H.A.EAGLEHART: POETRY & YARNS

 

Country Boy Love 

May 13, 2019

I’m slowly moving into the seventh year of a relationship with the love of my life. Does seven years make you a viable expert in something? Expert means being talented in a hard situation. Seven years of love isn’t hard work, so I don’t rightly consider myself an expert on love. All love requires is two souls with time for each other. Have you ever dated anybody my age these days? The young dating pool of 2019 is filled with mini versions of my father. Of those born between 1981 and 1996 more than half think they’ll become millionaires. Specifically, 70% of millennial men and 38% of women believe they’ll become millionaires.

Thankfully my successful father spared me from this delusional millennial state of consciousness, because almost none of my father’s friends who got into the oilfield industry with him after high school succeeded at the same scale as him. Counting my dad, maybe three became owners of their own companies capable of turning a profit and surviving the Great Recession. The vast majority of my dad’s friends wound up dead or in prison, because that’s just what happens to the losers in New Mexico. 2019 is a dating pool of losers convinced by the American Dream that they’re winners.

The only type of person harder to date than a loser convinced they’re a winner, is dating an actual winner. Mom revealed to me by my ninth birthday that nobody can compete with the American Dream. My father is in love with America; hence he has no time for anything or anyone else. You cannot love someone who is in love with America for this country requires a person’s lifetime, which means they have no time left to love their families.

I cannot compete for the love of those who as my father are already in love with the sweet promises of dear Lady Liberty, because love simply requires two souls with time for each other. I have no problem with a relationship involving more than two people, but there isn’t time now for a two-person relationship. How could a tribe possibly exist in a world with modern expectations such as they are? Finding one soul with time for me has more than sufficed my dire need to receive and share love.

I’m not saying I’m rich, but I definitely didn’t grow up poor. For this reason, I cannot deny the need for wealth in this world. But at what cost? The deck is already stacked against me regardless of how successful my father is, therefore, millennials make me laugh. My success in gaining a debt-free college education, runway modeling, acting study in Manhattan and LA, working as a Hollywood horse trainer, and progress in Outdoor Leadership Education are all success resulting from being able to afford doing them.

Over 90% of Americans cannot afford success, and that is the statistic that makes me laugh at my peers. Nothing greater exists than being the cowboy cleaning horse manure with a shovel in Hollywood, and experience millennials (convinced they’re about to become millionaires) looking down upon me as a common laborer. The reason nothing greater exists than being that cowboy is because I can afford to shovel horse shit. Young people do not realize that one must be wealthy to live the luxury of being a cowboy, because working with horses doesn’t pay anything. I have the money to stick around long enough to see those judgmental millennials realize life in America first requires money, be it runway modeling or shoveling horse manure.

I’ve been around long enough to see millennials realize they’re no different than my dad’s loser friends who never made it into the 1% club. Nothing a shit-shoveling cowboy enjoys more than ordering a millennial to make his coffee at Starbucks in the morning. Money is so divisive, which is why seven years of loving my boyfriend wasn’t a day of hard work.

All a country boy needs is someone with time to love, and today that is a rare quality to find. It is hard to find someone who can see a cowboy shoveling horse manure as a man and not a laborer. The result of being star-struck with America is it turns the entire world into laborers forever divided.

The problem with living in a world of laborers is that sometimes the cowboy shoveling horse manure is more worth the time of day than millennials promising to one day be the next Jeff Bezos. The problem with a divisive world is that it allows age to blind us from seeing someone well worth the time to love. The problem with the present is nobody sees anything except the American Dream anymore, which means millennials are in a relationship with a colossal lie.

I don’t need a lie when all I crave is a man. One able to hold me tight for seven years, not as a bragging right, but because seven years of love beats seven years of clinging to illusional grandeur.

Photo by T.M. Holder 

“Story of Runaways”

Being self-aware of the journey

Does not reassure the destination

For destiny's road is tread by mortal sole

All seeking to fulfill their hearts

Voids of lonely desire in need

Like dreams of night concocting images of men into gods

Transfiguring us into taillights beneath the setting sun

Vanishing and reappearing with each new bend in the road

Taillights of the future that are always just out of reach

Set between solid lines of paint on asphalt

Boundaries not meant to be crossed

Forever determining fate's hold over us

Abandoning mankind to his fantasies

Always leaving the heart aged tho still in want

Having never set foot upon the imagined destination of gold

Far ahead down this road laid beneath the black night

Somewhere between these painted lines of civil mediocrity

Concluding that nobody can write their own ending

No more than Coronado could find a city of gold

For destinations no longer exist in this world of ours

Paved over long ago in the quest to catch up with those distant headlights

The transfixed illusion of self awareness

Never able to change course

Despite the passionate desire to one day arrive

Driving us farther and farther down this road in a dream of night

Till at last we all wake up in time

To realize that no one has ever left home

Because as surely as the sun shall rise tomorrow

All dreams like roads eventually return us home

Photo by T.M. Holder, 2013 

THE LIBERAL 

What is change? Fighting for civil rights? Reclaiming one’s Native American culture? Buying a new car? A career?

As one gets older it gradually becomes apparent that change is less of a state of mind and more of a spectrum that encompasses the broad unfolding of one’s life here on planet earth. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the earth is in trouble, that things need to change. The million-dollar question is how do we as individuals affect the world around us in a way that actually matters.

Maybe the problem lies in the fact that it’s a million-dollar question. As a teenager, the idea of change sounds easy, because rebellion is an idea rather than a reality. Smoke, drink, have lots of sex, skip Political Science 101 for a day at the lake with your young beautiful friends. The problem with new idealistic eyes is that they haven’t yet seen the consequences of living in our current reality. Live long enough and eventually we all see unplanned pregnancies, STD’s, alcoholism, a fast-paced economy that’s fast replacing all of us with technology, age deteriorating livelihood. Reality makes life much harder to change.

As a rodeo cowboy in college a majority of the young cowboys I met only rode bucking animals because of some misplaced ideal of rebellion. Most of them were trying to get out of abusive homes, working in the oilfield, or simply trying to win the jackpot to pay child support. Unfortunately, none of us saw the outcome of our stupidity: death, broken necks, blood, tears, pain, medical bills. Ultimately the majority of us wound up right back where we started, only now bearing scars, and scars don’t signal anything except defeat. The world keeps spinning regardless. Thus change becomes more and more elusive as new eyes begin to age. Settling for reality by simply accepting one’s place in a pre-established social hierarchy ruled by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Trump is just easier. Vast overpopulation and drones have made us all expendable, except the select few owning fast food and fracking corporations.

I’ll never forget my college years. College was one of the best parts of my life and not because a paper diploma magically elevated me to a state of being that was far above my less financially fortunate peers. Rather it allowed my new eyes to see the world for what it really was, teaching me the most important lesson of my life. That lesson was that earth is a big terrifying place that gobbles up people on a daily basis without so much as even shedding a tear. My professors taught me that as adults our greatest gift is that we are able to do whatever we want with our lives. Anyone can join an anti-Wall Street protest in Manhattan that blocks bridges and Subway stations that keep college kids like myself from making it to 9 a.m. drama class at the Union Square campus—or just as easily anyone can go to work in the oilfield shoveling out Frack sand tanks to pay for tuition like I did.

Perhaps you are beginning to see how arbitrary life is in an uncaring world that desperately needs change. I soaked up sociology and political science like a sponge, I was a master of debate with a grade point average of 4.0 but in the end, I realized that winning arguments can still lose debates like my buddy that dropped out of college to move to Denver to claim his sexual identity that later ended badly. You can use facts, yell, discuss, whatever, and still be unable to change another person’s mind. The only thing that college did for me that Denver didn’t do for my buddy was that my professors cared enough about my future to always help me get back up on my feet when I fell.

Mortality is the Achilles Heel of change. I think that’s why liberals are losing. Sure we had Obama, but we also had Sitting Bull at one point in history too. Great men whose life efforts were destroyed by single elections, which makes the idea of change a million-dollar question. Change doesn’t pay anything. You won’t make a million dollars fighting for change. So how can anyone afford to answer it? Truly loving someone doesn’t reward you in the same way that having sex to advance your career does; just like saving the environment doesn’t reward you in the same way that destroying it can. Our reality is ruled by social perception and dinging bells on Wall Street.

The only other reality to ever have existed was the Native American world, where nature provided an alternative, but mass extinction and logging have swept that away leaving us with an out-of-control economic empire. How do you fight for a reality was losing before you were even born? How do you champion as cause that has already been so badly defeated that it isn’t even strong enough to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office? How do you fight climate change when you need fossil fuel and iPhones to survive? Both of which are polluting our planet at rates not seen in millions of years.

The million-dollar question sucks, because its answer still eludes us. As I get older that answer becomes less apparent and more obscured as I watch young people at Trump rallies chanting with euphoric new eyes or as I see hate crimes against the LGBT community rise instead of decrease and witness friends give up. Just like a bucking horse the world has once again left me face down on the ground in agonizing pain that makes me want to never get up again.

Then for some unknown reason I get up for the hundred millionth time and fall in love with an amazing man who has given me the greatest most fulfilling four years of my life—and I use my Outdoor Leadership Education skills to teach kids with new eyes how to ride horses and see the treasure of nature. Suddenly I see the world anew with the same eyes of my old liberal college professors, and just like them I too have realize that change may simply be reminding others just how incredibly wonderful life is. Perhaps the liberal affects the world by reminding the future why it’s worth saving, because the day that our species once again learns to care is the day that we shall see change.

 

 "Home Of My Heart"

 I hear you breathing softly,

As wind whispers through leaves;

Music to my mortal ears,

Stirring my heart into flight,

Barking as crow's wings upon the breeze.

I kneel to take you in my hand;

I cry as you fill my soul with peace,

The mountain is but a reflection,

Of your most beautiful face.

The aroma of your perfume,

Like pine needles after rain,

Smell like marshmallows roasting;

My childhood memories return.

Life is the embodiment of your figure.

I am but returning home.

May you forever take me,

And overflow my broken vessel

With the powerful magic of love.

 

Photo by T.M. Holder 

 "The Artist"

Art is my time

Brush strokes my clock

Paint capturing each moment

Slowly lighting blank canvass

Energy suspended in time

Breathing life into me

Guiding my every stroke

Revealing life's ageless beauty

  “Monkey Love”

Tan monkey arms

White stringy legs

Nipple-length hair

That's the surface 

Beneath is insanity

Armed with anger

Ready to fight

Too self-aware

Then I met you

Zeus to my Ganymede 

Stag to this doe

Salvation in your strength

Injecting life into me

I was just ugly

Invisible to all around

But Gods see ghosts

Like you saw me

Making me a boy

Someone with emotional feelings

I can be loved

For Zeus loves me

Thus I can love

I love him back

From Olympus we live

Each day exploring love

I'm unworthy of You

For I'm a mortal

You're Zeus of Olympus

Yet, you don't care

You love me regardless

How fortunate I am

To be Zeus's Gany 

 

Photo by T.M. Holder 

“Zeus & Ganymede”

When I am with you

Images begin to fade

Till all the world is gone

Leaving nothing except a feeling

Found deep within skin's touch

Of two souls that yearn to unite

Through the procreation of their own universe

To leave behind mortal bonds

For this limitless expanse of a God's love

 

 “GIFT OF LIFE”

His finger feels my heart beat

The ridges within my rose lovingly hold him

A simple twitch ripples throughout my body

His finger has made us one

I writhe in helpless abandon

As he laps at the fountain of youth

Taking my soul within him

My naive tenderness succumbing to his strength

Where I discover the freedom to surrender to his love

Slowly my strength abandons me

Where at long last I offer up the rest of me

Completely spent from giving him the secret gift of life 

With nothing left I let him take me in his arms

Satisfied with having forever become a part of him

 

Photo by T.M. Holder 

 "I only see love"

Love is not blind

For my eyes are open

Like these fertile loins

Filled with youth's desire

Through emancipation of the flesh

A freedom from social inkling

Masks forged by hate and fear

Removed with those beloved hands

That first picked my delicate rose

Salvation from willful destitution

Through love's amazing vision

"Smile"

It’s okay

You can

I won’t tell

Just forget it all

The truth will always be

So why not come away with me

Not forever

Only awhile

Discover someplace new

A place that I would rather visit

Than not know at all

Who's to predict the future

Instead I will smile

Because you’re smiling

My truth

Despite the rest

To discover happiness

Not within myself

Rather finding it in someone else

I cannot alter the world

But we can smile

And regardless of how long or short it lasts

I will know what it is to be home

That place within your smile

 

  EAT ME

Beginning at an isolated house so obviously cliché to the humble Salton Sea community it quite possibly might have appeared on an episode of Huell Howser’s California Gold, lead character Tommy, performed by the wonderfully talented Jacqueline Wright, appears in the first moments of the film to be a bit off-kilter.

We watch Tommy do an odd array of activities, including getting into a suitcase before hiding her giant dildos inside the liner of the couch and then pretending to stab herself in the gut with a huge kitchen knife before pouring every pill in the cluttered abode into a pet dish. Don’t be alarmed, this is not a spoiler alert, because nothing within the first minutes of Eat Me could prepare the audience for the plot that unfolds.

Wright originally wrote Eat Me as a very successful and daring play, which she has now adapted into a brilliant screenplay telling a story about that part of this country that “Great” simply cannot hide: the depressing truth. Prepare to be repulsed and disgusted, because that is exactly Wright’s intension in revealing the many unseen casualties of our judgmental society.

Art is the reflection of that which is within and finding relatability in Eat Me reminded me of how important art is—especially at this point in our nation’s history. It requires vision to tell a story about rape, masochism, and suicide without such repugnant sounding words losing the audience, a feat here surpassed by an acting ensemble paramount in showing us the real people behind labels defined in dictionaries or Google Search. Wright’s script and the movie’s ensemble, under the leadership of visionary director Adrian A.Cruz, appear to be wielded with such ease that it’s genius.

Halfway through the film, it became obvious that I cared about three distastefully misunderstood characters, who were behaving in ways most only dare type into words late at night on porn search engines. One of the many strokes of genius in this film is the ever-present TV Land-type station playing reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and the 1955 B-movie sci-fi classic Tarantula. And as this soundtrack of Americana drones in the background, right before our very eyes the greatness of our troubled country crumbles to pieces as Tommy becomes the newest addition to the #MeToo movement.

The important factor in this blood-soaked story is the undeniable undertone of dark humor. I was ashamed of myself for laughing at situations not just inappropriate but flat-out morally wrong by societal standards. Standards are pushed to their absolute breaking point—all to the audience’s inexplicable amusement. A perfect example is Michael Shamus Wiles (Magnolia, Pearl Harbor) as Frank, the older of the two rapists who break into Tommy’s remote country home, clearly a distasteful fellow upon his first appearance in the film.

Though given time, Frank soon had me snickering at his habitual vices normal people do every day, except that Frank isn’t having a normal day. He’s breaking into a house with the intent of raping Tommy, yet when he throws his helplessly drugged victim to the floor before ripping open the velcro to his back-support belt so that he can unbutton his pants—a habitual vice that he repeats throughout his brief scenes in the film—I couldn’t help but laugh. This film really is a wonderfully bad influence on normal people, the characters so relatable the audience lowers its guard. Good acting accomplishes that and Wiles shows his chops as a seasoned actor.

Nothing would work without the electrifying chemistry that Tommy finds with Brad Carter (Black Mass, The Revenant) as Bob, the second of the two rapists. Part of the intrigue keeping the audience glued to their seats is watching the power struggle between these two characters like a well-played game of chess. They are just two wayward lost souls with no greater star to chase suddenly brought together by a screwed-up universe, discovering things about each other through their violent encounter that leads one to wonder if Eat Me is actually a deluded love story.

Delivering a heartfelt monologue about his beautiful mother, Bob somehow manages to remove the “rapist” mask that society automatically places on such societal undesirables. Allowing us to see a misguided youth trapped inside a body that’s grown into a seriously disturbed individual, reflecting the part we play as a society that embraces inequality and has created these pitiful creatures bound to impulse and ignorance. To say Carter is a multifaceted actor would be an understatement; the simple genius in every choice he makes delivers an award-worthy performance.

After being exposed to Wright’s talent onstage last season in the equally crazy play Blueberry Toast, I went to this opening fully prepared to once again experience her total commitment and fearless embracement of the characters she takes on. I knew from theatre reviews of Eat Me as a play that as a film it promised nothing short of anarchy, and with Wright at the helm, I left expectations outside at the ticket booth with the lightly-salted organically-popped popcorn and the Junior Mints.

The many different unspoken layers of Tommy that gradually unfold are essential to the plot’s survival despite disgusting scenes involving rape and sadism. For the writer to also find discoveries within her own work proves how well-rounded Wright is as an artist, showing us this isn’t just a story about dildos and Cheese Puff-eating deplorables. She reveals a woman who could be any one of us trying to make do with what’s left of a deteriorating society haunted by the truth. Our own aspirations and disappointments rise up through Tommy’s heaving chest as she realizes that her rapist may have metamorphosed into something emotionally significant to her lonely heart. Again, this story is one wild ride, but Wright’s writing and acting pull it off successfully.

Cruz, who makes his directorial debut as a feature filmmaker, contributes the most compelling aspect of Eat Me. No novice to the art of great storytelling, this guy brings a world to life and evokes a palpable emotional connection with the audience in spite of the difficult content. Cruz’s career spans from the comic book industry to network television and, based off what I saw at the Arena Cinelounge theater on Sunday, Eat Me is only the beginning for this gifted Hollywood director.

I also must note the wonderful set design, which is so spot-on real life that it adds to the hilarity of the storyline. Cinematography, editing, and the music score by Martin Carrillo are so well-executed they’re invisible to the audience. At a key moment in Tommy’s descent into the dark depths of social taboo, the faint background rhythms of pounding drums actually raised the hairs on the back of my neck as it conjured a character onscreen who was releasing that primitive wild side within her residing in all of us. Eat Me is an amazing piece of work—daring and well worth experiencing on the big screen of a theatre.

   THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI 

Last year was one of the best for incredible screenplays, case and point being Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges) writes with the same bold simplicity that brings to mind other greats Sam Shepard and James McClure, giving this stellar ensemble sheer poetic verse in dialogue.

It is impossible not to see the relatability in McDonagh’s script to the world in which I grew in northern New Mexico, filled with such dysfunctional characters I had to keep reminding myself I was watching a film and not reliving the memories of my rural past. No surprise it took home Golden Globes for Best Screenplay, Best Director-Motion Picture, and Best Motion Picture. Clearly McDonagh is a seasoned writer, having proven himself many times before, and being at the helm of this fantastic piece of writing as director has earned him and his masterpiece the praise it deserves.

My jaw was dropping within the first ten minutes of watching Frances McDormand (Fargo, Hail, Cesaer; Burn After Reading) purchasing those three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, a small rural town where everybody knows everyone and the little church house is the communal potluck/social center for the entire town.

It was no shock to see McDormand walk away with Golden Globe and the Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Actress in a Drama. Her stone-cold eyes literally burn straight through her fellow ensemble due to the rape and death of her only daughter (Kathryn Newton), but that’s only part of what makes McDormand’s performance riveting. She demands so much truth from fellow actors like Woody Harrelson (Zombieland), who plays the story’s infamous Sheriff Willoughby, and Sam Rockwell (Napoleon Dynamite, Cowboys & Aliens), who also walked away with Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice honors as Best Supporting Actor as Willoughby’s “cracker motherfucker” deputy.

This exceptional cast raises the bar and stakes to heights far above the small town of Ebbing to umbrella our entire nation, the tiny rural community now ruled by the very people whose “gang” Mildred Hayes (McDormand) accuses the local Catholic parson Father Montgomery (Nick Searcy) of joining—meaning the church. “You’re culpable,” she rails at him. “And when a person is culpable to altar-boy-fucking, or any-kinda-boy-fucking—I know you guys didn’t really narrow it down—then they kinda forfeit the right to come into my house and say a word to me. Finish your tea there, Father, and get the fuck outta my kitchen.”

That was one of the greatest monologues McDonagh penned in his screenplay because it’s the message that needs to be heard by every American as our elected president calls Africa and Haiti “shithole countries” and behaves like Ebbing sheriff deputy Dixon (Rockwell) throwing Red Welby (played perfectly by Caleb Landry Jones of Friday Night Lights and The Social Network), out of the second story window of the Ebbing advertising firm that leased those three billboards to Mildred and into the street in front of the entire town as Americans just stand by quietly and watch.

Other performances in the film that cannot be overlooked include Lucas Hedges, Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee last year for Manchester by the Sea, who doesn’t bring any less to the role of Mildred’s son. The scenes between Hedges and McDormand, alone in their small country house as they both deal with the brutal rape and murder of their sister and daughter, breaks the heart and are so accurate to McDonagh’s story that it took me back to the farm on which I grew up with my mother. McDormand and Hedges are absolute dynamite.

Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage plays the town “midget,” bringing another important facet of the screenplay to life in small town America. After Sheriff Deputy Dixon throws Welby into the street in front of Abercrombie (Clarke Peters) and continues to punch the tar out of the advertising agent right in the middle of Main Street, he just walks back to the Sheriff Station literally right across the street and, as he passes by Peters’ character, shouts back, “See? I got issues with white folks too.”

Color is not the only facet to prejudice in our country. Whether it’s an alcoholic Little Person who sells used cars, an advertising agent suspected of being gay, or a mother causing trouble with three billboards using the greatest threat to American ignorance: words. This is the thing that brings poetry to this film, baring the power to bring to life the problem facing our great democracy which stems from ignorance and poverty—both of which “the pigs” of Ebbing, Missouri use to maintain the status quo.

Carter Burwell (In Bruges, True Grit) also took home a Golden Globe for Best Original Score, another of the many components, including the production design by Inbal Weinberg (The Place Beyond The Pines, Frozen River) and cinematography of Ben Davis (Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange) contributing to the cohesive collaboration that make me confident Three Billboards Outside Missouri will be taking home a lot more gold before the end of our current award season.

  CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Andre Aciman's Call Me by Your Name  is a story about the life of modern 1983 society in reflection to the past, this beautifully written work of poetry instantly captures the audience with its wonderful simplicity, and impressive courage in championing the truth behind the fabric that holds our crumbling civilization together.

Screenwriter James Ivory (The Remains of the Day, Maurice) is fearless in his adaptation of Aciman's novel, the tale of artistically talented brooding 17-year-old boy Elio Perlman, played by the talented Timothée Chalamet (Interstellar, Homeland), who discovers a relationship with an ‘older’ surprisingly educated American named Oliver, performed by Armie Hammer (J. Edgar, The Social Network), who is assisting Elio’s father research ancient Greek and Roman sculptures dredged up from the bottom of a nearby lake.

Feelings unfold between Elio and Oliver in the glacially-paced countryside of Northern Italy in a fashion which could be likened to Vittorio De Sica’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. It’s a story of a teenager discovering love with an older adult man and is masterfully directed by Luca Guadagnino (The Protagonists, Melissa P.).

Call Me by Your Name takes us out of our seats and carries us back to a more Hellenistic time where intelligence and compassion are acceptable human qualities. These are traits captured in Michael Stuhbarg’s (Steve Jobs, Trumbo) portrayal of Elio’s well-rounded father Mr. Perlman, who not only knows of the relationship that unfolds over the summer between his son and Oliver but also sees its pure reflection of the human spirit that Greek and Roman sculptors attempted to capture in the ancient bronze and marble statues he’s dredging up. He tells Oliver, as they are looking at projections of Greek statutes of boys, it’s as if they are “daring you to desire them.”

Saying this instant masterpiece is a “coming of age” romance is like saying the phenomenal Hedwig and the Angry Inch musical equates to Rock of Ages. Hedwig is a real person. I watched her pain unfold on stage at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, and I saw the same with Elio. A human being walking through life. Art.

Timothée Chalamet brings his own amazing talent to the screen for us to appreciate by exquisitely playing piano and helping to show us the emotional creatures hidden behind society’s taboos. This is an artistic portrayal of real life and the grounded vision of the entire ensemble makes this a feat in accomplishment. I fully expect to see this taking the nominations for gold this year.

The performances of the women in this stellar cast cannot be overlooked. Amira Casar’s (Arabian Nights, Age of Uprising) portrayal of Elio’s mother is an ever-present force that allows us to understand from where her son’s courage and strength comes. Her naked vulnerability in showing the understanding love of a mother and wife is chilling, and I couldn’t help but see my own mother who completely loves and accepts me as a 28-year-old gay man in a 5-year relationship with my 71-year-old boyfriend.

Life is more than a film, which makes this cast exemplary because I watched it in an American movie theatre with my boyfriend. The vast majority of the audience was heterosexual couples, all of whom only ever saw a story of people, like themselves, and not the stigma’s of societal perception.

Aside from Elio’s infatuation with Oliver, he is also love stricken with a young Italian girl named Marzia played by Esther Garrel (Love for a Day, Thirst Street), a very important performance allowing us to see the balancing act many young men play as they explore love. You can’t help falling in love with Esther’s Marzia as she watches Elio slowly push her away.

The best way of describing this film would be to quote Chekhov when he described his play The Seagull: “A great deal of conversation about literature, little action, tons of love.” It is a magical 2 hour and 12 minute adventure of suspense well worth the outrageous price of a movie ticket!

  ON THE ROAD

“In my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night.” Brilliant words written by the great Allen Ginsberg while in San Francisco in 1956. It’s impossible not to watch them on film without acknowledging Ginsberg’s work as a poet, since he figures so prominently under the pseudonym Carlo in Jack Kerouac’s timeless classic On the Road that director Walter Salles turned into a magnificent 2014 multi-award-winning entry in film festivals around the world.

The star-studded cast proves the importance that Kerouac’s words still hold for us today as the world still slowly crumbles beneath hate and the human condition. Every performance given comes from a place of true conviction from an ensemble that fights to drive this incredible story home for the audience just as its original creator intended.

The good direction of On the Road becomes immediately apparent from the beginning, and it’s easy to see why Salles was awarded Best Direction by the Sydney Film Festival. Perhaps it is just the amazing words of Kerouac that bring such life to the screen as we are introduced to a closeted/troubled Allen Ginsberg, played wonderfully by Tom Sturridge, and his sexy lover Dean Moriarty, whose life in real life was Neil Cassidy, played spot on by Garrett Hedlund. We see them stare into one another’s eyes looking for trust after just having had a three-way with one of the many girls that are passed through on the journey down Kerouac’s road.

You can’t help but see two young men searching for truth in their lives within a crumbling world of mediocrity. It’s a real treat to see both actors equally connected not only with the script but also each other. Again I think Kerouac must be given a lot of the credit, but you cannot ignore the great talent of this stellar cast. The pain of these characters just pours from Sturridge’s eyes as he quietly yearns for Dean to “just simply hold me.” While he and Sal Paradise, based on Jack Kerouac and performed by Sam Riley, sip liquor in the wake of Dean abandoning them to have sex with a girl, Ginsberg cries, “This is the first time sex has been part of my relationship with a man. Grief is closest. I’m 21. By the time I’m 23, I’m going to write a great poem. Then it’s all over for me.”

Based on the poem quoted at the beginning, it’s clear Ginsberg did indeed keep his word, but the pain and suffering in his writing becomes more understandable as we see Dean, the man of his dreams, wrench his yearning heart apart. The accomplishment in this film is that it gives reveals the importance in art; you can’t help but wonder if Kerouac would have ever written On the Road if equally great artists, like Ginsberg, hadn’t been a part of his life. Art inspires art in collaboration, and the performances of this cast are no exception.

Eight years under President Obama have given rise to a new generation of people that cannot see life in the same way that the post-World War II artists of the Beat Generation did, which makes it even harder us to understand the Civil Rights era that came as a result of the great literary movement that Kerouac, Ginsberg and many others inspired. On the Road is the story of mere children growing up in a devastated world being torn down by capitalism, communism, and fear of nuclear annihilation. These are characters that are seeing the world anew for the first time through the use of drugs, sexual freedom, and any other means available to discover truth.

Racing down highways built by President Eisenhower, whose predecessor says, “We must cut down on the price of living,” is constantly quoted by Dean and Sal both repeating the President’s words every time they steal gas or take food from country grocers. Proving that idealism has always failed our species, because of the state of our condition that doesn’t show any signs of changing. While at his parent’s house with Dean and some friends, Sal Paradise erupts at the news that General Douglas MacArthur banned kissing in the streets of Tokyo, shouting, “Who does that puritanical old fart think he is?!” If Kerouac were writing his timeless masterpiece today, I shutter to think what Sal and his friends would think now with Trump in office. The beauty of the writing truly shines through the screen as this story of raw naked pain unveils the close relationship that 1959 has with 2017.

Just like any journey down the road of life this film reflects the comings and goings of all the different people that pass through our lives by the memorable cameos made throughout the 124 minutes of drama. When Sal meets a Latina woman named Terry (the talented Alice Braga) who picks cotton for a living, we see Kerouac’s own desire to connect with the lives of those tread upon by—as Viggo Mortensen later puts it, “White Americans”. We see Sal turn a hand to working America’s cotton fields and then be mocked by his white overseers for being a white man mingling with Latinos.

The civil divides that tear us a part truly come to life as we watch Terry and Sal sweating both in the fields and naked on sheets of desire. Young souls with the strength to seek out the love and connection that makes us all human, while also realizing the insurmountable obstacles keeping us from uniting as one race. It’s heartbreaking to watch them constantly met with disappointment despite their best, often misguided, efforts in combating the horrid elements that many of us all want to change. Yet, while taking Sal’s mother to New York as a favor for feeding them, Dean is pulled over for a speeding ticket and Sal’s mother ultimately is forced to pay the fine proving that sex and love are not enough to survive in a world that revolves around the almighty dollar.

Watching the crucifixion of these relatable characters fighting for righteousness makes this film a true compliment to the book, a rare feat. From watching a stoned Amy Adams sweeping lizards out of trees with a broom in the dark, to getting to see Mortenson perform the part of real life William Burroughs butt-naked step into a tiny shed to breath in fumes to get high, this film is a rollercoaster ride that culminates into a magical experience.        

Kristen Stewart and Kristen Dunst are the leading actresses that form a striking duo of ‘Kristen’ prowess as they represent the women that get left behind on Sal and Dean’s journey down the road. We begin to see the consequences of Dean using his boyish charm to swoon the hearts of a world in need, ultimately leaving Stewart and Dunst shipwrecked upon the wayside., to which Dean later tells Sal, “As you get older all those mistakes just keep stacking up.”

Despite seeing Dunst’s heartbreaking performance as a lonely mother left alone who tells Dean as he packs his suitcase, “You know how much I gave up for you?” and being surprised by the usually predictable performance of Stewart, who was perfectly typecast as Marylou, it’s still hard to hate Dean even after hurting so many of the men and women in his life, because you understand that strong people simply cannot save everybody. Even a lifeboat will sink if too many cling to it.

While driving to California, Dean pulls over and picks up an Okie cowboy hitchhiker, played by American blues singer and songwriter Jake La Botz, who sings folks songs as they travel down the road into the sunset promising the Golden State. One of the lyrics that Bolz’s character sings that drives home our understanding of Dean’s predicament goes, “It’s hard to love what you kill.”

Steve Buscemi enters the story playing a salesman who travels to Denver with Dean and Sal after they abandon Dunst’s character and her and Dean’s baby in California. Buscemi is yet another example of the stellar ensemble, and performs the part of a guy looking to ensure that everybody around him remains “copacetic” to the score of commitment. Again, commitment reappears as an important part of the film, first with Ginsberg pining for Dean, and again as Buscemi later admits to Dean and Sal in a cheap motel that he really doesn’t like girls.

In the end, Sal gets to witness Dean become Buscemi’s bedtime top, which finally begins to crack his own love for Dean. Later Buscemi leaves them in Denver, to which Dean turns to Sal and says, “You see? Give ‘em what they secretly want, and they just panic.” The brilliance in Hedland’s talent as an actor comes as Kerouac’s curved out literary journey gradually begins winding down beneath the weight of reality, unveiling an arced performance that makes Hedland the perfect pick for Dean.

It oddly isn’t surprising that Dean arises as the dark hero of the story, because even his own strength isn’t enough to carry him through the story unscathed. Granted in the end he too ends up alone and begging to not be abandoned like all the loves in his past, but it’s his courage that makes him so endearing to the audience. Even the strongest crumble in the face of a world filled with millions of people all sinking. Leaving us to wonder if maybe the strongest people are actually those like Ginsberg and Paradise who remain committed to their art and those that they love.

I’m left with the somber tone of Ginsberg’s words, “There is no gold at the end of the rainbow.” Fortunately, anyone that gets to watch Walter Salles’ adaptation of Kerouac’s amazing story will agree that there is definite gold at the end of this cinematic journey On the Road.

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