two shirtless men sleep side by side with arms around each other
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

I Am Michael, or: To Be Gay or Not to Be

What sounds like a more interesting film:  one in which a legendary Chilean poet evades the law and narrowly escapes the cops or one about a man who moves to Canada and leans into Christian fundamentalism?  Subjectivity aside, the latter also features Zachary Quinto’s excellent eyebrow acting and the approach of a Lifetime movie to its subject matter.  And honestly, a film earns a lot of credit from me when it avoids heavy-handed narration.

The Film:

I Am Michael

The Premise:

The story of a gay activist who ultimately rejects his sexuality in favor of Christianity.

The Ramble:

“If you’re a moral person, you’ll choose to be straight.”  Not exactly the opener you’d expect for a film about a gay activist.  Except this activist is Michael Glatze, a man who edited a gay magazine in San Francisco before renouncing his sexuality in favor of Christianity.  That’s a lot to process, no?  Let’s back up a few years.

Before coming out as straight, Michael (played by James Franco) was in a serious relationship with love of my life Spock Zachary Quinto Bennett.  Michael is very much part of the gay community:  attending all-night raves, mourning traumatic events including the murder of Matthew Shepard.

Three men cheer amidst a larger group of people at a club. The men are wearing glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets as accessories.

When Bennett gets a job in Halifax, Michael’s life changes dramatically.  Instead of dedicating his time to the magazine, he gives talks to local schools, writes a lot of blog content, and eventually begins working in a soul-crushing office job.

After a year passes, Michael doesn’t feel any better adjusted to his new life.  When he fights with Bennett, Michael goes off in search of dudes, and picks up a cute young guy named Tyler.  Michael and Bennett begin an open relationship with Tyler, eventually traveling across the country with him to complete a documentary.

Two men walk through a meadow of white wildflowers. The man in front holds a flower and wears a backwards red baseball cap, blue t-shirt and jeans. The man behind him has blond hair, and wears a red t-shirt and jeans.

While filming the documentary about queer youth in the U.S., the three encounter a gay student at Liberty University (I’m sorry, but gross gross gross gross gross; I’m so creeped out by Liberty).  Though he identifies as gay, the student embraces his Christian identity and begins praying with his troubled friend.

Michael begins to wonder if he can have it all, identifying as both a gay man and a Christian.  However, he opts for living quietly with his doubts, going to church and reading the Bible in secret.

A group of people meditate on rugs in a large room with wooden floors and walls. They sit with crossed legs and eyes closed, and a man in a blue tank top and black shorts is the most prominent.

Meanwhile, Michael becomes increasingly preoccupied with his mortality and fears above all that the afterlife is just nothingness.  After a panic attack, he becomes convinced he has the heart condition that killed his father.

When he insists there’s a lot of love in the Bible, Michael earns some eyebrow raises from Bennett and Tyler.  He explores the Mormon church and Buddhism, drawn to their clear visions of the afterlife and potential to solve his so-called homosexual problem.  After moving out, he claims he is no longer gay.

What’s up with that?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

There’s something about this film that stays with me.  It may not be brilliant, but Zachary Quinto is great as ever and even James Franco gives a decent performance.  Possibly because he plays a character who’s a bit of an asshole?

It makes me sad that Michael broke Bennett’s heart, and it’s disturbing to think about the number of people who still have to lie about who they are in order to have the job and life they want.  To be clear:  I do not sympathize with people who claim they’re persecuted for their Christian beliefs in predominantly Christian nations.  It’s also troubling how Michael buys into the false dichotomy of being part of gay culture or living as the squarest straight dude alive.  I like to think we’re getting better at recognizing the many different ways to identify as LGBTQ, but clearly we still have a long way to go.

Narratively, I wish we’d spent a little more time on the impact of Michael’s actions on Bennett and the gay community as a whole.  I don’t really care if someone’s sexual orientation changes (though obv the idea that you can choose this is problematic AF), but the really shitty thing Michael did was perpetuate a horrible culture that tells young people their sexuality is a sin to be corrected.  I also feel we could use some more insight into Michael’s interiority while recognizing that I don’t ever want to know what’s really going on inside this guy’s head.

The only thing certain is that blonde James Franco is the douchiest James Franco.

Would my blog wife accept this one as it is or ditch it faster than a blonde James Franco?  Read her review here to find out!

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Life Rants

Forever a Loan: Reflections on Higher Ed and Debt

As a librarian in higher ed, the cost of college has been on my mind a lot lately.  In his Netflix series Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj recently did a really great episode about the awful business of student loans and those who profit from them.

Because my student loan payments are set to increase another $50/month soon, I do admit my feelings of anxiety and resentment are amplified just thinking about it. And it does make me sad that I may not be able to buy a house or feel confident that I can retire comfortably in part because of student loans (and partly because our world is so fucked).  It’s frustrating (not to mention unsustainable) that it’s become accepted and expected to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans for an education.  It holds back progress in so many ways when talented, passionate graduates have trouble making a living wage or even finding a job at all–not to mention sending an incredibly damaging message about who deserves to learn and succeed in our world.

I have a friend on another social media platform who regularly rants about how people who can’t afford college shouldn’t take out loans, and it drives me up the wall.  To give you some context, this is also a person who says fat people should be kicked off of health insurance to make it more affordable for everyone else…

And I absolutely urge people taking out private loans to consider how unforgiving debt collectors are in that arena—the government as a lender is bad enough, yet it doesn’t engage in some of the more extreme practices of predatory private lenders.

It’s helped me immensely to think about student loans as medicine; like all meds, there will be side effects, but sometimes you need to take them.  Even with the cost and the side effects, ask yourself what you gain by taking them, and whether those benefits outweigh the negative consequences.

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Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

I do find it frustrating that 5 years after earning my master’s degree, I still don’t have a long-term contract.  I’m not sure what I’m doing after July of this year.  But I love the profession of librarianship, and I love the number of thoughtful, caring, social justice-oriented colleagues I’ve met.  I should have perhaps waited to have more experience before pursuing my master’s degree, and I don’t love the amount of money it cost me.  But I do love this profession, and I love the path that earning my master’s degree has led me on.  I know librarians are stereotyped as joyless authorities who demand complete silence—and I’ll be honest, we generally do like rules.  However, just mention banning a book or the profession’s problem with race or demonstrators protesting drag queen story hour and you’ll see there is a solid foundation of strong convictions behind the work we do.

I have seen the emotional and financial burden student loans have placed on current students, and I bitterly regret that.  And college isn’t for everyone, and it shouldn’t be expected that everyone attend college–though this is really a problem with the fucked up ways that we value different kinds of work.

But honestly telling people not to pursue college because they can’t afford it is another way of saying “I have very much bought into our current social order and am committed to maintaining it.”  The problem is not with the students taking out loans—it’s with the entire higher ed system and the business of student loans now inseparable from everyday college functions.  And, more broadly, it’s a problem with a capitalist society that commodifies education and undervalues the work of the public service sectors.

I do wish I could be more financially stable, even as I acknowledge I enjoy an amount of financial stability that places me in an extremely privileged position.  And there’s a lot of BS in higher ed, I fully recognize that.  But I would never work on Wall Street or as a part of the military industrial complex or in any number of jobs that benefit a small group of people while actively making the world a worse place for everyone else.  I wouldn’t change where I am or how I’ve gotten here.  And it will be people who push the boundaries, who reach for things that they cannot afford, that were never meant for them—they will be the ones to show that they are not wrong, that they do not need to change, but it’s the world around them that needs to change so it can catch up to them.

That being said–sign me the fuck up for free college if I ever live to see it happen.

Header image by Good Free Photos on Unsplash
Life Rants

#Goals

I’ve been blogging here for over 4 years now.  And while it’s been so worth it in terms of meeting my blogging partner and internet love of my life, A Voluptuous Mind, I haven’t become a social media influencer, the voice of a generation, or even the kind of blogger who every now and then gets free samples of all-natural snacks to review.

According to a widget on my blog’s side bar, I have 172 followers, a number I don’t understand (but choose not to question).  What I do know is this number in no way accurately reflects the number of people who regularly read this blog, which is approximately 3% of that number (looking at you, whoever is Googling “hillbilly woman murderer from the 1800’s” and “does the cat die in hush”).

I can’t say I’m sad about the lack of a following most of the time, since any large group on the internet seems to be composed of about 30% (or more) trolls and/or Russian bots.  But I do at times aim to write and post more on this blog than I do, and I wonder if that lack of followers holds me back in spite of myself.  One of the first questions people usually ask about my blog is how many readers it has.

Tim Wu has written this wonderful article, “In Praise of Mediocrity,” that asserts the way we talk about hobbies has gotten absolutely out of control.  It’s not enough to dabble in sketching; you must illustrate and animate a 12-minute short film to prove you have a true passion for your hobby.  And it’s out of the question you keep at something even when all evidence suggests you may not have any talent for it whatsoever.

I keep meaning to write more, but I worry what I write will be garbage.  I have been telling myself to do more sketching or actually focus on a fucking practical hobby like knitting or give sailing a go since I’m surrounded by water now.

And admittedly, I’ve had a lot going on lately and am trying to be patient with myself.  But I also want to avoid falling into a routine before I’ve had the opportunity to try different things and absorb new experiences.

Wu writes “to permit yourself to do only that which you are good at is to be trapped in a cage whose bars are not steel but self-judgment.”

There are a lot of chances I haven’t taken because I was too busy feeling like shit about myself or worried that others would see too clearly what a talentless hack I was.  But goddamnit, I want to learn to sail.

Photo by chuttersnap

Activism, Life Rants

Bad Dreams

This week brought to you by vivid dreams about drowning in water parks and having incredibly detailed screaming fights with members of my family (admittedly the latter isn’t always an invention of my unconscious).

Among other things, last week’s shitshow of a Supreme Court hearing has really gotten under my skin.  Accompanied by a sense of doom ahead of November’s midterm elections, this hasn’t been great for my psyche (or the tension headaches that lie in wait when they can sense I’m feeling overwhelmed).

I don’t have anything to add on the Kavanaugh hearings and the composure of Dr. Blasey Ford that hasn’t been said by others much more eloquently:  here, here, and here to name a few.  But (geographically) closer to home another disturbing political development has been on my mind.

This weekend saw my alma mater, Kent State, unwillingly become a rallying place for ahem, “grassroots” gun rights activists very much sponsored by extremist right-wing groups.

Coverage of the event is detailed by the student news site, Kent Wired:  http://www.kentwired.com/latest_updates/article_998c22ac-c597-11e8-a33d-bf61db148c4d.html

If the name Kent State is familiar to you, it’s likely because of the infamous Kent State shootings of 1970 in which members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam War, fatally wounding 4.  As a place of historic importance, the area where the shootings occurred looks almost identical to its appearance in the 1970s, and there is a center on campus dedicated solely to educating students and visitors about the tragedy.

Of course I take issue with the idea that more guns are needed on college campuses in light of the number of students who have opened fire on their classmates in recent years.  And of course I take issue with the idea that the so-called Constitutional right to bear arms should receive so much coverage when the growing number of college students who are homeless or regularly go without enough food are much more pressing concerns for anyone in higher ed.

But honestly it’s most concerning to me that some of the protest signs suggested the Kent State shootings could have been prevented if the victims had been armed.  I understand this type of statement is meant to provoke outrage rather than make sense, but to me nonviolent protest is an integral part of democracy and the identity of the United States.  Civil disobedience is a value to strive for rather than scorn–whether or not those participating in acts of civil disobedience receive civil treatment in return.  I find it disturbing on a fundamental level that the appropriate response to threats of violence seems to be more threats of violence.

If there’s one silver lining here in a very troubling story, it’s that many students on campus expressed opposition or annoyance in response to the protestors.  Students rallied with signs and chants, forming a human wall to prevent the march from proceeding across campus.  As a librarian, my favorite response was one student’s sign indicating outrage that the library was closed as a safety precaution.  Image is on Twitter:

 

Stay golden, library sign boy.

Featured image by Michael Weidner on Unsplash
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Selfie from Hell, or: Horror Hodge-Podge

After a summer hiatus of nearly a month(!), we are back in the swing of things.  Appropriately, we mark our return to the blog collab with bad, low-budget horror.

The Film:

Selfie from Hell

The Premise:

Julia is a Youtube star, Instagram influencer, and all-around social media sensation.  That is, until she takes a selfie…FROM HELL.

The Ramble:

Ready to get away from it all and spend some time bonding with her cousin Hannah, social media pro Julia is ready to chill.  After Hannah picks her up from the airport, Julia becomes mysteriously panicked at the mention of her boyfriend, and even more freaked out at the suggestion of taking a selfie.  What gives?  Has her selfie-ing awakened a demonic presence that is now stalking her?  Seems like the logical conclusion, eh?

two young women sit in a car, one holding a cell phone as the other reaches for it

Before Julia has even had the chance to enjoy a nice cuppa at Hannah’s house, she senses something is wrong and begins to selfie.  In selfie mode, she manages to get a glimpse of a dark shadowy figure behind her…creeeeeeeeeepy!

Julia’s fun is cut short when she collapses suddenly, falling ill with what seems to be a very high fever.  Despite her condition, Julia appears to keep texting Hannah eerie messages and voice recordings.  Putting on her sleuthing cap, Hannah digs up some articles and disturbing images that reveal Julia’s death…?  In her final Youtube vid, Julia warns others not to view 13 selfies under any circumstances.

a young woman sits at an outside table, holding a cell phone

After becoming convinced someone else is in the house, Hannah brings her online hacker friend, Trevor, into the loop.  With Trevor’s help, Hannah manages to lurk around on the dark web, searching for the site with 13 selfies.  When she stumbles across the 13 selfies she’s absolutely not supposed to watch, guess what she immediately does.  Hannah also manages to give away all of her personal information to a cyberstalker, who insists he’s the only one who can help her.

a young man and woman in a dark room lean over a cell phone

Shocker–it turns out creepy internet lurker also has very dark connections to a demonic selfie monster.  Will Hannah live to selfie another day?

The Rating:

1.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Even though this was an objectively terrible, nonsensical film, I just can’t be bothered to give it 1 PPH.  I didn’t hate it, it was just very meh.  And you know what they say about the opposite of love as indifference.

There is virtually no set up to kick off this film, so it’s very hard to care about the characters or even remember their names.  We do get some super vague backstory about Hannah’s mom dying a year ago, and Julia being there in her hour of need…but so what?  I was hoping there would be some kind of connection to the horror elements Hannah and Julia faced, but this film just wasn’t organized enough for that.

I found this to be a bit of a horror genre mash-up–we had the house intruder trope, demonic possession, torture porn, psychotic kidnapper.  None of these were done particularly well, though there were some creepy dimly-lit house scenes and sinister selfies.

Would Christa pull a duck face and selfie with this one or crop it out of her profile pic?  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Love, or: Full-Frontal Male Misogyny

In the history of the Blog Collab, there have been only a handful of films so hated that Christa and I cannot contain our rage about them.  This is one of those films.

The Film:

Gaspar Noé’s Love

The Premise:

An awful garbage human being reflects on how he fucked things up with the so-called love of his life.

The Ramble:

Our film begins ever so tastefully in the middle of a 3-minute full-frontal sex scene.  If this is the kind of thing you’re into, good news–you’ll see so many endless, gratuitous sex scenes with all of the nudity.  All of it.

As it turns out, the scene depicts our protagonist and resident misogynist Murphy with his ex-girlfriend and love of his life, Electra.  In the present, Murphy’s memories of her are all he has.  Murphy is unhappily married to a woman named Omi with whom he shares a young son (named Gaspar, JFC).  As the film opens, Murphy learns that Electra is missing and quite possibly dead.

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Can’t…contain…douchebaggery…much longer…

Let’s just pause to appreciate the nature of Murphy’s marriage and the almost superhuman amount of self-pity he feels.  He’d definitely be top pick for Marvel’s Improbably Self-Pitying Misogynist Man.  Murphy believes his wife, Omi, deliberately became pregnant to trap him.  He regularly thinks shit like “I’m sick of this bitch.  Take care of the baby and leave me alone,” “I’m married because of a broken condom,” and “I hope she doesn’t make my son gay.”  What a catch.

As Murphy reflects on his present, he becomes lost in memories of his past with Electra and–lucky for us–details the tragic story of how their relationship unraveled.  When Electra and Murphy meet at a party, he is a film student who wants to make movies out of “blood, sperm, and tears.”  He’s the obnoxious film guy who gets indignant when Electra admits she hasn’t seen 2001.  Give it a rest, bro.

Electra is a struggling artist with a drug problem and a complicated relationship with her parents.  Despite their issues, Electra and Murphy fall into a passionate relationship with an absolutely unnecessary number of sex scenes.  The two believe they will start a family and be together forever because their love is so twu.

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Yet another reason to be grossed out by PDA.

Unfortunately, cracks begin to show quite quickly in this relationship (and not just ass cracks).  Electra’s ex, Noé (eye roll), has a successful gallery whose position to help her makes Murphy super jealous.  As the couple fights more and more, they go to extreme measures to save their relationship.  Naturally, this includes a visit to a gross underground sex club (I almost vomited when I thought about people having to clean this place), hiring a trans sex worker, and a threesome with a pretty young neighbor, Omi…aka Murphy’s future wife.

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A rare moment of fully-clothedness.

What happened to drive the final nail in the coffin?  And will Electra ever be seen again?  Does anyone give a shit?

The Rating:

1/5 Angry Pink Panther Heads

Ugh, the only thing worse than seeing Murphy’s dick so many times that it stops looking real is hearing this douchebag’s internal monologue throughout the film.  I have absolutely no sympathy for this dude’s existential angst as everything bad that’s happened to him is his own fucking fault yet he still doesn’t learn to treat women better.

Just for fun, a selection of Murphy’s internal thoughts:

“A dick has only one purpose:  to fuck.”  (Dicks fuck assholes.)

“Men understand each other; we have respect for each other.”

“I’m not a slave to pussy.  Pussy is pussy.”

The nature of Murphy and Electra’s relationship is also horrific.  This film should’ve just been called Sex or Fucking because what they share is not love.  The two spend an insufferable amount of time talking about what a great couple they are, but they’re actually the worst.

Only watch this one if you want to watch a porno while insisting to your friends at a party that this is true art.

Would Christa have a self-pitying wallow with this one or cover it quickly with a towel (and/or kill it with fire)?  Find out here!

a woman lies on a bed in a small, enclosed space, wearing a black dress and with her black high heeled shoes kicked off
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Feminist February II: Advantageous

Feminist February continues!  This week is Christa’s pick, it’s sci-fi, it’s about ageism, and it’s written/directed by and starring women.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Film:

Advantageous

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

In the near-ish future, a middle-aged woman undergoes a dramatic procedure to keep her job and secure her daughter’s future.

The Uncondensed Version:

Gwen is a career woman, mother, and face of her company.  She has a lot going for her even in the somewhat disconcerting future she lives in.

Everyone has a little flying UFO-type aircraft to zip around the city.  Well…it occurred to me that in the future (as in the present), only rich people will be able to afford really cool shit like that.  Thus all of my enthusiasm for the future has been crushed.

a futuristic city skyline depicts a building with a waterfall cascading down onto it
On the bright side, waterfall skyscrapers are a thing we can look forward to in the future.

Gwen’s daughter, Jules, is having a hard time understanding the world they live in, esp. as most things have gone to shit.  Jules didn’t get in to the exclusive prep school she applied to, she may not have eggs by the time she’s 20, and she feels that humanity’s awareness of how bad things are has done nothing to alter the course of history (she has a point there).

a woman and child rest their heads against each other while sitting on a couch
They’re pretty cute.

Though Gwen tries to remain optimistic and instill a sense of hope in her daughter, things go from bad to worse when she is let go as the face of her company, which specializes in radical procedures to help women (and I mean, probably men too, but mostly women.  Fucking patriarchy) maintain a youthful appearance.  The latest procedure is experimental—it involves transferring one’s brain into a younger body.  Of course it does.  And guess who is too old to be the face of the company?

So Gwen is fired and immediately calls her…agent?  He seems to be a robot named Drake, which cracked me up every time.  At one point, Gwen asks “Drake, are you a human being?”  Valid question, Gwen.  Drake is really unhelpful and suggests Gwen donate eggs…which will earn her money in a few months.  Not going to help when Gwen needs to live and somehow afford a $10,000 down payment to reserve a spot at a fancy private school.

a woman stands on a balcony with a large potted plant behind her
You used to call me on my Bluetooth…

Guess where this is going.  Guess.  Yeah, Gwen decides to be a guinea pig for the procedure in which her identity and memories are transferred to a new body.  She continues to reinforce to her daughter, who has some major preteen angst, that she is a beautiful, strong young lady.

a man in glasses stands in a room with dark-colored walls
On a side note, Ken Jeong is in this(?!?!??!?!?!).

Gwen and Jules spend Christmas together.  Jules draws quite a nice portrait of Gwen.  Gwen reminds her that the wisdom and kindness Jules has is the secret beauty everyone wants.  Cue the waterworks.

Shortly after, the time to undergo the procedure arrives.  The way this film builds to the inevitable conclusion is brilliantly done, but still feels jarring.  There is no other option for Gwen as the external (and internal) pressures build on her.  However, I kept trying to find ways around the ending as it’s not going to conclude happily for anyone, really.  As more is revealed about the procedure, this film becomes increasingly horrifying/sad/wrenching.

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Chilling.  Make sure you have a cat to hug immediately following viewing.

Did Christa feel the need to hug a cat as well?  Read her review here to find out!