August 3, 2014

How To Survive A Normal Heart...

Much as I love escapist fluff entertainment -- hell, I am re-watching chick flick Confessions of A Shopaholic as I write this -- once in a blue moon a smart substantial film wows me.

Or sometimes twice in a blue moon.

I recently watched two AIDS-themed dramas that dazzled me, and caused me to shed some tears: How To Survive A Plague and The Normal Heart.

How To Survive A Plague is the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary about the early days of the AIDS crisis and the beginning of activist groups like "Act Up" and their struggle to get recognition, assistance, caring or respect from the government, the media, and the medical establishment.

Plague is culled from hundreds of hours of arrived footage and is brilliantly woven together into a personal story. It is emotionally brutal and absolutely breathtaking.

It is available on demand, on Netflix and on DVD... gear yourself up and watch it.

The Normal Heart is the long-delayed film version (made for HBO this year) of Larry Kramer's seminal 1985 play on AIDS in the 80s, based on his own life. It's star studded cast includes Matt Bomer, Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts and Jim Parsons, and it is up for 16 Emmy awards at next month's ceremony.

Ruffalo is Ned Weeks, the Kramer-ish activist who rails against the politicians, reporters, doctors, and closeted gay men who ignore 'the gay cancer' in the early 80s while all his friends are dying...  and all while he is falling in love with a fashion reporter (Bomer) who will be struck by the disease. Their charming love story among all the suffering is amazing.

The Normal Heart is the anti-Philadelphia... it shows the disease, and the anger, and also the love and lust among the gay men at is centre. It is loud, lusty, messy, angry, and yes sometimes preachy.  And it works as a drama and as a history lesson.

Both films ask the question shouted by Weeks in The Normal Heart --- "Who cares if a faggot dies?" -- and both are mesmerizing. Watch them... but I do not recommend a double feature.