Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Special message to ignorant, bigoted conservatives during Covid-19: Go ahead, meet up in big groups, go to church, hug and lick each other, spread the virus amongst yourselves!

Neo-cons resemble zombies at a recent U.S. protest against public safety
I've gotten so angry lately when I hear about idiotic conservatives bitching and whining (even more than usual) about how they're being oppressed by public health rules trying to minimize the catastrophic health impacts of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In their latest attack on science and basic facts, many conservatives are now taking to the streets to hold unsafe protests, thus making the public health emergency potentially even worse.

These entitled whiners, mostly White, have no idea what it's like to live under rules, whether written or unwritten, that greatly limit their choices - so to finally face some inconveniences these days seems foreign to them.  They're like spoiled children angry they can't play in the park anymore.  

We've seen this entitled conservative bullshit spreading in parts of the United States.  The evil scumbag Trump is encouraging public protests as he thinks they somehow reinforce his own insidious messages, all of which are only designed to re-write history to benefit himself and his re-election hopes.  I'm convinced Donald Trump doesn't truly give a shit about public safety.  He only wants the economy to recover - not to help out ordinary families who are also facing economic crises - but to help him win re-election.  Yes, this is what happens when you irresponsibly elect a narcissistic sociopath as President - you get total chaos during a health crisis and the death rate from the virus skyrockets - over 40,000 and climbing in the U.S. alone when a more responsible president would've taken action sooner and saved many of those lives.  I'm sure Hillary Clinton would've saved thousands from the horrible fates they are now set to experience thanks to Trump.  

Brazil's conservative president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been doing the same idiotic thing: playing down the virus for months, first pretending it's all a hoax, only begrudgingly accepting the truth in recent weeks, but still undermining public health with irresponsible messaging that encourages other idiotic conservatives to take to the streets. 

Most conservatives, who usually demand full consequences and responsibilities for liberals and other people they don't like, of course, exempt themselves from personal responsibility and consequences.

"Consequences are for liberals," they might as well be saying.   That's certainly always been my impression of conservatives. 

Well, it's time for consequences to finally hit these ignoramuses.  Covid-19 doesn't discriminate based on race or gender or sexual orientation like conservatives love to do.  As the educated know, it can infect anyone.

"The blood of Christ" won't protect these idiots, as one American woman recently claimed to the TV cameras while driving into a fundamentalist church parking lot to attend a service.  Many conservative governors in the U.S. have refused to ban church services during this crisis.

I do sympathize with all who have temporarily lost their livelihoods because of this crisis, including small business owners who can't operate and might lose their businesses as a result.  There is a lot of economic pain out there at this point.  Vulnerable people like minimum wage earners have been the worst hit.  Liberal governments have been pumping economies with measures intended to help get us through this.  First in line for government handouts have been, of course, conservatives. 

Sadly, collective welfare needs to trump individual profit at this point.  Adopting stringent rules this spring to protect public health and safety will allow the economy to be re-opened safely as soon as possible in the near future.  Irresponsibly re-opening the economy too early is likely to cause extra thousands of people to die horribly from this virus and possibly a second, even more severe wave of illness later this year.  Let's keep our eyes on the ball and not be distracted by these whining, entitled idiots.  

The only silver lining to this pandemic might just end up being a natural culling of ignorant conservative bigots.

When these arrogant folks go outside, meet up for big protests, attend church services, end up spitting on each other or licking each other or whatever they end up doing together, it will cause the virus to spread further among them.  As most of these idiotic conservatives live in Fox News-style echo chambers / bubbles where they never interact with intelligent liberals, the bulk of the consequences will be faced by them. 

Here's my special message to these ignorant bigots: keep it up.  Get out there.  Infect each other.  Go home to your conservative, no-doubt-bigoted elders and give them the virus too.

And I don't really need to say this to liberals, most of whom are educated and intelligent: continue to practice social distancing, stay away from conservatives, and you'll probably be fine. 

If, at the end of this Covid-19 crisis, we have far fewer idiotic, paranoid, angry, bigoted conservatives, that will be a good thing. Yes, I said it.

Monday, April 13, 2020

New Gay Short Film Trailer - “The Big Snore”



I'm thrilled to release the trailer for my new short film The Big Snore on YouTube.

Yes, you read that title correctly.  But I can assure you the film will not put you to sleep - quite the contrary.  It will make you laugh, turn you on, and warm your heart, when it's finally released.

The film is about a light sleeper who struggles one night to get some rest amid his man's loud snores.  While the story is not auto-biographical, it was, of course, inspired by real life experiences.  My husband Sam informs me that I'm an occasional snorer, as I can attest he is as well. 

This is the culmination of months of work.  I raised money for this project last fall and was very proud to get most of my budget from that fundraising.  Thank you so much to everyone who generously donated.

With that funding, I hired a great crew and we shot this little story in one day in November.  I especially want to thank my two lovely, awesome actors, Scotty Murray and James Chapman, for their great performances.  My cinematographer Adam Seward brought so much talent to this project including the beautiful colour treatment.  Even Sam helped out with everything that shoot day, including set decoration.  He asked specifically for the credit 'Set Decoration & Bitch,' and that's the credit he's received.  I love you, baby.    

Post production work started a few days after the shoot and finished in early March.  A special thank you to George Kallika for his hard work on the sound mix as well as the music!

I also submitted the film to the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC), a not-for-profit distributor of Canadian queer short films (among other films in their collection), and I am thrilled that they have added my film to their queer film festival catalogue.  As such, they will be submitting it to film festivals around the world over the next year or so (they only submit to film festivals which pay screening fees, of which the CFMDC will take 30% should I get programmed.  The bonus for me is I will save a lot of time and money by not having to submit the film myself to dozens of film festivals.) 

Then, of course, Covid-19 hit us all in mid-March.  And as we know, most film festivals in the immediate future are postponed until the summer or fall.  So, the public release of The Big Snore will have to wait.  I do hope that it will be programmed into film festivals, should they happen, this summer or fall.  My fingers are crossed.  My longer term plan has always been to eventually publish a censored version of the film on YouTube after its festival run is completed, unless of course an exclusive distributor wants to purchase the rights first. 

But in the mean time, I'm very happy to share the trailer on YouTube and of course on this blog.
 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Bernie Sanders lost because he didn't really try to win over centrist doubters

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders
Politics is ultimately about one thing: winning.

Claiming your policies are overwhelmingly popular but you still always lose elections?  If those policies are as popular as you say, then that means you've failed the most important test of a political leader to connect your candidacy in the minds of those voters with that policy popularity.  It means they like the idea, but they don't think you're the one who is capable of implementing it.  

If others can steal a handful of your policies and then convince voters they are the better stewards of society including the economy and, thus, you lose, well you deserve to lose.

Because politics is about winning.  

All major campaigns and candidates have the potential to win.  It all depends on various factors, but most important can be the actions of the candidate and his/her campaign, how they communicate their message and how they reach out to people not inclined to support them.

If that candidate can't quite communicate a message that emboldens supporters and wins over doubters in order to win a majority of the vote, that candidate fails.

That's not the fault of voters.  It's the candidate's fault.

This week, Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign to become the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020. 

Bernie Sanders has been a loner on the periphery of politics his entire career.  He's been comfortable there.  He incessantly demonized the political establishment and encouraged his supporters to do the same.  This tactic got him a lot of notoriety and support in 2016, but failed to win that year.

In 2019/2020, Bernie largely took the same strategy.  He thought he could somehow inspire a massive turnout of new voters the likes of which the country had never seen.  This massive new turnout would overwhelm centrist Democrats and allow his movement to take over the party.   It would also turn out in places like Pennsylvania and Michigan and Iowa to elect Sanders over Donald Trump later this year, he predicted.

But then the primaries started happening and Sanders' support slumped, dropping significantly from 2016.  His promised massive turnout of youth and the disenfranchised didn't materialize.  In Iowa, his support was almost half of what it was in 2016.  In New Hampshire, a state he swept in 2016 with 61% support, Sanders again barely got 25% of the vote this year and was almost beaten by Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.

Sanders did very well in the Nevada caucus and then was widely described for a few days by mainstream media commentators as the "Democratic front runner."  But Sanders then made a major mistake, as this CNN opinion piece makes clear:

 
After Joe Biden crushed Sanders and the rest of the field in South Carolina, a stampede of centrists galloped toward Biden in time for Super Tuesday.  The ease with which centrist Democratic voters embraced Biden on Super Tuesday and subsequent primaries showed the extent of Sanders' failure.  Biden now has an insurmountable delegate advantage.
 
This all leaves one flawed Democrat - Joe Biden - standing.  It's true that Biden's last two debate performances had improved immensely from previous debates.  He is starting to show the message discipline he'll need to possibly win this thing in November.  The impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is making all things exceedingly difficult to predict, including the November presidential election.  There are signs the American public is starting to turn on Donald Trump whose pathetic vanity is getting in the way of providing the kind of leadership his country desperately needs. 

If it had been up to me, I would've picked Elizabeth Warren to be the Democratic nominee, even though I had many doubts about her ability to connect with enough voters in the battleground states to win.  She was the least flawed choice for Democrats, in my opinion. 

When it was clear Warren was not going to win, I started cheering for Bernie Sanders.  I sympathize greatly with his causes including universal public health care for all and getting the corrupt influences of big money out of politics.  I much preferred a septuagenarian who would fight for universal health care over another who merely promised slow, incremental change.

But I'm also a pragmatist, something no doubt many far lefties and Bernie bros will view as a weakness.  I am willing to give up getting everything I want in order to get at least some of what I want.   

I will be honest.  I did have heart palpitations when imagining an election fight between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.  I worried that a highly polarized fight between a self-described "socialist" and the despicable incumbent would result in victory again for Donald Trump.  There are too many sad examples of similar big socialist defeats throughout history, the December election in the U.K. being just the latest example.   I envisioned a devastating, crushing Sanders loss this November, followed by four more years of Trump's inanity.  (That was, of course, before the Coronavirus, which has changed everything.) 

No, Democratic voters instead have chosen a safe centrist as their party's nominee.  Biden is at least quite likeable, I will admit.  More likeable than Hillary Clinton could ever be.  Biden's ability to authentically express empathy is one of his greatest strengths.  Amid the chaos in health care and the economy this year, a safe centrist who wants to bring the country back together to heal might just be what a majority of U.S. voters want.  I hope that translates into a victory in the Electoral College.

One hope: Biden picks Elizabeth Warren as his running mate to inspire and excite the progressives in his party.  If he chooses another safe and uninspiring centrist like him as his VP, I'll become very pessimistic about Biden's chances. 

In the mean time, I'm ruminating about the lessons that have been learned or re-learned this year in the Democratic primary: Grumpily refusing to reach out, belittling those who don't support every single one of your brilliant ideas, has proven itself to be a recipe for failure.

I hope the next progressive hero who comes along does better and learns the most important lesson: "It's not about you, it's about us."

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Canadian TV masterpiece "Schitt's Creek" comes to an end...

Billboard promoting Schitt's Creek this season
I just want to write a quick shout-out to the great TV comedy Schitt's Creek, which is coming to a series end this Tuesday April 7th. 

Beautifully written, produced, directed, and acted, this quirky little show has become a major hit across the world since being picked up by Netflix (after a few years of decent success on CBC in Canada and Pop in the U.S.) 

I've always been a hard sell when it comes to new television shows, perhaps particularly Canadian shows.  The premise of this one - a rich family loses everything and is forced to relocate to a remote town they bought years ago as a joke - didn't especially intrigue me.  But man, was I wrong about this one!! 

After so much good word of mouth, I finally took the plunge alongside my partner watching the pilot episode just over a year ago courtesy of Netflix.  We were absolutely hooked after the first episode.  I was particularly intrigued by the pan-sexual / queer character of adult son David, played by the uber-talented Dan Levy, who created and wrote the show alongside his famous father Eugene who also plays patriarch Johnny Rose.  The incredible and hilarious talents of Catherine O'Hara as matriarch Moira Rose and Annie Murphy as daughter Alexis Rose round out the beloved family.  A wide array of characters played by superb actors surround them.  In six seasons, the laugh-out-loud jokes have been abundant.  

If you've got Netflix, I highly recommend you give it a shot as soon as possible.  It is perfect TV binge material, particularly for these hard times.  I'd describe each episode as 22 minutes of sublime joy! 

The best part of the show for me has been its portrayal of the romance between son David and his handsome fiance Patrick, played by the adorable Noah Reid.  The queer content has been so matter of fact, so nonchalant, it has been a wonderful breath of fresh air.  The unconditional acceptance and support the couple has received from David's family has been one of this show's treasures. Another treasure has been the frequent sight in recent months of the giant billboards featuring the lovely same sex couple kissing (seen above.)

Do yourself a favour and watch Schitt's Creek in its entirety as soon as possible.  (The sixth and final season is only still playing on CBC Gem or Pop, but it should show up on Netflix hopefully as soon as possible.)  In the mean time, here is one of my favourite moments of the entire show:

Saturday, March 7, 2020

I'm sad as the Ontario Liberal Party uses an archaic system to elect a questionable leader

The CP24 live online feed at 12:35 pm today
I'm sad today as a couple thousand elected delegates, but also a big chunk of "ex-officio" delegates appointed to the convention with equal voting power due to their elite positions within the Ontario Liberal Party, gather in the International Centre in Mississauga to formally pick a new leader to replace the amazing trailblazer Kathleen Wynne.   

When the Ontario Liberal Party was smashed in the 2018 election and the NDP failed to stop Doug Ford's PCs, I was inspired to get re-engaged in helping to rebuild the Liberals as the only party that has traditionally been able to defeat Conservatives. 

I attended the June 2019 annual general meeting of the Ontario Liberals where hundreds of like-minded Liberal activists tried to modernize our leadership process that would allow all members a direct say in the leadership results including on the most important final ballot.  It would've allowed thousands of men, women, and youth across the province to have that vote in their own communities.  All major parties in Canada have moved to this form of direct democracy which engages hundreds of thousands rather than just hundreds.

But sadly, while 58% voted at that Ontario Liberal meeting last June to modernize, they were thwarted by a regressive minority of 42% of members who argued that the excitement of a convention, and the allegedly intense media coverage conventions always receive, would be foolish to give up.  Who cares about good process if you can have flashy television cameras?  (The change needed two thirds support to pass.)

Well, to that I offer the above image.  There is no live coverage currently on any television I can access (I cut my cable cord years ago).  The CP24 online live feed is not covering it as the above image indicates.  They're only publishing some leadership speeches as clips after they happen.  Perhaps they'll cut in for a few minutes when the leader is announced today after the first ballot around 2 pm.  CBC is not providing live coverage online or on CBLT.  TVO is not covering it on their television channel, but is at least live-feeding it on YouTube (which I'm currently streaming.)  That's it. 

So we've opted for a bad process and aren't getting the promised media attention.

And in the end, it looks like the mediocre Steven Del Duca will prevail due to his huge delegate count coming into the convention.

I'll give credit where it is due: clearly, Del Duca and his team ran a great campaign focused on signing up members and turning them out to vote.  It was a juggernaut.

I struggled to find an alternative I could truly believe in.  Few big Liberal stars stepped forward.

I was highly tempted to support Kate Graham, whose energy, drive and progressive vision for a new way of doing politics was inspiring.  But in the end, I opted to support Mitzie Hunter who offered many of the same things, plus a seat at Queen's Park and more actual government experience.  I even ran to be a Mitzie delegate in Toronto Centre, but came up short winning the 1 delegate spot Mitzie earned out of 16 from that riding.

The watering down of the membership votes into delegate counts remains a big shame.  Nine people together voted in Toronto Centre for Alvin Tedjo and Brenda Hollingsworth.  But those votes translated into zero delegates to the convention due to the math converting 206 votes into just 16 spaces.  Those nine people might as well have not shown up.   The Ontario Liberal Party needs to fix this and implement One-Member-One-Vote.

I could've gone to the convention this weekend as an alternate with no vote.  For the price of at least $500 plus transportation or hotel costs, I could have gone and sat to watch events in person, including what looks to be a first ballot coronation for Steven Del Duca.  I took a pass.  This is what happens when the system is designed to exclude about 90% of members from the final decision.  

Presuming Del Duca prevails this afternoon, I wish him well.  He lacks charisma, he speaks a bit like a robot, and looks like your typical Liberal backroomer.  He literally is one of those Liberals who used his position of power in government to manipulate decisions to his own political benefit.  I'm sure he'll be hoping to sweep all of those skeletons away and move forward.

But he's smart, energetic and clearly well-organized.  He's boring.  But sometimes that sells very well in Ontario.  We know that voters in general have been turned off and disappointed by Doug Ford's erratic and bizarre leadership choices and style.  He's been a bull in a china shop.  It may just be that Steven Del Duca, whose monotone voice belies a mood that never falls off the rails, might be able to portray a quiet competence that might connect with Ontarians.

Of course, the PCs and the NDP will try to tar him with the past sins of the Liberal Party.  They may succeed.  But we will of course see.  The Liberal establishment insisted that we must pick Del Duca in this race.  They've got what they wanted.  It's now time for Del Duca to deliver.  

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Pete Buttigieg, first openly gay presidential candidate to win a state caucus, drops out of the race

Former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg
I have mixed feelings about tonight's news that Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and upstart Democratic presidential candidate, is dropping out of the race. 

At a time like this, I want to be more generous and focus on the immensely positive aspects of his historic candidacy. Buttigieg did smash considerable barriers by building up his national campaign into what it became.  Just over a year ago, most observers dismissed the candidacy of the openly gay incumbent mayor of a small city in the midwest with a name tough to pronounce and no state-wide election victories under his belt. 

They weren't dismissing him in recent months.  Buttigieg built a national team that pulled out all the stops to take flight.  And it did for a while.  His victory in the Iowa caucus last month was a historic moment for the first major openly gay presidential candidate.  That's something to respect.  

The handsome man with piercing blue eyes and a clearly brilliant mind offered a fresh, outside-the-Beltway perspective on national politics.  His life story including his experience as a soldier as well as his religious faith, made him a unique candidate on the ballot.  There were times I could see how it could be possible he could win this thing, either this year or (more than likely) in future years. 

Still, his lack of experience at the state or national level made his candidacy a harder sell.  He struggled to expand his support beyond white communities.   Many people of colour communities viewed him as just the latest media concoction of a smooth talker who says the right things but never really delivers for them.  

Some of his best ideas, such as getting rid of the Electoral College or embracing Medicare for All, seemed to disappear the longer he continued to hold exclusive fundraisers with wealthy contributors.  In a year defined by the anti-establishment politics of Bernie Sanders, Buttigieg seemed little more than a retread of the types of politicians who did little in the past for the working class, only this time in a younger, cuter, millennial package.  It was interesting that the 38-year-old failed to pick up much young support, as we've seen in polling and exit polls.

In the end, while I enjoyed many of Buttigieg's speeches earlier in his campaign, he lately came across to me as a bit smarmy and overly-rehearsed.  I found him hard to relate to on a number of levels, despite him being gay and white, about 10 years my junior.  Perhaps it was his high-minded, managerial personality which reminded me of certain gay men I can't stand much.  His coziness with the establishment and big donors seemed completely at odds with what America needs right now.  

Still, I have to admire the guy.  There's no doubt he's got a future in politics.  It may be too late this year for him to re-calibrate his efforts and seek a different office like the Indiana Governor's mansion.  But it would certainly win him more fans were he to actually take down some horrid Indiana Republican as soon as possible.  

The timing in withdrawing today is likely meant to benefit other moderates remaining in the Democratic race on Super Tuesday.  This might help deny Bernie Sanders as many delegates as he would've won with the moderate middle splintered by Buttigieg's support.  We'll see if Amy Klobuchar does the same thing before Tuesday (probably not.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Poll shows Steven Del Duca already deflating Ontario Liberal fortunes

Doug Ford will be happy with Steven Del Duca as Liberal leader
As I predicted in last month's blistering post against Liberal backroom operator Steven Del Duca's candidacy for the Ontario Liberal leadership, we now have a Campaign Research poll as proof that Del Duca literally deflates Liberal fortunes and helps out Andrea Horwath's NDP, and to some extent Doug Ford's Conservatives. 

The poll showed today, without any leaders' names mentioned, the Liberal brand is on top in Ontario with 36%, the PCs at 30% and the NDP at 21%.

But when leaders' names were added to the question, including reported front runner Del Duca's name as "Liberal leader," support for the Ontario Grits plummets from first to third, or from 36% to 25%.  The Ford PCs go up to 32%, while Horwath's NDP soars to 31%.   Overall, the average with both questions compiled together put the Liberals and PCs tied at 30%, and the NDP at 26%.  The Greens get 11%. 

That massive drop caused by the mention of Del Duca's name would be the huge numbers of progressive voters in Ontario who see no reason to vote Liberal with Del Duca as leader.

Insider Liberals or other non-creative, non-visionary Liberals who can't seem to see the major flaws in Del Duca, this is what you are ordering for your party: A long road back now made, due to your flawed decision-making, even longer and more lonely.  Best of luck to you as you will most definitely need it if reports of a massive delegate lead by Del Duca are confirmed soon by the party as true. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Backroom operator Steven Del Duca as Ont Liberal leader will give huge boosts to both Doug Ford and Andrea Horwath...

Steven Del Duca, aka "The Automaton from Vaughan"
Steven Del Duca has been described ad nauseam by Robert Benzie at the Toronto Star as the "front runner" in the ongoing Ontario Liberal leadership race.

I actually knew Del Duca vaguely when he worked at Queen's Park for David Caplan.  I worked then for Michael Gravelle, and later the Liberal Caucus office.  Del Duca struck me then as nothing more than your typical backroomer, more in it for the game than for the people.

His campaign now has attempted to reinforce the "front runner" narrative with an ongoing "shock and awe" strategy that makes it appear that every insider Liberal in Ontario supports Del Duca.  The release of the specific number of "14,173" memberships allegedly submitted by the Del Duca campaign to the party adds a sense of inevitability to his ascendancy.  (37,831 Liberal members are eligible to vote in upcoming leadership delegate selection meetings in early February.  Those delegates will vote for the next leader at a Mississauga convention in early March.)

The Del Duca campaign is clearly trying to discourage all opposition to his bid to take over the party.  But opposition persists because the unlikeable, robotic Del Duca has got to be one of the worst front runners in leadership history.

I make that assessment not based on his inner value as a human being; I'm sure Del Duca is a great and friendly guy in person (and probably a lovely husband and father).  He's clearly skilled at working in the backrooms of the party and making thousands and thousands of friends in high places.  Clearly, this leadership race is the culmination of three decades of party machinations, currying favour with other insiders who are now lining up behind the guy they know well. 

Few Ontarians outside of Ontario Liberal circles know much about this obscure man, who was easily defeated in his riding of Vaughan in 2018, unlike Mitzie Hunter and Michael Coteau who held their seats in Toronto.

Further, Del Duca oozes that despicable insider Liberal vibe.  His robotic and monotone voice, his faked emotions, his oddly shaved head and uncharismatic looks, don't exactly scream "leadership material."  His record in government was spotty at best.

His decision as Transportation Minister to ignore the experts at Metrolinx and approve a proposed Kirby GO train station in his Vaughan riding was roundly criticized as the kind of self-serving decision Ontario Liberals got crucified for in 2018.  Ontario’s auditor general had little good to say about it.  Yet, Del Duca continues to defend his decision, saying data he's found since retroactively justifies it.  He never explains the data, of course, or how data can retroactively justify anything if you claim you only make decisions after consulting expert advice and data, not before.  If you don't believe Del Duca, he'll repeat this explanation about "data" using his monotone voice until you stop listening.

That may work on ineffective journalists who get tired of asking the same questions.  But it'll be fodder for Doug Ford's PCs and Andrea Horwath's NDP who will be able to paint Del Duca as the same old-style Liberal who wastes tax dollars just to benefit himself and his friends.  The fact that Del Duca looks the image of a sleazy backroom Liberal player will reinforce those attacks.

The new Ontario Liberal leader should be able to move away from the mistakes of the past and reach out to new voters.  That's why I'm supporting Mitzie Hunter in this race, who has a solid record in government and the private sector, actually won her seat in 2018, and is running a campaign now designed to reach new voters who abandoned the party in 2018.  Hunter will reach progressive voters the Ontario Liberals need to win back from the NDP in order to challenge the PCs for power.  Other candidates, like Michael Coteau, Kate Graham, and Alvin Tedjo, would also have great appeal with the kinds of voters the Liberals need to win back, I must admit.   

But not Del Duca, who's been saying Ontario Liberals need to move back to the centre (whatever that means), claiming things got too progressive under Kathleen Wynne.  With Del Duca as leader, progressive Ontario voters will be dispirited, likely stay home or vote for the NDP or the Greens, while the Grits go largely nowhere and get squeezed between the PCs and the NDP again. Say hello to another comfortable PC majority.  

This Liberal disaster is worth it simply because Del Duca knows the party and knows how to organize fundraisers?  Come on, Liberal insiders, what's wrong with you?  How can the "Automaton from Vaughan," as I've nicknamed him, be considered this race's front runner?

I can only explain Del Duca's strength so far in this race by pointing to the inherent flaws of the insider bubble.  And how personal connections and friendships can undermine decent judgment in people who should otherwise know better.  That seems to be what's happening here.

Del Duca's campaign this year and the support he's received from Liberal insiders reminds me of a 2003 film called Shattered Glass.  Starring Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard and Chloe Sevigny, it detailed the story of Stephen Glass, a writer for the New Republic in the U.S. who completely fabricated several of his stories for the renowned current affairs magazine.  How did he get away with it?  He used his charm, his personal connections and friendships to win favour and eradicate doubt among his journalistic colleagues.  His word, as detailed in his reporter notes, was accepted at face value.  Even when it became clear he was guilty of fraud, his award-winning journalist colleagues were deeply reluctant to question him.  Their emotions trumped their reason. 

As Sarsgaard's editor character Chuck Lane says in the film:  "We're all going to have to answer for what we let happen here.  We're all going to have an apology to make...We blew it!  He handed us fiction after fiction and we printed them all as fact.  Just because we found him entertaining.  It's indefensible.  Don't you know that?"

The fiction that Del Duca is handing in to Ontario Liberals is that he's the best candidate to lead the party back from the abyss.  And it does appear that many of his colleagues have fallen for it because they find him entertaining, or smart, or to be just such a great guy, blah blah blah.

Like I said, Del Duca may be a decent man.  But he wasn't much of a politician.  He wasn't good at keeping his own seat at Queen's Park.  He's connected with some of the worst decisions made by the previous government and he will wear them as leader.  And he looks like a robotic, unlikeable, uncharismatic, backroom, sleazy operator you can't trust with your tax dollars.

It's time for Ontario Liberals to come to their senses.  Anyone but Del Duca would be preferable in this race.   

Why am I so blunt?  Because the future of the province is at stake!  Steven Del Duca, woefully unqualified in my opinion, is using all the political tricks in the book to try to win the leadership of the one party I think can actually beat Doug Ford's PCs!  I must speak out and try to stop this fiasco from actually happening.   

Friday, January 3, 2020

My Favourite Films of 2019 - UPDATED AGAIN

Scene from Parasite
Sometimes making a list of one's favourite films for the previous year shortly after New Year's Eve can be a fool's game.  Sometimes movies need a bit of time to fester in my mind before their true greatness is realized.  Sometimes it takes the intense love expressed by others for me to truly open my eyes and get past my own initial hangups about a movie.  That happened to me this year with the masterpiece Parasite.

When I first saw it in November 2019, I was initially a bit disappointed with it.  I hadn't enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Boon Jong Ho's previous films including Okja or Snowpiercer.  It was that disappointment accompanied by a distrust of group consensus that prevented me from appreciating Parasite that much for several more weeks.

Yes, the Oscars refocused my mind, I must admit.  They so rarely do, but this year was an exception when the most inspiring, original and fearless flick took the top prize, not only for Best International Film, but also Best Picture.  Had I missed something?  Yes, apparently.  I re-watched Parasite a week later with a friend, accompanied with some booze.  And to my joy, the second viewing was as delightful a second viewing one could hope for.  I found myself loving all the fine details of the piece, laughing as it unfolded, then switched gears and genres half-way, and approached its astonishing and thought-provoking conclusion.  I was hooked.  A third viewing the next week with another friend made me realize I had made a mistake with my Top Ten Favourites list of 2019.    

I've finally gotten around to updating this post to accurately reflect, for posterity, what I truly think about the films of 2019.  Parasite is very much my favourite film of the year.  Yes, 1917 was astonishing, but also just a very good war flick, the sort of which we've seen many times before.  I still am very glad I put Ad Astra very close to the top of my list.  I do love it more than 1917, after all.  It will remain my guilty sci-fi pleasure of 2019 as well.  

I have always amended my Top Ten list in years past.  This year was no different, although I will admit that I've never changed my list this much, this long after the year's end.  Is it cheating as a film lover to only truly appreciate a film after the Oscars anoint it the best?  Maybe.  My changing mind about Parasite has been instructive to me: I should try to keep a more open mind when watching the films I do and try better to put aside all prejudices and simply let them wash over me.  Perhaps I would've loved Parasite much sooner.

Without further ado, here are my top picks of 2019:

1. Parasite: Superb and unforgettable social commentary and satire, so relevant to our times that it stings the senses while still feeling enjoyable and entertaining, this film portrays a working class family that gradually takes over the various "help" jobs in a rich Korean family home.  The plot twists are amazing.  The artistry is so impeccable, I'm slightly ashamed I didn't appreciate this masterpiece earlier than I did.  Yes, it took the Oscars to make me realize how I had erred not putting this flick higher on my own list.  After four viewings (with more planned), this is no doubt my favourite of 2019.  

2. Ad Astra: I'm a sucker for artsy, philosophical sci-fi flicks.  With gorgeous cinematography, uber cool art direction, plus haunting, soothing, symphonic music, stellar visual effects (which here easily best those of the recent First Man), and a lovely performance by its beautiful, likeable, but complicated lead (in this case, Brad Pitt), this film takes its place among the best in the genre, in my opinion.  This is magnificent work by writer-director James Gray, whose last film, The Lost City of Z, I loved and recommend as well.

3. 1917: I'm also a sucker for great, historical war films, especially those with tremendous heart.  Throw in some handsome young leads, including George MacKay, and breathtaking cinematography, and it's cinematic ecstasy for me.  Roger Deakins' work in this film as DOP is a must-see.  The continuous, long shots are awesome to behold.  The acting is stupendous.  The direction by Sam Mendes among his best accomplishments.  I liked this one better than Dunkirk, which says a lot.

4. Us: Better than Get Out in many ways, this stunningly original, chilling story, also by writer-director Jordan Peele, about a family stalked by mysterious strangers who look exactly like them is not one I'll ever forget, including its sensational, jaw-dropping ending.  Lupita Nyong'o plays both mothers to perfection.

5. Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood: I must admit I love most of Quentin Tarantino's films.  I don't usually mind the extreme violence he indulges in as long as it's brief and serves a purpose, typically comedic.  Who could really object to seeing Hitler blown to bits in Inglourious Basterds, after all?  This is a sweet masterpiece, in typical Tarantino style, but also very heartfelt.  I think this one is on its way to wins for Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars next month.

6. Portrait of a Lady on Fire: The queer film of 2019, without a doubt.  I caught this film at TIFF and was thankful I chose it.  The story follows the slow-burning romance between an 18th century young French female painter and her muse, a young woman whose wedding portrait she is commissioned to create.  Beautifully directed by Celina Sciamma, watching this story unfurl was a delight, especially the final scene at the orchestra with Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto No 2 in G minor.  Wow.

THE REST OF MY TOP 13:

7. Jojo Rabbit: Great historical satire about the banalities of hate.  Unforgettable.

8. Captain Marvel: Brie Larson kicks ass in this super hero origin flick that is totally original and extremely funny.  The special effects used to make Samuel L. Jackson look like a 30-something are far better than anything seen in The Irishman.

9. Harriet: Stunning and urgent historical drama about Harriet Tubman, one of America's greatest heroes of the Underground Railroad.  Cynthia Erivo is sensational in the lead role.  Definitely a masterpiece.

10. Marvel's Avengers: Endgame: A perfect finale to this saga. I've hesitated to elevate super hero films to my top ten list in the past.  But screw it: I'm a nerd who loves these flicks.

11. Spider-Man: Far From Home: The most entertaining Spider-Man flick I've seen. Plus Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal make the perfect onscreen duo, even though all the homo-eroticism was definitely in my head.

12. The Best of Enemies: An expertly acted and crafted story that proves even the worst racists among us are capable of changing and the best way to bring somebody over from the dark side is not to insult and castigate them, but reach out to them with compassion.  Even if compassion is the last thing you think they deserve.

13. Pain & Glory: A lovely and inspiring addition to Pedro Almodovar's repetoire, with a superb performance by Antonio Banderas.

FOLLOWED BY, IN ORDER OF EXCELLENCE:
Yesterday 
Rocketman 
Little Women
Bombshell
The Two Popes
Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
The Report
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
Judy
Lucy in the Sky Marriage Story
Joker
The Irishman
Knives Out
Clemency
Incitement
Terminally In Love (a short film I saw at the Inside Out film festival in Toronto, mesmerizing, trippy, funny, unforgettable)
War Movie (another short film I saw at Inside Out)
Thrive (another short film I saw at Inside Out.)
Ma
The Blonde One
Just Mercy
My Zoe
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

STILL NEED TO SEE, IN ORDER OF PRIORITY: 
Apollo 11
Queen & Slim 
The Lighthouse
The Aeronauts
The Laundromat
Seberg
The Farewell
Tolkien

DISAPPOINTING: 
On the Basis of Sex
The Obituary of Tunde Johnson
X-Men: Dark Phoenix


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Will we be celebrating the end of the horrid Trump era one year from now?

Happy New Year to all! 

Politically, I couldn't help but think last night as the clock struck midnight that 2020 will be a pivotal year for the world.

Much hangs in the balance.  In 2020, a key question will be answered: Is this a world where a narcissistic criminal who plays on fears and the worst of human instincts for personal profit is rewarded and strengthened?  Or is this a world where such a criminal gets his first taste of justice and deserved defeat?

It's not just an academic question.  Our ability to survive and endure the effects of climate change rests on if Americans will play ball with the rest of the civilized world in time for 2030.  So much is wrong with the world right now and Donald Trump is making all of it worse with the biggest and most damaging vanity project ever produced.   It's got to come to an end this year.

But will it?  Will this be an unfortunate four-year blip, a stark reminder of the darkness that exists in many parts of America and the world, but luckily can be beaten back?  Or will eight years of our lives, almost an entire decade, be dominated by this pathetic, narcissistic, low-life monster?  And confirm our downward spiral as a species on this planet?  I'm not sure I can take another four years of this torture.  I know the world cannot. 

Efforts by Democrats to challenge Trump with impeachment were just and the right thing to do.  The guy is a brazen criminal who must be challenged.  Yet despite this, Trump's base remains as solid as ever.  It's despicable.

But there is much hope.  In 2018, 53% of Americans came out to support the Democrats in mid-term elections, giving that party its biggest mid-term vote percentage victory in generations.  Despite the strong economy, most polls have given Trump disastrous approval ratings since 2017, the likes of which typically precede electoral defeat.   While Trump's supporters were more motivated by far to turn out and vote in 2016 than Democrats, collective disgust and fatigue with Trump's antics could produce voter turnout this year for the Democrats that could make the difference in swing states and send the monster packing.  

But the Democrats have to play this right and not make the same stupid mistakes that got us here.  Sadly, it's quite plausible that they will screw it up.  There are too many comfy, privileged centrists, who are doing very well thank you with the current power structures in society, who clearly haven't yet learned much from 2016.  I've had many discussions with well-meaning but deluded or misguided folks who think Trump can be beaten simply by nominating someone aligned with the elite establishment but just slightly more likeable than Hilary Clinton.  Easy peasy.

Nonsense.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  I'm done with insanity.

No, Trump's victory in 2016 exposed an anti-establishment anger that was so fierce it was willing to put someone as inappropriate as him in office just to send a message to the elites of America.  They rushed to the polls to elect a guy who would throw a wrench into the machine against a weak and uninspiring Democrat like Clinton.

Nominating a safe and flawed centrist like Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg this year will likely accomplish the same thing: it will fail to inspire the Democratic base and will fail to boost voter turnout needed to boot Trump from office.  It would suck to turn our backs on better and more progressive candidates, and still lose to Trump. 

I'm in full agreement with this great piece by Adam Jentleson about the best way for Democrats to retake the White House.

Whoever the Democrats nominate, that person is going to face an onslaught of hate and lies from Trump, desperate to defend himself from defeat and the possible criminal prosecutions and jail time that could follow. 

Democrats need someone they can believe in, who will unite their party, and inspire new voters to get out and vote.  You can't do that with a milquetoast, career politician with a mixed record who embodies the insider establishment of Washington when he's not sounding lost.  You can't do that with a smooth-talking centrist who's changed positions on key issues in this race to appease the billionaire donor class behind closed doors.

Democrats need to nominate someone who is clearly on the side of the little guy or gal.  Someone the average person angry at the establishment can trust to go to bat for them.

For me, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren best fit that description.

I do worry about Bernie's electability and ability to withstand the onslaught of attacks that will come his way should he get anywhere near the Democratic nomination.  I worry that Sanders's communication skills won't be up to the task of convincing voters he can run the whole country.  Trump would take full advantage and use every corrupt trick in the book to paint Sanders as a "crazy socialist" who will increase your taxes and destroy the economy.  Would it work?  Probably.  I can see Wall Street voting for Trump to stop Bernie.  Sure, Bernie's base would be electrified by his candidacy.  But I've seen too many elections lost by well-meaning socialists who had no idea they were headed for crushing defeat.    

I do also worry about Warren's ability to withstand the attacks coming her way too, as well as sexism in America.  But I think she would overcome these, persist and thrive as a candidate.  With the help of a great running mate, I do think Warren will manage to both inspire the base to turn out in droves, but also capture all of the anti-Trump sentiment in ways that Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg and all others could never do.  She may be the best hope we've got. 

I could live with Bernie as the candidate.  I could even live (with great trepidation) with Biden as the candidate.  But I'm still with Warren.  This time next year, I hope we're all giddy with anticipation of the first days of the first elected female president of the United States.  That would be a future to look forward to.