Thursday, March 30, 2006


With ‘Idol’ help, ‘Bad Day’ tops singles chart

This comes as no surprise to me. Every Thursday, this song is stuck in my head. We actually start singing it when Ryan announces the finalist who's been voted off. Last night, in fact, I panicked; it seemed like they might not play the song over Lisa's departure video. But then there it was, just like always: You had a bad day, you're taking one down, you sing a sad song just to turn it around...

I think Idol has turned me into an addict!

Close to Home

Teenage Life Is Dreamy for Josh Schwartz

This interview with the writer and creator of The O.C. is interesting, but the best part has got to be the byline:
"By SANDY COHEN, AP Entertainment Writer."

The guy really is Superman.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Big Bad Night

POPSURFING.COM: "Idol" -- Mandisa's Anti-Gay Song Intro

I won't let this turn into a weekly thing, but last night's episode of American Idol is worth a few comments. The show managed to follow one of the best weeks of performances with what was, by my reckoning, the worst in the last three years.

There was an interesting subtext to the night: We got to find out what a lot of the contestants really believe. Chris Daughtry really believes that crappy bands like Live and Creed are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Lisa Tucker thinks she's as good as Kelly Clarkson. And Mandisa...

Well, Mandisa believes that God is bigger than your "addiction, lifestyle, or situation."

Fine, right? Except that, based on Mandisa's previous comments, we know that she's a born-again Christian. If you've heard or read my raves about her performances, you know I haven't cared about that; I think she's one of the better singers in the competition and I was rooting for her to go far. But "lifestyle" is born-again, evangelical code for "gay." And Mandisa threw it into the same sentence as addiction. Has she been taking lessons from Trent Lott?

Seriously, this is disappointing. I know that plenty of people have a problem with homosexuality (a Tribune article today says 50 percent of the population considers homosexual behavior immoral), but I like to think that, at the very least, we've reached the point where it isn't couth to shout about it on national television. But the link to PopSurfing above proves that I wasn't the only one who heard the code word and reacted. By picking a gospel song, Mandisa appealed to the millions of people who believe in Christianity. By using the code of a militant minority of those Christians to position herself on their side of a cultural divide, though, she primed herself to get the votes of evangelicals who will think she "shares their values," as the Bush-voter formulation goes.

For that reason, I hope Mandisa gets the boot tonight (DialIdol has her fourth to last but within the margin of error to finish last, right about where lil' Kevin was last week), before those who would see this as a positive development have time to marshal the troops in her favor. Whatever she thinks or believes about my "lifestyle," she should have kept her mouth shut. Unless she offers some sort of "My-best-friend-is-gay-and-that's-not-what-I-meant" explanation, she's lost my vote.

[UPDATE, 4:17 P.M.: The Advocate has noticed this, too, and points out that Beth Moore, the woman who Mandisa calls her American Idol because she inspired her to live more like Jesus, included a passage in one of her books that depicts homosexuality as a temptation brought on by Satan to a girl who has an abusive relationship with her father. Not that this proves anything, but when you're a fan of the author of books with titles like Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Christ a Reality in Life, I guess there's a better than even chance in my mind that you agree with her about gay people.]

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Open Seat

Congressman Lane Evans of Ill. to Retire

It had to happen someday. It's too bad that Lane (who was my college Congressman, and for whom I door-knocked in 2000) waited until after the primary to make his decision, as a Democratic primary might have garnered some name recognition for his potential Democratic successor. On the other hand, avoiding a messy primary in a marginal district may not have been a bad idea, especially when the Republican is the same woman who shot herself in the foot by making Lane's disease a campaign issue.

I hope that, despite his continuing struggle with Parkinson's, he's able to enjoy his retirement. After 12 terms in the House, he's earned it.

Down on the Farm

Havel on Marriage Rights for Gays

Andrew Sullivan has former Czech president Vaclav Havel's reaction to his nation's decision to provide gay couples legal status:
"Though with a very tight margin, I am very glad that the legislation eventually made it through parliament. I was most intrigued in the debate by the absurd ideology advocated by the Christian Democrats and Klaus, who argue that family should have advantages since, unlike homosexual couples, it brings children to life. This is the concept of family as a sort of calf shed in which bulls can inseminate cows so that calves are born ... This is nothing spiritual, nothing intellectual. This is a purely material concept of family. This is what made me most upset in the debate."
This is wonderful news, and I would welcome similar statements from a revered former leader in our own country.

Meanwhile, Czech gays and lesbians have a law that "defines the establishment and termination of a partnership, ensures the partners' right to information on the health condition of each other and a chance to inherit property just as married couples do." Who'd have thought former Communist states would, less than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, behave in more enlightened ways than we do?

Call Central Casting

White House chief of staff resigns

Let's be fair to Andrew Card: Any man who gets to work at 5:30 and leaves at 10 at night (and takes calls starting at 4 am and ending at 11 pm) deserves our appreciation. Certainly he was working longer hours than George Bush these last five years.

Of course, he was loyal to a fault, something he expressed even in his break-up resignation speech:
Gripping the podium, Card said in his farewell: “You’re a good man, Mr. President.” Card’s eyes were watery. Card said he looks forward to just being Bush’s friend.
Unfortunately for Bush, Card's replacement, Joshua Bolten, comes from a troubled area of his administration, having served as budget director and, before that, as deputy policy director. Budget deficits bigger than any we've ever seen, a debt ceiling that has been raised several times, and no relief in sight...these are not exactly qualifications for the top job.

Then again, even Leo McGarry couldn't save this sinking ship.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Sour Grapes

Quaid Sues Over Payment for 'Brokeback'

And people thought Annie Proulx was bitter.

What is Randy Quaid thinking? He wasn't the draw for this film; his role, on-screen for all of four minutes, has nothing to do with its unexpected success.

Yet he claims that he was misled, and that the studio low-balled him by calling the movie low-budget, when in fact it was "fully intended that the film would not be made on a low budget, would be given a worldwide release, and would be supported as the studio picture it always was secretly intended to be."

Bullshit. Do you remember when the movie came out in five theatres and Focus didn't know how fast to push for fear of offending American sensibilities and turning people against the movie? Certainly, it was always hoped that the movie would succeed--but when is that NOT the case? No one expected this movie to make $82 million in North America and roughly the same amount worldwide.

Now Quaid wants $10 million in damages because he wasn't paid enough for a four-minute role in a movie made for $14 million. Does he see how silly he looks? (And I'm talking now about his behavior, not his usual appearance.) I hope Focus holds its ground and doesn't give him an extra dime.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

God Help Us


Kevin Drum points to a survey today that's kind of scary:
From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.
What if it's a gay marriage?

Seriously, are Americans really this afraid of people who have looked around and concluded that this is all a happy accident rather than the result of divine providence? Apparently they are, if we can judge by the president's father, who (I should have known this) was interviewed on the topic prior to his election:
Robert Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?

George H.W. Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
That's some serious stuff. If I don't believe in the Constitution, OK, maybe I'm not an American--and certainly not a patriot. (I'm not talking about agreeing for the most part but wanting to amend it a bit--dissent is part our tradition. Not believing in freedom of dissent? Now you're sounding like a non-believer.) But if I don't believe in God?

Something tells me the son would say very much the same thing. Someone should ask him.

Shooting Star Cold Fire

Nothing topical about this post; I just found the story of James and Zach visiting Oregon charming and thought you might, too. It just goes to show that, while the lives of gay couples may be just like everyone else's, there's plenty of room for magic. Even when it involves cheese, a beach, and a power outage.

Green Eyes

Don't Do Unto Others - The difference between gay marriage and polygamy. By William Saletan

William Saletan draws a distinction between gay marriage and polygamy that beats everything I've said. The key he, says, is to remember that marriage isn't based on how many people you'd like to sleep with:
The average guy would love to bang his neighbor's wife. He just doesn't want his wife banging his neighbor. Fidelity isn't natural, but jealousy is. Hence the one-spouse rule. One isn't the number of people you want to sleep with. It's the number of people you want your spouse to sleep with.
Makes sense, right? Saletan goes on to confront Charles Krauthammer's column conflating the two issues:
Krauthammer finds the gay/poly divergence perplexing. "Polygamy was sanctioned, indeed common" for ages, he observes. "What is historically odd is that as gay marriage is gaining acceptance, the resistance to polygamy is much more powerful." But when you factor in jealousy, the oddity disappears. Women shared husbands because they had to. The alternative was poverty. As women gained power, they began to choose what they really wanted. And what they really wanted was the same fidelity that men expected from them.

Gays who seek to marry want the same thing. They're not looking for the right to sleep around. They already have that. It's called dating. A friend once explained to me why gay men have sex on the first date: Nobody says no. Your partner, being of the same sex, is as eager as you are to get it on. But he's also as eager as you are to get it on with somebody else. And if you really like him, you don't want that. You want him all to yourself. That's why marriage, not polygamy, is in your nature, and in our future.

And just like that, this makes sense. Too bad more people don't read Slate.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

One on the Chin - Speed dial your favorite American Idol

So, an hour ago I called a friend and predicted that Elliott, Lisa, and Bucky would be tonight's bottom three on American Idol, and that Bucky would go home. Lo and behold, someone else agrees!

Actually, it's more than someone else. DialIdol is apparently a site and program that tracks the busy signals for each contestant as it uses modems to speed-dial their numbers. Based on the ratio of busy to not-busy for each contestant, it predicts (with some but not perfect accuracy, thus far) which contestants will be eliminated.

Tonight's picks agree with my own in all but one respect: I have Bucky going home, not Elliott. I guess we'll know soon!

More interesting, perhaps, is that we can see how all of the contestants appear to be doing. Would you guess that Taylor would be first? Or that Kellie would be second? Or that my projected final four of Chris Daughtry, Mandisa, Katharine McPhee, and Paris Bennett would be 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th respectively?

I've been saying for a while that there are seven good finalists and the rest should be eliminated before them, but it looks like Ace--who DialIdol has in 5th--may outlast what his talent would indicate, at Elliott's expense. And Kevin looks to be safe from the bottom three for another week, though his numbers and Bucky's are pretty close, within the site's reported 2 percent margin of error.

Assuming this site stays alive (the producers are understandably not pleased with it) it will be interesting to see how accurate it turns out to be!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Privacy, polls and the primary system

Eric Zorn revives a column from 1998 today that strikes a chord with me. This morning when I walked into my polling place (Willow Creek Community Church), after finding me on the rolls, the first question the elderly woman who processed me asked was "Democrat or Republican?" Now, I understand--it's a primary election and I have to pick a party to get a ballot. But why should I have to tell her--and the rest of the room, including the people in front of me and behind me in line and the person who actually handed me the little swipe card that allowed me to vote on an electronic kiosk--which party's nominees I've come to select?

This was particularly troubling because I was voting at Willow Creek--not exactly the first place a gay Democrat thinks to go on his own--and because the next woman, the one who activated my swipe card and gave me the extra paper ballot on which I voted on our local school referendum, seemed to think it was her responsibility to actually read my votes.

"You can just fill out your paper ballot and hand it to me to put in the box," she said.

"Shouldn't I fold it?"

(shocked) "Well, if you don't want me to see it."

She actually acted like it was shocking that I wouldn't want someone else to see my votes. "That's kind of the idea of the whole secret ballot," I said under my breath. She then returned as I inserted my card into the machine to begin voting, looking over my shoulder and trying to explain a ballot that anyone who has used an ATM could understand. "I've got it," I said, before racing through the touch-screen ballot in less than a minute.

Am I crazy? Or should we be able to vote without shouting our party affiliation to the rafters or letting election judges see how we voted? After all, the same women will probably await me on November 7 for the general election; is it right that they now know my party and, unless she really didn't peek between the folds of my paper ballot as she turned away, how I voted on the school referendum?

I voted yes, by the way. What kind of Democrat votes against more money for schools?

Count the Votes

Inscribe Edie Falco's Emmy trophy now | Popwatch | Blog: Entertainment Weekly

EW says what I said during Sunday's episode of The Sopranos: This year's Best Actress in a Drama Emmy can perch itself on Edie Falco's mantle right now. I would love to see Frances Conroy walk away with the trophy for her all-over-the-emotional-map last episode of Six Feet Under, but let's face it: By the time they hand out the Emmys that series will have been dead for more than a year, and I'll be the only one who still remembers Ruth's fierce hug for Claire as she told her to go out into the world and have a life. Whereas Emmy voters will be anticipating the opportunity, come January, to find out what will become of Carmela's life...

Speaking of Emmys, Tom O'Neil says Boston Legal will compete as a comedy this year. Good luck beating Shatner in the Best Supporting Actor category! Without the cast of Everybody Loves Raymond hogging the trophy, he's a shoo-in for his portrayal of the hilarious Denny Crane. And someone else can take home a trophy in the drama supporting actor category, which Shatner won last year after nabbing the Guest Actor trophy the year before. Alan Alda or Jimmy Smits for West Wing, anyone? Ciaran Hinds for his gripping Caesar in Rome? Or will someone from the Sopranos crew assert himself this season, as Michael Imperioli's Chris-ta-fah did during season five?


IGF: Varnell, Paul. 'For Civil Unions.'

On Election Day (did you vote?), it seems appropriate to consider what the electorate will accept rather than what it should. Paul Varnell's piece on Independent Gay Forum makes a good argument that gays and lesbians would do well to start pushing for civil unions. As Varnell admits, there are a variety of reasons why civil unions are inferior to marriage, but they're still a start--and one that appears to get fewer people up in arms than outright gay marriage. And once people get used to gay couples having legal rights, they might begin to wonder why we don't have more. For once, a slippery slope that slides somewhere good!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Global Scam

YouTube - South Park - Scientology Episode

If you're wondering what all the recent South Park hubbub is about, watch the episode that made Isaac Hayes quit. And consider what Matt Stone, one of the show's creators, said about Hayes's departure:
This has nothing to do with intolerance and bigotry and everything to do with the fact that Isaac Hayes is a Scientologist and that we recently featured Scientology in an episode of 'South Park.' In ten years and over 150 episodes of 'South Park,' Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslims, Mormons and Jews. He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show.
What's really funny is that the best line of the show isn't even about Scientology--it's when Stan shouts down to his parents, "Tom Cruise won't come out of the closet!"

Don't Bother

FDA to Review Ban on Gay Men Donating Blood

This headline made me smile, but the fine print means that it's, well, not true:
...the group recommended that men be barred from donating for only a year after having had sex with another man, treating them the same as other groups at increased risk for spreading sexually transmitted virus through donated blood.
So, if you're in a committed relationship, and having sex with one man, that still disqualifies you. (Unless you give up sex for a year, in which case, good luck maintaining that committed relationship!) I'm not clear on how this will promote an increase in blood donation. How many gay men are running around who (a) are waiting to give blood and (b) haven't had sex in more than a year? Isn't that the bad rap on us--that all we do is chase each other's tails?

Really, the headline should be, "FDA to Review Ban on Men Who Got Drunk That One Time Donating Blood," because they're the only ones this would impact. Which is too bad, because I'm sure there are plenty of monagamous gay men, myself included, who would be happy to give blood if anyone would take it.

Closing Time

The West Wing Episode Guide - The West Wing Season Episodes -

It's almost over. According to the schedule on the site linked above, there are only five more episodes of The West Wing left. Considering that there are only eight Sundays left until the May 14 finale, that makes sense.

We also know, based on this schedule, how the show will end. Next week's episode will see Toby pushed to reveal how he learned about the secret shuttle, based on the episode description released by NBC. The next two episodes will take place on Election Day. The following, and seemingly next-to-last, episode will be Leo's funeral. And then, presumably, it will be Inauguaration Day for whoever wins.

The show has definitely stepped up its game, although last night's plot about the secret checkbook and the missing briefcase and the potential illegitimate child was a bit predictable. Did we really think they'd give Santos a fatal flaw this close to the election? Or that Vinick would do anything but what he did, confronting Santos directly rather than running to the press?

I hope the show's writers remember that while this election plot has been interesting, the show is still most alive when they rely on the foundation the show built under Sorkin. The phone calls between Josh and Toby were probably the best thing about last night. All these new actors involved in the campaign are doing yeoman's work, yes, but there's a reason the show is coming to an end--they're a mere diversion from the show's main thrust.

Any thoughts on how the show will end? Will they return to the flash-forward we saw in the season premiere to let us know who won the election? And will there ever be any more resolution between Josh and Donna?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Big Hate

Pandora and Polygamy
Once same-sex marriage is OK, polygamy's next

Here comes the flood!

I suppose it was inevitable that every conservative-minded columnist with a vague knowledge of HBO would pick up on the premiere of Big Love, a show about a Utah man with three wives, as the peg on which to hang a column about how gay marriage is a slippery slope toward legalized polygamy.

Katherine Kersten, the Star Tribune's attempt at Fox News-style balance, even notes that the show's creators are a gay couple, as if that somehow proved a connection that she asserts in her opening paragraph:
The fact is, once you adopt same-sex marriage -- legally changing the standard for marriage from one-man, one-woman to a "committed relationship" -- there is no principled way to prevent its extension to polygamy or other forms of "plural marriage" or partnership.
She's full of shit, of course. Marriage is easily defined as a union of two people in a committed and mutually-supportive relationship. Removing the gender exclusion does not automatically, as Kersten would have you believe, open the door to removing the number from the definition as well.

Charles Krauthammer, too, suggests that the slope is not merely slippery, but inevitable, and that legalized polygamy will follow gay marriage as surely as night follows day. He uses some fancy words to suggest that he's right, but I'm not buying.

He does make at least one genuinely interesting point, though:
What is historically odd is that as gay marriage is gaining acceptance, the resistance to polygamy is much more powerful. Yet until this generation, gay marriage had been sanctioned by no society that we know of, anywhere at any time in history. On the other hand, polygamy was sanctioned, indeed common, in large parts of the world through large swaths of history, most notably the biblical Middle East and through much of the Islamic world.
Although there are those who would suggest that even Middle Ages Catholicism allowed gays a freer hand than they are given today, in general Krauthammer's assertion is correct. Of course, the whole nature of marriage was different in places where polygamy was considered the ideal. Men owned their wives, and having many of them was akin to having many houses. (In Big Love, the two go together!) Do Krauthammer and Kersten wish to go back to those times, those ways? Do they wish to forsake the gains we have made in turning marriage into a union of equals?

Of course not, and Krauthammer, at least, acknowledges that neither gay marriage nor polygamy is likely to lead to the downfall of civilization. (I would argue, self-interestedly, of course, that polygamy is more likely than gay marriage to have this effect. As Bill Maher noted last week, "The question all women have to look in the mirror and ask themselves is, 'Would you rather be the second wife of George Clooney or the only wife of Willard Scott?'" If women had the option of becoming the second wife of a man of means [and, in the case of Clooney, devilish good looks], why would they become the first wife of a man without? And what would become of the men without? Surely that will lead to more unrest than two men watching football together in a well-decorated house and sharing a bed afterward.)

Kersten, though, plays her standard Cassandra, pointing to Canada as if crossing the border were akin to passing into hell as she notes that 20 percent of our neighbors to the north are "willing to accept polygamy." I'm sure, Katherine, that all of them are champing at the bit to marry six other people. But that doesn't mean you need to get hysterical as you wave your red cape in front of your readers:
What's the likely endpoint? Marriage may be redefined out of existence, and replaced by a flexible, contract-based system of government-registered relationships. So get ready. Today gay marriage supporters' mantra is, "How does my same-sex marriage harm your marriage?" Down the road it may be, "How does my marriage of two men and a woman harm your marriage?" If we don't answer the first question with resolve -- making clear that "one man-one woman" is at the heart of marriage in Minnesota -- we may not have a chance to answer the second.
See how that works? Let there be no doubt; while Krauthammer simply wants to talk reasonably about these things (and acknowledges ambivalence regarding gay marriage, because "I have gay friends and feel the pain of their inability to have the same level of social approbation and confirmation of their relationship with a loved one"), for Kersten it's all a big game, all a way to talk about the one thing she loves to deride more than any other. She talks about how great past generations were in one column, about teachers who do things the traditional way in another--always positive, always almost ridiculously sunny about how great the Fox News, Christian-conservative side of the world is. And then, every few months, her vitriol comes spilling out, always about gay marriage.

Maybe instead of banning gay marriage, Kersten just needs to cancel her subscription to HBO. That would improve her closed-minded life a lot more than a gay marriage ban.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Burial | Poll: U.S. Backs Congress in Ports Dispute

The headline is not the major finding of the Pew Research Center poll chronicled in the AP article linked above. No--that would be Bush's approval rating, which has fallen to 33 percent, and is buried in the fifth bullet of this article. Which means that my prediction of October 7 has come true.

How low can he go?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Gays: Oscar betrayed us
Gold Derby by Tom o'Neil - The Envelope

Tom O'Neil gets it. His first paragraph proves it:
The reason gay people are so eye-popping furious over what happened to "Brokeback Mountain" at the Academy Awards is more than just disappointment that a gay-themed movie lost best picture. To put it in classic Hollywood terms, many gays believe that Oscar — ruthlessly, deliberately and mercilessly — plunged his sword into the backs of those who love him most.
Exactly. Why did Hollywood turn its back on the biggest cheerleaders its biggest night has? And overturn every well-respected indicator (most nominations, previous awards, critical praise) to do so?

It's hard to fathom, but O'Neil says even folks whose careers have been built by gay men may have turned on us:
Perhaps we can no longer assume that apparently hip Sarah Jessica Parker isn't homophobic. She made a shocking confession to Conan O'Brien and his national TV audience: she voted for best picture at the Oscars without watching "Brokeback Mountain." Instead, she accepted input about it from her three-year-old son who watched about 20 minutes of the DVD screener out of curiosity. Presumably, Sarah ended up voting for something else.

How pathetic. Michael Patrick King, the gay man who executive-produced Parker's hit, Sex and the City, should bitch-slap her. O'Neil goes on:

How can gay people not feel betrayed by Oscar when so many voters publicly admit that they never even gave "Brokeback" a chance? Worse, that didn't stop them from giving "Brokeback" all of the other Oscars it was expected to get: best director, screenplay and musical score. But they just couldn't go that last step, just couldn't install such a historic milestone on a financially successful and critically acclaimed film — worthy of Academy Awards for writing and direction — and place it in Oscar's best pic pantheon.

Can gay people ever forgive Oscar? If not, just think of what the Academy Awards will be like in years to come without their cheerleading? Will anybody care?

It's hard to imagine. Could gays give up on the Oscars? And yet, there's a much more inviting show, the Golden Globes, poised to win our hearts. It honors film and TV in one splendid night, allows the stars to get drunk, and skips all the boring technical awards for the stuff people really want.

Oh, and best of all: the Golden Globes didn't give Crash a damned thing.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Best. Night. Ever.

A long-awaited kiss. A surprising gunshot. A very un-pulled punch. And a bottle of Viagra. Thank heavens for the DVR--this was the best night of TV ever!

Friday, March 10, 2006


'Oscar-gate' mystery solved?

Thanks to Brian for sending me this. I think it speaks for itself...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Fixated - The Brokeback Mountain Oscar Snub

You all thought I would drop this after the Oscars, didn't you? I would have, if the movie had won Best Picture.

I've been trying to explain why this loss was so disappointing, and part of the reason is explored in the article above. The Academy and its voters went out of their ways, seemingly, not to honor Brokeback. The movie won the top awards of the Writers, Directors, and Producers Guilds of America; no film so honored had EVER lost the Best Picture race. No wonder oddsmakers had it at 1-10 to win!

If Brokeback had lost to a movie that someone, anyone, was calling a better film--if it didn't have a metacritic score of 87, and didn't lose to a film with a score of 69--I might feel differently. But as it stands, I have a hard time believing that things have changed in Hollywood where, as the article points out, the Best Picture winner ten years ago (Braveheart) featured a gay man thrown from a window to his death--played for laughs. Ten years later, they've tossed a gay Best Picture frontrunner out the window. I'm not laughing.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Spinning the Globes

Oscar misfire: ‘Crash’ and burn
The Academy takes yet another step toward irrelevance with its latest pick

My reaction to Sunday night's events--which I watched again last night on DVR when I returned from San Francisco to confirm that they were real--is probably predictable to most of you. I gasped in shock, then slumped in my chair in despair when I realized that Jack Nicholson wasn't kidding.

Now, don't get me wrong; I enjoyed Crash when I saw it. But it never occurred to me then that I should be considering whether it warranted a Best Picture nomination, much less the trophy; it's clearly not that good. Constant Gardener, yes--that felt like a movie worth honoring, and I would have given it the Crash slot in the Best Picture race. But Crash? Never gave it a thought.

The article to which I've linked makes many arguments, all of them successful, against our latest Best Picture winner, so I won't do that here. It's a cute little morality play, but definitely not the sort of movie that one takes so seriously as to rank it among the great films of our time. All five movies nominated in 2003, four of the movies in 2002, all of the films from 2001, and at least four of last year's nominees are more deserving of such a spot in the pantheon. Look at 1994! Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, Quiz Show, and Four Weddings and a Funeral--not a movie that lost to Forrest Gump that year wouldn't be more worthy of having the words "Best Picture" next to it for all time than Crash.

Which brings us to Brokeback Mountain. Time will prove me right; this was the movie that defined the year, and the movie that should have defined Sunday night. The fact that it didn't--that Hollywood instead chose a formulaic movie deemed daring only because its characterizations were so willfully unrealistic--will embarrass many in the years to come.

And to respond to my friend, Jon, who came out as a Crash supporter after it won: I do not deny that there is a place for a film that "deals with the core of America's problems. Racism and bigotry." And I don't deny that Crash accomplishes this, albeit in clunky fashion. But watch Brokeback. (How many times must I exhort you thus?) Then watch Crash again. If you're still not sure, watch Brokeback a second time, and give yourself the freedom to really inhabit it. If you walk away from that experience and still believe the Academy picked the right movie, I'll eat my hat--the one I still have because Brokeback is clearly on track to top $80 million by Monday.

I wish I could explain to non-gay readers what a painful thing this is--to see a clear path to having an honest, realistic, and devastating depiction of one's way of life on film recognized as the pinnacle achievement for the year and then have that path obstructed by an undeserving usurper. The Academy has toyed with my heart before, twice snubbing Annette Bening for Hilary Swank, nominating Julianne Moore four times and sending her home empty-handed, and leaving The Hours practically out in the cold. Through it all, I've remained loyal to my gay Super Bowl. This makes it a lot harder for me to see the point.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

OK, One More

Hollywood: 'Brokeback'—No Bump

One more before I go. This just makes me crazy. Initially this movie was supposed to be lucky to make back its $14 million budget. Then it was going to be lucky to crack $50 million. Now it's made more than $75 million and what do we get? Not an article about how it's one of the most profitable movies of the year, or how it made all this money without the expensive ad blitz that a normal Hollywood piece of trash relies upon to goose the first weekend gross, but how it's underperforming in the wake of all its Oscar nominations and won't even crack the $80 million mark, much less clear the $100 million hurdle that some pundits put before it after the nominations came out.

What a load of shit. First, the movie has made $76 million at the American box office and another $51 million overseas. And if it doesn't crack the $80 million mark here by the weekend after the Oscars (the numbers would come out March 12), I'll eat my hat. Plenty of movies with bigger budgets, bigger stars, bigger ad buys, and safer subject matter don't approach these numbers.

Second, if you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Beyond being the best movie of the year, Brokeback is a cultural touchstone, a happening that is reframing the way people talk about homosexuality at just the time when it's a big issue in politics. Coworkers have asked me to discuss the movie with them, to answer questions about whether it's accurate and to generally understand the feelings of characters to whom they've clearly related strongly. Without this movie, they'd never have broached the topic. Now, they'll think twice, I hope, when they hear a politician attempting to deflect their attention from real issues by waving the threat of gay marriage in front of them.

I don't ask that you march in parades or stand in the cold waving signs or even sign internet petitions to help the cause of equality, though all of those actions are appreciated. But please, see this movie before it leaves theatres, and encourage those around you to do the same. It makes people think about something they don't ordinarily think about and reconsider something they've taken for granted until now. In a battle where we have right on our side, that's all we need.