The Simple Grace of Dallas Buyers Club: Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto Win 2014 Oscars

The 2014 Academy Award Nominations

The Grace of Dallas Buyers Club: Facing Despair and Fear With Simple Humanity

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto star in Dallas Buyers Club, the story of real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. McConaughey and Leto’s portrayals in Dallas Buyers Club have been described as this year’s two most transformative and most honored performances. McConaughey won Best Actor at the 2014 Oscars and Leto was named Best Supporting Actor for their staggering performances in Dallas Buyers Club.  McConaughey’s desperation was palpable in the film, a life force that wouldn’t be denied, and Leto’s performance was as seductive and fragile as a butterfly kiss.

Leading up to their Oscar wins, both actors won at SAG, the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Movie Awards, not to mention an almost clean sweep for Leto among the many critics groups who give out these honors. The awards have come for their work in the “little-film-that-could,” in a movie that took 20 years to bring to the screen, that no one wanted to make, that was shot on a tight 24-day schedule for under $5 million and used only available light.

The movie, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, is a sober and unflinchingly brutal look at a man (actually, many men), coping with HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, although it’s not set in New York or San Francisco as we’ve come to expect from most movies about this disease. As the title indicates, we’re placed instead in Texas, dwelling in shabby corners of Dallas. While it’s an unexpected place to find a story like this, the film is based on an uplifting true one.

Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, a Texas electrician and rodeo rider. After receiving a diagnosis of H.I.V. in 1985, Woodroof found himself shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of any government-approved effective medicines.Woodroof took his treatment into his own hands and helped others with the disease obtain medication not legally available in the United States at that time. He found a way to begin importing drugs by means both legal and illegal from far-flung countries and began running a buyers club out of a cheap Dallas motel, with the unlikeliest crew of partners.

Bigoted in the way a rowdy Texan rowdy would have been in 1986, Ron nevertheless found his closest ally in Rayon, a willowy, honey-voiced trans woman played with warmth and grace by Jared Leto. Ron and Rayon have a bickering, eyes-rolling chemistry, which served them well as they carried out the important work that the medical institutions wouldn’t do. In its quiet, restrained manner, the movie becomes a truly heartwarming one. Dallas Buyers Club is a delicate, but largely unsentimental, movie about people doing good deeds. Their shared struggle for dignity and acceptance is a uniquely American story of the transformative power of resilience. In their courageous work confronting the nightmarish terrors presented by the early face of AIDS, Ron and Rayon did not go gently into that good night.

Read more about Dallas Buyers Club in The New York Times here.

Dallas Buyers Club (Official Trailer)

Dallas Buyers Club: Anatomy of a Transformation

The Envelope: McConaughey and Leto Discuss Making Dallas Buyers Club

The Grace of Dallas Buyers Club: Facing Despair and Fear With Simple Humanity

The 2014 Academy Award Nominations

The Grace of Dallas Buyers Club: Facing Despair and Fear With Simple Humanity

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto star in Dallas Buyers Club, the story of real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. McConaughey and Leto’s portrayals in Dallas Buyers Club have been described as this year’s two most transformative and most honored performances. Their performances are staggering. McConaughey’s desperation was palpable in the film, a life force that wouldn’t be denied, and Leto’s performance was as seductive and fragile as a butterfly kiss.

Leading up to their Oscar nominations, both actors won at SAG, the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Movie Awards, not to mention an almost clean sweep for Leto among the many critics groups who give out these honors. The awards have come for their work in the “little-film-that-could,” in a movie that took 20 years to bring to the screen, that no one wanted to make, that was shot on a tight 24-day schedule for under $5 million and used only available light.

The movie, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, is a sober and unflinchingly brutal look at a man (actually, many men), coping with HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, although it’s not set in New York or San Francisco as we’ve come to expect from most movies about this disease. As the title indicates, we’re placed instead in Texas, dwelling in shabby corners of Dallas. While it’s an unexpected place to find a story like this, the film is based on an uplifting true one.

Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, a Texas electrician and rodeo rider. After receiving a diagnosis of H.I.V. in 1985, Woodroof found himself shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of any government-approved effective medicines.Woodroof took his treatment into his own hands and helped others with the disease obtain medication not legally available in the United States at that time. He found a way to begin importing drugs by means both legal and illegal from far-flung countries and began running a buyers club out of a cheap Dallas motel, with the unlikeliest crew of partners.

Bigoted in the way a rowdy Texan rowdy would have been in 1986, Ron nevertheless found his closest ally in Rayon, a willowy, honey-voiced trans woman played with warmth and grace by Jared Leto. Ron and Rayon have a bickering, eyes-rolling chemistry, which served them well as they carried out the important work that the medical institutions wouldn’t do. In its quiet, restrained manner, the movie becomes a truly heartwarming one. Dallas Buyers Club is a delicate, but largely unsentimental, movie about people doing good deeds. Their shared struggle for dignity and acceptance is a uniquely American story of the transformative power of resilience. In their courageous work confronting the nightmarish terrors presented by the early face of AIDS, Ron and Rayon did not go gently into that good night.

Read more about Dallas Buyers Club in The New York Times here.

Dallas Buyers Club (Official Trailer)

Dallas Buyers Club: Anatomy of a Transformation

The Envelope: McConaughey and Leto Discuss Making Dallas Buyers Club

Grammys 2014: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Royals for a Night

Grammys 2014: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Royals for a Night

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the Seattle duo that has spent the last year upending the rules about how hip-hop interacts with mainstream pop, won four Grammys on Sunday night, for best new artist and in three rap categories: best performance and best song for Thrift Shop and best album for The Heist.

Of all the moments that have startled awards-show viewers over the years, none matches the mass marriage on Sunday night’s Grammys. No others made anything close to this bold a statement on an issue that has been engaging so much of the world in an emotional, political and theological debate. By including same-gender couples in this ceremony, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences declared that marriage is marriage, regardless of gender.

The night’s most cathartic moment was the group marriage: Queen Latifah married 33 straight and same-sex couples during a performance of Same Love by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, along with singers Mary Lambert and iconic pop-star Madonna.

A full list of winners at the 56th annual Grammy Awards can be found in The New York Times here.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, feat. Mary Lambert: “Same Love”

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Queen Latifah and Madonna: “Same Love”

Glee’s Very Extraordinar Holiday Spectacular!

The Glee Holiday Spectacular!

Imagine flipping through the television channels and you turned on Glee’s Extraordinary Merry Christmas, expecting a group of rambunctious teenagers covering a number of holiday pop songs, but instead you get a black-and-white homage to Judy Garland’s 1963 Christmas Special, complete with laugh tracks, a Luke Skywalker lookalike (including a lightsaber) and an Irish holiday elf!

Well, this Glee Christmas program was every bit as strange as it sounds, but maybe in today’s times it takes a show like this to spread holiday cheer and inspire the gift of giving.

The Glee Holiday Spectacular!

(Best Watched in Full-Screen Mode)

The Glee Cast: Do They Know It’s Christmas?

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Chicago’s 2013 Pride Parade: More Than 1 Million March for Marriage Equality

Chicago’s 2013 Pride Parade: More Than 1 Million March for Marriage Equality

Sunday’s Pride Parade on Chicago’s North Side, always a big festivity, fell at a time when the LGBT community is counting its victories in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage. On a perfect summer day, Chicago’s gay community celebrated the best way it knows: loudly, colorfully and with great flair. Thousands lined the streets of Uptown and Lakeview for the 44th annual Pride Parade, as it moved down Broadway and Halsted streets, a joyful revelry that took on new meaning in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act last week

In major victories for the human rights movement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday had ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits and, by declining to decide a case on Prop 8 from California, effectively allowed same-sex marriages there. By clearing the way for same-sex marriage in California, the nation’s most populous state, the court effectively increased to 13 the number of states that allow it.

Chicago’s 2013 Pride Parade: More Than 1 Million March for Marriage Equality

Chicago Pride Parade 2013

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: Same Love

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The 2013 Gay Pride: Supreme Court’s Historic Rulings Support Gay Marriage

The 2013 Gay Pride: Supreme Court’s Historic Rulings Support Gay Marriage

In major victories for the human rights movement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits and, by declining to decide a case on Prop 8 from California, effectively allowed same-sex marriages there. By clearing the way for same-sex marriage in California, the nation’s most populous state, the court effectively increased to 13 the number of states that allow it.

In the hushed courtroom Wednesday morning, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced the majority opinion that struck down the federal law in a stately tone indicating he was delivering a civil rights landmark. The vote in the case striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act was 5 to 4, and Justice Kennedy was joined by the four members of the court’s liberal wing. The ruling will immediately extend many benefits to couples married in the states that allow such unions, and it will allow the Obama administration to broaden other benefits through executive actions.

The case concerning California’s ban on same-sex marriage, enacted in a ballot initiative known as Proposition 8, was decided on technical grounds, with the majority saying that it was not properly before the court. Because officials in California had declined to appeal a trial court’s decision against them, and because the proponents of the ban were not entitled to step into the state’s shoes to appeal the decision, the court said, it was powerless to issue a decision. That left in place a trial court victory for two same-sex couples who had sought to marry.

Read more about the Supreme Court’s decisions in the New York Times here.

Read more about the Supreme Court’s Prop 8 decision in the Los Angeles Times here.

Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage Rights

Supreme Court Rulings Spur Celebrations Among Gay Marriage Supporters

Gay Pride Month: Celebrating Loving Feelings for Others

It’s the Dream Afraid of Waking,
That Never Takes a Chance
.”

Harvey Milk: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Before there was this year’s Academy Awards celebrated Milk, there was the widely acclaimed The Times of Harvey Milk, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film in 1984, and was awarded The Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, among other awards. The documentary chronicles the political career of Harvey Milk, who was San Francisco’s first openly gay elected Board Supervisor. The film, at times humorous, at times nostalgic, and at other times quite tragic, tells the story of Harvey Milk’s rise to political power and emergence as a symbol of gay political achievement.

The Times of Harvey Milk documents through assembled historic film clips the tumultuous story of Milk’s grass-roots political organizing and election, through the shocking murders and their repercussions. It takes the film’s viewers along with the eloquent candle-light memorial joined by tens of thousands of San Franciscans on the evening of the assassinations, to the scenes of angry crowds who stormed San Francisco’s City Hall in the aftermath of the lenient sentence that Dan White received at his murder trial.

This Academy Award-winning documentary feature film depicts not only Harvey Milk himself, but also the political and social milieu of the era in which he lived. From this perspective, the film continues to have significant relevance for our nation today, standing as a classic portrait of communities and cultural values in severe conflict. The film was produced subsequent to Harvey Milk’s death using archival footage, so that Milk is credited posthumously as the lead actor. Other politicians, including San Francisco’s then-mayor George Moscone (who was assassinated along with Milk) and Moscone’s successor and now United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, also appear in the archival footage. Also featured in the film is then-schoolteacher Tom Ammiano, who has been a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors since 1994, and was elected to the California State Assembly. The film’s outstanding narration is provided by the acclaimed stage and screen actor Harvey Fierstein, who at that time had just achieved great success with his own Tony Award-winning Broadway play Torch Song Trilogy.

The Times of Harvey Milk: The Full Version of the Documentary

Slide Show:The Life and Times of Harvey Milk

(Please Click on Image Above to View Slide Show)

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Those Crazy Coney Island Dayze: The Sexy Mermaid Parade Celebration

Those Crazy Coney Island Dayze: The Sexy Mermaid Parade Celebration

Today, Coney Island again burst forth with New Yorkers in outrageous mermaid and King Neptune costumes, a display of topless women in pasties and colorfully clad drag queens making their way down the boardwalk among a swarm of arts-and-crafts floats. The beautiful zaniness is all part of the annual Mermaid Parade, which for 30 years has celebrated the first weekend of summer.

This year, however, the parade faced its demise after its sponsor, Coney Island USA, had its headquarters damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Combined with rising insurance premiums, the costs of crowd control and Porta-Potties for several hundred thousand people, the parade needed an infusion of an additional $100,000, or it wouldn’t have lived to see its 31st edition.

The Mermaid Parade is an annual event that first took place at Coney Island in 1983 and has been a very popular attraction ever since. The Mermaid Parade draws a huge crowd of celebrators, who don wild and outrageous costumes, with the parade’s naughty marchers wearing sea-themed outfits that often leave little to the imagination.

This year, clad in costumes that combined seashells and glitter, scores of exuberant revelers gyrated through Coney Island on Saturday. An estimated half-million people lined the sunny streets to watch ogle Brooklyn’s version of Mardi Gras. The flamboyant marchers, many of whom wore their costumes on the subway out to Coney Island, much to the amusement of their fellow riders, walked on the boardwalk alongside colorful floats and danced to several live bands blaring out top 40 hits and old-time standards.

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

The 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Slide Show: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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