“The Greatest Showman”, directed by Michael Gracey with story by Jenny Bicks, is a musical that conveys the founding of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which ended operations in May 2017.
The central issue of the film is how an entrepreneur leveraged some people with disabilities and how the public reacted. The film seems to take some liberty with dates and years, as it appears to start during the Depression. In an early scene , P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) is laid off from a shipping company that goes under. He comes up with the idea of opening a museum with curiosities, including “freaks”.
At first, the idea seems offensive (and to make fun of intersexual people); but when the museum works and the performers seem emotionally bonded to the company, it seems uplifting. The “bearded lady” has one of the best songs, “This is me”. That’s what Chelsea Manning says, and I started wondering if the idea of a documentary about her would sell.
Barnum hires Philip Carlyle, played by Zac Efron, who brings back a little of Troy Bolton (“High School Musical”) but has the same kind of charisma and drive as Ruben in the previous film on this blog. At one point Barnum refers to him as his “Apprentice”, an obvious reference to Donald Trump.
The screenplay needs a crisis, and that comes from some of the public, that sees putting “defective people” as visible in public as immoral. One man sets the museum on fire in a riot, and Barnum loses everything, as the banks won’t continue to fund something that is a target of hostility. Carlyle is also injured with smoke inhalation and maybe burns.
But libertarianism comes to the rescue, as the performers become part owners of what emerges, the circus that we knew for so many years. Carlyle recovers fully.
There’s a subplot with Barnum’s wife (Michelle Williams) getting lightly jealous.
The music is by John Debney, with several lyricists. The songs give us a continuously happy lilt, which reminds me of the scores of some mashups of gay stuff on YouTube. The score also has some classical music, especially the overture to Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte”.
I can remember visiting a county fair in Vernon TX in 1984 with a “freak show”, and the performer would confront the visitors about their motives for looking.
“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.
When and how viewed:
YouTube 2018/1/17; Vimeo also available
NA (should be PG-13; there are no very explicit scenes)
“Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right”, a booklet (120 pages) by Angela Nagle, seems to attribute the rise of nationalist populism as a kind of sum-effect of the chaos on the Internet in the past ten years or so. As the author says in her last chapter title, it isn’t funny when the culture wars go offline.
I’m rather shocked at the meanness and bullying that happens on line, and the revenge and stalking; Melania Trump has said she wants to do something about it, even if it helped her husband get elected. The behavior reflects a certain cynicism and even nihilism, that the “system” is leaving a lot of “us” out, so we might as well rebel against civilized living.
Nagle’s presentation is non-sequential and rather random, so it is hard to follow an argument. But gradually she gets into the same territory covered by Milo Yiannopoulos in his book “Dangerous” (July 13). She gradually develops a comparison to Milo’s style of conservatism, which I would call hyper-meritocracy (a preoccupation with other people’s virtue and its visual evidence, and a cult of personal competitiveness) but not libertarianism and definitely not alt-right or fascism, and the older Par Buchanan type of conservatism evident in the 1980s with the “Moral Majority” crowd. She almost manages to make cis gay men as likely to prefer conservatism to the particularly constricting identity politics of the extreme Left. The alt-right has its own identity politics, with a different crowd. In the end, communism (or hyper socialism, Venezuelan style), fascism, and extreme nationalism (as Putin is verging on), and even theocracy (Islamo-fascism) all start to seem alike. They are all authoritarian, and easily morph out of excessive political concern over personal “right-sizing” and deservedness.
She manages to convey some interesting narratives, such as about the life of mass shooter Eliot Rodger and his manifesto “My Twisted World” (this 2014 Isla Vista case definitely made “manifesto” a bad word, but so did the luddite Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in the 1990s with his “Industrial Society and its Future” where he ranted about the imposition of socialization). She also gives a perspective on the hit film “Fight Club” (1999, Fox, directed David Fincher, with Ed Norton and Brad Pitt).
She also conveys pretty well just how far some people go into group identity belonging, especially on the radical Left. People have amputated their own limbs to “belong” to “people with disabilities”. She has the same horror at the staged anarchical violence at Milo’s events. She discusses “manosphere” as something sometimes disfigured by tattoos and wounds, something far removed from the cleaner fantasies of the 1960s when James Bond told us “what it means to be a man”, or when a perfected (except around red kryptonite) Clark Kent conveyed that on “Smallville” in the 00’s. (Tom Welling has gone downhill since then, sad to say.)
In the end, it seems like “populists” dislike “elites” who watch and criticize but don’t step up and swing and take the risks of getting beaned.
“Kept Boy” (2017), directed by George Bamber and written by David Ozanich, starts out as if it could be just a silly, facetious comedy about younger gay men living off of rich but aging sugar daddies in Tinseltown. Indeed, there are prior example-setters, like “The Houseboy” (2011) and “The Mudge Boy” (2007). But the film, however compact at 89 minutes, gets into other areas, international and scope, and turns serious and pertinent as it progresses.
Dennis Racine, played by British actor Jon Paul Phillips, dropped out of college in LA a decade ago and essentially became a houseboy of now 50-something TV producer Farleigh Nock (German actor Thure Reifenstein). Thure produces a reality TV show about fashion and interior decoration, and probably hasn’t taken “Blogtyrant’s” advice to heart on how he could increase his fan base and ratings by nice blogging. Having undergone angioplasty, he denies his health problems. He faces being cut off by investors, who like Nate Berkus better. (Nate’s show, which I liked, is no longer on, and Nate lost his male partner Fernando to the 2004 tsunami that hit Sri Lanka – a catastrophe depicted in the 2012 film “The Impossible”.) Complicating the question as to whether Thure can “afford” Dennis any more is the fact that Dennis approaches his 30th birthday. And another boyfriend Jasper (Greg Audino, who becomes the most likable character in the story) could take Dennis’s place.
Dennis may, in fact, be showing his age and preparing to go downhill fast. He smokes electronic cigarettes, which probably have nicotine. His body is just too smooth, especially in the legs.
The movie takes an interesting plot turn at midpoint (again, interesting from Hauge’s theories on how all good screenplays are structured) as the characters visit the coastal resort city of Cartagena, Colombia. They run into a closeted gay drug lord who creates some complications in protecting his own empire. If you look at a map, you see that Cartagena is not too far from Venezuela, and is facing bigtime refugee and asylum issues, brought on by Communism. Maybe another movie? A friend of mine visited Cartagena last year, before his very recent passing as I learned about from Facebook. I’m also reminded of the 2001 film “Collateral Damage” whose release was held up by 9/11.
The DVD will be available August 8, 2017 from Breaking Glass Pictures (theatrical was TLA). Expect more than just the usual happy ending; tragedy happens. There’s a lot more material under the covers that one could explore. I can remember once being counseled (at the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s) that I ought to be open to being sponged off of.
I had to read “Dangerous”, by provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos (aka Milo Hanrahan, aka Milo Andreas Wagner as a previous pen name) off my Kindle. The first print run (apparently 100,000(?) copies, self-published under the trademark “Dangerous Books”) sold out before Amazon could ship to me, so I forked out an additional $2.99 to get it now. I hope others will buy my “Do Ask, Do Tell” series on Kindle. In the meantime, I’ll just wait for my hardcover copy when it gets printed in a second run.
OK, I’m getting ahead of myself already. There is a lot of commonality between what Milo says and what I say in three books, even if the organization and expressive style is very different. But this is almost like a “Do Ask, Do Tell V” book (the first three are mine, and then a sketched out a IV online in 2016 here).
Remember, Simon and Schuster had cancelled trade publication of his book after the “scandal” Feb. 20 over supposed advocacy of “pedophilia.” In fact, the correct term is probably ephebophilia, or perhaps hebephilia. There is a curious parallel to an incident in my life regarding Google-finding materials on my own website when I was working as a substitute teacher in late 2005, which I’ve discussed on these blogs before. The new version of this book contains Milo’s explanation of this matter in the introduction. I am certainly convinced that Milo said or did nothing to suggest approval of illegal sexual activities with minors, although the age of consent varies among western countries and even among states in the U.S. (and in some states, like California, it is still as high as 18).
I didn’t find a table of contents on the Kindle, so it’s a little clumsy to verify, but there seem to be twelve chapters. The first ten are based on “Why (Identity Group n) Hates Me”. The last two are based on who does like his message (like GamerGate).
This may seem like a self-indulgent way of presenting one’s argument. I am reminded of how Gustav Mahler titled each of the last five movements if his massive Symphony #3 “What (X) Tells Me”. I’m also reminded of Pastor Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life” (2002), where the minister argues “It’s not about you.” But for Milo it is. But given the history of violent reactions of foreign-organized protestors at some of Milo’s events (his “Dangerous Faggot” tours), which he discusses toward the end of the book, it seems appropriate.
I’d like to note the comparison of they way Milo organizes his material to how I did I started the first DADT book with an autobiographical narrative, in time sequence filled with ironies, motivated by the debate on gays in the military and how it had intersected into my life. Then I switched over to topical discussion as my issues fanned out. The second book was a series of topical essays, focused mostly on two themes: a “Bill of Rights II” in the context of 9/11. Book 3 reiterated the autobiographical narrative and added some topical fiction pieces. But, yes, a lot of this was “about me”. But my scope was always expanding into more areas.
So, I’ve always been concerned with the central question, of how someone who is “different” aka “special” should behave in the face of collective social pressures (to conform to the norms of the peer group and to “carry one’s weight” or share of the common risk). That concern can be discerned from Milo’s material. My driving and organizing principle was “personal responsibility” but I had to constantly enlarge upon what that means. It involves a lot more than facing the direct consequences of one’s choices. Dealing with stuff that happens “to me” has to start with “me” (so, it matters if people “hate” me). But I realize this can become “dangerous” (Milo’s wordmark) if overdone, and invite political authoritarianism, which is exactly what is testing America and western Europe right now. So, in a broader sense, “the people” matters too. My father always used to say, “The majority has rights, too.”
The end result is that Milo’s book, if moderate in length, seems monumental. In reviewing his list of “enemies” (and, by the way, I was told in my college years that “you have a tendency to make enemies”) he covers a wide range of important incidents.
The list of people he encounters comes across like Chaucer characters (indeed “A Canterbury Tale” is one of my own favorite classic films). He covers Shaun King, the civil rights activist claiming to be “black”. He gives a reasonable defense of the police in Ferguson MO in considering Michael Brown’s behavior (“Why Black Lives Matter Hates Me”). He goes into some detail over how he got banned from Twitter (Breitbart account) over supposedly encouraging retribution against (the remade) “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones, where he says he was set up, (Indeed, “Why Twitter Hates Me”. He gives a curious defense of Martin Shkreli in the HIV drug fiasco (and Shkreli has since been prosecuted on other matters).
In explaining why mainstream gays hate him (he thinks, I’m not sure they do) he takes up the case of writer Chadwick Moore. He delves into the moral dualism of male homosexuality in a way that reminds me of George Gilder (“Men and Marriage”, 1986), considering it somehow unnatural as counter to procreation – yet, he says, gay men usually are thinner, smarter, richer and more successful than straight married men, partly because they (the straights) are weighted down with a family to support or wives to pamper and cook for them. He sees gay marriage as illogical – needing the idea of traditional marriage, with all its self-surrender (“the two become one flesh”, etc) in order to have something to stand apart from. I know the feeling and covered the same sentiments in my own books – equality cuts both ways, when you don’t have dependents.
Ironically, he worships himself and certain other gay men as shamans or perhaps angels. (If you could be immortal, you wouldn’t need to reproduce – there is a jellyfish that actually does this by going through regression, as in “The Curious Life of Benjamin Button”. Unfortunately, the teenage Clark Kent in “Smallville” is presented as straight (not sure what kind of kids he could rather). Psychologists call his style of relating to people personally as “upward affiliation”. That was an issue when I was a patient at NIH in the later part of 1962, where I was diagnosed as “schizoid”. I just didn’t get much of intimacy with others (anticipation of the “family bed”) unless the partner would be perfect enough. But I was seen as possibly indicative of a dangerous trend accompanying the newly nerdy science and bookishness of the Cold War era – a slipping back into a perception that a personal level some people would no longer matter if they didn’t stay perfect enough. What had we just fought World War II about two decades before? Body fascism?
But the early chapters do present a convincing read on why Milo feels so repelled by the authoritarianism of the far Left, and its trying to pimp victimhood and draw everyone into identity politics, demanding loyalty to political leadership to speak for them as marginalized minorities. Milo particularly explains the idea of “intersectionalism” or “intersectionality”, a concept that author Benita Roth took for granted in her book on ACT UP which I reviewed here June 14.
Indeed, the Left often wants to suppress clear and objective independent speech from its own constituent individuals, because the Left fears that brining up complete arguments just gives fuel to its enemies and rationalizes “oppression” against less competitive individuals. I share this concern myself (as I outlined particularly in Chapter 3 of my own DADT-3 book). In this regard, Milo minces no words in reaffirming “fat shaming”, that obesity is unhealthful as aesthetically ugly (or is beauty if the eyes of the beholder – like in that 1970 song “everything’s beautiful in its own way” – although the early Nixon-laden 1970s were also a time when machete jokes about beer bellies were socially acceptable sometimes). I’ll add that I had named Chapter 2 of my DADT-3 book “The Virtue of Maleness”, a notion many would find oppressive (like to “trannies” or “gender fluid” people). Milo almost comes to making my point, that in the past many people saw open male homosexuality as a distraction for other men from trying to father children at all – which is one reason why Russia passed its anti-gay propaganda law in 2013.
In developing the duality of his own attitude toward his own homosexuality, Milo mentions one of his favorite authors, books, and films: “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. I rather like the idea of seeing more in a fixed image of one of my own “idols”. I read it myself in 12th Grade for a book report (as I also read H. G. Wells’s “Meanwhile” and Nevil Shute’s “In the Wet“).
One of the last chapters is why “Muslims Hate Me” and this chapter is the darkest one. He indeed sees all Islam as radical Islam, and sees Islam as by definition political and seeking to impose itself on non-Muslims. He gives particular attention to the assassination of the staff of Charlie Hebdo (in January 2015, ten months before the 11/13 Paris attacks) and views the Jyllens-Posten Cartoon Controversy the same way as free speech advocate Flemming Rose (“The Tyranny of Silence”), as dealing with a consciously and deliberately combative culture that sees enemies everywhere. Milo points out that Charlie Hebdo (don’t confuse with l’Hebdo, which has stopped) had been a relatively small publication, so radical Islam was willing to put it in the limelight (“Je suis Charlie“) by attacking it, which sounds like an self-defeating irony to a western person. Think about North Korea (“The Interview“) the same way.
Milo denies he is part of the “alt-right”, no less a leader of it, and denies any belief in racial superiority of any group. (He dates black men, he says.) He gets into the misuse of the “Pepe the Frog” meme. He denies that he is a libertarian, but he seems like a “moralistic libertarian” to me, somewhat like Charles Murray (who has also been the target of attacks at speaking engagements). He considers “troll” a desirable label, and his advice to young men is to become hot. We’re seeing personal attitudes privately held in the gay male community for decades going public online, and suddenly perceived as hurtful.
I can certainly imagine this book as a documentary movie, although it might take a strident course like some of Steve Bannon’s Citizens United films. By comparison, my own narrative seems even more personal and ironic, but indeed filled with instructive twists. But I would be interested in working on a documentary about gay conservatives if someone wanted to film Milo’s book (and not yet do mine). There is a 2004 documentary “Gay Republicans” (legacy review).
After reading the (libertarian) Foundation for Economic Education op-ed “’Logan’ eviscerates War and Demographic Planning” by Dan Sanchez, I “gave in” and saw a late show of the Marvel film last night. Yes, even Anderson Cooper like the “X-men” franchise.
Sanchez summarizes the plot pretty well, and I’m not sure all of his parallels hold. But it’s true, that the “corporate state” (Transigen) had created the mutants as weapons and now regards them as threats the way the all-right views both Hispanic and Muslim migrants.
Hugh Jackman(now 48) looks grizzled, and maybe ready to return from exile or retirement. The plot of this 135-minute bash concerns Logan’s road trip to rescue his 12-year-old daughter Laura (Dafne Keen) with Wolverine-like powers.
Structurally, the film is a bit like my “Tribunal and Rapture” manuscript, a long road trip (finally leading to planetary evacuation on a spaceship) by a retired FBI agent, who finds he has some subtle powers of his own – I finally decided that this sort of story works better for me when told through the eyes of the younger heroes, whose “powers” aren’t usually obvious and whose appearance is wholesome (even if that idea betrays my own erotic prejudices).
The film journeys into Oklahoma, then sidetracks to Reno (I wanted to see Taylor Wilson make a cameo and pitch his plans to save the power grids), before getting to North Dakota, with some scenery that resembles the Teddy Roosevelt badlands – but actually a lot of the film is shot in New Mexico, with mountains in the background. The mixture of old and new technologies is interesting (like the winch and pulley in the North Dakota scene. The mutants, by blowing liquid nitrogen breath, can freeze opponents’ limbs and break then off. So heads, arms and legs roll in this film. (In Dallas, Joe Bob would have said “check it out.”)
To appreciate the film, you have to know some of the pre-history, of characters like Trask, with their pre-occupation with the alt-right notion of “demographic winter” and the idea that “majority” people don’t have enough kids now. (That’s why Vladimir Putin allows the persecution of gays.) I’m reminded of Representative Steve King’s (T-IA) doubled-down comments that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” (story).
Patrick Stewart seems to impersonate me (as he usually does) as Charles, and Boyd Holbrook is notable as Pierce.
I’m reminded of another escapist adventure, “Logan’s Run” (1976), set around the Zale Building on Stemmons Freeway in Dallas, a building in which I worked in the 1980s, where you wonder how the twenty year-olds know think they can eliminate the thirties without facing the same fate themselves soon.
I guess that “Logan”, directed by James Mangold with story by him, was largely developed before Donald Trump won the election, but it seems well conceived as a response to the growing appearance of the alt-right during the 2016 campaigns. The distributor, Fox, is probably closer to Ayn Rand-style conservatism.
The show opens with a “short film” (“Deadpool: No Good Deed“) about a Logan-like man challenged by a nearby mugging and a telephone booth, in the City. I’m reminded of Joel Schulmacher’s “Phone Booth” (2002), and even of Timo Descamps and his “Phone Call” or even “Like It Rough” videos. the 20 Century Fix fanfare then follows, along with TSG and Marvel, before the “feature” starts. This sort of reminds me also of Dimension Films’s “Grindhouse” in 2007 (embedded double feature and connecting short). The two short stories in my “Do Ask Do Tell III” book (2014) could be presented this way in film.
2.35:1 and Imax
When and how viewed:
2017/3/14 Regal Ballston Quarter, late, low crowd after snowstorm