A week ago I saw the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, at an IMAX theater with a group of friends and a crowd of adoring fans. There were laughs, whoops, hollers and applause. It was a great experience, including the post-film discussion at BW3. That night, I gave the film a 9 out of 10. A few days later, I went back for a second viewing, and now give it a 7.5 I still quite like it, but the lowering of the rating was deserved. It's a good movie, but not without faults.
Allow me to explain (spoilers ahead).
I don't often make a worst movies of the year list, but this year has provided some real stinkers. Disappointments on many levels.
So, without further adieu, here are the ten movies (in alphabetical order) that would be best avoided from 2016....
"Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine."-Leonard Cohen
Do you ever miss someone?
That's probably a fairly silly question, as most of us -- at some point or another -- tend to miss people we know. Sometimes the separation between us is death, or distance, or simply time. With death, we know we will never see the person again (unless you choose to believe in an afterlife and a sort of spiritual reunion). With distance, there can be the occasional get-together, but it is rarely satisfying on a permanent level. Separations by time (waiting for the work-day to pass) are much easier to bear.
Of course, there is another reason to miss someone, to have their absence stand out in a peculiar fashion. That reason is the rift. This one hurts perhaps only less than death as a reason, though maybe even a bit more. There's something pervasively sad about a human relationship halted in its tracks due to emotional dysfunctio…
Well, 2016 is almost over, and the number of movies left to see this year are dwindling. Here, then is my current Top 10 list of my favorite films of the year (so far):
1. Swiss Army Man
3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
4. Hello, My Name is Doris
5. Hell or High Water
6. Sing Street
7. Eye in the Sky
10. 10 Cloverfield Lane
As for what I'm most looking forward to seeing from the rest of 2016: La La Land, Loving, Passengers and Rogue One!
It is my contention that trust is overrated. We as a society seem to put a lot of faith in the concept of trust, whether it be in our business dealings, interpersonal relationships, or political leaders. I'm not saying that it is meaningless, or useless, just that we tend to rely too heavily on it. Trust, in and of itself, is not necessarily a good thing.
Allow me to explain.
It happened again. Wednesday night I ventured out to a new downtown eatery and came away nonplussed. It's an Indian restaurant, Kohinoor, which only opened last month. To be clear: my lack of enthusiasm is not in any way related to the restaurant, itself. The staff were nice, the service was good, the setting was clean and cozy. No, the culprit is, again, my fussy sense of taste.
Pretty much all my life, I've been a picky eater. Not sure why. Over the years it has become something of an annoyance. How I would love to enjoy a broader range of foods. Alas, the taste buds do not comply. At one point, I chastised my mother, certain in the belief that she had somehow never brought me up with the proper potpourri of dining experiences. She quickly noted that, from a very early age, I'd spit out the vegetable-flavored baby food.
The pickiness, it runs deep.
"What's wrong with Rock Hudson? He looks ill." Those words were uttered, more than once, by my parents and maternal grandmother (who was visiting us at the time) in our living room one night as we sat around the TV watching Rock Hudson and Linda Evans on Dynasty. "There's something wrong with him," they continued. It was the mid-1980s, and I'd never heard of Rock Hudson, let alone HIV or AIDS. All of that was about to change.
Today, on World AIDS Day, I remember that night from over thirty years ago very clearly, along with the news, not long after, that Hudson was suffering from something called Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It was something not often spoken of publicly. Our own president didn't even utter the terms "AIDS" until 1987, some two years after it had killed his friend Hudson. This would be the old Hollywood friend whom the Reagans ignored when he came to them for help. Rock Hudson's death shone a spotlight on the diseas…
We've just celebrated Thanksgiving, and are on our way to Hanukkah and Christmas, so I thought it would be a good time to bring the holiday spirit together with one of my favorite things -- movies! We all (well, most of us, anyway) enjoy a nice holiday film. They're typically heartwarming reminders of what it means to value friends and family, though of course some of them do so with a twinkle in their eye.
Here, then, are my Top 10 favorite holiday movies:
WARNING: spoilers for the movie Moonlight are to follow.
Last night I had the pleasure of seeing one of 2016's best films. Moonlight tells the story, over three chapters, of Chiron. We see him first as a young black kid who is befriended by Juan, the drug dealer with a heart of gold who also, sadly, happens to be where Chiron's mother gets her crack from. Little Chiron is often bullied by his peers, and is generally an unhappy soul. Part two focuses on Chiron as a teenager, his mother still addicted to crack, the bullies still after him, but this time he is befriended by Kevin, who shows him attention and with whom he shares an intimate moment.
By far the most powerful and moving portion of Moonlight is its third chapter, where we encounter Chiron as a young man. Now wearing a set of gold teeth coverings and following in Juan's footsteps as a gun-toting drug dealer, Chiron receives a call from Kevin, who is now living out of town and working as a cook in a diner. It's…
Yesterday I went to opening night for Krannert Art Museum. It was a nice enough affair, with a good turnout of people, catered food, a lively band playing, and lots of newer art work on display. While all of that was quite nice, I prefer the older items in the collection. Some of the Egyptian pieces in the basement were 3,000 - 4,000 years old. The paintings in the curved gallery at the north end of the museum were marvelous.
Looking at paintings from hundreds of years ago, featuring people (adults, men, women and children), going about their daily lives, was quite emotional for me. Some of the works were fairly straightforward: a nobleman posing for a rather boring rendering of himself. Others, like the one set in a darkened room from the 1600s, of a woman paying her servant while holding her baby, really stood out as the closest thing they had to a camera at that time.
We're a few days past the November 8th, 2016 presidential election, and I thought I'd offer some ruminations on what happened, how people have reacted, and where we go from here. Take what follows for what you will. You can agree or disagree. That's part of what makes America great.
Donald J. Trump is President-Elect of the United States. Last month, I laid-out how this might happen. He is not who I voted for, and I do not like the man, but the fact remains he will be our president for the next four years. I do not wish him any ill, because it would be hypocritical to preach love & peace out of one side of my mouth, then wish disaster upon someone out of the other side.
Many people -- myself included -- are nervous (to put it mildly) about what a Trump presidency will mean for us. He has, on several occasions, denounced equal rights for gay people. His running-mate has done much in the state where he governs to make LGBT folks feel like second-class citizens. Trump ha…
I took today off from work, had breakfast with my mom, visited with some local school board members as they stood in the rain with 'Vote Yes' signs for their referendum, and will soon be headed to the university campus as a poll-watcher. It's Election Day across these United States of America, and I couldn't be more proud of my fellow Americans who've made the decision to go out and vote.
For better or worse, I've decided to live-blog today's election, up to and including the results. The majority of the focus will be on the presidential race, but I'll also post some stuff about the local (Champaign County) elections. So, if you're up for it, feel free to follow-along with me throughout the day as I periodically update this post with news, information and observations.
I'm a St. Louis Cardinals fan. For many who know me, this is not a surprise. Of course, I'm not really into sports all that much. Watching paint dry would be preferable to watching a football game. But I root for the Fighting Illini, the St. Louis Blues, and the St. Louis Cardinals. As of right now, you can -- temporarily -- add the Chicago Cubs to that small list.
First, my familial roots in the St. Louis Cardinals. My mom and uncles have long been fans of the Cards. It seemed only natural to follow suit. Mom will tell me how, as a kid, she'd lay in bed with the radio next to her, listening to Cardinals games. Or how, in 1963, still a teenager, she traveled down to the old Sportsman's Park to watch Stan Musial play his final game. Besides, St. Louis is an overall awesome city. How could you not like a team from there?
Then there are memories, of when I was growing up in the 1980s, of mom watching classic Cardinals players like Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee playing the…
My father has had three funerals. The third (though perhaps not final) one, was last night.
In reality, Lewis died in 1997. Cancer. Aged 52. He had a real funeral. I was there. The next two funerals occurred only in my dreams, yet they seemed real at the time, and their impact during the waking hours was keenly felt.
You see, during the intervening nineteen years, Lewis has come back to life in my dreams, many times. It is more than simply having a dream about him. During these nighttime images, it is noted that Lewis shouldn't be there, that he died of cancer and is resting six feet under. How, then, could he be alive and, seemingly, healthy?
Regular readers of this blog will know my predilection for making lists. Often about movies, this time it's about television shows. This is prompted by, originally, a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine wherein they presented what was, to their minds, the top 100 tv shows ever. My online friend Terence Towles Canote sought to provide a better list on his blog. He succeeded, however, as many of you know, the only way to see the complete truth is to have Matty-Matt present it to you.
Without further adieu, here then is a definitive list (not ranked, however, but in alphabetical order) of the 100 greatest television programs of all-time....
Before I get started on the ruminations of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, I'll begin by saying I really have no clue as to who our next president will be. I've always fretted over the outcome of elections, regardless of the polls, and this year is no different. Especially this year. A good case can be made as to why Hillary Clinton will become our 45th president. All one has to do is look at the polls. Clinton has a comfortable lead in many states, enough to make one think that she will win handily on November 8th.
Of course, polls can be wrong. 538 gives Clinton's changes of winning in the low-mid 80 percent range. Several polls would seem to agree. Many Republicans are jumping ship from Trump. The race looks over. But of course, humanity isn't as easily predictable as polling would have us believe. Things happen. People can surprise us. And, for better or worse, I think that Donald Trump may very well become our next president.
Over the weekend I attended an event titled Women Making Waves. It is an annual breakfast/conference/meet & greet, arranged by IL State Representative Carol Ammons, and shines a spotlight on elected women at the state and local level. Along with the all-female panel discussion, there were also tables featuring women entrepreneurs selling their wares. This was the second annual event and, as with last year, I found it inspiring.
One of the questions posed to the panel was along the lines of who initially inspired them. Of course, most of those on the panel answered with a nod to their mothers. The question made me stop and wonder, who had inspired me? I'm not a woman, obviously, but we all have someone who has, for whatever reason, inspired us or at the very least captured our imagination enough to help propel us to better ourselves. After some thought, the personal answer to the question crystallized with two answers: my mom and Joan Severns, Champaign's first female mayo…
Recently I came across an article that served as both an interview of late British actor John Inman, and a promotion of his then-new TV show Odd Man Out. Produced during a hiatus of Inman's hugely popular BBC program Are You Being Served?, this was a series that provided his first starring sitcom role, albeit it on the ITV network. Alas, it flopped, and was canceled after only seven episodes.
What is of note from the aforementioned article is how much it seems to focus on Inman's private life. It mentions the mews house he purchased in Little Venice (what he described as the first home he'd ever owned), and how he was still a "bachelor" at age 41. Inman died aged 71 in 2007. The article was from 1977. At the time of his death, the actor had been with his same-sex partner, Ron Lynch, for 35 years. I'll let you do the math.
Of course, hiding one's homosexuality is nothing new. Folks such as John Inman would have had to contend with a nosy media the best th…
The brief, one-day stay came about because of some stomach pains that wouldn't go away. I went to the ER, they ran some lab tests and a CT scan, and discovered diverticulitis. Some IV antibiotics (and potassium) while at the hospital, followed by oral antibiotics and pain meds have seen an improvement, though I am still not 100%. Overall, I've appreciated the situation, which may sound odd.
It is by no means a new, startling sentiment to note that our down times help us appreciate when things are good. Hills and valleys and all that. This episode of diverticulitis (my first and, hopefully, last) has been such an experience. As I lay on the utilitarian bed, under the harsh, sterile glow of the ER lights, a multitude of thoughts went through my mind: Is it cancer? Is this the beginning of the end? Have I done all I want to in this life?
Many of you know how much I like movies. They fill such an important space in my life. Of course, having seen over a thousand of them throughout the years, there were bound to be some that left me scratching my head. Of course, because I couldn't always follow a movie's plot doesn't necessarily mean it was a bad film. Sometimes, strange is good.
With that, following are my Top 10 Stranges Movies of All-Time....
I'm not sure when we stopped knowing (or caring) how to communicate with one another, but it has happened somewhere along the way. We've huddled into our own bubbles of comfort and, conversely, outrage. We do not seek the best way to understand, or to impart knowledge. Instead, we seek only to protest, vilify and win an argument. It doesn't have to be this way.
When Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the U.S. national anthem during a recent football game, there were folks coming out of the wood work to label him as unpatriotic. When he explained his reasons for not standing, the vilification continued. As with most things, this is a complex issue, not easily digested for quick and immediate opinions. Of course, many people don't have the patience for such things, so, instead of taking-in the thoughts and feelings that Kaepernick has expressed, many have simply decried him.
It has just been announced that out gay actor Matt Bomer has been cast in a transgender ro…
The 2016 Summer Olympics have certainly been interesting. From the insane speed of Usain Bolt, to the Olympic Village not being ready to house its athletes, to the Olympic diving pool suddenly turning green and, finally, to the false robbery allegations from Ryan Lochte, there has been plenty to raise an eyebrow about. Unfortunately, the British newspaper The Daily Mailfound a rather homophobic way to look askance. The incident in question involved two divers from Team Great Britain who'd just won a gold medal for synchronized diving. Chris Mears and Jack Laugher, clad only in speedos, had the temerity to hug each other after their win was announced.
Now look, I'm a gay man. I appreciate the male physique and, yes, seeing two fit, barely-clad Olympians jumping on each other hit a certain carnal nerve. But I am also an adult, and can put away such feelings with the understanding that, sometimes, when a team works hard, perseveres, and their dedication pays-off in an Olympic go…
I attended two weddings this summer. The first was in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (though Ashley & spent most of our time in nearby Pigeon Forge). The second wedding was in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The Tennessee event took place at a pavilion in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, while in Arkansas the reception was at the Crescent Hotel (which likes to bill itself as the World's Most Haunted Hotel). These were nice get-a-ways, and I have fond memories of the weekends.
What occurs to me about the aforementioned weekends is that some of their importance rests upon their timing, and who was there, not just in the destinations, themselves. I quite liked Eureka Springs, and wouldn't mind going back at some point, though it will undoubtedly be a different experience. Neither Ashley's dad (who visited us while we were there) nor anyone from the wedding party will be present. The space will be the same, but the time will not. That can make all the difference.
Regular readers of this blog will have seen UK divers Chris Mears and Jack Laugher grace these pages often. They're back again this week, with pictures of them right after they won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics earlier in the week!
Every week, sometimes more than once a week, billions of people go to their chosen places of worship and praise their creator. The god they believe in typically follows a fairly familiar template: He (or she) is omniscient, loving, wrathful, a whiz at creating -- and destroying -- things, and almost always eternal. It has been this way as long as human kind has had the ability to develop thought regarding where it came from and why it is here.
I have always struggled with understanding the aforementioned concept. At the very least, I have questions. Those questions have prohibited me from being a person of faith, though I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm a complete atheist. That would require the same level of assuredness that non-believers mock the religious for having. Still, until answers are forthcoming, I am agnostic, at best. And, for me, thinking about the questions is more fun, anyway.
It was October 1998, and some friends and I were on our way to Peoria to 'the boat' (aka gambling). The alpha friend was driving, I was riding shotgun, and we'd picked-up a couple of acquaintances in Bloomington-Normal, and were on our way. It was the early evening, and we were all looking forward to a night of fun and excitement. Unfortunately, we had a bit more excitement -- however brief -- than we'd bargained for.
There is an interchange to navigate, northwest of Bloomington, to head toward Peoria. While by no means a difficult interchange, if you're not paying attention it is possible to almost miss it. This occurred on our '98 adventure and, to compensate, our driver swerved over to the exit lane, crossing in front of two vehicles (including a semi), and I remember shutting my eyes because, if I was going to die like that, I didn't want to see it.
The new Star Trek movie opens this weekend and, before I see it, I thought it might be a good time to rank the previous twelve Trek films. You might ask why not wait until I've seen the new one? That's because there is, if we're being honest, a cool-off period needed after seeing a movie before being able to assess it as honestly and as objectively as possible. Regardless, you're about to read an indisputable list of truth regarding the first twelve Star Trek films.
Here we go!
The dreams all have a common theme, that of escapism. In them, I am unfettered by the intricacies and complexities of modern life. Responsibilities are, for the most part, cast aside. There is a sense of freedom, or at least of one of the elusive definitions of what freedom could be. Also, sometimes, a sense of chaos (which can provide its own freedom, of sorts). What works in the dreams wouldn't likely work very well in waking life, but they do provide a nice diversion from the every day world.
We're just a little over halfway through 2016, and I've seen 26 of the year's movies (so far). I thought that now would be a good time to rank those movies! Of course, this is just my opinion, one of many. But if you haven't seen some of the films in, say, the top ten, they try and watch them if/when you can.
Ok, here we go....
1. Hello, My Name is Doris
2. Sing Street
3. Eye in the Sky
5. The Conjuring 2
6. 10 Cloverfield Lane
7. Midnight Special
8. A Hologram for the King
9. Central Intelligence
10. The Shallows
11. Captain America: Civil War
12. The Nice Guys
13. Everybody Wants Some!!
14. Independence Day: Resurgence
15. The Jungle Book
16. Hail, Caesar!
17. Love & Friendship
18. The Witch
19. The Forest
20. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
21. The Legend of Tarzan
22. The Boy
23. Now You See Me 2
24. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
25. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
26. Knight of Cups
And there you have it.
The only films of 2016 that I haven…
The dreams came one night after the other. They were like a replay of a horrible situation, made worse by the altered reality so common to the dream state. It was a few years ago, some time after my friend Tracy had committed suicide in December 2004. A range of emotions occurred after his passing, from guilt, to sadness, to anger, back to sadness. Finally, an inevitable calm upon the psyche's realization that the event happened, Tracy was dead, and there was nothing that could be done about it.
The first night, in the dream, Tracy was a ghost. Or at least he had the stereotypical ghostly qualities: an almost transparent, soft-white luminescence that took his form. I found myself next to his house, over by the back door. I heard a soft whimpering, like the kind you hear in a horror movie before a spook suddenly bursts onto the scene. Sure, enough, here came Tracy, passing through the back door, down the steps and over to the garage. I called out to him, "Tracy, st…
Those who know me, or are long-time readers of this blog, know my high school story. Graduated in 1994, spent the last semester learning via home bound education because of the incessant bullying (some of it due to my sexuality), and I didn't attend the graduation ceremony because, frankly, I was done with it all, and did not feel comfortable going back to the school. That was a pretty low time in my life.
Later that year (December of '94 to be exact), I turned 19 and was legally able to go to bars in Champaign. The night of my nineteenth birthday I went to Chester Street Dance Club, a local gay night club, and ended up spending many weekends there over the next few years. While time spent at C-Street contained a fair amount of the drama and tumult one would expect when a bunch of gays and lesbians get together, it's fair to say that it served as a wondrous haven and safe space where one could just be comfortable within their own skin.
I cannot over-express the importance…
'These 35 Celebrities Support Donald Trump!' the headline read. Yes, it was click bait. Yes, I clicked on it. No, I didn't read the whole thing. Does it really matter which famous people support Trump for president? Probably not. A cursory perusal of the first few names on the list informed me that actor Charlie Sheen is (supposedly) on board the Trump train. This is about as shocking -- and meaningful -- as lefty actor/producer/director Rob Reiner supporting Hillary Clinton.
The fact of the matter is, most folks who identify as conservative/Republican will likely vote for the GOP nominee for president come November. Those who identify as liberal/Democrat will likely opt for the Democratic nominee. Some will sit it out. Others will vote third party. Between now and then, we can be sure that opinions will be espoused, arguments will be had and feelings will be hurt. So it goes.
This isn't to make light of the seriousness of politics. Make no mistake: politics is very, v…
Long time readers of this blog, as well as those who know me personally, are fully aware that I love music. Along with music, I'm also partial to the odd music video (whenever one comes along these days). They're a dying art form, but one that, if done well, can be just as exquisite as a painting. What better way to celebrate the music video than to present my 10 favorite ones?
Note: another list of truth is to follow. Here we go!
The people who unnerve me the most are those who are doggedly assured about everything. For better or worse, I am not like that. From the universe to faith, from gun control to politics, it is often shades of grey for this 40-year-old. If others have it all figured out, bully for them. But they scare me.
The older I get, the more I see things through a prism of uncertainty. In fact I am so uncertain, I've no idea whether this is a normal progression of aging human thought, or if it's an anomaly derived from some inner quirk or foible. I suspect it may be a bit of both.
When I was younger, I saw the world with a fair amount of assuredness. Things were black & white. X was good, Y was bad. I knew such things to be self-evident. Older people would sometimes shake their head, and I'd hear things like, "It's not that simple, Matt," or "Life is more complicated than that." I shook my head at them. They'd let the world beat them down into submissi…
Reading Matt Zoller Seitz's remembrance of his wife, Jennifer, on the tenth anniversary of her death, filled me with a sense of dread, sadness and anxiety. Despite having read Matt's reviews on RogerEbert.com for years and being aware of the books he's written about director Wes Anderson, this was an aspect of his life of which I was unaware. I felt sadness for his loss, even though it is now a decade old. The dread and anxiety crept-in because such a read will invariably make one reflect on their own life situation and think, 'Oh no, what if it happens to me?!'
Ashley & I will have been together sixteen years this June. First and foremost: if anything ever happened to him, I would be devastated. Of that, there is no doubt. It's not something I dwell on, though I do think about it perhaps more than I should. Every time he drives to work, or even goes off to the store on his own, I hope he comes back. I've known people whose spouses have died in car acc…
Be wary of people who like to say they don't care what anyone thinks about them, for those are often the people who care the most about others' opinions. There's nothing wrong with that. As human beings, we do not live in a vacuum, devoid of social interaction and all that comes with it. The need to impress and gain approval is fairly ingrained in us, and to deny it is silly at best, folly at worst. Thus we land on a topic that's been foremost on my mind this past week.
Another Ebertfest has come and gone and, with it, a reminder of the book that I never wrote, and likely never will. It was to be a collection of film reviews, and some of the work had already been done. For a few years during the early aughts, I wrote reviews on Amazon, many of them for movies I'd seen. Some of them needed a bit of polish, but for the most part, they were a good spring board for a nice collection. The plan was to edit those film reviews, and write perhaps twenty or thirty more, pri…