Sunday, January 19, 2014

Putin resembles Hitler as he suggests Russia needs to "cleanse" itself of homosexuality

How horrible it must be to be LGBT in Russia these days. My heart truly goes out to all LGBT people living in Russia and their allies.

Next month's Sochi Olympics are shining a light on that country's despicable treatment of its gay people and rightly so. Ignorance about LGBT people seems to underpin the mainstream culture in Russia (as expressed by its leadership), where the lessons learned in other countries by people just as smart as Russians seem to go unheeded and unlearned.

Now Russia President Vladimir Putin is talking like Adolf Hitler by equating gays with pedophiles and saying Russia needs to “cleanse” itself of homosexuality if it wants to increase its birth rate.

This kind of thinking is horrifying.

Congrats to writer Warren Kinsella for his article today on this very subject in which he too makes the comparison between Putin's Olympics in 2014 and Hitler's Olympics in 1936. Our international failure to launch an effective boycott of Putin's games will only have dire consequences for gays in Russia. It's an ominous warning considering what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany after Hitler's Olympic success.

I hope I'm not being naive in doubting a Russian version of the Holocaust against gay people. But without a doubt, the Russian law against the presence of homosexuality in any part of public society in that country is already having violent consequences for LGBT people.

But just as insidious is the impact Russia's law will have on LGBT youth and Putin's demand that Russia "cleanse" itself of homosexuality to increase its birth rate. I guess Putin hopes that more LGBT Russian men and women will stay in the closet out of fear of violence, and embrace fake heterosexual lives that are wrong for them and for society as a whole, creating phoney marriages and lives lost in clouds of lies and hopelessness.

Putin is either ignorant or deliberately ignoring the fact that homosexuality exists as an inherent, unchangeable attribute in about the same percentage (around three to five percent) in every society, across all demographics, classes, races, etc. including in Russia. He reportedly refused to answer a question today posed by the BBC to him about whether or not he believes the truth that people are born gay.

Holding Gay Pride parades, allowing gay people to exist openly in your society, and even teaching children about the importance of treating all human beings including homosexuals equally and with dignity and respect, will not turn any of those children who are not already destined to be LGBT into an LGBT person. Banning such "gay propaganda" will only further isolate the vulnerable gay Russian youth in that society and promote violence against anyone who doesn't fit in.

Treating LGBT people with equality, dignity and respect is not a Western value; it is a human value as homosexuals are present in all parts of the world, not just the West.

Sorry for the platitudes, which are obvious to most of us here in Canada. But sadly, these truths need to be repeated again and again as old world notions about sexuality continue to dominate in many parts of the world.

And heroes like the brave, gay Russian man (pictured below) who unfurled a rainbow flag today at the Olympic torch relay as it passed through his hometown of Voronezh, 910 kilometres north of Sochi, only to be arrested, need to be honoured and supported.

'My Prairie Home' documentary about transgender musician from Alberta makes it to Sundance Film Festival

I'm excited about seeing this documentary this year, the only Canadian feature to make it to the Sundance Film Festival, which opened this past week.

'My Prairie Home' follows a transgender musician named Ray from a staunch Christian family in Alberta.   Based on this CBC story on it that ran last night, it looks amazing.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

NOW Magazine's movie critics simply suck! (With the exception of Norm Wilner perhaps...)

Filmmakers (including myself on occasion) struggle greatly for years to get their stories on the big screen, from writing dozens of screenplay drafts, to finding money, to shooting, to post-production, to the agonizing process of distribution.

Audiences invest as little as nothing (if illegally downloading) or perhaps $13 if going to a theatre to view them.  

There's an old saying: those who can, do, and those who can't, teach.  This could also apply to film critics: those who can, make films, and those who can't, sit on the sidelines and attack the work of those who can.   

Some publications employ film critics who are fair, open-minded and willing to judge filmmakers' labours of love with a bit of humility, free of any personal agendas.

But not NOW Magazine in Toronto, where mostly amateurish writers in most sections spew their baseless subjectivity every week.  With the exception of Norm Wilner, whose opinions are generally top notch and take into account the actual art of the films and sometimes the intentions of the filmmakers, NOW's film critics frequently let their subjective b.s. opinions, prejudices and political agendas get in the way of their thinking.  

Even worse, Susan G. Cole, an otherwise delightful woman, puts her highly sensitive, left leaning/lesbian political filter on before watching anything.  She once talked down Gus Van Sant's historic epic 'Milk' simply because there weren't enough lesbian characters in it.  Yes a story about an openly gay man who surrounded himself mostly with other gay men in his pursuit of political office and authentically portrayed him as such was simply not lesbian enough for Ms. Cole.  Thus, the weak three star rating for a modern gay classic.

Of course, when films about lesbians have cropped up with zero gay male characters in sight, Cole has been more than eager to hand out five stars and gushing reviews.

Today, I read her review of the decent film 'Saving Mr. Banks' (starring Emma Thompson, pictured above playing the not-lesbian-enough lead character) and once again we don't get a fair reading of the film's artistic merits, but instead its failure to impress Cole's political agenda. 

"The older Travers is portrayed as an old lonely prune who only lightens up after she's been in Disney's orbit. I don't expect a Disney pic to highlight Travers's lesbian love life or her very serious spiritual pursuits, but this rendering is insulting," writes Cole.

See my point?  True, I don't much care for Disney's willingness to present sanitized versions of stories.  But 'Saving Mr. Banks' had its great strengths and was enjoyable.  Certainly, it was worth more than a pathetic two stars out of five. 

Oh well, as those familiar with NOW Magazine already know, one can't expect much in terms of fair, decent, objective reporting from them, either in their news section and of course in the film section.   Perhaps their music writers are qualified, but I'm not enough of a music aficionado to tell.

Most movie lovers are smart, discerning individuals.  Most of us know which reviewers and which organizations publish decent, fair, objective reviews we can trust and which ones don't.  I'm happy to remind everyone of NOW's considerable deficiencies in that department.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Winter by-elections force Wynne's Liberals into tough spot ahead of spring budget and possible election

The Niagara Falls result in the 2011 Ontario provincial election was one of the narrowest wins by a Liberal incumbent in that election.  Former MPP Kim Craitor, the incumbent since 2003, held on by only 500 or so votes in a tight three-way race, just ahead of the Tories with the NDP running a strong third.  Craitor quit his seat in September, forcing a by-election call by March 24, 2014.

In addition, Tory MPP Peter Shurman quit his Thornhill seat late last year after being thrown under the bus by his leader, Tim Hudak, for expensing travel and housing accommodations after moving from his north Toronto riding - ironically - to Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is located in the Niagara Falls riding.  Strangely enough, had Shurman had his way and run in Niagara Falls in 2011, he might've been able to win it, thus negating the need for both of these by-elections.  A by-election to fill Thornhill doesn't need to be called until mid-2014, which could easily happen after an anticipated spring election.

At first thought, it seems strange that Premier Kathleen Wynne and her brain trust are apparently considering calling both by-elections this week for February 13th, 2014.  Despite hospital-related goodies being tossed around Niagara Falls this week, both by-elections will no doubt prove very difficult for the governing Liberals to win.  They're running two decent city councillors in both ridings (Joyce Morocco in Niagara Falls and Sandra Yeung Racco in Thornhill).  But as recent history has shown us, the Ontario Liberals have had no luck hanging onto seats in by-elections outside of either Toronto or Ottawa, let alone picking up seats previously held by the opposition.

Southwestern Ontario turned into a dead zone for the party after it waited months to call by-elections in London West and Windsor-Tecumseh.  Former Liberal strongholds turned into Liberal wastelands with the party placing a very poor third in both by-elections there last summer.  Only the two wins in Scarborough-Guildwood and Ottawa South, plus the near victory in Etobicoke-Lakeshore (which would've been a Liberal win had Doug Holyday not chosen to run for the Ontario PCs) numbed the pain of those dreadful losses.

Taking away Thornhill from the Tories in a by-election seems an awfully tall order.  The most likely result is a narrow Tory win if their candidate is decent.

With the NDP likely to nominate Niagara Falls city councillor Wayne Gates (who polled ahead of both Morocco and Tory nominee Bart Maves in the 2010 municipal election), it's beginning to look like Andrea Horwath's NDP is looking at another by-election pickup in a riding that should otherwise go to the Tories.

So Premier Wynne's Grits seem to be rushing into two by-elections they appear unlikely to win.  What's the strategy in this?  Dampen Liberal spirits and embolden Horwath on the eve of a provincial budget so she decides to bring the government down and force a provincial election for later this spring?   The Grits would have a much better chance of winning both seats in the provincial election, should the Liberals manage to run a decent campaign and hang on to power, as I currently predict.  Holding by-elections in February only to lose Thornhill to some no-name Tory and Niagara Falls to the NDP will not bolster Liberal enthusiasm for a provincial vote.

I'm trying to see the intelligence in this apparent strategy and it's baffling.  Perhaps the Liberals have polling that puts them ahead in Thornhill with Yeung Racco's name on the ballot.  Perhaps they're in similar decent shape in Niagara Falls, helped with the cash promised to plan new area hospitals and invest in the region's wine industry.   

Or perhaps the government hopes to survive in the legislature into late April/early May with a budget approximately one year after the last one (May 2, 2013).  Thus, the Niagara Falls by-election would have to be called and held before any possible provincial budget and subsequent election.  Better to get the tough by-elections out of the way now perhaps while the Liberals have decent candidates and teams in place and the opposition parties have less time to do the leg work in order to win.  The Tories don't even have their candidate yet in Thornhill.

So perhaps there is method to Wynne's winter by-election madness.  We'll see.