Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Terrorist threat to Sacha Baron Cohen over Brüno ridicule

I loved Borat. I have not yet seen Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up mockumentary Brüno this summer. Although I have every intention of seeing on the big screen very soon (probably this weekend), after which I'll post my thoughts on it.

There has been decidedly less buzz about Brüno this year than Borat, I'm sure most will agree. Gone are the multiple threats to sue Cohen we saw following Borat's release. Instead we have threats against his life. Scary indeed. This is inspiration for me to get to the theatre as soon as possible to see it.

I suspect that Brüno's subject matter - chronicling an over-the-top gay Austrian fashionista, with multiple scenes of male frontal nudity - has turned off many of Cohen's heterosexual fans. They'll rush to the theatre to see Pamela Anderson forced into a sack, but they won't rush to see Cohen have fake sex with a male midget. Hmmmm....

Others have said it's simply a case of Brüno being less entertaining than Borat, or perhaps the shock value is gone and the stunt tactics Cohen uses in Brüno are becoming a little old hat.

Regardless of the reasons for Brüno's less than stellar box office, I'm looking forward to finding out for myself.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Toronto musical 'Bare' soars...

I had the chance to take in the great production of 'Bare, The Canadian Premiere' this weekend at University of Toronto's Hart House Theatre, which chronicles the secret affair between two closeted Catholic schoolboys. (FYI, despite its title and provocative poster, this musical features no nudity, nor does it need any.)

I'm proud to say the musical, first performed in Los Angeles in 2000, was exceptional, entertaining, sweet, romantic, tragic, touching and occasionally sexy. The musical nails all the hidden contradictions of Catholic youth, from the unnerving guilt to the wild and secret partying. My own Catholic public high school was very similar to the private one depicted on stage. I never had an affair with a hot schoolmate, mind you. My personal repression was so strong I never told anyone about my homosexuality until I was safely ensconced within a secular university.

While the musical hits many familiar notes often seen in gay melodrama (love triangle involving a sweet, but clueless girl, an unsupportive mother, etc.), there are still a few surprises. And the Toronto cast never fails to impress, bringing much zest to their roles, particularly the two leads, Wade Muir and Graham Parkhurst. Standouts among the ensemble include Nichola Lawrence as Sister Chantelle (the nun every Catholic gay boy wishes they knew in high school), Renee Stein as Claire, Muir's mother, Alison O'Neill as Ivy, Parkhurst's girlfriend, and Claire Rouleau as the particularly hilarious nerd Nadia.

Wade Muir has a great voice as Peter, the lead, but the better actor is Graham Parkhurst as Jason, his closeted lover. I wasn't impressed with Parkhurst's voice in Act One; luckily he seemed to be saving his energy for the more dramatic and tragic Act Two, in which he excels. Muir and Parkhurst make tender and believable lovers and they don't shy away from the script's considerable affections. Be prepared for many wet audience eyes after the curtain falls at the end.

The Canadian premiere is being produced by WatersEdge Productions Inc, and runs until this Saturday August 1st. If you have the chance to check it out before then, I highly recommend you do. Tickets are available here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Isn't this discrimination based on sexual orientation?

It seems to me that this is pretty clearly a case of discrimination based on sexual orientation - the Harper government, in what seems to be a clear desire to appease its bigoted base, decided to stick it to the Montreal gay festival simply because it was gay.

Here are the facts: Diane Ablonczy gave Pride Toronto $400,000 from the $100 million Marquee Tourism Events Program. Two weeks later she lost the control over the program, it was handed to loyal Tony Clement. Then a backbencher from Saskatchewan bragged about how Ablonczy had lost the file because she gave money to Pride Toronto. Now suddenly Montreal's Pride festival Divers/Cite fails to receive any funding despite being a major international tourist attraction.

I hate the way many out there excuse this deliberate discrimination as somehow okay in modern Canada. As far as I'm concerned, the Harperites are guilty of discriminating based on sexual orientation, which is supposed to be illegal in this country.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday Roundup: Freddie Stroma dancing in his underwear, Religious Freedom and those funny Tories...

Who's Freddie Stroma, you're probably asking? I hadn't heard of him either until I found this YouTube video posted on Perez Hilton this week. My friend Scott also linked to it this morning on his Xtra blog, so I thought I'd get into the action too here.

Stroma is a U.K.-born actor who's got a supporting role in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince out in theatres tomorrow. Last year, he did this beautiful little modeling gig, showing off Acne Underwear's 2008 collection as well as his considerable assets in almost eight minutes of dancing. I quite agree with the emerging gay consensus that this is required viewing! Scott says he could only make it through 85% of the video; I'm proud to say I enjoyed the entire thing (although I did find the absence of music to be strange, although it did allow us to singularly focus on Stroma instead.) So I offer readers the video to test how long they can ogle a gorgeous, young Harry Potter star in his skivvies.

With the sexy stuff out of the way, I do have a couple of serious issues to discuss.

This case sounds interesting, although I do agree that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has no jurisdiction over who a Catholic Church chooses to let work on its altar. If you agree with the division of church and state, I can't see how Jim Corcoran's case can be supported. Yes his fellow parishioners displayed incredibly unkind and, I would say, un-Christian behaviour in launching their complaint against Corcoran, getting him removed from his altar server duties in St. Michael's Church in Cobourg. Yet religion does often seem to give its followers a free pass to be inhumane toward their fellow men and women.

But not all religious people are mean to gay people, if this new book called 'Jesus Was A Liberal' is to be believed.

Finally, for a funny read, check out this Tory spin by Michael Taube, who used to write speeches for Stephen Harper. He tries to spin that most Tories don't hate homosexuals, despite the recent demotion of Diane Ablonczy for giving Pride Toronto a grant through the Marquee Tourism Events Program.

I couldn't get past this paragraph by Taube without laughing: "Following that train of thought, Pride Week is not the celebration of diversity its supporters claim. Rather, it's a polarizing special interest event which represents a narrow cross-section of society. It's not a festival that brings Canadians together in the same way Canada Day celebrations, supporting our troops rallies, and Santa Claus parades do."

Typical of a Tory to call Pride divisive, but not rallies supporting our troops, or even Santa Claus parades, which are just plain annoying, as far as I'm concerned. The traffic jams they cause and all ;-)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Three day story: Gotta love it!

Well it appears kowtowing to the social conservative dinosaurs in your caucus and movement doesn't win you rewards among Canada's moderate and fair-minded mainstream. I take great joy in the fact that the mainstream media has taken up the story of Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy's demotion over funding Pride Toronto and run with it. It seems no one believes the official Tory spin on this.

Some of today's great reads include Kady O'Malley, Lyn Cockburn, even Don Martin, who laments how poorly Ablonczy continues to be treated in Ottawa (I quite agree, I rather liked Ablonczy before this controversy, and I like her even more now.)

Even the Toronto Star's editorial board, never my favourite group of journalists, does well today with this piece.

And this is why I continue to be proud to be a gay Liberal. Thanks, Dalton.

I yearn for the day when someone intelligent, worldly, fair-minded, measured and thoughtful, like say Michael Ignatieff, takes over the PMO in Ottawa and relieves us of Stephen Harper's small-minded, mean-spirited interim prime minister-ship. That day may come sooner than we think.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What small people run the Harper government...

This internal Tory backlash against federal Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy just for acknowledging our existence in this country and helping our biggest festival has truly pissed me off. What percentage of the Canadian population would describe themselves as socially conservative, religious fundamentalists? Probably less than 10 per cent. Yet they seem to be in complete control over the Harper government, now don't they?

Apparently, one of Ablonczy's biggest sins was allowing herself to be photographed near a drag queen at the June funding announcement for Pride Toronto. If you wanted to understand how our micro-manager Prime Minister makes decisions, this case is a perfect example!

My message to so-cons because you seem to have forgotten: LGBT citizens pay taxes too! As such, we should also get a piece of the federal pie too, not just those who love the Calgary Stampede! You do not get to control 100% of the budget just because 38% of Canadians marked Tory on their ballots last October (despite the flaws of our electoral system, that still only translated into 46% of the seats.)

If there are decent, fair-minded heterosexuals out there, let this "controversy" provide further proof why the Harper Conservatives are clearly out of sync with modern Canada and need to be removed at the first possible opportunity.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tory dinosaurs secretly clobber Diane Ablonczy for funding Toronto's Pride...

I wonder what John Baird and Jaime Watt will think of this!

According to this religious bigot propaganda so-called "news" site, there's been quite the backlash against federal Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy for providing $400,000 in funding for Toronto's Pride parade (pictured with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff taking part this year), which the propaganda site described as "notorious for its inclusion of full frontal nudity and public sex acts by homosexuals." Did the "reporter" from LifeSite actually watch the parade this year and witness the "public sex acts" on display, which were mysteriously missed by virtually all the other million or so people in attendance? Iggy looks fully clothed to me. Hmmm...

LifeSite interviews Saskatchewan Conservative MP Brad Trost, who says the decision to fund Pride came as a "shock to most of the Conservative caucus, even those inside the Prime Minister's office...The pro-life and the pro-family community should know and understand that the tourism funding money that went to the gay pride parade in Toronto was not government policy, was not supported by - I think it's safe to say by a large majority - of the MPs. This was a very isolated decision."

Trost reportedly "hinted" that Minister Ablonczy, who was responsible for the funding, lost the file as a consequence of what he called the "embarrassment to the Party...It should be noted that the file has been reassigned to a different Cabinet Minister since that announcement was made...The whole tourism program and funding for major tourism events is being reviewed...Canadian taxpayers, even non-social-conservative ones, don't want their tax dollars to go to events that are polarizing or events that are more political than touristic in nature," Trost said.

Pride Toronto brings about one million tourists to the city every year, creating a huge economic boom for the entire region. How could such an event be seen merely as "political" and not "touristic" as Trost claims?

Kudos to BigCityLib for his post on this today, inspiring Kady O'Malley to work her journalistic wonders to get to the bottom of Trost's claims.

I agree with BigCityLib that it's highly likely that Trost's comments are just the latest bone being thrown to the Conservatives' religiously bigoted base. It will be interesting to find out if Ablonczy really has been punished by Harper's PMO for giving money to Canada's biggest LGBT festival.

The Harper-ites gave Toronto's Caribana $415,000 recently, also through the federal government's Marquee Tourism Events Program. Can you imagine if such a move caused the "majority" of Conservative MPs to protest secretly in the backrooms, demanding the Minister be removed from the program because she dared to acknowledge "those people"? Or if a propaganda website, say 'WhiteSite' instead of 'LifeSite' wrote an article making a big deal about the funding "controversy", claiming that children are routinely murdered during the Caribana parade? (As far as I'm concerned, the folks behind 'LifeSite' and the KKK aren't really all that different.)

If such a funding backlash were to take place in the Conservative caucus against any other community in Canada and it got public, I would hope that 90% of Canadians would rebel against the Conservatives for being bigoted, and hopefully the old Reformatories wouldn't be so competitive in opinion polls anymore. I also hope, if this story is true, the Harper-ites pay for their bigotry.

More on this as it develops....


UPDATE - Susan Delacourt reports that Ablonczy is still the Minister of Tourism. But the case isn't closed, as Kady O'Malley correctly points out. Brad Trost claimed in the LifeSite "interview" that the Marquee Event Funding Program file "had been taken away from Ablonczy and given to another, unnamed minister to manage, and in the most recent funding announcement, Ablonczy is no longer mentioned as the responsible minister, nor is her office listed as a contact. We’ll just have to wait to hear from Industry Canada before we know for sure whether the tourism minister is, indeed, still in charge of the Marquee Event Funding Program."

FINAL UPDATE - It's been confirmed that Minister Ablonczy is no longer taking the lead on the Marquee Event Funding Program. The Tories are claiming that has nothing to do with Ablonczy's decision to provide $400,000 to Pride Toronto in June. I don't buy it. This smacks of the kind of internal decision meant to send a subliminal message to the country's so-cons that, 'Don't worry, we gave them some money, but now the woman who did it has been punished, we still hate those people!'

Let's face it, this incident is further proof that Harper's Conservatives, including all of those dinosaur backbenchers, remain decidedly to the right of the Canadian mainstream. Most Canadians have no problem with annual Pride festivities and take a live and let live attitude, especially if such festivals create huge economic spinoffs, like Pride Toronto does. Sadly, that live and let live attitude has no place inside Harper's caucus.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wrong on so many levels: Saskatchewan tries to legislate anti-gay discrimination...

Some conservatives need to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept full equality and fairness for everyone. When it comes to picking and choosing which groups should receive special treatment (religious conservatives) and which should receive second-class status (LGBT people, the poor, artists, etc.), their records in various jurisdictions are clear. So consistent is their opposition to justice and equality, it reinforces the opinion that prejudice and willful ignorance are cornerstones of the conservative movement.

Saskatchewan’s conservative government is the latest to show its regressive colours, sending proposed legislation to allow publicly-licensed marriage commissioners the right to discriminate based on their “religious beliefs” to the courts for feedback.

I quite agree with this Star Phoenix editorial calling the move by Justice Minister Don Morgan cowardly.

Apparently the goons who run the Saskatchewan Party government see gains to be made by going to bat for dinosaurs who’d love to return to an era when the word ‘citizenship’ didn’t include LGBT people.

I hope the court quickly shoots down this misguided proposal as unconstitutional. If a Muslim public servant in Saskatchewan deemed it against his “religion” to serve Jewish residents, would that be acceptable? According to the spirit of this proposal, yes. Virtually any form of discrimination could be justified based on "religious beliefs." If we allow religious public servants to discriminate based on sexual orientation, how could we deny them the right to discriminate against other groups they find objectionable?

Centuries ago, we determined that there should be a clear division between church and state. We’ve also determined that public servants need to serve all people in their community, not just those they deem worthy. Apparently, those lessons of history have been lost on Saskatchewan Party officials.

If a publicly-licensed and publicly-paid official is not willing to carry out his or her duties, including providing marriage services to qualified same-sex couples, that public servant needs to resign. Allowing a public servant to discriminate based on vague, highly subjective “religious beliefs” would create a terrible precedent that must never be allowed.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

India decriminalizes homosexual sex

This is wonderful news!

Click here for some great reaction from pro-equality activists on the Indian court ruling today striking down the country's law against homosexual sex. This could be quite the tipping point in the developing world on the subject. I hope so.