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‘12 Years a Slave’ is a grueling antidote to the comparatively toothless ‘Lincoln’

Film review

Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is “counseled” at knife point by cotton-plantation owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) in director Steve McQueen’s grueling film “12 Years a Slave.”

I finally got around to watching “12 Years a Slave,” and while it perhaps has been a little over-hyped — I hate it when a good film is diminished because it can’t possibly be as great as so many claim that it is — it’s going to win a bunch of Oscars, and I consider it to be an antidote to Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” of which I noted at the time that it came out (a year ago) that “the evil of slavery itself is barely portrayed in ‘Lincoln’ … and blacks are only supporting (and mostly subservient) characters in ‘Lincoln,’ which gives the viewer … the unfortunate impression that perhaps the film is asserting that slavery was more of a burden for liberal whites than it was for the actual slaves.”

Indeed, in “12 Years a Slave” the “saviors” still are white men, but, given the fact that at the time white men held virtually all of the political power, what other “savior” could a black person have had at that time? The best that most black Americans, especially enslaved black Americans, could hope for at that time, it seems to me, was to have the fortune to have the mercy of white men who had power to make their lives less miserable.*

Indeed, in “12 Years a Slave” we see at least two grown black men run to their white-male protectors and embrace them as a child would embrace his parent. But, given the circumstances, one could hardly blame them.

I wrote of “Lincoln” that “The Southerners (and their sympathizers) in ‘Lincoln’ aren’t portrayed flatteringly, which probably will mean that the film won’t appeal to the ‘tea-party’ dipshits, since the slavery- and treason-loving Southerners depicted in ‘Lincoln’ are their true founding fathers.”

Ditto for “12 Years a Slave” (and Quentin Tarantino’s “Django,” too, of course).

Michael Fassbender and Paul Dano couldn’t have done a much better job of portraying what probably was the typical Southern white male of the era, and Brad Pitt, perhaps because he was one of the producers, got what to me is the plum role of the liberal, abolitionist Canadian whose action finally frees our hero.

Our hero, of course, is the real-life historical figure Solomon Northup, who in 1841 was a free man (well, “free” as in “not a slave,” “not someone’s property”) who was lured from his home in New York state to Washington, D.C., where he was promised well-paying work but instead was kidnapped and forced into slavery in Louisiana for a dozen years.

And the star of “12 Years a Slave” is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who no doubt will be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his harrowing portrayal of Solomon Northup.

The other star of “12 Years” is Lupita Nyong’o, who plays the slave Patsey, and who also very most likely will be nominated for an acting Oscar.

“12 Years a Slave,” based upon Northup’s autobiography of the same name and penned by American screenwriter John Ridley, is, first and foremost, the story of the slaves, and its portrayal of their trials and tribulations by comparison makes “Lincoln” look like it portrays slavery as a mere inconvenience to black Americans.

“12 Years,” among other things, portrays free blacks in the North being abducted and sold into slavery, slaves stripped nude and bathed for auction like livestock, a mother being separated permanently from her two children at auction, and the character of Patsey being serially raped by the cotton-plantation owner Edwin Epps (played by Fassbender) and, to add injury to injury, being hated by and thus violently attacked by the plantation owner’s wife (Sarah Paulson) because her husband is sexually predating upon her. We also witness one of our protagonists being quasi-lynched and the other one being brutally whipped.

“12 Years a Slave” does as probably a good job as a film could do to bring us into Solomon Northup’s world. You’re supposed to feel Northup’s struggle and large degree of helplessness, given how utterly disempowered he is. His spirit not only is violated repeatedly by the wrongs that are done to him, but also by the multitude of wrongs that he has to witness done to others, probably especially to Patsey.

“12 Years a Slave” is directed by Steve McQueen, a writer-director who, I surmise, because he is black and British, wasn’t overly worried about not offending white Americans in his portrayal of Southern slavery. (Of course, Quentin Tarantino wasn’t worried about that, either, with “Django,” but bad boy Tarantino can make just about any film that he wishes. Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” by contrast, suffers because the “upright” and apparently uptight Spielberg apparently didn’t want to offend white Americans too much.)

I wasn’t impressed with McQueen’s over-hyped 2011 “Shame,” which also starred Michael Fassbender, but after “12 Years,” which draws you into Solomon Northup’s grueling world so well that when he finally is reunited with his family you will, if you have any empathy at all, have tears in your eyes, I look forward to more projects by McQueen, and after having watched “12 Years” I’ll probably catch McQueen’s other project starring Fassbender, 2008’s “Hunger.”

My grade: A

*Indeed, we are told at the end of “12 Years a Slave,” as Wikipedia puts it:

Northup sued the slave traders in Washington, D.C., [who had kidnapped him and sold him into slavery], but [Northup] lost in the local court. District of Columbia law prohibited him, as a black man, from testifying against whites, and, without his testimony, he was unable to sue for civil damages. The two men were charged with the crime of kidnapping and remanded into custody on $5,000 bail, but without Northup’s testimony, a conviction could not be secured and [so] the men were released.

So, even in the North, which in Northup’s day was quite progressive compared to the South, Northup, as a “free” man, because he was a black man, did not have equal rights, and white men still could commit grievous crimes against black Americans with impunity.

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On Jodie Foster and ‘privacy’ vs. shame

This image released by NBC shows Jodie Foster, recipient of the Cecil B. Demille Award, during the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 13, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater)

NBC/Associated Press photo

Actress Jodie Foster kind of officially, publicly came out of the closet the other night when she accepted an award at the Golden Globe Awards. Thankfully, the 50-year-old Foster’s apparent shame over her sexual orientation is rarer in our youthful non-heterosexuals today — no thanks to Foster, of course.

I don’t want this to be a repeat of what I wrote about lesbian astronaut Sally Ride’s posthumous outing in July, so I’ll quote what others have said about actress Jodie Foster’s recent quasi-coming out.

Matthew Breen, the probably-too-pretty editor of The Advocate, wrote this about Foster:

… Everyone should come out in her own time, but Foster was angry last night. One reason could be embarrassment at not having come out publicly (at least in her own estimation) until 2013. Last night’s speech clearly took a lot of guts for Foster to undertake. But too much anger was directed at a straw man of her own creation.

“But now apparently I’m told that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance, and a prime-time reality show. You guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo child. No, I’m sorry, that’s just not me, never was, and it never will be,” she said.

There’s where she’s got it wrong. By referencing Honey Boo Boo, a stand-in for all that is shamelessly confessional about celebrity in 2013, Foster’s implication was that the choices she faces as a public figure are few: (1) stay closeted, never acknowledge your sexual orientation in public, or (2) tell the world every sordid detail of your intimate life.

That’s a bogus comparison, and it’s one that reinforces the idea that being LGBT is shameful, worthy of being hidden, and that saying you’re LGBT is an invitation to the whole world to come into your bedroom. That’s patently wrong. There are numerous out celebrities who guard their personal lives: David Hyde Pierce, Anna Paquin, Zachary Quinto, Amber Heard, Anderson Cooper, just to name a few. … [Emphasis is all mine.]

Breen states in his piece on Foster that The Advocate’s policy on outing is this: “While we encourage everyone who doesn’t risk his or her own safety by coming out to do so, The Advocate has a policy of not outing people who are not actively doing harm to LGBTs through word or deed.”

That’s pretty much my personal view on outing, too. Those who can be out should be out, in my book. You can’t assert that someone who might face real physical danger and/or who might be tossed out of his or her home (or maybe even his or her job) should come out if you’re not the one who would have to face the consequences — but often closeted individuals exaggerate how awful it might be should they come out.

Still, that said, even if I strongly think that an individual should be out, in the end, in many if not most cases it’s up to the individual as to whether or not he or she should be out (assuming that everyone doesn’t already know or strongly surmise the individual’s orientation anyway — there are so many closet cases whose self-awareness is so low that they seem to think that no one knows that they’re not heterosexual when pretty much everyone does).

In my book, the individual deserves the “protection” of the closet until and unless he or she does not deserve it, such as if it’s a closeted guy who is not keeping to himself but is sexually harassing others at the workplace (as happened to me) or, of course, if it’s a closet case who actively is working against the “LGBT community,” such as a “Christo”fascist “leader” or a politician. No traitor deserves the “protection” of the closet.

Most people agree on that point, but there remains a sticking point — that of “privacy.”

I like what LGBT writer Nathaniel Frank has to say on this:

… It’s true that hiding [one’s sexual orientation] hurts. Research shows mental health consequences to holding major secrets over time. And yes, it’s absolutely a wasted opportunity for powerful, visible people who probably could come out unscathed to deny young LGBT people the nurturance of knowing that an admired public figure is gay.

Privacy and shame are closely connected. Adam and Eve covered their “privates” the moment they gained moral consciousness, an awareness of good and evil, setting the tone for a truism ever since: You don’t cover up stuff if there ain’t something wrong with it.

Any step a gay person takes to hide their identity that they wouldn’t take to hide the fact that they’re, say, Irish, vegetarian or left-handed is probably not a neutral quest for privacy but reflects their own doubt about just how OK it is to be gay. Foster’s reluctance to just pull an Ellen (“Yep, I’m gay”), and her tortured speech, with its resentful tone and its ultimate avoidance of the “L” word, made being gay and coming out seem tortured things in themselves. … [Emphasis mine.]

And that’s the deep and profound problem that I have with the widespread argument that one’s sexual orientation (if it is not heterosexual, and only if it is not heterosexual, of course) is “private”: The vast majority of heterosexuals don’t go around asserting that their attraction to members of the opposite sex is “private,” do they? And why is that? Because they’re not fucking ashamed of their sexual orientation, that’s why.

So to assert that one’s non-heterosexuality — not one’s specific sex acts, but one’s basic sexual orientation — is “private” is to keep alive the toxic, ignorant, bigoted, harmful belief that to be attracted to members of one’s own sex is shameful, abnormal, “sinful,” etc.

And to contribute to that toxic, heterosexist and homophobic environment — and yes, all of us are responsible for the environment, since all of us make up the environment — is only to add to the number of non-heterosexual people who become addicted to drugs and alcohol, who contemplate or commit suicide, who don’t protect themselves from STDs because (in their low self-esteem) they don’t find themselves to be worth protecting, and who are the victims of hate crimes, since they exist in such a heterosexist, homophobic environment that encourages such hate crimes.

You are contributing to the problem or you are contributing to the solution.

Lying that your basic sexual orientation is a matter of “privacy” — and lying that what others really want to know are the “dirty” details of your sex life when, in fact, no one is inquiring as to such details — is to try to excuse yourself for your own laziness, selfishness and cowardice for which there is no fucking excuse.

That is the problem that I have with Jodie Foster and with others like her who toss out the red herring of “privacy” instead of manning the fuck up already and working to make things better for everyone.

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Cooper tarnishes his coming out with ‘no one else’s business’ business

Anderson Cooper arrives at the 39th Daytime Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills

Reuters photo

“The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud,” CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who long had been rumored to be gay, proclaimed in his official coming-out e-mail that was released today. Cooper’s explanation for why it took him so long to come out, however, indicates some degree of internalized homophobia that perhaps even he isn’t aware of. (Cooper is photographed above at last month’s Daytime Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills.)

While I’m pleased that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper finally came out of the closet — and pleased with most of what he has stated in regards to his coming out, such as that “visibility [for non-heterosexuals] is important, more important than preserving my reporter’s shield of privacy” — damn, he just had to say just one “little” thing that, for me, tarnished it.

“In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted,” he stated in his coming-out e-mail to his long-time friend the right-wing gay blogger Andrew Sullivan, who published the e-mail with Cooper’s approval.

While I agree with that latter part — that there is value in standing up and being counted as non-heterosexual, because otherwise some (presumably heterosexual) people might otherwise think that there really aren’t that many of us non-heterosexuals — what the fuck is “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business”?

Heterosexuals generally don’t assert that their sexual orientation is no one else’s business. Heterosexual celebrities (actors and other artists, politicians, TV news/“news” anchors, et. al.) generally have no problem being seen in public with and/or talking publicly about their opposite-sexed mates, if they have an opposite-sexed mate, whether they are married or not. They generally don’t take the stance that their heterosexuality is no one else’s business — because they aren’t ashamed of their heterosexuality.

Heterosexual journalists aren’t seen as violating some journalistic ethic if they let the world in on the “secret” that they are heterosexual, so why does Anderson Cooper essentially state, in his apparent justification for his having dragged his feet for so long in coming out of the closet, that he had thought that to do otherwise would have been unprofessional?

Why would a gay man assert that his homosexuality is no one else’s business, and why would a gay male journalist act as though divulging his sexual orientation would be unprofessional, unless, at least on some level and to some degree, he is ashamed of his sexual orientation?

True, whatever the silver fox Coop likes to do sexually (or whether he even has an active sex life at all) is none of our business. It’s none of our business if he’s a top or a bottom, if he spits or if he swallows or if he won’t allow a dick inside of his mouth at all, if he’s ever done anal or if he’s anal-phobic, if he’s chocolate or if he’s vanilla, whether he masturbates (of course he does) and if so, how and how often, etc., etc.

But if there is nothing wrong with being gay, as Cooper says he believes — he proclaimed in his coming-out e-mail:

It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something —something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true.

— why, then, the rather revealing counter-statement that “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business”?

Cooper has, I suspect, residual shame over his homosexuality, which, in such a homophobic and sex-shaming society, I can’t entirely blame him for — neither he nor none of us exists in a vacuum — but I would hope that all of us gay men and lesbians and other assorted non-heterosexuals and non-gender-conforming individuals do the self-examination that is necessary for us to identify the homophobia that we all too often carry, to some degree, within ourselves.

Most of us non-heterosexuals, I believe, have some degree of internalized homophobia, and it is worth it for us to identify it and to work to dig it up by its roots. But until we first identify it, we can’t eradicate it.

Yes, our sexual orientation is everyone else’s business. It is an important and a basic part of ourselves, of who and what we are.

To assert otherwise is to lie — to lie to others, and worse, to ourselves.

Man up, Coop — your sexual orientation, as mine and everyone else’s, always was, is, and always will be our business.

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Golden Globes gets it mostly wrong

Director Martin Scorsese poses backstage with the award for Best Director of a Motion Picture for the film "Hugo" during the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

George Clooney poses with his award for best actor in a motion picture - drama for "The Descendants," backstage in Beverly Hills

Associated Press and Reuters photos

Martin Scorsese poses with his undeserved Golden Globe for best director for his overhyped “Hugo” in Los Angeles last night, and George Clooney poses with his undeserved Golden Globe for best actor in a drama for his role in the overrated “The Descendants,” which also unfortunately undeservedly took the Golden Globe’s award for best dramatic film. The Golden Globes snubbed Steven Spielberg, but at least gave the film “The Artist” the props that it deserves, naming it the best musical or comedic film and naming Jean Dujardin as the best actor in a musical or comedy for his leading performance in the film. (Below are pictured Dujardin, left; the director of “The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius, middle; actress Berenice Bejo, far right; and Uggie the dog, far left.)

Dujardin, Hazanavicius and Bejo of "The Artist" pose backstage at the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills

Reuters photo

I haven’t written a movie review for a while, although I see a lot of movies, perhaps especially at the end of the year, when the Oscar bait is trotted out to the theaters.

Since I haven’t reviewed most of this year’s contenders for the big awards — but have seen most of them — I’ll comment on last night’s Golden Globe winners for film.

First up is the movie that got the Globes’ award for best drama, Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.”

Yikes.

Payne has done so much better than “The Descendants,” such as “Sideways,” “Election,” and even “About Schmidt” and “Citizen Ruth.” That “The Descendants” stars Hollywood golden boy George Clooney and that its director has made better films doesn’t mean that “The Descendants” is worthy of being on anyone’s best-picture list, because it isn’t.

“The Descendants” has some nice visuals — it takes place in Hawaii — and I found the character of Sid to be adorable, but otherwise, “The Descendants” is overlong as it meanders and dawdles, with a plot that is mediocre at best and that never arrives anywhere, leaving its audience waiting for a point that never arrives. I give the film a “B-” at best. (Probably it deserves a “C” or “C+”, since I have little to no interest in viewing it ever again.)

“The Descendants'” competitors for the Golden Globes’ best drama were “The Help,” “Hugo,” “The Ides of March,” “Moneyball” and “War Horse.”

I didn’t see “The Help” because of its shitty reviews, and I have no interest in catching it on DVD.

“The Ides of March,” another George Clooney vehicle, while watchable, also doesn’t belong on anyone’s best-picture list. Clooney, Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman give decent performances in “Ides,” but the script is mediocre and nothing novel, just a rehash of political movies that we’ve seen before. I give “The Ides of March” a “B-” or “C+” also. This wasn’t actually George Clooney’s year.

“Hugo” I found to be fairly entertaining but overrated. Even the wildly talented Sacha Baron Cohen as a quasi-villain couldn’t really save Martin Scorsese’s self-indulgent flick that turns out to be more about the French director Georges Melies (played by Ben Kingsley) than about our young protagonist Hugo. I found the whole automaton thing rather senseless and strange and uncaptivating, and films about filmmaking often are about as good as are novels about writing novels, it seems to me. (“The Artist” is an exception; more on that shortly.)

“Hugo’s” 3-D effects were decent, and the film overall is entertaining, although a bit too long, and overall “Hugo” was just overhyped. Martin Scorsese, contrary to apparent popular opinion, does not shit gold. I give “Hugo” a “B.”

I wanted to see “Moneyball” but never did, so I’ll have to catch it on DVD, but I did catch Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” which is far superior to “The Descendants.” My guess is that even if I’d seen “The Help” and “Moneyball,” “War Horse” still would be my pick for best drama from the list of the Golden Globes’ six nominees.

“War Horse,” which garners a solid “A”, is reminiscent of the films of yore (we’ve had plenty of films about World War I and films starring horses or dogs as our protagonists), perhaps especially with its ending scene, which (fairly) has been compared to “Gone with the Wind,” but “War Horse” works quite well nonetheless. I found myself teary-eyed at the end of the film, and that’s fairly rare. And despite the film’s length, my interest in it never waned, which I cannot say for “Hugo” or “The Descendants.” Steven Spielberg still has it.

The Globes unusually has a second category for best picture, best musical or comedy. I have seen three out of four of the nominees in that category. (Not bad, right?)

The nominees were “50/50,” “The Artist,” “Bridesmaids,” “Midnight in Paris” and “My Week with Marilyn.” “Bridesmaids” is the only one that I didn’t see, due to its lackluster reviews.

“The Artist” won the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy, and I can’t complain about that. I saw the film this past weekend and it’s best-picture material, a solid “A” (maybe a rare “A+”). A film that mostly is silent and in black and white but can keep the audience’s attention nonetheless is an accomplishment. The protagonist’s heroic dog is a bit too reminiscent of the heroic dog Snowy of Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” which I saw before “The Artist,” but “The Artist” is a solid film with good performances and a captivating, clever script.

“The Artist’s” protagonist George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin), a silent-movie star, at first is an annoying, spotlight-hogging ham but becomes more and more likeable as the film progresses, and protagonist Peppy Miller (played by Berenice Bejo), also a movie star, is mesmerizing, although I don’t know that most starlets of the 1920s and 1930s looked like Bejo does; I’m not an expert on the films of the 1920s and 1930s, but she does look a little out of place. However, Bejo’s charisma more than makes up for that.

“50/50,” which stars Joseph Gordon Levitt, one of my favorite actors, also earns a solid “A,” but its material — a young man diagnosed with cancer — apparently wasn’t novel enough for it to win in its category. Still, “50/50” has some great lines and Seth Rogen does a great job as protagonist Gordon Levitt’s supportive-as-he-can-be best friend. (Unfortunately, in “50/50” Bryce Dallas Howard pretty much plays the same role that she played in the lacking Clint Eastwood vehicle “Hereafter.”)

“My Week with Marilyn,” which I can give only a “B” at best, isn’t a comedy or a musical, so why it landed in this category escapes me. Michelle Williams does as good a job as Marilyn Monroe as she can, but the film isn’t as compelling as it should be, and it’s not very believable that Marilyn Monroe essentially was a drugged-out bimbo who had enough occasional flashes of acting brilliance that an entire film could be cobbled together from these apparently brief and accidental episodes of talent.

“Marilyn” also suffers, I think, from being too self-referential. Again, the number of films about filmmaking that we’re seeing as of late seems to indicate that the filmmakers have run out of ideas, and so they’re now turning the camera on themselves.

“Midnight in Paris” would have won, I suspect, were it not for “The Artist.” Unfortunately, we’re used to good work from Woody Allen (although he’s made some lackluster films, too), and so he often unfairly is overlooked. “Midnight in Paris,” while not a complete departure from Allen’s past films, is a solid film that earns an “A.”

The Globes’ nominees for best director were Woody Allen (for “Midnight in Paris”), George Clooney (for “The Ides of March”), Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist,” Alexander Payne for “The Descendants” and Martin Scorsese for “Hugo.”

As I did see all of these films, I can say that I find Scorsese’s win for best director to be disappointing. He apparently was awarded for his past work, because “Hugo” doesn’t deserve best director.

We can cross Clooney, Payne and Scorsese off of the best-director list right off, which would leave us with Allen and Hazanavicius. I probably would have given the best-director award to Hazanavicius, as much as I love most of Allen’s work. “The Artist” is quite an accomplishment and doesn’t deserve less only because Hazanavicius is new to us Americans.

The Globes gave best actor in a drama to George Clooney for his work in “The Descendants,” another mistake. Clooney is popular — I get that — and he is a solid actor, but there is nothing very remarkable about “The Descendants,” which, next to “Hugo,” might be the most overrated film of the year.

Unfortunately, I have yet to see Michael Fassbender in “Shame” (it comes to my city later this month, and I like Fassbender, so I’m there), and, as I noted, I have yet to see “Moneyball,” so I am not sure if I would have picked Brad Pitt or Fassbender, who, along with Pitt, also was nominated for the Globes’ best-actor award. Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for his performance in “J. Edgar,” but that film (which I rather generously gave a “B”) is so flawed that it probably sank his chances, and I don’t feel that DiCaprio was screwed, not really. Ryan Gosling was nominated for his role in “The Ides of March,” but again, there is nothing special about that film, either.

I’m really fucked where it comes to the Globes’ nominees for best actress in a drama, as I haven’t seen any of the nominated perfomances, Glenn Close’s for “Albert Nobbs” (also arrives at my city later this month, and I’ll probably go see it, even though it seems “Yentl”-ish to me), Viola Davis’ for “The Help,” Rooney Mara’s for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Meryl Streep’s for “The Iron Lady” (which is getting lackluster reviews and which I’ll probably wait for on DVD), and Tilda Swinton’s for “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (which seems to be an awful lot like her role in “The Deep End,” but I love Tilda).

My guess is that Streep, who won the Golden Globe, will end up getting the best-actress Oscar again — only because she more or less looks like Margaret Thatcher. “Saturday Night Live” achieves lookalikes all the time, so really, so what? Word is that “The Iron Lady” fairly sucks, with Roger Ebert giving it only two of four stars.

The Globes’ best actor in a comedy or musical went to Jean Dujardin of “The Artist,” which I confidently assert was a deserved win, even though I didn’t see Brendan Gleeson in “The Guard” or the good-enough-but-overrated Ryan Gosling in “Crazy Stupid Love.” (Really, are Ryan Gosling and George Clooney the only two actors that we have left?) Joseph Gordon Levitt was quite good in “50/50,” and Owen Wilson also was quite good in “Midnight in Paris,” but neither of them, nor the two other nominees, had a snowball’s chance against Dujardin’s performance.

The Globes’ award for best actress in a comedy or musical went to Michelle Williams for “My Week with Marilyn,” although, again, “My Week with Marilyn” is neither a fucking comedy nor a fucking musical, and it was no super-human feat to doll up Michelle Williams to resemble Marilyn Monroe any more than it was to make Meryl Streep look like Margaret Thatcher, for fuck’s sake. It’s too bad that Williams wasn’t given a better script to work with.

I’ve yet to see “Carnage,” which garnered both Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet nominations for best actress in a comedy or musical. I am there when “Carnage” comes to my city, however; the previews look compelling. (I love movies that give us insight into dysfunctional relationships, which is perhaps why I like Woody Allen’s work so much, and I liked Winslet in “Revolutionary Road.”)

I also have yet to see Kristen Wiig’s performance in “Bridesmaids,” but I like Wiig, so I might catch her peformance, which also was nominated for the Globes’ best actress in a comedy or musical, on DVD. Ditto for “Young Adult,” which garnered Charlize Theron a nomination in the category.

The Globes’ best supporting actor went to Christopher Plummer for his role as a gay man who comes out of the closet late in life in “Beginners.” I give “Beginners” a “B+”, but I have to wonder if Plummer was given the award more for his past work than for his role in “Beginners.” I could argue that Kenneth Branagh, who also was nominated for best supporting actor for his role in “My Week with Marilyn,” was more deserving of the award.

The Globes’ best supporting actress award went to Octavia Spencer, whoever that is, for her role in “The Help.” I can’t imagine that Spencer was better than Berenice Bejo, who also nominated for best supporting actress, was in “The Artist,” however, and it escapes me as to why Bejo wasn’t nominated for best actress, since her role in “The Artist” is equal to the male protagonist’s. (I remember when Heath Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for “Brokeback Mountain” but Jake Gyllenhaal inexplicably was nominated only for best supporting actor, even though his role was equal to Ledger’s.)

The Golden Globes’ winner for best screenplay went to Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris.” It seems that the Globes wanted to recognized Allen’s film in some way and so gave it best screenplay, but arguably “The Artist,” which also was nominated for best screenplay, should have won. Why “The Ides of March” and “The Descendants” were nominated at all for best screenplay eludes me, as neither is a remarkable film in any way, and George Clooney doesn’t shit gold, either. Again, I’ve yet to see the also-nominated-for-best-screenplay “Moneyball,” but I can live with Allen’s win in the category.

The Globes’ best animated feature went to Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” the only film in the category that I’ve seen (the others were “Arthur Christmas,” “Cars 2,” “Puss in Boots” and “Rango.”) “Tintin” is a solid, entertaining film (I give it an “A” or “A-“), perhaps a little overlong but quite watchable, although, in my book, not as good as Spielberg’s “War Horse” (“A” or “A+”). Still, with “Tintin” it’s apparent that Spielberg hasn’t lost his talents, and I have to wonder if the dearth of nominations for Spielberg in the Golden Globes means that he’s going to be given short shrift with the Oscars, too.

Spielberg should have been nominated for, and perhaps won, the Globes’ best director, in my book.

I have plenty of films to catch up on between now and the Oscars, but thus far my picks are “War Horse” or “The Artist” for best picture and Steven Spielberg (for “War Horse,” not for “Tintin”) or Michel Hazanavicius for best director.

At least the Golden Globes ignored the sanctimonious-as-Scorsese Terrence Malick’s God-awful “Tree of Life” (which I gave a rare “F”), and hopefully the Oscars will, too, but the Globes overlooked Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” (which I give an “A” or “A-“, and which unfairly has been compared to “Tree of Life”) — a mistake that, hopefully, the Oscars won’t make.

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Sexual orientation is quite relevant to the victims of closet cases

California state Sen. Roy Ashburn, a Repugnican, top, and U.S. Rep. Eric Massa of New York, a Democrat, are the latest prominent politicians embroiled in political same-sex sex scandals. Ashburn has maintained that his sexual orientation is irrelevant, even though he consistently has voted against equal human and civil rights for his fellow non-heterosexuals.

Political scandals of any type come as no surprise to me.

“Politics,” to me, broadly means “the use of power.”

Many if not even most people don’t know how to handle responsibly any significant power that they come into. To me, there are two major ways that a significant amount of personal political power can be used: (1) to help as many other people as possible in ways that are transparent and legal and ethical, or (2) to help oneself and one’s cronies (this would include one’s political friends, one’s campaign contributors and one’s friends and family members), usually in ways that are kept hidden in the dark and are at least unethical if not also illegal.

Unfortunately, most people who come into power see the purpose of politics not as the first, but as the second. They might pay plenty of lip service to the first, but their deeds demonstrate their allegiance to the second.

In power plays, we usually see two things involved: sex or money (or both). This is because personal power so often is exchanged in money or in sex (or both).

Monetary scandals rather bore most of us. It’s the sexual scandals that we really pay attention to.

And of the sex scandals, it’s the gay sex scandals that really capture our attention.

Recently, first there was Democratic U.S. Rep. Eric Massa of New York, who resigned yesterday. He more or less used cancer as his official reason for resigning, but the word is that he sexually harassed a male staffer. Details of the alleged sexual harassment, which Massa at first apparently denied but then apparently admitted, are sketchy, but it appears as though the sexual harassment was verbal, not physical.

Adding to the scandal is that Massa, 50, was in the U.S. Navy for more than two decades, which probably helped him win his seat in his Repugnican-dominated district, and that he has a wife, two sons and a daughter.

Gay political sex scandals are bipartisan, of course.

The Sacramento Bee today reports:

A prominent Republican [California] state senator arrested on suspicion of drunken driving this week in Sacramento has taken a personal leave through Sunday from the upper house.

State Sen. Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield, a 14-year veteran of the Legislature, was arrested at about 2 a.m. Wednesday while driving his state-issued car near the state Capitol.

Ashburn later issued a written apology, but the arrest catapulted his personal life into a very public spotlight.

A Sacramento TV station reported that unnamed sources saw Ashburn at a gay bar the night before the arrest, setting off a media frenzy that stretched from the blogosphere to late-night television talk shows.

Ashburn’s hometown paper, the Bakersfield Californian, printed excerpts from an unpublished interview he did last year in which the divorced father declined to address rumors he was gay.

“Why would that be anyone’s business?” he told a columnist. “I think there are certain subjects that are simply not relevant, and this is one of them.”

But in a world where activists have the ability to instantly hold politicians accountable for any inconsistency between their public actions and personal behavior, some say sexual orientation is entirely relevant.

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, an openly gay Democrat, told The Bee and other media he had spotted Ashburn at other gay bars in Sacramento in recent months.

“I don’t think it’s a scandal for an elected official to be gay,” Cabaldon said. “But if you’re going to vote against every piece of hate-crimes legislation (to protect gays), that’s hypocritical.”

In the interview, Ashburn said he didn’t believe he had been a staunch anti-gay activist, insisting the way he had voted on social issues reflected his constituents’ views.

Ashburn, who is in his last year representing a bedrock conservative region, organized a Traditional Values Coalition rally in Bakersfield in 2005 to support a proposed constitutional amendment that year to prohibit gay marriage.

Ashburn also touted his support for Proposition 22, [an anti-]gay-marriage ballot initiative, calling himself a co-sponsor at the 2000 measure.

Equality California, a gay rights group, gave Ashburn a “zero percent” for his 2009 voting record.

Ashburn voted against bills that included expanding California’s mental health services for gay youths and measures to protect gay prisoners from violence – which won some GOP votes – and creating a day to honor slain gay activist Harvey Milk.

An Ashburn aide said Friday the senator had no response to questions about his sexual orientation, adding that aides didn’t know if Ashburn would appear Monday for a Senate floor session….

Ashburn is a textbook case right out of the excellent documentary “Outrage”: A closeted, usually Repugnican politician who works against equal human and civil rights for non-heterosexuals. A despicable fucking hypocrite and a fucking traitor to his tribe.

Yes, Assburn, if you are a non-heterosexual legislator who votes against equal human and civil rights for non-heterosexuals, then your sexual orientation is quite relevant, quite relevant to those whose equal human and civil rights you are obstructing because you are ashamed of your own sexual orientation.

And if you are a non-heterosexual man posing as heterosexual but you sexually harass your male co-workers or your male underlings (as has happened to me at the workplace, so I know something about this), then your sexual orientation is relevant; you have made it quite relevant to the victims of your sexual harassment.

And if you are a non-heterosexual male but you have heterosexually married and have had children, guess what? Your sexual orientation is quite relevant to your wife and kids.

If you are a closet case who actually manages to keep your sexual orientation entirely to yourself — which is damn near impossible, unless you live alone in a remote cave, as we are a social species — then perhaps we can say that your sexual orientation is “irrelevant.” (After all, if one actually is asexual or nearly so, then one’s sexual orientation indeed would be fairly irrelevant, at least to other people.)

Those who maintain that one’s sexual orientation is “private” or “irrelevant” or the like — especially when one has made his or her sexual orientation other people’s business — are homophobes.

The only reason that you would maintain that something as basic to oneself as one’s sexual orientation is “private” or “no one’s business” or “irrelevant” or the like is that your core belief about non-heterosexuality is that it is wrong and shameful.

You only enshroud in darkness that which you believe does not belong in the light.

There is nothing wrong with or shameful about non-heterosexuality.

There is something wrong with lying, such as lying about one’s sexual orientation, and there is something wrong with misusing one’s sexual power, such as in the case of sexual harassment.

That is the lesson that we need to take away from the gay political sex scandals.

As long as non-heterosexuality itself remains stigmatized, closet cases will continue to do their damage to others.

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Assorted shit (Under the Sea Edition!)

Free Willy (before he kills again!)

In this photo taken on Dec. 30, 2005, Dawn Brancheau, a whale ...

In this photo taken on Dec. 30, 2005, Dawn Brancheau, a whale ...

Associated Press photos

So today’s big news story is that a 40-year-old female trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., was attacked and killed by a killer whale in front of a horrified audience. (She is pictured above in 2005.)

What part of killer whale don’t people get? Ever seen what the orcas do to seals?

Anyway, the bottom line is that cetaceans belong in the ocean.

They don’t belong in aquariums or theme parks.

Their captivity should be illegal.

Not (just) because of today’s event in Orlando, but because it’s fucking cruel to take a creature that needs the wide open ocean and put it in a fucking fish tank.

Corporations shouldn’t be allowed to profit obscenely from what amounts to animal cruelty.

You should watch the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Cove,” in which the trainer who trained the dolphins for the television show “Flipper” states that all that he can conclude from his years of working with dolphins is that cetaceans should not be held in captivity.

SeaWorld and others who keep cetaceans in captivity suck.

P.S. I hope that the killer whale involved in today’s incident is not killed, but is released back into the wild, if it would survive in the wild. The killer whale should not be given the death sentence when it never fucking should have been in captivity anyway.

What’s long and hard and full 0f — women?

The U.S. Navy plans to allow women to serve on submarines, The Associated Press reported yesterday.

Fuck; I’d assumed that women already were serving on subs.

Why haven’t they been?

“The thinking was that the close quarters aboard subs would make coed service difficult to manage,” the AP notes.

Sounds like the anti-gay “argument.” (Can’t let those homos be around other males in such close quarters!)

I seriously hope that those who serve in the U.S. military are far more evolved than are the stupid old white men who make all of the decisions for the military.

No one should be having sex while they’re on duty anyway. Male or female, straight or gay or bisexual — it doesn’t matter. You draw a line between on-duty activity and off-duty activity. And, arguments about how gay male couples reportedly historically were quite the effective warriors aside, those working closely together in the U.S. military probably shouldn’t be sexually involved with each other anyway, regardless of their biological gender or sexual orientation. So what’s the big fuss?

It’s more about antiquated, Victorian views on sexuality (Sex BAD!) than it is about anything else. 

One day the U.S. military will be like it’s portrayed in the grisly sci-fi movie “Starship Troopers,” in which males and females even shower together because no one gives a fuck.

Schwarzenegger: ‘Tea party’ will terminate

(Come on, now. I couldn’t get three ocean-related items on the same day…)

Repugnican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger might need to get checked out for Tourette’s Syndrome, because he just can’t shut up lately.

In this case, though, it’s a good thing.

Already having blasted his fellow Repugnicans for opposing the Obama administration’s economic stimuli and desire for health-care reform, Schwarzenegger now says that the “tea party” “movement” will “twinkle and disappear” after the nation’s economy recovers from having been raped up the ass by the unelected Bush regime with ground glass as lube (OK, so that last part is a wild paraphrase…).

Schwarzenegger also remarked on how long it takes to turn the Titanic back around:

“Well, to give you an example, in 2008 we passed redistricting reform [in California]. Do you see any effect of it today in California? Absolutely not. It’s two years later and we still see no effect because the district lines will be drawn in 2010 now and they would have an effect maybe in 2012, a little effect. In 2014, then you will see more effect. You don’t go and have changes like that and have an effect from one day to the next….

“It doesn’t happen. Sometimes those things take a long time….

“To move government, to move this big thing, it’s like the Titanic….

“I think that the most important thing, no matter what state you’re in, or if you’re in charge of the federal government … is creating jobs and bringing the economy back. That’s the most important thing right now.”

Exactly. BushCheneyCorp didn’t destroy the nation overnight, and so the nation isn’t going to recover overnight.

That’s in stark contrast to the what Tea Party Princess/Queen Sarah Palin-Quayle and her fucktarded illk are saying, that the state of the nation is all Barack Obama’s fault because he’s been president for a whole year now

A co-worker of mine today posited that Schwarzenegger, who will be termed out of office in less than a year, is angling for a post in the Obama administration. It’s a plausible explanation. It’s that — or Tourette’s… 

I’m Aiken for more gay celebs to help their tribe

Figure skater Johnny Weir of the United States speaks during ...

Associated Press photo

I took a lot of shit for having said recently that flaming figure skater Johnny Weir (pictured above apparently making air quotes at a press conference today in Vancouver) should just come out of the closet already.

I took a lot of shit from (presumedly straight) women, too.

But you know, straight women get to love men without any stigma, so I guess that I don’t need to hear any lectures from them about what it’s like to be a gay man. Sorry, but no, not sorry.

And people still don’t get the idea of privacy. Again: we don’t need the details of Weir’s sex life. I never asked for them and I don’t want them. And I’m perfectly OK without seeing a leaked Johnny Weir same-sex sex tape.

But how about being of service to other non-heterosexuals by being proudly out? What’s wrong with using one’s status as a public figure to do some good in the world, to give others the courage and the inspiration to be who they are instead of being ashamed of it and/or trying to hide it?

Gay singer Clay Aiken (of “American Idol” fame), along with newly out lesbian actress Meredith Baxter (most known for her role of the mother in “Family Ties”), is scheduled to speak at a gay-rights event in Raleigh, N.C., this weekend.

It doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other — that you stay in the closet or that you become the “poster boy” for the gay-rights movement. Aiken doesn’t seem interested in becoming such a “poster boy,” but nonetheless he can find the time to make a pro-gay public appearance. Good for him.

It is a sad statement on the selfishness of Americans, and how much Americans are OK with the suppression of the truth (such as the truth of one’s sexual orientation, which there is no reason to suppress unless indeed it is shameful to be non-heterosexual), that I took so much shit for suggesting that Johnny Weir do some good for his tribe.

We’re all in this together, and no fag is an island.

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