Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tri-Curious gets the DVD treatment starting April 21st!

The DVD cover for CAS
As many know, on top of my political inclinations, I'm also a filmmaker on the side.

In 2016, I was very proud to write, produce, direct and edit my own short narrative film called Tri-Curious.   It's a sexy comedy about how last minute anxiety threatens to ruin a young gay couple's first threesome together (see the trailer link on the right.) 

A great group of friends and colleagues helped me make it, along with actors Trevor Ketcheson, Rob Salerno and Mike Went.  I worked so hard on it and I continue to be immensely proud of our efforts.  

The short went on to get programmed in 2016 and 2017 at various film festivals around the world (but sadly not in Toronto) and even got picked up by LGBT-themed video-on-demand site Dekkoo. 

On top of that, I put the film on YouTube where it garnered an incredible 1.5 million views in 10 months!  It's no longer available on YouTube as I've now sold the exclusive distribution rights for five years to Dekkoo (which is associated with LGBT film distributor TLA Releasing).

The result is their upcoming DVD release, CAS, a collection of three films that examine the different effects the addition of a third party has on a modern gay relationship. 

The DVD gets released on April 21, 2018 and is available now for pre-order at this link.

Tri-Curious will be tucked in between the 50-minute Dutch TV short Cas, by director Joris van den Berg, and the U.S. short Bed Buddies, by director Reid Waterer.  I'm thrilled!!

If you'd like to check out my film and also get two other great shorts thrown in, please consider buying the DVD for your collection.  You can also see my short right now if you wish by clicking on this Dekkoo VOD link and starting a trial membership.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

POLLSTER BOMBSHELL: "I pulled this one out of my ass."

In an exclusive interview with Queer-liberal (exclusive because the short attention spans of other Queen's Park reporters caused them to sashay away after the question was asked), pollster Lorne Bozinoff of Forum Research now admits his most recent poll is bogus, part of a grand experiment to gauge media group think and take us all for a wild ride.

Despite his latest poll "findings" this week which showed overwhelming opposition (44%) or uncertainty/indifference (32%), and only 24% support for this week's Ontario Liberal budget, I asked him how could his latest poll show a sudden "rebound" in Liberal support (up from 23% to 29%) accompanied by the headline, "Budget a Lifeline for Ontario Liberals"?

At first, Bozinoff demurred, grinning like a Cheshire cat.  So I continued: His poll even claimed that "45%" of Ontarians said the budget would make them less likely to vote Liberal, while another "25%" of Ontarians said it would have no impact on their voting intentions.  Only "18%" said it would make them more likely to vote Liberal.

Not to mention the fact his poll said "38%" thought it would be bad for the Ontario economy, while only "22%" thought it would be good.

Yet Forum was prepared to stand by its headline, 'Budget a Lifeline for Ontario Liberals?" I asked. 

"To be honest, I pulled this one out of my ass," said Bozinoff.  "I've been doing it for years just to cause a stir or grab a quick headline.  News media editors are mostly man boys who hate real issues but are obsessed with horse races, and my polls are like crack cocaine for them.  So I give them what they want and they've been eating it up!"

"I wanted to test this week how much I could manipulate them with a headline that's completely not backed up by the very numbers I'm putting out and they bought it hook, line, and sinker," says Bozinoff.  "Now the headline is out there that Wynne's budget has caused a rebound in Liberal support!"  

In the past, Bozinoff has claimed publicly his poll methodologies and numbers are sound.  But he didn't tell the whole story, he now admits.

"In 2015, just for kicks, me and the Mainstreet dude decided we're going to try to push a new narrative and convince everyone that Kathleen Wynne is toxic and dead in the water.  Since then, every single one of my polls has shown her less popular than Hitler among voters.  And now you can really see the fruits of our labour.  Every journalist in Ontario now takes it as a given that she's dead in the water and headed for certain defeat.  Even up against Doug Ford."

"In the past, I've released numbers that say Ontario Liberal support has collapsed to the mid-teens for no reason and published the headline: 'Wynne is dead woman walking'.  Then the next month, I'll put out new numbers showing her back up ten points despite having been hit by some controversy, just to fuck with the media and the public.  It's fun.  There's no rhyme or reason.  I'm just being a prick."

One strategy he's adopted to disguise all this is to use "corrective poll averaging," he said.

"If the rest of the polls out there are starting to show a pretty significant trend, quite out of line with the polls I've pulled out of my ass for fun, wham, my next set of numbers suddenly align with that poll average, and there you have it, I can claim I was right all along, I picked up on a trend and then picked up on a new trend, and boom, I'm right.   It's been working for years, fooling the media and the public.  They are a bunch of fools, and it doesn't have to be April 1st for that to be true!"

"Oh come on, Lorne, you're just shitting me, aren't you?" I finally ask.

"Happy Easter," he says as he backs away, winking.  "Easter hasn't fallen on April Fools Day in years, so this is pretty special."   

I shake my head. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

'Love, Simon' success a sweet sign of the times

Characters in 'Love, Simon'
I'd like to take my mind off the nasty business of politics for a moment, and celebrate the recent success of the feature film Love, Simon

The film, starring the lovely Nick Robinson and joined by a fab cast, is based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, and tells the tale about a closeted teenager who develops a secret email/pen pal relationship with another closeted teen in his high school.

Director Greg Berlanti handles it all delicately and beautifully, giving this story a common touch that is allowing it to find mainstream audiences.  While there is some typical rom-com formulaic writing (and you just know that this has to be headed for a happy ending), the story and diverse characters were still original and well-acted enough to keep it fresh and compelling.  As of March 30, its estimated $30 million at the North American box office already far outstrips the entire run by the recent Oscar-nominated Call Me By Your Name. 

Why?  The producers clearly wanted this gay story to appeal to the masses and it appears to be doing so.  I went to an opening night screening on March 16 in Toronto and it was pretty packed, with a majority young females.  At a key moment of sweet, romantic, boy-on-boy kissing action, those girls squealed with delight and made the movie going experience sublime.  That stands in stark contrast with the howls of hatred and homophobia that would accompany the appearance of any gay characters onscreen in decades past in North America.

Now it seems North American teenage girls (at least those not brainwashed by religion) have finally caught up to their counterparts in Japan, where the idolization/eroticization of male homosexuality went mainstream long ago.  Yes, here it's pretty PG-rated so far, but that's cool by me.  (As we know, North American teenage boys and elsewhere long ago eroticized lesbians.)

There will be those who quibble with the fact this is another in a short list of mainstream feature films where the lead gay character is masculine, cisgendered and white.  The plot finds a way to effectively counter some of those quibbles (I won't give anything away here), including the fact that the lead is always surrounded by characters who are quite diverse in terms of backgrounds.   

Of course, this is just one film and LGBTQ characters still have a ways to go on screen.  The recent Black Panther is one example where a mainstream film erred on the side of too-much caution by refusing to make the lesbian relationship in the original works explicit in the feature film adaptation.  Fans looking for queer representation in the recent Star Wars reboots continue to be disappointed too.

It's one thing to gamble $17 million on Love, Simon (a gamble that has already paid off big time.)  It's another to gamble $400 million on a picture that depends on worldwide box office success to make a profit.  And as we know, homophobia and bigotry still reigns in most parts of this world.   This issue has been with us for decades and continues to be relevant. 

Still, I cherish the fact that we're living in a time when a sweet love story like Love, Simon can become a decent box office success carried by the ticket purchases of young heterosexual ladies (and many LGBT folks as well.) 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Suddenly the moral imperative to re-elect Kathleen Wynne emerges with a vengeance

Which of these men has committed more crimes?  
It must be great to be a mediocre white rich straight male in the Conservative Party, where everyone else is considered unqualified and incapable while you're still considered to be a god. 

The Conservative Party of Ontario (let's just stop the pretense and drop "Progressive" from that name, shall we?), like most conservative parties, is an organization in which misogyny is still considered a family value.  Watching the race unfold these last six weeks, with three women on the stage next to Doug Ford, I knew in my heart this party's pathetic grassroots would again make the wrong choice.  And so they did (barring any court challenges regarding mixed up postal codes.) 

In the latter days of this race, it was Doug Ford and his paranoid, irrational Ford Nation supporters who concocted conspiracy theories without any evidence that the leadership process was rigged against them (just like Donald Trump did in the 2016 U.S. election.)  They continued this irrational bunk even yesterday after the votes were counted.  But in truth as we know, the system was actually stacked in favour of the privileged white male.  Like Trump, Ford won fewer actual votes than his main female competitor but emerged victorious due to the system.  

The similarities between Ford and Trump don't end there.  Regardless, I'm pretty sure Ontarians don't want their own Premier Trump.  Even if the bigots and misogynists who dominate the Ontario conservative grassroots are happy to turn a blind eye to the obvious flaws of Doug Ford, including his criminal past, the rest of Ontarians should know better.

We watched in horror when Doug enabled his late brother Rob Ford as they turned Toronto city hall into a circus where nothing got done except the expulsion of hot air and bravado from the Fords and their idiot allies like George Mammoliti.  It was a gong show we have not forgotten. 

I truly hoped that Christine Elliott would finally achieve her due and win yesterday.  She's worked so hard as an MPP and brought so much to the table.  While I'd never vote Conservative, I do always hope that my conservative opponents are at least reasonable and qualified individuals, capable of providing wise leadership and willing to counter the impulses of the many yahoos in their base.   

But alas, it seems conservatives these days have mostly lost their minds and they continue to hoist the most inappropriate and unqualified dorks among them onto the rest of us. 

In picking Ford, Ontario PCs have said to every woman in Ontario: "It doesn't matter how hard you work or how better qualified you are, we'll still pick a mediocre man over you because he's got a dick.  A safe Caucasian dick, that is."   

The Fords built their political empire in the diverse suburbs around Toronto and understood the best way to win the hearts of many non-white suburban folks was to appeal to their homophobia, which they did every occasion they could.   Boycott a Pride parade?  You bet.  Every single year.  

That homophobia was a key reason why, even after Rob Ford was caught up in his crack-smoking scandal, that support from Ford Nation still endured.   These folks are not reasonable.  As long as you promise to hate the gays, they'll be with you for life.  Had the Fords grown up in rural Ontario, you can bet they would've stuck with their racist instincts and ignored people of colour altogether to win power.  They didn't have that option running in suburban Toronto.   

As we saw in this abbreviated leadership race, Ford continues to follow those nasty instincts of appealing to homophobia and other bigotries.   He sought out and won the support of Christian bigot hero Charles McVety and Paul Melnichuk, a noted anti-Semite.  He shamelessly promised to revisit Ontario's modern sex-ed curriculum and even re-open the abortion debate.  There's a theory I heard recently that Tanya Granic Allen's whole candidacy was forged as merely a front for Doug Ford: whip up grassroots, social conservative resentment and get them to vote, then watch as they move en masse to Ford in subsequent ballots, as they did this week.  

It's scary to think what an amoral man like Doug Ford would do with a majority government in Ontario, since no doubt McVety and other bigots will come calling demanding rewards for literally putting him in the leadership.   

And so here we are.  The trolls will be out in full force on social media and Sun Media online boards pushing their lies over the next few months, promoting all forms of hatred against Kathleen Wynne.  

But we progressives will fight back.  I've learned long ago there is no point in trying to reason with these right-wing idiots.   They aren't interested in facts.  They lecture progressives about living in bubbles, but it's clear they are the ones with their heads in the sand. 

I say we don't have to reason with them.  We just need to beat them.  And do anything we have to do to achieve that.  Let's hit them back just as hard as they groundlessly hit us. 

And we will.

The Liberals have governed Ontario for 15 years.  They've achieved many great things like re-investing in public education, health care, and other public services all the while keeping taxes competitive, despite the myths constantly pushed by Sun Media and conservatives.   Ontario's economy is currently booming, mainly because our governments have decided to invest wisely in our societies rather than follow the foolish conservative impulse towards austerity, which would've ground Canada's economic growth to a halt, as it has done elsewhere.   

No one party can govern for 15 years and not make many mistakes.  The main knock against Kathleen Wynne seems to be she simply inherited too much scandal from Dalton McGuinty.  Since taking office, Wynne has worked hard to set her own path and she's been modestly successful.  Yes, she's as ruthless as any other politician, but she's clearly got wisdom, street smarts and a good heart, as well as a level head.  I haven't liked all of her decisions.  But she doesn't deserve the vitriol constantly thrown at her by conservatives. 

Let's be honest: a huge part of Wynne's unpopularity in those circles stems from the fact that many conservatives hate her because she's a woman and she doesn't bow down in front of the almighty penis.  It would be great to see those annoying conservatives suffer another term under Kathleen Wynne. 


With Doug Ford's victory, suddenly the moral imperative to re-elect Kathleen Wynne this year has emerged with a vengeance.  (I do discount Andrea Horwath and the NDP at this point because Horwath has never shown any ability to expand her party's vote beyond traditional levels of support.  So I remain convinced Kathleen Wynne will lead the charge against Ford.)  

Wynne will come out swinging with everything she's got against the threat that Ford represents.   We should expect quite a fight this spring as we approach the June 7 vote.


***************

Saturday wasn't completely bleak  when it comes to Conservative news: troglodyte MP Brad Trost lost his local nomination to run for the Conservative Party in 2019.    Hallelujah! 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The destructive influence of social conservatives seeping into Ontario PC leadership race

Former drug dealer and crack-filled circus enabler Doug Ford, 
according to Globe 2013 story
Despite his creepiness, former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown did at least understand how the worst instincts of conservatives need to be tamed.

If he achieved nothing else during his leadership, Brown did manage to drag his party of neanderthals into the 21st century by scorning bigoted social conservatives and their prejudices, walking in Pride parades, and adopting meaningful policy to combat the biggest threat facing humanity, climate change.   This was ironic because Brown got elected in the first place by flirting with the troglodytes who catapulted him to victory over the more qualified Christine Elliott in 2015. 

But now that Brown is gone, those horrible folks are looking for revenge.  And it seems they have found their champions in two of the candidates running to replace him: former drug dealer and crack-filled circus enabler Doug Ford and grassroots bigot Tanya Granic Allen, both of whom seem to want to import Donald Trump-style politics to Ontario. 

Ever since the unknown Granic Allen signed up for the campaign (apparently raising about $100,000 to become a candidate is not a problem for the alleged outsider), she's been aggressively spouting her bunk demanding parents have the unfettered right to abuse their children and denying the science of climate change.   If she is the new champion of Ontario's social conservatives, this simply reinforces for me my firm belief that these dangerous people need to be ignored for our own good.

During the first leadership debate, Granic Allen even took opponent Christine Elliott to task for supporting a ban on the dangerous, disgusting, and discredited practice of forcing LGBT kids into therapy to "cure" them of their sexual orientation.  Granic Allen grossly claimed this ban took away parental choice!  In essence, Granic Allen was arguing in favour of child abuse.  She would do more harm to Ontario's LGBT children than anything alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur could ever dream up.

Make no mistake: Granic Allen represents a huge portion of the Ontario conservative base.  While she'll likely place dead last in the race, the power these folks yield in this party far outweighs their influence in greater society.

More dangerous though is the thoughtless populism of Doug Ford, whose family proves that white trash that inherits a million-dollar company will still be white trash, just more powerful and influential than most of the elites they constantly complain about.  After the disaster of his late brother's single term as Toronto's mayor, where all progress ground to a halt while council contemplated Doug's idea to build a giant ferris wheel and mega-mall on Toronto's waterfront, it's shocking that Ford's support persists in conservative circles.

One question I wish someone would finally ask Ford: why did he not sue the Globe & Mail after it published this article about his previous drug dealing? 

While Caroline Mulroney's got some promise, it was clear to me in last night's debate she remains too inexperienced to leap into this job now.  Furthermore, her "to the manor born" pedigree as the daughter of Brian "Airbus" Mulroney makes her quite unrelateable as a leader, at least to me.  When she talks about Ontarians struggling to pay hydro bills, I can't help but think this is a person who's never struggled to pay any bills in her life. 

So once again, the only person standing in the way of these scary social conservatives is Christine Elliott.  While some of her pronouncements in this race - such as placating social conservatives by promising to "revisit" Ontario's sex-ed curriculum, or opposing a carbon tax - are disheartening, they also seem calculated.  She appears to have learned a thing or two from her previous failed leadership bids and indeed may finally pull this one off.  Elliott is the professional adult this party desperately needs even if much of its base is too stupid to know it.

So the question remains: will the conservative base vote for the qualified adult who's ready to lead, or stick with a numbskull like them?  I'm not very optimistic. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Patrick Brown and the politics of sexual harassment and backlash

Ex-PC Leader Patrick Brown (CP/Aaron Vincent Elkaim)
This week saw the dramatic destruction of Patrick Brown's leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario after allegations of past sexual misconduct involving teenagers on his staff came to light.

The usual suspects in the media, sadly many women, are fast at work fanning the flames of alleged male victimhood, ignoring the facts that contradict their assumptions.  Whether they intend it or not, they are helping to spawn a backlash that will ultimately discourage real victims from coming forward again to hurt their favourite man-boys. 

It was fascinating that this story emanated out of CTV News, the private sector broadcaster not exactly known for its liberal biases.  Far from it.  Thus, when CTV unleashed this bombshell of a story about Brown, it was interesting that no one claimed the messenger of the story was biased.  Instead, it added credibility to the claims. 

Had the story come from the CBC, you can bet all of those private sector whiners like Christie Blatchford would be arguing as well this was also an unfair attack from a left-leaning "state broadcaster," in addition to her other tirades against the teenagers Brown allegedly threw himself upon.   

Is it fair in politics that a leader would have to resign because of some allegations that seem to ring true to the objective viewer, even though they haven't been proven in court?

Let's re-read that sentence's first five words: "Is it fair in politics...?"  There is no fairness in politics.  So that answers my question.  I am in agreement with Chris Selley on that one. 

"What about due process?" many scream in defense of men they assume are innocent in the face of multiple allegations.  It seems everybody accused of egregious acts gets removed from positions of power over the course of the investigation, once allegations are made.  Patrick Brown shouldn't be any different.

These same folks, of course, have little to say when the accused are black or Muslim or gay.  In the face of racial profiling by police, these folks typically make the argument, "If you haven't done anything wrong, what are you afraid of?"  Perhaps they should consider asking men that question today instead of giving credence to the bogus argument that white men are somehow today's biggest victims.

Patrick Brown led a coup against the PC Party establishment in 2015 to become the leader by out-hustling Christine Elliott in membership sales and voter turnout.  He's an expert organizer.  But in the other crucial tasks of politics, like earning love, loyalty and commitment from colleagues, the kind of which wouldn't evaporate instantly the moment a story like this breaks, he clearly wasn't great.    

So weak an impression he had made as leader, it wasn't entirely stunning to see him fall so fast this week.  It was fitting.  Suddenly, his strange bachelorhood despite being modestly attractive and clearly talented made sense.  He's not the settling type, it seems.

My impression has always been if any straight man looking to settle down possesses a tiny amount of decency and talent, even barely above mediocre, to say nothing of his looks, there's at least ten wonderful, more decent, more talented, more attractive women out there willing to commit to him should he love them back.  Such is how our society works in North America, I find.  The good ones always get scooped up early.  It's the not-so-good ones who can't seem to settle down, I find.  Christie Blatchford would blame women for this, of course, even though the fault lies with the guys. 

That, of course, doesn't apply to gay men, who have an entirely different life experience having to seek out romance and love from other men (that is, after enduring the trauma of accepting ourselves and coming out of the closet.)  Generally, most men just aren't that great at giving love, sadly.  We're great at taking it, that's for sure.  Many of us do eventually learn to give love too as most women do. 

Why are women better at this than men?  Well, look at how society treats all women.  It's a humbling experience from start to end.  Arrogance, the kind of which seems intrinsic in even the most mediocre of men, is not something that is tolerated in women, as we know.  If Hilary Clinton can be defeated by the likes of Donald Trump, then all women are vulnerable.  I wonder when Christie Blatchford or Rosie Di Manno are going to write about that topic?  

But back to Patrick Brown.

I never thought much of him.  As a leader, he was mediocre at best.  The best thing he had going for him was the sense that his governing opponents, the Ontario Liberals, deserve tossing out of office.  I was not looking forward to him possibly governing Ontario.  In fact, I had major doubts he'd get elected, despite Kathleen Wynne's unpopularity.

Now who knows what will happen with the Ontario PC leadership?  There doesn't seem to be any one candidate who will be the consensus choice.  Christine Elliott was that person in 2015 and she got crushed by the likes of Brown.

Sadly we cannot underestimate the stupidity of the Tory base, who have shown themselves more than capable of rejecting the best candidates in favour of the crappiest the last two leadership races.  These are folks who think a 19-year-old, home-schooled ideologue is more qualified to be an MPP than others three times his age and life experience. 

We shall see.  Brown is finished, thankfully.  Now this gives the Ontario PC Party a chance to get it right.  Will they?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Anti-gay discriminators now complaining about getting a taste of their own medicine re: Canada Summer Jobs program

For decades if not centuries, social conservatives and devoutly religious types have led the charge in favour of discrimination against LGBT people.  They have fought tooth and nail to ruin the lives of people like me.  They regularly threw vulnerable LGBT youth out of their own families, homes, businesses, schools, churches and other organizations.  

But in Canada in the 1990s, the mainstream culture started to change for the better.  Why?  For a whole slew of reasons, including the fact that more LGBT people continued to come out of the closet, thus humanizing the experience for many formerly ignorant straight people.

Another important reason was the arrival of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada.  Courts ruled starting in the 1990s that LGBT people were entitled to equal treatment under the law, thanks to the Charter.  In 2003 in Ontario, a court ruled that same sex couples have the legal right to marry, a decision which was confirmed by the Canadian Parliament in 2005, extending marriage rights to all LGBT people across the country.

During this entire period, let us not forget who fought progress every step of the way: social conservatives and the devoutly religious.  For them, their religious beliefs trumped basic human dignity and equality under the law.  From a position of power, they demanded that LGBT lives remain second class.

As we know, the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper called same sex marriage a "threat" to this country.   Harper wasn't able to stop equal marriage of course.  But he certainly undermined LGBT rights and all human rights in other ways, including cancelling the Court Challenges Program which provided vulnerable citizens suffering from discrimination with financial support to fight that discrimination in the courts. 

I'm glad to say that the gains LGBT people have made in this country now seem fairly entrenched.  But I'll never forget how hard those social conservatives fought against my basic humanity, dignity and equality. 

So there is a certain poetic justice today seeing so many of the same religious folks now whining about alleged "discrimination" against them by the Trudeau government over its changes to its Canada Summer Jobs Program.  Predictably, Conservative MPs who fought against human rights for LGBT people and still refuse to attend community Pride celebrations, are going to bat for their social conservative friends.

This is a gross recent trend we've seen from many conservatives: adopt the language of the progressive left to draw false equivalence comparisons between real historical oppression and the loss of power they're now sensing.   

"Oh look, I have to sell a wedding cake to a same sex couple.  I'm oppressed!"

And of course, there is a steady stream of conservative politicians like Donald Trump and Andrew Scheer more than happy to go to bat for them.

How soon these Canadian conservatives forget that up until they were forced to accept equality for all people in law, they opposed it. 

On the issue of the Summer Jobs Program change, it does seem that the Trudeau government is playing a bit of 'culture war' politics here, using this minor issue to get a lot of attention.  That's politics.  Is it discrimination on the basis of religion that some organizations are being forced to check a box on an application form they think contradicts their faith?  Perhaps.  Is it just for Canadian tax dollars to fund summer jobs for students who are working on anti-abortion campaigns or fighting basic equality for all?  I don't think so.  Or if many of those jobs would do no such thing, yet the organization as a whole nurtures an anti-gay culture and environment?  I wouldn't say I'm crazy about that.  We have a lot of need in this society that is currently being met by religious charities.  I do think a commitment to serve all people without discrimination is essential for receiving public tax dollars. 

Yet our tax dollars fund Catholic public schools in Ontario which teach that women are not fully equal to men, that abortion is a sin and that LGBT people are sub-human.  Of course, none of the conservatives squawking now about the Summer Jobs Program have much to say in opposition to that state of affairs.  It's only when they feel the twinge of injustice against themselves do they now appeal to the very human rights laws they vigorously opposed just a few years ago.

I don't have much sympathy for them.  If they feel they are being discriminated against, they should take the Trudeau government to court over it.  And if they take that path, they'll be able to use the renewed Court Challenges fund (which the Trudeau government re-instated) to help in their fight.   

****UPDATE January 23, 2018****

This story today clarifies the government's position very well, which in my mind means that these rules governing the Canada Summer Jobs program aren't discriminatory at all.  In fact, I have to support them wholeheartedly.  I do not want my public tax dollars going to organizations that plan to hire students to engage in discriminatory activities.  

Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Favourite Films of 2017 (so far...) UPDATED

I'm delighted to share my annual list of my favourite feature films released in 2017.  Of course, I'm no movie critic so I haven't been able to see every major release this year, so there are several probably great films I have yet to see which could find their way into my top 13 favourites (in fact, one just did; The Florida Project has jumped to number 1 on my list!)  As I continue to see more movies, or as my opinions evolve upon more reflection, I'll continue amend this post, like I always do.   While I do consider myself a refined cineaste, this list is still, first and foremost, a list of my favourites.  So very good films that simply didn't appeal to me or even offended me won't make it on this list.  Still generally, I don't think any film critic or film lover would quibble with my top 13:

1.  The Florida Project:  Wow! Everything about this tender, incredible film is note perfect.  The film depicts life for a little girl living with her troubled single mother in a Florida housing project/motel and it's quietly riveting.  The performance by Bria Vinaite as the mother is mesmerizing and so is young Brooklyn Prince as Moonee, through whose eyes we see the experience unfold.  Plus I don't remember enjoying a performance by Willem Dafoe this much.  He most certainly deserves the acclaim he's getting for this.  This is great filmmaking. 

2.  Dunkirk:  Stunning visuals and direction from Christopher Nolan, as well as a stunningly hot and talented cast, depict the efforts to rescue the British and French armies from the beach in France in early World War II.   Gripping and beautiful to watch, I loved this war film from beginning to end.  It's nice to see Nolan stay true to his vision, perfectly execute it and now receive the acclaim and hopefully the nominations he deserves.

3.  Lady Bird:  I saw this recently and loved it.  Saoirse Ronan gives a performance as equally lived in and authentic as Timothée Chalamet did in Call Me By Your Name.  This is a brilliant character study and I loved the unique relationship portrayed between daughter and her mother, played by the amazing Laurie Metcalf, who I haven't seen much of since Roseanne.  I also adored Tracy Letts as Lady Bird's dad, as well as Lady Bird's relationship with her best friend Julie, played by Beanie Feldstein.  There are so many moments in this gem that I truly cherished.  Touching, intimate filmmaking here by Greta Gerwig.  (Formerly #9 but moved up after some more consideration.)

4.  Call Me By Your Name: This film is a sensuous delight that perfectly captures a unique moment in time and place for its characters.  It's the classic coming-of-age/first love tale many of us in the queer community have always hoped to see, free from queer film tropes like gay bashing, hateful parents or inevitable punishment and death.  This film chronicles the evolution of young Elio from genius yet inexperienced teenager to broken-hearted adult, and actor Timothée Chalamet embodies the role with seemingly effortless authenticity and feeling.  He is the beating heart and soul of this movie. (This was my #1, but upon more reflection and another viewing, I do find the romance fairly unsatisfying here; it works mostly as a one-sided reflection or memory of a teenager's first love that got away rather than a true romance.  Plus Armie Hammer's performance seems often unconvincing to me.) 

5.  Get Out:  This timely, anti-racist, satirical masterpiece by director Jordan Peele was released last winter, yet is now poised to do well this awards season, even perhaps take Best Picture.  It deserves to.  It's a perfect, original exploration of its subject matter about a young black man who visits the home of his white girlfriend only to find a house of horrors, playfully pushing buttons that need to be pushed today in our culture.  Loved it!

6.  The Post:  Steven Spielberg taps into the zeitgeist today in this note perfect film about the 1971 backroom deliberations at the Washington Post to possibly publish details of the infamous Pentagon Papers after the New York Times had been temporarily barred from doing so.  There is heady stuff here including the fight between government and the press, the competition between newspapers, the fight for equality and respect for women in the workforce.  And it's all handled with a non-melodramatic touch that felt completely realistic and appropriate.  Spielberg does thankfully keep some of his stylistic Spielbergisms in check, focusing on moving the story forward at all times.  And the film is gorgeous including the 1970s art direction and the awesome focus on the old-fashioned news gathering and editing process, not to mention the printing press mechanics.  Meryl Streep is perfect as are the rest of the cast.  I was born to love this movie!

7.  Baby Driver:  Super-hot Ansel Elgort plays the sympathetic driver nicknamed "Baby" who transports his fellow crooks away from their crime scenes.  Every element of this film - from the music, to the editing, to the sound, to the writing, to the acting - is masterful.  I watched this before the Kevin Spacey scandal erupted, so I have no idea if his presence might ruin it now for viewers.  But I suggest it's still demands a try.   

8.  The Shape of Water:  This just might be director Guillermo del Toro's best, most accessible film. It's certainly my favourite one of his.  It's still a little strange, but what else could it be coming from him?  Let its beautiful colours, sounds, effects and performances wash over you as soon as possible, I say.

9.  Okja:  If you've never thought about the conditions in which your food is engineered and brought to your table, you need to see this film immediately.   Director Joon-ho Bong does some of his best work here ever, artfully telling his tale without being preachy.  If you have Netflix, watch it!  Not only does this film enormously entertain, it inspires audiences to think.  It certainly inspired me to start buying "free run" eggs despite the extra costs, although I'm not quite ready to give up meat.

10.  Detroit:  I didn't know much about the 1967 Detroit riots, nor the shocking and heart-breaking Algiers Motel incident that took place during it, before watching this film.  But I do now thanks to the incredible talent of director Kathryn Bigelow.  Harrowing and essential viewing for anyone who thinks the police are just great and that black people complain too much about discrimination and police violence.

11. I, Tonya:  Hilarious and completely entertaining.  Margot Robbie superbly captures the essence of Tonya Harding's humanity, in all its tragedy and ridiculousness.  Allison Janney as her mother is an unforgettable villain.  The rest of the cast is awesome, as are all other elements in Craig Gillespie's film. 

12. Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool: I read that many people were moved to tears during Call Me By Your Name or Lady Bird, but I wasn't.  But I did cry toward the end of this lovely film, which tells the tale of aging Hollywood starlet Gloria Grahame's affair with a much younger man, upon whom she depended during the final months of her life.  Annette Bening is perfect as Gloria Grahame, as is the supremely sexy Jamie Bell as Peter Turner, her lover. 

13.  The Big Sick:  I didn't think that star Kumail Nanjiani was sexy before seeing this movie, but I definitely do now.  Funny that.  Fabulous all around. 

14.  Wonder Woman:  Director Patty Jenkins (who helmed Monster back in 2003 with Charlize Theron) outdoes herself with this perfect telling of the famous heroine's story.  I'd always lamented the fact that Hollywood had not yet put Wonder Woman on the screen, but considering how great this film is, the wait was worth it.

Honorable mentions: 

Battle of the Sexes
God's Own Country 
Spider-Man: Homecoming  
Land of Mine 
Mudbound
I Am Not Your Negro 
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
All the Money in the World  
The Lost City of Z
Victoria and Abdul
A Bad Moms Christmas 
Blade Runner 2049
Stronger

Strangest, completely fucked, but a masterpiece: 

mother!: Darren Aronofsky's most daring work can only be viewed and understood as an extended, tragic and violent metaphor.  It's a tough watch and definitely not for everyone.  But I've never seen anything else like this movie and remain glad I got through it.  

Disappointing:

Darkest Hour:  Gary Oldman gives a great performance as Winston Churchill.  But director Joe Wright has no idea how to make historical dramas gripping.  Instead, he spends his time using odd lighting and showing his hero "huffing and puffing" and marching quickly down dark hallways.  In calling it Darkest Hour, they mean that literally.  This is the most poorly lit film I saw this year.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri:  I thought Frances McDormand, unlike in previous roles, was a little one note here.  There were many great characters here with stories playing out especially with Sam Rockwell, whose character was thoroughly repulsive.  Overall as a film: not horrible, but I just didn't like it that much including the (spoiler alert) non-ending.  

Beach Rats: Where was all the much-hyped male nudity?  And haven't I seen this closeted teen story done this way dozens of times before?

It:  Unsettling and not in a good way.  Watching kids fend off child molesters and killer clowns for two hours is not my idea of entertainment. 

The Dark Tower:  Way too short and rushed.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets:  Lots of visual eye candy but little depth.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle:  Ugh, nowhere near as enjoyable as Part One.

The Great Wall:  Look, it's white guys saving the day in People of Colour land again.

Life:  Look, the black guy is the first one to die again.  Couldn't finish it.   How do you make a film with Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds together in tight quarters, and yet it still disappoints?

Worst film of 2017:

Geostorm:  Makes all other apocalypse films look like masterpieces.  So bad.

On my list to see as soon as possible, in order: 

Good Time

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Politics in Review, and a couple Predictions for 2018

As 2017 draws to a close, a few political observations:
  • 2017 saw the cancer that is Donald Trump assume the Oval Office and proceed to denigrate American democracy and government - from constantly promoting white supremacy to muddying all waters simply for the sake of causing trouble.  His own fragile, pathetic ego was his only priority.  The good news: because of his inherent unsuitability for office, Trump was barely able to get anything accomplished, except for the big tax cut bill passed in the Republican Congress.  If there's anything Republicans (and most conservatives) are good at it's cutting taxes for the rich and powerful, at the expense of the rest of us who pay for it with degraded public services and higher service and tuition fees.  
  • But perhaps in response to the grotesque Trump, we saw an important push back from the left this year with key victories that may portend more progressive wins in 2018 and beyond.  Pendulum swings to one extreme tend to eventually provoke similar swings in the opposite direction.  With Democratic wins this year in Virginia and, most importantly, in the special Senate election in Alabama where progressive hero Doug Jones bested bigot/accused rapist Roy Moore, it looks like the Democrats will do very well in 2018 mid-term elections. 
  • But should the Democrats stay the safe centrist course, or follow the Bernie Sanders route of authentic progressive politics?  Time will tell.  2017 did also provide some important insight into how well an unabashedly progressive agenda might play with voters: 
    • Voters in Great Britain upended the Conservative establishment by turning to far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in droves in last June's election.  Written off as politically dead before the campaign, Corbyn inspired a new generation of voters to turn out with his "For the Many, Not the Few" campaign that echoed sentiments promoted by Bernie Sanders in 2016.  As a result, Corbyn held Conservative Theresa May to a shaky minority government and stands well-positioned to topple the Tories next time. 
    • Voters here at home in British Columbia also turned to both the NDP and the Green Party to displace the long-entrenched conservative BC Liberal Party.  Despite a booming economy, voters decided last May that policies designed only to benefit the privileged needed to go in favour of helping the many, and the combined NDP-Green vote jumped from 48% in 2013 to 57% in 2017.   Now a NDP-Green alliance is governing British Columbia, with a fair vote on proportional representation set for 2018.  
    • Voters in France embraced flawed centrist Emmanuel Macron over the governing Socialists (who got trounced), and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon to beat back the horrid Marine Le Pen, whose racist politics mimicked those of Trump.  The final tally saw the centrist Macron beat out Le Pen 66% to 34%.   But Macron now has seen his popularity plummet and it remains unclear if he can maintain his centre-left coalition over the forces of the far right in that country. 
Those gains by Corbyn in the U.K. and the NDP and Greens in B.C. proved to me that authentic progressive agendas can win wide support from voters.  Federally in Canada, we continue to see the progressive left divided between a moderately progressive Liberal administration under Justin Trudeau, and the third-party NDP under the novice but promising Jagmeet Singh, forcing the question: what is the best way for progressives to beat conservatives?  As an authentic left-wing option under the NDP or Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders, or as a mushy/moderate/barely progressive option like under Justin Trudeau or Emmanuel Macron?  This question will continue to dominate my thoughts in 2018.   

Besides the above predictions of Democratic victories next November, I'll predict that the upcoming Ontario 2018 election will be closely fought between a superior incumbent, Kathleen Wynne, who's worn out her welcome with most Ontario voters, and her sub-par opponents Patrick Brown and Andrea Horwath.  Ontario voters will be largely uninspired by their choices.  I honestly can't decide who will win this.  Although my gut is telling me that, in the end, Brown will fall flat on his face due to his inherent mediocrity, opening up the election for a narrowly re-elected Wynne government.   To that end, Wynne has already embraced the policies and politics of the Sanders left, sensing that Ontario voters will want to swing as far away from the neo-con Trump right as possible.  In the end, Ontario voters might just decide to accept the devil they know (Wynne) rather than the ones they don't (Brown and Horwath.)  We shall see. 

Stay tuned soon for my annual Favourite Movies of the Year post....

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When good people like Nancy Leblanc step away from partisan politics, we all lose...

As long as we've recorded human history, we've known that politics is a nasty business, perhaps the nastiest. But also one of the most important - the pursuit of power will always be.

Plato wrote about a "philosopher king" as the ideal ruler. Such a person in practise has never existed, of course. Or if such a person actually did pursue political power, their idealism and principles would soon undermine those efforts. No doubt, history is filled with thousands of such decent people who considered politics but stepped back rather than compromise their integrity and ethics. The tragedy here is the absence of decent people relinquishes the realm of politics to the ruthless, nasty, amoral jerks who make up the vast majority of our politicians and those who work for them.

So there is nothing profoundly new about this post, except highlighting just the latest example of how the nastiness of politics has once again pushed aside a decent person. Nancy Leblanc is such a person. She may humbly disagree with being compared with a "philosopher queen," but for me, the comparison is apt as Nancy is exactly the kind of person our politics needs: someone who's in it for the right reasons, to help make people's lives better and to promote better public policy and governance.

Nancy is an accomplished Toronto lawyer who entered the political arena in 2014 as the Ontario Liberal candidate in Parkdale-High Park in west-end Toronto, then considered a thankless task taking on NDP veteran incumbent Cheri DiNovo.

Given only a handful of weeks to raise tens of thousands of dollars and her public profile, Nancy ran a great campaign and came within 600 votes of knocking off the well-entrenched incumbent. Had the party deemed to allow her to take the nomination sooner, as it did other non-incumbents in Toronto NDP ridings, Leblanc might've prevailed.

"I got involved in the political process because I sincerely want to make a difference in people's lives for the better. I am a lawyer and as such ethics and integrity are very important to me. So after coming so close to winning in 2014, I persevered and continued to work in good faith because I knew I could do a good job of representing this riding," said Leblanc in a statement this week. 

Since 2014, she's continued working in the grassroots, knocking on well over 20,000 doors in her riding, engaging with and advocating for local residents, working on riding specific policy ideas for the coming 2018 election.

She also used her considerable organizational skills to raise $50,000 for the local riding association, as well as raise over $50,000 for the Ontario Liberal Party separate and apart from riding resources.

She is the ultimate grassroots candidate with the kind of skills, local base and established profile you'd think the Ontario Liberal Party would want to take on the NDP again in 2018.

But sadly that doesn't seem to be the case and that's a shame. Another nominee with no public profile who doesn't even live in the riding, but close with the party backroom, seems poised to take the nomination instead.

Leblanc announced yesterday that she won't be continuing to pursue the Liberal nomination.

"I have come to believe that the path for me to continue to make a difference for the people here in Parkdale-High Park is not with the Ontario Liberal Party in 2018. This was a very difficult personal decision to make, especially after all the hard work over the past few years, but it is one that I have firmly made after much consideration around all of the circumstances involved," said Leblanc.

In life and in most professions, massive hard work, intelligence, integrity and years of grassroots campaigning will usually produce results.

But not in politics, sadly. Certainly not in Ontario provincial politics, it seems, these days. This is a major loss to the Ontario Liberal Party and to all Ontarians, frankly.

Despite this setback, Leblanc would still make an incredible politician and community leader and I hope she finds other ways to serve the public in the future. If she does take the plunge again, I will support her 100 percent.

Because if good, decent people like her step away from politics, we all lose.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Australia becomes 2nd country to pass same sex marriage by popular vote

Results of Aussie vote on equal marriage, courtesy ABC

Ireland was the first country in 2015 to pass equal marriage by national popular vote, by a margin of 62% to 38%. 

Today, Australia released its results in that country's postal survey of voters in which almost 80% of voters participated on the issue of legalizing same sex marriage in that country and the results are wonderful: 62% in favour, 38% opposed.  Observers expect the Aussie government to pass same sex marriage into law perhaps by the end of this year.  

I want to congratulate all Australians on this historic victory for equality! 

It's heartening that these national votes, at least in the western world, are starting to result in wins for human rights and equality.  Sadly other national votes outside the west in recent years, like in Slovenia, have been won by the bigots.

But referendum victories even in the west are a recent phenomenon.  Defeats in similar referendums at the state level in the United States used to be common.  It wasn't until 2012 that American voters started embracing equality by popular vote at the state level.    

Other victories for same sex marriage happened either in legislative bodies or in the courts, including in Canada where a court victory in 2003 legalized same sex marriage in Ontario, followed by passage of full marriage equality across the country in the House of Commons in 2005.  Full marriage equality was granted by the American Supreme Court in 2015 across that entire country.

Of course, we must not forget that homosexuality remains illegal in many parts of the world, so we must keep up the fight for equality the world over and not forget those LGBTQ people not fortunate enough to live in mostly progressive countries. 

As always, we can't forget that many other issues remain for LGBTQ people: Freedom from discrimination in human rights laws, protection against hate crimes, as well as a host of other economic equality issues which are even more relevant to all LGBTQ people than marriage laws.  On those fronts, much more progress, especially in over half of American states where LGBTQ people can still be fired from their jobs for being queer, is needed.