Hot Mess Christian Walker

My impression of the physically adorable looking Christian Walker, one of the GOP U.S. Senate candidate’s (for GA) Herschel Walker’s children, is that he’s pretty mixed up inside. He’s out as gay but hates Queer pride. And he passionately supports Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a man he says he “loves.” Hmm, me thinks I detect some self hatred going on here. Well, after his life being “destroyed” (Christian’s own description) by his absent, narcissistic (my added descriptor) father, along with whatever else he grew up enduring, no wonder why this cute kid comes across as a hot mess. All that expression of beauty and joie de vivre is being so misguided and misdirected, imho.

I hope Christian Walker gets some serious psychotherapy and/or other kinds of life interventions that wake him the hell up. I empathize with and hold compassion for his hurt and rage at his absentee and lying parent. But, similar to his unhinged dad, Christian appears to be in the throes of a narcissistically driven political media frenzy. Sure, he’s young and on a journey to find out who he is. However, what an unmindful, destructive way he’s doing so out on social media. Others’ lives (such as queer lives, including the true wellbeing of his own) are in the crosshairs of this obnoxiously manufactured culture war Christian has appeared to join the wrong side of. I guess this is yet another example of how apples don’t fall far from the tree. So sad.

Mini Movie Review (I MISS YOU WHEN I SEE YOU)

Hong Kong-based film director Simon Chung’s I MISS YOU WHEN I SEE YOU (2018) riveted me from start to finish. Other than some early scenes set in Australia, the film takes place in Hong Kong. The narrative moves gracefully between flashbacks in secondary school and the present time, about eleven years later, of two best friends, Kevin Fong (Jun Li) and Jamie (Bryant Mak). Impressive acting and writing carries this tension-filled story along to an emotion-laden ending that left me feeling tired but relieved.

Kevin has long been in love with his best friend Jamie. He suffers from major depression to the point of him requiring psychiatric care at a residential facility. After Kevin leaves there, he and Jamie resume contact in Hong Kong. Thus begins a fraught process of reconnection between them, complicated by Jamie having a live-in girlfriend (Candy Cheung).

The film-work is purposefully uneven, juxtaposing harsh outdoor street lighting and claustrophobic indoor scenes with expansive and pleasant outside settings among trees and sky. I found myself longing for more of the latter, which intuitively made sense as the two main characters struggle to broaden and deepen their constricted lives. I the viewer felt effectively drawn into both their inner and outer emotional and sensory worlds.

Obviously and touchingly, this is a movie about the pursuit of true love between two men, one being the pursuer while the other is the avoider, made all the more complicated by the gay “taboo” element. But, on another level, this is a deeply moving screenplay about the challenge to reach a more genuine, meaningful state of existence. And that is what makes I MISS YOU WHEN I SEE YOU so humanly relatable, regardless of one’s gender or sexual orientation.

Movie Review (LOGAN)

The dystopian movie LOGAN (2017), starring Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, dramatically encapsulates a lot about the dark times we find ourselves in, particularly during the recent Trump administration. Drawing inspiration in part from the Western film genre, especially the touching 1953 classic SHANE (starring Alan Ladd), X-Men superhero Wolverine, a.k.a. Logan (born James Howlett), finds himself reluctantly defending the underdog everywhere he goes. Facing droves of heavily-armed government agents and a posse of hired thugs from an agribusiness corporation, a sick and aging Logan fights his way from the Texas-Mexico border to North Dakota. Traveling in tow are Charles Xavier, dementia-suffering nanogenarian and former leader of the X-Men, and Laura, a mysterious eleven-year-old girl with powers akin to Logan’s.

Logan has grown ill with heavy metal toxicity caused by the “adamantium” artificially sealed over his bones via a torturous procedure that occurred during an earlier film in the X-MEN series. This experience was akin to a shamanic rite of passage in which a painful, life-changing event to one’s mind and/or body results in a person being permanently changed for the better, usually in a psychological way (e.g., one becomes somehow wiser), but it can also be physical. Logan enjoys enhanced muscular strength and healing capacity from the adamantium, but at a high cost that manifests in this final installment.  There is a moral implication here:  We often pay for being stronger than others, particularly if we use our strength violently.  Live by the sword, die by the sword.  And Logan has lived by his sword (retractable claws and his whole body really)– largely thrust upon him to use– and is now dying by it, from within.

It is the near future and the X-Men are largely gone, the cause of their demise eventually revealed in the screenplay, but viewers must listen carefully.  Hiding out for the past several years in some run-down buildings by the Texas border, the Wolverine and his two compatriots just get by.  Caliban is the 3rd and only other remaining X-Man, though he soon goes behind the scenes for much of the film.  This leaves Wolverine alone to care for his old benefactor and father figure Xavier.

Laura, a savage, tomboy newcomer, escapes from a strange lab over the Mexican border and finds her way to Logan.  In the lab, children were genetically experimented on to create biological (mutant-based) weapons for sale to the U.S. military.  Logan finds himself roped into helping this girl reunite with the rest of the escaped mutant children who have taken refuge up in North Dakota, not far from the Canadian border. Canada has promised them safe haven from being hunted down by U.S. government special agents.  Wolverine becomes their escort and protector, but not before a lot of fights and property damage happen a long the way, the latter largely caused by Xavier’s dementia-induced seizures which bring on sonic earthquakes around him.

To keep the world safe from actual destruction, Wolverine makes sure Xavier stays sufficiently medicated via pills and injections he has purchased through clandestine methods, all to evade the authorities who have been after him, Xavier, and Caliban for years.  Like a grown son attending to an elderly, sick parent, Logan looks after the aged professor.  We the audience get to witness their tender exchanges, made more poignant by resentment-laden verbal repartee juxtaposed with frequent physical closeness from the care Logan provides and shows Xavier, historically the conscience of the X-Men yet now the most dangerous.  The two are remnants of a bygone era and only have each other, except for Laura and the rest of the new crop of mutants, though they are genetically engineered and designed to kill all the remaining natural mutants.  They are the future, or so Xavier hopes and Wolverine grudgingly, skeptically struggles to accept.  Additionally, an interesting twist involving both Laura and Logan arises.

For those of you who have followed the X-MEN movie franchise, this is one of the best in the series, if not numero uno, albeit by far the most graphically violent.  I usually avoid movies with such carnage.  However, the skillful acting, compelling main characters, and clever interweaving of multi-media (namely comic book and television imagery) into the narrative lend a dynamism to this modern tragedy and help contextualize the gruesome moments.  Logan muddles through a raw world of blind greed, fear, and authoritarian power run amok, and wants no part of any of it.  Surviving heaps of personal losses, the rough-hewn Wolverine pushes onward out of a stubborn moral need to keep a few others safe and alive, because, whether he likes it or not, he loves them.

The frequent references to “news” and clues arising from the comics about the X-Men is both a funny and clever story device.  Logan’s criticizing the accuracy of this particular media source is a timely attack on “fake news” and offers some witty comic relief in such a tension-filled narrative.

Like Shane in the late 19th century American frontier, Logan is a rugged individual who finds himself on the good side of justice for the bullied.  The references between these two movie heroes from different eras become a bit too direct/repetitive in a few places for my taste.  However, this is a minor flaw that didn’t mar the overall excellence of this powerful, poignant screenplay.  LOGAN is a superb finale and fitting tribute for Hugh Jackman and his compelling portrayal of the psychologically haunted and tortured (i.e., traumatized) Wolverine (my and many people’s favorite X-Man) in several movies over a seventeen year period.

To Glorify or Vilify the Queen? Neither for Me

Since the recent death of the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II (QE2 or the queen for short), there has been a flurry of positive and negative posts on social media about her and the British monarchy. I am admittedly not deeply informed about British history, including during the seventy plus year reign of QE2. In a broad sense, I know the British monarchy and the royal family wealth have benefited directly from colonial and post colonial capitalism, which was once extremely, and is still somewhat, exploitative and oppressive around much of the globe, such as Africa. Also, a lot of the Irish do not like the government the queen represented, so they did not like her either. Hence, for example, there are a share of Black identifying voices not mourning her death, due to her enabling of oppressive colonizing of them and/or their ancestors. It is arguable, as some have made the case in great detail, how QE2 in her role may not have caused or even did not directly cause such extensive oppression and exploitation. However, it is easier to point out how she allowed or enabled such unfair, inhumane treatment on a mass scale to continue. For many, including myself, enabling harm is viewed to be just as bad as directly causing something harmful.

Personally, I have neither vilified nor glorified QE2. But, I have expressed supportive acceptance of the varying feelings people have shared over her death, which have not all been warm and fuzzy. I’m fine with that. There can be, and naturally is, whether one likes it or not, room for all the range of feelings and emotions over such a world figure. I’m neither a fan nor ardent detractor of her. I do personally wonder about the need for a monarchy to be supported so much by English taxpayers in comparison to how a counterpart monarchy in, say, the Netherlands is more leanly funded by that country’s public. I honestly do not carry much investment in people’s responses about the queen, who embodied a powerful archetype for sure, a crowned female ruler (albeit symbolic only) over a prominent land. She was a living fairy tale character for a lot of people.

I do think there is a slim distinction between the institution of a monarchy and the person filling that role. On extremely rare occasion, people in high places are heroic and undo oppressive power from the inside out. Gorbachev in the former Soviet Union comes quickly to mind here, though he was elected and not in a far more ancient, entrenched position like QE2’s, which has developed so much awe, wonder, and protection around it, several centuries in the making. A part of me admittedly wishes more individuals would sacrifice their and others’ mass power when they are in positions to do so. Alas, it is easier to go along, make incremental changes here and there, if any, and still enable large parts of an institution’s harm to continue over others than to take larger, more radical risks. QE2 was no such daring person, no sacrificial heroine for deep systemic change. She was human, and a fairly conservative one at that, an upholder of layers of tradition valued by many, enabler of classism and racism, also valued by many, sadly.

Those who are more directly affected by an institution’s, such as a government’s, harm, including ancestrally, are going to feel pain from that legacy of harm. That pain can and does often present as raw and ugly, not thought out with rationality. The public discourse occurring seems natural to me, even if rough and downright toxic in places. Well, the way social media works these days, many jump on the opportunity to post extreme and uninformed memes about anything, and most certainly when the topic is political. But, much of that mean-spirited, extreme, polarizing language is a reflection of a larger problem than how QE2 is currently being discussed online, such as the deterioration in more intelligent, civil, and nuanced discourse.

Over time, history will judge the queen however, probably in a nuanced way. She certainly was no tyrant and couldn’t be if she tried, though I don’t believe she spoke out against all tyrants in the world when she could have. She does not seem to carry a wide reputation for being nasty. She was a grande dame in her own way, stoic to a degree we may not ever see again in public figures. I think this is both indicative of some healthy human evolution and also a unique loss.

QE2 had to know that she was stepping into controversy when agreeing to become a monarch, albeit a figurehead one. I’m sure she rolled with the punches as best she could and undoubtedly still is, wherever her life essence may happen to be.

Mini Movie Review (EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE)

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE is brilliantly done. It’s fun, poignant, riveting, hilarious, exciting, thought-provoking, and often frenetic but tolerably so. What a cleverly written, beautifully filmed hybrid of Chinese-style martial arts, sci-fi action adventure, and comedy genres all rolled into one. The way the screenplay runs wild with the premise of multiple universes for each existing person (though namely Michelle Yeoh’s character, the heroine) to draw experience and consciousness from and navigate through had me both amused and feeling glued to my seat. My curiosity remained engaged throughout. I haven’t seen a recent movie with so much originality as this one contains in a very long time.

The whole cast is terrific but Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu, playing mother and daughter, respectively, take the cake. There is no white, hyper masculine leading man to save the day, which is different and refreshing.

I highly recommend this thrilling cinematic spectacle.

Movie Review (JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION)

I finally watched JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION, including the additional fourteen minutes within the extended edition. What a fun romp of a dinosaur bonanza! Giant reptiles have been loosed upon the world and are wreaking havoc here and there. The biotech company Biosyn Genetics has secured legal rights to capture, breed, and study them for posterity, or so we think. Additionally, a massive black market thrives around the illicit sale of dinosaurs, including for pets and to fight other dinosaurs in betting arenas. A number of people are charged in their various roles with setting things right, particularly after a certain cloned child (Isabella Sermon) is kidnapped and huge foot long locusts are suddenly eating up grain crops, except for Biosyn’s genetically modified ones.

I enjoyed many deep belly laughs, especially during a long chase scene where fast dinos pursue the main hero (Chris Pratt) and heroine (Bryce Dallas Howard) as they each speed through narrow, old streets of Malta, he on a motorcycle and she in the back of a truck driven by the kick-ass other heroine (DeWanda Wise). Endearing Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm effectively delivers one liners like he did back in 1993’s JURASSIC PARK. He also gets a moment of glory against a particularly big, carnivorous ‘saur.

This movie is filled with wonderful CGI of prehistoric reptiles and over-sized locusts, pokes fun at apocalyptic-minded people and, yet, also cautions about mass genetic modification of grain and insects. I imagine director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow and the other writer Emily Carmichael drew inspiration from stop motion B movie classics such as 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH and THE VALLEY OF GWANGI. Only, now, with such advanced technology, the creatures seem so life-like in their look and movements. Dinosaurs running across plains with elephants and horses or swimming in the sea with whales appears both natural and wondrous. The various, earth-tone hues of these ancient beings are beautiful, their skins canvases painted by Mother Nature. (Of course, who knows if the colors are accurate to the actual animals that once walked the land over sixty five million years ago? “Blue,” the genetic hybrid velociraptor is most likely not factually correct in color or behavior.) At times, I wanted to reach out and touch the less deadly ones. As a youth, I hoped and sensed that, someday, big, scary creatures, such as dinosaurs, would appear real up on screen. Well, that day has arrived and it’s…thrilling.

The fairly ethnically diverse ensemble cast of men, women, and a young teenaged girl is refreshing. Three main stars (Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum) from the first JURASSIC PARK movie return and join forces with the stars of the recent JURASSIC WORLD trilogy, of which DOMINION is the conclusion. Everyone gets to shine and be “all in this together.”

Campbell Scott is amusing as the calculating, overly-controlled, high tech villain, Lewis Dodgson, who heads Biosyn. I enjoyed disliking him. He had me thinking of Steve Jobs, who his character is probably modeled from– plus possibly also somewhat from Jeff Bezos for good measure.

This is a visual feast and solid thriller in the old sense. Much of the dialogue ranges from so-so to lame, except for Goldblum’s witty and silly lines delivered with tongue-in-cheek dryness and perfect timing. The creators of this cinematic extravaganza knew exactly what they were going for: adrenaline rushes, visual wonderment, and laughs. Laura Dern’s character sums up how I felt about watching JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION when she exclaims after a particularly arduous action scene: “Damn, that felt good!” Yes, it sure did!

Movie Review (CLOSET MONSTER)

The movie CLOSET MONSTER (2015) is fairly good. Often, the narrative is overly direct with symbolism and outer projection of the protagonist’s state of mind. But, gorgeous, fresh-faced Connor Jessup as eighteen year-old Oscar Madly manages to carry the show with his terrific acting. I admittedly identified quite a bit with the emotionally sensitive lead. Like me, his parents divorced after much contentiousness, resulting in him (and me) developing abandonment and trust issues.

Having Isabella Rossellini do the “voice” of Buffy, his pet hamster(s), both amused and annoyed me. This is just one of those aforementioned inner onto outer “projection” techniques (or whatever one more versed than I in filmmaking lingo would call it) that is overused here, verging on ridiculous. Perhaps that is intentional, to evoke a sense of the absurd that often arises in life. I don’t know, but, juxtaposed with other, darker imagery and music, the movie comes across as uneven in places, indecisive– like the mind of a teenager, I suppose. In addition to Mr. Jessup’s acting, some consistently good elements are the interesting, dynamic soundtrack and Oscar’s artwork, including the assorted costume makeup he has his best friend Gemma (Sofia Banzhaf) wear in some scenes.

I appreciated the dark, interior look and tone to this queer teenage angst film, which centers around a lonely boy whose sexuality gets bound up in the witnessing of a very traumatic event when he’s about nine years old. Some people lack patience for these introspective visual projects. I continue to usually enjoy them, if they’re not overly long, which this one isn’t (with a run time of almost exactly ninety minutes).

Only by the end would I say that the movie began to finally feel satisfying. But, I think the screenplay is not meant to evoke a sense of satisfaction, given the subject matter being child and teenage neglect, isolation, and growing up gay in a hetero-dominated world. Dear Oscar wants and deserves far better than the life he’s presented with and must work extra hard to improve upon. Like him in CLOSET MONSTER, there are so many of us young and formerly young queer folk whose experiences need to be written and filmed about for others to better know and understand. And, so, I’m glad this film was made, even with its limitations/warts and all.

RIP, Anne Heche

This is a bit late in coming from me, but RIP, Anne Heche. I would like to watch more of her movies than just the one or so I’ve seen. I knew for over twenty years that the actress struggled with mental illness. As a child, she survived abuse at the hands of her father. And yet, shortly after she died from crashing her car, much online vitriol was directed at Ms. Heche. WTF is wrong with a lot of people?! I hold this troubled, now dead woman in compassion, wishing her soul to find the peace she never quite had in life. We can all afford to be compassionate towards others who have suffered, including Anne Heche. 🙏

Accepting Some Types of “Weeds” in My Yard

Excluding the formally designated “invasive species” plants, it’s often rather arbitrary what people collectively label as “weeds” in the U.S. Dandelions didn’t used to be viewed as such, but now they are. In Ontario, Canada there seems to be a different category for these particular plants, where they are allowed to abound everywhere. This makes for quite pretty sites, the round, yellow blooms dappled over expanses of greenery.

In my front and back yards, to different extents, I selectively weed out some plants and not others. I cull assorted ones back but not completely while removing certain other types wherever I see them. As I’ve previously written (here: https://practicalpagan.blog/2022/07/28/radical-acceptance-of-letting-go-of-my-grass-lawn/), the grass in my yard is going to eventually die off anyway. Hence, I’ve been enjoying observing what hardy greens are naturally replacing it that I can accept and live with. Crab grass, for example, is, well, a grass of sorts and something I can tolerate while many other people around me seem to passionately dislike it.

I’m working more with nature here instead of battling it on so many fronts. And, frankly, I don’t care how “eccentric” that makes me seem to my neighbors. Like the assorted “weeds” in my yard, I’ve long been viewed by a good share of people as not belonging. I feel a sense of relief and peace over allowing many of the “weeds” before me to grow and be, their presence adding to my property, not somehow taking away from it.

In this place I call my home, I am a steward just as much as– if not more so– an owner.