Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Some thoughts on How to Survive a Plague

I saw the ACT-UP documentary on Monday night. I've seen plenty of AIDS crisis documentaries over the years, and the only other one I can think of that approaches How to Survive a Plague in terms of raw power is Silverlake Life: The View From Here. And where that movie is wholly devastating, this movie has so much vigor and anger energizing the proceedings. Not to mention detail, essential history, and Larry Kramer screaming. Here's the trailer.

Also, I've never hissed at a movie before, but I hissed when Jesse Helms was onscreen. It made everything that much more satisfying. You should try it when you go see it.

Speaking of Jesse Helms, right before I hissed at some of his Senate footage, I exclaimed DALE BUMPERS I LOVE DALE BUMPERS! because he shows up as the voice of reason for a moment before Helms says something else hateful and homophobic. Bumpers is up there with my all-time favorite Arkansans and I always think of how awesome it was that he spoke at our commencement at Hendrix in 1998, even if I don't remember anything about his speech.

Also, I learned from this movie that Clinton's famous "I feel your pain" line came from a confrontation with ACT-UP activist Bob Rafsky, whose story makes up a big, moving part of the film. I found a part of it on youtube; it's worth a look. It's a great political moment in a movie full of great political moments.

Between this movie and Keep the Lights On, I wonder if Arthur Russell is becoming the go-to gay movie music. If so, that's totally fine with me for the time being. Here's a silly video of one of his great songs laid over some vintage PSAs and film footage.

I like this movie so much I want to see it again. Like now. Maybe tomorrow. Anyone in?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My Sunnylands Pics

The new Visitors Center

Sunnylands: Billy Haines

I joked on Facebook that Sunnylands was so beautiful it almost made me change parties. They just opened for tours in March, so JW and I braved the 110-degree Palm Springs heat to see a tour. Here's the Wikipedia page for info about the estate. I took a bunch of pictures of the grounds, which I'll post in a bit.

Of course my favorite element of the place is the William Haines Hollywood Regency furnishings. They don't let you take pictures inside the estate but I found this picture by Todd Eberle in a Vanity Fair article. Here's a link to the whole slideshow.

Billy Haines left Hollywood when he wouldn't enter into a sham marriage and conceal his gay identity. And thanks to that we have his beautiful furniture.

Here's his friend Joan Crawford in her Haines-designed living room.

And here's a darling one of them together.

Noah Purifoy

After years of visits to the high desert, I finally got to the Noah Purifoy Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum on Friday and took some pictures. Purifoy, a black artist interested in large assemblage and exposing work to the elements, has a sprawling jumble of work weathering in the sun and open for guests to wander around, undisturbed by docents or security guards.

Here's Purifoy's obit in the LATimes for a good bio.

I wasn't prepared for how much in the work would look like performance spaces. I kept seeing backdrops, stages and theater everywhere. Some in obvious respects, others less so, but by the time I was done there I was imagining some kind of theater festival all over its grounds. Suzan-Lori Parks, maybe?

Here's the Instagram shot that got me in that mindset. This looks just right for a pantomime, or an auction block.

And here's Adrian's Little Theatre.

After that it gets less literal, but I kept envisioning actors in these spaces.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Damien Echols at UCLA

Just got my ticket for this. Excited.

I enjoyed Michael Elyanow's play

The Children very much when I saw the Boston Court production. He wrote a sweet article for HowlRound about the experience, finding that the value of playwriting isn't in the money, but the collaboration. Here's a cool quote:
In 2010, New York magazine ran a brief piece on Bruce Norris (and his then-new play Clybourne Park) that’s always haunted me. To this day, I remember it vividly thanks to the number $19,000. This was how much Mr. Norris said he earned the year before. Earned. All year. This, from an acclaimed and brilliant writer, who’s had plays produced across the world. To me, this announcement was not only a brave thing to declare publicly, it was a revelation. After Todd London and Ben Pesner’s incredibly insightful Outrageous Fortune, David Dower’s years of field study… there it was again, in bold print. In New York magazine. A monetary truth exposed.
It is indeed the rare playwright who gets to announce playwriting as a job, a real-life, full-time gig.
The experience that I had working with director Jessica Kubzansky and dramaturg Emilie Beck on The Children couldn’t be measured in dollar signs. I was fortunate enough to work with two artists who attacked the play with great care and sensitivity, who asked incisive questions, who challenged my every line but never lost sight of the origins of the play’s beating heart. When collaboration works, you leap together. You dig together. You forgive together. When collaboration works, you learn to become a better artist, communicator, listener, leader, and follower.
Read the rest here.

New Blogger

you're killing me.

Kev and Kyle on Films

I haven't done one of these in a while, so here goes. Ol' Kev finally got around to seeing this year's indie gay darling, so we put on our little Blaine and Antoine hats to discuss.  

zenokb: We need to talk about Keep the Lights On.
FWL: You didn't like the movie?
zenokb: I thought it was self-indulgent, navel gazing b.s.
FWL: I didn't dislike it as much as you did, but I didn't care for it.
zenokb:‎ I was so, so bored. To the point that I was wondering, if it was because I'm just a jaded New York City fag who sees all of that as pretty pedestrian?
FWL: No, I don't think so.
FWL: I think it's repetitive and not really hard enough on its protagonist.
zenokb: And I felt like we were supposed to kind of root for them or find them glamorous or interesting or something.
FWL: Well, I was thinking of seeing it again and wondering if going into it with the view that the protagonist is also an addict would help. I don't think I fully appreciated that during my first viewing.
FWL: But the focus is so squarely on the drug addiction that I think it's hard to think about the filmmaker as an addict too...and since no one ever acknowledges that he has a problem with that, there's no hope that he'll get help for anything.
zenokb: The thing that was really realistic to me, though, that I have never seen on film is the sort of cloying approval and support of the friends for the artsy spoiled gay couple.
zenokb: But I'm not sure it was supposed to be critical.
zenokb: Like they should be supported because they are beautiful and creative.
zenokb: Ugh.
FWL: Yeah, and them in their well-appointed NYC apartment and their gorgeous home in the Hudson River Valley and their great clothes and their thin bodies.
zenokb: This is the world I live in, though.
zenokb: I'm really not bitter!
zenokb: Just the rich "creative" gays and all their drama and angst.
zenokb: I am also wondering about your feeling about Erik being an addict.
zenokb: I'm not sure if Erik thinks he is.
zenokb: I'm not sure if the filmmaker thinks he is.
zenokb: But I don't know.
zenokb: Needing to jerk off before a relationship chat is probably indicative.
FWL: Yep!
FWL: Just looking at the character's behavior it's a viable argument. But I don't know if it's successful in pulling that off.
FWL: It's also there in the way he can't let go of the addict bf. But that's obscured by the empathy we have as outsiders looking at Paul and seeing that he needs help.
zenokb: Well, I felt like Mother Pitt.
zenokb: Empathy was just not something I had.
zenokb: One more thing I hated was the whole documentary about the New York photographer/filmmaker [In Search of Avery Willard].
zenokb: Like we're supposed to draw some kind of line between, what, New York's gay history and these sad fucks?  
FWL: That's an actual documentary that [director Ira] Sachs produced. I saw it at Outfest. That guy's infinitely more interesting.
FWL: But you're right.
FWL: I think the Arthur Russell music does that too. And the paintings in the opening credits.
FWL: Like some kind of "where we are now" in Gay New York. We are gay, we are artists!
FWL: Give me Paris is Burning over this any day, people.
FWL: Oh, by the way, I'm turning this into a blog post. It's really long, though.
zenokb: It can't be more tedious than that movie was.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I've been seeing a lot of movies lately

in part to weather the September heat. Luckily the new Sundance Cinemas has a nice lobby and I can get there early and camp out with a cup of coffee and my journal before heading in. I saw two movies there; one of which I won't mention (the AC was great!), the other was Beauty is Embarrassing, a docu recommended by my friend Katherine. The movie's about Wayne White, who is a sweetheart and wants you to do what you love. It's mighty empowering and has great puppets.

I was going to post about other movies but I started watching more Wayne White videos instead.

Monday, September 10, 2012

I just want to put on a cardigan

and drink some moonshine out of a Mason jar after seeing Lawless last night. I enjoyed it, particularly the hillbilly extras in various scenes; it has some great old southern ladies in it.

The music is nice too; the good news in hiring a rock star like Nick Cave to write your script is he can also sing for the movie and do all the music. And the "White Light/White Heat" covers are a cool touch.

The only time I really got taken out of the proceedings was a female vocalist singing over a major event in the center of the movie. It's all very intense and sad and attractive and I sat there for like a minute thinking, WHOSE SONG IS THIS? I KNOW THIS DAMN SONG! before realizing it's Grandaddy. And then I thought, AWW I MISS GRANDADDY! WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THEM? WAIT, AREN'T THEY BACK TOGETHER? I WONDER IF THEY'LL RELEASE A NEW ALBUM.

Anyway, here's their version of the song.

I discovered them when they opened for Elliott Smith the only time I ever saw him play. So there's another connection. All things rattling around in my head during one of the more nerve-wracking moments of the film. But it's nice to be reminded of these things.

Ugh, and I just realized they played the Wiltern last month and I missed it. Drat.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

I went on an experimental film

Youtube bender yesterday. It began with a tweet about Dirty Projectors new video, Hi Custodian, a long-form video featuring the songs from their incredible new album, Swing Lo Magellan. David Longstreth tweeted soon after that we should watch with headphones, so take that into consideration.

The video looks great, but my reaction to it was unusual, in that its images kind of rattled my attitude towards the music on the album. I've been listening to it more or less non-stop this summer, and it's not as if I've created some kind of visual diary of the songs, but I guess I'm just unused to music videos anymore. I found Longstreth's collection of images jarring (not necessarily in a bad way), even though I've seen their videos before and Hi Custodian is definitely of a piece with the rest of them. I was struck by how different things are from the 80s and 90s in this regard. There are certain songs I can't even think of without remembering their videos, so it's nice now to get the chance to let music capture my imagination before any narratives or surreal films are imposed on the experience.

And I have no idea if Longstreth has even seen a James Broughton film, but I'm all about making connections, so it was fun to see this article land in my inbox about the boho/hippie/poet/experimental filmmaker.

His story's marvelous; among all of his accomplishments in writing and film he made time to have an affair with Harry Hay and father a child with Pauline Kael. And become a charter member of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. He's a true California original, and I ended up on a Youtube binge watching a bunch of his short films.

The Bed is his most famous movie, very Summer of Love and full of charming nudity. There's about 6 minutes of it on Youtube--

I also liked This is It for his darling toddler son Orion all gurgly and chasing after a ball.

And all of this Broughton activity is in advance of a new documentary about him called Big Joy. It's scheduled for release next year. Looks like a must-see.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

I love folksy Clinton best

I wish I'd kept a count of the number of times he said "y'all" and "fixin to" in his DNC speech last night. The "I'm just an ol' country boy from Arkansas" line made me laugh out loud.