What’s the opposite of a rose tint?

From the BBC (which considers this front-page news):

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres was praised by the US president for her influence on the gay rights movement as she received the country’s highest civilian honour.

Barack Obama said it was easy to forget the risk Ellen DeGeneres took to come out as gay in 1997.

He said her bravery helped “push our country in the direction of justice”.

“It’s easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far… just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago,” he said during the award ceremony at the White House.

“What an incredible burden that was to bear – to risk your career like that – people don’t do that very often. And then, to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders.”

It is probably easy to forget how far we’ve come in twenty years because it’s equally easy to remember what 1997 was like, and a hotbed of homophobia the western world was not.

I was in university in 1997, the year Tony Blair won the General Election for Labour with no little help from Peter Mandelson.  Julien Clary was a household name and Graham Norton was getting there.  Diana died in 1997 and Elton John – who came out of the closet in 1976, when times really were different – wrote a song for her which reached number one on the singles chart.  The Mardis Gras was a mainstream event in Manchester, and Canal Street was as much a feature of the city as Maine Road.

Perhaps New York was different, and perhaps women coming out as gay was less common, and hence more difficult, than it was for men.  I just get the feeling there are vested interests out there trying to convince people that twenty years ago the world was a darker place than it was, and any progress is due to the benevolent actions of our enlightened political classes.  So we must grant them more power and allow them to intrude more deeply into our personal lives, of course.

Obama would have had a stronger point had he said 1987, and definitely 1977.  But 1997?  Nah.  Sex and the City hit the screens in 1998, and the (many) references to gay life and culture in there were hardly shocking.  Philadelphia came out in cinemas in 1993.  Things have improved to some degree of course, but I think any changes in public attitudes towards gays in the last 20 years have come almost exclusively from the older generations dying out and being replaced by people for whom homosexuality is unremarkable.

Share

Keep Talking

This caught my eye in the wake of the Brangelina fallout:

But perhaps the flow of headlines about unhappy endings actually gives us the wrong impression about Hollywood relationships, because there is a long list of high-profile couples who have proved stars can have staying power.

The Sex and the City actress has been married to the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off star for 19 years. The couple have three children.

Parker has admitted their marriage has been through “some rather treacherous train rides”.

But in 2014 Broderick said: “We really are friends beyond everything else and we talk a lot.”

Asked his advice for other couples, he said: “Just keep talking I guess. I know how cliched that is. Too much silence is definitely not a good idea.”

There is probably more wisdom in those last two paragraphs than there is in ten thousand dollars’ worth of marriage guidance counselling and a decade of contemporary opinions on what a modern relationship should look like.

When I look back at the relationships I’ve had that have worked, and compared them against those that haven’t, the differences between them can probably be linked to communication.  I can talk the hind legs off a donkey, and I believe problems can be solved by talking about them (and writing about them, hence the blog).  I start any relationship – platonic or romantic, male or female – by talking three times as much as I’m supposed to and keeping that up indefinitely.  Listening is also important, and I have often been accused of not doing so.  Although every serious instance of that has been in a professional capacity when a manager has mistaken “listening” for “agreeing”.  There may have been a time when I thought I didn’t listen to people in relationships, but that long ago gave way to a confidence that I know the people close to me very, very well indeed.  And you don’t get to do that by not listening, and thinking about what they’ve said.

Communication is everything in a relationship.  When things are going well, communication tends to go well.  But when things go wrong it often suffers, and you can quickly see who is in it for the partnership and who is in it for themselves.

Whatever the issue is, no matter how bad, keep the lines of communication open.  Sure, take a ten minute break, or take a couple of hours to reply to a message.  But tell the other person you’re doing that, and let them know when you’ll reply.  The moment one party or the other decides they’re going to fall silent for a period of more than a few hours, or (worse) a few days, or (even worse) an indefinite period; or they’re going to completely ignore a message or an email; the relationship is over.  Dead.  It won’t recover.

Sure, I get people say nasty things, and if a situation breaks down into a slanging match of hate-filled invective and insults then it is wise to take a step back and have some time off.  But the lines of communication must stay open: clearly say you’re having a break, and that you’ll be ready to talk again the next day at the latest.  Get back to talking as soon as possible.  Stomping off into indefinite silence and dragging it out over days will result in only one thing: a failed relationship.  If one party doesn’t want to talk then better to just end the whole thing right there and then, because the outcome is inevitable.

And if you are stupid enough to think that adopting a position of silence and ignoring a partner who is reaching out to you in order to punish him/her, and require that they come grovelling back with an apology and take all the blame regardless in order for you to respond, then you deserve all the misery that is coming your way.  A decent partner wouldn’t do this, and Matthew Broderick is right again when he says:

We really are friends beyond everything else

Your partner might not be your greatest ever love, but if they’re your friend they’ll not fuck you over and will keep talking to you no matter what.  If he or she stops communicating, they’re not your friend, they don’t have your interests at heart, and they’re in it for themselves: walk away.

Keep talking, as the BT ads used to say.

(No, this is not related to any current personal issue I have.  I just saw Broderick’s remarks and decided to look back on relationships I’ve either been in myself or those of others I’ve been around.)

Share

Brad’s Pit

Speaking of Brad Pitt, there is an actor who cut his own career off at the knees by choosing to play himself halfway through.  Granted, in one sense is career has been doing just fine and he’s an A-lister landing the best roles, but nobody is going to look back in twenty or thirty years and say he was one of Hollywood’s greats.

Which is a shame because back around the time I was in university (1996-2000) I thought he was shaping up to be a decent actor.  I first noted him when he played a murderous redneck alongside David Duchovny and Juliette Lewis in Kalifornia (1993).  Lewis stole the show as a seriously retarded and sexually active teenager whom Pitt’s character exploits, but nevertheless I thought he put in a convincing performance which showed he wasn’t just going to play the pretty-boy roles people wanted him to (e.g. Thelma and Louise, A River Runs Through It).  He showed up in a minor but memorable role in True Romance (1993), a film with more memorable roles than you can remember, as pot-head Floyd who my schoolmates at the time thought was a character to aspire to.  For some reason I missed out on seeing Interview with the Vampire (1994) but found him convincing as the young detective in Se7en (1995), one of the most highly-rated films of that era.  Next came Twelve Monkeys (1995) in which he played an ideologically-driven nutcase, which showed he was interested in complex roles that weren’t written just to make him look pretty.  Sleepers (1996) was a good film but not because of Pitt’s performance, although he was made to look like Orson Welles by the film’s lead (whose name I forgot).

Then came Fight Club (1999) which all the pot-heads in university loved and everyone still raves about it.  Me, I thought it was overrated at the time and not that clever, and recent viewings have done nothing to convince me I was wrong the first time around.  Whereas I thought Ed Norton did a great job, it took a friend of mine to point out what I found wrong with Brad Pitt in that film: he was playing himself.  Whereas everyone says how great the character of Tyler Durden is (and you have to credit the scriptwriters for coming up with it), Pitt’s portrayal consisted mainly of standing around in a buff body looking cool and relaxed while shooting off pithy one-liners (or two-liners in the case of the film’s most famous quote).  It was hardly a difficult role to pull off, at least compared to Norton’s.  But I overlooked this when I saw him in Snatch (2000) which I absolutely loved, and particularly for Pitt’s portrayal of gypsy boxing champion Mickey.  I grew up in West Wales where there is no shortage of “pikeys”, and some exaggerations aside, the characters could have been pulled from a documentary and Pitt’s accent was right on the money.

However, it appeared to all go downhill from there, and I think Ocean’s Eleven (2001) was where it started.  For whatever reason, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and (to a lesser extent) Matt Damon decided they were going to make a film in which they play themselves: suave gents standing around in nice suits shooting off witty remarks at each other.  Pitt’s character is eating in most shots, something he apparently suggested because it would be funny.  Although not a bad movie, it is mostly a vehicle for the leading actors to mince about on a screen looking and sounding cool, and that’s rarely a good reason to make a film.  It’s fine for an actor to look and sound cool in a film, but that should not be the primary purpose of the picture.

Unfortunately, his next feature film was Troy (2004), which was probably his worst.  If in Ocean’s Eleven he looked as though he wasn’t acting, in Troy he looked as though he couldn’t even if he wanted to.  He followed this up with Ocean’s Twelve (2004) to which my comments from Ocean’s Eleven apply, then Mr & Mrs Smith (2005) which wasn’t a bad film but it was hardly a defining role.  So since Snatch in 2000 it’s largely been crap.  I wasn’t convinced by his performance in Inglourious Basterds (2009) despite being handed a half-decent character and script to work with, and everything else I’ve seen him in has failed to impress.  With him now being 53, it’s hard to see him doing anything which will make him a Hollywood legend in what remains of his career.  I expect he’ll end up a bit like his pal George Clooney, starring in films such as The American (2010) which get made seemingly only to demonstrate that the lead is still a Casanova who can bang hot, young chicks.

One could contrast Brad Pitt’s career with that of Leonardo DiCaprio, who around the time of Pitt’s peak was filling pretty-boy roles in Titanic (1997) and The Man in the Iron Mask (1998).  I’d written DiCaprio off as a serious actor until he surprised me in The Aviator (2004), followed up by mature performances in good films such as The Departed (2006), Blood Diamond (2006), Body of Lies (2008), Shutter Island (2010), and Inception (2010) to make him what is probably Hollywood’s top-billing male star.  DiCaprio is only 42 and already has a solid stable of decent films and varied performances under his belt, and has avoided the temptation thus far to play himself in fun-to-make films.  I wouldn’t say I thought The Revenant (2015) was a great film (although the cinematography was wonderful) and I didn’t think DiCaprio’s performance was brilliant.  But he tried something challenging and gave it a damned good go, and you could see the effort he put in.  If he keeps this up for another 30 years he will most likely become known as the best actor of his generation.

Brad Pitt, on the other hand, will probably be known as the fool who dumped Jennifer Aniston for that whats-‘er-name nutcase.

Share

Brad Splitt and Angelina Lonely

So Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are going to split up.  Frankly, I’m amazed they’ve lasted this long together.  I always thought she was a complete weirdo, wearing vials of blood around her neck and getting weird tattoos, collecting a flock of multi-coloured foreign children, and having been through two husbands already.  Sure, she was cute enough when she was in her late teens but she quickly became, in my opinion, one of those actresses who they shove onto the screen in the knowledge that everyone will marvel at how beautiful she is rather than notice she can’t act for shit.  Which is great, only if you think – as I do – that she looks more weird than pretty then you’re left wondering how she ever got through an audition.

She’s recently turned her hand to directing, something which I am sure causes Hollywood’s established directors to snigger at behind closed doors.  I couldn’t manage to get through more than the first half hour of Unbroken, saccharine-laced guff that it was, and By the Sea sounds like just the sort of self-indulgent shite you’d expect from her: it currently enjoys an IMDB rating of 5.3.

My opinion at the time was that Brad Pitt fucked up royally when he left Jennifer Aniston, who I’ve always thought was adorable.  I’m not sure if Aniston would have made a great wife, but she is one hell of a lot less weird than Jolie and appears to be ageing a lot better too.  She must be having a chuckle to herself now.

Share