Tag Archives: films

Transgender Film Fest, rah rah rah! The 2011 Oscars, hellz nah nah nah!

Alright, I’ve got movies on the brains.

On Thursday night, I attended the Los Angeles Transgender Film Festival at the Echo Park Film Center with my little sister who identifies as bisexual.  Twas’ a gaydies family night!   We had a blast.

I am madly passionately in love with cinema, more now than ever before. Probably because the passing years have exposed me to a multitude of films that reveal the medium’s innate power for educating and changing people. For educating and changing me.

Back in 2007, I was a femme lesbian who was attracted to other feminine women. Never lesbians — always bi-curious potentially bisexual women or straight women who questioned in secret.  I mainly hung out with gay men and straight girls, rarely any lesbians.  Maybe 1 or 2 lesbos from time to time.  My hair reached down past my shoulders, I wore stilettos and was obsessed with my weight — how fat and ugly I was, and how well I did or didn’t hide it.

I’d developed an aversion, a disdain really, for all things masculine — especially in women.  I had not yet begun to question why it was I proudly owned and cultivated this prejudice within me.  Until Outfest: The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival accepted my lesbian short film A Two Woman One Act in June 2007.  That year at Outfest, I became aware of the fluid nature, and varying expression of human gender and sexuality.

On a gender front, the films at Outfest explored the lives of butch women, feminine women, androgynous women, boyish women with soft feminine edges, feminine women with strong masculine edges, women who identified as / were transitioning into men — transmen, and men that conversely fell under similar categories.  On a sexuality front, they depicted the experiences of bisexuals, gays, lesbians, closeted homosexuals, the bi-curious, and transmen and transwomen who identified as straight, bisexual, & homosexual.

I spent most of the festival watching documentaries on the Transgender community because my film fest partner-in-crime was gay filmmaker Dante Alencastre whose documentary works focused on Transgender issues and rights. Through these Trans-world expositions, I became aware of my own internalized homophobia and began the lengthy process of understanding the wondrous, brilliant, NATURAL NORMALCY of our “otherness,” our “queerness” and how negatively affected I’d been by a media-centric society where the media predominantly represents the white straight population’s take on normal.  In learning about the Transgender community through these movies, I began uncovering the layers of my identities — as woman, lesbian, and feminist — and learning to whole-heartedly accept their often unboxable nuances.  These films united me in understanding, solidarity, and passion with my GLBTQ cause and community.

The Movies have always been my great love — ever since I was a wee little girl watching The Neverending Story on repeat.  Long before I understood the terms “woman” and “lesbian,” I connected with, felt impassioned by the word “moobie.” The older I’ve gotten the deeper I’ve fallen in love with cinema arts.  The Transgender Film Fest provides a great example of why.  The Transgender (TG) community is an underrepresented group of people that are often trivialized, villainized, and dehumanized by mainstream culture — both in media and mass society.  Their lives and identities are often ignored, pigeonholed, and misunderstood.  Sadly, even by some of the GLB’s  (Gay, Lesbians, & Bisexuals) in our GLBTQ community.   I’m grateful to relay, however, that the TG community has taught me much about their experiences and causes through film.  A medium of expression that stirs the viewer’s individual mind by touching their universal heart. In other words, one person’s experience is another person’s experience no matter how different their outside circumstances may appear.  In my opinion, it’s through empathy that one little movie …  a string of little movies …  a narrative feature film …  a documentary … changes someone’s perspective.

Over the past 4 years I’ve seen about 15 films on the Transgender community at film festivals, Laemmle’s Movie Theaters, and streaming online.  Following the triumphs and tribulations of their oft overlooked tales, I’ve come to relate with a group of people I had little knowledge of or interest in before 2007.  Films like the 1987 narrative feature Vera (An Outfest Legacy Project restoration) and the 2008 long-form documentary STILL BLACK: A Portrait of Black Transmen have transformed my relationship to my own gender-expression (female) and sexual orientation (lesbian) from a place of self-loathing and ignorance to one of self-knowledge and acceptance. They’ve broadened my consciousness and conscience …

Movies are a powerful tool for education and change.  I am honored, grateful, and proud to be a part of the Queer Film community.  I am constantly blown away by all I have left to learn on the human “being” itself — especially being its self in TRUE form.  I was thrilled to take my little 18-year old bisexual sister to a film fest by and about Transgender people where she learned more about the profound and complex GLBTQ community she embodies and represents.  Especially since, unlike myself, my sister tends to be romantically/sexually attracted to women with a more masculine bent, butch women, questioning trans.  I’m glad to say that in these years I’ve healed that senseless prejudiced self-hating side of myself, and grown to relate to, respect, and appreciate the varying expressions of human sexuality and gender-identity.  As a result, I’ve been blessed to form beautiful priceless friendships with butch lesbians and transmen in my community.

That being said, I also acknowledge that movies — being a powerful medium that affects change on individual and mass scales — can also be used to oppress people. Sadly, many movies still often perpetuate negative stereotypes or ignore an entire section of the population by choosing to spotlight one group experience over another. This is especially evident in Hollywood.  The world according to Hollywood films tends to center around Anglo, straight, and Jewish populations.  Once in a while, when Hollywood films do stray from depicting formulaic characters in regurgitated plots and strive to convey the stories of “minorities” — a.k.a. all other members of society — we’re often victimized, marginalized, or turned into one-dimensional caricatures of ourselves.  The Token Black, Gay, Latina, etc. gets to star in their own token movie … yay!  Not yay.

One of the many reasons I won’t be watching The Oscars this year.

Another reason is because I’m tired of supporting the community-destroying system of Meritocracy.  Meritocracy: A competitive system in which human beings earn self-esteem through achieving merit i.e. outside validation. A system where professional colleagues are pinned against each other, compared, and then anointed “1. Better than the rest.”  Maybe that system works for boxing or sports, some physical game built around the accumulation of points, but I believe Meritocracy has no real constructive place in the arts — a subjective realm of individual expression.

At the Oscars, 5 supposedly “best” actresses, writers, costume designers, etc. of films — that were LOBBIED into nomination by usually affluent companies — go up against each other for the Homecoming Queen crown.  Nominees wear abhorrently expensive outfits, blow winks at each other, and weep at tha’ podium o’ “success” upon receiving a statue of naked golden dewd while shouting, “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, YOU LIKE ME!”

I once bought into that?  Yuck & sad.  (P.s. I think Sally Field is an AMAZING actress.  Her acceptance speech just makes me sad.)

My dislike for Meritocracy isn’t just limited to The Oscars, however, but stretches outward to all award shows with set nominees.  You want to take a fair vote and choose “best” film or “best” artistic anything of the year?  Fine.  Let all the Academy members actually vote for THEIR favorite film of that year then.  Don’t choose their nominees.  Just ask them very simply, “What’s been your favorite film this year?,” “Who’s been your favorite actress this year and for what role?,” etc., tally the votes up, and then announce the results at the award ceremony like so, “We’d like to congratulate Sophie’s Choice for being chosen by The Academy members as their favorite film of the year.”  Let’s call a spade a spade.  The Oscars like most award shows are not an objective forum where “high quality” projects get the recognition they deserve.  It’s a circus tent where rich people who know other rich people entertain their egos by jacking each other off in front of a TV screen for millions to see.  The Oscars are, in essence, a televised 4-hour group masterbation session between professional exhibitionists.  At least when they have a comedian host — like Ricky Gervais — who calls out the event for exactly what it is, the audience derives some joy from the lewd acts of heavy petting taking place on stage.  The Oscars enjoy pretending they were created to award the most worthy piece of art (i.e. film) and artist (i.e. director) of the year the acknowledgment they deserve. When the truth is, and everyone knows it, The Oscars are as objective as art/film itself, which is NOT objective at all.

Maybe I’m just annoyed by the fact that The Oscars confuses its 100% subjectivity for 100% objectivity, takes itself too seriously, and then doesn’t hire Ricky Gervais to host.

If you’d like to read the brilliantly hilarious introduction Ricky Gervais drafted (in jest) for this year’s Oscar hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco, read below or directly from his blog!

—->

(Drum roll)V.O.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Please welcome your hosts for this evening…
James Franco and Anne Hathaway 

(Music and applause)
(James and Anne walk out looking absolutely perfect)

JF
Hello and welcome to The 83rd Academy Awards,
Live from Los Angeles.

AH
That’s foreign for City of Angels.
And this room is certainly filled will those angels.

(Applause)

JF
Thank you. I’m James Franco.

AH
…and I’m Anne Hathaway.

JF
You probably know me from 127 Hours where I play a man trapped in an enclosed space who decides he would rather cut his own arm off than stay where he was. Now that sounds “way out” but wait till half way through this fucking ceremony and you’ll start to identify with him.

AH
And I’m the new Catwoman. The first white woman to play that role since Michelle Pfeiffer. I want it to be an inspiration to all white people everywhere. Your dreams can come true in Hollywood too.

JF
It’s a daunting task hosting The Oscars but we’re not alone. Presenting awards tonight will be a string of Hollywood legends and some other actors who have a film out in March or April.

JF
Usually they hire comedians to host The Oscars, but tonight, instead, you get us!

AH
No comedians tonight. And do you know why? Because comics are ugly.

JF
Especially that rude obnoxious one who played the Steve Carell part in the English remake of The Office.

AH
But you can all relax because Ricky Gervais is in London…

(Nervous laughter)

He’s doing some charity work.
Yeah, he’s visiting orphans with cancer.
He’s telling them what bald little losers they are…

JF
Yeah, cos he’s rude right?

(Applause)

Thank you.
No rudeness tonight.
It’s going to be a night of the most privileged people in the world being told how brilliant they are and thanking God for loving them more than ugly poor foreigners.

(Applause)

That’s not to say that we don’t care. No, apart from all the great movies we made this year we continued our life-saving philanthropy. Mega stars like Angelina Jolie, George Clooney and Ben Stiller brought light to third world poverty and famine and shocked the world with visions of children so hungry they’d been living off dead beetles all their lives.

AH
Yeah and Yoko Ono said. “What’s wrong with that?”

(Laughter)

JF
Oh Anne you are naughty. In a respectful, wholesome way.

(Nodding and smiling)

That Ricky Gervais should do more for charity.

(Murmurs of agreement)

Ricky Gervais is now worth $80,000,000. The obnoxious Brit confirmed the figure, adding,”Yes and my dentist hasn’t seen a penny.”

AH
Yeah, why doesn’t he get his teeth straightened and bleached like everyone else in Hollywood?

JF
It’s a good question Anne. For the same reason he doesn’t have botox or suck up to important producers – there’s something wrong with him.

AH
There must be. Why isn’t the stocky, fangy, little slob more like us, right?

JF
That ugly dude needs to get a Hollywood makeover, big time.

AH
Quite. And even though most of the actresses here have eating disorders, that’s better than being fat right?

JF
You bet it is gorgeous.

AH
You are so handsome.

JF
Exactly.
You know Ricky Gervais used to be bulimic.

AH
Really?

JF
Yes. He’d often gorge himself for hours with cheese and cakes.

AH
And then vomit right?

JF
No he left that bit out…

(Mild laughter)

AH
That’s because he couldn’t get his fat fucking fingers in his stupid mouth.

(Big laugh)

JF
Anyway let’s get this show on the road.
There were some great kids’ movies this year.
I took a five year old to see Toy Story 3 last week.

AH
Did you enjoy it?

JF
No it was ruined for me because the little brat was screaming and crying all the way through the film saying, “Who are you?” “You’re not my daddy.” “Take me back to the park where you grabbed me…”

(Laughter)

AH
Oh James, you are a card. And your slightly risky jokes are not threatening because you’re one of us. And you are so handsome.

JF
Absolutely.
So let’s get this show on the road.
Our first presenter is a Hollywood legend whose boots Ricky Gervais would not be fit to kiss…
The wonderful…
Mel Gibson…

(Standing ovation)

And so on…



Making A Movie Day 4 — Francis Ford Coppola & My Whole Life Inventory

Alright, I’m taking a breath from breaking down my whole life’s written inventory (80 pages, 9 point font, for ages 0 – 26 written over the last year and a half) into specific resentments built up over those periods of time.  I am to read this to my group therapy mentor tomorrow from 2pm until we finish.

I probably won’t finish this assignment until right before we meet tomorrow at 2pm. Gah!!!  So, I’ll just discuss briefly with you some discourses swimming through mi brains.

Yesterday, I read an interview with Francis Ford Coppola that Baby Dewds e-mailed my way a week ago.

Francis Ford Copolla is, in my opinion and every award ceremony’s on earth, a creative mastermind.  His films make up an important part of why my favorite Cinematic Period takes place during the 60’s & 70’s — The New Hollywood Era. The New Hollywood Era — When the studio system fell to its knees and turned all its creative power over to inventive daring outsiders, like Coppola, for them to craft artistic quality films, which reflected society back to itself — in order to close the growing divide between audience and box office.

Yes, Francis Ford Coppola’s direction of the first 2 Godfathers, Apocalypse Now, The Outsiders, Peggy Sue Got Married, Dracula, Jack and all the AMAZING films he produced and executive produced plus the exposing documentary Hearts of Darkness — makes him THA’ Jam.

When I read this article, I realized, yet again, how much I loved and respected Coppola as a filmmaker/artist and family man.  Who wouldn’t with quotes like these:

I just finished a film a few days ago, and I came home and said I learned so much today. So if I can come home from working on a little film after doing it for 45 years and say, “I learned so much today,” that shows something about the cinema.

…the cinema is very young. It’s only 100 years old…The cinema language happened by experimentation – by people not knowing what to do. But unfortunately, after 15-20 years, it became a commercial industry. People made money in the cinema, and then they began to say to the pioneers, “Don’t experiment. We want to make money. We don’t want to take chances.” An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before? I always like to say that cinema without risk is like having no sex and expecting to have a baby. You have to take a risk.

I was always a good adventurer. I was never afraid of risks. I always had a good philosophy about risks. The only risk is to waste your life, so that when you die, you say, “Oh, I wish I had done this.” I did everything I wanted to do, and I continue to.

When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words. Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word. In “The Godfather,” it was succession. In “The Conversation,” it was privacy. In “Apocalypse,” it was morality.

Always make your work be personal. And, you never have to lie. If you lie, you will only trip yourself up. You will always get caught in a lie. It is very important for an artist not to lie, and most important is not to lie to yourself. There are some questions that are inappropriate to ask, and rather than lie, I will not answer them because it’s not a question I accept. So many times we are asked things in our work or in life that you want to lie, and all you have to do is say, “No, that is an improper question.”

So when you get into a habit of not lying when you are writing, directing, or making a film, that will carry your personal conviction into your work. And, in a society where you say you are very free but you’re not entirely free, you have to try. There is something we know that’s connected with beauty and truth. There is something ancient. We know that art is about beauty, and therefore it has to be about truth.

Ahhh, yes!  Yet again, he couples his refreshing ideas into truly invigorating statements.

Still …

When you read his quote below — you realize how far removed financially successful people become, no matter how much they want to stop the distancing, from the realities of every day people. Upon reading it, I quickly remembered why I’ve never considered anyone “my hero” and I could never worship a person as a god — because their human flaws would break my spirit long before their attributes helped it grow. Read on:

How does an aspiring artist bridge the gap between distribution and commerce?
We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.

It’s easy to say art should be free and an artist shouldn’t get paid for their work when you’re making royalties off of 2 Godfathers and countless box office hits, and you, your daughter, and your father all have Academy Awards.  Oh, and your nephew is $40 million per movie Nick Cage.

Sure, wine money is good, but wine money was started with films-are doing-AWESOME money.  All I mean to say is that when rich — and I mean RICH — and famous — and I mean FAMOUS — artists tell the poor artist in South Gate borderline Huntington park to spend the rest of their lives in the financial trenches in order to maintain artistic integrity that poor artist exhales a deep, sad, long sigh and accepts that Francis Ford Coppola is just a regular human being like me and you … No one has ALL the answers.

That being said, I completely agree with him on creative ethics — stay true to the truth of your vision, especially the risky bits big corporate investors often want to smother, and only take into consideration the opinions of collaborators who have the betterment of the project in mind such as actors, writers, etc.

But giving your work away for free/letting people steal it off the internet while accepting that as artists we’re just bad with money so there’s no point in fighting it?! … Hmmm. Not on board with that advice, Papa Coppola.

I may do that now, but not forever!  I am joining a money-management/business betterment group next week.  Dear Baby Jesus in Da Manger, please teach me how to value my artistic efforts and turn them into lucrative sums that I can invest into more artistic endeavors!  No more CASH 4 GOLD Sundays! ;p

Bankers, Politicians, and Wine Connoisseurs should NOT be the only members of society with mula to spare a.k.a invest.  In fact, I think that scenario extremely dangerous to the cultures they form part of.  Artists — those that reflect society back to itself with truth, heart, risk, and love — should be able to sustain themselves and invest in future projects a.k.a roll in the doe too.  The greater the artistic integrity, the higher the paycheck, I say!

Although in theory Coppola doesn’t agree with this mindset, in reality he sure does. The Coppolas — Francis, Sofia, Cage, Talia, & Jason Schwartzman (to name a few) are rolling in the royalty $$$$.

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with it!  I’m just saying — Artists should be paid for their work and art should be reasonably priced:  Free sometimes, affordable mostly always, and high cost only in business dealings.

You’re making royalties off my hard work?  I deserve some too.  Let’s negotiate.

While digesting what Papa Coppola has said, I realize that with everyone’s advice in life, you take what works for you and leave aside what your gut reaction/spirit doesn’t jive with …

Yes, even Francis Ford Coppola’s words of wisdom.

The perk of being raised by a social worker mama is that you’ve been brainwashed for years to truly fundamentally believe that — regardless of financial and social status — every human being is inherently equal.  Thus: Rich or no rich, famous or no famous, creative genius or no creative genius, if I agree with you I agree with you and if I don’t I don’t.

And just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I don’t think you still rock my socks off because you do.  For example, I’m barefoot right now because Francis Ford Coppola’s interview, including the comments I disagreed with, rocked my socks off. It made me “grapple.”  Grappling is good.  Grappling is growth.

Alright, back to the inner-work a.k.a finishing the resentment inventory for mentor sesh tomorrow!  Gah!!! ;p


At Home — Contemplating My Grant Binges

So, I’m sick and exhausted and smelly and as happy as a puppy snuggled in a pile of dirty clothes.

Why?  Because I spent all of yesterday — Monday January 3rd —  into the night through this morning  applying to the Outfest Screenwriting Lab.  After some technical difficulties were worked out, I hit the “submit” button and it was DONE.

In that moment, I felt satiated.

As I walked into the post office shortly thereafter, the fresh wind blew a bothersome strand of greasy hair from eyesight onto temple, and I knew — I had earned it.

Exhilaration awakens each cell in my body whenever I finish a grant, residency, or contest application of some sort.  Especially one I’d really love to get.

Probably because there’s this greater sense of purpose that incessantly tortures me when I ignore it — like a hungry baby whaling from a crib for breast milk — and when I finish a grant application, it’s as if I stuck a bottle in the baby’s mouth.

The more difficult the application — the greater the satiation.

Oh, the endless rewards of winning a grant!  I imagine myself like an old man playing the Horses — Is it going to win?!  Is it going to win?!  If my horse WINS and I get this residency or that grant … the countless ways my life can change!

The infant — the force of life that cries for you to feed so that it can survive — is my art.  My Films and Writings.  Maybe that’s why I’ve never desired a flesh and blood baby — because it would compete for breast milk and God knows I only have two boobs!  One for my Movies and the other for my Books. ;p

Still, I can’t help but acknowledge that applying to grants, residencies, and contests is exactly like “Playing the Horses.”  A gamble. A gamble that I invest a lot of time, energy, and heart in.  Time, energy, and heart I could be investing into more practical possibilities for project support.

The first grant I ever applied to was the HSF/McNamara Family Creative Arts Project Grant, which I received.  It gave my senior thesis film A Two Woman One Act some considerably helpful production mula.  I was grateful for it and put it to good use, but the sheltered bubble of college life didn’t allow me to fully comprehend the magnitude of such a gift.

I’ve been out of college for 6 years now, and have worked and worked and worked countless jobs — from cinematographer to assistant editor to executive assistant to packing tape salesperson extraordinaire to receptionist and runner to you name it, I’ve done it.  I worked these gigs in order to pay my creative projects’ bills (press kits and festival applications and hard drives, etc), most times at the sacrifice of paying basic bills such as dentist, health insurance, food, etc.

Consequently, I now realize how much a stamp of monetary and critical approval could help ease the process of bringing a project to fruition.

Over the past 3 years, I’ve applied to countless grants and contests and I’ve received 2 or 3 — mostly living stipends for weekend seminars (which I’m truly grateful for), but that’s pretty much it …

Hours and Weeks and Months and Years spent applying for grant support that never came.

All the success I’ve received has come about through old fashioned brow sweat, and priceless help from fellow broke yet talented friends and artists.  The books and films I’ve finished, The book fairs and film festivals I’ve been a part of, The publications and reviews I’ve received — have all come about from walking out onto the fields, rolling up my sleeves, and picking grapes.

Also Known As chucking fear/anxiety out the window by emailing, calling, and shaking hands on the ground floor.

Also Known As H-U-S-T-L-I-N-G because the baby’s famished and she won’t stop crying!

My art projects are my Baby — the reason I continue working many a dreaded b-job…

I’ll tell you the truth — I don’t mind the hustle, the hard work, in fact I love it.  I love knowing how to write and edit and shoot and sound design an entire film because I had to figure it out on my own since I couldn’t afford to hire others to do it for me.

Still, my heart has been a little broken lately — and I think it’s because I spend more time applying to grants than working the floor, which has obviously proven to be a more fruitful avenue.  Why then?!  Why do I continue to do it?

I spend HOURS applying to grants and residencies and contests.  I keep “Playing the Horses.”  Because maybe — one day — I’ll get a grant and everything will get easier. I’ll finally be able to walk into MacMall and say, “Give me a Mac Book Air with a 3-year warranty.  I’m editing all over town today! Oh, and throw in some Mentos, please. The tropical kind.”

At this point, I feel like the old man who bets on a horse instead of going to work …

Grant applications, I must admit to myself, are the quick-fix pacifiers I use to quiet the starving baby.

There’s no breezy easy way to make a movie.  It’s all grape-picking, my friends.  I accept this fact and continue onward.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions being: More grape picking and ground floor handshaking!

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!

Speaking of hunger, I have yet to eat anything aside from Entemann’s chocolate cake today … Chicken Soup, here comes La Banethita!


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