Monday, January 30, 2006

Trans

pref.

  1. Across; on the other side; beyond
  2. Through
  3. Change; transfer


Saturday began with a change of plans. I tried throughout the week to get tickets for a play to surprise my boyfriend with on Valentine's Day, but the box office never called back, and because of work, I could never make it to the box office in person. When I arrived at his place in the afternoon, he asked why I looked so down, and I filled him in. He said, "Well, if you want to, Mamma Mia's playing on the 14th in Long Beach. We could see that instead." We stopped by the theater en route to Los Angeles and now have tickets for two seats to the opening night's performance.

The trip to Los Angeles served two purposes: first, to see a movie that we couldn't find playing anywhere near either of our homes, and second, to dine with one of his friends that he hadn't seen in almost a year. We arrived at the Laemmle in Santa Monica about an hour before the movie, bought tickets (though their computer crashed as they were printing so the man behind the counter wrote our ticket info on a slip of paper), and spent the extra time browsing through CDs and DVDs at the Virgin Megastore. I composed myself and purchased only one CD before noticing that the movie was about to begin. We rushed back up the escalator and handed the ticket taker the slip of paper. He shouted to the ticket booth, "It happened again?!" and then waved us through.

The lights dimmed, curtains parted and after about 10 previews, the movie finally started. Transamerica tells the story of Bree, a pre-op transsexual woman, who learns -- just one week before her operation -- that she fathered a son 17 years ago. Her psychologist refuses to authorize the operation until she deals with this one last piece of her past so Bree reluctantly flies to New York to get to know her son, Toby. She bails him out of jail and then, learning that he wants to go to Los Angeles to find his father, she hopes to help him and herself by driving him to California. Throughout their journey, Bree struggles to keep the fact that she is Toby's father from him while at the same time trying to become closer to him, eventually becoming the strong woman she always knew she could be. A touching and very human movie about family, filled with much humor and sensitivity. Duncan Tucker's script is flawless and lays out the universal struggles of all families: communication, unconditional love, rebellion against parents, being true to one's self. Felicity Huffman's portrayal of Bree is remarkable. She brings much dignity to her character and allows the audience to see beyond what the eyes see into the heart of her character. Kevin Zegers gives a fine performance as Toby, struggling to find his own identity in the world. Truly a great movie if you can find it playing in your area.

After the movie, we met his friend at the French Quarter for dinner and time for the two of them to catch up. We waited an hour for a table, though, as the place was packed. Still, we enjoyed a good meal and conversation, talking about jobs, houses, the two of them catching up on former co-workers, etc.

I feel more and more that we are becoming a couple. Kind of makes me giddy. :-)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

10 Films...Plus Two

I've listed my favorite reads and best music from last year so now, I think it's about time for what I consider the 10 best films of 2005. Unlike the list of professional reviewers, who have access to almost every film released on the planet, I have a full-time job that doesn't allow me the freedom to view seven or eight films per week. (That's simply a guess-timate; I have no idea how many films the professionals see during a week.) Mine is based mine solely on what I was able to drag myself, my friends and my boyfriend to during the past year. Now that I've brought you all to the edge of boredom, let's go all the way over!!


10. Serenity Great visual effects, fine acting and a good story. What I really enjoyed about this film is that even if you have never seen the TV show Firefly from which it's based, enough information is given for you to understand the history of the characters.

9. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe A stunning adaptation of the book, complete with a delightfully evil Tilda Swinton.

8. A History of Violence Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris give wonderful performances in the adaptation of the graphic novel. Slow paced and shocking as only David Cronenberg can do.

7. Oldboy A gritty and dark tale of revenge from director Park Chan-wook.

6. Shopgirl A charming romantic fairy tale of Los Angeles from writer/actor Steve Martin. Superb acting from Martin, Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman.

5. Off the Map An offbeat drama about an 11-year-old girl growing up in 1974 New Mexico. One of those non-descript films that's so incredibly good, you can't believe no one else but you saw it. From director/actor Campbell Scott.

4. The Exorcism of Emily Rose Based on true events, this is actually a courtroom drama, but still managed to scare the crap out of me thanks to Jennifer Carpenter's performance as Emily and some subtle special effects. I actually slept with my lights on for about a week after seeing this.

3. Transamerica Felicity Huffman gives one of the finest film performances of the year in a film that is touching, funny and deeply moving.

2. March of the Penguins Originally a French drama with different actors portraying the various penguins, National Geographic got their hands on it, re-cut it and hired Morgan Freeman to narrate it, resulting in one of the most engaging documentaries in years.

1. Brokeback Mountain Shocked, aren't you? A stunning film, with some of the best acting of the year, beautifully photographed and directed. A wonderful script that remains incredibly true to the novella. Best of all, it breaks away from simply being a story about gay cowboys to become a love story about two people.

And now for the extra two....

Honorable Mention: Hellbent, a gay slasher film, written and directed by gay men. Surprisingly good special effects for a low budget film, good acting and a good story. Who knew we could make a good horror film?!

Worst Movie of the Year: A difficult choice, but I have to say that Palindromes from director Todd Solondz earned this one. It began with a good premise, but that became lost as the movie dragged on. I never really understood why seven different girls played the same character, which confused the story. And Ellen Barkin: too much botox or plastic surgery or whatever it was that kept her face in a perpetual surprised expression. Yikes!!

So....what were your likes and dislikes of the 2005 movies?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Memoirs of a Weekend

One thing I try to do early in the year is to watch as many movies that could potentially be nominated for awards as I can. Friday night, my bf and I indulged this little eccenricity with a showing of Memoirs of a Geisha, the sophomore film from director Rob Marshall. We'd both heard mixed reviews about the film, and some of the what I'd read on-line had been less than kind, but after happening across a coffee table book about the film, we knew we had to see it if only for the visual sumptuousness hinted at by the photographs. After a quick dinner at In-N-Out, we hurried across the street to the AMC Marina Pacifica. Two friends were to join us, but we had not seen them yet so we staked out four comfy seats and waited. Fortunately, they showed just before the lights dimmed for previews.

Memoirs tells the story of a young Japanese girl, Chiyo, who along with her sister are sold by their parents to an okiya - a house where geisha live. Chiyo begins her new life in the house first, as a cleaning girl, but the Mother of the okiya decides to send her to train as a geisha. during her training, she meets The Chairman and immediately falls in love with him, though she is only 9 years old. From that moment on and with the help of Mameha, a kind of "big sister," she works to get herself closer to The Chairman. Until the fateful events of World War II tear Japan apart. A very unique love story, and as the coffee table book promised, intensely visual. Director Rob Marshall has taken care to make each shot look like a piece of artwork. The dance sequence (shown in the picture) is one of the most stunning scenes in the film and takes place at an auction house where the men are vying for the right to have Chiyo -- now renamed Sayuri -- for her first time. All the actors give fine performances: Zihi Zhang as Sayuri trying to win the heart of her Chariman; Michelle Yeoh as Mameha who takes Sayuri under her wing; Gong Li as Geisha Hatsumomo, Sayuri's biggest rival and very devious; Ken Watanabe as The Chairman; Koji Yakusho as the disfigured Nobu; and Kaori Momoi as the Mother of the okiya. This is beatufiul movie that, in my opinion, hasn't been given a fair shake by the critics.

Saturday, we both rested -- me by sheltering myself from the cold, strong winds by staying indoors and reading; my boyfriend by visiting his folks and also reading quite a bit. (We both had to finish The Swimming-Pool Library for an upcoming reading group.)

We decided to take in another apparent favorite of the awards circuit on Sunday: Capote. The movie was good, but I tended to feel that it was more of a vehicle for the actors rather than a film about Truman Capote. It basically gives an inside look into Capote's researching of his novel In Cold Blood, with a glimmer of the relationship between him and fellow novelist Nell Harper Lee (whose book To Kill a Mockingbird was published while assisting with Capote's research), and quite a bit of reference to a possible crush (relationship? lust?) for Perry Smith, one of the men responsible for the murder of 4 members of the Clutter family. Fantastic performances by Katherine Keener as Harper Lee and Clifton Collins, Jr. as Perry Smith, but Philip Seymour Hoffman nails the mannerisms, the speech, the personality of Truman Capote. The film itself seemed a bit bland, though, as if the actors were the main focus instead of the story.

A so-so movie, but we made up for it with another round of drag queen bingo at Hamburger Mary's with our friend CS, with all money rasied going to the AIDS Services Foundation.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Book Game

borrowed from Luscious LaJuana

Here are the rules:
1. Grab the nearest book
2. Open the book to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the text of the next 3 sentences (#5,6,7) on your blog, along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it. Just grab what is closest. No cheating.

"You have an interest in birds, too, then? Not just snakes?"
Relieved that he didn't seem to think she was crazy, Faith laughed.

from Lost: Endangered Species by Cathy Hapka

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Time Machine, Pt. 2

Our small group rushed into Los angeles from all parts of Orange County, hoping to meet for dinner at the historic Clifton's Cafeteria just a few blocks from the Orpheum. Unfortunately for us, too many things barred our way from a quick drive to Los Angeles: Friday the 13th, a three-day weekend, ungodly amounts of traffic that stopped cars in all directions. We managed to pull into a parking lot next to the theater around 7:30 and waited underneath the neon-lit marquee in the cold wind for the rest of the group.

One thing that surprised me was the amount of gay men waiting to see the film. When we saw Wings, the crowd consisted mainly of older couples, in their 60's and 70's maybe wanting to relive the early movie experience. But tonight, groups ranging from three to ten gay men huddled outside, hands shoved into their coat pockets, cruising the other men milling about and warily eyeing the homeless across the street and the few who wandered through the moviegoers. Many straight couples and solo men and women made their way to the ticket tables as well. Our group arrived in piecemeal fashion, but with 10 minutes to spare before the film started, giving us a brief chance to admire the theater's interior.

I took a few pictures, though I haven't quite got the hang of the low light feature. Follow this link to see my attempts at photography. They definitely do not do justice to the magnificent architecture, the art deco lights with semi-nude women posing as they hold up the bulbs, the metalwork dragons draped around the newels of the staircases leading to the balcony seats, the molded and carved plaster details surrounding the alcoves, columns and pillars -- it was as though we had stepped out of the 21st Century and back to the days when these old movie palaces were in vogue. We poked our heads into the Orchestra level to search for seats, but could not find five grouped together so we slowly mounted one of the grand staircases to the Balcony. I snapped a few pictures of the chandeliers dangling above the lobby (see pic above), not noticing that the others had left me to find seats. I darted up the few remaining steps and into the theater. The Balcony was almost full, as well, but my group waved to me from five seats that they found. The row was a bit narrow as were the seats, but once I was seated and took a look at the ceiling decorated with gold leaf and the two enormous and detailed chandeliers suspended above, I quickly forgot about the narrowness. We all stared and pointed at every little detail, oohing and aahing at the detail on the wall sconces, the carved wood arches surrounding the box seats, and the beautiful white Wurlitzer jutting out from in front of the stage below.

The lights dimmed before we could take in everything, and a spotlight fell on a podium on the stage. Members of the Los Angeles Theatre Organ Society and the LA Conservancy gave speeches about their organizations and the restoration efforts on the Orpheum, then the podium was given to Clark Wilson who, instead of waling onto the stage, rose from the orchestra pit, fingers and feet dashing quickly across the keys and pedals of the mighty Wurlitzer. As he played, panels cut into the arches of the box seats flapped open and shut, allowing the magnificent music to literally pour from the walls. He finished to thundering applause then talked a bit about the movie, how after its initial showing, the producers decided to make the film more accessible and chopped it up, mixing scenes and apparently throwing some away. The version we were to see consisted of what was believed to be the most like Fritz Lang's original, the holes created by the producers filled in with descriptions of the actions that were lost to movie history. Wilson turned again to the organ and began playing as they slowly disappeared below the stage. The curtains opened, and we were treated to one of the most spectacular science fiction films ever created. The costumes, the art deco sets, the acting, the special effects and the story -- we could see the influence that this film had on other movies: Bladerunner, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and so many others. We sat for two and half hours while the drama of workers rising up against a utopian society that doesn't value them as people played out for us. We felt especially fortunate to view it in a theater that was made to showcase these silent classics.

On the drive home and even during the late dinner in Long Beach, my boyfriend and I discussed the heck out of Metropolis, from the costumes and the set design to the seemingly political overtones to the theater itself. I've always enjoyed silent films, but I think this made a convert out of him. And I'm definitely going back in the daylight to see all those classic theaters on Broadway.


**FOOTNOTE**: Walking tours of the Broadway theaters and other sections of historic Los Angeles can be found on the Web site for The Los Angeles Conservancy.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Time Machine, pt. 1

The City of Los Angeles has its own Broadway that, back in its heyday, would have rivaled the theaters of that glittering section of New York City. Ten theaters along this small stretch of pavement, bastions of the old vaudeville circuit and silent movies built during the 1920's In the daylight, the art deco stylings, tiled entryways from the street and intricate carvings catch the eye as you slowly walk along, but at night, the neons shine, blink, and draw you to them, planting a small hint of the glamour of the old days when movies were shown in Palaces instead of mere theaters. Only a few of these theaters remain open, some as churches, one as a movie location; darkened marquees hover above the rest, snapping you back into the reality of what is instead of what used to be. One of these grand movie palaces, however, is slowly being returned to its original glory, reopening a few years ago as a performing arts venue. That was our destination Friday evening -- The Orpheum Theatre.

The Orpheum stands at 9th and Broadway, right in the heart of what is now the jewelry district of LA. Designed by architect G. Albert Lansburgh, the Orpheum opened in 1926 and was considered one of the most lavish houses in what was known as the "Orpheum Circuit" -- later to be known as R-K-O -- a collection of four vaudeville theaters around Los Angeles. For a few cents, you could watch silent films, see a young Francis Gumm sing her heart out or even a burlesque queen tantalizing the crowds with her tempting dance. Our draw to the Orpheum this Friday evening, though, was one of the other stars of the house: the theater's Wurlitzer organ, installed in 1928 and the only theater pipe organ still in its original location. By 1933, the organ was seldom used, due to the advent of talking pictures, but thanks to the intervention of a group known as "Friends of the Orpheum," the organ and the theater have been restored, and we were about to enjoy a taste of what it was like to view one a classic silent film as it was originally intended.

Last November, three of us -- my boyfriend, RG and I -- attended a screening with live organ accompaniment of Wings, the first film to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture. A few tables were set up in the theater lobby with information about the Orange County Theater Organ Society, screenings of other silent films, and CDs of theater organ music. But what caught my attention as we wandered amongst the tables was a postcard for a screening of what is considered the first science-fiction masterpiece -- Fritz Lang's Metropolis. I picked one up, showed it to my boyfriend, and his immediate reaction was "Let's go!" RG was equally excited, especially with the prospect of seeing the film in a theater that was meant to showcase such movies. We talked a few other friends into making the trek from Orange County to Los Angeles.

...to be continued...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I've Been Thinking....

I found this comment regarding my last post:

Anonymous said...
Your blog is so boring. Not even a comic can breathe life into it. Do us a favor and delete this shit.


I've been feeling this way about my blog, though not strong enough to call it shit. Reading other blogs, seeing their way with words, the wonderful stories they tell about their lives, the numerous comments they receive -- mine does seem like so much drivel. My blog is about my life, and it's almost as if this person were saying "You're life is boring so why don't you go kill yourself?"

This superficial jackass who is so afraid that he/she must hide behind the Anonymous moniker leaves a mean-spirited, cowardly comment, and I've turned a complete 180 and decided to dedicate my blog postings to nothing but drivel. So much drivel that even a lecture on the breeding habits of South African Giant Termites during a total solar eclipse will be all the more entertaining.

Thank you, Anonymous, for giving me the jumpstart that I needed!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Weekend Wrap Up

Friday night, about 9 of us enjoyed a night out at the new Hamburger Mary's in Newport Beach. (Yes, Virginia, they opened a gay restaurant in the OC, or rather, the GOC -- Gay OC.) Wall to wall men, quite a few lesbians, women with their gay friends, and straight couples (who probably got turned around in the parking lot and ended up in the wrong place) as far as the eye could see, talking, yelling, laughing, flirting and eating to their hearts' content. From the outside, no one would really know that this particular restaurant happened to be gay owned and operated: no rainbow flags or upsidedown pink triangles or lambdas painted on the building. But step inside and you run smack dab into a large statue of Mary on a rotating platform. To her left is the lounge area with photographs of gay icons adorning the walls and dozens of mannequin legs dressed in hosiery jutting from the ceiling. At the center of the place sits the gigantic bar (with a very tall bartender with arms the size of tree trunks, reminding me of a clean-shaven Paul Bunyan) serving almost every kind of beer and alcohol imaginable. The bathroom turns out to be one of the most unique rooms: walking behind the glass door, a huge communal sink greets you with the doors to the Men's room and Women's roof off to the left or the right. You do your business and then wash your hands with everyone else. Very Ally McBeal. We arrived at 7 PM and left at 10:30 PM, after plates full of hamburgers and seasoned fries and Hefeweizen served in delicate mugs with bulging biceps for the handles.

Saturday, I listened to music and read then had this strange desire to see a movie. My boyfriend was spending the day with his family so I showered and drove to the new Bella Terra shopping center to check out the new Century Theaters and to see The Producers. The glass doors opened onto a cavernous lobby with a concession area that operated more like a cafeteria. Management and other employees silently crept about the area glancing suspiciously at the patrons and wearing headsets that made them look more like G-men rather than kids in high school. Entering the actual theater area was like passing through the gates into Fort Knox, and the dark walls, dark lighting and labyrinth-like quality of the hallways reinforced that. A very cold place to visit. At least the seats reclined and were comfy.

The Producers turned out to be a good movie, not great but good. Nathan Lane danced circles around everyone in the film. He acted with so much energy and humor that I couldn't picture anyone else in the role of Max Bialystock. Well, except for Zero Mostel, of course. Will Ferrell's Franz Liebkind was hilarious. But Gary Beach and Roger Bart as the gay director Roger de Bris and his common law assistant Carmen Ghia steal the movie. When they bring out their coterie to sing Keep it Gay, everyone in the theater broke out into mad howls of laughter. And, they kept it up throughout the film! Matthew Broderick came across as wooden -- though sometimes incredibly funny. His eyes bugged me the entire time, and that's all I was able to focus on when he was on the screen. Some of the scenes also seemed as if they had filmed the Broadway production, resembling sets instead of apartments or offices. While I enjoyed the film, it did come across as quite uneven at times. If you decide to see it, sit through the credits. Will Ferrell's take on one of the songs is hysterical, plus they filmed a special ending which appears after the credits.

Sunday morning, I did the unthinkable: I weighed myself. I'm back up to 211 lbs. Not my heaviest, but close enough to scare me. Since the break up a year ago and all the medical problems of the past year, 16 lbs. found their way from the Celebrity Fit Club to my body, and I am determined to lose them. Back to the exercise routine. Back to watching what I eat. Back to cutting out the soda and candy.

Of course, later that evening, my boyfriend, RG, SK, CS, my cousin and myself met at Hamburger Mary's for a bingo fundraiser benefiting the AIDS Services Foundation. With my cousin in town but stuck at his parents' house, we thought a little bit of family fun was in order, and what's gayer than drag queen bingo at a gay restaurant? The games didn't begin until 7 PM, but by 6:15, gay men crowded around all the tables and still circled in through the rotating door at the entrance to buy bingo cards. We ate, drank and were Mary all the while daubing our bingo cards and pelting the winners with the losing cards as they ran by before grabbing their prizes. We had such a great time, and I was a good boy, ordering a salad for dinner. It did have crispy caramel chicken on top. Is that a bad thing?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pac-Man Fever

I fondly remember the video game arcades from my youth. Standing in front of those tall machines, staring at the monitors as Pac-Man™ gobbles his way around a maze of dots being chased by Blinky, Inky, Pinky and Clyde, shoving quarter after quarter into the narrow slot with the hope of one day breaking the high score. I must have spent at least $1,000 or more on games such as Tempest™, Centipede™, Ms. Pac-Man™, Tron™, Robotron™, Galaga™ and the like while my brain cells slowly burned away in the electric blue glow. Ah, those were the days.

Imagine my surprise this Christmas when I unwrapped an odd gift from my brother: a joystick that looked as if it had been ripped from one of those monstrous video games. A long black cable that split into two large colored plugs trailed from the back. Screen shots of Pac-Man™ and Dig Dug™ covered the panels, and I turned the package over a few times, trying to figure out what on Earth I would use a joystick for without a game console. My brother must have seen the confused look on my face so he leaned over and said that I plug the cable into my TV and presto! I could play 5 different video games.

"You're kidding." I stared at him.

"Nope," he replied. "Everything's in the joystick. I bought [his girlfriend] the one with Ms. Pac-Man™, and she loves it."

I set it aside when I finally made it home and didn't bother with it until earlier this week, when I finally broke down and bought the 4 batteries needed to power it. My heart sank after I adjusted my entertainment unit to reach the back of the TV: it didn't have the correct cable hook-up so I couldn't play the games. I heaved the unit back into place and sat cross-legged on the carpet, wondering as I stared at my reflection in the black TV screen if there were another way. I happened to glance at my VCR and noticed the two unused cable outlets on the front. The plugs fit perfectly, I turned on the TV and VCR then flicked the ON switch to the joystick and bingo! We have video game play!

The games resemble their arcade counterparts with a few changes -- reformattted to fit a TV screen, the villains move a bit faster, single-player games only. I spent the good part of last night and a few hours after arriving home from the office today working my joystick to Pac-Man™, Dig Dug™, Galaxian™, Rally-X™ and, my new obsession, Bosconian™. My inner 80s geek is reborn!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What A Year for a New Year

We spent a raucous New Year's Eve celebration at a friend's house, eating way too much food (he and his roommate roasted a turkey, made stuffing, homemade fudge, cookies, vegetable trays, enchiladas, Chex mix and on and on), joking around and exchanging some late Christmas gifts. Someone popped American Pie Presents Band Camp into the DVD player and forced us to sit through that piece of crap. Okay, some of the gratuitous butt shots -- and there were MANY -- of the actor playing Matt Stifler made the movie at least palatable, but who the Hell gave this idea the green light?! After the movie, most of the group headed out the front door to smoke some cigars bought specially for the celebration; my boyfriend and I put a Family Guy disc into the player and laughed our asses off until about 10 minutes before midnight. Then, we switched to regular TV to watch some of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. (Dick Clark still looks good, and his progress after the stroke is simply amazing.) We all watch the ball drop on Times Square, set off confetti poppers and made a general mess of the inside of the friend's house, then quickly returned to the DVD just as Hillary Duff opened her mouth to sing. Thank goodness!!! The boyfriend and I left around 1:30 AM after watching about an hour of the TV show Jackass. (Last year, at this same house at yet another New Year's Eve celebration, we watched Jackass: The Movie. Must be something about New Year's and watching straight boys doing stupid shit.)

>In the evening of New Year's Day, my boyfriend and I drove to Costa Mesa for dinner at Jerry's Famous Deli and to see The Boy Friend, a musical written by Sandy Wilson and directed this time around by Dame Julie Andrews. Good acting from the entire cast, colorful sets, wonderful music evocative of the 1920s, and spectacular choreography -- men should not be able to do the splits like that -- turned this simple show into something completely engaging and enjoyable to watch. It isn't a deep musical, such as Evita or Miss Saigon, but every once in a while, something light and airy and performed so well is just as good. We were even singing some of the songs on the way home in the car. (I know! How gay of us!!!)