“Ruben’s Place”: a gay teen’s entrepreneurial talent in rural Montana saves everyone around him

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Ruben’s Place” (2012, 71 minutes), by Sam Vasquez, is a tender coming-of-age story where a gay teen Ruben (Dawson Montoya) has returned home to Alviso, MT to care for his widower alcoholic father (David Louis Klein) and is reunited with his now nearly homeless boyhood friend Jimmy (Jason Lieu).

In the opening scene the father calls his brother “Uncle Vic” (Ray Renaldi) to set up Ruben with a job in Vic’s warehouse, and he also tries to recommend a “virgin” girl friend.  You can imagine where this could be headed.  Vic warns Ruben about long hours and manual labor (like my own father used to talk about “learning to work”).

But Vic, with a prison record, has his own problems.  In a short time, Ruben is running the whole business himself. That’s because he is smart and emotionally stable enough to do all the right things.  The warehouse would probably fail he hadn’t gone to work there.

Jimmy, who looks Native American and is unusually tall, shows up, and soon Ruben plays his entrepreneurial card, hiring Jimmy and paying him out of his own salary, but that helps business get better.  So we have a libertarian-to-right-wing gay film, which is rather unusual in the literature.  The plot almost follows the logic of Mary Ruwart’s “Healing Our World” series.

Jimmy has a natural talent for drawing, and has accumulated a collection of artwork depictions of local landmarks.  The plot heads toward an art exhibition and the sale of the property to become an art museum.

What I really liked about this film is its individualism, it’s evolution of human rights without putting people into groups and categories first (like the Left wants to do).  Ruben’s charisma is consistent throughout the film, making him seem larger than life at all times.  How does such an outstanding person emerge from such an impoverished environment where so many grownups crash?  Is it genetics?  (He is cognitively a lot smarter, for one thing.)  A curious sidelight is that when Mom died suddenly, she was cremated but there was no funeral service.

The volume of the voices in the film is quite low, and the filmmaker recommends earphones.  I was not aware that some filmmakers keep volume low for YouTube for headphone use.  The YouTube version has subtitles, and there is a Vimeo copy that does not.

Montana scene typical of the film.  I was last there in 1998.

With my own pictures. Nevada is as close as I can get.

Name:  “Ruben’s Place”
Director, writer:  Sam Vasquez
Released:  2012
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  YouTube 2018/1/17; Vimeo also available
Length:  71
Rating:  NA (should be PG-13; there are no very explicit scenes)
Companies:  Stagelight
Link:  NA

Posted: Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 7:30 PM EDT

“Ukeire”: gay melodrama set in Appalachia takes religious homophobia to a precipice

Ukeire” (2015), is a disturbing small “real indie” film about religiously driven homophobia by J. J. O’Hearn based on his own short story, which might seem set up and contrived.  But the message of this film, which is somewhat stilted in acting and excruciating at times to watch, does indeed unfold in some light sheets or layers.  The title means “acceptance” in Japanese.  I would wonder if Reid Ewing, with his interest in Japan and Danganronpa and Japanese culture, has watched this.

A teenager, Brennan Akitsuki O’Dorcay (Pate Faulkner) has taken the bus from California back to his old hometown of Corbin, Kentucky, in the mountains near Cumberland Gap (which I visited in 2016, my photo above). We’re he lost family members to a house fire and then a murder in San Francisco and later Fresno.  Child Protective Services escorts him to his single dad’s (Brady, played by David Bingham) home, which seems rather nicely furnished physically. Brady somewhat reluctantly takes him in.   Brennan apparently has partly Japanese ancestry, although that’s not really obvious from his looks.

Then Brennan is enrolled in the local high school.  It seems sparsely staffed (is this really how it is, or a matter of the film’s budget) – teachers double up as assistant principals.   He quickly meets a best friend  Aidan (Austin Call) who seems like an intellectually and socially secure person in a poor environment – maybe even gifted. But the other kids seem tribal and lethargic, and homophobic, as we find out.  Two girls beat up Brennan for dressing and looking like a “fag” (or maybe a “gook” even).

The young male English teacher Mr. James Wilson (James Lanham) assigns the small class an assignment of rewriting a scene from either “Romeo and Juliet” or “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in modern context (with FinalDraft?) and acting it in class.  (Why not try, “The Tempest“?  Saw it on an arena stage in Dallas in the 80s and the young male sirens were appropriately polished.)  Brennan gets paired with Aidan, who is trying to help him adjust. Lanham’s voice and delivery reminds me of math teacher and whiz Deven Ware from AOPS at UCLA (on YouTube). I wondered if Deven could have been cast for this role!

After the beating, Brennan tells both Wilson and Aidan that he is gay.  The staff seems mildly supportive but not willing to do much to stop other students from bullying. Aidan is more supportive, and seems genuinely, maybe profoundly gifted and ready to go onto great things himself. Brennan decides to tell dad that he is gay, and slips it in to a dinner conversation. The father explodes, beats up Brennan, who runs out into the woods. Later Aiden finds him having slashed his wrists. It’s too late to save his life at the hospital.

Maybe the film means a parallel to a Shakespeare as a tragedy, although it’s not really a fit.  Brennan appears as a ghost from heaven a few times, as if it were a real place for the next life. Personally, I think the afterlife is a lot more fragmentary than that, but I won’t get into the Monroe Institute theories here. The dad explodes at the funeral again with rhetoric that sounds like the Westboro Baptist Church (“GHF”), complete with burning in hell.  But when he meets his son’s ghost near the coffin, he realizes how wrong he is and become profusely apologetic, as his whole concept of what is in the Bible must turn on its head.

There are other ways to interpret the suicide issue.  It could be seen as the person’s desire to punish those who taunted him, to say that the world is unworthy of being lived in.  So it might be seen as arrogant or even cowardly. Indeed many Christians believe that suicide means forfeiture of heaven and damnation instead. But what if gross harm is inflicted by a criminal or a foreign enemy.  What if someone is exposed to radiation by a terrorist or nuclear blast and decides to jump off a building to avoid dying of radiation sickness?  Or to avoid survival in a world, however changed by force by an enemy, in which he no longer fits in?

We could imagine a film whether the father commits suicide instead.  The father may be in the position of Job, so to speak. Much of his family has been taken away from him by disaster or violence perpetrated by others. Now his only son informs him, effectively, that he will never have any more lineage.

One, for comparison, could read the New Yorker article by Ian Parker, “The Story of a Suicide”, about 18 year old violinist and Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, in September 2010, three months before my own mother’s natural passing.

The film stays within PG-13 territory and has no explicit scenes.

The photography and lighting look sharp.  The music score seems trite and repetitious, however.

This might be a good film for Reel Affirmations (DC) to look at for an HRC showing. It would be nice if an innovative distributor like A24 took an interest in this film.

Corbin, KY photo (wiki).

Name:  “Ukeire
Director, writer:  J. J. O’Hearne
Released:  2015
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  YouTube free, 2018/1/6
Length:  82
Rating:  NA (seems PG-13)
Companies:  self-distributed as far as I know, Emerald Shamrock Studios
Link:  imdb

(Posted: Monday, January 8, 2018 at 1:30 PM EST)

“The Life and Times of Jumper Maybach: A Pilgrimage to End Hate, Bullying and Intolerance”, guest post

Guest post by Joey Amato and Relevant Communications, “The Life and Times of Jumper Maybach: A Pilgrimage to End Hate, Bullying and Intolerance”.

Ben Workman, aka Jumper Maybach, was born in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1963. He knew something special had taken place when his grandfather applied a white face on him the first time. It was then within an instant that Jumper was born.

Jumper’s grandfather served as a volunteer clown within various charity organizations for 25 years and at the time of his death in 1977, at the age of 84, he served as the official clown for the Corpus Christi State School. The young Jumper moved to Houston, Texas in 1977 with his family and embarked on various learning studies that have contributed to the diversity in his paintings.  However, it wasn’t until a religious experience during a painful time in his life enabled his vision to fully take shape. “This is the part that a lot of people wrote me off as crazy,” states Jumper. “I was being sexually harassed at work and was at a really low point in my life. One afternoon I went into a deep meditative prayer and that’s when what I call a ‘spark’ rushed into me that raised up Jumper. I truly believe God was talking to me and directing me in the mission through my art. I never painted before that spark.”

Jumper believes it is a person’s traumas that define an individual. He releases his joys and pain into the art and becomes the storyteller of the creations. Jumper’s techniques are self-taught through intense experimentation leading to an end result which is truly unique and representative of the artist. It’s about understanding love, peace and the transformation of an individual.

“Please forgive me if I talk about Jumper as a separate entity within me but that is the case. I have learned to accept the ridicule from almost everyone,” he jokes. “When Jumper began his painting, it began from a vision which he titled ‘Alien in the Box’.  It was a story of Jumper in the circus and helping children understand they are loved unconditionally.  Jumper’s painting evolved rapidly from childlike to the amazing abstracts he is known for today.”

Jumper’s art is a constant evolution of color and complete abandonment of the paint. It is an unplanned performance that creates the extraordinary works. The complexity within Jumper’s art comes from within. Jumper is unashamed to teach the world a lesson in compassion. His art is a beacon for ending hate, bullying, and intolerance in the world.

Not long after Jumper began his career as an artist, he started to receive national and international recognition for his work. In 2013, Jumper held his first gallery show, which ultimately led to an exhibition at Art Dubai. It was there that Jumper received a documentary film deal and was dubbed the Jackson Pollock of the 21st century.

“I was told by the Minister of Arts and Culture, ‘you’re the 21st Century Jackson Pollock with a lot of color.’  I was intrigued by the statement and a friend gave me a copy of Pollock’s documentary when I returned home. I viewed the film and was amazed at Pollock’s talents. I’m honored to be compared to Pollock,” recalls Jumper.

Shortly after Art Dubai, Jumper had the opportunity to present 39 pieces of art in Venice, Italy.  Another career highlight occurred when Jumper was invited to exhibit his art at the Galerie Du Louvre. “I made a series specifically for Paris. It was a great honor to have my art in the Louvre. It all seems so surreal.”

Jumper appreciates the opportunities he has been given and takes time to give back to multiple LGBTQ organizations around the country through both financial and artistic contributions. He and his partner David actively support GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, AIDS Foundation Houston, The Montrose Center, Houston Gay Pride and the Trevor Project in addition to other local and national charities.

Jumper believes one of the largest challenges facing the LGBTQ community is the community itself. “We can’t fight intolerance and bullying when we play along with the bigots. I know so many LGBTQ friends who are out in our “safe” community but at their workplace they play “straight”. This is a cause for alarm. When you can’t live a free healthy life at work, then you’re in an unsafe work environment.”

He goes on to explain that this form of environment creates an atmosphere for bullies. “If you discover your environment as unsafe after coming out, then sue or leave. I must say, see my documentary “The Jumper Maybach Story” to understand what being outed can lead to. I personally chose to stay and fight. If we all did this, change would occur. It takes tremendous strength and courage to fight bullies.”

Jumper also offers words of encouragement to other developing artists. “LGBTQ artists should be free to be themselves. Art is a very personal experience. A great artist knows why they create their art. Sometimes the art is created from severe personal pain and at other times, it could be happiness.  I would urge artists to reach deep within and discover that reason.  If they can’t discover that reason, then their art will never make it to greatness. Art is not easy. It’s a gift from your soul.”

In the next decade, Jumper would like to actively pursue his mission of ending hate, bullying and intolerance through art. “I want my art to cause the viewer to step back and realize why Jumper created it. If it causes the viewer to take a breath and let Love enter their heart, then Jumper has fulfilled his mission.”

To learn more about Jumper Maybach, visit www.jumpermaybach.com.

Imdb link for “The Jumper Maybach Story“.

(Posted: Thursday, January 4, 2018 at 11:30 AM EST)

“The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”: biography of a gay “real writer”

The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”, directed by Jennifer M. Kroot, aired on PBS Independent Lens New Years Day, and in parallels yesterday’s film about Joan Didion as another biography of a “real” career writer.  Why does the title remind me of Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Tanglewood Tales” (and even “Twice-Told Tales“), and American literature in 11th grade English?

Armistead grew up around Raleigh, North Carolina in the shadow of conservative senator Jesse Helms.  He first learned southern plantation values, including saying “ma’am” and “sir” (something I found degrading before my own Army days) and a certain embed of segregationism.  He then worked as a journalist in Charleston S.C.  But his life changed when he got a job with the Associated Press in San Francisco in 1971 and personally discovered Castro Street.  He was born one year later than me, and his “coming out” occurred at about the same time as mine (Chapter 3 of my 1997 “Do Ask, Do Tell” I book).

He soon got an opportunity to write a series about San Francisco, “Tales of the City”, for a Marin County paper.  Eventually the series wound up being published by the San Francisco Chronicle. The series would morph into a series of novels, with situations involving both gay and straight characters, sometimes the boundaries of the straight world being breached, perhaps by bisexuality.

Armistead would meet Rock Hudson and eventually out him, when Rock was diagnosed with AIDS in the mid 1980s (and died). Gradually, the idea that some major Hollywood staples are gay would become evident.  Armistead would become involved with the gradual inclusion of gay material in mainstream television, and even its funding by PBS, which would enrage social conservatives over “family values”.

Armistead wrote his “Tales” at work on a typewriter.  In those days, that is more how writers actually worked (as in the Didion film).

I came to writing a totally different way, as I had an income-producing career in information technology.  So I wrote from my own narrative what I thought had to be said.  I may have been ego-centric or deluded, but when I was in the Army I thought my 1960 cursive diary “The Proles” (also DADT III Chap 7) was the most important expose in the world, even if it was my own world (of “chicken man”).

Castro district in San Francisco (wiki).  My most recent visit: Not since February 2002.  Need to get there again.  I remember going to a poetry reading at the bookstore (Dog Eared Books) shown in the film.

Name:  “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”
Director, writer:  Jennifer M. Kroot
Released:  2017/3
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  PBS 2018/1/1, 10:30 PM
Length:  90
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS
Link:  PBS

(Posted: Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 11:30 AM EST)

“Tom of Finland”: biopic of the artist who created leather culture

Dome Karukoski’s film “Tom of Finland” is a workmanlike biography of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonone, better known as the movie title.  Touko is credited with creating the artistic basis of the gay male leather community and of cis-male “muscle culture” within the gay community.

“Tom” (played by Pekka Strang) was born in 1920 and his first major life event was his experience in the Winter War between Russia and Finland (the 1998 film “Ambush”) where he served as an artillery or anti-aircraft officer and had a male relationship or two.  This, of course, would feed into the past debate on gays in the military.

Once in civilian life he pursued his artistic career of erotic drawings, which could attract hostility. He gets arrested, supposedly for not paying a hotel bill in Germany, and later finds private parties subject to police raids.  Finland is indeed one of the world’s most progressive countries today, but it was not so in the early 1950s.  There is a scene where Tom meets his old friend from the Russo war, and the friend wants conversion therapy so that he can have children!

Toulo gradually established a business of publishing “muscle magazines” in the US through contacts in California.  Explicit gay photos could not be published until a 1962 Supreme Court ruling that they were not obscene. I definitely remember the way muscle magazines provided a covert fantasy outlet for gay men back in the 1960s.

The film has a few nice shots of the lake areas in Finland;  some of the southern California sequences seem to have been shot in Spain.

The film is in German and Finnish, and sometimes English.  Despite the mysterious Asiatic origins of the language, the people look similar to those in the rest of Scandinavia.

Here are a couple of films for comparison: “Interior, Leather Bar” (2014, directed by James Franco) (legacy review); “Age of Consent” (2015, about “The Hoist”, review), and “Kink Crusaders” (2011, review).

This may be good place to mention a mysterious assassination in the town of Imatra, Finland, near the Russian border, in 2016, with a scandal that sounds like Russia’s “Pizzagate”.  This incident could turn out to have more serious implications if Vladimir Putin has aspirations in the Baltics and later Finland in the future.

Finland map (Russo-Finnish war)

Helsinki

Finnish lakes

Name:  “Tom of Finland”
Director, writer:  Dome Karuloski, Aleksi Bardy
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Landmark West End, Washington DC, 2017/12/30
Length:  115
Rating:  R
Companies:  Kino Lorber
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2017 at 12 noon)

 

“Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin”: 2003 biographical documentary covers activist who connected many issues

A few years ago, Human Rights Campaign (HTC) gave away copies of a DVD for the 2003 PBS POV film “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin”, a biography   I overlooked it, and discovered it while packing to move from house to condo this fall in my own personal “downsizing”.

The 84 minute documentary is directed by Bennett Singer and Nancy Kates. It features a lot of black and white newsreel footage in small aspect, as well as interviews with two of Rustin’s male partners and also Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Rustin is perhaps best known for working with Dr. Martin Luther King on various events including the 1963 March on Washington, as a covert gay man.  But his life spanned many issues, moving from communism to anti-communism, working with labor unions to get them up to speed on civil rights, draft resistance, and only later in life openness about homosexuality. The film ends with some coverage of the 1987 LGB march on Washington;  the 1993 LGB march was larger and better known (I attended it) and covered heavily by writers like Andrew Sullivan.

Throughout his life, the FBI closely monitored him.  He served prison time for resisting the WWII draft, and wrote to his male partner from prison as if his partner was a woman. He had at one time joined the Young Communist League (in 1936) but after the US entered WWII the communists dropped their interest in race relations.  Ironically, later, he would push for racial integration of the military, which Truman achieved in 1948.

Later in life, he would be busted for public sex in Pasadena CA in 1953, and the history of a “morals charge” would be used in rhetoric against him, as by Senator Strom Thurmond (whom we know emphatically opposed lifting the ban on gays in the military in 1993, with his “it isn’t normal” rant in a public assembly in Norfolk right in front of Tracey Thorne.)

Later in his life, Rustin became anti-communist and supported US involvement in Vietnam but criticized many of the specific actions taken by the military. The film does cover the issue of identity politics and intersectionality as Rustin experienced it in earlier generations.  He created controversy as to whether is involvement with labor issues and later Vietnam represented the best interest of “his own people”, African-Americans.  He believed that African-Americans (called “negroes” in the 1960s when I was coming of age) needed to accept that technology would affect the labor market for everyone.  Heliked to use the phrase “angelic troublemakers”.

Name:  “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin
Director, writer:  Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer
Released:  2003
Format:  1.85:1  (often 1:37:1), often BW
When and how viewed:  DVD giveaway from HRC, 2017/12/27
Length:  84
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Question Why, PBS POV
Link:  PBS

(Posted: Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017 at

“Santa and Andres”: a peasant girl watches a banished writer in Castro’s Cuba, to protect the “revolution”

Santa and Andres”, directed by Carlos Lechuga (based on a story by Eliseo Altunaga), is a bizarre and oddly intimate drama with a stark political warning: communism is deeply hostile to homosexuality and to independent speech.

The setup sounds unpretentious and unpromising. In 1983 in Fidel Castro’s Cuba, a revolutionary peasant girl (Lola Amores) is assigned to watch an exiled gay writer Andres (Eduardo Martinez) in a remote hut conveniently, it turns out, in both mountains and near the shore. Some public event is supposed to go on nearby.

The film starts out in Spanish with a summary of Castro’s purges not only of gay people but of intellectuals in general.  One logically wonders, if his regime is so vulnerable to the books or articles of a few writers, why isn’t that an admission of weakness and illegitimacy?  But of course, the point of this kind of authoritarian is to force everyone to be the same so that everyone has an equal chance to survive, or so that no one can stand off at a distance and benefit from the labor of others.  By that kind of thinking, I wouldn’t be allowed to write and publish on my own without demonstrating some kind of community engagement.  Long term, I see this idea as a real threat today.

We can add a perspective with modern post-Communist Russia, where Putin fears that open speech accepting homosexuality will allow less competitive males to believe there is no point in having their own children and families, in a country with an underpopulation problem and demographic winter.

Andres claims he hasn’t written a word in years, and was banished after writing a book (like my “do ask do tell”) that the government didn’t like.  His mute nephew-boyfriend (?) (Cesar Dominguez), after putting him in a nearby infirmary with a stab wound, turns him in to authorities for having started a ew book.  Andres denies it.  The authorities will come to search his house and throw eggs on him for being queer and, therefore, counter-revolutionary.

So, will any redeeming chemistry come in his relationship with Santa?  Is the new book real?  Why are authorities so concerned about a half-finished handwritten manuscript (rather like my 1969 effort “The Proles” during the time I was in the Army)?

The end reminds me of the Mariel Boatlift (which occurred 3 years before), which resulted in calls for personal hosting of Cuban refugees by the LGBT community in southern cities in late 1980, well before the AIDS crisis would become known.

The film makes Castro’s Cuba look bad, approaching Kim Jong Un’s North Korea (which makes much more show today, but Castro gave us the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962).

The film was actually shot in Colombia.

A good comparison might be “Before Night Falls” (2000), by Julian Schnabel, with Xavier Bardem as Cuban poet and novelist Reynaldo Arenas (Fine Line Features) (legacy review).

Small business in Havana (wiki)

Mariel Boatlift refugee center in Miami (wiki)

Name:  “Santa & Andres
Director, writer:  Carlos Lechuga, Eliseo Altunaga (story)
Released: 2016
Format:  1.85:1  in Spanish, subtitles
When and how viewed:  sample review DVD from distributor, 2017/12/23
Length:  105
Rating:  NA  (R)
Companies:  Breaking Glass Pictures
Link: official  

(Posted: Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 8 PM EST)

“Call Me by Your Name”: a charismatic gay teen and an “adult” writer: coming of age story uplifts but leaves troubling questions

Call Me by Your Name” is a gay love story, about a precocious teen and a 30-ish mature writer. The relationship develops gradually over a summer in Tuscany, and according to the novel by Andre Aciman, as adapted to the screen by James Ivory and director Luca Guadagnino, the tension and “suspense” keep up, too.  It’s harder to do this with a relationship over even several months than something that evolves over a short time like a weekend, as in my story “The Ocelot the Way We Is”, which happens over a weekend in the woods and is interrupted at the end with external catastrophe.  There is a sense of possible ruin here, too, but I’ll come back to that.

Oliver, played by Armie Hammer (one of the bitcoin “Winklevii” from “The Social Network” where he played both twins) arrives for the summer and stays in the home of antiquities professor Perlman (Michael Sthulbarg) almost in Airbnb style. The teenager Elio (Tomothee Chalamet) in fact yields his room to the guest and stays in a connecting room. The host family is Jewish, which the script makes something of but it really doesn’t affect the story.

But Elio is no ordinary teen. He is verbal and well-read, plays concert-level piano (like Nolan in my story) and transcribes piano pieces.  Presumably he composes also. He is particularly interested in his games with a Bach chorale which he transcribes in successive stages as if Liszt, Busoni, and even Poulenc might have treated it.  The soundtrack has piano music of a number of composers including Satie, Ravel, and John Adams.  Chalamet plays the music himself (except some of it sounds like two pianos.) The music credits rolled too fast, and I couldn’t note all the composers or composition names.  Much of the music was eclectic and impressionistic. (I did wonder about all the cigarette smoking, but that was more acceptable in the early 80s than it is now.)

Elio starts spending time biking into town with Oliver and, after Oliver notes his intellect, Elio confesses there is one thing he doesn’t “know”.  In fact, during the course of the film he gets laid heterosexually and seems to have been serious about girlfriends. But he also is starting to fall in love with Oliver.

Elio is 17, which in Italy would be over the age of consent.  Although the camera emphasizes the difference in ages, it is Elio who is a bit seductive and Oliver cautious. Were this to happen in the US where the age of consent is 18, there would indeed be a legal angle (which my controversial script “The Sub” raised when I was substitute teaching a decade ago).  Keep in mind that Elio is presented as extremely gifted and charismatic, almost as much as possible for any teen.  The film at one point shows a sign indicating the year of 1981, which was the first year that CDC reported AIDS, and you wonder at the end what might happen in the future, especially if Oliver had already been infected.  There is a curious scene in the middle of the film where Elio has a severe nosebleed, but that doesn’t go anywhere.  In the epilogue, Elio’s father actually becomes supportive of Elio’s direction in life, to come out.

Tuscany coast, Wiki .

Name:  “Call Me By Your Name”
Director, writer:  Luca Guadagnino, James Ivory, Andre Aciman
Released:  2017/12
Format:  1.85:1;  English, French, Italian, German; set in 1981 in Italy
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/12/20 late PM fair crowd
Length:  132
Rating:  R
Companies:  Sony Pictures Classics, Frenesy, Cinefacture
Link:  official 

The theater offered a 10-minute short before the show from Marriot’s “Storybooked” series about artist Paula Wilson, “Weaving Threads Between the Ancient and Contemporary”, filmed in the Andes in Peru, stressing barren landscapes with copper-red mountains as well as Inca ruins and weaved clothing.

(Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2017, at 10:30 PM EST)

Pamela Geller’s book “Fatwa” published by Milo

Most trade publishers declined to offer Pamela Geller’s brazen book, “Fatwa: Hunted in America”, and I rather agree, there may have been an element of fear in their declinations. So Milo Yiannopoulos made his little publishing company called “Dangerous Books” (founded after his own fallout with Simon and Schuster over the bad “rumors” about his own supposed advocacies last February) a multiple author one, and took up the project himself, publishing (Miami) her 251-page epistle, which includes endnotes but no index.

The book is not particularly polished and tends to be a bit repetitious, sometimes screed-like; Milo’s own writing skills seem superior to Pamela’s.  But she hits hard the point of drowning free speech with tribalism and intimidation, and the book needs attention.  The book includes a foreword by Geert Wilders, “the Dutch Donald Trump”, who, like Geller, was banned (in his case temporarily) from entering the UK purely out of fear that his presence would agitate violence.  Wilders writes quite succinctly that the Left has turned its head on its traditional causes (especially gay rights) to defend Muslims as a minority.

Pamela Geller is probably best known for her May 2015 “draw the prophet” contest, which was attempted at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas.  Having lived in Dallas myself from 1979-1988, I am familiar with the area, on the northeast side of the city, just north of I-635, to the east of the wealthier Richardson and Plano suburbs along 175.  Two extremists attempted to attack the gathering and were shot by security and police, and later killed by a swat team.  Geller only briefly mentions the 2010 “Everybody draw Muhammad Day” organized by Molly Norris, which resulted in her disappearance into hiding in something like a witness-protection program (CNN).  The Norris narrative really would justify the title of the book (as well as reminding me of the 2006 Lifetime movie “Family in Hiding”).  Of course, Norris followed on the Jyllands-Posten Cartoon Controversy in Denmark .  That would culminate in the terror attack and assassinations at Charlie Heebdo in January 2015 in Paris (and generate the documentary film “Je Suis Charlie”).   The book includes an inset of colored photos, including a copyrighted image of Bosch Fawstin’s winning cartoon in the “AFDI Muhammed Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest”.  The Danish controversy has inspired other books, such as Flemming Rose (now at Cato), “The Tyranny of Silence“, which examine the problem of religious combativeness to silence speech. Let us also remember Bruce Bawer’s earlier “While Europe Slept“, which had covered the assassination in Amsterdam of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh for the short film “Submission“.

Geller does cover in detail the radical Islamist idea that non-Muslims cannot be allowed to draw the Prophet (as Muslims cannot) and points out that no other major religion enforces this kind of idea.  The Mormon church did not react violently to the popular Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon”.  Judeo-Chrisitianity has never embraced such demands even though the Old Testament is filled with concerns over “idol worship” which seemed quite important to me as a child.  Geller sometimes tries to have it both ways, seeming to imply that she sees all Islam as a political entity (seeking political control “for its own sake” of the world, like fascism and communism) rather than just a religious movement. In other places she faults moderate Muslims who simply practice a “personal” faith as not calling out the extremists in the faith (and evangelical Christianity has its own share of violent extremists – in the US sometimes connected to White supremacists, as we all learned from Charlottesville).

But it is the free speech idea toward the end of the book that hits the hardest.  Her writing comes to a head at the top of p. 126 when she (in a section about the cartoon ads), writes, “We cannot submit to the assassin’s veto”.  Indeed. If a person gives in to that, he is nothing (other than someone else’s pawn or prole) and becomes personally dishonored.  But then what about his family?  This is “alternative morality”, like “alternative facts”?  A lot of people don’t get the fracture in our culture over individualism v. tribal loyalty.

Later she will describe the DDOS attack on her own original blog (“Atlas Shrugs”) so severe that her hosting provider dropped her. She reinvented her web presence with the “Pam Geller Report” (link in table below).  Geller accuses big tech companies of colluding to protect themselves from radical vetoes by taking down hate speech – and indeed we saw this with the way Daily Stormer (however extreme in the white supremacy area) got knocked off the web by private companies, as did some Airbnb accounts, after the Charlottesville riots – but this had little or nothing to do with Islam.  She then presents her lawsuit attacking Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act (the so-called “Communications Decency Act”, the censorship portions of which were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997). She complains that Section 230 allows big private tech companies to censor (anti-Islamist) content out of fear and intimidation. But in a broader view, Section 230 is part of the legal landscape that allows user generated content on the Internet to flourish because by and large, hosting companies and service providers are protected from most downstream liability for what users do. (The Backpage (sex trafficking) controversy and proposed legislation could present a serious challenge to 230’s effectiveness, but the whole idea of “knowingly”, as with child pornography, would seem to be a critical concept).   Section 230 does allow service providers some discretion in monitoring content to comply with their own terms of service.

Geller is right, however, that the Left as a whole is becoming strident in shutting down speech that the Left believes “legitimizes” certain groups, like neo-Nazis, on the theory that even “meta-speech” from those not directly affected becomes viewed as a kind of incitement (related to what I have called “The Privilege of Being Listened to” elsewhere).  I am concerned myself about this idea.  Could “community engagement” be required to accompany the speech?

Geller covers a lot of other issues, including the banning of “all political ads” by transit systems supposedly because of protests of hers.  That’s true:  I can’t buy an ad for “Do Ask Do Tell” on the DC Metro because it would be viewed as “political advocacy”.  She covers her battles in San Francisco and New York.  San Francisco is particularly in a bind as a “ gay” city.  She points out that in Iran, homosexuals are required to go trans and have sexual reassignment surgery (I had never heard that before).  She is critical of some well-known organizations (CAIR, Council on American-Islamic Relations, not to be confused with the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition) and the Southern Poverty Law Center. . She describes her opposition to the Park51 Islamic Center near the World Trade Center site in New York.  She claims that stores enforce Halal standards for meat against non-Muslims.

She also promotes her American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI)   At the end of the book, she makes a plea to join her cause collectively. She ends with “I am one person. So are you. Together we are an army”.

Wiki picture of Chris Culwell Center in Garland, Texas.

Author: Pamela Geller
Title, Subtitle: “Fatwa: Hunted in America”
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-1947979000
Publication: Dangerous Books (Miami), 251 pages, endnotes, hardcover, 11 Chapters, color photos, Foreword by Geert Wilders
Link: Author

(Posted: Wednesday, December 6 at 2 PM EST)

“After Louie”: An older gay man and former “ACT UP” activist remains sanctimonius about his wisdom around younger men he is attracted to


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.

The film could be appreciated in relation to “How to Survive a Plague” (2012) by David France.

Name:  “After Louie”
Director, writer:  Vincent Gagliostro, Anthony Johnston
Released:  2017/12
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  HRC Auditorium, 2017/12/1, full attendance
Length:  100
Rating:  NA
Companies:  (individually produced, no distributor named yet)
Link:  official

(Posted: Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 7:30 PM EST)