Thursday, October 17, 2013

Quitcher Bitchin'!

You know why we don't blog much any more?

THIS is why. We spend all our time reading about films and film-making and hiking and reading (Indian history & culture this year; last year was SoutheastAsian history and culture); next year we go BACK to reading Chinese/Japanese/Korean history and culture in honour of the several hundred new acquisitions in that field).

This year's book list had 160 books on it. Still haven't posted my reviews, but, akan datang as we sometimes say in (parts of) SoutheastAsia. I know this.

We've watched a fucking shitload of films from, basically, 1895 (the very first Edison & Melies & Gaumont, etc.) to around 1930/1950. Last night we finally got to Elia Kazan's film, "Gentleman's Agreement."

This film won FOUR Oscars out of seven nominations. Including one for Best Director to Elia Kazan. It got rave reviews from everybody. What I want to know is, WHY? If you haven't seen it already, be warned. This is a terrible film. It was probably a great book, and I'd like to read that, but the whole thing was filmed in a way that completely ignores the magic & power of film. It was plotted and blocked and shot like a play in a theater. The camera is almost always static and views everything from about eye-level. There are no interesting angles, no especial or notable beauty or power in the scenes. They're competent. There are no major flaws in the film, although it could have been SO much better.

I had great expectations of this film. Gregory Peck has always done a great job on the screen, which loved his handsome face and class and style. But the dialog poor Peck had to declaim in this film was so thunderingly wooden, I almost up and died out of sympathy for the poor guy. He did a marvelous job, but really. The writer gave nearly every other character witty, dazzling, clever dialogue. WTF happened when he got to Greg's lines? Did he just hate the handsome hero, or what? Because watching the poor man sweat through some of those clunkers was pretty goddamn sad.

I'm not knocking the subject matter. In fact, I wish it had been far MORE searing, exposing the fate of the poor Jews in the tenements of New York, rather than the elegant country estates of the supposed supporters of anti-discrimination measures. And the film was certainly honest enough to expose the hidden anti-Semitism of the very people most affected by it, the Jewish employee of the liberal rag who fears that the "wrong type" will be hired if discrimination ends. It was a socially important film, just as Gone With The Wind was. But I don't have to like a film just for being socially important, if it's bereft of the art, quality, grace, style, and imagination of other films.

I blame the director for my disappointment, but admit that there might be some ambiguity in that blame. I'm well aware of Kazan's testimony before HUAC that landed so many of his colleagues and competitors on the blacklists. I despise the man for the suffering he caused. Is that colouring my critique of him? I thought so initially, and wrestled with committing my thoughts to the InterToobz (which, as we all know, are a series of large pipes, not trucks, filled with pictures of cats). But then I found, on IMDB, several people who seem to echo my sentiment.

In all fairness, it was Kazan's first film and he trained as a stage director (the same could be said of Hitchcock, though, who understood almost instinctively the great power of the camera and worked some two decades earlier). I shall watch the rest of Kazan's ouevre before further comment. I do want to comment on a few things, though, and I welcome feedback.

  1. The camera is almost always a passive observer of staged scenes in which two or more people converse This slows the pace so that it is almost always glacial.
  2. All the action is limited to the frame of that stage. Hardly anyone looks offstage or walks out of camera range or moves across the observing lens, or towards, or away from, it.
  3. The director seemed unsure whether to focus on the anti-Semitism that was the focal point of the story, or the romance.
  4. The camera lingered on many scenes for far too long.
  5. All technical aspects of the film were pretty good. Good lighting, good script (except for Peck's lines), witty dialogue, fine actors giving their best.
  6. Lots of unfinished business and hanging ends. WTF ever happened to Anne's proposal to Phil? Did he take advantage of it? Turn her down? WHAT? Did he take back his resignation? Decide to stay in NY? He certainly couldn't move up to Connecticut with the lovely Dorothy McGuire. She was supposedly moving to CT to ensure that his buddy David could live in her cottage without problems.
  7. Whoever did the sound for the movie should be shot as an example to similar sinners. The sudden sweep of wailing violins every time the hero approaches the heroine gets to be a bit much after the 47th instance, jesusfuckingchrist.
So yeah. Do Not Want.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Same Sex Marriages at San Francisco City Hall, Plus LGBTQ Pride Saturday

Today my daughter and I went down to San Francisco's Civic Center. Ordinarily, I'm not there on a Saturday ... my couch and a good book usually beckons. But, what the hell, it's Pride weekend and I most likely will not make it in tomorrow -- I hate crowds. Guess what? It was crowded in SF at 11:30 already! But we walked around and I took photos. My main goal was to go to City Hall -- yep, they opened today to officiate for all those patiently waiting same-sex couples. San Francisco is very special. Thanks, officials! Gavin Newsom and his team led the way. Thanks all!!

(I purposely use "same-sex couples" instead of gay or lesbian couples because -- they could be bisexual.)

Here's my photo scrapbook ... some of them anyway. Enjoy.

And ...


All photos (c) 2013 K. Smokey Cormier
If you want to enlarge a photo, double-click on it.

Outside of City Hall folks are already celebrating and the SF Pride committee is preparing for the onslaught of thousands and thousands of people tomorrow.

 Food stands are already in operation

The main stage is getting prepared. Sound system is being fine tuned.

Larkin Street Youth - a service for all queer youth


LGBTQ dogs want some attention too, ya know

Now ... inside City Hall ... it's a really beautiful building.

And couples are getting married all over the building. It's got some cool nooks to get married in.

Guests are shooting pictures and filming.

These brides are waiting -- they're next. (I'd be nervous!)


Stairway down into the rotunda.

Under this dome -- lest we forget -- the bodies of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were lain in state. They were assassinated by Supervisor Dan White.

There they are -- the brides -- post ceremony!

Lots of LGBQ clerics were the greeters throughout the building. Here are three arriving just as my daugher and I were leaving.

What a day! More to come.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Link to Reponse to Counterpunch article

And look here for a great response to the original post in Counterpunch about radical feminists and transphobia:

"Radical Feminists" versus Trans Women

[This is an email I just sent to Counterpunch in response to this article:]

Counterpunch Editors:

Come on, it's the 21 century. These fights between "radical feminists" and trans women started quite a while ago. Many of us were backward thinkers and often voted to keep trans women out of feminist space. But we've had time to think more deeply about this and we don't agree one little bit with our old selves anymore. Plus, it's a diversion from all the real enemies who are out there. And I don't mean men. It's a mixed bag. It's complex. Focus on the people who are really trying to keep all women (and really -- all people) down. Examples: Republican politicians of all genders/sexual identities, Catholic hierarchy, Mormon hierarchy, sexist men, sexist women, boy bullies on the playground ... the list goes on.

And to post someone's private address and other info? What are you -- totally dead inside?*

K. Smokey Cormier

*later, they posted a trans woman's private info because she dared to reply negatively to the article

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Exploring Jingletown in Oakland California

I've lived in Oakland for a while and had never been to Jingletown ... had heard of it for a while but never went there. Well, today was the day. On Twitter I had read that the Gray Loft Gallery was having a show called "The Big Painting Show" and I really wanted to see it. And explore ...

If you go down there, make sure you spend some time walking around looking at all the murals -- there are so many of them!! Gorgeous too.

Here are a collection of photos that I took down there. To see the photos full size, double-click on the photo.

All photos:
(c) 2013 K. Smokey Cormier