Category: Larry Kramer

Review: The Normal Heart

Review: The Normal Heart

There has been a lot written and said about Larry Kramer’s play, The Normal Heart, since it was introduced in the 1980’s. And the recent HBO film adaptation directed by Ryan Murphy, starring many well known names which include Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer, will have people talking about it once again for a long time.

The theme of the film revolves around the early days of AIDS…before it was recognized as an actual crisis, back when no one knew anything about it…or wanted to know anything about it. I was still very young and what I remember most was the lack of information we were getting. After, watching TNH for the first time as a film I understand more now about why we didn’t get that information. I understand the obstacles. In this respect, the film held nothing back, and it even openly exposed the closeted gay mayor of NY at the time, Ed Koch. That I already knew through gay circles. But it was never disclosed in public. When Koch died a year or so ago, they did not even mention it once. There are still people who will argue the point for the sake of Koch’s image.

And that’s because anything gay related came with the stigma of shame, which in turn created men who were often filled with such self-loathing and doubt that hiding who they really were ruled their lives. We’ve all been there at one point…all gay men. A lot has changed since the early days of AIDS, but remnants of that shame still linger on as always. Films like TNH designed to educate and disabuse the myths help reduce the stigma for future generations of gay men, many of whom don’t even realize what’s happened.

In full disclosure I came to the film with mixed feelings about how Ryan Murphy would pull something like this off, so to speak. I couldn’t help imagining Glee scenes where Matt Bomer was wearing a white suit tap dancing to Singing in the Rain. But what I found in Murphy’s adaptation instead was the fastest two hours I’ve spent in years, and a film that handled one of the most serious issues of the twentieth century that held nothing back.

Matt Bomer has had a great deal of press with this film, and rightly so. He was excellent and after seeing him act in TNH I’m glad he won’t be part of Fifty Shades of Grey. He’s too good for it. Every performance in the film was excellent. But the one that stood out for me the most was Mark Ruffalo. He didn’t even look like Mark Ruffalo. He became the character. He created the ultimate illusion every good actor strives for at least once in his/her career. And he did it so effortlessly.

Part of the storyline discussed the beginnings of ActUp and Gay Men’s Health Crisis. I remember them as well, but didn’t know the details. I did some work for an activist publication in Philadelphia called We The People, where I wrote for a newsletter in the early 1990’s. I’m going to post the fiction I wrote about AIDS at the time very soon, never thinking that one day there would be HIV drugs and that HIV would become a chronic illness instead of a death sentence. Back then there didn’t seem to be much hope, which is also something this film showed well. Though Murphy can be self-indulgent at times, he managed to break that mold with TNH.

The way gay marriage was handled will make you cry at times, especially knowing how far we’ve come and how little those in the past had in terms of basic equality. I just hope younger people watch this movie and see how it was back then. It may not be easy to fully grasp it all, but it’s important to get the overall impression of how things were. Even the politics in TNH film was different. It isn’t partisan. This time each and every political statement really happened right down to the way the President of the United States handled AIDS.

I think one of the things I found most interesting about TNH film is that the subject and the characters back then were on the fringes of society fighting for recognition in a very unfair environment. And here we are, almost forty years later, and it’s a mainstream film millions watched on national television.

Review: The Normal Heart

Review: The Normal Heart

There has been a lot written and said about Larry Kramer’s play, The Normal Heart, since it was introduced in the 1980’s. And the recent HBO film adaptation directed by Ryan Murphy, starring many well known names which include Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer, will have people talking about it once again for a long time.

The theme of the film revolves around the early days of AIDS…before it was recognized as an actual crisis, back when no one knew anything about it…or wanted to know anything about it. I was still very young and what I remember most was the lack of information we were getting. After, watching TNH for the first time as a film I understand more now about why we didn’t get that information. I understand the obstacles. In this respect, the film held nothing back, and it even openly exposed the closeted gay mayor of NY at the time, Ed Koch. That I already knew through gay circles. But it was never disclosed in public. When Koch died a year or so ago, they did not even mention it once. There are still people who will argue the point for the sake of Koch’s image.

And that’s because anything gay related came with the stigma of shame, which in turn created men who were often filled with such self-loathing and doubt that hiding who they really were ruled their lives. We’ve all been there at one point…all gay men. A lot has changed since the early days of AIDS, but remnants of that shame still linger on as always. Films like TNH designed to educate and disabuse the myths help reduce the stigma for future generations of gay men, many of whom don’t even realize what’s happened.

In full disclosure I came to the film with mixed feelings about how Ryan Murphy would pull something like this off, so to speak. I couldn’t help imagining Glee scenes where Matt Bomer was wearing a white suit tap dancing to Singing in the Rain. But what I found in Murphy’s adaptation instead was the fastest two hours I’ve spent in years, and a film that handled one of the most serious issues of the twentieth century that held nothing back.

Matt Bomer has had a great deal of press with this film, and rightly so. He was excellent and after seeing him act in TNH I’m glad he won’t be part of Fifty Shades of Grey. He’s too good for it. Every performance in the film was excellent. But the one that stood out for me the most was Mark Ruffalo. He didn’t even look like Mark Ruffalo. He became the character. He created the ultimate illusion every good actor strives for at least once in his/her career. And he did it so effortlessly.

Part of the storyline discussed the beginnings of ActUp and Gay Men’s Health Crisis. I remember them as well, but didn’t know the details. I did some work for an activist publication in Philadelphia called We The People, where I wrote for a newsletter in the early 1990’s. I’m going to post the fiction I wrote about AIDS at the time very soon, never thinking that one day there would be HIV drugs and that HIV would become a chronic illness instead of a death sentence. Back then there didn’t seem to be much hope, which is also something this film showed well. Though Murphy can be self-indulgent at times, he managed to break that mold with TNH.

The way gay marriage was handled will make you cry at times, especially knowing how far we’ve come and how little those in the past had in terms of basic equality. I just hope younger people watch this movie and see how it was back then. It may not be easy to fully grasp it all, but it’s important to get the overall impression of how things were. Even the politics in TNH film was different. It isn’t partisan. This time each and every political statement really happened right down to the way the President of the United States handled AIDS.

I think one of the things I found most interesting about TNH film is that the subject and the characters back then were on the fringes of society fighting for recognition in a very unfair environment. And here we are, almost forty years later, and it’s a mainstream film millions watched on national television.

Bryan Singer Accused of Rape; The Normal Heart; Asking Out Same Sex

Bryan Singer Accused of Rape


Given a post I wrote about an unnamed TV personality in the UK who was mentioned in a story about a nineteen year old guy who committed suicide, this article is interesting because they don’t seem to be holding anything back.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man who claims he was sexually abused by “X-Men” franchise director Bryan Singer said Thursday that he reported the molestation to authorities at the time, and he does not know why charges were never pursued.

With his voice occasionally wavering, Michael Egan III described abuse he said began when he was 15 years old at the hands of Singer and others. He told of being plied with drugs and promises of Hollywood fame while also enduring threats and sexual abuse in Hawaii and Los Angeles over several years.

And here’s another article that talks about why the accuser decided to wait so long to file a lawsuit.

 

I can’t comment on this in-depth. But everything he says seems to back up what all people who have experienced abuse at young ages say.

 


 

The Normal Heart

As the date for the TV premiere of The Normal Heart draws nearer, we’ll be seeing more of these clips with Matt Bomer. 

Directed by Ryan Murphy, “Heart” features an all-star cast, including Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons, and is based on Kramer’s acclaimed 1985 play about the rise of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York.

 

It should be interesting to see how it’s done.

 

Asking Out Same Sex

I guess this was meant to be amusing, but I’m not so sure given the potential for misunderstanding and possible backlash. A man and woman asked people of their same sex for phone numbers, aggressively coming on to them, and filmed the responses.

In these two videos that are making their rounds on the Internet, a man and a woman individually approach different people of their same sex asking for their numbers and insinuating that they’d like to take them on a date. Oftentimes awkward, the differences between the responses of the men and women are perhaps the most interesting part of these videos.

It’s not something I would do.

Matt Bomer to Star in Larry Kramer’s "The Normal Heart"

According to this article, Matt Bomer is scheduled to star in Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” on HBO. It’s going to be directed by Ryan Murphy (Glee), and will also star Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo.

In this case, I have a feeling it’s going to be authentic with Murphy as the director. He tends to get a bit too political sometimes, but in this case, with this film, I don’t think it’s possible to get too political…or rant and scream too much about. If that is what he intends to do.

Although I was only a kid at the time, I can still remember how AIDS was ignored back then. The President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, never used the term once while he was in office…as I recall personally. There was panic, protests, and emotional events that helped define the next generation of gay men. Things were never the same again.

I’m going to do another post about this either tomorrow or Monday, with links to what it was actually like in Philadelphia, and how the fight still continues.
 
In the eighties and early nineties not a week went by without hearing something Larry Kramer related in gay newspapers.

Kramer’s play debuted at New York’s Public Theater in 1985. The 2011 Broadway revival garnered five Tony nominations, winning for Best Revival, Best Featured Actor and Best Featured Actress.

For those who know nothing about Larry Kramer or the play, this is from Wiki:

The Normal Heart is a largely autobiographical play by Larry Kramer. It focuses on the rise of the HIVAIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks, the gay Jewish-American founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group. Ned prefers loud public confrontations to the calmer, more private strategies favored by his associates, friends, and closeted lover Felix Turner, none of whom is prepared to throw himself into the media spotlight. Their differences of opinion lead to frequent arguments that threaten to undermine their mutual goal.

Here’s something about Larry Kramer:

Larry Kramer (born June 25, 1935) is an American playwright, author, public health advocate, and LGBT rights activist. He began his career rewriting scripts while working for Columbia Pictures, which led him to London where he worked with United Artists. There he wrote the screenplay for Women in Love in 1969, earning an Academy Award nomination for his efforts. Kramer introduced a controversial and confrontational style in his 1978 novel Faggots, which earned mixed reviews but emphatic denunciations from the gay community for his portrayal of shallow, promiscuous gay relationships in the 1970s.

Both wiki articles go more in-depth and both are interesting to read.

I’ll be looking for this film, and posting more about it in the future. I honestly don’t see how they can go wrong with Matt Bomer. And I admire any actor or writer who wants to take something like this on. I don’t like to write about AIDS or anything AIDS related because I’ve experienced some of the more intense situations you can imagine with AIDS. And I’m still involved with AIDS related organizations to this day. While I’m not afraid to revisit some of the worst things I’ve seen, it’s not something I choose to go looking for either…at least not right now. And I applaud those who do.

I only wish there were more of these things, and that it didn’t take over 30 years to get a film like this out there. I know there have been others…as few…and they’ve been done well. But I don’t think it’s possible to have too many films about what it was like during the height of AIDS. On the other hand, maybe a lot of people feel the way I do: we just don’t want to go back there because it’s so hard to do.

In any event, I have harped on this before, and I’m doing it again. John Irving’s most recent release, “In One Person,” has the best account, and the most accurate detailed narrative, of what it was like back then I have ever read before. From the AIDS related illnesses to the medications they used to treat them, Irving nailed it in a way that I don’t think has received nearly enough recognition as it should be getting. I can’t emphasize this enough. Read Irving’s book. It’s long, but it’s worth it.