The Return of the Young Leonardos

Back  in 2008, I singled out Emile Hirsch, Michael Pitt and Kevin Zegers as three Young Leonardos (YLs). The standard was somewhat lazily applied, as it was not readily apparent what it took to be in contention for the title, apart from a) being handsome in a Leonardo DiCaprio-like way, and b) having shown a willingness to take on some challenging work in addition to career-conscious mainstream movies. Continue reading

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Reading the Right

Back in 2010, I made a list of political journalists and pundits who helped shape my views on American politics. While I have always tried to be omnivorous and adventurous in the opinions I seek out, it could not have come as a surprise to people who know my personal politics that almost all of the writers on the list were broadly liberal or left-leaning. (Leave aside for the moment that the “liberal” vs. “conservative” dichotomy is not only useless in describing my affiliation with Nordic social democracy, but even in categorizing the views of most Americans.) In the intervening years, I have in fact tried to broaden my horizon by supplementing my daily diet of liberal punditry with views from the right, for “balance”, education and entertainment. Not all the journalists or pundits who opine about conservatives or conservatism share the right’s outlook, of course, but over the years I have find a handful of people who I turn to if I want to understand a little bit more about how the American right works. Continue reading

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On Tom Daley, Bisexuality and Gay Stereotypes

Just a few quick words on British diver and Olympic bronze medalist Tom Daley. Last December he revealed in a YouTube video that he was dating a man, and by doing it in such a seemingly casual way he joined the ranks of, among others, hip hop artist Frank Ocean and actor Jim Parsons. At the time I wrote of how happy I was for him and how his openness could make the coming out process easier for other athletes.

Although much of the media reporting on Daley’s video message at the time said he had come out as gay, it would be probably be more accurate to say that, if anything, he’d indicated that he was bisexual. However, it now seems that he recently told E! Online that he considers himself a gay man. It changes absolutely nothing about what I said about his announcement at the time, and it takes nothing away from the bravery he showed. Lots of people are bisexual, and others call themselves bisexual before deciding that their orientation is better described by the word “gay” or something else. Yes, Tom Daley said in his video that he “still fancied girls”, but his most recent comments doesn’t mean that couldn’t have been true at the time, or that he was something “lying” or “in denial”. While I’m glad that Tom is comfortable enough with himself to talk about how his relationship has changed how he sees himself, the most important point might be one that Daley himself has stressed previously; that labels shouldn’t really matter.

It is well-known that the gay community has had some problems with incorporating the experiences of bisexuals into the story of the movement, and it is disheartening that bisexuality is still looked down upon or in some respects not even recognized as a distinct sexual orientation. But one other interesting aspect of the evolving story of Tom Daley’s coming out was how parts of the media greeted the news that he was dating Dustin Lance Black. I’m not trying to weave a broader trend from the web of tackiness that is the UK tabloids, but the Sun‘s front page a couple of days after Daley’s coming out announcement trafficked in a very specific type of gay stereotyping: “Tom’s love is an Oscar-winning activist… and 20 years older”

The sensationalist exclamation point was the only thing missing, really. There wasn’t so much subtext as just plain text. It’s mostly all there in that telling ellipsis. Poor Tom, a mere 19, must have been seduced by the Hollywood dazzle and power of a man – gasp! – 20 years his senior. The Sun skilfully, if shamefully, dog-whistled about the gay adult who feed on vulnerable younger men, while covering its tracks by simply being true to the genre tropes of British tabloid journalism. And apropos of Dustin Lance Black, the tastelessness of The Sun reminded me of a story about him, Gus van Sant and Taylor Lautner from a few years back. The three of them were having dinner together, and for some reason GQ, profiling Lautner, decided to ask him if the two older men had made a pass at him. This could of course be just a joke question asked by a writer who had a bad day on the job, but the way I (and Dustin Lance Black) read it,  here was that murky stereotype of the predatory gay at play again.

No  matter what your sexual orientation is, you shouldn’t have to endure the thinly-veiled homophobia and just plain ignorance that still permeates much of public discourse. The Sun and others should be called out on it, so that Tom Daley is able to focus on his diving career, as he has said he wants to.

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Thomas Hitzlsperger, Robbie Rogers and the Plight of the ‘First Gay Footballer’

Retired German footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay in early January, and thus added yet another eloquent voice to the continued debate about the dearth of openly gay players in professional team sports. He cited the examples of trailblazers like John Amaechi, Gareth Thomas and Tom Daley as inspiring him to make his secret known, but at the same time, he said, the very fact that these people had to take on such responsibility as representatives of gays in sports was frustrating to him Continue reading

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The 2014 Oscars Post


12 Years a Slave (Dir: Steve McQueen)

American Hustle (Directed by: David O. Russell)

Captain Phillips  (Dir: Paul Greengrass)

Gravity (Dir: Alfonso Cuaron)

Her (Dir: Spike Jonze)

Nebraska (Dir: Alexander Payne)

Philomena (Dir: Stephen Frears)

The Wolf of Wall Street (Dir: Martin Scorsese) Continue reading

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Give The Voices Some Love

The announcement of this year’s Academy Awards nomination saw the return of an old(-ish) staple in the awards season debate. The “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” category honored Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), June Squibb (Nebraska), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), but not Scarlett Johansson’s much-lauded performance in Her. I haven’t seen the film yet and so can’t comment on the wisdom of that decision, but it does highlights a recurring challenge for the acting categories: How to account for the particular piece of acting that constitutes a vocal or motion-captured performance? Continue reading

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My Favorite Movies of 2013: “It’s called obsession/can you handle it?”

I’m a little late with my best-of-the-year list this year, but a more relevant question is whether there even is such a thing as being late on this score. Looking back on my best-of-the-decade list, which I published at the tale end of 2009, I am struck by how different it would have looked, had I known – or seen – then what I have now. When compiling lists that are supposed to have a sheen of authority to them, time is not your enemy, it’s your friend. Continue reading

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