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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aquaman is bae (and always has been)

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Monday morning confession? The first man to ever capture my heart wore orange and green spandex and lived under the sea.  Now as a six-year-old in the late 70’s, I wasn’t exactly sexually “woke.” I just knew on some level that Aquaman, this hunky, blonde often seen riding abnormally large seahorses around, was my “favorite.” Sure, he’s often made fun of for being useless and if you made me pinpoint his exact powers I’d fail miserably. But on some level my childhood heart knew that out of the Super Friends men he’d probably be the best boyfriend. I mean Batman? That dude has too many issues. And let’s be honest, Superman is a snoozefest. After one spin on his super human penis, you’d probably get bored and want him to shut up.  At least Aquaman could communicate with dolphins and is too cool to live among terrible landlocked humans.  Plus, he wasn’t in too many episodes of The Super Friends incarnation I watched (technically Challenge of the Super Friends if we’re going to get really nerdy here) which made him feel more rare and exotic. He just seemed sort of dreamy to my childhood self and I really couldn’t explain it. So when the internet starting freaking out again out Aquaman, I couldn’t help feel like my forbidden feelings for this fishman were finally vindicated.

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A whole lot edgier and more in your face, the current incarnation of Aquaman looks just like my childhood crush. That is if my childhood crush went to The Warped Tour, opened a tattoo studio on Venice Beach and smoked weed everyday. Folks from all over comic book fandom have been drooling over the new Aquaman, played by Game of Thrones super hunk Jason Momoa. The fanning and fainting hit a fever pitch last week when a new Justice League teaser was dropped online. “Finally, Aquaman is cool!” is one of the comments I read from some blog most certainly more qualified than I to yammer about anything comic book related. But to me, he’d always been cool.

First of all, I was always obsessed with mermaids and people who lived underwater. In a pre-Ariel world, it seemed exotic. Like here were humanlike species who lived a better and more peaceful existence underwater away from all of our bullshit and baggage. In fact, sounds pretty damn appealing in the post-Trump world too.  Later on Splash with Darryl Hannah would send my mermaid obsession into complete overdrive. But with Aquaman it was always a just a glimpse into that world and a shoddily animated and brief glimpse, at that. Still it felt romantic and innocent. Though later animated versions of Aquaman were definitely more overtly sexy and daddy-ish. Like this one from the early 2000’s Justice League:

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or this studly 2008 re-imagining from Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

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Other than a lifelong obsession with Wonder Woman, one of which included me dressing up as her in kindergarten and lead to a tattoo of the goddess in my late twenties, my comic book knowledge is limited. Therefore I can’t really speak of Aquaman’s literary world and what it looks like beyond what I saw as a kid on The Superfriends. But as a cartoon pretend boyfriend, he fit the bill nicely, as odd as that might sound.

Talk to any gay man, however and you’ll discover that nearly all of them had a cartoon man crush growing up. For a certain generation, He-Man did the trick. With the muscles, loin cloth and very gay tiger, it’s easy to see why. However, if I was going to go there with someone from that universe, there’s no question it would have to be Bow from She-Ra. With his Tom of Finland moustache and kinky outfits, he’s kind of the most out of the closet 80’s cartoon character ever. May I submit exhibit A, a photo of Bow with He-Man.

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Likewise, I’ve heard Aladdin or Trent Lane from Daria.dc84548ae0eef52ceb76948b3421b486.gif

Both completely crushable and perfect imaginary boyfriend material. Peter Pan, Scooby Doo’s Fred, Gambit, John Smith from Pocahontas, Johnny Bravo and of course Gaston of Beauty and the Beast who’s momentary shirtlessness caused many a sexual awakening for gay boys of certain era.

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Even my own husband confessed to having a pre-pubescent crush on Captain Planet. Clearly, there’s an age gap between me and the mister. I guess the thing about cartoon boyfriends is that they seem safe. We know they’re not real but their looks and personalities are something aspirational. #BoyfriendGoals, if you will.

For me and my boo Aquaman, it was on a subliminal level. Like I had these feelings about him and I was too young and naive and too Catholic to understand them but making him my favorite was sufficient enough in the romance department. My non-romance with Aquaman later lead way to a “funny feeling” at age 11 when I watched Adam Ant in leather pants perform “Strip” on Saturday Night Live which opened the door to future crushes on Billy Idol, George Michael and every male gymnast, swimmer or diver at the 1984 Summer Olympics. And while I didn’t exactly wind up with a blonde who hangs out with dolphins and lives under the sea, I did marry somebody who is incredibly kind and compassionate, things cartoon heroes like Aquaman always were.

All of which is to say, I’m ready to relinquish my imaginary boyfriend Aquaman to a new generation of sexually naive gay boys across the globe with the slight satisfaction that he was mine first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

she’s got the power

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Some battles just aren’t yours to fight. Sometimes the best you can do is cheer from the sidelines. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little excited about the march on Washington this Saturday. With over 1,800 bus permits issued (about 1,600 more than that tragic ass event happening the day before) and over 100,000 people expected to attend, I will admit to having serious FOMO. As man with three nieces, one sister, oodles of female friends, cousins and coworkers, I love women. In fact, growing up it was always, “Sean and the girls.” I had found my allies at an early age and it didn’t matter that we were of different genders. What mattered is that we liked hanging out together. Girls always had my back and protected me and I, in turn, would make them laugh. It was a simple and mutually beneficial agreement that lead to beautiful friendships starting around the age of 5.  Couple this with the presence of badass women in pop culture of the 70’s and 80’s (everything from Pat Benatar and Jem to Wonder Woman and Debbie Harry and She-Ra and beyond) and I was as girl crazy as any boy who didn’t actually like girls could be.

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That’s why right now in history seems pretty darn special.  So yeah we don’t have a woman president. I noticed, dammit. But energetically, maybe that doesn’t matter. There’s something bigger going on. Pardon the joke but a force perhaps? I felt it last week when I was watching Rogue One at the movies. I don’t need to explain why a 44-year-old man was at the first showing of a Star Wars movie on a Tuesday. I’m grown up. I do what I want. Suffice to say, me, a guy who looked like Larry David and a man with a lumberjack beard all seemed to enjoy this little matinée. Besides being an awful amount of well-paced, well-constructed fun, Rogue One stood out because of its casting. With relative ease, it put people of color, people with accents and a woman in leading roles. Translation: something we’re not used to seeing in a Hollywood blockbuster. It wasn’t a stretch or something that felt forced having a female lead character propel the action. After all, this is the franchise that gave us Princess Leia. And excuse me, when I was a kid we also had Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver regularly kicking ass. But this feels timely and kind of punk rock especially for a country currently hell-bent on rewarding untalented, straight, white assholes.

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Clearly, I know that having a female lead in a blockbuster sci-fi series isn’t the same as the government staying the fuck out of women’s bodies and equal pay but it’s a message. One of thousands right now, as a matter of fact. Without getting all corny here, I’ll say that I’m a big believer in the more twinkling lights of hope from as many sources as possible, the better. Consider Queen Sugar, a series for OWN with every episode directed by a different female director. Or Hidden Figures with its predominately black female cast, which is currently number one at the box office for the third week in a row. Or perhaps the fact that even my beloved Wonder Woman is finally coming to the big screen. I talk a lot about how the presence of recovery storylines in the media is important for my podcast as well as in my gig over at AfterParty Magazine. When people see folks getting sober on television in their living room, a spark happens. It feels relatable and real even if it’s only coming from a sitcom or movie. It’s the same with representation. As a gay man, I think I know this as well as anyone. (I mean what was the last movie with a gay lead character that wasn’t tragic or in the closet? I’ll wait.) All of these films and television shows are a start but yeah it isn’t enough.

Some 700 words later, I’ve changed my mind. Maybe this is my battle too. Despite lacking a vagina, I get it on a cellular level. And I’m thrilled that they’re pissed off, that we’re pissed off. All good things happen when we finally say, “I’ve  finally had enough.” Just ask any sober addict. In times like the ones we’re approaching, I honestly think the only way we’ll survive is by saying, “I’m sorry you’re hurting. I understand and I’m hurting too. And fuck them.” Mainly that last part. We need one another more than ever. Know that me and others like me are marching next to you. If not in person, certainly in spirit and for the next four years too. So for all the times you had my back, women of the world, now is my hour to have yours. For the honor of Grayskull, as my girl She-Ra would say.