Friday, June 27, 2014

The Gayest Progress You'll See this Week (45 Years On)

Eep! I can't believe I've been away almost an entire month without posting. Of course, it's been a very busy month which included my 35th High School Reunion (yes, as I've repeatedly pointed out - I am old) and a long-planned garage sale in my continuing quest to purge my house of 50 years' worth of accumulated junk. It was successful enough to pay for the new bannister I need before I can move in my impending boarder and replace the sonic toothbrush that gave up the ghost last week. But enough about me.

I couldn't let June go without a post about Pride and the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising that inspired it. On June 28th, 1969, NYPD Vice raided the Stonewall Inn, a mafia-owned gay club in Greenwich Village. Apocryphal accounts say that many were gathered at the Stonewall that night to mourn the passing of gay icon Judy Garland. Others say it was just a regular Saturday night, where gay men and drag queens had come to be themselves, away from prying eyes in the windowless club. Whatever the reason, the police choose that night to raid and tired of the abuse, the Stonewall's patrons finally fought back and inspired three nights of demonstrations, riots and protests against those who still held that homosexuality was a mental disorder with sexually deviant practices that were illegal at the time. That weekend sissy boys; drag queens; bull dykes and leather daddies stood shoulder to shoulder in defiance of police and others who labeled them 'perverts' to say they weren't going to take it anymore. 

In the 45 years since, the LGBT Community has seen many advances in our civil rights struggle. 1973 saw the American Psychiatric Association remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, adding it to the spectrum (thanks in part to Dr. Robert Kinsey, Dr. Judd Marmor and Dr. Robert Spitzer) of normal sexual behavior. 1977 saw virulent homophobe (and former Miss America) Anita Bryant get pied by a gay activist (she responded "At least it was fruit pie"). 1977 also saw the election of Harvey Milk to the San Francisco City Council, making him the first openly gay man to hold elected office in the U.S. Milk was assassinated (along with S.F. Mayor George Moscone) a year later by Dan White, who claimed junk food made him crazy (the infamous "Twinkie Defense"). Not long after, horror was visited upon on us in the form of a virus which was first described as a "Gay Cancer." HIV/AIDS ravaged the community in the 1980's. President Reagan (a former film actor with many gay friends, including Rock Hudson) didn't utter the word "AIDS" until near the end of his second term in 1987, after millions had already perished. Over the next twenty years, more and more of us made our voices heard and acceptance slowly took hold across the nation and the world.

After many lawsuits, it wasn't until 2001 that The Netherlands became the first country to allow and recognize same-sex marriages. Belgium passed Marriage Equality in 2002, followed by Canada and Spain in 2005. Since then, South Africa;Sweden; Iceland; Argentina; Denmark; France and Brazil and five other countries have all made Marriage Equality law. Currently, 20 U.S. States have Marriage Equality on their books, including my own Pennsylvania (which happily took effect long before Uncle P thought it would). The remaining 30 states all have either had their anti-gay marriage laws challenged in court, or have been struck down pending appeal. Finally, I and most American LGBT advocates actually can envision Marriage Equality across the U.S. by 2016. 

Still, our fight for Equality is far from over. Many third-world countries have virulent anti-LGBT laws (particularly in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, as well as the current Russian regime) and many still view LGBT people as sick and/or perverted, along with many right-winged religious and political factions in the U.S. But for every Fred Phelps or Rick Santorum, there are dozens of right-thinking young people who know that gay folks are far from the evil, perverse child-molesters that Conservatives would have you believe us to be.

Of course, this is hardly a definitive or fully inclusive detail of the struggle for for LGBT rights, but I am so happy that the very closeted 1970's teenager I used to be has become an Out and Proud 2014 gay middle-ager with hope for the future of our younger LGBTs. Visibility is the key. The more Str8 folks realize they know and love queer friends and family members (as well as celebrities and sports figures), the better off we are. I truly hope that some day, Pride events will no longer be necessary and sexual orientation is no longer an issue. Of course, given the state of racism in the modern South, that probably won't happen in my lifetime. 

Never forget the events of June 28th, 1969. Let them (and the others since) guide us to full Equality in the near future. Celebrate and support the LGBT people in your life. There are probably more of us, than you realize.

More, anon.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Review: "A Million Ways to Die in the West"

Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron & Liam Neeson
Director Seth MacFarlane's sophomore feature (following the hilarious and heartfelt Ted) is the deliberately anachronistic Comedy Western, A Million Ways to Die in the West. To be perfectly honest, while it's not as good as Ted (it's missing much of that movie's good-naturedness) it does have much more than a few very, VERY funny moments and visuals. Peppered with the kind of trademark non-sequiturs and throwaway jokes MacFarlane uses on his animated series "Family Guy," A Million Ways... never wastes any opportunity to gross us out, make us squeal in discomfort or belly-laugh at something outrageous. 

MacFarlane is Albert, a dirt poor, bad sheep farmer (his sheep have a tendency to wander any and everywhere) whose girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him after he talks his way out of a gun fight with a neighbor by offering a cash settlement. His best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) is in love with foul-mouthed prostitute Ruth (Sarah Silverman) but they can offer no consolation when Louise takes up with wealthy owner of the Moustachery,  Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). Meanwhile, outlaw Clinch (Liam Neeson) sends his wife Anna (Charlize Theron) with one of his boys to pose as brother and sister in the Arizona town where Albert lives, while he hides out after murdering a prospector. A ridiculous barfight (started by Anna's 'brother') eventually leads to friendship and romance between Albert and Anna. 

There isn't much new, plot-wise in A Million Ways... We all know how it's going to end as soon as Anna and Albert meet. And while the modern dialogue (complete with 21st Century teen slang) is a bit jarring at first and the cartoon violence always ends in horrific deaths and/or mutilations, they somehow manage to work together, despite every indication that they shouldn't. There are plenty of racist jokes (the shooting gallery at the county fair is called "Shoot the Runaway Slave" and a scene involving Cochise is loaded with 'Indian' gibberish)  and nonsense (ingredients in a 'health tonic' include mercury and red flannel, while the sight of a dollar bill has the townsfolk 'oohing' in reverence) and a ton of very funny, quick and mostly uncredited cameos (think Jane Weidlin in Clue), the funniest of which involves a beloved character actor recreating his most iconic movie role for yet another anachronistic gag. My three companions (M, Dear D and Stephanie) all laughed a lot (often missing bits of dialog because of it), though D was a bit put off by Silverman's very explicit descriptions of her work day. The performances are all fine and MacFarlane uses his adorableness to it's fullest extent. D also thought Theron wasn't interested or interesting for the first half of her performance, but I think that was a deliberate choice. Oh - and there's a big musical number about... mustaches! And an obviously Salvador Dali-inspired hallucination scene that is pure genius!

Interestingly, while I was undoubtedly the oldest among my companions, we were collectively among the youngest members of the matinee audience. And surprisingly, the older folks seemed to enjoy it almost as much as we did. I expected at least two or three couples to walk out, but none of them did so, though I heard an older man behind us make two funny remarks. The first was "This is the craziest movie I ever saw!" and the second was "Whose idea was it to see this, again?" I'm guessing he's never seen The Forbidden Zone. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that all of the nonsense is made so much funnier by Joel McNeely's dead-on, sweeping Western score.

If you are a fan of MacFarlane's other works (I definitely am), you will most certainly enjoy A Million Ways to Die in the West. If outrageous, gross-out, nonsense comedy isn't your thing, you probably won't. *** (Three Out of Four Stars). Rated 'R for "strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material." The Red-Band trailer below is definitely NSFW and features several clips that do not actually appear in the movie (I HATE that!).

More, anon.