Monday, March 28, 2011

Movie Monday: Milk

This week's Movie Monday is Milk, the 2008 winner for best screenplay (Dustin Lance Black), based on the life of gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

Using flashbacks from a statement recorded late in life and archival footage for atmosphere, this film traces Harvey Milk's career from his 40th birthday to his death. He leaves the closet and New York, opens a camera shop that becomes the salon for San Francisco's growing gay community, and organizes gays' purchasing power to build political alliances. He runs for office with lover Scott Smith as his campaign manager. Victory finally comes on the same day Dan White wins in the city's conservative district. The rest of the film sketches Milk's relationship with White and the 1978 fight against a statewide initiative to bar gays and their supporters from public school jobs.

As Anita Bryant was crusading to force homosexuals back into the closet and strip them of basic rights, Harvey Milk was galvanizing the community to fight to reclaim the rights to which they were entitled.

Sean Penn isn't a favourite actor of mine, but I think he played this role very well. Josh Brolin is consistently underrated as an actor, in my opinion, and he did a great job here as Dan White. I have read that the movie glosses over Harvey's promiscuity, and perhaps that's true, but I don't believe its intent was to illustrate every aspect of his life. It was about his impact on the movement and how tirelessly he worked for his community.

For those of us who are too young to remember when these events were actually taking place (being born in 1975, that includes me, too) Milk captures an vital piece of the history of the gay rights movement in the US in the 1970s. It's a solid, well-crafted movie. I give it 9/10.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Movie Monday: Maurice

This week's Movie Monday is a Merchant Ivory film from 1987, called Maurice. It features a young Hugh Grant and James Wilby, and several other faces you may recognize.

Two male English school chums find themselves falling in love at Cambridge. To regain his place in society, Clive gives up his forbidden love, Maurice and marries. Written from personal pain, it's E.M. Forster's story of coming to terms with sexuality in the Edwardian age.

I've never read the novel, but broke my rule to watch the movie a couple of months ago. Once it began and I realized it was a Merchant Ivory film, I knew to expect beautiful detail in the lush settings and surroundings.

The story itself is a bit of a roller coaster. The two young men pursue their relationship throughout school and into the early part of their careers. Their mothers become friends as do their sisters. Clive has political aspirations, though, and decides he needs to grow up and act as a man "should", according to Edwardian morals. The end of the relationship is abrupt and violent; as Maurice sobs, "What an ending!" As time goes by and he learns to be around Clive and his new wife, he meets Alec, an enigmatic young man who works as groundskeeper at Clive's family home. Alec is obviously smitten with Maurice. The question comes down to whether Maurice can allow himself to overcome his disdain for someone who is not of his own social class.

The movie was quite good. The pacing was typical of a Merchant Ivory film, that is to say, I found it a bit lagging in places, but it was well-written and well acted. I loved Rupert Graves as Alec (and totally didn't recognize him, he was practically a baby!). Watching it made me realize I should perhaps look into reading some E.M. Forster. Overall, I recommend seeing it. I give it 7.5/10.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Movie Monday: Philadelphia

Today's movie review is one that I hope most supporters of gay rights have seen. However, because it's approaching the 20-year-old mark, I have a feeling that some of the 'youngsters' may not have. It is the landmark 1993 film, Philadelphia:

Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer infected with AIDS, is fired from his conservative law firm in fear that they might contract AIDS from him. After Andrew is fired, in a last attempt for peace, he sues his former law firm with the help of a homophobic lawyer, Joe Miller. During the court battle, Miller sees that Beckett is no different than anyone else on the gritty streets of the city of brotherly love, sheds his homophobia and helps Beckett with his case before AIDS overcomes him.

Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his portrayal of Andrew Beckett. As well, a very new-to-English-movies Antonio Banderas played Beckett's long-time partner Miguel - a career choice that to me, an absolute outsider to the world of film, has always seemed courageous and perhaps risky. But let's leave that aside for now - I want to talk about what this film has meant to me.

When the movie was released, I was 18, and had just emerged from an upbringing in a very conservative Christian household, where gay and right didn't belong in the same sentence - my parents were overtly disgusted by homosexuality. Even after I left, I had a hell of a lot of stuff to figure out for myself - my own life and beliefs. For a number of years, giving serious consideration to gay rights wasn't high on my list.

Flashforward to, say, 1997 or so, when I was really unshackled from the guilt and fear that had been instilled in me for so many years. I had a good friend who volunteered at a local AIDS support project, and I really credit her with beginning to truly challenge me around homosexuality. I had parroted my parents' words on this for so long, even while questioning the other teachings of my youth - why hadn't I challenged these teachings as well? I didn't have a good answer.

I watched Philadelphia. I am so grateful for the way the movie was made, that it didn't shy away from showing even one of the protagonists, Joe Miller, struggling with his feelings about gays and lesbians, because it illustrated myself to me. I was a Joe Miller. I'd had minimal exposure to gay and lesbian individuals - at least that I knew of. Ignorance led to fear, and fear to...if not hatred, then certainly disgust.

I know the big revelatory event for the theatre elite and the GLBT community and AIDS activists in the 1990s was Angels in America. Well, I didn't have access to AiA. Philadelphia was accessible to me . This was pivotal, and important, and real. I heard the message and I took it to heart.

For Philadelphia, then, an unqualified 10/10.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

True LGBT Stories - I'm From Orange, VA

I saw this video on Towleroad today and was so moved by this gentleman - he's so intelligent and well-spoken, he totally impressed me. :)

Quoting from Towleroad:
Nathan Manske and Marquise Lee just finished a 4 month, 50 state tour of the United States collecting stories for their I'm From Driftwood site. We'll be sharing some of the stories they collected along with some of the insight into what they saw. They're still encouraging people to submit their written stories via IFD.

Earl has lived within 10 miles of Orange, Virginia, his entire life. His family has been there for generations and he built his house by himself. He's been surrounded by tradition and the same religous beliefs forever which makes it all the more impressive that he broke out of the mold and developed his own belief system all while keeping his religous faith. A lot of people we met on the Tour struggled with balancing their faith and sexuality and Earl seemed to have mastered it with dignity and respect.

Here's a bit of info on the Driftwood project from YouTube: is a compilation of true stories by gay people from all over in an attempt to help LGBTQ teens feel not so alone. Please pass the link along to anyone who might benefit from, contribute to, or simply enjoy the site, stories and videos. Thanks!

I have to say that when I first read the story on Towleroad, before I watched the video I wondered if this was the story he was referring to - I love what he says about reading it with an open mind. Inspiring!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Movie Monday: Imagine Me and You

This week, we switch gears just a bit and look at a movie that I stumbled upon a bit randomly last week. I found it because it stars the lovely Matthew Goode (previously mentioned in my review for A Single Man). What makes this movie different from others I've reviewed is that it's about girl love. :)

From IMDB:
Rachel and Heck, long time friends and lovers, finally tie the knot, and during the celebration, Rachel starts a friendship with their florist, Luce. And while Rachel originally intended to match her new friend, Luce, up with her husband's friend, Cooper, she soon finds out that Luce is a lesbian. During the course of their friendship, Rachel starts to question her own sexuality. And though she comes to realize she may have feelings for her new friend, Rachel must decide who she will ultimately find the most happiness with: Heck, her new husband who is also adored by her family, or Luce, who has turned her life and everything she thought she new about love upside down.

I found lots to love about this movie, from the fact that it's Britcom to the lovely surprise of American Piper Perabo doing a very good job of playing a Londoner. The relationship that develops between Rachel and Luce is sweet, but their chance at happiness is offset by the increasing discontent between Rachel and her husband Heck, sympathetically played by Matthew Goode.

The heartbreak for me was knowing how deeply she was loved by her husband - it would have been easier to feel supportive of her getting out of a loveless relationship or a bad situation. On the other hand, this is probably more realistic, to figure yourself out a bit too late and unfortunately hurt someone you love.

The peripheral characters are pretty good - Heck's friend Coop could be easily written off at first, but surprised me in the end. Rachel's little sister H ("They tell me it's short for Henrietta, but it's not. It's actually for Jesus H Christ, which is what my mum said when she found out she was pregnant with me") is awesome and has an adorable hero-worship thing going on with both Luce and Heck.

The movie's not quite perfect, but very enjoyable. I give it 7.5/10.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

ABC Meme

A. Age: 35

B. Bed size: Queen, and DH says I take 7/8ths of it. I would kill a kitten for a king size.

C. Chore you hate: Cleaning the bathrooms. Hate it.

D. Dogs: I have two. The one I've had longest is a 5yo lab/border collie mix named Zoe. The other I've only had a year and a half, but adopted him as a senior dog because a friend of a friend had to get rid of him after her marriage broke up. He's a 13yo golden retriever named Atticus - we call him Atti.

E. Essential start to your day: Coffee. It is a non-negotiable.

F. Favorite colour: Aqua.

G. Gold or silver: They both have their place. My rings are gold, my other jewellery is all silver.

H. Height: 5'6", and the shortest all the kids in my family. The tallest is 12.5" taller than me. ::grumble::

I. Instruments I play: Piano

J. Job title: Records Management Coordinator, which is a fancy name for file clerk. I left a career in the insurance industry two years ago and ended up with a job in municipal government. It doesn't place a great mental demand upon me, and the result is that when I sit down to write at the end of the day, I'm not mentally drained. It's worth mentioning that after spending fourteen years in insurance, I started writing within five weeks after leaving that job. That's not a coincidence.

K. Kids: I have two, and most days I don't regret that. Occasionally I contemplate offering them free to a good home.

L. Live: In a house in the woods, the same house my DH grew up in.

M. Mom’s name: Remember Hyde on That 70s Show? Our moms have the same name.

N. Nickname: Katiegirl and, unfathomably, Katie Starfish ;)

O. Overnight hospital stays: Only two overnight visits, when Thing 1 and Thing 2 were born.

P. Pet peeve: Quirky and numerous.

Q. Quote from a movie: There are so many - I'm going to go with the movie we watch most often these days. "Pirannah gun - oh yeah! Fires live pirannahs, ever seen one before? No you haven't, I invented it." -Vector, Despicable Me

R. Right or left handed: Left

S. Siblings: Two older brothers and a younger sister

T. Time you wake up: On a workday, my alarm goes off at 6:45. My alarm is CBC Radio, though, so I listen to that for a good half hour before I actually get outta bed.

U. Underwear: I am generally supportive of underwear.

V. Vegetables you dislike: Cauliflower and brussels sprouts

W. What makes you run late: When one of the kids is acting up before I leave for work and I stick around a bit longer to provide backup. It doesn't happen often but that's usually why.

X. X-Rays you’ve had: I had a bad run of ankle sprains in my late teens and early twenties. Had lots of ankle x-rays. Also had a chest x-ray once when I had walking pneymonia. Aaaaaand my teeth, of course.

Y. Yummy food you make: I rock lasagna, and mushroom risotto, and baked cheesecake. There are lots of others but those are my personal favourites.

Z. Zoo: I've only been to one - the Metro Toronto Zoo, when I was a lot younger. I have mixed feelings on zoos. I don't really like the thought of animals being taken so far from their natural habitat for the entertainment of humans. On the other hand, it's a good experience for kids to see animals that they wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity to see.