This 2020 tastefully gore-tastic feature was Directed by Brandon Cronenberg, David Cronenberg's son. Brandon certainly follows in his father's footsteps in a contemporary way. IMDB describes the film as such: Possessor follows an agent who works for a secretive organization that uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people's bodies - ultimately driving them to commit assassinations for high-paying clients. I had to watch it twice to let it fully soak in.
This meticulously crafted sci-fi horror film is quite beautiful frame by frame. You'll get a good dose of blood, sex, and violence. I always enjoy a flick in which you can pause it at any point, and the still is good enough to be a printed photograph. That's what we call a motion picture hunny!
Andrea Riseborough's performance and aesthetic is fabulously eerie, numbing, and downright uncomfortable. I haven't seen an actress transform themselves into something so haggard since Charlize Theron in Monster. Can I get a, "Hey girl!", for Jennifer Jason Leigh. Miss Leigh came in hot with her controlling bitch boss pill popping persona while rubbing salt in the wound all the way to the end. Christopher Abbott, always easy on the eyes, served us up some lost soulless sad sap action, struggling to gain control during the whole plot. Gabrielle Graham was the real show stopper in the very beginning. The bright red blood on her stark white platform tennis shoes was shocking. I squealed the first time I saw it. I liked how women were the ones who held the reins throughout the story.
Possessor begs the questions, "Who is being possessed?" & "What is possession?". The storyline is heavily dosed with themes of capitalism's affects on people, classism/class division, life as a performance, gender identity, sexuality, agency, subliminal effects, escapism, surveillance, and surviving day to day life. If you watch closely, you will also notice people randomly vaping throughout the film. If you've ever vaped, you know those tiny gadgets can control the hell out of you . I love seeing vapes because it seriously puts us in time and place, like seeing a Motorola Razr on screen.
I don't want to give spoilers on this one, so I'll say to pay close attention to everyone's assigned job and how it affects them and the other characters. Pay close attention to how they are treating and communicating with each other. Question who has agency and how they have it. After watching, I realize I have allowed myself to be possessed so many times, whether it was consensual or not. When do I lose it and gain it? When am I me and when am I a different person? How many of us are actually able to be completely free from being possessed?
Before reading please note there are SPOILERS! Antebellum, one of the most recent black horror films released last year in September, didn't get the attention and respect it deserves due to theatre closures, election distractions, and 2020 in general. Directed by Gerard Bush & Christopher Renz, Starring Janelle Monáe, Jena Malone, and Gabourey Sidibe, this film is jam packed with layers based on slavery, racism, rape culture, classism, fascism, white supremacy, and the parallels of the past and the present.
I went into watching Antebellum with a vague understanding of the plotline. To my knowledge, the trailer showed us a story of a black women who were supernaturally sent back into Antebellum (pre Civil War) times and were trying to figure out how to get sent back to the future. Needless to say, I was wrong.
Antebellum does an exquisite job at setting up the story allowing the viewer to believe they are watching a movie that is solely based during the United States period of slavery in Louisiana. The subtle clues they give the viewer of the actual timeline come back to slap you in the face three quarters of the way through the film. Janelle Monae's performance as Veronica is fantastic as she takes you through gut wrenching and inhumane scenarios. In the whole length of the film, you can sense Veronica always having to keep herself, daughter, and lady friends safe from her surroundings.
Once I realized I was watching a story that completely takes place in the present, I felt more pain from the narrative. Part of what the creators are trying to convey is that this Antebellum camp the rich white people are running, so that they can play pretend slave owners, is actually similar to the current times we live in conjunction to black & brown people who are disproportionately pipelined into the prison-industrial complex, in addition to how American society and media treats people of color, especially the last four years of white nationalist/supremacists being able to openly express their racist views and mindsets in the general public and through politics. Antebellum is a film that connects the abhorrent factual history of US slavery with the current repulsive and exploitive state of racism and treatment of people of color today. As Veronica's character rode horseback escaping the fictional Antebellum slavery camp, killing Elizabeth with the Robert E. Lee statue, into the Civil War reenactment scenes, then through the white tourists back towards her life as an accomplished writer, she quickly threaded the importance of how the past is strongly linked to the present in a few quick minutes of beautifully dramatic revenge.
I recently rented Swallow, the 2019 film written & directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis and staring Haley Bennett. I had only seen previews of the film and knew it involved a young woman struggling with Pica, a psychological eating disorder. The creators did a magnificent job keeping the plot, characters, and genre secretive until you watch it. The first question anyone would have seeing the trailer would be, "Why is she swallowing that?" and I love how that simple inquiry leads you to the movie which then unfolds into many difficult layers based around misogyny, patriarchy, pregnancy, classism, child abuse, control issues, facades, and identity. Along with a complex plot is the absolutely stunning set design, costuming, cinematography, and acting. The aesthetically pleasing visuals/color schemes are necessary to help ease the increasing pain the viewer and characters experience as the picture pushes forward. It's hard to put this in a genre of its own, but it is within the concept of a thriller and horror in everyday life. Swallow is a film that is meant for a wide range of audiences based on its important themes, layers, and discoveries. I'll keep my words from any further description because I want you to experience the mystery and intrigue of this film on your own. It is a great piece of cinema art shedding light on the fact that we never know what is going on in anyone's life.
Swallow is certainly hard to swallow.
I recently finished watching all of A Teacher, the series. Since I was a kid, I have always found teacher and student sexual relationships interesting as a type of crime, such as the case of Mary Kay Letourneau. In the mini series A Teacher, it focuses on a high school teacher, Claire, who grooms her 17 year old student Eric. The show did a great job at luring me in, just like Claire did to Eric. It started out making Claire's actions to seem normal. It even made it look like Eric was truly happy in the beginning and middle stages of their relationship, as if it was what he truly wanted. Though the director did an impeccable job at showing each subtle way Claire was grooming and manipulating Eric, I got caught up in all of the fun they were having with their illicit and secret times together. Sometimes the actors made me feel like what they were doing was ok. Even Claire thought it was ok at some point and told her coworker she was having sex with Eric. This was the moment everything in the show took a 180 and became a train wreck for all characters involved! I knew it was coming from all the stress building up before the word was out for the two characters. Her confession was a bomb explosion with a lifelong fallout problem for everyone. With almost every episode after that, Claire became increasingly despicable and desperate. Eric became further lost and confused with his whole college identity being wrapped up in the student who screwed his teacher.
As I watched the months and years pass by in these characters lives, I truly understood the deep impact of Claire's choices. I felt sorry for her a few times because her father was her abuser during her upbringing, showing abuse leads to abuse. When it came down to it, she stayed in the town she was living rather than moving elsewhere in the country, which might have helped her grow personally. Eric moved away, but when he came back to visit family after many years, he bumped into Claire at the grocery store which lead to them meeting for lunch soon after. Eric was still angry with her and realized how deeply he was affected and manipulated, leaving her at the lunch table with no notion of forgiveness. I can't blame his character for these emotions since his life was permanently altered in a negative way from a teacher he was suppose to be able to seek proper guidance and trust from, not including basic education from her.
As someone who has been a victim of sexual assault, it is very difficult, if not impossible to put the actions of your manipulators/assaulters behind you and for this reason, I think the show ended in a meaningful way. Many people have said this show glamourizes and normalizes teacher and student sexual relationships. I disagree with that critique and if you give each episode your undivided attention, you can see just how difficult, sad, distraught, complicated, and disgusting the whole plot is.
On another note, the show has made me reflect on a past teacher of mine in high school, who was great at teaching and inspiring us all. She was a favorite of all the students because she was younger, fun, and easy going. She was married and had a daughter, I know because we all got to experience her first pregnancy and marriage stories. My senior year of high school, she became pregnant again and word got out that the baby was one of my classmate's older brothers because they had relations together after an on campus senior class party we had. We all realized that she was unfaithful to her husband and put everything else to the wayside, as this pregnant teacher told us in class that these rumors were true. I don't know how anyone gained knowledge of the facts in the first place, but I remember feeling so conflicted and confused about her actions. She was openly talking to us in class about her sexual relation mistake and pregnancy as if we were her friends, rather than keeping us out of her business. Now that I am older, I see how unprofessional this was and have come to realize, though the circumstance wasn't directly with one of my classmates but his older brother, the proximity of the situation was the problem, and so was the burden of her actions for talking to all of us like we were her friends. To this day, I have the burden of thinking about her discussing it with us, and I think about the lifelong burden Claire caused for everyone in her life through her actions in A Teacher.
During the last week of May, I stayed a week with my uncle Karl and Aunt Jeanie in the beautiful city of Santa Fe. As I got off the plane, I realized the city was not like anything I had ever seen. The airport only had room for one plane. It was such a tiny airport, it felt like a large prop for a movie set, not to mention the structure of the building styled to look adobe. Emily, my fabulous cousin picked me up and we headed to the house. I was amazed at the sprawling desert and adobe style buildings everywhere! I adored the home of my uncle and aunt, along with the winding and cozy neighborhood. It was great to see them since it had been a year after visiting them in New Jersey.
I have known about the gallery, shop, and studio space Santa Fe Clay for many years, so it was a destination at the top of my list. It was in proximity to our house, and it was great to show my family around an eccentric clay place. I met and talked to one of the owners, Mark, who is a pretty cool dude. He and his partner had recently gained ownership within the last two years and are doing a great job with the place. It was nicely organized and laid out. I ended up buying two pieces of pottery, a Birdie Boon plate and a Wesley Harvey cup with saucer. I’m excited to use them once I return to the south, after my journeys this summer.
I rode my uncle’s bike all around the city. I went to Meow Wolf, a fun and trippy little adventure. It was certainly like an interactive art exhibit playland, but once the end came, a great sense of commercialism came over me when I entered the gift shop. It was great seeing roadrunners and prairie dogs around the bike trails on the way there.
I attempted to visit the galleries on Canyon Hill, but after going to a few, it didn’t seem to pique my interest. Quite frankly the most interesting art I saw was at the Spanish Colonial museum on Museum Hill and the all the work at the Folk-Art museum. It made me question how I am creating in clay and why I choose to use clay specifically all the time. There was an enormous amount of sculptural work made from wood there, and I enjoy working in wood. Why I don’t do it more often is a mystery to me. After pondering about it more, I had realizations that I have been admiring wooden artwork since childhood, stemming from my recently deceased grandfather who used to whittle miniature statues and set them on a shelf less cabinet built into the wall that had a mirror in it, above and behind the couch. I loved admiring the little pieces, picking them up and asking questions about them. I remember a little shoe that had fabric laces, a tiny and oddly shaped puppy, and a horse. I know he created others, but my memory fails me on those.
It is amazing how objects and art can trigger childhood moments and take us back to direct locations where we used to sit, play, and wonder with our little brains.
I did a lot of other things in Santa Fe, but the trip itself ended up being more adventurous and eye opening than I had imagined.
On Saturday, May 20th, I traveled to Toronto so that I could see one of my favorite bands, ADULT. at The Velvet Underground, in an interestingly consumerist hipster neighborhood.
ADULT. has been diligent at making music since the 90s. Not only that, but Nicola, the lead vocalist creates each album cover by the hand of her own photography, with each album having a cohesive connection to the other aesthetically. I'm so fascinated with Nicola and Adam's band because of the originality of their work, sound, dedication to their art, and overall look. They are truly a Detroit gem! Their electro-techno grim style of music is what my heart and brain feed off of most of the time when I am in the studio or a creative mindset. Seeing them live was the icing on the cake, because they exceeded my expectations. Keeping up their mysterious allure, ADULT. sets the tone with a mainly foggy set, all black wardrobe, occasional strobe lights from the base of the stage, and a majority of the show being Nicola's beautiful silhouette wrapped in the black microphone cord. She keep the listeners and viewers in check with her stark black hair, high contrasting red lipstick, black eye liner, and her dance like movements of waving and swinging the microphone around the stage, while Adam keeps up the electronics beating heaving in the back wearing his large black framed glasses, and beautiful skunk like hair in a perfect pompadour. They sound just as great in person as their digital music, if not better. Even better, their performance was a wide array of music they have created from the last decade and a half, not just from their new album, "Detroit House Guests", which I suggest looking up on Spotify and having a lil sample. Nicola even loved getting off the stage and interacting with the crowd. ADULT. was 110% worth 6 hours of round trip driving and being exhausted for 24 hours. It could also be that I was going to museums and riding a bicycle around Toronto the whole damn day too. Anyway, they are one of the most underrated bands that I know, and I wish they would get more credit. Enjoy their album art.
On the night of June 9th, I was delighted to see a performance of the awesome queer band PWR BTTM (https://pwrbttm.bandcamp.com/). Actually, I couldn’t wait to blog about it that weekend, but something else distracted me. The show was so amazing, powerful, colorful, genuine, and unconventional that tears of overwhelming happiness poured down my face during most of the performance. I didn’t take any photographs or videos of the event at the Bug Jar (http://bugjar.com/) because I wanted it to be more personal. The memory will always be dancing in the back of my head, and I wish people would put their phones down at performances for that reason. Yes, I’ve been guilty of doing it, but I have quit.
Anyway, during those moments in the concert, I was so happy and proud to be gay. It was thrilling to be surrounded by the Rochester LBGTQ community and allies around me. The vibe in the room would make anyone emotional. Ben, the [shirtless] guitarist, had his face filled with bright bits of teal glitter and makeup. Liv, the drummer, wore a delightful floral blouse with dangling earrings. With jestful turns, they both sang their songs. Fortunately, I was able to have a little chat with them after the show and they both did Sharpie doodles on my Ugly Cherries cassette tape. I thought about how much this music will help current generations of queer people and many more to come. I thought about how much I could have used it in high school, and shoved it in the face of the homophobic assholes I had to deal with on a daily basis.
With all of that joy aside, I wasn’t able to post about the concert because that following Sunday, June 12th, the Orlando Pulse massacre happened. For the whole week, like the rest of the LGBTQ community around America, I was in pain physically and mentally. I couldn’t stop crying anytime I thought to write about the show. Here I was just 3 days before, celebrating my sexuality with great artists and people from Rochester, very proud to be living in 2016 safe and sound as a gay man. That comfortable mindset came crumbling down that Sunday. I still can’t write about this without a few tears sitting here in the Equal Grounds coffee shop (http://www.equalgrounds.com/) I’m glad there is finally a moment for me to talk about how this concert was tied into the Pulse massacre. It is important to remember that as LGBTQ citizens, we are still not safe from the typical American heteronormative mindset, especially transgender members of our community who are murdered on a weekly basis. (http://www.advocate.com/transgender/2016/8/11/these-are-trans-people-killed-2016) We have to have everyone’s back in our community. Pulse will always be a historical event to remind us that we must not get terribly comfortable with our rights and that we have to keep being creative, beautiful souls, and fighting for our civil rights. In the meantime, I’ll continue to give my support for my community, protest American gun laws, and live my queer life!
My one year ceramics residency is ending this week at the Genesee Center for the Arts and Education. The past year has gone by so quickly and I have tried my hardest to cherish every important moment! With any ending is another beginning because we all know there is something next, unless you’re dead. During the past year I have had a great amount of personal growth that I am thankful to have experienced. I am also very thankful for the kindness of people who have met me in the past 365 days.
Moving to the north has been quite the crash course in living in the real world. It has made me appreciate the friends I have before moving here and love them so much more. The people in the north are not as welcoming, the parking situation is ridiculous, vehicle laws are nonsensical, and there is a lot of hustle bustle over nothing. Everyone is just too “busy” to invite you out or have you as a part of their crew. I have made a few good friends who have been very great and helpful. After all, we all need somebody to lean on at some point in time. I have fought so hard to be independent all these years, and Rochester has made me realize it is ok to rely on people when you are having difficulty picking yourself up. I’ve also been able to help others in need which is great too.
Anyway, the art show’s over, and I have to take the next step. By January, I will be applying at my top 3 picks for a Ceramics MFA, which are Alfred University, LSU, and University of Georgia, and then researching more from there. I have to find more information about Ohio State University, Ohio University, VCU, RIT, Cranbrook, and others. I want to be accepted into a MFA program that has work exchange for tuition or scholarship of some sort. Why would anyone want to pay for grad school if they don’t have to? I still need to have professional photos taken of my current work in an individual piece setting. I also need to begin the professional connection and paperwork that is partnered with MFA applications.
Currently, I am keeping my head above water working at a great bakery, Get Caked(http://www.getcakedroc.com/ ) and living with my good friend Mark. It is my goal to march onward and not let everyday life get in my way, and to stay focused as I always do!
You better keep on truckin’ and tryin’ too!
Tonight, I modeled for Main Street Arts in Clifton Springs, NY (mainstreetartsgallery.com) It was their first figure drawing session and I am so proud to have been a part of it. The gallery is very professional with a wide variety of good art. In addition, the people who work there are wonderful! I couldn't ask for a friendlier group to work for .
During the 3 hour modeling session, on the second floor gallery, there was a large oil painting by Marisa Bruno. It was a portrait of a young man. There was a wide variety of purple tones, which I think is what drew me into the piece so heavily. His slightly messy amethyst and maroon hair was the perkiest part of the image. After staring at his face for at least an hour during my frozen stances, I began to think about entering the picture. My fingers would slowly run themselves around the curves of his beautiful large nose until they reached his angular ears and softly pinching his broad earlobes. I saw myself tracing my fingers around the bumps of his lips and embracing the angular jagged lines of his jaw, chin, and eyebrows. Would I be able to put my arms around his shoulders with a hug and rest my head on his left side? Is he actually angry, and possibly homophobic? Why is he so bewitching and melancholy at the same time? This must have been how humans thought before photographs and television! Oh, how romantic it is to find a connection through the vivid brush strokes of oil.
Today at work, I told one of my workmates, whom is quitting, that I'll miss him. He replied, "Why, is it because you love me?" To which I couldn't reply because I soon realized that maybe I do kind of love him. Love comes in so many forms.
In connection, I was reading the end of Keith Haring's autobiography where he discusses having a wonderful platonic [nonsexual] relationship with one of his male best friends towards the end of his life, and how fulfilling it was. He was basically explaining the love he shared with this man emotionally. It moved me, possibly due to being in a similar situation, or yearning for a platonic relationship in my current location, with another intellectual male without anything physical. It's amazing how words from others can hit you right in the head and heart.