Category Archives: Cinema, film & movies

Cinema, film and movie references

Is Modern Film Missing the Final Reel?

It is that time of year when all the “Best Of” lists begin to come out.  I always loved movies so this was always a fascination for me to review these list to see how my opinions compared to others.  This morning I saw my first top list of movies from 2011 on the NPR website.  The woman doing the reviews seemed a bit perplexed by the lack of standout movies for the year.  She thought it was a year of ambiguity in the industry and there were no major films that really won people over; but mostly split the viewer ship of those who had seen them.  As I perused the list I began to realize I had not seen a single movie that was released in 2011.  As I began to cut and past titles into Rotten Tomatoes, a movie information site that I used to adore and followed religiously on a daily basis, I realized how much this industry has changed and it was now like navigating a mine field to even find a spot to paste those titles due the site being taken over by a barrage of moving advertising.  I worked my way through the list of movies, trying to gain more insight, when an emptiness began to fill the pit of my stomach.  There was nothing here that even sounded remotely interesting.  That old excitement for finding a rare gem of a film that would challenge the way I saw myself or give me a new perspective on my world, somehow was missing and I began to think back to when was the last time I actually saw a film?  The last time I entered a theater was to see Avatar, whenever that was, and I utterly disliked the film and experience I have not been back since.  Granted I have taken the year off to become consumed by this project but what has happened to world I once loved so dearly.  I guess in a sense it has all come home.  I still watch stuff, but when the movie houses become filled with glorified video projectors, and Blu-ray at home outshines them it becomes harder to go sit with a group of strangers who are texting, talking and chewing, to watch a dimly lit presentation, at an exorbitant price for me to even go anymore.

My connection to the movies as always been strong and passionate.  I began working as a projectionist when I was a young kid and had to stand on a box to see out the portals from the booth and by the time I was 18 I was managing a local theater chain in Missoula.  Movies utterly captivated and entranced me.  I knew everything there was about every movie and saw most everything released throughout the year.  It was the soul of my livelihood and I lived as if my very existence hinged on them.  Growing up in a small community in Montana they become a rich fabric in which we learned to see ourselves. Every emotion I have ever felt was first experienced in a movie.  What has happened over the years?  How have I fallen so out of love with something that inspired me for decades?  Today I feel a loss, like a part of myself is missing.  Perhaps it’s just a sign of aging but I am still searching for a revelation in the flicker of that celluloid magic.

I Can’t Take It With Me

I saw the University production of You Can’t Take It With You last night. The play was written in 1936 and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1937. It’s about a woman, from an eccentric family of contented misfits that live life to it’s fullest, falling in love with a man, from a ridged tight wound capitalist family and clash of the two ideals. The play is still quite brilliant and seemed completely relevant to where we reside within our modern culture and what is happening in the current recession. But ultimately the play, for me becomes a complete summation of this Naked Man Project, all that I have been working toward and writing about the entire year. Ultimately revealing that we must seize the talents and gifts we are giving in this life and appreciate and enjoy those things we cherish most. In the end of the play the grandfather character states that so many people are never capable of doing what they dream. They become stuck in their lives, sometimes not by choice and then life goes so quickly that suddenly they wake up too late realizing the lives they thought they lived really have little meaning to what they have actually set out to accomplish. Dreams of youth pass compromised, left in the closet to be forgotten or ignored. The play suggests perhaps it time to clean those things stowed in our closets, reconnect to those lost dreams we have forgotten, and once again live our dreams because life is too short to let the simple pleasures pass without engaging them.

This has certainly been a year for me to get back in touch with my own idealistic dreams from youth and allowing those creative dreams to prosper. I certainly began the year in a different place then what I will end it. I have faced a lot of fears and anxieties and over come so many of the obstacles that held me back. One of my greatest fears was being able to express my appreciation for beauty of the naked male in a place like Montana. Previously feeling a certain amount of shame in my process, I keep it hidden in a place of security, veiled in secrecy, remaining in that metaphorical closet, yet knowing in my heart what my desire was, but to afraid to reveal it. Now I will end this year, content, sharing my secret obsession for beauty and art. I began the year thinking I was too old to be vibrant or have anything to offer in a modern culture based on the modern media of the Internet. Yet the vitality of my life and expression seems to have moved so many others and have found a niche following which now seems to flourish. With the modern recession it feels like we live in a dark time were we are discouraged to be in touch with ourselves. What is happening within our environment is stifling to so many that as a culture we are becoming weary and more often depressed. Last year I lived in fear of my world collapsing and it felt like it was a struggle just to maintain my existence. So I took this year off to focus on my creative process and myself and to truly follow my passion. This year I have not made any more money, but I have not lost any more money either, always in past spending a great deal of money to make money, mostly all that going to others. In so many ways it becomes a wash with nothing gained but ending up right where I started. At least this year I have lived the life of my dreams and followed my heart and so far it has been one of the greatest adventures of my life. Perhaps it’s time to examine your own dreams, remember things forgotten, that has been put far back in your own closets, and makes a leap. There is no time like the present. You have nothing to lose and perhaps you might just discover something about yourself you thought was once lost.

We Are Not Made of Stone

Why is that so many of us don’t feel that we can live up to our potential or achieve what we often feel in our hearts?  Though I feel appreciative that I have lived a fairly creative life and had the opportunity to follow my desire, I still feel I have lived in the shadows of self-doubt for large portion of it.  I always think so much of it had to do with my sexuality and going against the norm.  But the more I talk to others, the more I begin to see it’s really a universal issue that everyone seems to struggle through.  The older I get the more I regret how much of my youth was fraught with angst and lack of self-esteem.  While I was cocky and defiant, it always felt that something held me back.  I always thought it was a lack of hustle and not being self-motivated, but when I look back, my achievements were vast and I have experienced a life time of wondrous experiences.

As this project begins to wind down, I am looking back at the journey of what I have felt through its course.  I guess trying to find perspective and get to the core of what brought me here in the first place.  But in a sense, everything I have learned was something I already knew it has always been here.  I liken it to Dorothy’s proverbial return to home after visiting the wondrous Land of Oz only to discover, with the click of her heels, she was always where she wanted to be.  As a kid, her journey always had a profound impact on me emotionally.  I would cry so hard every year that my mother would threaten to not let me watch it and I would beg and plead with her until she consented and once again I would be utterly moved to the point of tears.  I now recognize Dorothy’s desperate plight to find herself is universal and see it in everyone else around me.  What a strange world we enter, with sometimes even stranger friends.  In their mythic land they accept their differences, a man of straw who is easily destroyed by fire, a hollow man who can’t move without the help of others, and the embodiment of ferociousness, intimidated by others.   Their real journey is that of self-acceptance and in the end finding their sense of security.  Being a gay man growing up in a strange land like Montana, I have always been keenly aware of the differences of others, feeling myself never really quite understood.  But have been greatly appreciative of “men who can dress in women’s cloths and mouth the words to other people’s songs”, others infected with a deadly virus that still creates fear and anxiety and is still greatly misunderstood, the straight acting and not so straight acting personalities, whatever that meant, and the imperfections in others.  It has always been my desire to be a part of a community of understanding and acceptance and of course appreciation.  Yet it feels like as similar as we all are, we push each other away, with these labels and still ostracize others for their differences.

Yesterday I wrote about a young boy who killed himself because he could not find acceptance and my heart aches deeply as I morn not only the loss of a kid not able to live a miraculous existence, but the ignorance with others that fed his doubt.  I still see the internalized homophobia within our own communities that becomes judgmental, condescending, and harmful.  I think THIS IS perhaps is the real limitation from us feeling what’s in our hearts and recognizing our potential.  Perhaps this is my gift as a photographer because I am willing to look beyond the difference with compassion and empathy and search for that truth within myself and my subjects and the culture that surrounds me.  After all, we are not made of stone.

A Flicker Of My Past Desire Realized

Last night I watched an old western called Red River directed by Howard Hawk originally released in 1948. It was a John Wayne classic featuring one of the most beautiful men to ever be photographed, Montgomery Cliff. This was his first major feature film and made him an overnight sensation. He was 26 years old at the time of shooting and is just stunning to watch in this old black and white epic. Part of what makes the film so brilliant is the lighting is fantastic though out the film and though I have seen this film a dozen times it still mesmerizes me. After watching it last night I began to see how much of an influence it has had on my style of photography and the development of my approach to lighting. Of course growing up in the west, I identify with the sexual allure of the cowboy, particularly Montgomery Cliff. In this film he embodies it all, handsome, strong yet sensitive, compassionate, and secure in his masculinity. He was my role model and became the one icon I could always look up to because he stirred such strong feelings of desire within me for this sort of male figure and I began to recognize my sexual attraction was definably toward men. There is a very wonderful scene in the film in which he and another wrangler named Cherry admire each other’s guns in a very homoerotic flirtatious manner that is quite suggestive of something other than shooting. He was one of the first movie stars that I found out was gay which deepened my desire. Though he often play emotionally tortured men, his characters seemed to become a mirror of his personal life and struggles which seem to somehow personify everything I felt. Every time I saw him on the screen I become absorbed by the depth and pain he brought to each character. He was a man who was able to tap into this own pain and reveal his very soul for others to see. Few movie stars have brought this much honesty to the screen, except maybe James Dean. This is a quality I strive for in my own imagery, a moment of bearing the humanity of ourselves and exposing who we are in our existence. Cliff is one of the few actors to consistently maintain this intensity making almost every film an instant classic: A Place in the Sun, From Here to Eternity, The Heiress, Raintree Country, Suddenly Last Summer and even the Alfred Hitchcock classic I Confess.

I have often pondered how a young ranch kid like myself was so drawn to work in arts and entertainment. Last night that connection became clear watching Red River, the magic, the beauty, the sexual allure of the American west, my west, stirred my emotions , presented in the flicker of a film and watching Montgomery Cliff enter my universe. I identified with a feeling where anything was possible and knew it was a place I could coexist and where I would be understood and accepted for my difference. Where the tormented soul can reveal itself and become the basis of artistic expression. Monty though you died when I was just a kid, you still live in my heart decades later and stir a desire and passion within me that will never dissipate. You only seem to grow stronger with time as the truth of your worlds real and make believe still haunt me.

The Lost World Of Tennessee Williams

For some reason I have been thinking lately about the lonely death of the American writer Tennessee Williams. Here is a brilliant man who has crafted some to the greatest plays of all time for the American Theater. Things like A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. He choked to death on the cap of some eye drops he was trying to open with his mouth on February 25, 1983. How is it that a man with such a great mind for creating some of the most fascinating and complex character studies can pass away from something so insignificant as a bottle cap? Tennessee Williams is probably one of the most influential people on my life and work. As a young theater student in my twenties, when I had finally entered his remarkable world, I felt like I had finally found a home. He wrote about all the things we as culture in Montana like to keep hidden and considered taboo: alcoholism, homosexuality, addiction, beauty, the loss of beauty, fear, doubt, and self-loathing. A world where people were trapped by their often-brutal existence. Nothing seemed sacred to Tennessee. He himself grew up in a shattered world, feeling closest to his sister Rose. She was schizophrenic, in and out of hospitals, eventually becoming lobotomized; she became the wellspring for much of his characterizations. He used the dysfunction of his life to add life to those remarkable characters of Blanche, Brick, Laura, or Alma. Everything he wrote seemed to plummet into the heart of darkness whether it was a play, novel, or even a short story. His writing was filled with passion, honesty, and above all humility. When I entered this world I somehow knew most of these characters and could see so much of his despair and depression within myself. I became addicted and spent a year reading everything consumable about the man. Eventually I directed a production of The Glass Menagerie for my senior project at the University. I still get a giddy feeling when I read anything written by this master and am still captivated by the ground away versions of the Hollywood classics. That scene with Elizabeth Taylor blurting out the truths of Sebastian using her for procurement of young boys leading to his cannibalistic death before she is about to be lobotomized by his mother, Katherine Hepburn, who will do anything to keep the truth hidden in Suddenly Last Summer is one of the greatest moments in film history and still sucks me in with it’s intensity. I could write a year of just blogs on Tennessee Williams alone.

So much of my own imagery and the worlds I enter with my own photography have to do with the feeling, tone, and mood of Tennessee Williams characters and stories. There is a beauty in the darkness where we remain hidden. My work becomes about exposing the inner life of my characters in a raw and sometimes vulnerable way. There is so much depth hidden within all of us that is rarely allowed to surface. Yet there is remarkable beauty in that depth. This is the place I like to explore with my subjects. This has been a year of finding a wholeness within myself and I feel that dysfunction beginning to fade. I fear this may affect my work. I somehow doubt it because I have always got Mr. Williams to remind me of where I have been. To me he is the essential homosexual on my shelf. It’s unfortunate the upcoming generation doesn’t even know his name, as the quotes of his characters imbued my generation and gave life to an culture, fade into a lost oblivion. We no longer rely on the kindness of strangers, but instead become the strangers.