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Weekend Movies: The Fault in Our Stars (and a little Maleficent)

  Screen shot 2014-06-06 at 6.52.11 PM
Ubiquitous Shailene Woodley. This time with cancer. 


MV5BMjA4NzkxNzc5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzQ3OTMxMTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Shailene Woodley is everywhere. Which... well, I hope you like looking at her face. Not content to be the face of the post-Hunger Games YA dystopia fever (Divergent), she's also continuing that other everygirl thread in her career. She reads more like a girl next door, someone you know, than a STAR!; pretty but not intimidatingly gorgeous, relatable not charismatically mysterious.  She's specalized in earnest portrayals of ordinary teens getting their first taste of the tough stuff in life: death and desertion (The Descendants), disease and disappointment (The Spectacular Now). Hazel Grace Lancaster, her character in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, doubles down and has to deal with all of it. 

Hazel is a 16 year old with thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs. She needs an oxygen tank to breathe, which she drags behind her like a depressing carry-on she wishes she could check. Though she's outlived the initial prognosis she's acutely aware that she'll never grow old. Inbetween flashes of well earned self-pity and sarcasm, she worries about her parents and how they'll survive her death.

She attends a cancer support group for teenagers, at her mother's prodding (Laura Dern, reliably excellent). Mrs Lancaster hopes it will lift Hazel's depression and help her make friends.

Enter the Dreamboat Boyfriend...AFTER THE JUMP


The support group has your usual movie mix of comic relief characters (the ringleader is a born again buffoon), and tear-jerking extras who have to sell their pain quickly for ambience, before getting out of the way - “Step aside. Plot coming through!”. We quickly focus on two guys Hazel's age: Isaac (Nat Wolff) who is going blind and his best friend Gus (Ansel Elgort) who lost his leg to the disease but is now cancer free. Gus always has a cigarette dangling from his lips which he never lights, his metaphor for acknowledging death’s presence but refusing to give it power or some such teenage profundity. (I lost my notes.)

Though Fault is not a romantic comedy, and the occasional laughs are of the gallows variety, Gus is basically the gender inverted version of the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl: adorable, impossible to believe as an actual human as opposed to a "character", but deliciously ALIVE and therefore able to jolt our unhappy protagonist awake for adventure… #YOLO.  Gus comes on strong. Very very strong, really, considering Ansel's charm offensive. He's so cocky, self-consciously "cool" and quick to make the moves on Hazel that a tossed-off confession later in the movie that he's a virgin rings suspicious when it's not meant to. I would say the actor is completely overdoing it but this overplaying does have a few benefits in the last act when things get dark. It wasn't until the movie ended that I realized he'd played Shailene's reserved brother in Divergent so he's got range at least. (When we return to that franchise with Insurgent next year will it suddenly be burdened with incestuous vibes?) 

Once Gus & Hazel are making eyes and texts at each other and trading favorite novels, the plot gets very complicated and even Transatlantic, eventually taking us to Amsterdam and the Anne Frank house. Hazel’s breathing problems make this tourist stop a Herculean effort (no elevators) and at the top of the stairs in that famous room where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis, the teenage lovers make out and (gasp) are applauded for it by the other tourists in what has to be the single biggest eye-rolling movie moment of the year.


But all the while the threat of sudden death from cancer looms, which is a bummer. But also: the point.

Hazel warns us in voiceover that we have a choice about how to tell sad stories and she’s not going to sugar-coat this one. To some extent she keeps that promise (two funeral related sequences late in the movie and a very frank conversation with her parents are beautifully judged) but the film has enough of the romanticism and broad only-in-a-movie moments (like the Anne Frank house) to hedge its bets. It thinks it's too cool to be maudlin but it's also a little bit maudlin.

Judging the quality of a cancer movie on whether or not it makes you cry and how much ("Four hankies!" - The Blurb Whore Times) is silly. It's a bit like asking if baby kittens are cute and if so which one is cutest? You will have a good cry, the movie delivers there, and sometimes that’s a good reason to go to the movies. If you've lost anyone to cancer when you were both young (full disclosure: I did), fair warning: you will have to towel off from the sheer deluge. But no amount of feels should excuse impromptu makeouts in the Anne Frank house. 

Speaking of death and disappointment…



I’m sorry I was absent last week when everyone was gagging on MALEFICENT. I was interviewed about it but otherwise couldn’t collect my thoughts, fighting as they were between love of Maleficent the character and love of Angelina Jolie the star. Both are magnificent goddesses but “Maleficent: The Movie” wasn’t really after their marriage but intent on redeeming Maleficent the character. From what? Being AWESOME ?!? I preferred Maleficent when she was calling upon “all the powers of hell” and taunting Prince Charming with some light bondage.

Somehow the movie made me hate that little “beastie” Aurora (Elle Fanning) for softening Maleficent’s black and purple heart. Quoth the Wicked Witch of the West (who would have given this movie two green thumbs down, way down)

Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness? 


Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

Posted Jun. 6,2014 at 7:58 PM EST by in Angelina Jolie, Film, Nathaniel Rogers | Permalink | Comments (16)

Federal Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin's Ban on Gay Marriage

 U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb (pictured) has struck down Wisconsin's ban on gay marriage.

CrabbFrom the ruling:

It is DECLARED that art. XIII, § 13 of the Wisconsin Constitution violates plaintiffs' fundamental right to marry and their right to equal protection of laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Any Wisconsin statutory provisions, including those in Wisconsin Statutes chapter 765, that limit marriages to a "husband" and a "wife," are unconstitutional as applied to same-sex couples.

Plaintiffs may have until June 16, 2014, to submit a proposed injunction that complies with the requirement in Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d)(1)(C) to "describe in reasonable detail . . . the act or acts restrained or required." In particular, plaintiffs should identify what they want each named defendant to do or be enjoined from doing. Defendants may have one week from the date plaintiffs file their proposed injunction to file an opposition. If defendants file an opposition, plaintiffs may have one week from that date to file a reply in support of their proposed injunction.

I will address defendants' pending motion to stay the injunction after the parties have had an opportunity to file materials related to the proposed injunction. If the parties wish, they may have until June 16, 2014, to supplement their materials related to that motion in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Geiger v. Kitzhaber not to grant a stay in that case.

Read the ruling HERE.

The lawsuit was filed in February by the ACLU, the ACLU of Wisconsin and Mayer Brown LLP before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Marie Carlson and Charvonne Kemp of Milwaukee (pictured); Virginia Wolf and Carol Schumacher of Eau Claire, Wis.; Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann of Milwaukee; and Judith “Judi” Trampf and Katharina “Katy” Heyning of Madison are named as plaintiffs. Read their stories here.

The Washington Blade reported the details of the suit:

The litigation seeks not only to overturn the state’s 2006 constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, but also to enjoin state official from enforcing a “marriage evasion law” prohibiting couples — gay and straight — from going elsewhere to marry.

The penalties of violating the marriage evasion law in Wisconsin, which is the only state to have such a statute, include up to $10,000 in fines and nine months in prison.

WisconsinSeveral county offices in Wisconsin have said they'll stay open additional hours to accommodate couples:

In anticipation of the court striking down the state's ban on gay marriage,Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki said the county has trained additional staff and made arrangements to accommodate a rush to get licenses.

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said he did the same. On a typical day, the Dane County Courthouse staffs two windows for distributing marriage licenses, but McDonell said Dane could staff six if the gay marriage ban is overturned. He said he anticipates 200 or more couples showing up in a short time.

Both said additional hours — potentially on weekends — may be added to issue licenses if Crabb blocks the ban.

"Anyone who is in the courthouse by the hour indicated would still be able to be served that day," Czarnezki said. Czarnezki said how the county reacts will be a "game-day call" that will depend on the court's decision. McDonell agreed.

"This planning works whether this decision comes this week or in four weeks," McDonell said.

Waukesha County Clerk Kathleen Novack said her county is prepared to stay open additional hours to accommodate an influx of couples, though it will not offer weekend hours. Novack said her office will not train new staff members because it currently has five employees and only four computer terminals.

Crabb was appointed by President Jimmy Carter.

UPDATE: Gay U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) reacts:

“The federal district court in Madison took another step toward ensuring full equality for every American.  It is clear the growing momentum of support for marriage equality will put an end to discriminatory laws that treat LGBT couples as second-class citizens.  In ruling after ruling, it has become unmistakable that the promise of America is everyone should be treated equally and with dignity.  Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to fulfilling that promise.”

Posted Jun. 6,2014 at 4:53 PM EST by in Gay Marriage, News, Wisconsin | Permalink | Comments (35)

Towleroad Guide to the Tube #1594

DEPT. OF BAD GUESSES: Beach Boys edition.


THIS WEEK: In unnecessary censorship.

JAMES BERRY: Biphobia.

For recent Guides to the Tube, click HERE.

Posted Jun. 6,2014 at 4:45 PM EST by in News, Towleroad Guide to the Tube | Permalink | Comments (5)

News: Zachary Quinto, The Moon, Demi Lovato, Cupcakes

 roadNCLR says it won't support ENDA because of religious exemption.

Moon roadResearchers claim to have found evidence of the planet 'Theia', which crashed into Earth billions of years ago to form the Moon.

 roadVIDEO: Demi Lovato knows that aliens and mermaids are real.

 roadDon Lemon: So the question is, if you want people like Justin Bieber to stop using [the N-word], shouldn't you do the same?

 roadToonSeum: Pittsburgh museum faces backlash for supporting PrideFest.

 roadZachary Quinto and Matt Bomer will present a Tony Award together.

 road'Hollywood sex ring' accuser Michael Egan voluntarily withdraws his suit against former Disney executive David Neuman: "Egan’s case against Neuman appeared to crumble three weeks ago when Neuman filed a motion to dismiss that attached a 2003 declaration in which Egan said he’d 'never had any kind of physical contact' with Neuman other than non-sexual social contact and that Neuman 'never acted improperly.' A sanctions motion served by Neuman’s counsel may have underscored the apparent defects in the suit."

 roadEmily Blunt as Catwoman?

 roadGame of Thrones becomes HBO's most watched series ever.

Cupcakes roadBaked by Melissa sent these to the Towleroad office yesterday probably as a sugary ploy to get us to mention that you can get some for your Pride celebration HERE.

 roadD.C. news show properly frames NOM as 'foes'.

 roadHas Jake Gyllenhaal finally met his match?

 roadGay Bangkok nightlife hit hard by curfew: "Silom is famed for its nightlife which can stretch well after the official closing time of 2 am or 3 am for clubs during normal times before the May 22 military coup which was followed by a curfew that at first lasted for most of the late evening and night but now only applies for four hours."

 roadNetherlands senate approves zero tolerance policy for clerks who refuse to comply with same-sex marriage laws.

 roadReddit launches Utah campaign for equality.

R_paul roadRand Paul discovering he can't run for President and Senate at the same time.

 roadMassachusetts bill will help those disfigured by older HIV meds. "On Tuesday, a bill requiring insurers to pay for treatments to correct lipodystrophy (fat deposits) and lipoatrophy (wasting) finally moved out of the House Financial Services Committee of the Massachusetts legislature..."

 roadThe Washingtonian profiles Ted Olson.

 roadDelaware's Cape Henlopen High School battles over rainbow stoles, GSA: "More than a half-dozen people familiar with the school – including current and former students and a parent of students who recently graduated – told the Blade that while the formation of the GSA group this year and the gay student participation in the prom were encouraging signs, LGBT students at Cape Henlopen High School continue to face anti-LGBT bias."


Posted Jun. 6,2014 at 3:30 PM EST by | Permalink | Comments (9)

Lucky Charms for LGBT Pride, Diversity: VIDEO


General Mills/Lucky Charms has launched its #LuckyToBe social media campaign to celebrate LGBT Pride and the diversity that makes the world a colorful place.

"We don't all look the same, believe the same things, or love the same people. And that's a good thing. It makes our world more interesting. Special. Beautiful. Magical."

Watch the campaign video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Posted Jun. 6,2014 at 3:00 PM EST by in Advertising, Gay Pride, News | Permalink | Comments (4)

Out Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan Jumps in to Oakland Mayoral Race

Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who came in third in the city's 2010 mayoral race, has decided to run again, joining more than a dozen people challenging Mayor Jean Quan this fall, the SF Chronicle reports:

KaplanKaplan, 43, told The Chronicle that she had grown frustrated with the inaction and turmoil during Quan's time as mayor.

"I've concluded that Oakland isn't ungovernable, it is ungoverned," said Kaplan, who plans to formally announce her candidacy Thursday. "All of the top goals the city is trying to accomplish are right now being hampered by the lack of effective leadership."

Kaplan's decision dramatically changes the dynamics of the race in which no candidate has been able to rise above Quan in polls or attract overwhelming enthusiasm from a large number of voters five months before the election...

...Kaplan, who lives in the Longfellow area in North Oakland with her fiancee, Pamela Rosin, is serving her second term as the city's at-large member. She becomes the 16th person to challenge Quan in November.

Watch Kaplan's announcement video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Posted Jun. 6,2014 at 2:30 PM EST by in News, Oakland, Rebecca Kaplan | Permalink | Comments (6)


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