Sep 15

To Patrick Swayze, Thanks for Everything

My first memory of you was in The Outsiders, a movie that later inspired the name of the band from the record deal series… Then you provided a major piece of my childhood… I can’t count the hours spent copying your dance moves in my living room with Tracy, and playing “She’s Like the Wind” on the piano, a song that I performed in a talent show in Moscow to great (albeit creepy) unison applause.

You had some great scenes in Roadhouse and Next of Kin, which were admittedly dumb movies.

Ghost is an iconic movie that will probably be what you are most remembered for…

But my favorite performance by far was the sweet Vida Boheme in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

Patrick Swayze

Thank you for having the courage to not only be a straight guy who studied ballet, but for being confident enough to play a campy drag queen with respect and heart.

Your death was not unexpected, but still very sad.

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Nov 30

A Life Changing Moment

Every so often, events transpire in such a way that your life is forever changed.

You might run late for a meeting one day, catch a different train and come face to face with a childhood friend you haven’t seen in 20 years.

You might pull the lever on a slot machine with your last fifty cents and win the million dollar jackpot.

Or you might find yourself staring at a painting in a museum that suddenly, inexplicably alters the way you look at the world around you.

I had one of those moments last night.

UMB and I met up with Lee and Adam in Berkeley and headed into San Francisco for the evening. We met Othurme in the Castro district for dinner with the intent of catching the 10pm showing of the new movie, “Milk.”

I knew the basic story of Harvey Milk. In the sort of way that I could give you a two-sentence explanation of who he was: The first openly-gay man elected to a high-ranking office (City Supervisor of San Francisco). He was assassinated, along with mayor George Moscone, by a fellow Supervisor.

Knowing that Harvey lived in the Castro District, THE gay neighborhood, I thought it would be cool to see the show at the Castro Theater, which sits at the heart of the district.

We purchased our 10pm tickets at 8, walked past the 20 or so people already lined up for the show and headed to the pasta restaurant three doors down for dinner.

When we emerged from the restaurant next door, the line of ticket holders leading into the theater stretched down the block, all around a parking lot, back along the sidewalk two blocks down from the theater.

I had never been to the Castro Theater before, though I had wanted to, especially for the annual “Sound of Music” sing-a-long. I wasn’t sure how many people the theater held, but I had originally figured it would be around four or five hundred. There were twice that many people in the line ahead of us. A quick look on the iPhone revealed that it actually holds 1400. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we would likely not be able to sit together as a group.

They opened the doors, and we shrewdly decided to head directly for the balcony, rather than stand around downstairs looking for 5 seats together. We ended up with what I would consider the best seats in the house. Front row center of the second tier in the balcony. No one in front of us, plenty of leg room and a clear view of the entire space.

The theater itself is beautiful, with tons of Spanish-influenced architecture and murals and sweeping fabrics. At the center of the stage was a real-live organist entertaining the crowd with showtunes, and selections from The Carpenters, Barry Manilow, and of course, Over The Rainbow.

The lights lowered, the crowd fell silent, and the movie opened with actual news footage of then-City Superintendent-now-California-state-senator Dianne Feinstein standing on the steps of City Hall announcing to a crowd of reporters that George Moscone and Harvey Milk had been shot and killed.

The camera moves to a sweeping shot of San Francisco, zooming in on the Castro District, past the famous Castro Theater entrance to the apartment just 2 blocks down where Sean Penn, as Harvey, is speaking into a tape recorder. He’s recording a now famous “In case of death by assassination” speech that serves as the framework for the entire film.

I was already crying. I’m not sure that I ever actually stopped.

There was this surreal sensation from seeing the Castro Theater on the screen while sitting inside it. The seamless interweaving of stock 70’s footage of the police beating gay citizens on Castro Street right outside, and virtually every scene set in this neighborhood that I’ve spent countless hours in over the past 10 years.

What was most significant… and therefore life changing, was this sudden connection of these historical facts of which I was only somewhat aware, with the personalization of this story that was unfolding on screen.

It’s like reading about the Battle at Gettysburg then suddenly smelling cordite, sulpher, and fresh blood and transporting through time to watch from the front line.

The struggle that Harvey went through to not only gain the respect of the fairly unorganized gay community was clearly illustrated. Gus Van Sant, the director, did an incredible job of reminding the audience of the political climate. Even in San Francisco in the early 70’s, the police harassed people in gay bars, many were beaten and killed, lost their jobs, and faced daily dangers just walking the streets of this mostly Irish-Catholic neighborhood.

Some men are born great; others achieve greatness; still others have greatness thrust upon them. — Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

The parallels between the political nightmare of Proposition 6, (part of the giant Anita Bryant brigade, which would make it illegal for any homosexuals, or even supporters of gay rights, from being able to teach kids in public schools) and Proposition 8 from this past election are unmistakable.

The difference is, we don’t have a Harvey Milk to lead us. We have struggled to stir the anger and frustration and express it in such a demonstrative way that it makes a difference.

Harvey figured out how to motivate and keep mobs of gays from destroying the city when anti-gay legislation passed. Instead, he lead them five miles up Market Street to the steps of City Hall, chanting and carrying signs demanding action.

This was the genesis of the Gay Freedom Parade that is celebrated in cities across the globe.

He demonstrated the power of gay consumers and the damage a boycott against those companies and organizations who would oppress us.

He encouraged the community to frequent those businesses that respect and value us. To this day, the gay community is among the most loyal to their brands.

He mentored a young man, Cleve Jones, who many years later organized the creation of the AIDS Quilt, one of the most striking, emotionally stirring visuals I’ve ever had the honor of seeing.

He explained the importance of coming out. How those people who actually know an out gay person as a friend or family member are twice as likely to vote to protect our civil rights.

I don’t expect that everyone who sees this film (and you are all going to see it right?) will experience the same profound reaction that I have. What I do expect, is that those who see it will come away with a new understanding of the struggle gay people in this country experience daily.

Sean Penn, who has never been one of my favorite actors, BECAME Harvey in this film. The supporting cast was impeccable. The script is full of clever banter, inspiring speeches, and even manages to make Dan White, Milk’s assassin, come across not as some evil movie villain, but as a flawed and frustrated young man who made a few poor decisions that changed the course of MY history.

The direct impact on my life that Harvey Milk has had is immeasurable. And until last night, viewing this movie, I had no idea.

Watching the film with my best friends, in a theater full of over a thousand people with these common struggles, common experiences, made the night absolutely magical.

Sitting on the ledge in front of his apartment minutes after seeing the film about his life, incredibly special. (Thanks for taking the photo, Othurme!)

I’ve learned a lesson that I can’t unlearn.

And I now have someone that I can thank.

If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door. –Harvey Milk

Feb 08

Movie Answers

Here are the answers to the movie quiz from earlier this week:

1. Drop Dead Fred
2. Stand By Me
3. Billy Elliott
4. Steel Magnolias
5. The Jerk
6. The Princess Bride
7. Moulin Rouge
8. Beaches
9. An Affair to Remember
10. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I think TopNCal was the only person to correctly guess them all. Gratz, Dan. There’s no prize. Boo Hoo!

Feb 05

Something to make you tear your hair out…

Shamelessly stealing this from Avitable, who shamelessly stole it from someone else…

I’ve taken the plot synopsis of some of my favorite movies of all time, translated them into a foreign language using Google Translator, then translated them back into English.

These are the results. Can you guess the movies?

  1. Elizabeth is the world turned upside down. Her marriage to Charles appears to be over after her discovery that he has cheated on her, but she simply could not stop loving him. Despite the support of her friend Janey she is unhappy. In her misery, her imaginary childhood friend Fred again after rather be locked away from her. His only goal is to be welcomed Elizabeth, but things do not go to plan.
  2. This film portrays a journey begun by four boys in the woods near her home town, to see the corpse of another boy who was in the vicinity of their own age. The film tells about the memories of the main character, a freelance writer. It describes how his friend Overhead his older brother on the body of a boy missing after accidentally come upon them in the woods with his friend. The gang of lead character for a visit decides, the body itself, a trip for two days on foot, in the flashbacks and figures show the life and struggles of the four boys.
  3. The main character is taken in the gym boxing from his father, but he discovered that he did not really sport, and has no real talent for it. Part of the boxing gym is used by a ballet class, because their usual studio in the basement of the sports centre is used as a soup kitchen for the miners’ strike. It is drawn in by the dance instructor, and with his help, secretly begins to take ballet class.
  4. The action centers around a beauty and some women who meet regularly. The drama began on the morning of Shelby’s wedding at Jackson and covers events in the Corsican the next three years, including the Shelby decision to have a child despite having type 1 diabetes and complications arising from the decision. We also have a taste of the unlikely friendship between Clairee and Ouiser; Annelle transformation from a shy, anxious newcomers to the city, a celebration of women, then to a religious fundamentalist, and Truvy relationships with the men in his family. Although the main plot involves Shelby, the mother and Shelby medical battles, the group of base-l’amicizia between all six prominent women’s all the drama.
  5. The film starts with a homeless vagabond, directly addressing the camera and tell their story. He is the adopted son of white black sharecroppers, growing to adulthood naively unaware of their apparent approval. He excels in his family, and not just because of their skin colour, but also for his lack of pace.
  6. A farm girl fell in love with farmboy. He decided to leave in order to make a fortune, and to build a life for them, but it is believed that they died when their ship of pirates. Years later, girl agrees to marry the prince. When farm boy returns, should keep girl from impending loveless marriage to a prince of evil, plots to kill her first, then killed a rival country for his death to go to war.
  7. The year is 1900 and a grizzled, unkempt British writer who came to the village of Montmartre, in Paris, the height of Bohemia movement a year earlier, sits in a garret overlooking the theater closed down and write about a typewriter. The story you are writing is about both himself and the woman he loved.
  8. The film starts with a singer to receive a note in a trial for his next concert, which obviously contains distressing news about a loved one. She leaves the trial in a state of panic and tries frantically to travel to his friend, however, we are not told why at that point. Unable to get a flight to San Francisco because of the fog, rent a car, and decides to overnight drive from Los Angeles. Disturbing and on edge, she begins to recall how she met her friend under the boardwalk at the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
  9. Famous player, and he recently became the heiress of the United States, the ocean liner that meets the beautiful women. After dinner and conversation, they have to decide if they are willing to separate may be preferable. However, what they are thinking, leading them to each other for the rest of the board’s final conclusion is unavoidable. This line is villefranche port, the small Riviera town, he landed her an invitation to meet with him with his grandmother, a widow and a retired concert pianist.
  10. The film is about a young woman always on us, from our own. The lack of a stable childhood, she married at the age of 14, a marriage is null and void, moved to Hollywood and began his film, and then before her film career has even begun abruptly left Hollywood to New York. But her career in New York, has never been clearly stated, this means that she can as a call girl or, at least she has won her keep dating fairly well-off man. She also earned an additional 100 this week unknowingly to encode the information, imprisoned mafia bosses.
Jun 14

Brain Teaser

Water JugLet’s see just how smart y’all are…

Here’s the scenario:

There is a bomb attached to a scale sitting on the ledge of a large fountain. Next to the bomb are two jugs, one holds 3 gallons, the other holds 5 gallons.

There is a note attached to the bomb that directs you to place exactly 4 gallons of water on the scale to disarm the bomb.

You can fill and refill the jugs as many times as you want.

There are two possible solutions to this puzzle.

Bonus points if you can name the movie this brain teaser is featured in…

Jun 12

Kick Ass Action Heroine

This is my entry into Nathaniel’s Action Heroine Blog-a-Thon.

I haven’t read all the early entries yet, but I have already seen several articles about Sigourney Weaver in Alien, Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. There are several entries about Uma Thurman’s Bride in the Kill Bill movies.

I’m guessing because of the shit-acular messes that were the sequels, everyone has forgotten one of the best leather-wearing, gun-toting, dirty and bleeding action movie heroines:

TrinityTrinity (Carrie Ann Moss) from The Matrix.

She’s got it all… the severe haircut, the striking good looks, the awesome wardrobe…

She doesn’t even flinch when the bullets start flying, she calmly raises her weapon and unleashes a barrage of metal and witty retorts that leave the bodies piling up on the floor.

Trinity from The Matrix

Who are your favorite action movie heroines?

Apr 08

That Bitch is SCARY

So help me, I want every one of you reading this today to promise me that if this ever happens to me that you will just put me out of my misery.

Kathleen Turner, Before

Kathleen Turner, After

I know what you’re thinking, Othurme, but I do NOT look like that now.

And thanks Scott for perhaps ruining my sex life for the next six months.

Mar 06

What Movies Are You Powerless to Channel Surf Past?

BlushI’m nothing if not derivative lately. I stole borrowed today’s topic from Fringe.

Movies that compel me to stop and watch EVERY SINGLE TIME:

  • Steel Magnolias. I know every line.
  • The Breakfast Club. As a kid I wanted to be a cross between Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy.
  • Camp. You’ve probably not seen it. Don’t, you’ll never accomplish anything ever again because it plays a gazillion times a week.
  • The Princess Bride. “I’m not a witch, I’m your wife!”
  • The Never-Ending Story. Man I wanted one of those flying luck dragons.
  • An Affair to Remember… scratch that, almost any Cary Grant movie…
  • A Walk in the Clouds. Yes, the Keanu movie. Stop laughing at me.
  • Harold and Maude. Made Porsche hearses cool.
  • Say Anything. Best movie ending ever. “Everything will work out fine, just wait for the ding.”
  • Any Steve Martin movie, especially The Jerk or The Three Amigos. Oh how I love Steve Martin.

What movies are you powerless to resist?

Feb 10

21 Ways to Say One Thing?

Nicolas Cage is DisgustingI stumbled across this post today entitled, “How to Tell If You’re Watching a Bad Nicolas Cage Movie.” The author lists 21 different points to help you determine the level of suckiness.

While some of the tips are humorous, I believe the task is much simpler, only requiring ONE step. And here it is:

You know you are watching a bad Nicolas Cage movie if Nicolas Cage appears anywhere on screen, or in the credits.

There is one exception to this rule, “Raising Arizona” is a fantastic Holly Hunter film, which is the only known antidote to the gaping black hole of talent that is Nicolas Cage.*

* Cher and Meg Ryan have also made his performances suck slightly less.

Dec 20

Holiday Cheer?

Bah HumbugI don’t know why, but I just can’t seem to get into the holiday mood this year.

I haven’t done any shopping, and since circumstances have been such that my entire family is running short on funds this month, we’ve decided to put off our gift exchange until February when we can get together for a collective birthday thing. (Mom’s is February 1, Dad’s is the 13th, and mine is the 17th. My brother is the odd man out with an April 12 born on date.)

I’ve played two holiday parties with my bands where gifts were given out, and people were drinking and Christmas lights blinked at us and people yelled “Merry Christmas” as people arrived and left.

The Christmas Sale spam email has been soul-crushingly oppressive this year. I can’t open an email without being assaulted with bad red and green elf graphics and false promises that any purchases made by the 22nd will arrive by Christmas day. The worst offenders have embedded Jingle Bells or some equally annoying carol inside so that they can interrupt the great Toad the Wet Sprocket song I’ve got running through my head.

And it still hasn’t sunk in that Christmas is now five days away.

My parents don’t think they are going to make it out here this year. I’m actually ok with that. We see them fairly often and really, it’s just a day, right? We’ll probably get together with Celeste for dinner. Catch a movie, perhaps.

I have a couple of holiday traditions that I try to observe every year:

  • A few batches of Amish friendship bread. – I love the stuff, but have to limit my involvement to just three batches, and I refuse to pass the starters along. Not because I am an asshole or against the spirit of the bread, but I once spent an awful month in hell where I got carried away with the starters and at one point had 96 ziplock bags laying all over my kitchen counters and table in different states of completion. So really, by not passing the starters along, I’m actually doing a good deed. Trust me.
  • Buying myself a gift. – I’m told that I am quite hard to shop for. Mostly because if there’s something that I want, I buy it for myself throughout the year. Consequently, I get “practical” Christmas gifts from friends and family. Last year I received a garage door opener. It was appreciated, however it is a year later and it has is still at approximately 70% installed. So usually a few days before Christmas, I buy myself something that I want. Last year, it was a new iPod.
  • Watch my favorite holiday-themed movies. – My picks are probably not the same as yours. You would think I would go with the old standards, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, or the fantastic old animated films like Rudolph (the claymation version, not the inferior cartoon), Frosty the Snowman, or the Charlie Brown Christmas. No… my holiday picks are Mixed Nuts, Home for the Holidays, and Scrooged.

So far, I’ve only managed one of the above. It’s 5am. I can’t sleep, and I’ve got a pounding headache again. So I’m watching Mixed Nuts and laughing my head off all by myself, as Michael has been in bed since 11. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you run down to Blockbuster and rent it. Or buy it, because you’ll want to see it again. Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, Madeline Khan, Richard Klein, Adam Sandler, Garry Shandling, Juliette Lewis, Anthony LaPaglia, and Liev Schrieber (in drag!) star in a hysterical Christmas Eve romp. Some of my favorite lines:

“Just remember that in every pothole there is hope. Well, you see, pothole is spelled P-O-T-H-O-L-E. So if you take the P, and add it to the H, the O, and the E, and rearrange the letters… or contrariwise, you remove the O, T, and the L, you get “hope”. So, just remember, in every pothole there is hope!” – Steve Martin

“My god, if you don’t have tits like Dolly Parton, no one wants you.” – Liev Schrieber

I don’t know that the movie will be enough to turn around the “Bah Humbugs” but it’s a start.