“The Normal Heart” is shattered by Bomer and all-star cast

The Normal Heart - Matt BomerHome Box Office (HBO) premiered Plan B Entertainment’s film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s 1985 off-Broadway play titled The Normal Heart.  Set against the backdrop of the early to mid 1980s, The Normal Heart is a haunting and heartbreaking story about a generation of gay men (later women) and the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the United States.  Anchored by Matt Bomer’s incredibly moving performance as “Felix Turner,” The Normal Heart is one of the most profound, poignant, and important movies and love stories of the last decade.

In 1981, an unidentified disease begins to ravage New York City’s gay community.  When his friends begin dying, Jewish-American writer Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo), becomes an outspoken activist who helps establish a support group for people either infected with or effected by “gay cancer.”  Weeks, alongside his conflicted friend Bruce Niles (Taylor Kitsch) and Dr. Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts), a female physician and wheelchair-bound survivor of polio, works tirelessly, to both understand the new disease and to bring its existence to the forefront of the American political discussion.  During this time, Weeks meets and falls in love with closeted New York Times reporter Felix Turner (Matt Bomer), beginning an overwhelming love story.

Felix Turner (Matt Bomer) in The Normal Heart.

Felix Turner (Matt Bomer) in The Normal Heart.

As “Felix Turner,” Bomer delivers an exceptional performance that I predict will survive as his most timeless and inspiring.  It’s a side far removed from his dapper USA network series White Collar or his Ken-doll portrayal in Magic Mike.  The trailer and publicity images show you Felix’s transformation, but Bomer’s abilities and physical transformation (he lost nearly 40 pounds for the role) leave you with a haunting sorrow upon full emotional impact.  His intonation is incredible and the eye contact in one scene with Ned’s brother, Ben Weeks (Alfred Molina) is heartbreaking yet empowering. Empowering in the sense that through it all, his passion for life has survived.

Read Matt Bomer’s “The Normal Heart” Interview with The Daily Beast

I’m proud to say I live in a time when stories like this are able to be told – and to be told well.  Adapted for the screen by original author Larry Kramer, and directed by Ryan Murphy (GLEE, American Horror Story), The Normal Heart moves viewers through the motions of free, unadulterated 1980s gay life, love, fear and heartache.  The characters and story feel authentic, and this documentation of these people’s (fictional) existence makes you question the choices our country, and its leaders, made when the AIDS epidemic began.  Murphy’s hand rightfully paints a picture of a world where the US Government’s refusal to fund AIDS research, or to even acknowledge the disease’s existence, led to countless deaths and unnecessary transmissions.

In Murphy and Kramer’s world, each of the characters have an emotional climax as the result of their frustrations with this disease and the government’s silence.  To name a few, Ben Weeks is vociferous about the city and country’s silence, Emma Brookner is infuriated about the lack of research, understanding and funding, and notably, Tommy Boatwright (Jim Parsons) is saddened because of the all the potential that never will materialize because an entire generation is dying (Parsons delivers an affecting monologue).

Did you see The Normal Heart? Rate it at IMDb

The Normal Heart will leave you with tears in your eyes – it will haunt you - and it will leave you questioning how the world we live in could be so cold.  There are several scenes and lines of dialogue that will pierce your heart and your soul – the injustice, the reaction, the silence – it’s overwhelming and frustrating.  The imagery is heartbreaking – then again, this movie is designed to and does rattle your core – to create a legacy for those we lost to this epidemic (and worldwide pandemic).  It leaves you with a lingering, unstated question of “will you be silent - or will you speak out?”

Then again, the tagline “to win a war, you have to start one,” is a call to action – so the lingering question isn’t really unstated after all.  In the 1980s, the original play was timely and culturally significant – today, the movie is equally as relevant, as we struggle to define love as a nation.  The imagery here will ignite a fire in some who will become agents, or voices rather, for change, beginning with this cast and crew.  I could tell that this project meant a lot to those involved, it resonates well beyond its medium – and when that happens, then we are able to experience the true power of movies.

Grade:  A+

This post has been updated.  A previous version of this post stated that Matt Bomer was in USA’s “Suits.”  The correction to “White Collar” has been made.  Thanks @idebrat on twitter for the tip.

 

Michael Sam: The Draft & “The Kiss”

Michael Sam Draft Kiss

NOTE:  I would like to first begin by saying that I believe the clip of Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend after being drafted into the NFL runs too long. I believe the media’s extended take and subsequent, unedited airing created an artificial feeling that some have construed as a “gay agenda” publicity stunt.

Michael Sam was drafted into the NFL by the St. Louis Rams.  By current media standards, this news is ancient history, but the discussion Michael Sam and his boyfriend created upon receiving “the call” is still being heavily discussed across all forms of media. Did he cry too much, smile too little or not display enough enthusiasm?  Nope.  He shared a kiss with his boyfriend, oops.

Michael SamIn early February, I wrote about the world Michael Sam would have to face – I said he’d pay a price for “coming out” and positioning himself to become the NFL’s first openly gay athlete.  I was right – as I predicted, Sam has an uphill battle ahead of him.  He has his detractors, and he always will, no matter how good he is on the field.  They’ll make hateful and hurtful comments about his sexual orientation first – and those comments will disregard Sam’s personhood entirely.  Blind hatred will be unfounded – but it will become part of the asterisk by Michael Sam’s name.

This week alone, Sam has come under fire for “the kiss.” Some have it found “disturbing,” others have said “It’s [homosexuality] being pushed in faces.” Michael Sam’s celebratory moment garnered anti-gay sentiments on social media from various people, including other NFL players, who’ve subsequently been fined and ordered to sensitivity training. Various religious followers, politicians and ordinary conservatives think their First Amendment rights are in jeopardy, under attack by the “gay agenda” – one even mocks “Am I allowed to comment on issues that pertain to homosexuality if I don’t echo the views of our masters?” – and others, in a defeatist fit, walk off set declaring “I’m done.”

Michael Sam has been the subject of as much negativity as praise this week – described using various adjectives first, he’s been mocked, and his supporters have been labeled hypocrites.  Really, some of the things said about Michael Sam could be categorized in our digital era as “cyber bullying.” Then again, cyber bullying has juvenile implications, right? Right. Adults have thrown around derogatory terms (ex. faggot) and have used their children as shields (“my children shouldn’t have to watch”) as they rush to cower behind the First Amendment. Some (a former soldier) have gone as far as to say (paraphrasing) “I defended this country, I can say what I want – and you’re free to think I’m wrong because I served to give you that right.”

Flawed logic, like that of the former soldier’s (after all, he fought to defend some rights, not all?), is the basis for much of the Sam critique.  People claim it’s their right to publicly denounce and dehumanize Michael Sam.  It’s their right to condemn his lifestyle and to make comments that could damage his soul, or have an emotional impact on those close to him (his partner or mother).  Then, when Sam supporters come to his defense, cries of “hypocrisy” sound like alarms.  When fines are levied, suspensions are dealt and sensitivity is suggested/required, then it becomes “What has happened to America? Where is my freedom?”

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What has happened to America, a place founded on freedom? This is a place where blacks were persecuted and enslaved for the color of their skin, a place where women once didn’t have a voice – and were thought of as property.  Now, it’s a place where people like Michael Sam aren’t welcome?  It’s a place where people vehemently defend their “rights” while seeking to strip people of or to keep others from their own?  Case and point, some conservatives cry “hypocrisy” when their hatred is censored, they clutch their constitution in one hand, their Bible in the other, and claim they’re under attack – yet, where’s that defense of freedom for the woman who can’t marry her lifelong partner, for the loving men who are restricted from co-parenting an adopted child, or for the football player who kisses his boyfriend?  Why aren’t they equally as free?

It’s a pot and kettle story that rears its ugly head time and time again.  “My rights – and religion – are under attack because I don’t support the ‘gay agenda’.” People who say things like this, are also people that vote against marriage equality, that don’t support homosexual co-parenting, yet they’re against abortion, contraceptives, and sex education.  They don’t want the “gay agenda” in their face, yet they pull various quotes from The Bible out of context, apply contemporary thought, and push those beliefs into the faces of others.  These people promote messages of why alternative lifestyles are wrong – why LGBT people are damned to (and will burn in) hell – why they’re an abomination.  All the while, their message is this:  LGBT people are less than us – they don’t deserve the same rights.

This hatred is thought to be automatically free, but again, here’s another instance flawed logic.  Not all speech is free. Hate Speech is not protected speech.  Defined as “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or other traits” that leads to imminent hate violence is criminal.  Hate speech prosecution is a hard sell, and so it’s loosely enforced, but this simply means there’s a fine line between protected and not.   There could come a perfect storm – a series or public record of hateful comments, a tragedy born of hate, an ambitious prosecutor with just enough evidence (tweets maybe?), and a sympathetic jury – and the First Amendment no longer offers protection, because what’s materialized is now a hate crime.

What is said teeters atop a slippery slope just waiting for the fall.  Not to mention, what is stated publicly may be in direct conflict with a company or organization’s belief or mission – and could result in disciplinary action (ex. fines, sensitivity training).  Then again, once disciplinary action happens, cries of “hypocrisy” and “freedom of speech” will resume and could accompany a lawsuit.

Is that world we live in?  Is that America?  Perhaps we’d all do well to remember the Thumperian Principle, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

When cameras cut to Michael Sam during the draft, and saw him standing there with his boyfriend, couldn’t any person with a brain deduce that a kiss between the two was a possibility? For those that “don’t want their children seeing that,” couldn’t you change the channel?  Or was it the idea of having an explanatory conversation with your child that was frightening?  For those of you that were “disturbed,” are you equally as disturbed by any number of heterosexual kisses you may have seen during the previous drafts or Super Bowl victories? For those who were “offended,” how do you think Michael Sam feels when you qualify and categorize him as “the gay football player” or refer to him using derogatory terms like “faggot?”

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So some are offended, and their rights are under attack.  Well, what about Michael Sam and his rights? To those of you who’ve made hateful remarks about Michael Sam (or even other member of the LGBT community) – to those of you who speak out in protest of “the gay agenda,” I say this: Your messages of hatred, while you are entitled to them, are not acceptable. You’re learning that your archaic, hateful views and comments are increasingly becoming unwelcome.  It’s not okay to categorize a person because of their sexual orientation, but most importantly, it’s entirely unacceptable to to dehumanize a person because of a minor difference.  It is not okay. People are people first. None of the rest really matters, does it? As our President, Barack Obama, once said, “It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or who you love…”

Tweet about Michael Sam - ObamasThe times are changing for the better.  The future is coming – and some of us are working to create a more accepting, unified future for generations to come.  There will be a day when a man kisses a man without people looking on with disdain, when homosexual co-parenting is a norm, and when all people are free to be who they were born to be and can love whoever they love. That future is a picture of a world where people are equal.  As Obama said, “I believe we can seize that future.”

It’s time to let the future rise and to leave the archaic, unfounded views where they belong – in the past.

 

Happy Mother’s Day! I present: “The Life of Flowers”

If you’re like me, you go to Hallmark and various other places looking for that one Mother’s Day card that represents your mom.  Then, you go in search of the perfect complimentary gift, whether that be a bouquet of flowers, a trinket for her garden, or something else.  Either way, the woman you’re honoring today is your mother – so the gift and the sentiment have to be just right.  Then again, if you’re like me, sometimes it just never comes together – and you’re left scratching your head…

…but if you’re like me, you’re artistic and recognize the possibilities of imagination. That’s how I now present to you:  The Life of Flowers.

Dedicated to my Mom (and all the moms in my family)! Love you Mom!

The Life of Flowers

by Bobby James, (c) 2014

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#BodyBobby Update: Becoming the “Cardio King”

Body BobbyIt’s been way too long since the last BodyBobby update! I’ve got some news!

Following my semi-successful “Olympic Challenge,” I decided it was time to make some major dietary adjustments (I’ve started counting calories again, using the My Fitness Pal app) and to start taking off the weight.  I’m focused and determined.  I won’t be content simply returning to the 2012 version of myself, I’m going to push through and finally become “the ideal” version of myself!

I quit the old gym and signed with Club Fitness on March 26.  That Wednesday morning, I weighed in at 230 pounds (if you recall, I finished my “Olympic Challenge” at 226 pounds on February 24 – so, I gained 4 pounds in that month!). Naturally, this made me unhappy and I decided – enough is enough.  It was time to put my faith in myself and trust in the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years.

I’ll keep this brief:  Since March 26, I’ve lost a total of 15 pounds! My current weight (as of May 7) is 215! Cardio and calorie counting have never felt so good.  I tell myself frequently “I’m worth it,” put on some slutty pop music, and look to the other bodies around me in the gym for inspiration.  Go time is here.  Both my journey and transformation are underway! See you all at the finish line!

Oh yes! I forgot to mention, in the last 6 weeks, I’ve done 1,365 minutes of cardiovascular exercise! That’s 22.75 hours! I shall call myself the “Cardio King” and “Slayer of Calories!”  …and my weight-loss average is 2.5 pounds/week (even with a mini-vacation full of bad eating mixed in!).