Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review: Impossible Choice

[Content Note: Homophobia]

Last night, as I scoured both Netflix And Amazon Instant Video for gay-themed movies to watch, I came across Impossible Choice, an extremely-low budget film that came out in 2012. The brief description on Amazon caught my eye:

For the minister’s son, Brandon, this is a summer of awakening and acceptance of his homosexuality. For his father, this is a challenge to his roots in the bible.

In many ways, that description reminded me of the movie Rock Haven, which I love (and still wish I could find my copy of). I decided to watch it.

After watching it, I skimmed through the customer reviews on Amazon. This is a movie where it seemed like either reviewers loved it or hated it. In many ways, I agree with the negative reviews, as they all brought up great points. This was an extremely low-budget film. The writing was awful. The story — actually at least two different plots that were only related by the fact that they happened at the same time and in the same place — jumped all over the place. And there were several questions the story left unanswered. (Like whatever happened to the criminal charges that were brought against Lance? You get the sense that they were trumped up, but it’s never shown that the police learn this fact.) Or there was the sudden shift of Captain Dan from being totally opposed to the idea of running a gay cruise (in the first scene or two, he throws around the word “fag” quite liberally) to being entirely in favor of it and defending the idea in front of the people of Palmyra. In fact, I had to go back and verify that the virulent homophobe I remembered from the first few scenes really was Captain Dan, because they seemed like completely different characters.

The best part of the movie — as many of the negative critics noted — was the ten minute “play within,” a play created by some of the movie characters for a college drama class. In the “play within,” Matthew Shepard and Tyler Clementi meet up in the afterlife and tell each other about the events leading up their eventual deaths. It was well acted, moving, and possibly the only truly memorable part of the entire movie. It also really didn’t seem to have any bearing on the rest of the movie, which made it odd in context.

I will admit that despite all its technical flaws, I do have some warm feelings toward this movie. This is partly because its setting is local to me, as the gay cruise that serves as subject matter of one of the plotlines and the setting for the climax of the other takes place on the Erie Canal and starts from the nearby town of Palmyra New York. There’s something about seeing shots of local geography — and having it recognized in the film as such — that’s just touching to me.

Also, the themes of the movie, while poorly executed, are near and dear to my heart. Granted, in many ways, that makes the poor execution of the movie all the more sad. In the long run, I think it would have been better if those who made it would have focused either on the work to get the gay cruise approved or on the story about Brandon’s relationships with his father and his love interest, Lance.

Would I recommend watching it? If you have a couple hours to spare and access to Amazon Prime, sure. Especially if you live in or around Monroe County New York. Especially if you’re also gay.

But if you have access to a movie like Latter Days or Rock Haven (and haven’t already watched it to death), you may want to check one of them out instead.

 

“Sneakers” and past computer worship

Spoiler Alert:  This post is going to give away plot elements in a nineteen year old movie.  Face it, if this ruins the movie for you, you probably weren’t going to see the movie anyway.  😉

This past Friday, I ran to The Living Room Cafe for movie night.  One of the movies we watched was the 1992 movie, “Sneakers,” starring Robert Redford.  It’s one of my favorite movies, and I love taking every opportunity to watch it.

One line in the movie, however, has always bothered me.  It’s delivered in the scene when Liz, Warner, and Cosmo are about to leave the building and the team of thieves is about to get away with their caper.  Liz mention in passing that she was giving up on computer dating.  Cosmo looks at the “couple,” declares that no computer would pair them together, and (correctly) concludes that the date is part of the caper set-up.

I’ve always taken issue with Cosmo’s declaration.  I find it quite possible to believe that a computer would pair up just about anyone.  Leaving aside the fact that people who use online dating services are notorious for being less than 100% honest when providing their information — even when taking the kind of “personality profile tests” that sites like eHarmony and Chemistry.com use — there’s always the possibility of computer glitches and programming errors.

I suppose the screenwriters felt that given Cosmo’s love of computers, he would buy into such a conceit.  However, I would argue that Cosmo’s love of computers — and more importantly, his deep understanding of them — would make him more aware of how imperfect computers are.  After all, the movie starts with  college-aged Cosmo and Martin working together to hack computers and cause mayhem in the name of “fighting the system.”  It seems to me that someone who not only works with computers, but has a history of seeking out and taking advantage of vulnerabilities in computer systems.  Such a person cannot possibly think of computers as perfect.

I think this is more likely a case of non-computer people of the time projecting their own sense of awe and mystery for computers onto a character who should know better.  In the 70’s, 80’s, and ’90’s, there was the sense among the “uninitiated” that computers were incredible devices and capable doing amazing things, and they tended to idolize them as such.  Movies like “Sneakers” demonstrate this sense of awe and worship for them.

I think as more people become familiar with the Windows operating systems and the infamous Blue Screen of Death, that sense of mystique has diminished, if not outright vanished.  But for those of us who delved into the mechanics, that sense of mystery was gone long before that.

Movie Review: Shank

I’ve watched a number of movies that have dealt with the theme of young men coming to terms with being gay.  However, it is the rare movie that explores that theme with the intensity and rawness as Shank, the British film directed by Simon Pearce.  In this film, Pearce gives us a glimpse into the life of Cal, a teenage gang member who is trying to hide his sexual orientaion from his fellow thugs.

The movie quickly introduces us to Cal, who copes with his feelings by engaging in random sexual encounters, drug use, and gang violence.  The first few scenes show the gritty nature of his life in the gang.  However, Cal’s life suddenly changes when his best mate, Jonno, and their de facto leader, Nessa, decide to pick on poor Olivier, a French exchange student who is stereotypically and somewhat flamboyantly gay.  In a moment of conscience and fear — and perhaps seeing too much of himself and his potential fate in Olivier and the treatment he receives — Cal stops the pair from beating the French boy, allows him to escape, and then abandons his fellow thugs to apologize to Olivier and offer him a lift home.

Cal attempts to return to his gang’s hideout later, only to discover that he is not only unwelcome, but an acceptable target for his former comrades’ anger and violence.  Cal escapes and returns to Olivier, and the pair soon get involved in a rocky, tenuous relationship.  However, Nessa and the other gang members discover Cal’s secret and begin to hunt down the pair.

This movie is a masterful blending of grit (to rival FAQ’s and Ethan Mao) and tender sensuality, demonstrating the storm of emotions that Cal experiences as he is tugged in different directions.  All of the actors play their parts well, filling each scene with emotion through words, tone of voice, body gestures, and expression.  Even characters like Nessa, whose deeper motives for her anger and rage towards Cal are beautifully fore-shadowed toward the beginning of the movie, are given a great deal of attention and depth.

One particularly interesting piece of cinematography in this movie was the use of the cell phone video footage. The gang always recorded their acts of violence via cell phone, and this fact was used in the movie to hint at violence to come at times.  It was an interesting way of adding a bit of suspense at critical moments.

My one criticism of this movie would be that there’s a bit more synchronicity in the movie than is really reasonable.  For example, it’s entirely too convenient that the first sexual encounter Cal has with the movie is with Scott, who later turns out to be one of Olivier’s university instructors.  There were other coincidences involving Scott, which I will not go into, as it would reveal too much about how the movie concludes.

As a final note, I would warn readers that this is a very violent movie and even includes sexual violence.  Those who are bothered or emotionally trigger by such things should either skip this one or take appropriate precautions when sitting down to watch it.

Movie Review: Shelter

Shelter (2007 film)

Image via Wikipedia

I’m a fan of movies that deal with a gay guy who is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality.  There’s just something touching and nostalgic about watching the main character discover his feelings for another man and begin to sort through the emotional obstacle course made up of love, desire, fear, doubt, and guilt.

One such movie that stands out in my mind is Shelter, the 2007 movie about a young man, Zach, living in California.  Where Shelter differs from other great coming out movies, like Latter Days and Rock Haven, is that Zach’s major conflict isn’t so much about his religion, but his family.

Zach lives with his older sister, her live-in boyfriend (at least I don’t get the impression their married) and his five year old nephew.  Zach works at odd jobs to help support his sister and little Cody, who sees his uncle as a major father figure.  Zach’s life begins to change when is best friend’s older brother, Shaun, comes to town for an extended stay.  Zach and Shaun fall in love, and quickly finds his desire to be with Shaun quickly coming into conflict with his family obligations.  His sister, Jeanne, is concerned about her son being around all that “gay stuff” and doesn’t think it’s healthy environment.  (Strangely, Jeanne isn’t all that concerned that her live-in boyfriend is asking her to go to Oregon for six months and leave Cody behind.) Despite Shaun’s undying adoration of Cody and his willingness to make Cody a part of any plans he and Zach might have, the family conflict leads to problems in the couple’s budding relationship.

In addition to the conflict between love and obligations to a family that doesn’t approve of gay relationships, this film weaves in the extra dimensions of different family backgrounds.  While Zach and his sister have lived a difficult life with plenty of hard luck and few breaks, Shaun comes from a well-to-do family.  This difference leads to differences in perspective and different approaches to their problems, adding to the conflict.

All of these elements are handled well, or at least as well as they can be in a 97 minute movie.  It makes for a touching and heartfelt story, and one that I could personally identify with on many levels.

Squint and tilt your head to the left while you hop on one leg…

Transformers Optimus Prime G1 Encore Reissue -...

Image by mdverde via Flickr

Fred Clark over at Slacktivist recently made another post in his series about what motivates some people to disseminate false, injurious information about others despite that information being demonstrably false.  In this particular post, Fred uses the videos over at Good Fight Theater as an example for the continuing discussion.  While I highly recommend Fred’s post and the ongoing series of which it is a part, I wanted to look at a related but slightly different topic:  The way that groups like Good Fight Ministries tend to stretch and twist whatever they’re looking at to make it fit Christian theology and/or cosmology.

For this post, I’m going to focus on GFM’s video regarding the first Transformers movie.  I’ve watched clips from a few other GFM videos, and I get the impression that my criticisms can be adequately applied to most of their videos.  But as the Transformers video is the only one I’ve watched in full, I’ll focus on that one.

The goal of the GFM video is to suggest and argue that Transfomers — and other movies about aliens (and an interest in aliens in general) — is an attempt to brainwash humans into accepting the lead of demons during the final battle of Armageddon as portrayed in Pre-Millenial Dispensationalism.  (As an aside, Fred also offers a wonderful look at PMD theology as part of his ongoing review of the Left Behind series.)  GFM does this by suggesting that in Transformers, Michael Bay is effectively portraying the fallen angels of Armageddon with as the good guys — in the form of the Autobots — and God and the angels of Heaven as the bad guys — in the form of the Decepticons.  However, it seems to me that GFM has to make a lot of assumptions — assumptions I’m inclined to question, challenge, and even refute — in order to make that argument.

The first assumption is that the Cube — the original source of creation life on the Autobots’ home planet — is somehow representative of the Christian god.  It’s not clear to me why GFM makes this claim.  While it is certainly understandable that the Cube possesses capabilities that is often considered the sole domain of the Christian god, I find that a tenuous argument for this comparison.  After all, nothing suggests that the Cube is the creator of the entire universe or even all life in it.  If the Cube is not the sole source of life — and much in the movie left me with the impression that its not — then the comparison between the Cube and the Christian God quickly falls flat.

Another consideration is the nature of the Cube.  Specifically, the Cube is not portrayed as a conscious being with personality or identity.  Again, this separates it from the god of Christianity, which is very much a conscious being with personality and identity.  This alone suggests that a better parallel to a divine force found in other religions that have a more impersonal conceptualization of God.(1)

This impersonal nature of the Cube creates another problem for the assumptions in GFM video.  The GFM video suggests that Transformers is based on the Gnostic idea that God is evil.  However, how can an impersonal god like the Cube be evil?  The Cube has no plans and gives no orders.  All of the actions of the Decepticons — those GFM ministries would like us to believe are the stand-ins for Jesus and the heavenly host in the movie — come from Megatron, not the Cube.

Theologically, this causes problems for GFM’s claims.  If we accept that Megatron is the stand-in for Jesus in this movie(2), then that would mean that Megatron is acting on the authority of God’s stand-in, the Cube.  However, it is clear that Megatron’s authority and power is not granted by the will of Cube, but is gained by him by his control of the Cube.  Such a discrepancy further destroys the analogy that GFM is attempting to make.

This also comes into play when we consider Optimus Prime’s plan to destroy the Cube.  GFM points to this as paralleling the fallen angels of his own theology who wish to destroy the Christian god.  The problem with this comparison is that the fallen angels of GFM’s wish to destroy God in order to take his place and rule over the universe.  In contrast, Optimus Prime merely seeks to destroy the Cube as a last resort in order to prevent Megatron from using its power to destroy and control others.  In this sense, it’s not only the actions that are being inverted in Michael Bay’s supposed “retelling” of the Final Battle, but the players’ motives as well.

This is particularly notable when you consider Optimus Prime’s plans for destroying the Cube if it becomes necessary.  The leader of the Autobots plans to destroy the Cube in a way that will require him to sacrifice his own life.  Indeed, the decision to ultimately destroy Megatron along with the Cube is actually Shia LeBeouf’s doing.  Optimus’s plans for self-sacrifice strike me as far more, well, Messianic.

In order to accept GFM’s interpreation of the movie, one must completely ignore the actions, goals, and motives of the characters being portrayed.  One must completely ignore where the analogy quickly falls apart.  And one must be willing to accept the wanton disregard for life and the desire to control and destroy others is an acceptable depiction of God’s just wrath.  (3)

In other words, to accept GFM’s interpretation of this movie as an inversion of the Final Battle of PMD theology, one has to put the entire movie through a blender and force it into preconceived notions.  It makes far more sense to me to watch the movie and consider the ideas it offers on their own merits.

Notes:
(1)  Of course, it’s possible that the folks at GFM consider all non-Christian religions to be nothing more than inversions and perversions of Christianity.  So this distinction may not matter to them.  However, I personally think it’s an important one.  After all, not everyone sees everything in terms of being a direct perversion of or attack on Christianity.

(2)  Bear in mind that the biggest argument for this supposition appears to be that
Megatron sounds a lot like Metatron, which is a name mentioned in
certain extra-Biblical texts and might be another name for Jesus
according to extra-Biblical commentaries on those extra-Biblical texts.  So not only is GFM playing fast and furious with the movie to make it fit their theology, but their having to invoke appeals to theology that many of their fellow Christians might find questionable.

(3)  And there I think is the greatest problem with GFM’s interpretation of this movie.  In order to accept this, one must not only believe in a god that is a wanton tyrant who treats his Creation with contempt and disregard for its ultimate well-being, but you must believe that such a god is worthy of respect and adoration.  Perhaps teh folks at GFM can do so, but my own conscience forbids it.

Religion and Movies

DVDs.jpgWhile guest-blogging at The Wild Hunt, John Morehead proposed using science fiction movies as a basis for interfaith dialogue. His idea and the post itself are fascinating, and I strongly encourage my readers to check it out.  It’s certainly a concept I want to think over and explore more closely.  In the meantime, though, I’d like to turn my attention to one of the responses that John’s post generated.  Hadiah Starlight commented a bit on the poor representation of Wiccans and other Pagans in cinema in general:

I agree that cinema is a reflection of what is going on socially in our
world, but as a Pagan I find it very sad, and disheartening that we are
still not presented in a more “positive light”, and that people’s idea
of witchcraft is the Harry Potter films, or The Craft. We are briefly
presented in a more positive light, in the Lord of the Rings series,
but until we are presented as anything other than “Science Fiction” we
will never be taken seriously.

Leaving aside the question of whether or portrayal in cinema really affects how seriously we’re taken (I’m personally inclined to think that if any causation between the two points exists, it’s more likely to run in the opposite direction), this comment caused me to wonder how Christianity and religion in general fairs in cinema.  So I walked over to my media cabinet, combed through the 300+ DVD’s I currently owned, and started pulling out any DVD I felt had some sort of religious portrayal in it.  I ended up with about 25 DVD’s (a smattering of them are represented in the picture attached to this post).  Furthermore, I felt my choice to include some of the titles might have been a bit generous.

While I don’t claim that my personal DVD collection is a representative sample of all cinema out there, I do think that the relatively low percentage of titles I pulled that I felt had some religious content is quite telling.  It would seem that a great number of movies simply don’t have much to say about religion at all.

I began to comb through the titles that I had pulled out and started considering the similarity between how religion was incorporated into the movie.  I began to notice that the titles seemed to fit a few different categories.  The first and most obvious category were those movies that were intended to offer editorial commentary on religion or certain aspects of some religious subcultures.  Two such examples are Saved! and Dogma.  As these kinds of movies tend to be heavy in satire and highly critical, I’m not sure we as Pagans sould be in a hurry to see these kinds of movies about our own faith traditions.  They may be helpful in the future as our traditions become more established and could benefit from such criticism.  But for right now, I think we’re better off being grateful that our religions aren’t being represented by these kinds of movies.

Unsurprisingly, a considerable number of movies in this category were science fiction movies.  In these movies, religion became framework for understanding the classic battle between good and evil that drive these movies.  The Exorcist, Ghost Rider, Constantine, and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe are all good examples of this category of movie.  Indeed, the abundance of these kinds of movies suggests that it’s not just Pagan religions that are most easily explored, represented and expressed through science fiction.  So that’s a limitation we may simply need to accept for now.

I will note, however, that Christian-themed science fiction does appear to be of a theologically superior quality than Pagan-themed science fiction most of the time.  Each of the movies I listed above spend a great deal of time exploring a cosmology and theology that explains the world where these fantastic and even supernatural stories take place.  The nature of heaven and hell as well as their relationship to the “natural world” is explored in Constantine in fascinating detail that suggests a worldview far more complex than anything seen in The Craft.

But when one considers the amount of Christian theology and cosmology that is readily accessible to the average screenwriter, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Many of them probably grew up learning about it.  Almost all of them have spent their lives surrounded by it.  And then there are simply libraries full of books that they can learn about it from.  And some of the best religiously-themed science fiction — such as the Chronicles of Narnia — have been written by Christian theologians themselves.

Compared to this, Pagan theology and cosmology (in its numerous forms and variations, no less) isn’t as easily accessibe.  There’s not nearly as much written about it.  Most people have not learned it first hand, nor do they come into contact with it regularly.  Is it any wonder that Pagan theology is less well developed in the movies then?

The final general category of movie I found was those movies in which religion somehow influenced the plot and created.  The best examples of this in my collection include Latter Days and Rock Haven, which are movies about young men who find themselves facing romantic and sexual feelings that their religious says are sinful and must be changed or repressed.  These movies then center around that conflict, the effects it has on the characters, and the eventual resolution.  Similar movies exist that deal with other faith struggles, such as understanding and coming to terms with tragedy and loss.

Personally, I would love to see similar movies from a Pagan perspective.  I would love to see movies where a Pagan character tries to reconcile his faith with life issues or find comfort and guidance through tragedy and difficulty from his faith.  The problem is, writing such a movie again requires a deep understanding of Pagan theology and philosophy, as well as how the affect the rest of an adherent’s life.  This is not the kind understanding that the average screenwriter is going to possess.  In short, Hollywood isn’t going to make this kind of movie simply because it’s ill-equipped to do so.

If we as Pagans really want to see positive portrayals in cinema, I think we’re going to have to find those in our community who are ready to be the story-tellers and the screenwriters who will do it.  After all, we are the only ones who can portray our lives because we are the only ones living our lives.

So as much as I’d love to see better portrayals of my faith on the big screen, I won’t hold my breath until I or another fellow Pagan is prepared to write them and try selling them to a movie studio.

 

Johnny Depp fans might want to skip this post.

Tonight, I decided to finally watch Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. To be frank, people who are raving over this movie either have never seen the original musical (especially the 1982 version starring Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett) or did not truly appreciate it. I watched the Tim Burton movie tonight and, while I can certainly appreciate that everyone in it were great actors and the movie had some compelling parts, I can say that it came nowhere near to the musical which inspired me when I watched it live at Mansfield University (no, that production did not star Angela Lansbury, sadly) or the 1982 stage performance on DVD since.

I think that the least offensive change I noted was Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of Mrs. Lovett . Carter transformed the familiar senile character with no sense of right or wrong to a more aware and somewhat dark cynic of a woman. This made the character more aware of what was going around, forcing who to react to it on some more serious level than the frivolity of a more spacy baker. I also think this hurt the sense of utter and mindless devotion to the vengeful barber that is so key to the character. But if this had been the worst of the changes, I concede that it might have actually worked.

I think the greatest offense in the movie was Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Sweeney Todd. Todd is an excellent actor and while many of his lines were well developed, I felt that overall, he played the character poorly. For starters, it was difficult to believe that the man on the screen had just spent fifteen years of a life sentence in Australia only to make a harrowing escape, get lost at sea, and finally rescued by sheer luck. I would expect a man who has gone through such a rough life to look far more haggard.

This was further complicated by the fact that Depp played a far more brooding Todd rather than a man who was becoming completely consumed by grief and a compulsive lust for vengeance. While he showed some excellent sparks of anger (the scene where he tossed Mrs. Lovett into the fire was phenomenal, I grant you), he more often seemed to be more prepared to write emo poetry than explode in murderous fury.

Burton’s decision to cut the chorus and any number they would do from the movie entirely also hurt the production over all, in my opinion. The chorus plays an important part in the musical in that its numbers help to build up the atmosphere of intensity and fury. Without that aid, this movie did not crescendo well into the final climax, proving the point of the final words of the musical (which again, were cut from the movie):

To seek revenge may lead to hell,
But everyone does it, though seldom as well
As Sweeny, Sweeny Todd
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

And that brings me to the crux of my problem with this film. Sweeney Todd is not just a musical with a grim plotline. It is a morality play demonstrating in frightening detail the dangers of becoming enthralled by thoughts of vengeance. The main character serves as an example of how one bent on revenge will become so consumed by the quest and the negative emotions involved that one can ultimately destroy everything one holds dear, and ultimately, oneself. In my opinion, while the movie got the grim plotline down, it failed to deliver the ultimate message of the drama with any real force.

I will note, however, that I was pleased with both Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the judge and Ed Sanders’s performance as Toby. (In all reality, I found the choice to have Toby quietly and quickly slice Todd’s throat and walk away one of the more interesting changes, and I wish the rest of the movie had been done better so I could get a clearer idea of how that adaptation might have worked.) I’d like to also compliment Laura Michelle Kelly on her performance as Lucy, though I’ll note that they cut way too much out of that role for her to truly show her skill at playing what is actually a surprisingly pivotal role in the whole musical.

Anyone and Everyone: The Movie

This afternoon, I went to a free screening of Anyone and Everyone. The screening was sponsored by WXII, ImageOut, and the GAGV.

The movie was a one-hour documentary about a handful of families with gay children. (As an aside, I should note that “children” in this post is used to describe a family relationship, as everyone in the documentary was over the age of eighteen, as near as I could tell.) Both children and parents alike talked openly about the coming out experience and how everyone responded to the situation and handled the revelation. The families themselves were from varied backgrounds. Families from liberal and conservative backgrounds as well as religious families (including one Mormon family) participated in the documentary. Also, various ethnicities and various geographic regions were represented.

As each family told how their child came out and shared their emotional experiences and how they handled the situations, the viewer got a strong sense of the variety of responses that gay children face when “breaking the news” to their parents. They even told the heartbreaking story of one young man who was thrown out of his own home upon coming out to his mother. Fortunately, for that particularly guy, he found a family willing to take him in.

Fortunately, the rest of the families came to some level of acceptance and found a way to maintain their relationships with their children, though the road was not always smooth. Indeed, some parents admitted to starting out trying to change their children at first. In fairness, it was good to see one lesbian in the documentary admit that she could’ve handled the coming out process a bit more tactfully and sensitively. I felt this helped to remind everyone that we kids make our share of mistakes in the coming out process, too.

One of the most touching parts of this movie for me was to hear some of the fathers’ responses. At least two families told how upon finding out, the father immediately wanted to call their gay son. The one wanted to reassure his son that he was loved no matter what. Another wanted to call and apologize, because he realized that he had said some things that were hurtful, especially now that he knew his son was gay. In a world where most gay men expect our fathers to be the most upset due to our sexuality, it was moving to see fathers who showed such deep concern and compassion for their sons in such an instant way. The fact that these men were not the type to be accepting right away (both had come from conservative upbringings) merely underscored just how meaningful their immediate actions were.

After the movie, the GAGV invited some of their local speakers to hold a panel discussion. I hope to review the highlights of that discussion in my next post.

For those who may be interested in seeing this movie, both screening information and ordering information is available on the movie’s website. (See the link in the first paragraph of my post.)

Movie Review: Rock Haven

Tonight, I rented and watched a copy of Rock Haven. This movie is the tale of young man, Brady, who moves to a new town (I get the impression it’s actually a small island off the west coast based on clues from the movie). Brady is a quiet young boy raised in a conservative Christian environment, planning to head to Bible college at the end of summer. However, Brady’s plans and life become quite upset when he meets his new neighbor, the nineteen year old Clifford who comes from a non-traditional background (his mother appears to be a part of the New Age movement). As the movie progresses, the two boys become friends and fall in love. Indeed, the entire plot revolves around Brady’s struggle to come to terms with his feelings for Clifford in light of his faith.

Let me first say that as I’ve lived some aspects of Brady’s life, I am struggling not to be too critical of the movie. The writer, director, and actor set a monumental task for themselves by taking on the challenge of trying to portray this subject matter in a seventy eight minute movie. There is simply no way for them to truly portray the struggles — not to mention the intensity those struggles reach — in such a short amount of time. If I were to measure their portrayals against my own experiences without considering this fact, I would have to call the movie a complete failure. However, given the time constraints, I admit that they did a fair job.

I think that one of the things the movie did quite well was to demonstrate how lonely this struggle can be. As Brady first reacts poorly to Clifford’s advances, Brady realizes that the “problem” lies within himself and he feels drawn to Clifford despite what he believes about such attractions. And yet, he realizes that there is no one he can turn to. He suffers through this alone. Certainly, he goes to the pastor of his church a few times to discuss Clifford, but he takes care never to tell the pastor the whole truth. I recognized this self-editing and self-imposed isolation all too well and found myself thinking of my own past.

The movie also does well to demonstrate that this struggle ultimately affects everyone around Brady. Clifford finds himself facing a new challenge each time he comes into contact with his love. Brady’s mother confesses that she can feel the walls building between herself and her son. Even Peggy, the girl that Brady’s mother tries to fix him up with (with the help of Peggy’s own mother, of course) is the occasional target of Brady’s frustrations.

I did feel that the movie lost me after Brady and Clifford spent the night together. Perhaps it was because my own life took a different path (I actually clung to my first lover for dear life out of a sense of desperation), but Brady’s choice to seek help afterwards just seemed ill conceived to me. It seemed too unreal to me for Brady to lay in bed with another man and talk about being safe, yet turn around and decide to abandon his love and try counseling after a single conversation with his mother. Perhaps if the movie had done more to re-instill the sense of guilt over a couple more scenes, it would’ve made more sense to me.

I will say that the conflict between Brady and his mother was well done, (though not as well as the conflict between young Aaron Davis and his mother in Latter Days. The scene where the two talk in Brady’s bedroom after he announces he’s not going away to get help was truly touching and showed the pain of two people who love each other facing off from immovable points of view. Of course, I particularly loved the extra touch where Brady announced to his mother that he forgave her.

The other part I loved about the exchange was when his mother told him that he was making the biggest mistake of his life by staying. Brady simply responds by noting that he has already made the biggest mistake of his life (presumably letting Clifford fly to Barcelona to live with his father). I think most of us who went through a period of denying our sexuality can identify with those sentiments. I know that as I watched this movie, I found myself thinking of my teen years and what I might have done with them had I come out to myself sooner.

I could see myself as Dan

Last night, my friend, Rick, and I went to see Dan in Real Life. It was a fantastic movie about a widower and father of three daughters, Dan. Dan also wrote an advice column geared towards parents and family issues. So picture a nice, quiet guy with a number of deep insights and rather sensitive side. (No, he wasn’t gay.)

While spending time with his parents and siblings, Dan ends up meeting an intelligent and good looking woman, Marie, with whom he strikes up a conversation. After managing to get her phone number despite her admission that she’s in a relationship, Dan returns to his parents house and begins to tell one of his brothers about the girl he met. Of course, as in most closely-knit families, the news starts to travel fast and they even call on the new girlfriend of another brother to offer insight on how soon is “too soon” to call a woman. Of course, imagine Dan’s surprise when said new girlfriend turns out to be — you guessed it — the lovely Marie herself.

I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Steve Carell (or at least not The Office, for which he is best known). However, he plays the role of Dan in this movie extremely well, and makes his character believable. The movie is absolutely fantastic (though I have to admit it may have hit a bit closer to home than I cared for), and it’s a touching, despite being slightly cliche in some places. (For example, I saw the ending of the bowling alley scene coming from a mile away.) But in the end, I was moved and even shed a few tears, so I’d say it was a great movie overall.