Catechism Cataclysm: A Review Monday, Apr 25 2011 

Friday PJ and I went spent the evening at the Athens Film Festival, where we saw Catechism Cataclysm, a new movie by Todd Rohal, an alum of my college. It’s always great to see our students’ and alumni’s work, but I was tempted to just stay home — it had been a long and busy week. But I went out, and I’m glad I did, because I really enjoyed this movie.

The movie stars Steve Little as Father William Smoortser, a goofball who seems more interested in watching funny clips on YouTube than in preparing his parishioners for salvation. Consequently, his superior decides to send him on vacation a little early, encouraging him to think deeply about his calling before coming back to the church.

Father William arranges to meet up with his childhood hero, the guy who dated his older sister in high school, Robbie Shoemaker, played by Robert Longstreet. Robbie is everything Billy isn’t: cool, experienced, and world-wise. The two embark on an afternoon canoe trip, but after Billy accidentally drops his Bible into a used toilet, things start to go increasingly awry for the two acquaintances.

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Meek’s Cutoff: A Review Sunday, Apr 24 2011 

The Athens Film Festival started on Friday, and PJ and I had a great night out as a result: dinner at O’Betty’s (I LOVE their tofudog — I always order a “shy” Lily), two movies at the festival, and a quick beer in between.

One of the two movies we saw was Meek’s Cutoff, which is about a small group of pioneers who are lost in the Oregon desert on their way west. I only knew two things about it before seeing it: it is set in the 1840s and it stars Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, and Zoe Kazan. Here’s the trailer:

The film follows three families trying to make it to The Dalles, Oregon. They have hired Stephen Meek, played by Bruce Greenwood, to guide them. Meek is an unemployed fur trapper who claims to know the route; it turns out that he doesn’t. Just as the group realizes that Meek has gotten them lost, they come across an Indian, played by Ron Rondeaux. Meek argues that they should kill him before he brings his tribe to massacre them all, but the leader of the group, Solomon Tetherow, played by Will Patton, maintains that the native can lead them to water. The rest of the movie explores the pioneers’ individual responses to these decisions.

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Visiting the National Gallery of Art Thursday, Apr 21 2011 

Last week I was in Washington D.C. for work. Fortunately, I had time to visit a few museums while I was there, including the National Gallery, which is a great museum. I had been to two of them before. I really enjoyed visiting them again soon enough to remember what I had liked before and what I wanted to see again.

Now that I’ve been to Belgium and saw an exhibit about Dutch and Flemish painters, I was particularly interested in seeing the Gallery’s Dutch and Flemish Cabinet Galleries. When I was there in 2009, I was interested in a female Dutch painter, Judith Leyster. Initially, I thought it would be nice to see her work again, but the exhibit has changed since then. While I certainly like her work, the new stuff was also great.

Perhaps my favorite this time was Dutch painter Abraham De Verwer’s “View of Hoorn” from about 1650:

I love the color palette, the browns and oranges, and the painting’s overall simplicity. Here’s part of what the museum’s web site says about the painting:

In this atmospheric painting, Abraham de Verwer has depicted the Dutch city of Hoorn from the south, the view that greeted ships as they sailed the Zuiderzee toward this important port that served as a major center for trade to the Baltic, the West Indies, and the East Indies. From De Verwer’s low and distant vantage point, Hoorn’s distinctive city profile is barely distinguishable. To the right of the three-masted sailing ship in the distance is the tower of the massive structure at the harbor’s entrance. The towers of the city’s Noorderkerk (North Church), Grote Kerk (Great Church), and Oosterkerk (East Church) are just visible above the buildings lining the harbor and the masts of ships moored within it, all of which De Verwer silhouetted in muted browns against the gray sky.

It’s a relatively simple painting visually, but I think it’s absolutely lovely. Dutch painting seems rather staid and somber. This painting represents that tendency beautifully.

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SotW: Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Tuesday, Apr 19 2011 

“Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs keeps coming on Alt-Nation on XM radio.The song is from their 2003 album, Forever to Tell.

(You have to click on the link and watch it on YouTube.) I remember when I first saw the video on MTV2 or FUSE or some channel like that. I immediately loved it and then proceeded to forget all about it. Hearing it again on the radio seemed familiar, but I didn’t really remember it until I saw the video again (I’m such a visual person).

There’s not much to the song (or the video) but I love its simplicity, I guess. And Karen O’s way of pleading, “They don’t love you like I love you,” towards the end of the song. It’s a very emotional song — maybe simplicity is the best way to evoke strong feeling.

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Role/Play: A Review Saturday, Apr 2 2011 

Last night, PJ and I watched Role/Play from Netflix. This 2010 movie written and directed by Rob Williams stars Matthew Montgomery and Steve Callahan as divorcing gay marriage activist named Trey and a recently outed soap star named Graham who’s been caught in a sex tape scandal. These men happen to meet at a gay bed and breakfast in Palm Springs. Here’s the trailer:

I was really looking forward to seeing this movie for a few reasons. First, I have an irrational love for all things Matthew Montgomery. He’s a good actor, so I don’t want to reduce his appeal to the mere physical, but it’s also the case that I just think he’s hot and adorable. He’s definitely got charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent, to borrow RuPaul’s catchphrase. And hotness. Plus, he seems to make intelligent choices in his films, by which I mean that you know that, if he’s in it, it’s going to be an interesting film even if it’s not always absolutely great.

I’ve also tended to like Williams’s movies, which include Long-Term Relationship, 3-Day Weekend, and Make the Yuletide Gay.

And finally, the plot sounded interesting: these two wounded men meet, get it on, fall in love, decide what to do next.

Overall, Role/Play is an interesting film that’s trying to do exactly what I keep saying I want a gay independent movie to do: just tell a human story without the angst of coming out or the narrative pyrotechnics of a random drug abuse or murder plot. The problem is that the script just doesn’t get as incisive or as interesting as Williams hopes it is. Consequently, I liked the idea of the movie more than I liked the movie.

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