Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Dream

At the library again, I am looking for an illustrated book with naturalistic looking animals as fairy tale creatures. I take the book to the riverbank. The sky is at half night and the water runs with mud.

Waist deep in the river is a father in his coat and hat with his son. They stand with the bowed trees holding at branches against the current. Calculating stillness as a white spotted owl negotiates branch after branch stretching out its wings just outside the defence of its nest. It seems indifferent to their presence despite its size and close proximity. The river silt is poisoned by heavy metals and radiation and countless industrial disasters. The father lifts a branch and his son passes under to poke his finger into the owl's nest. There is a smudge of black grease as he wipes off his cheek.

Nausea overcomes the boy white as a ghost against the pale night. And the quiet roar coaxes him shyly into the deeper water as his father sobs. Gravity and the strength of his legs give slowly into the current. Below, the soft stones are felt again and again by the kiss of every passing scale and fin.

Along comes a woman on a raft reading Baudrillard who sees the crying father and offers to give him a lift. She tells him there is a barn down river that can grant wishes. There his son can be given back to him. He follows along beside her wading though the cursed sands of the muddy river. Even the raft is smashed to pieces. Her violet dress spreads open all around her carried by the current. The bottom reveals itself wordlessly: a rock, a trout, a patch of weeds. Ahead they reach a clearing where they can see the building standing on shore. They lift their heavy legs through the sand into the dark end of the day.

I follow them from the river bank up the path to the barn. Inside the large dark gray room are the smells of straw and cobwebs. Leaning against the back corner is a very tall painting in yellow of the Virgin. We dissapear behind it into a passage. The next room has a open wall on the other side, a winding que for horses or some other animal, a kind of arcade. [or a stage?] The presence in the room is obvious at once. I try not to think about money. Only wishing for the return of this man's son would be appropriate. The three of us are hushed in delirious cyclical prayer. Just then at the sound of a wooden gate the boy crosses the arcade in the darkness from stage-left, exiting stage right beyond the black curtain. Its him. He crosses lightly again and his father rushes to meet him, opening the front wooden gate to the winding arcade. He grabs his boy tearfully, overjoyed to see him.

The recognition in the boy's face fades, however. Something sinister has replaced it, maybe knowing, maybe just someone else. The father begins to strangle the boy. It occurs to us we may have gotten more than the boy, a demonic trick. The barn door opens to the daylight and the farm hand storms in with his gun, the stable boy's father behind, old and terrified. The stagehand takes fire at the father, but is taken by the woman. She struggles for the gun and wrestling with his arms he shoots himself in the face. Father grabs the old man and strings him up by the neck, woman grabbing the rope and hoisting him up to the death. He swings like a pendulum to the woman's pulling, smashing into the stage-wall over and over, until his body dangles crushed and lifeless. An entire family murdered by reckless strangers from off the river.

We used to dream of oceans.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


An Existential Thursday for the history books. MILK was an exceptional movie! Emile Hirsh doing sit-ups was absolutely awesome. Everybody was awesome. Sean Penn and James Franco making out? Kind of creepy (especially that wig Penn was wearing), but still awesome.

The story was told in a pretty conventional way, predictable I should say, but the acting was top notch. Even Franco was not bad. The photography was dark and grainy and if you absolutely love 35mm film, it was mesmerizing to watch. The scene outside Milk's birthday party with the wallpaper? Flourescent light mashing up the color temperatures and casting a flicker over the kitchen in Harvey's apartment? Realistic lighting. Large format. Super-wide lenses. Film cannot die. Gus Van Sant is a true believer.

Watching this film was a very emotional experience. The victory over Prop. 6 in the movie felt extremely bittersweet given the current political climate. But, I can't imagine better timing for a film like this. I think it will stand a monument for better gay political films to come. Brokeback Mountain was an important film as far as creating empathy for closeted gay men in the hearts of a larger straight audience. MILK celebrates victory, tenacity, and hope. Its not just about staying alive. Its about kicking some fucking ass. Its about coming out and acting out despite how society may retaliate. There's no sense of victimization. There is a clear sense that victory comes to the bold, hard-won as it may be. That is the kind of film we need.

I am interested in what films can be considered as real predecessors to a film like MILK. Was it just a conventional protest film repackaged for the GLBT movement? Is it really any kind of first in gay film? It is certainly one of the best of its kind, but these are the natural questions that come to mind after seeing MILK. There must be others like it, if not already out there, soon to come in the future.

On that note, I am off to write some really disturbing letters to Emile Hirsh.