“After Louie” is a meta-drama about AIDS history, on how younger men perceive it today, and how younger men react when older gay men who survived (like me) get sanctimonious with them. The film is directed by Vincent Gagliostro, a former ACT UP activist, and
There’s a fairly intricate backstory and setup. Sam, now about 55 and pretty nimble (even if sometimes “The Cigarette Smoking Man”) and apparently living in Bed-Stey as a hipster painter, has taken on a film project about a friend, William Wilson, who had died some time back. Wilson had in turn told the story of another Act-Up activist, Louie. A drag queen Rhona (Justin Bond) recalls the memorial service as a summer Christmas party, with no eulogies.
But Sam’s life takes a turn when he meets the still-young 29-year-old Braeden Devries (Zachary Booth), tall, thin, muscular and articulate (that is, a bit Milo-like), another artist, whose personal charisma dominates the film. Sam is attracted only to younger men, and leaves a $500 tip in Braeden’s shoe the first night, making Braeden “the accidental hooker”. But Braeden already has a boyfriend of contemporary age, a hairy chested shorter man Lukas (co-writer Anthony Johnston), with whom he shared a basement Brooklyn flat. A plot complication will be that Lukas is HIV-positive with undetectable viral load because of successful modern protease inhibitors. But he doesn’t tell Sam — they use condoms, but Sam is actually the aggressor. There are lines about the pleasure inherent in the implicit shame of being the “bottom man”. You could certainly get into the issue of health care coverage for both PrEP and protease, which might be at risk with the Obamacare repeal issue now.
There is a bizarre sequence two-thirds through the film where Sam finger-paints Braeden, especially his chest which fortunately had evolved as naturally hairless, however cis Braeden seems otherwise. All of this sets up a climatic scene in Sam’s studio where he tries to set up a kind of art-show and party. There’s also a curious bathtub scene at a party with Braeden and Lukas.
The film was screened by Reel Affirmations on World AIDS Day at the HRC Center December 1, 2017, with Rayceen Pendarvis hosting.
Joe Biden’s memoir, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose” intermixes the most productive years of Biden’s vice-presidency under Obama, with the tragic loss of his son Beau Biden in 2015 to an aggressive brain tumor.
The book narrative is often out of sequence, starting out on vacation and then shifting to his vice-presidential home near the Naval Observatory, before taking off with competing narratives.
Beau had served as Delaware attorney general, and had been quite supportive of progressive causes, including LGBT marriage equality. The family’s Catholic upbringing did not lead to any personal moralizing on the social issues.
Biden first notice symptoms around 2010, which went away until about 2013 when he was diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma. His genetics made the cell type particularly aggressive. The physicians (including MD Anderson in Houston) tried a novel approach of engineering a live virus that would attach itself to the tumor cells and stimulate an immune response. In the end, it seemed promising for a while but Biden suddenly deteriorated and died with family present on May 30, 2015.
I had an uncle who apparently died at age 60 of a similar tumor in 1976. Even with genetic causes, its actual appearance is unpredictable.
Biden discusses his foreign policy work, especially with regard to ISIS, Russia, and Central America. He covers the second Obama term well, a history that took a shocking deadend with the election of Trump. He wrote the book just before we have a real understanding of the Russian “fake news” campaign and of the way Trump would be able to resurrect tribalism within “the proles”. Biden is quite specific in his account of Putin’s cruelty with rebels in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.
He also talks about infrastructure, and his work on improving natural gas lines and other critical infrastructure, some of which he says is made of wood. He does not seem to particularly oppose pipeline developments and on may economic and industrial policies he may have been more conservative than Obama. But he would have supported aggressive policy on climate change (picture above: damage in Florida keys from hurricane Irma, my visit).
But he also talks about the depth of the financial crisis of 2008, and of the need to make work pay better in relation to capital.
Toward the end, he talks about the sudden decision not to run against Hillary Clinton, and about his reservations about superfund money in the Democratic Party primaries.
Beau’s story also reminds me of the narrative of Lee Atwater, who collapsed at a speech in 1989.
Somehow, I wonder about the “originality” of books by established politicians, who have made their names for themselves before taking up the pen. Echo Hillary’s book.
Joe Biden (Beau Biden)
“Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose“
Flatiron books, hardcover (airport purchase) also Kindle, 264 pages
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” opens with a beating heart, encased in a chest cracked open like “The Lobster” (May 22, 2016). Then we see a surgeon take off his gloves and dispose of them. We see his sleek hands (a line later used a few times in the script written with Efthymis Flippou), and that at least his forearms are still softly haired, as if the ultimate future of infection control were not yet in place.
I’m introducing the latest quirky horror comedy (or satire) from Yorgos Lanthimos, and it has a plot concept that feints of ephebophilia, and then plays on male fetish obsessions that have been frankly significant in my own life to build a plot and a rather horrific and tragic climax.
The music score, with Schubert, Bach, and especially Lygeti, underlines the urgency for the characters, but maybe it could have added Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder (“Songs of the Death of Children”).
Stephen Murphy (Colin Farrell) is the heart surgeon and cardiologist in a Cincinnati hospital. (The city looks sharp in the film, especially in multiple scenes across the Ohio river from Covington, KY.) In his past, he once lost a patient at age 46 apparently during some routine bypass surgery. That deceased patient’s verbal teenage son, Martin (Barry Keoghan) starts showing up in Murphy’s life, mostly by self-invitation.
Murphy has built an impressive family in his palatial home, with wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and gender fluid son Bob (Sonny Suljic) and teen daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy). At first, the daughter teases Martin about his lack of body hair (some teens would normally have more) and Martin pretends to be ill and shows up at Murphy’s office for a physical. There is a scene with a stress test, with eight leads, where Martin asks what would happen if he were hairy, and Murphy admits he would have to be chest-shaved, and that it could take a little while to grow back. Murphy even gets into mention of “hormones” (reminding me of my own Ft. Eustis days). Martin even asks to see Murphy’s chest. There’s also, as I recall, an odd line about replacing a grabby metal wristwatch with leather. Martin acts as if he believed the world had some sort of fascist conspiracy to eliminate less desirable men (like the Nazis did) as if this could be eroticized. For a little while, the film has you wondering if indeed Murphy is falling into an illegal relationship with the teen boy.
But at midpoint, the film takes a surprising twist. Bob, and then Kim, develop a kind of guillain- barre syndrome, with intermittent and then persistent leg paralysis, when medical tests can find nothing wrong. In a particularly arresting scene Martin threatens Murphy by suggesting that he (Martin) is causing the syndrome with some supernatural curse.
I’m not sure that the conclusion, which involves some vengeful violence against Martin and then a lottery to find the “deer” is necessarily all that convincing. Some critics will say that Stephen gets his wish, to play god again. That’s a problem with setting up an erotic premise like this: it is hard to find somewhere to go.
Wiki picture of downtown Cincinnati. My visits: 1992, 2012.
Wiki picture of a Holter Monitor on a young adult male, underscoring Martin’s concerns.
Picture: Mt Vernon, Ohio, 2012, my trip.
Somehow the title and tone of this film reminds me of “The Killing of Sister George” (1968, Palomar, dir. Robert Aldrich, with Beryl Reid.) I;m also reminded of Judd Apatow’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005, Universal) with Steve Carell as hapless.
I do vaguely remember the 1990 version of “Flatiners”, but I was curious enough to see the 2017 remake by Niles Arden Oplev based on Peter Fliardi’s short story.
I could say Ellen Page (“Juno”) as Courtney can do better than that. As a pesky medical resident, she concocts the idea of breaking into a mysterious equipment room in the basement of a Toronto hospital with her colleagues, doing death penalty drugs (including popofol) to create a near death experience, then recording the brain wave hologram to make a movie of the NDE. She gets gullible colleagues to go along, including the Brit-looking Jamie (James Norton) and Marlo (Nina Dobrev). The dashing Ray (Diego Luna) refuses at first but comes down to save them, and joins the group.
It’s pretty predictable. The NDE’s are typical enough, but then ghosts from each doctor’s life comes back to haunt each one, based one each one’s karma. Marlo especially has a problem with falsifying the record of a patient who had died because of her mistake.
The basement reminds me of the secret dorm cellar room at William and Mary in 1961 where freshman tribunal hazings were held. I skipped out on them, which may have contributed to the anti-gay rumors and my expulsion. In the rituals, supposedly “they” shaved the boys legs in order to convey the idea of sacrificing individuality to join the group (“take one for the team”). That idea may be more relevant to the afterlife than what happens in this film.
Kiefer Sutherland is strict enough as Dr. Wolfson, who harasses the residents with their daily oral exams. Maybe he can ask them what a Weiss Ring is. I don’t think Jack Andraka’s medical school will be anything like this. I’d like to see a movie of “Breakthrough”.
Toronto at night doesn’t seem as effective a backdrop as NYC.
Nathan Barr’s chamber music score is effective, but the piano playing of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” by a ghost is a little trite. A Danzi quartet is also quoted.
“To the Bone”, written and directed by Marti Noxon, is a tough-to-watch and somewhat gratuitous drama about a young woman with anorexia nervosa.
Ellen (Lilly Collins) is referred to a therapist Dr. Beckham (Keanu Reeves) to an in-patient facility where, well, there are rules to make sure she eats and gains weight. That’s not until Bechkam has made an odd remark about the lanugo hair growing on her forearms as she tries to keep warm (as if women shouldn’t have that). At the dorm-like residence, there are rules. Bathrooms are locked for thirty minutes after meals (bulimia). Residents get points that allow them passes. Sounds like the Army. Or maybe being an inpatient at NIH in 1962 (when I was 19). But patients get around it with vomit bags hidden under their bags.
But Ellen starts developing a budding puppy live romance with dance student Luke (young British actor Alex Sharp) who seems far too intact to need to be in a place like this. He looks fine (he could use some more hair on his legs), and is quite sharp-tongued, with all his little metaphors.
But then, the movie needs to take us through her crash. A person like this needs to hit bottom to want to live at all. The film sets up a climax in the California desert where she camps out in a yurt and has a near-death experience with Luke.
The film sets up some camera shots of her back, where she is made to look like skin and bone. All unpleasant.
“The Transfiguration”, written and directed by Michael O’Shea, is by no means a glorification of an role model person. It is by no means the return of a youth, now a grown man, in summer shorts at a church service. It does not happen on a mountaintop.
No, it is an internal fantasy (maybe schizophrenia) of a character Milo (Eric Ruffin) who believes he is a vampire. He seems to have a compulsion to cut or attack people, and then vomit afterwards. He sees a therapist who says she cannot help him anymore. The therapy scene rather reminded me of James Holmes seeing his therapist before his 2012 rampage in Colorado.
The use of the same first name as provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos seems to be a total coincidence, even if unfortunate and maybe ironic. The character here is African-American, which seems to have been a casting choice out of desire for casting diversity. Otherwise it might even come across as pandering to racist stereotypes.
Milo deals with a brother who can no longer protect him (no bird, bro) and develops a relationship with another lost soul, Sofie (Chloe Levine), who is white. He lets her crash at his place, as if he had earned enough social capital to offer such informality.
The mid part of the film presents a gang execution shooting of a white teen that is particularly nasty.
The ending is a non-event, but it reminds me of how Nick Fallon went down on “Days of our Lives”. I thought that real vampires and their “victims” resurrect and live forever. Remember Neil Jordan’s “Interview with a Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” (1992, Geffen Pictures, Warner Brothers), based on the book by Ann Rice, with the love story between Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise’s immortal characters (it starts with a trick) and Christian Slater.
The film appears to be shot in Queens in NYC.
When I was as undergraduate at GW in the early 1960s, a friend (and teammate on the chess team) wrote his mandatory freshman English term paper on vampires.
As for the real Milo, I wonder if we will see a documentary film of “Dangerous“. Maybe I’d be interested.
When and how viewed:
Complimentary Vimeo screener 2017/8/3; DVD available for sale 2017/8/8
“Memories of an Penitent Heart” aired on Monday, July 31, 2017 on PBS Independent Cuts, slightly abridged from 69 minutes to about 55.
Filmmaker Cecilia Alarondo looks at the life story of her gay uncle Miguel, born in Puerto Rico, who would die of AIDS early in the 1980s.
Miguel would change his name to Michael and live a double life in New York City. For a while he stayed with a priest, who was OK with his being gay but who didn’t want to allow guests.
Miguel developed Kaposi’s Sarcoma, apparently conspicuously. Some doctors were afraid to treat him. The documentary does cover the attitudes during the early days of AIDS, where it was first called “Gay Related Immune Deficiency” (GRID) and even Wrath of God syndrome. Some people wanted all infected people or even all gay men quarantined. I remember those days of panic.
The film could be compared to the much larger film, “The Normal Heart”, from HBO, of Larry Kramer’s play, aired in 2014.
“Case 39”, directed by Christian Alvart and written by Ray Wright (apparently submitted by) turns out to be rather exploitive horror built on mental illness.
In Portland OR, social worker Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) visits the home of misbehaving Lilith (Jodelle ferland) for Child Protective Services, and believes she is abused. In the follow-up, the parents try to lock her into an oven (there is feint scene like that in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit” (2015). Lilith is taken into protective custody and the parents are sent to mental institutions. They used to sau “nothing to be ashamed of” in my own NIH days in 1962.
Emily takes care for Lilith and offers to raise her in her own home. That soon turns catastrophic. It seems that everyone with anything to do with Lilith develops schizophrenia and winds up fighting phantoms. There is a scene were therapist Doug (Bradley Cooper) believes he is chased by hornets and commits suicide, but not until we see Bradley’s manly chest.
I’m reminded of some other films, like the classic “Lilith” (1964) where a young Warren Beatty is gradually disrobed by an underage mental patient, as well as “The Bad Seed” (1956). I also recall Michaelangelo Antonioni’s “Zabriske Point”, where Daria Halprin gradually disrobes Mark Frechette. I saw that film twice, one of the few that I have.
The DVD has extras on the makeup for the horror film, which involved putting gel on the arms of an actress and setting her on fire. (“Turn up the Heat on the Chill Factor”). Other extras include “Inside the Hornet’s Nest” and “File Under Evil, Inside the 39”.
The film was distributed by Paramount Vantage. Paramount (like Warner Brothers) abandoned separately branding most of its independent films a few years ago.
Portland OR skyline (Wiki). Indoor scenes were shot in British Columbia.
“The Book of Henry”, directed by Colin Trevorrow and written by Gregg Hurwitz, is layered, in the sense that the plot is partially driven by the contents of a handwritten notebook authored by the charismatic Henry (think “Nocturnal Animals”) and it is also Biblical, in that the 12 year old Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is almost like a Christ figure (think Danny in “Judas Kiss”) who really could save us, so his book is like a Gospel.
Unfortunately, Henry has an unusual, opportunistic brain tumor. It starts with headaches, and a seizure, and he dies in his mother’s arms, looking at the sky. It’s a horrific tragedy. It is sudden, like Lee Atwater’s in 1989. Why would this happen. Was he born with HIV? His single mom (Naomi Watts) also has a younger son Peter (Jacob Tremblay, from “Room”) whom we also hope will grow up to be a genius.
Henry and Peter have built a tree house with all kinds of perpetual motion gadgets. Mom likes to play video games on TV, but the movie has the look of the early 90s (in upstate New York). Mom (Susan) works in a diner as a waitress even though it’s not clear she has to. (The source of the money is not quite clear.) She often covers for goofball comedian Sheila (Sarah Silverman).
There are twelve year old’s who understand the adult world. I’ve met a few in my life, as a substitute teacher, and at local churches. It’s gratifying to see the same 12 year old a decade ago at 22 today out of college. (Maybe the Washington Nationals could use him as a closer, but I’ll stop there.) But Henry won’t go to M.I.T., Stanford, or UNC. His days are numbered, and he knows it, and he has to take care of his family.
Henry talks fast, often in rich metaphors (“our legacy is not how many commas we have after our name”).
Henry has Jesus’s moral sense. Before his illness, he gets after his mom not intervening in an abusive situation in a supermarket. He says that if everybody minded just their own business, people who can’t take care of themselves would be left to die. Remember the parable of the Rich Young Ruler, who has too much to lose?
Henry, playing “Rear Window”, has spotted the possible abuse of a female classmate by her stepfather, a politically powerful police chief, through the window, in the next door house. He wants mom to intervene but he figures out that politically Child Protective Services won’t help. So his authored book provides the blueprint for what mom must do to stop the stepdad once Henry is gone.
Susan (the mom) puts her comic plan into action to trap the police chief while Sheila leads a talent show at the school. At the end, she burns the Book and the 80s-style minitapes. But the DVD for this movie will need to include a PDF of the Book, with all of Henry’s Da Vinci-like drawings. The Book itself needs ti be published.
The style of the movie is almost that of comedy, despite its tragic middle. The look of it reminds me of “Moonrise Kingdom”.
There is a NatGeo film “The Gospel of Judas” (2006).
The detailed analytical chronology “The Life and Death of ACT UP/LA: Anti-AIDS Activism in Los Angeles from the 1980s to the 2000s” certainly brings to my own mind the political struggles in Dallas, where I was living in the 1980s, as the epidemic reached my southern conservative city about a year or two after it had started to burn in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The author is Benita Roth, Professor of Sociology, History and Women’s Studies at Binghamton University (New York State).
I had moved to Dallas from New York City at the start of 1979 to start a new job, and the relocation may have saved my life. But by early 1983, after sensational media reports (like Geraldo Rivera’s on ABC 20.20), the right wing was proposing draconian extensions to the Texas sodomy law, HR2138, trying to ban gays from almost all occupations. There was a particularly vitriolic group, Dallas Doctors Against AIDS. The Dallas Gay Alliance (in the days of Bill Nelson and Terry Tebedo and the Crossroads Market on Cedar Springs) managed to keep the bill dying in committee. This is history that has been forgotten.
There was, in the national debate, over whether AIDS was primarily about “personal responsibility” and “behavior”, or whether it was about belonging to a marginalized group. Of course, it was both. But Dr. Roth’s book certainly focuses on left wing activism, based on solidarity and “intersectionality”.
I’m reminded of a sign in the recent Equality March for Pride and Unity in Washington DC. “Intersectional Resistance and Collective Liberation”. Intersectionality refers to the coming together of different groups (the “rainbow coalition” of the 90s, maybe) and the tensions that can occur about the nuances and priorities of the groups. For example, rural or inner-city African Americans (“people of color”), sometimes infected by needles and often heterosexually (especially male to female), don’t have the same perspective as urban white and economically independent cis gay males. Intersectionality is a big issue in the gay community today, as the role of not just transgender but “gender fluidity” seems emotionally disruptive to the values of the white cis gay males.
The author writes in meta mode, often telling the reader what she is going to cover, and what she has covered, as if she were teaching a course or graduate school seminar. She gives an almost biblical chronicle of ACT/UP in Los Angeles, the internal conflicts (which are a big deal for almost any activist), the role of women, the group disciplines (intersectionality and loyalty), the sometimes disastrous challenges to the power structures, then the winding down, as activists moved into other areas. She correlates it to a lot of other LA history, such as the Rodney King riots, and governor Pete Wilson’s often duplicitous behavior. She does discuss Ronald Reagan’s unwillingness to discuss AIDS at first, but I didn’t see that she covers Reagan’s previous opposition to the Briggs Initiative (concerning gay teachers) in 1978 when he was governor.
Benita emphasizes that HIV has affected women at a higher rate than most people realize, and the percentage of patients who are female and infected heterosexually continues to rise. It still seems to be a mystery today if this was completely the case in Africa in the early 1980s, although the presence of other STD’s would facilitate heterosexual transmission. She does discuss protease inhibitors and PrEP, but seems to assume that normal health insurance should always cover them. With the GOP rewriting health care now, this coverage for many gay men (MSM) would seem to be at grave risk. She also notes that the use of PrEP might have the unintended effect of making men complacent about condom use.
She makes the interesting observation that in the 1980s people tended to look at volunteering to help PWA’s as a kind of “activism”. I encountered that view in a 1986 visit to Robert Schuler’s Crystal Cathedral in Anaheim. People would move in and out of volunteering and paid jobs in caregiving, as at hospices, as if that were political behavior.
The author sometimes does cover the existential political threat that AIDS seemed to create to the male gay community. I remember the night in 1984 that “they closed the baths in San Francisco.” But the effort to close them in Los Angeles was met with resistance, a fear that they could lead to closing of bars and any meeting places (like in Nigeria today).
Her discussion of the blowup at the 1992 GOP convention reminds me of Barbara Bush’s speech on family values. “You don’t have to be married,” she said, “but if you have children, they have to become the first priority in your life.” But in practice, the right wing wants to make a moral case against childlessness, citing population demographics.
She also discusses “CNN” (“Clean Needles Now”). I’m reminded of now VP Mike Pence’s idea in 2000 that you could control AIDS with conversion therapy.
“The Life and Death of ACT UP/LA; Anti-AIDS Activism in Los Angeles from the 1980s to the 2000s”
Cambridge University Press, 249 pages, paper, indexed, appendix; 7 chapters; detailed TOC; complimentary paper copy provided to me for review