hope & a bucket of popcorn

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Like all good year-end reflections by all decent upstanding homosexual men of a certain age, mine begins with Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand. And oddly enough in 1991, not 2017. See, in 1991 at the age of 19 I was living alone in an apartment in downtown Denver. Yes, I was working at my parents bookstore. Yes, I was going to school but what really made me an official adult out on my own was the ability to see movies all by myself. The hours of waiting for someone to take me and the days of practiced pitches about why we should go see Beaches instead of watching the Super Bowl were over. I could go see whatever the hell I wanted and when I wanted. And I did just that. While 1991 wasn’t exactly peak Streisand or hot as flames comeback Midler but that didn’t stop my gay ass from going to see The Prince of Tides and For the Boys, respectively. I’m pretty sure I loved both movies but what I really loved was the new act of independence along with the old comfort that film had always provided. Today, at the tippy top end of 2017, I’m happy to report that comfort and hope that movies have always given me is still very much alive and thank fucking god.  2017 was a year where movies really, really needed to do their job and here’s four films, in no particular order who did that job spectacularly.

The Florida Project: Every year, there’s a smaller, more emotionally driven film that critics love and that I usually love but somehow gets flattened when it comes to Oscars season. (Don’t talk to me about what happened to my beloved Boyhood. I’m still angry.) The film like that this year looks to be The Florida Project. Much like my trips to see Barbra and Bette, I saw this one alone at a matinée. Not flashy or hot button or big budget, I dare say The Florida Project is the most American film of the year. At once a portrait of America’s “hidden homeless” and a rollicking look at childhood mischief, The Florida Project easily pinpoints everything right and wrong with how we live in 2017. Heartbreaking, hilarious and utterly unforgettable, this movie made me remember why I love movies in the first place: at their best they show us the possibilities and serve as a mirror. The Florida Project delivers on that and so much more. Plus, it has the best ending of a film that I’ve seen in years.

Wonder Woman: My love and admiration of Wonder Woman is long and storied. Suffice to say, I dressed up like her in kindergarten and even have her tattooed on my arm for over decade. Thus my expectations were high and I’d been reading about the proposed movie versions for nearly two decades. To think we almost got versions with Sandra Bullock and Beyoncé. Shudders. Well, obviously it was worth the wait. In fact, I’d say Wonder Woman showed up just in time. While she was fighting Nazis on the big screen, real life Nazi assholes marched later that summer. Likewise, it was hard not think of her when modern villains like Harvey Weinstein were being heroically taken down by brave women. Aside from being a movie of the moment, it’s just a darn entertaining film with a fantastic lead performance and jaw dropping action sequences.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri: Many a long-winded internet essay has been penned on this film and the multitude of hot button issues it touches upon. From missing the boat on delving deeper on violence against women to being tone-deaf on racism by law enforcement, everybody has something to say about this movie and respectfully, I think they’re all wrong. What I have yet to read about this film is how it’s a meditation on grief and resentment which turns into revenge. It looks at our worst impulses and somehow makes them relatable and even funny. Darkly hilarious, the script by  Martin McDonagh is razor-sharp and takes no prisoners. A true playwrite, McDonagh isn’t afraid to let these people talk and have opinions, even if their opinions are horrible or wrong. Utterly unforgettable and badass in every sense of the word, Frances McDormand gives an already iconic performance in a film that you won’t soon stop talking about either.

The Shape of Water: I’ve already put my boxing gloves on and I’m ready to throw down with the first person who poo poos this film as a lightweight fairytale. Why? Because it’s so much more and perhaps more important than we realize. Without discounting the numerous and significant cinematic charms–the delicious soundtrack, the stunning visuals, the crisp pacing, The Shape of Water is at its heart a film about generosity and tolerance.  A black woman, a gay man, a mute and yes, a sea creature all love and protect one another in a movie that’s part Beauty and the Beast and part 50’s horror film. Guillermo Del Toro does what he does best in creating an unforgettable world but also shows us how the people we so often throw away take care of one another. I confidently say it’s my favorite film of 2017 and one I believe other 19-year-old movie nerds will find hope in too. It’s a beautiful film, a magical film and even an important film. And I’ll fight anybody who says otherwise!

Additional shoutouts to other cinematic hope providers like the witty, wonderful and wise Lady Bird, the complicated and scary The Beguiled, the important City of Ghosts, Tiffany Haddish’s performance in Girl’s Trip and the totally gorgeous Call Me By Your Name. I guess it should be noted that I have yet to see several big films like The Post or hard to find movies like Faces Places and BPM. But I will! In the meantime, what are some of your favorites from 2017?

 

 

 

 

 

 

what feeds me

shutterstock_94824595Currently, there are two pans of bread crumbs drying on my counter for two different types of stuffing or dressing or savory bread pudding or whatever your mom called it and now you call it. Because nothing says a small, sober alcoholic Thanksgiving like two different types of stuffing. Likewise, there is a container of chipotle sweet potato hummus in the refrigerator, two pumpkin rolls in the freezer and a big bag of potatoes in my cupboard awaiting that ancient Mahoney mashing magic.  And lest we forget, a turkey. I was thinking this morning as a laid in bed plotting my gravy strategy (because everyone needs one of those) that if per chance the apocalypse were to happen on Thanksgiving, this wouldn’t be so bad. We certainly wouldn’t go hungry. At least my version of the apocalypse features pie and a parade on the television.

I would say food is dominating my thoughts today because it’s Thanksgiving, which is by far my favorite holiday, but that would be a lie. I pretty much think about what I’m going to eat, what I’ve eaten, what I’ve never eaten and even wonder what your eating all throughout my day. As we’ve discussed here a few times, I love cooking, going to restaurants and sharing meals with people I love. Now that I don’t look forward to waking up and drinking a bathtub of tequila everyday, I look forward to what I’m eating. I will admit without shame or remorse that there are invitations to things that I have either accepted or denied based solely on the food being served and said event. Wanna talk to me about taxes over a plate of tacos? I’ll be there! Wanna have a friendly chat at a vegan juice bar? Hard pass! I try to celebrate and enjoy everything I eat– from a really great, perfectly ripe banana to a birthday cupcake. So hopefully it makes a choosier eater and happier Sean all the way around.  But when I think about what actually feeds me, what actually nourishes me and what really satisfies my appetite, then I’m thinking in a deeper universe far beyond my gravy strategy from earlier(still important, btw).

I had a day last week where I laughed really hard with two newer  but suddenly beloved friends on the phone. That same day I also read a great novel on the train into work as it was raining outside. There was also two delicious cups of coffee, some homemade corn chowder and a dinner of dumplings to be had that day. Sure, those things didn’t entirely make my day. Far from it. That was a day at work when me and a coworker sat with a screaming person suffering from mental health issues trying to get committed to the hospital. Additionally, I was faced with a nagging personal issue at work that I’ll eventually have to deal with before it turns into the demogorgon of my professional life. Naturally, there was also another avalanche of gross, depressing ass headlines (which do we even make any other kind of headlines in 2017?) just to top things off. But what I’m really left with today, what really stuck to my ribs and fed me was all the bright spots of that day.  Particularly, the laughter.

There is something about laughing with other people that does more for me than any pan of brownies ever can which is truly saying something if you really know me and know how important brownies are to me. But it’s true. When other people are making me laugh or I’m making them laugh, I feel like I know why I’m here on the planet. I feel like all this bullshit we listen to and people we put up with are totally worth it. Laughter is this rebellious pocket of joy that waves its middle finger at everyone and everything telling us how horrible the world is. Laughter can’t be kept down and wants us to keep pursuing it and I for one am 100% on board.

As a creative person, another thing that really feeds me is great art. This time of year for film lover like me is basically the cinema version of Thanksgiving. There are so many knockout, brilliant films pushed out from now until the end of the year that a movie amateur would feel overwhelmed. But for junkies like myself, its absolute heaven. Already with my sleeves rolled up and checking off movies one by one, I can’t say enough nice things about Lady Bird. The film directed by Greta Gerwig is getting heaps of praise and it’s easy to see why. Gerwig captures those awkward teenage moments while never deviating into cliché. But for my money the movie that knocked me on my ass and blew my mind at the same time is The Florida Project. While telling the tale of kids who live in rent by the week motels outside of Disney World, the movie also will open moviegoers eyes to the existence of America’s hidden homeless population. But what the movie really does is show that these kids are still capable of having fun while being homeless. Shot in a clear hilarious homage to The Little Rascals, Sean Baker focuses on  6-year-old Moonee and her friends who don’t need big fancy suburban houses to cause trouble. Really funny, heartbreaking and packed with the most devastatingly beautiful ending of a film that I’ve seen in years, The Florida Project fired my creative juices up and whet my appetite for more delicious seasonal film offerings.

As the clock ticks down and I get ready to transition from normal guy in pajamas to crazy person in the kitchen, the biggest thing that feeds me recently is more present than ever: love. There is a great moment in the film Marvin’s Room that goes like this:

Bessie: Oh, Lee, I’ve been so lucky. I’ve been so lucky to have Dad and Ruth. I’ve had such love in my life. You know, I look back, and I’ve had such… such love.

Lee: They love you very much.

Bessie: No, that’s not what I mean. No, no… I mean that I love them. I’ve been so lucky to have been able to love someone so much.

This exchange has stuck with me for over 20 years since that film was released and not just because it’s between Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton. But because the longer I’m sober and hopefully less self involved, I want to be grateful for the love I get to have for people and not chase love for what I’ll get in return. I know. Sounds lofty and hard and a little corny. Still, I think I’ll try it. I think I’ll try to love my husband, my cats, other addicts and alcoholics and my family the best way I know how.

And today what that looks like is lots of laughs and two different  kinds of stuffing.