The Grey Allegory

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i went to see “the grey” over the weekend at my favorite metroplex theater. i didn’t really know what to expect, and i was a little skeptical about the trapped survivor story and the possibility of cannibalism. i must say that even with these unwarranted prejudices, the film hooked me quickly and kept me engaged throughout.

“Northernmost Alaska. Ottway (Liam Neeson) is a for-hire security hunter/marksman under the employ of an Alaskan drilling operation. His job is to protect the “ex-cons, fugitives and assholes” from the area’s indigenous carnivores: bears & wolves. In one instance Ottway spots a grey blur on the horizon. He draws the rifle from his shoulder bag, follows the blur as it nears a trio of workers working on a pipe, and fires. The wolf slumps on the ground and Ottway puts his hands on it’s still breathing chest. He feels it’s life slip away. Ottway daydreams of his wife (Anne Openshaw); they both lay on a bed with white sheets facing each other, smiling. He writes a letter to his estranged wife, summing up his depression. One night after his shift, in the drilling operation’s tavern, Ottway grows sick of the rowdy patrons. He walks outside, pulls out his rifle and sticks the barrel in his mouth. As he is about to pull the trigger, numerous wolf calls echo in the distance. He takes the barrel out of his mouth.

Ottway and many other crewman from the drilling \operation board a commuter jet bound for Anchorage, being de-iced on a runway. Ottway stores his rifle in the overhead bin, takes his seat, and closes his eyes. Another grunt, named Flannery (Joe Anderson), wakens Ottway and annoys him with questions about his sex-life. Ottway tells Flannery to either shut up or move. Flannery exits the row and finds a seat elsewhere. As Ottway sleeps the other travelers are disturbed by the turbulent flight. Flannery annoys the others by telling horror stories about airplane crash victims. The plane is rocked by massive turbulence. Ottway awakens; he sees sparks erupting from the cockpit and watches the ground grow larger in his window. He lays himself flat across his row and buckles himself in. He watches the hull tear away.

Ottway lays on the same white bed as before, and stares at his wife. They’re covered by a billowy sheet. Ottway awakens in a desolate, snow-covered field, alone. He gets to his feet, surveys his surroundings, and runs in the direction of smoke. Beyond a bluff lies the wreckage of the plane. He scrambles down to the crash-site and happens upon Flannery, injured and pinned under his seat. Ottway helps him up, doing his best to distract him from his bisected seat-mate. Ottway makes his way inside the fuselage where he finds a half dozen survivors. One of them, Lewenden (James Badge Dale) is spurting blood from his abdomen. Hendrick (Dallas Roberts) comforts Lewenden, telling him that he’ll pull through. Ottway takes one look at Lewenden and tells him as tactfully as he can that he will succumb to his wounds; that death will feel like a warm blanket that slowly overtakes him, and to accept it while thinking about his daughter. Lewenden slowly passes, to the shock of the survivors around him.” reposted from

it occurred to me that this modern fable could easily translate into an allegory for addiction. a few hardcore users find themselves in a s place where they have to fight to survive. as they see their companions fade to gray, first in a group, then individually, there is an obvious struggle to remain human while simultaneously developing the skills necessary to survive. being chased by wolves and lacking food and rest adds to the terror in a concrete way. one by one the hardcore team is picked off by the pack of beasts who are cunning, baffling, and powerful.

it is definitely not an uplifting tale. it is dark, suspenseful, and gory. this reflected image of a mad struggle to survive settled over me like a fog and still lingers. there are so many travelers among us who are trapped in their own hell. they continue to scramble to find safety, with death happening around them without notice.  this has been very much like my experience with life. simply staying alive can sometimes become a royal gorge and i have found that only a spiritual connection can transform the drudgery with purpose. this is my truth. life was a ride, but somehow the adventure changed and became grey. and the wolves that were my constant consumption became fierce, colorless, and cold.

the film is harsh. its cold and it’s frank. i was hooked from almost the start. i liked seeing it on the big megaplex screen, too. the scenery was a character and added so much. i sit close and move my head from side to side. wide screen should be wide screen- gray or not.

j edgar- a meandering stream

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i have been mulling over what i might write about the film j. edgar. i saw it on sunday afternoon and was fairly gobsmacked for some reason. it has taken a day or so for me to ascertain what that might be about. the film is like a mountain stream in late august. it flows gently from here to there and back again. there are no visible rapids and what surprises exist are due more to the invisible depths than what is evident to the eye. that makes sense because john edgar hoover was much more than met the eye. he lived a dual-storyline his entire career. eastwood seems to mirror this with the tale that he spins rolling back and forth between the decades and the insanity( or do i mean drive?)that became hoover at the last years of his life. leonardo is sublimely eloquent. his expression of this historic character is loving and studied, directing me to both understand and empathize with j edgar’s duality. as he dons the makeup that is the elder g i man, it is seamlessly natural to forget who is the actor. perhaps i gush a little too much here, but i honestly can’t remember a performance that took my breath away quite like dicaprio’s hoover. it was really like my first slice of rhubarb pie- both sweet and tangy with both of those seeming dominant.

what is there to say about armie hammer. he again has cashed in on his blue blood demeanor to present a 1920’s poof, who only needs a green carnation to complete the stereotype. the tension between the two actors seems real, as does the overly cautious and entangled relationship that they boarded to ride together as j edgar shaped a federal bureau of investigation for america. typically i don’t like blondes, but somehow he stirs something in me that finds his silver spoon aesthetic not only endearing but attractive.

and when these two characters reach a tipping point in their relationship, i was achingly reminded what it was like to be closeted. there is such a struggle between fear and desire.  i don’t know how true to history this story is. i should care, but frankly i don’t. i do understand that here is another tortured gay couple’s story being played out on the big screen as directed by a heterosexual man. to pretend that lgbt love was without strife seems ignorant. to pretend that our predecessors were flawless is childlike and denialist. gay lives were taut and tenuous most of the time.  clint’s position is one of not assuming too much. he believes they loved each other. he believes they feared detection. he implies others knew about them. he insists the viewers find empathy or not. he insists we think about it.

i wish there were more gay directors who could be as deft with telling our stories as mr. eastwood and mr. lee. lgbt culture is indebted to these men. they respect without much embellishment. and they let viewers make their own opinions. i felt pride in seeing gay men love- even if it wasn’t wholesome, because i know we love. and i know we have tasted tragedy. i also know we have lost and we have won. both sides of this truth are evident in this storytelling. it gently rolls to and fro and a love seems to whisper in the breeze

as a post script- judy dench again shines here. she is understated, yet supports much of the first hour of the film. her most powerful line for me- “no son of mine will be a daffodil” embodies the stigma the stigma that homosexuals endured for the 1st 3/4 of the 20th century.

a haunting ghost story

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jim and i went to the esquire on sunday evening with two objectives: 1) to avoid any notice of a football game and 2) to see a south american film called undertow. i knew very little about it and am almost at a loss as to share just how memorable it is.

it takes place in a chiquito beach fishing village in peru. santiago is an extremely handsome (very gay) and independent artist/painter and has moved to the village to perhaps get away from his family. he has met and engaged in an affair with miguel- a very loved married man who grew up in the village. it becomes clear they have been having secret trysts and exotic entanglements, but since miguel’s wife has a baby due any minute, miguel thinks it a practical idea to end the affair (after one last glorious lovemaking) with tiago.

since i am not a reviewer, i thought i would share a synopsis from the film’s website…

Miguel is a handsome, young and beloved fisherman in Cabo Blanco, a small fishing village in the Northern coast of Peru, where the community has deep-rooted religious traditions. Miguel is married to the beautiful Mariela, who is 7-months pregnant with their firstborn, but Miguel harbors a scandalous secret: He is having a love affair with another man, Santiago, a painter who is ostracized by the townsfolk for being agnostic and open about his sexuality.

When Santiago drowns accidentally in the ocean’s strong undertow, he cannot pass peacefully to the other side. He returns after his death to ask Miguel to look for his body and bury it according to the rituals of the town. Miguel must choose between sentencing Santiago to eternal torment or doing right by him and, in turn, revealing their relationship to Mariela and the entire village. Miguel is forced to deal with the consequences of his acts and to come to terms with who he really is, even if by doing so he stands the chance of losing the people he loves the most.
With sweeping images of the beautiful Peruvian coastline, UNDERTOW (Contracorriente) is the emotional intersection of contemporary sexuality, confronted by tradition and belief. This sexy and redolent love story is the feature film debut of Javier Fuentes-León and stars Manolo Cardona (Beverly Hills Chihuahua and the hugely popular telenovela series, Sin tetas no hay paraiso, and was also named by People en Espanol as one of its 50 Most Beautiful People in 2005), Cristian Mercado (Che) and Tatiana Astengo. The film is produced by Javier Fuentes-León and Rodrigo Guerrero (Maria Full of Grace, Dog Eat Dog).

of course the above is a simplification, and i cannot begin to relay just how simple and beautiful the metaphors for love, closeted gay love, stigma, and acceptance are that follow. tiago remains attached to earth and has to ask miguel to release him from his undead predicament, but miguel struggles with this concept selfishly. he wants to be with him so he continues his affair with his ghostly companion, even finally being brave enough to walk down the main drag of his village hand in hand with the man he loves. of course none of the other villagers see anyone but miguel- which speaks volumes about the loves we have that others do not see.

being a vbq (very big queen) i cried at the closing of the film. there is something so final about death and about the closure that those of us left behind need in order to move forward. it is a grave note that we are left with, but it is not simply sorrow that i felt. i found i was up to my earlobes in hope- that such a powerfully simple and straightforward film could come from such a small and not-very-well known country takes my breath away- almost as much as scene after scene of the peruvian coastline. i say see this film no matter what. even if you hate subtitles.

 the 2 leading men are beautiful. the film is delicious. and the soundtrack is even more enticing.  as a starter or as a meal, contracorriente (undertow) is thoroughly sublime.

and twisted

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             “Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun.”- Kahlil Gibran

jim and i watched a german film called cherry blossoms last night and i must say we were yawning during the beginning. it is a slow and steady paced story about a disconnected adult nuclear family that encounters the daily situations most of us will at some time. the father is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the wife/mother is consulted first and decides not to disclose until family visits have taken place. the couple head to berlin from bavaria to visit 2 of their 3 adult offspring and encounter indifference and nonchalant condescension aimed at the parents. the 3rd son, living in tokyo, is referenced with a crystal understanding that this 3rd son was special.  the family in general are not close, nor does it even seem possible that they were ever under the same roof. yet they were.

but as this quiet and tenacious story unfolds, it is revealed that the mother, who is the nerve center of the nucleus, has always yearned for a different life than the one she had. she wouldn’t have traded her kids and her family even if she had been able. the visit goes a bit sour in berlin and the couple decide to go to the baltic- to get some sun and sea air. while there, unexpectedly, a surprise tragedy occurs and the storyline shifts again.

this new chapter finds the characters in tokyo, visiting the son and trying to carve out a new understanding of where their life is headed. it must be late spring in tokyo as the cherry blossoms are everywhere- hence the name. the dance of the cherry blossoms in the breeze is reflected in the movement of the characters from this point forward. there are surprises here, bringing both smiles and uneasiness.

i loved this film. i didn’t jump for joy nor did i cling to the edge of my seat. but i did find that the storytelling was solid. the plot moved and twisted in the breeze. it reminded me that the desires of people don’t necessarily match their lives. and that love and codependency are real, even surreal, they have meaning and they can be weighty.

it’s a good film. pretty, prickly, and perceptive. and jim makes movies more fun.

i have posted the soft cell/marc almond version of this song  previously, but i hadn’t heard david gray. i am absolutely mad for him. his vocals, his poetry, his storytelling. i thought it fitting somehow. hope you enjoy it, too.

social dickwork

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my friend jim and i have been going to the movies pretty regularly all summer long. we mostly agree on the films we are gonna see, and we come at the films from different directions, but we mostly agree and love what we are doing.. at least i do.

sunday evening, we went to see social network and this seemed to be no different. i found myself fascinated as i watched the unauthorized story of mark zuckerberg and thefacebook play out. for me it was a bit riveting to see something so recent being portrayed from a wider perspective. the language is still fresh, the fresh flavor of connecting to others instantly still stands out in our minds, and the introduction of computer generated mental health issues and personality disorders meld naturally and elegantly with the same old human drama.

i found the film compelling. zuckerberg’s character seemed to always be trying so hard to succeed and rise above his geek status. jessie eisenberg as mark seemed to telegraph the impression of  definite ocd or add being a driving force behind his genius. when life is upsetting i can just write code and make myself feel better. blogging for 4 years allows me to understand this on a more personal level. i sometimes go to my computer to help make myself change my mood.

zuckerberg is portrayed as the problem solving ironman in this story. he may have been supported in his quest for beyond-nerd positioning, but he was without fail the man that connected the dots in this picture. but the story also tells an old familiar tale. no man and no uber-network is an island. just as facebook is a vehicle to connect people to other people, there are other people besides zuckerberg that have made it happen. and unlike changing the channel on a television or closing a window on a website, it is not just okay to close a window on a relationship without giving that person or people the acknowledgement of their contribution and effect upon the journey.

or they will sue. where there is money , there is usually ego and lawyers. they go hand in hand. and this story is rife with them. people who are present on a journey often feel they are a bigger part of the process of creation because they are not used to creating anything. on the flipside though, when you tell someone yo want to partner with them or work with them, that is considered a verbal contract. even if they never do anything to contribute whatsoever.

the theatre was packed on a sunday night, so no doubt this film will do very well. the performances work, the zany “start-up” environment that sets up shop works on a few levels. justin timberlake brings a strange sense of sanity to the whole piece, which is almost oxymoronic as he portrays napster founder sean parker doing way too much partying as reality drowning with a minor in vengeance.

loved, loved, loved it..there is a definite collection of dicks in this movie. and i really loved that i got to pick which were the dicks according to me. pick your dick.   no need to say more. soundtrack by trent reznor. it’s definitely a story for a newer generation.  well done.

here is the first song from the soundtrack which is from trent reznor (nine inch nails) and atticus. moody and ominous, it sincerely echoes the themes that are played out on the screen.

try a little tenderness

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i am feeling a little sappy this morning i think. anyway, i thought i’d share this clip. for some unknown reason i still love this film. i don’t often think that gay romantic comedies are either that romantic or that funny, but this is an exception. i laughed and i cried, mostly because i could relate to the complete fear of intimacy that is highlighted here. the humor is caustic which seems very authentic to me as well. and i hadn’t heard so many opportunities to use the word “borch” in a sentence.

i am not often vulnerable with someone else. it’s too tender. it’s too scary. i tried it many many years ago and i felt as if i’d hiked through poison ivy. i itched and i scratched until it bled. and i just stopped hiking altogether. and i have been safe and quietly angry for these many years. i remember getting so angry at my friend peter because he had played outside our arrangement, that i broke a dish on the floor. but the anger that i felt frightened me so much because i had grown up around that type of expression of anger and i didn’t want it in my life. so i think i vowed to myself that i would never let someone hurt me like that again.

and i haven’t let that happen. but that is not the point of life. i found this at

“Fear of intimacy is at the heart of codependency. We have a fear of intimacy because we have a fear of abandonment, betrayal, and rejection. We have a these fears because we were wounded in early childhood – we experienced feeling emotionally abandoned, rejected, and betrayed by our parents because they were wounded. They did not have healthy relationship with self – they were codependents who abandoned and betrayed themselves – and their behavior caused us to feel unworthy and unlovable.”

“As children we were incapable of seeing ourselves as separate from our families – of knowing we had worth as individuals apart from our families. The reality we grew up in was the only reality that we knew. We thought our parents behavior reflected our worth – the same way that our codependent parents thought our behavior was a factor in rather they had worth.”

“The simplest and most understandable way I have ever heard intimacy described is by breaking the word down: in to me see. That is what intimacy is about – allowing another person to see into us, sharing who we are with another person.

Sharing who we are is a problem for codependents because at the core of our relationship with ourselves is the feeling that we are somehow defective, unlovable and unworthy – because of our childhood emotional trauma. Codependency is rooted in our ego programming from early childhood. That programming is a defense that the ego adapted to help us survive. It is based upon the feeling that we are shameful, that we are defective, unworthy, and unlovable. Our codependent defense system is an attempt to protect us from being rejected, betrayed, and abandoned because of our unworthy, shameful being.
We have a fear of intimacy because we were wounded, emotionally traumatized, in early childhood – felt rejected and abandoned – and then grew up in emotional dishonest societies that did not provide tools for healing, or healthy role models to teach us how to overcome that fear. Our wounding in early childhood caused us to feel that something was wrong with our being – toxic shame – and our societal and parental role models taught us to keep up appearances, to hide our shamefulness from others.”

As long as we are reacting unconsciously to our childhood emotional wounds and intellectual programming, we keep repeating the patterns. We keep getting involved with unavailable people. We keep setting ourselves up to be abandoned, betrayed and rejected. We keep looking for love in all the wrong places, in all the wrong faces. Is it any wonder we have a fear of intimacy?”

life during wartime

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two more free days in front of me. this will no doubt pass very quickly. i have things to do, but am not sure if i will get them all completed. but no matter i am in need of taking some time.

 i went to see “Life During Wartime” last night. what a strange buffet it was. without a doubt, i am  completely unqualified to relay the accurate intentions of this film. but i will state that i left with more questions than answers, and i love my life more when there are questions.  it was full of tears and ghosts, misdirection and missteps, and much of this was presented in such an exaggerated and retro-vivid style. it felt colorized and sanitized and sun bleached.  i found myself laughing because some of the scenes were so uncomfortable that i had to ease my own queasiness. Charlotte Rampling chewed the scenery with her very small scene at the Deauville Hotel on Miami Beach.

i made pear crisp yesterday and ate way too much of it. the pears are so superb right now and i used a box mix called “whistlestop cafe” from fannie flagg. for all you young folks, fannie flagg was a hoot of a celebrity who used to appear on “The Match Game” with Charles Nelson Reilly. She also wrote the screenplay “Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Cafe” which later became one of my favorite films “Fried Green Tomatoes”. I am adding a link to the cooking items, as they fall in line with the current home cooking trend.

a friend has lost both his grandmothers this august. i am driving him to the airport to attend the second service. i think we are having lunch at park burger. a new one just opened in our neighborhood where the old “bump and grind”. but, we may end up going to d-bar as they have added a full menu to their once dessert only offerings.  i am giving him a copy of “when things fall apart” by pema chodron. this book still helps me find my way when the fan spews shit. “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.“… Pema Chodron

my building relandscaped along one street last weekend. there are 3 levels and it took 5 people 18-20 hours to get it done. there were lots of new plantings that were installed. we planted hydrangeas, dwarf korean lilacs, daphne, and 3 types of grasses. it will be months before we really see the results. who says i am not learning patience?

i bought the most amazing balsamic reduction at Marczyk’s last week. it is combined with truffles and has an undeniable earthy flavor. i used it on an heirloom tomato salad with fresh basil, but took it later that day to a party i was working and the the chef used it for the tenderloin and the salmon  she served. it is bottled by Cucina Viva and is imported from Italy.

as i consider a title for this post, and read the pastiche that makes up this post, i am reminded of a line in the film alluding to the truth that as a nation we are still involved in a war. a war that has been going on for so long that i have numbed myself to this fact. i put blinders on and try to forget that my country’s (and my own) addiction to fossil fuel has been at the core of nations tumbling and citizens dying. maybe this would account for the consistent crying jags, the visits from ghosts, the tortured memories, and the tattered relationships that filled each frame of that film..