Hi all,
Gay film week continues... with a film that probably shouldn't be called a gay movie. By doing so, I've given away a major aspect of the plot. Sorry about that. On the plus side, there'll be a new weekly post tomorrow as well as a review of a film that I've been wanting to see for a very long time featuring some familiar youtubers... See you then!

 Flesh
1968, US, Directed by Paul Morrisey
So…I think I just watched a porn movie. And I knew what I was getting into; it’s one of those films I’ve wanted to see for several years. And I think I loved it. I first heard of this film when I borrowed a book on gay cinema. Towards the back was a feature on sex symbols and first amongst these was Joe Dallesandro. I was fascinated by his story (and Andy Warhol’s reaction upon first seeing him, ‘he’s the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen’) and naturally found him incredibly gorgeous. He was best known for starring in an avant-garde trilogy of films from the late 60s and early 70s, so I went to my local library and looked up the film. I was saddened to discover that they didn’t have a copy of it. I was forced to put the films to the side and for several years I forgot about them, only occasionally looking them up and being disappointed that they still hadn’t bought a copy. Then, a few weeks ago, I was browsing through the latest Empire magazine and saw an ad for Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula (the two violent horror movies that Dallesandro also featured in) and was surprised and overjoyed to see that Flesh, Trash and Heat had also been recently released. I grew increasingly fascinated by the films, after looking up Andy Warhol and the pop culture lexicon surrounding him. Several days later, I was in JB Hi-Fi and almost died when I saw that Flesh was only $10. It came home with me, but not before having to face the awkward moment of showing my ID to the woman who was checking the DVD out. Because it’s rated R18+. And unlike several R rated movies I’ve seen (Halloween, The Warriors) it’s worth its rating. Dallesandro is frequently naked, full-frontal, leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. After the first few moments, I found myself growing more comfortable to the sight of male nudity (which is never ever seen in films. It was something of a shock at the start). What makes the film really interesting is that often the nudity is not sexualised. He’s just sitting around naked, going about some of the things he has to do, just without anything on. In some moments, there becomes something almost transcendent, religious, about the nudity, particularly in the scene where he feeds his young daughter a muffin. There’s something so natural and undefinable that makes this an iconic and evocative image. It’s brilliant. When he does put his clothes on (to go out to work as a hustler to pay for his wife’s girlfriend’s abortion), he somehow becomes even more attractive (especially when he’s smoking. I don’t know what it is, but several gay films feature smoking and there’s just something so sexy about it. And then I go walking down the street and real people don’t look at all attractive when they’ve got a cigarette hanging out of their mouths. It’s one of the Universe’s greatest mysteries). As he works, we get to see his life. What makes this film really interesting is that all the conversation is basically about the same thing and the scenes are really, really long. During one such scene, an older artist (who’s soon to sketch the naked Dallesandro) is explaining about ancient Greek art and how much of society is obsessed with body worship. The entirety foundation of society is based on body worship. Sex, music, art, anything. Like Dallesandro, I was mildly bored by this conversation before I realised that that is what this film is about. All of the conversations focus heavily on the body and what people look like. One features the wife talking about Dallesandro’s... yeah, another features Dallesandro talking to a newbie street hustler about how to get more jobs, two drag queens read a magazine where celebrities constantly talk about their bodies while Joe is receiving a BJ, a woman discusses getting breast enlargements, a gay friend tells Joe why he needs to go back to the gym and his wife tells her girlfriend all about how good-looking Dallesandro is. They’re all talking about the surface and how beautiful Joe is, while failing to take into account deeper personalities. Somehow, this feels representative of the film itself. We’re so focussed on Dallesandro’s physical perfection that we’re unable to engage in a deeper way with the film itself. In some ways, it also applies to society at large. We are an image and body obsessed culture and one sometimes wonders if this is creating distance and detachment from one another. I really wasn’t expecting to be so philosophically engaged by this film, but I’m glad that I was. By really making me think about the film that I was watching, it transcended pornography. It became more than just a film which featured the frequently naked Joe Dallesandro, it became art.
Sex/Nudity: 5 (Joe Dallesandro spends most of the film completely naked, has a BJ and has a deeply erotic story read to him. This is the sexiest, most erotic film I’ve seen by some margin)
Glamorousness: 2 (Dallesandro doesn’t call himself gay and there’s a huge amount of realism in the conversation that he has with another ‘gay’ man later in the film)
Stereotypes: 1 (it’s a film about a street hustler. It features frequent male nudity, something which the censors are squeamish about. It discusses that nudity and society’s obsession with the image. There is nothing cliché or stereotypical about this movie)
Best Scene: Joe and his child eat a muffin
Overall Verdict: 10
 
 
My brain can’t be developed any more than it is and I think I’m cute. I don’t wanna change. If I learn too much, I won’t always be happy, because the more you learn I think the more you depressed you are.
- Terry, Flesh

Bye for now!
Thanks,
James

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

When You Wish Upon A Star

Hello all,
Is it just me or celebrities been in the media for all the wrong reasons over the past week? There was Alec Baldwin’s self-indulgent letter about why he’s quitting the public, Tyler Posey lashing out at Sterek fans, Sam Worthington hitting a paparazzo who attacked Lara Bingle and then, of course, the week’s most heartbreaking news; the sudden death of Charlotte Dawson. I was really surprised by how hard this news hit me on Saturday night. I never watched Next Top Model and only barely knew her from the regular comments she gave on other news stories, but still I felt this huge sense of loss. I got so depressed that I really didn’t want to do anything and just ended up watching South Pacific because it was there.
   It’s not that I haven’t mourned the passing of celebrities before. Only a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a tribute for Shirley Temple. Last year, I cried my eyes out when I heard that Cory Monteith had passed away (yes, I’m a Gleek and proud of it). Being a Doctor Who fan has been the hardest, though. As a huge fan of the classic series I’ve experienced this enormous sense of shock before. In 2011, Nicholas Courtney (more popularly known as the Brigadier) died. As I was still trying to recover from this, I heard the news that Elisabeth Sladen had also passed on. It’s still one of the hardest things for me to accept, even all these years later. Sometimes I’m so stupid and re-watch the incredibly poignant Babelcolour tribute and cry for a while.
   But after I finished crying, I wonder why I did. I didn’t know Elisabeth Sladen or Nicholas Courtney or Cory Monteith. I knew Sarah Jane and the Brigadier and Finn. Is that who I am mourning, the loss of the character as opposed to the person? Because we don’t really know celebrities. At all. We know the persona that they put across, not their true lives. Many of us quote our favourite actor’s lines when they pass away, although it wasn’t even said by them. It was by the screenwriter, they just brought the character to life. And that’s the key. Sometimes it feels like when you watch a really great actor bring a character to life, you just know that they’re bringing something of themselves into the part. Is that why I mourn them and still miss them, like lost members of my family?
   But none of this applies to Charlotte Dawson, does it? Yeah, it does. All celebrities put across an image of themselves. Charlotte’s was as this cool and a little bit mean woman whom nothing would hurt. But she wasn’t really like that. The hateful comments and painful words hurt her like they do the rest of us and a life was tragically taken. I think sometimes we forget that celebrities are people too. And they make mistakes, like the best of us, and they hurt, like the best of us. It’s impossible to comprehend living life once you’re famous. There’s the constant paparazzi that just won’t leave you alone, the fans who stop you while you’re shopping and those people who just hate you and say cruel things over the internet because they can. It’s impossible to imagine and yet still we idolise them and are heartbroken when they fall.
   I don’t really know what I was mourning when I heard the news of Charlotte’s passing. I don’t know if I mourned Elisabeth Sladen or Nicholas Courtney or Cory Monteith or the characters they played. But what I do know is this; we idolise celebrities because they’ve changed us. We’ve all seen that one movie, listened to that one song or read that one book that is absolutely life-changing or inspiring. When I feel down, I do something that’s going to be uplifting like listening to happy music or watch my favourite gay couple vlogging (thankyou, Lush!). People in the spotlight can change us. Fictional characters change us, sometimes more than the real ones because we’re able to see things differently. We’re able to see the world from the other side.
   My mum was telling me just the other day that one of her clients (she’s a cleaner) doesn’t watch any television or film or read any books. He just listens to the radio. She was getting a bit annoyed because she didn’t know what to talk to him about (it was a respite job, meaning you have to talk to them for a couple of hours) and asked the rest of the family for advice. I literally had no idea what to say. I can’t imagine a life without fictional characters and the people who bring them to life. I can’t imagine never having ‘met’ the Doctor or Kurt or Donna or Katniss or Elsa. Some people might say that this is damaging, but I disagree.
   As the old song goes when you wish upon a star, anything is possible. When you wish upon a star, like all the dreamers do.
   We are all dreaming underneath the stars. And we wouldn’t have it any other way

The Playlist Of 19 Feb – 25 Feb
The Sidestep (from The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas)
Hard Candy Christmas (Dolly Parton)
Come To Me (from Fright Night)
Legendary Lovers (Katy Perry)
Some Enchanted Evening (from South Pacific)

The Top 10 Films Of 19 Feb – 25 Feb
Fright Night (1985)
Camp Takota
In Search Of Dr. Suess
Warrior
Samurai III: Duel At Ganyru Island
Mala Noche
Deathtrap
Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
South Pacific
Samurai II: Duel At Ichijoji Temple

Thanks,
James

Queers At The Drive-In: Camp Takota (2014)

Hi all,
Queer film week continues with Camp Takota, the long-awaited film from Youtube's Holy Trinity, which was amazing but not quite gay enough, so I've also viewed the beautiful Brazilian short film, I Don't Want To Go Back Alone (which can be viewed online). I didn't know it at the time, but this is soon to be made into a feature film which is just awesome. That is so going on my must watch list! Tomorrow's film is a movie I've wanted to see for ages, but now the thought of watching it is beginning to make me a bit nervous! It's an extremely obscure film, but it looks awesome! See you then!

Camp Takota
2014, US, Directed by Chris & Nick Riedell
Before I go any further, I must first apologise yet again. This time I haven’t spoiled the movie, just that Camp Takota has about two references to alternate sexualities. However, it is filled with about a hundred other delights. This was an incredibly anticipated film. Coming from Youtube’s Holy Trinity of DailyGrace, HannahHart and MamrieHart, it was something that really threatened to pass under my radar. However, after pressure on Tumblr and from Tyler Oakley grew, I finally bought and downloaded the film. I am extremely happy that I did. I don’t know what I was expecting this film, but it wasn’t to be so moved and inspired by it’s warmth. I also wasn’t expecting Mamrie (one of my favourite Youtubers and how I was introduced to the Camp Takota film) to play such a big role. The film was hilarious, particularly when Mamrie and Hannah ‘do the Herp’, which just makes me laugh just thinking about it, but it was also heartfelt, making you care about all three central characters. You really want the best for them and the strange yet wonderful summer camp that most of the film is set. Whenever I watch anything with a summer camp movie, I always get mildly jealous and a little sad that the idea never really caught on over here. They seem like so much fun! The film’s just a triumph of witty screenwriting, beautiful photography and awesome character interaction. The best scenes of the movie are when all three girls are interacting together. Their friendship seems genuinely real and this adds so much to the story. One of the most likable and uplifting movies I’ve seen in some time, it’s just glorious. Watch it now!
Sex/Nudity: 1 (some hilarious references but nothing too rude)
Glamorousness: N/A
Stereotypes: 2 (the story itself is stereotypical but the relationship between the characters is unlike anything I’ve seen before)
Best Scene: Do The Herp
Overall Verdict: 9


Eu Nao Quero Voltar Sozinho
(I Don't Want To Go Back Alone)
2010, Brazil, Directed by Daniel Ribeiro
I’m often surprised by how awesome short films are. It’s a form which I’ve had some prejudice before in the past. Like short stories, I couldn’t see how you could tell emotionally relevant and sweeping stories in less than half an hour. But recently, I’ve discovered a few film shorts which I’ve just found absolutely amazing. First there was Love Is All You Need (the devastating film where all the world is gay. Just thinking about that brings me to tears) then more and more, generally found because of my tumblr. I Don’t Want To Back Alone, a Brazillian short film, was one such find. It was so, so beautiful. The love story is something that really tugs at your heartstrings as you grow to adore these characters, even though the film only goes for 17 minutes. It manages to pack so much emotion and angst in some truly evocative shots. The scene where the main character breathes in the other guy’s sweat shirt is one of the most aching depictions of desire I’ve ever seen. After watching this, I was on a cloud and listened to Taylor Swift’s ‘Enchanted’. This is what queer cinema should be, uplifting and brave.
Sex/Nudity: 1 (a very small but adorable kiss)
Glamorousness: 3 (none of the characters here are over glamourised. They feel real).
Stereotypes: 1 (featuring a guy who just happens to be blind with a really moving and intriguing storyline, this smashes stereotypes to pieces)
Best Scene: It’s the boy in the bedroom, not the girl!
Overall Verdict: 10
 
 

 
See you all tomorrow!
Thanks,
James

Monday, 24 February 2014

Queers At The Drive-In: Deathtrap (1982)

Hi all,
Gay film week continues... with a film that probably shouldn't be called a gay movie. By doing so, I've given away a major aspect of the plot. Sorry about that. On the plus side, there'll be a new weekly post tomorrow as well as a review of a film that I've been wanting to see for a very long time featuring some familiar youtubers... See you then!

 Deathtrap
1982, US, Directed by Sidney Lumet
Deathtrap is a very clever and amusing film, made so because of its complicated plotting and shocking twists. Which also makes it almost impossible to review. Even my inclusion of it here, on this queer film week is akin to a major spoiler (in fact, newspapers at the time which reported the reaction to the kiss were one of the main reasons why the film didn’t do very well, because they’ve just given away a key plot twist). All I can say is that this movie is constantly changing, fiendishly clever, quite funny with an awesome cast (although, I always find it hard to watch Michael Caine movies. I always see him as Scrooge from The Muppet Christmas Carol. It also features Christopher Reeve who was quite attractive in the day, something I’d never thought about before). However, it’s also very, very tense with a shocking and exciting conclusion (with flickering lights, giving everyone’s movements a sense of animation which I love). I really enjoyed Deathtrap, the only disappointments being that sometimes it felt stagey (as it’s mainly confined to one room) and the ending is very sudden (not something that happens in the original stage play according to Wiki. Sorry, this review was a bit all over the place, but I can’t really go into specifics. Much of the fun of this movie is trying to work out just where it will go next.
 
Sex/Nudity: 1 (the kiss)
Glamorousness: 3 (not a particularly strong portrayal of gay life, but that’s not really the point. I loved that the sexuality of the characters took a backseat and was never strongly featured)
Stereotypes: 3 (gay people are portrayed as murderers but that just feels like a natural part of the story as opposed to a panicked reaction to homosexuality. In fact, it hardly bows to any stereotypes because of the nature of the story.
Best Scene: Guess the phone number
Overall Verdict: 7

Bye for now!
Thanks,
James

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Queers At The Drive-In: Mala Noche (1985)

Hi all,
To celebrate the last week of Mardi Gras in Sydney, I've decided to do a week of reviews of films with LGBT characters. Like The Halloween 13, these are not the best queer films ever made, they're just the ones I've had sitting around and had been planning to watch for sometime. That is, except for the last one, a film which is very close to my heart. However, for the moment, I present my review of Mala Noche, Gus Van Sant's (Milk) first ever feature film.
   Oh, and a couple of other things. The categories at the bottom are:
   Sex/Nudity: How sexy and explicit the sex and nudity is.
   Glamouressness: Does it glamorise the gay lifestyle? How true is it to reality?
   Stereotypes: Does the story present any stereotypes about queer people? If it does, how does it use them and does the film help overcome them?
   As usual, the verdict is out of 10. And don't worry, I'll still be doing my usual weekly post on Wednesday as per usual. I just thought this might be a fun little thing for me to do this week!

 Mala Noche
1985, US, Directed by Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant is fast becoming one of my favourite directors. Previously, I’d seen Restless, Paranoid Park and Milk (now one of my absolute favourite films), and then I sat down to watch Mala Noche, Van Sant’s very first film. I don’t really know what I was expecting, other than it was a very different film to what I imagined it would be. It’s like a Wong Kar Wai film, gorgeously lit, artsy, sensual and incredibly emotional. The story is paper thin (a convenience store owner crushes on a young Mexican boy, Johnny, so gets with his best friend, Pepper, in order to remain close) but that hardly matters because it’s so well-directed. It’s like a noir film with high contrast black and white cinematography, which just adds to my suspicions that black and white really is ideally used when displaying extreme emotions. It’s like the feelings that the film are giving add enough colour. I can’t even imagine if this were in colour, it would be a completely different film (and would make the best scene, the sudden appearance of colour, meaningless. The contrast of this moment is stunning and beautiful, like the most famous scene from La Jetee). And the overwhelming feeling this film is trying to convey is that of lust and sensuality and it does it so well. We only get one (very mild) sex scene, but the film is oozing with eroticism. You’ve got the usual cigarette smoking, but the use of a train during the aforementioned sex scene is stunningly lustful. I loved this movie. It was absolutely beautiful, incredibly sexy and downright beautiful in some moments, the perfect way to begin this week of gay cinema.
 
Sex/Nudity: 3 (mild sex scene, nudity mainly obscured by shadow and the fact that it feels so sensual).
Glamorousness: 2 (far from a glamourised image of homosexuality, this is a stunning film about unrequited love at its most passionate, not at its most creepy)
Stereotypes: 2 (the main story of a gay crushing on an unattainable straight character is fairly common in gay cinema, but depth is added as you discover the true nature of the relationship)
Best Scene: The sudden appearance of colour
Overall Verdict: 8
 
See you all tomorrow!
Thanks,
James

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

When The Stars Come Out

Hello all,
As many of you would’ve heard, Ellen Page came out this week. It’s all that everyone has been talking about. I first heard because my friend on Facebook got quite excited, before going to my favourite gay news site to double check. It was true and I was amazed. I don’t particularly know why I was so joyous about the news. Confession time; I had never seen a movie in which she featured. I’d heard the name through friends who were obsessed with her and because of Juno, but I had never found the time to sit down and watch one of her films.
   Now, this is the odd coincidence. The Monday before Ellen Page came out; I was at Cash Converters and running short on DVDs. You needed ten for $20 or something and I just couldn’t find this tenth one. But then I saw Juno sitting there and thought I might give it a go. It’s a film I’d wanted to see for a fair while and it came home with me. There it sat for the rest of the week until I heard the incredible news. I watched it that night. It’s now one of the best films I’ve seen in a fairly long while.
   But that’s not why I’m posting here today. A few days after the news hit, one of my friends posted that he didn’t see why her coming out was necessary and that as a society we’d progressed against this point. It wasn’t meant in terms of spite or anger, more a reference to the fact of how far society has come over the last twenty or thirty years or so in terms of gay rights. And it was a good point and one that I’ve heard elsewhere since the news broke. Why should a star coming out of the closet be big news? Why does it matter?
   Well, most of what I’m going to put forward here has already been said before but I thought it might be good to refresh some memories.
   Coming out is a long, painful and nerve-wracking experience. There is literally nothing I can compare it to for straight readers. It’s like if you had this big, big secret that you’ve been told all your life (either actively by those around you or through films and television) is something that’s different from the norm and wrong. The secret grows within you, eating you up from the inside. And sometimes, you try and gauge their reactions. Before I came out, I asked my mum how she would react if my (very straight) brother were to come out. She said to me that she didn’t know, she’d have to decide in the situation. This wasn’t helpful. One other time, she said that I’d have to learn to do the cooking if I was with a girlfriend or a ‘manfriend’, which made my little heart swell with joy. Had she worked it out? The very next day, the whole gay thing came up again and she said I couldn’t be gay because my room was too messy (and all gay people are so, so neat).
   So, because your parents aren’t being incredibly helpful, you look elsewhere for support and understanding. And this is where celebrities come in. When Ellen Page came out, the number of people stating their support for her was overwhelming. A young gay person looks at this and sees that being gay isn’t so different, it’s not weird, it’s not a phase and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s inspiring to see that. But more than that, when a celebrity comes out, the young gay community gets a new role model, someone to look up to when they may not have that in their life. I didn’t and so turned to Glee (but that’s another story).
   When a person that you admire comes out, it feels that even if your family reject you, there is a place where you will be accepted unconditionally. Because not all people are as narrow-minded or as confusing as the people you’re closest to.
   Watching Ellen Page’s coming out speech brought out tears in me. It’s inspiring and beautifully and painfully explains what it means to be young and gay, hiding who you are but being inspired by all those around you. It’s destined to become one of the best gay speeches ever (up there with Anne Hathaway’s 2008 HRC speech about being an ally and any of Harvey Milk’s truly inspirational speeches). If you haven’t seen it, look it up now and watch it. I’ll wait for you.
   Ultimately, I think it’s up to a celebrity to decide when it’s their time to come out. You have to feel comfortable with who you are to do that, especially in the face of whatever criticism may come forward, and I admire their bravery. The other problem with celebrities coming out is that it can tend to define them. Ellen Page is now that lesbian, as opposed to that brilliantly talented actress, but that will hopefully change in time. But sometimes I do wonder if I allow being gay to define myself too much, but that’s a post for another time.
   For the moment, I want to end on the words of the late, great Harvey Milk, a true hero of the gay community, whose words I think really explain my feelings towards major stars coming out, as gay or an ally. “I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you...And you...And you... Gotta give em hope.”
   Keep giving ‘em hope. See you next week.
 

The Playlist Of 12 Feb – 18 Feb
Everything Is Awesome (Tegan & Sara, The Lonely Island)
Invisible (Hunter Hayes)
The Cigarette Duet (Princess Chelsea)
Oblivion (Grimes)
Creep (Radiohead)
2046 Main Theme (Shigeru Umebayashi)

The Top 10 Films Of 12 Feb – 18 Feb
Juno
The Warriors
The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas
2046
One Direction: This Is Us
Young And Innocent
Kiss Of The Spider Woman
(500) Days Of Summer
Cronos
My Bloody Valentine (1981)
 
Thanks,
James

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Boys Chase Boys (Chase Girls?)

Hello all,
So, I’m caving to popular demand and answering the question of as a gay man, do I find girls attractive? The simple answer is not really. The more complicated answer is a little bit. Let me explain. Beware, this is filled with astonishing amounts of awkwardness.
   I attended an all-boys high school for six years where there was no females to be seen. It didn’t take me long to work out that this was a bit of a problem for me as I found some of those present in the school mildly attractive. It’s like if a straight boy was suddenly dropped in the middle of an all-girls school. For six years. I repressed a lot of stuff. I came out in year 10 and my school life didn’t particularly change. My friends still talked about which celebrities were doing it the most for them this week, which caused me to kick my best friend in the shin because he had a girlfriend. Good times.
   Then, I left high school and started Uni. And suddenly there were girls everywhere. At first, it didn’t seem to affect me. I was confident enough in my sexuality to realise that I didn’t find these people attractive. Then, I was waiting for a lecture one day and I saw this girl who looked remarkably like Clara (from Doctor Who, for those not into the best show in the Universe) and I realised that I was finding her attractive. For someone who is (really) gay, I was horrified. I thought I knew myself better than this. The same week I watched the excellent German gay film Summer Storm which had two snoggable male leads as well as this woman named Alicja Bachleda-Curus (pictured above). And as I watched this film, I grew fonder of not the gay couple, but the woman, who was beautiful. I was sincerely hoping that she would get with the gay man (who was having a pointless crush on his best friend) or at least someone. She was so nice.
   After watching that film, my mind was in crisis. Was I no longer gay? What the hell is wrong with me? I don’t find girls attractive? Do I? And I just let this stew for a couple of weeks, growing more and more confused (confounded when one of my best friends said he didn’t actually find her all that attractive). Eventually, I couldn’t cope with it anymore and asked one of the friends who I can really talk openly to about it. She didn’t have a bad reaction to it. She just said that it’s not a problem. I’m still gay, I just find some girls attractive now. It was brilliant.
   Ever since then, I’ve allowed myself to find some girls attractive. Even though it feels like a betrayal to my gay self as I do it.
   There are still a couple of questions, though. As my friend pointed out, do I legitimately find girls attractive or am I just basing my opinion on what people have said to me are attractive qualities in a girl? And the big one, if I ever met a girl who I was attracted to, could I see myself ending up with her?
    That last question is something that keeps me up at night sometimes. Sometimes I think yeah I could do it. Other times I think NO!! But, I think now I’ve sort of settled on the sort of arrangement that was seen in the beautiful British film Carrington. A gay man sees someone gorgeous in the garden and asks, rather wonderfully, who that ravishing boy is. The person turns around and it’s a girl. We’ve all done that. Despite the initial awkwardness, the two find a relationship, which is deeper than sex (which they never have). They eventually move in together and share their lives for seventeen years, remaining friends despite each having their respective relationships, none as satisfying (intellectually or emotionally) as the one which they have created. It was a beautiful film which suggested that love is about more than just sex, it’s a much deeper connection than that. It’s one of the most progressive films I’ve seen in ages, both comforting and revolutionary.
   I can see this happening to me if there ever was a girl I found an attraction to. The thing is that I mean attraction as in personality. While I may see that this girl or that girl has a certain aesthetic beauty, it wouldn’t be something that’s long-lasting. I am physically attracted to men. I can see that a girl is attractive but it just doesn’t attract me in the same way that a guy does.
   Ultimately, though, I think our society is very much gender based. Boys like girls, unless you’re gay. People don’t understand bisexuality, which is horrible. Some of my best friends are bisexual and they have a terrible time of it, simply because they are attracted to both genders (which doesn’t mean they’re attracted to everyone. That stereotype is immensely stupid. I am attracted to men. I am not attracted to all men, but I find that the vast majority of people I’m attracted to happen to be male).
   Sorry, this was a ridiculously awkward post. It was something I wasn’t looking forward to discussing and wasn’t going to. I said to myself that I won’t do it because I can’t find a good title for the post. Unfortunately, Ingrid Michaelson released the awesome (and intensely catchy) song ‘Girls Chase Boys’, which I’ve listened to far too many times in the past week, and the title came to me. I also felt the need to clear up the matter because a few more people have asked me about it. I don’t know why, but I felt this was a much more personal post than last week. Next week’s won’t be. Unless, it is. Which it probably will be.
   What follows are my thoughts on the sad passing of Shirley Temple, before the usual playlist and films list. The playlist this week is a bit shorter, but I just want to say that if you listen to nothing else, please listen to Lindsey Stirling’s new song, Stars Align. It’s excellent! Anyway, see you all next week!
 
Shirley Temple (1928-2014)
Shirley Temple. It’s a name everyone knows, even if you’ve never seen her films. A child star from the 30s, she inspired and brought a smile to your face. Only a few weeks ago, I realised that having never seen a film of hers was a huge and unforgivable gap in my film and life experience. So, I watched Poor Little Rich Girl from 1936. My parents prepared me, stating that it was going to be unbearably sweet. And it the start it was, but then as I watched, she sang, tap-danced and charmed her way into my heart. It was such a sweet and innocent film that I initially gave it a rating of only 5/10. But as I’ve reflected on it ever since, I realised that that was the point. Hers were films to make you feel a million times better. And they do. They lift you up to cloud nine and you can’t help but smile. She was cheerful and almost magical, luminescent in her films. Sadly, she was less popular as she grew older, before becoming a respected diplomat. But now, at the age of just 85, she’s left us. But her smile made you smile and happy even on the very worst of days, and that is something to be (and always will be) cherished. Rest In Peace, Shirley.s

The Playlist Of 5 Feb – 12 Feb
Girls Chase Boys (Ingrid Michaelson)
Stars Align (Lindsey Stirling)
All Of Me (John Legend)
Love Me Again (John Newman)
Let Her Down Easy (George Michael)
Oh Father (Anthony Starble)
Paper Heart (Chloe Howl)
You Are My Sunshine (Bing Crosby)

The Top 10 Films Of 29 Jan – 4 Feb
The Shining
Ordet
Alien
Carrington
Bride Of Frankenstein
The Royal Tenenbaums
Gods And Monsters
Behind The Candelabra
Rock Hudson’s Home Movies
The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones

Thanks,
James

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

(I'll Never) Want My Body

Hello all,

This post was originally going to be about answering the question that one of my friends asked me about whether I find girls attractive (as a gay man) but I felt it was too personal. So, instead, I’m going to talk about body image. Yeah, that’s much less personal.
   But I suppose body image is something that most of us deal with. Very few people are truly satisfied with the way they look, which is very sad but true. Needless to say I, as a gay white skinny pimply vampire, is deeply unsatisified with the way that I look. There’s a reason my Facebook doesn’t have a picture of my face attached to it. Because if it did, I couldn’t go on Facebook.
   Usually I just ignore my odd appearance, but I was watching a gay Spanish film, Chuecatown, which dealt with the whole notion of body image, particularly in the gay community. A real estate guy was going about killing old ladies so that he could buy their houses to create something of a gay ghetto (Rick & Steve gave me that term). The problem came when a gay couple moved in who more clearly fit the definition of a bear (a larger, hairier guy). The real estate guy took offence to this. He wanted to create a gay ghetto which was beautiful physically and thus, there was no place for this very average (and lovable) couple. It was one of the more astonishing motivations in gay cinema because it really shows how shallow the gay community is. God, that sounded backhanded. But from what I’ve seen it’s true. If you’re not some sort of Adonis among men, going to a gay dance is easily one of the most depressing things you’re ever likely to do. For a community that promotes equality, there is some seriously concerning body image issues. Watch any gay movie and it’s filled with super-hot 20-30 year olds making out with one another. Chuecatown was a rare exception and I loved it for that.
   The whole idea that media representation creates negative body image issues is, however, far greater than the gay community. Music videos, fashion parades and magazines are filled with women who are ridiculously skinny creating unreasonable body images for both girls and guys (it creates the illusion that all girls are just as gorgeous in real life which they are, but in a different, more realistic way than a magazine will present). The question is where does this sort of thing come from? Does showing gorgeous people actually help sell products? The good thing is that people are doing work around reversing such trends. There’s a big thing going on about having realistic-sized models as well as Lily Allen’s excellent ‘Hard Out Here’ (which gives a massive two-fingered salute to the sort of music videos that feature twerking girls for no good reason. For what I mean, watch Enrique Iglesias’ new video. Dear God, the objectification. The same thing happens in Shakira's new vid, by the way).
   So, now we come to the bit where I talk about me and what I wish I was. Like (probably) all guys, I wish I was a lot more muscly and tanned, but I also want to be less skinny. And the whole thing about me being so thin (I weigh 57 kilos) is that I can’t eat all that much. I can barely eat a whole meal put in front of me. Some days are better than others, but once I’m full it really does feel like I’m literally shovelling the food in. There’s no taste or pleasure to it anymore, it just becomes sustenance. I wasn’t always like this, I don’t think. But there was a period where I started eating less (quite probably stress related) and I think I shrank my stomach. I got so used to eating very little that I get full much quicker now. However, that’s not the really big problem. Sometimes I’m sitting down and I think geez, I’m getting fat. I weigh 57 kilos. I can feel almost all of my bones. Yet still I feel like I need to lose weight? I now understand anorexics. You really do feel fat, even though everyone else can see you’re skinny as a rake.
   I also almost always have a stomach ache and sore legs and arms and bad dizzy spells, which I attribute to a lack of water on my part. See all of my health problems are self-inflicted. My negative body image is entirely my fault (well, except for the fact I hate my face. And have no facial hair). And I think people pick up on this. If you don’t feel like you are beautiful, then how is anyone else going to?
   So, that’s my rant for today. Mildly depressing, but yeah… Anyway, see you next week.
 
The Playlist Of 29 Jan – 4 Feb
Once Upon A Dream (Lana Del Rey)
Into The Blue (Kylie Minogue)
Can’t Remember To Forget You (Shakira, Rihanna)
Say Something (A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera)
Home Again (Elton John)
Blue Smoke (Dolly Parton)
XO (Beyonce)
Young Blood (Sophie Ellis-Bextor)
Always Be My Baby (Mariah Carey)
Whole World Is Watching (Within Temptation, Dave Pirner)
 
The Top 10 Films Of 29 Jan – 4 Feb
Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans
A Clockwork Orange
Moonrise Kingdom
Swoon
Frankenstein
The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh
Chuecatown
Brotherhood
Stormy Weather
KickOff

Thanks,
James