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Posts Tagged ‘prejudice’

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In 1993, the film Philadelphia was released – starring (and earning an Oscar win for) Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, the film was classed as groundbreaking for it’s storyline about a gay lawyer with AIDS and having to battle the stigma prejudice associated with the disease. I actually loved that film and saw it twice at the cinema within one week. However, a full eight years earlier, there was An Early Frost a made-for-television movie about a gay lawyer with AIDS, having to deal with the stigma and fear surrounding the disease…starring Aidan Quinn as Michael, with Geena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara as his parents, who have very different attitudes towards his illness, and Sylvia Sidney as his grandmother.

An Early Frost was obviously made on a fairly low budget, and watching it 34 years later, in terms of therapies and treatments available, it’s clearly very dated. But while the world is more informed about AIDS and the way it is transmitted, there is still a lot of prejudice towards the disease, and this film is still very relevant. Scenes where the ambulance drivers refuse to take Michael in their vehicle or where nurses refuse to enter his hospital room to give him his meals are thankfully a thing of the past, but as I watched this film I remembered the special assemblies which we had at school when I was about 13, telling us about AIDS and what was known of it (which was little at the time). The callous actions of some of the people in this film seem awful with hindsight, but people were terrified. I remember going on holiday abroad with my parents and another lady at the hotel would not get into the swimming pool because she was worried about catching AIDS.

Anyway, this film – the cast were all excellent just as you would expect. There were a couple of ‘lifetime movie’ dramatic scenes, but overall this was played with just the right note. Michael’s parents do not even know he is gay, so he is faced with not only revealing his homosexuality but also his illness in one fell swoop. His partner Peter (D.W. Moffett) has had to cope with being Michael’s secret and also knowing that he may have been the one who infected Michael.

I think this film is important not just for Michael’s personal story, but also for witnessing the hysteria and terror surrounding AIDS. It’s rarely shown on television these days, possibly because it is now fairly outdated, but if you get the chance to see it, I would highly recommend it.

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This book has dual time frames told in alternating chapters:

In 1985 in Chicago – and across the United States – AIDS has devastated the gay community. The story starts with a group of friends mourning the AIDS related death of their friend Nico. These chapters are largely told from the point of view of Yale Tishman and through Yale, we witness the ongoing crisis, and it’s effects.

In 2015, Nico’s sister Fiona, now in her early 50s, has gone to Paris to track down her estranged daughter Claire. Through these chapters we learn about the fates of various characters in the earlier timeline, and understand what Fiona went through, watching not only her brother, but so many of their friends die at the hands of a virus which the government at the time seemed largely unbothered about.

This is without question my favourite book that I have read so far this year – and I’d put it into at least my top 10 of all-time favourites. I absolutely adored Yale, and appreciated that Makkai drew so many believable and distinct characters which made up his friendship group and other acquaintances. She does not portray heroes and villains, just incredibly ‘real’ characters, who I felt like I genuinely knew and cared for. I do feel that the early timeline on its own would have made for an interesting and wonderful novel, but the 2015 story added to it, in that we could see what an effect Fiona’s experiences had had on her as an adult.

I could write about this book all day, and good luck to anyone who asks me about it – you’re going to need to set aside a few hours while I wax lyrical! However, I don’t think I could do it justice. It is a beautifully written, heartbreaking, uplifting, thought provoking novel, and I recommend it to literally everyone.

 

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I listened to this as an audiobook while I was out on a long run – and it is a testament to how good this story is that a run of two hours seemed to go by in a flash!

The story introduces the reader to seven strangers in seven very different situations and then pulls them all together when one violent act takes place.

Without giving away any important plot points, I can say that the story is a stark reminder of the prejudices which people hold and the snap judgements that we can all make. Things are very often not what they seem, and this is perfectly illustrated here.

The story itself is taut and well told at a decent pace, as shorter stories have to be. It’s narrated by J D Jackson, who does a terrific job. I have only read one book by Jefferey Deaver before – the first Lincoln Rhyme novel, ‘The Bone Collector’ – and I remember thinking it was well written but pretty gory (probably the reason I never read any others in the series). This is not particularly gory, despite an act of violence being at the heart of the story, and therefore I would not worry about recommending this to someone who was slightly squeamish.

Basically brilliant, and if Deaver has any other shorter stories available on audiobook, you can be sure I will seeking them out.

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In this non-fiction book, sports journalist Anna Kessel investigates the role and treatment of women in (mainly) competitive sport. I’m going to be honest and say that this was not entirely what I expected; the sub-title ‘How Sport Can Change Our Lives’ led me to think that this would be a study of how sport or exercise can make us feel good, give us confidence and improve our health and fitness. As someone who partakes in a lot of high intensity, but non-competitive exercise, this really appealed to me.

However, the book is actually a feminist study of how women have been treated in the world of competitive and professional sport throughout history and right up until the present day. Despite being not what I thought it was going to be, for the most part this was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. I liked that it talked about how exercise in general for women is generally only promoted in popular media in terms of how it can improve our looks and our sex lives. (I was looking at the cover of a so-called health magazine aimed at women recently, and almost every headline was talking about how to get sexy legs, or washboard abs, how to have better sex etc – instead of focussing on the health benefits. This is something that I feel particularly strongly about.) It also talked about the issues that girls suffer in PE at school – if you are not naturally athletic for instance, you are generally written off from day one. At least this is how it has been for many young girls, although I am certain it is the same for boys too.

The book is very clearly well researched, with interviews with several sporting personalities or women working in sport, and Kessel underlines some of the discrimination that women are subject to in sport – it amazes me that in 2007, there was such a huge furore about a woman commentating on Match of the Day! What century are we living in for goodness sake?!

However, a lot of the book focussed on aspects that didn’t interest me so much – obviously this is a very subjective opinion, but I have zero interest in football, whether it is played by men or women, and so I did struggle to keep my attention for the parts of the book dedicated to the passion of football fans.

I also would have liked more about exercise in general, not necessarily competitive or professional sport, and an exploration about how we should be exercising for health and well-being, rather than to get the perfect beach body, would have been very interesting.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in sport and/or feminism. I liked Kessel’s engaging and conversational writing style and will keep an eye open for more work by her in the future.

 

 

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This movie spans the years of 1981 – 1989, and focuses on a group of gay men in Los Angeles, during the emergence of devastating effects of AIDS.  The film begins with the friends learning about a new disease which seems to affect gay men, and they speculate on whether it could be caused by drugs (poppers) or other factors.  As the years go by – each one depicted in a vignette, updating the viewer on what is now going on with the character’s lives – several of the group grow sick and die, while the others have to learn to cope with the loss and the implications for themselves.

I admit that I really wanted to see this because the always excellent Campbell Scott is in it.  I had thought that he was a supporting character, but in actual fact, he is one of the biggest parts, and he is wonderful in it.  He plays the part of Willy, a man who has to watch as he loses good friends to this awful cruel disease, but he also has to confront his own prejudices (a scene where he visits one friend in hospital, and goes to the bathroom to frantically wash every part of himself that the friend has touched during a hug is particularly uncomfortable, especially now that people know that AIDS of course cannot be transmitted by touch – but this scene is set at a time when people were still unsure of how you could ‘catch’ the illness, and paranoia had set in).

Bruce Davison was also excellent – heartbreakingly so – as a man who has to watch his lover’s worst fears come true.  Davison was nominated for an Oscar for his role, and deservedly so.

Other members of the uniformly wonderful cast include Patrick Cassidy, John Dossett, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephen Caffrey, Mark Lamos and Dermot Mulroney.

Speaking for myself, I was only young – maybe 12 or 13 – when we first learned about this scary new disease called AIDS.  This meant that growing up, my generation was always aware of this spectre, and it was therefore always something to think about.  I guess that makes us luckier than those who were some years older, and only learned about AIDS when they may have already been exposed to it.  I think this film perfectly captured the terror and confusion that surrounded AIDS, as well as the prejudices that came with it.

It is a beautifully made, wonderfully acted, incredibly moving film about a disease that changed everything.  I highly, highly recommend it.

Year of release: 1989

Director: Norman René

Producers: Lydia Dean Pilcher, Lindsay Law, Stan Wlodkowski

Writer: Craig Lucas

Main cast: Campbell Scott, Patrick Cassidy, John Dossett, Bruce Davison, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephen Caffrey, Dermot Mulroney, Mark Lamos

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This 2004 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play (originally written as a comedy, although it feels far more like a drama) stars Al Pacino as Shylock (and he is easily the best thing in this film), Jeremy Irons as Antonio, Joseph Fiennes as Bassanio and Lynne Collins as Portia.

The story, in essence, centres on a deal made between Antonio (the merchant of Venice referred to in the title), and Shylock, a Jewish money-lender.  At the time that the story was set, there was much bad feeling between Christians and Jews, and indeed Jews in Venice were required to live in a ghetto of sorts, and to wear red caps in public, to identify as Jewish.  Antonio is approached by his friend Bassanio, who has squandered all of his money on his lavish lifestyle, and wants to borrow money off Antonio in order that he can be a suitor to Portia, a rich heiress – if Bassanio marries Portia, all of her riches will be his.  Antonio cannot lend him the money, but agrees to act as guarantor if Bassanio can borrow the money elsewhere.  Bassanio does so – from Shylock, who attaches a condition to his lending, that if the money is not repaid, Antonio will have to literally forfeit a pound of his flesh to Shylock.

I have watched and enjoyed many Shakespeare film adaptations, and approached this one with high hopes – only, sadly, to have them dashed.  Unfortunately, I found this adaptation to be boring and laborious.  Joseph Fiennes and Lynda Collins were not convincing as Bassanio and Portia; David Harewood played a small part in the film, in which he was great, but sadly he is in it only briefly.  Kris Marshall and Mackenzie Crook did decent enough jobs as Bassanio’s friend Graziano, and Launcelot Gobbo (a young man who works for Shylock), but they were not enough to save this film.

I am however, going to make mention of Al Pacino’s performance, which was simply outstanding.  If the rest of the cast (Jeremy Irons aside – he did a great job) had been as good as Pacino, this film would have been fantastic and one I would doubtless have watched over and over.  Pacino stole every single scene he was in, and engendered real sympathy in me for his character at the end.  Although Shylock is often portrayed and interpreted as a villain, I felt that he was a victim of the times and culture that he lived in, and the craftiness of others.  (Much as I enjoy Shakespeare, I don’t believe that either Bassanio or Portia come acres as very decent or likeable characters in the play).

It looks luscious and colourful, but for me, this film was a case of style of over content.  It may be worth seeing for the performance of Al Pacino, but other than that, this is one I won’t be watching again.

Year of release: 2004

Director: Michael Radford

Producers: Michael Hammer, Peter James, Robert Jones, Alex Marshall, James Simpson, Manfred Wilde, Gary Hamilton, Andrea Iervolino, Pete Maggi, Julia Verdin, Andreas Bajohra, Bob Bellion, Cary Brokaw, Michael Cowan, Jimmy de Brabant, Edwige Fenech, Nigel Goldsack, Luciano Martino, Barry Navidi, Jason Piette, Bob Portal, Jean-Claude Schlim, Clive Waldron, Roberto Almagia, Irene Masiello

Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Michael Radford

Main cast: Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, Lynda Collins, Kris Marshall, Zuleikha Robinson, Charlie Cox, Heather Goldenhersh, Mackenzie Crook

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In this Western, Paul Newman plays John Russell, a man raised by Native Americans. On a stagecoach journey, his fellow passengers shun him because of his life with the Native Americans, but when the stagecoach is robbed by a group of outlaws, the passengers realise that their only chance of survival lies with John…

I’m not really a fan of Westerns, and probably wouldn’t have watched this one, if it wasn’t for the fact that Paul Newman is in it, and also that it is considered one of his great films. Anyway, I’m glad I watched it (and would like the chance to watch it again in the future).

Newman plays the moody, broody and reticent John Russell perfectly; I think he was made for this kind of part. Not only is he alienated by other people, but he also seems to want to alienate himself from them. He is not necessarily a nasty man, but he is certainly not your typical hero, and the question remains over whether he will risk his own neck to help others save theirs.

The supporting cast are all excellent too, particularly Richard Boone, who plays the ringleader of the outlaws, and Frederic March, who plays one of the stagecoach passengers.

The film is beautifully photographed, showing off the beautiful but unforgiving land where the passengers find themselves at the mercy of the elements, as well as the band of criminals who are determined to stop at nothing to get their hands on the money which they know is in the coach.

As someone who would never list Westerns as a favourite genre, this film was a pleasant surprise, and one I would definitely recommend.

Year of release: 1967

Director: Martin Ritt

Producers: Irving Ravetch, Martin Ritt

Writers: Elmore Leonard (novel), Harriet Frank Jr., Irving Ravetch, Diane Cilento, Barbard Rush, Martin Balsam

Main cast: Paul Newman, Frederic March, Richard Boone,

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