Archive | Country Matters

Of ‘Goat’ and Toxic Masculinity

goat_movie_2016-320x320“Goat” is so far from what you’d expect from a Jonas Brother movie that calling it a Jonas Brother movie misses the boat. It is true that it stars Nick Jonas. But given that he delivers a considered, nuanced performance as someone besides himself, and given that this adaptation of Brad Land’s 2004 eponymous memoir is about as far from a pop-star vehicle as an American indie about white men can get, let’s dispense with any biases you may bring to this film. I had to, and I’m glad I did.

Ironically, this is about a fraternity, which easily could qualify it as a boys-will-be-boys lark a la “Animal House” or “Neighbors.” Directed by Andrew Neel, “Goat” is a more serious venture – one that tackles the sadism of this all-American institution with a refreshing candor.

The film begins with a blurred close-up of a mass of shirtless frat brothers bounding up and down and howling in a primal scream drowned out by a wordless, ambient Arjan Miranda composition. It is a shot that summons the ecstasy of a primitive tribe. Continue Reading →

‘Queen of Katwe,’ Queen of September

queen“Queen of Katwe” begins with a few bars of “African music” – the sort of Disneyfied fare that is so insultingly generic that I burst out laughing before sobering up fast. It’d be a crying shame, I thought, if chess champion Phiona Mutesi got reduced to the “inspirational people of color” clichés that even now Hollywood hasn’t learned to sidestep. I needn’t have worried. Though this adaptation of ESPN reporter Tim Crothers’s eponymous nonfiction book certainly dips heavily into the inspirational sports playbook, it offers a depth and earned joy that makes Ugandan women its subject rather than its object. Chalk it up to the fact that, though this indeed hails from Disney, it is one of the most female-forward and people of color-led major studio productions ever to come down the pike. Continue Reading →

JT Leroy and the Cult of Oppression

leroyIn 2005, JT Leroy died. Technically, of course, JT Leroy never existed. The transgender, HIV-positive, homeless child prostitute-turned-celeb author was the fabrication of two San Francisco women whose machinations were exposed by journalists in 2005. But during the nine years that Jonathan “Terminator” Leroy prevailed in the public sphere, he won the hearts of the literati and glitterati of Hollywood and Indiewood alike.

In last year’s excellent “The Cult of JT Leroy,” director Marjorie Sturm explored the smoke and mirrors behind this story, approaching it as the biggest hoax this side of “War of the Worlds.” As a San Francisco local who’d worked with mentally ill homeless people, she’d begun the documentary as an earnest homage, but upon the revelation that forty-year-old San Francisco resident Laura Albert and her twentysomething sister-in-law Savannah Koop had posed as Leroy (the former woman wrote his books and spoke as him on the phone; the latter posed as him in person), Sturm whipped off her rose-colored glasses and gave voice to the many who felt betrayed and manipulated. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy