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

2013 in Review: A Landmark Year for Gay Rights

2013 in Review: A Landmark Year for Gay Rights

A Landmark Year for Gay Rights: Edie Windsor, Robbie Rogers, and Jason Collins helped make 2013 a historic year for gay rights.

2013 in Review: A Landmark Year for Gay Rights

World AIDS Day: A Compassionate Commemoration of Loss and Recommitment

World AIDS Day: A Compassionate Commemoration of Loss and Recommitment

I used to be afraid of dying,
I’m not afraid anymore,
I’m more afraid of what happens,
To the people who live.

Saturday, December 1st, is World AIDS Day 2012, an annual opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against the devastating AIDS pandemic.  It is a day for commemorating the 30 million people who have been lost to AIDS-related causes, to honor the 34 million people presently living with HIV and to recommit ourselves to creating a future without AIDS. From 2011 to 2015, World AIDS Day has the theme, “Getting to zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.”

Elton John: The Last Song (From “And The Band Played On”)

Photography by: Thomas Alleman

30 Years From Here: The HIV/AIDS Epidemic’s Impact On Generations

The HIV/AIDS epidemic gets a hard-hitting overview in 30 Years From Here, a poignant documentary that uses personal accounts from victims, activists and medical experts to show how the “nondiscriminatory” disease has shaped and affected their lives over the past three decades. ACT UP founder Larry Kramer and playwright Terrence McNally are just two of the high-profile voices featured in this documentary. In 2012, 30 Years From Here was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

30 Years From Here: The HIV/AIDS Epidemic’s Impact On Generations

And The Band Played On (1993)

Randy Shilts’ book And the Band Played On was the first critical study of the development of the AIDS epidemic. Insightful, detailed and passionately argued, the book generated tremendous interest as well as a number of controversies, particularly with sections of the text that appeared to be critical of some segments of the gay community. And the Band Played On (1993) is the award-winning docudrama based on Shilts’ book, which includes clips of actual news reports and documentary footage of a number of authentic events, such as a moving, candlelight memorial procession in San Francisco.

And The Band Played On (1993)

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Stop SOPA: Protect Your Online Rights!

Stop SOPA: Protect Your Online Rights!

PROTECT-IP is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate and the House, and is moving quickly through Congress. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) gives the government and corporations the ability to censor the internet, in the name of protecting “creativity.” The law would let the government or corporations censor entire sites; they just have to convince a judge that the site is “dedicated to copyright infringement.” The government has already wrongly shut down sites without any recourse to the site owner. Under this bill, sharing a video with anything copyrighted in it, or what sites like Youtube and Twitter do, would be considered illegal behavior according to this bill.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill would cost us $47 million tax dollars a year. That’s for a fix that won’t work, disrupts the internet, stifles innovation, shuts out diverse voices and censors the internet. This bill is bad for creativity and does not protect your rights.

PROTECT-IP/SOPA Breaks The Internet

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Abandoned: The Plight of American Family Farms

Abandoned: The Plight of American Family Farms

Abandoned is a haunting four-minute short film directed by David Altobelli, accompanied by Karen O’s cover of Willie Nelson’s Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys. Chipotle commissioned this short film as part of its campaign to raise awareness about the negative effects of industrialized farming.

The film follows three young boys as they enter and explore a dusty, vacant farmhouse in the quiet hours before dawn. Abandoned works because it feels like a music video, not a message film about the dire straits of family farms. Only at the very end of the film is Chipotle’s branding established, along with a pitch for Farm Aid.

Abandoned: The Plight of American Family Farms

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Sayonara: A Sad Farewell in an Era of Global Warming

Sayonara: A Sad Farewell in an Era of Global Warming

Sayonara is a beautiful four-minute animated short film by Canadian artist Eric Bates, a film he created while at Japan’s Kyoto University of Art and Design. The film is a mix of minimally rendered CG, detailed puppet model-making, and hand-drawn animation. Sayonara tells the story of two unlikely friends saying goodbye. A young man named Charles just lost his home to the encroaching sea and spends one last day with his best friend, a sea turtle, before moving on. Just in case you miss it, there’s a short sequence after the credits.

Sayonara: A Sad Farewell in an Era of Global Warming

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Lost Youth: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor

Newsboy, “Don’t Smoke, Visits Saloons,” 1910

Young Girl Working in a Textile Mill, Newberry, South Carolina

Boys Working the Midnight Shift, a Glass Factory

A Young Coupling-Boy (12-14 years old) at Indian Mine, Jellico, Tennessee

Children Working at Bibb Mill No. 1., Macon, Georgia

Lost Youth: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor

Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940) attended the University of Chicago and later moved to New York City in 1901, where he accepted a position as an assistant teacher at the Ethical Culture School. At that time, Hine started using the camera as an educational tool and also began to attend the School of Education at New York University.

By 1905, Hine had received his degree from New York University. He continued to photograph for the ECS and while leading its Photography Club, he met Paul Strand. By 1906 Hine was considering a career in Sociological-Photography and began to pursue freelance work with the National Child Labor Committee. In 1908, the NCLC assigned Hine to photograph child labor practices. For the next several years, Hine traveled extensively, photographing children in mines, factories, canneries, textile mills, street trades and agricultural settings.

Hine’s photographs alerted the public to the fact that child labor deprived children of childhood, health, education and a chance of a decent future. His work on this project was the driving force behind changing the public’s attitude about children and work, and it was instrumental in the legislative battles that resulted in the passage of stricter child labor laws.

Lewis Hine: U.S. Child Labor, 1908-1920

Slide Show: Lost Youth/Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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