Last year I spent good money to watch a documentary, one shot on video, projected onto a movie screen. (Ordinarily a pointless exercise; documentary is a home-video genre.) But ACT UP is a part of my history that I had almost forgotten. You may not know that I used to write for OutWeek (19 articles). Even I barely remember it.
I gradually realized that every single review – even from heterosexualist males, always the last to know – was an unqualified rave.
I brought all that and more with me to How to Survive a Plague, the best documentary of the 21st century.
Those paragraphs took a year to assemble.
Why did How to Survive a Plague lose the Oscar? Because it was up against a movie about a shaggy nonwhite musician with a guitar. Nothing says “authenticity” like that. It’s rock snobbery taken to the limit.
I told Peter Staley they were facing a Brokeback Mountain scenario: “Chickenshit Academy Jews, liberals, and aging bald heterosexualist males know your movie is better, then proceed to fink out and vote for the safe refuge of the documentary about the black musician. This has been my nightmare scenario for months, in fact.”
Only one outcome was possible and it enraged me. I know how Annie Proulx felt. I was even angrier when I read about the fraud involved in the winner’s story.
Which movie will actually last? Let me put it to you this way. There is no such thing as Lego fucking Crash.
I kept telling David France that the captioning would be a disaster unless he intervened early. Lo and behold, the abomination that is CaptionMax did its worst.
How to Survive a Plague: The Television Event
Casting the television miniseries:
SHIA LEBŒUF as Spencer Cox
JAMES FRANCO as Peter Staley
MICHAEL FASSBENDER as Bob Rafsky
DOMINIC MONAGHAN as Mark Harrington
ZOOEY DESCHANEL as Garance Franke-Ruta
DIANNE WIEST as Ann Northrup
CRISPIN GLOVER as Jim Eigo
JOAQUIN PHOENIX as Ray Navarro
STANLEY TUCCI as Dr. Anthony Fauci
CHERRY JONES as Dr. Mathilda Krim
…and AL FRANKEN as Larry Kramer
I was one of only two known detractors of Weekend, the film by the uncharitable Andrew Haigh. It was so popular it spawned not fan fiction but fan line art inspired by its publicity photos.
The minute the DVD became available, I bought it. Then every molecule of the universe had to line up just right to find a time to watch it (with, yes, those perverse Captions, Inc. all-centred captions, this time in Arial).
I discovered I had been wrong about Weekend – and why.
To watch the Toronto première, my esteemed colleague and I packed ourselves into a full auditorium at Inside Out on a cold spring evening. Everybody had a coat on or was sitting on a coat or had a coat stuffed under the seat. What I understood at long last is that I simply could not hear half the dialogue in the movie. It was muffled by the room. I needed a volume control that I could adjust myself and, again yes, captioning.
I hadn’t been as impressed with Weekend as everyone else was because – I know now – I couldn’t hear half of the most important lines. Has this ever happened to me before? It meant I did not understand the movie.
I now agree with everyone else. Though futile, I apologize to Andrew Haigh.
The Criterion package – itself a bit of a coup – sits face up on my desk alongside Cabaret Voltaire as a cultural talisman.
Chris New is apparently happily pursuing theatre acting and independent film. (In fact, a script he wrote was just greenlighted.)
Tom Cullen, who was here and apparently in Sudbury several times, shot some obviously atrocious movie set on Mars. (Presumably its near-moonscape was why he was in Sudbury, though nobody there could confirm that for me.)
He’s in another picture, an Arabian meditation on dance, at whose prospect I cringe. It’s the kind of movie weepy admin assistants and middle-aged ladies in sexless marriages watch. It’s already been done (see Cairo Time; I won’t) and I didn’t want Cullen to turn into an Alexander Siddig manqué. One of all those is more than enough. And, while “Siggy” was admittedly very good in Syriana, Mr. CULLEN is unlikely to spawn a Usenet group in his name.
But here’s where Mr. CULLEN’s future is assured: Getting cast in Downton Abbey ensures he will be an international megastar within five years. Couldn’t happen to a nicer fella.
Keep the Lights On
When you read about Weekend, you also read about Keep the Lights On. They’re presented as peas in a pod.
I called bullshit from the outset because director Ira Sachs has the kind of fatal depressive instinct more suited to Toronto filmmaking. (Toronto cinema is one sad lonely picture after another.) Do not, for example, attempt to watch The Delta, as it will dig a chunk out of your lifeforce. How in the name of Christ he gets funding for his soul-corroding cinematic indulgences I will never understand.
Keep the Lights On, a structural mess beset by almost unremitting bad acting, was abrasively antilife. Nobody else has told you so. You’ve been deceived. I was wrong about Weekend; everybody else is wrong about Keep the Lights On.
But, even having seen Brotherhood –
– I was stunned by the epic openness of Thure Lindhardt. His performances make me, with my sarcastic, critical nature, feel like a mass murderer by comparison. I cannot understand it at all. Not just the infinite blue eyes, the blondest hair in the world… how is it humanly possible even to simulate that level of guilelessness?
It can’t just be acting. You can’t act what you don’t feel. How do you grow up to be that open?
What is someone with an unfathomable degree of heart doing in a movie like this?