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 Callous Mitt Romney: The Full Secret Video of Romney’s Private Fundraiser

The Callous Mitt Romney: The Full Secret Video of Romney’s Private Fundraiser

On Monday afternoon, Mother Jones Magazine posted a short leaked video online that captured Mitt Romney at an exclusive fundraising event that offered a rare glimpse of his personal views. Speaking at a private fundraising reception earlier this year with millionaire donors in Boca Raton, Florida, Romney described almost half of Americans as “people who pay no income tax” and are “dependent upon government.”

Those voters, he said, would probably support President Obama because they believe they are “victims” who are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.” With its unvarnished language, the short video clip seems to undermine what Romney’s aides have tried to argue is an enduring attribute that would appeal to independent voters: a sense that Mr. Romney is, at base, an empathetic and caring man.

Now, Mother Jones has posted the full 49-minute secret video of Romney speaking at that May 17th fundraiser, captured raw and uncut. In addition to his denigrating comments about poor people, Romney’s remarks about a critical area of foreign policy set off another media firestorm, generating headlines around the world. Responding to a question about the “Palestinian problem,” Romney said peace in the Middle East is not possible and a Palestinian state is not feasible, telling his wealthy donors that Palestinians have “no interest whatsoever in establishing peace and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.”

Romney’s remarks, degrading nearly half of the electorate, sent the Romney campaign, which was already rocked by infighting, into panic mode. The new video confirms the impression of a callous Mitt Romney, who has little idea of how Americans actually live. Further, the additional comments in this full-length secret video solidify previous impressions that Romney can be quite a bully to those who are not a part of his small exclusive group.

The Full Mitt Romney Fundraiser Video-Part One (36:39)

The Full Mitt Romney Fundraiser Video-Part Two (31:04)

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Broadway Revival of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart Wins Three 2011 Tony Awards

The AIDS Memorial Candlelight Vigil, Washington DC, 1989

Broadway Revival of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart Wins Three 2011 Tony Awards

Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, which originally was performed at New York City’s Public Theater in 1985, won the 2011 Tony Award for revival of a play. The play is considered to be a literary landmark, contending with the AIDS crisis when few would speak of the disease afflicting gay men, including gays themselves. It remains the longest-running play ever staged at the Public Theater.

In addition, The Tony award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role went to Ellen Barkin, and the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play went to John Benjamin Hickey, both for their performances in The Normal Heart. Producer Daryl Roth accepted the award, but it was the playwright Larry Kramer, an outspoken gay activist for many years, who received the biggest welcome from the audience. The writer exhorted the gay community to “carry on the fight,” adding that “our day will come.”

The stunning, pulse-pounding ensemble drama tells the groundbreaking story of love, rage and pride as it follows a group of New Yorkers confronting the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. The story of a city in denial, The Normal Heart unfolds like a real-life political thriller, as a tight-knit group of friends refuses to let doctors, politicians and the press bury the truth of an unspoken epidemic behind a wall of silence. A quarter-century after it was written, this unflinching, and totally unforgettable look at the sexual politics of New York City during the AIDS crisis remains one of the theater’s most powerful evenings ever.

Tony Awards Acceptance Speech: The Normal Heart

Broadway’s Revival of The Normal Heart and The AIDS Crisis

Highlights From Broadway’s The Normal Heart

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President Obama Signs the Landmark Health Reform Bill into Law

President Obama Signs the Landmark Health Reform Bill into Law

Congress gave final approval on Sunday night to historic health reform legislation that will provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and remake the nation’s health care system along the lines initially proposed by President Obama.  When the decisive 216th vote went up on the electronic tally board in the House chamber, Democrats erupted in cheers and reprised the “Yes, we can!” chant from the Obama presidential campaign.

On Tuesday, President Obama signed into law a landmark health care reform bill, presiding over the biggest shift in U.S. domestic policy since the 1960s and capping a year of vigorous debate.  The law will bring near-universal coverage to a wealthy country in which tens of millions of people have been left uninsured.

We have now just enshrined the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health,” Obama said at a signing ceremony at the White House.  President Obama was joined by House and Senate legislators who backed the bill, as well as by ordinary Americans whose health care struggles have touched the president.

President Obama On Passage of the Health Reform Legislation

President Obama Signs Health Reform Into Law

Slide Show: President Obama Signs the Landmark Health Reform Bill into Law

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Yes We Can! President Obama’s Landmark Health Reform Bill Approved!

Yes We Can! President Obama’s Landmark Health Reform Bill Approved!

Congress gave final approval on Sunday night to historic health reform legislation that will provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and remake the nation’s health care system along the lines initially proposed by President Obama.  When the decisive 216th vote went up on the electronic tally board in the House chamber, Democrats erupted in cheers and reprised the “Yes, we can!” chant from the Obama presidential campaign.

Music Video by will.i.am: Yes We Can!

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Things Could Be Worse? Health Care’s Big Lies in Three Morbidly Nasty Minutes!

Things Could Be Worse? Health Care’s Big Lies in Three Morbidly Nasty Minutes!

Can you imagine what if you get sick nowadays, how things could be any worse? No health insurance? “Sorry Bozo,” sneers the clerk at the Emergency Room desk. “Take a Number.” Oh crap, I gots like number 7,426. Oh no, I’m a bloody, bloody mess….and I gots number 7,426. What number are they calling now? Number Three. But even worser things, OMFG unthinkable horrors can happen when you can’t afford Health Insurance. Arms fall off. And ever worser things wither away and drop off a body’s body. It’s just horrible. Yep.

Health Care’s Big Lies in Three Morbidly Nasty Minutes

Animation by: Dale Goodson

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World AIDS Day 2008: To Respect and Protect

World AIDS Day 2008: To Respect and Protect

Today, December 1st, is the 20th Annual World AIDS Day, a day when individuals and organizations from all around the world come together to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic. According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 39.5 million people living with HIV, including 2.3 million children. Around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 years-old, and they are killed by AIDS before they are 35. Around 95% of the people with HIV/AIDS live in developing nations.

However, HIV today is a threat to men, women and children on all continents around the world. Started in 1988, World AIDS Day is not just about raising money, but is also about increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done.

D. Patrick Zimmerman, Psy. D.
(Disembedded)

Bruce Springsteen: The Streets of Philadelphia

Many words may make it sound contrived
But somehow we’re alive
The survivors-Our heads bowed
The survivors-At memorials for other faces in the crowd

Teachers and artists
And Saturday girls
Or twinsets-and-pearls

If life is worth living,
It’s got to be run
As a means of giving,
Not as a race to be won
Many roads will run through many lives
But somehow we’ll arrive
.”

The Pet Shop Boys, Miracles

Red on World AIDS Day

Music Audio: You Raise Me Up:

World AIDS Day 2008: To Respect and Protect

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