Archive for Mr Slate Honey

“Silent Light”- Review by Slate Honey

Posted in film, Mr Slate Honey with tags , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Carlos Reygadas’ ‘Silent Light’ (Stellet Licht) is a film that takes it time, carefully and with extreme poise.  Set in a Mennonite community in Northern Mexico that established its roots after WWI, ‘Silent Light’ employs the extraordinary beauty of wide rural landscapes and the rigid and quiet gestures of the Mennonites to tell a story about yearning, love and hurt.

Johan (played by Cornelio Wall Fehr) is a soft-hearted man who grapples with betraying his wife Esther (Miriam Toews) and family in his love affair with Marianne (Maria Pankratz), the woman he knows to be his heart’s true match.  The films opens with a stunning time-lapse shot that magically feels merely like an ever so gradual tilt from a black star-filled sky to a flattened horizon filling with orange light and the wild sounds of morning.  We are drawn slowly to a house where an old clock ticks loudly on the wall.  In total silence and stillness, a thin, pale and blonde family prays before their morning meal.  Johan opens his eyes to look at his wife Esther.  A moment passes.  Esther opens her eyes to look at Johan who has now closed his eyes.

The finesse of ‘Silent Light’ lies in the balance between muted emotions and erratic bursts of deep, piercing expressions handled gracefully by the largely non-actor cast.  There is a tension that lies sharp under an thick layer of peaceful-looking stoicism among the three main characters.  When each of the three bursts open, however, their pain is all too real.

Alexis Zabé’s cinematography is decadent.  Shallow focus often puts the viewer uncomfortably close to the characters, their low whispery voices resonating loudly, their odd and awkward features magnified. Characters walk out of frame or only take up only part of the frame and Zabé leaves us lingering in this negative space, among gorgeous detail whose silence speaks loudly.  The perfectly timed camera movement is extraordinarily graceful and is a pleasure to watch.  There are dozens of unbearably beautiful moments in this film thanks to Zabé’s daring style.  Zabé and Reygadas together pull the viewer into a totally self-contained world where supernatural rural beauty mirrors complex emotional landscapes; where pain lies in honesty, honesty cannot divorce itself from love, and love necessarily trembles from fear of loss.

In the end, a magical realist finale subverts tragedy as a gesture of pure love on Marianne’s part brings Johan and Esther back to one another.  The camera turns back to the sky in a last time-lapse shot almost rendering this stark Mennonite microcosm a dream-like vision from a planet far away.

It is no wonder ‘Silent Light’ won the Jury Prize at Cannes among two dozen other awards.  It takes some patience–or at least a deep breath and commitment to getting comfortable–to absorb ‘Silent Light’.  And that commitment is the beauty of great cinéma.  ‘Silent Light’ is well worth it.  See it at the Film Forum from January 7th to the 20th.

Slate Honey, Novice Theorey

Posted in Mr Slate Honey, Music, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Slate Honey

My favorite musical experiences are ones that feel like lucid dreaming.  The one-person band Novice Theory has quickly found a choice spot on my list of vision-inspiring.  I sink into self-reflective hallucinations somewhere in the curves of songwriter Geo’s grandiose melodic piano-playing, pulled deeper in by his heartbreakingly sharp, lyrical narratives.  I saw Novice Theory live for the first time at Joe’s Pub last night.

This morning, I woke up to flashes of dreams still fresh on my mind.  In one, I braided my miraculously-grown long curls.  In another, my mother and I had a love-affair breakdown in a restaurant in Chinatown.  Lying in bed, two lines from a Kate Bush cover performed the night before looped in my head.  I hummed it over and over again on my walk to work.  I couldn’t kick the tune all day… but I didn’t really want to.

I often lose touch with my own tenderness in dealing with complicated questions of identity.  It’s easier for me to turn to political and overly-intellectual language to make sense of the daily experiences of gender-queer and racially-othered bodies in this wide world.  Novice Theory takes on these questions on an emotionally bare level.  Sometimes pounding and other times caressing the keys of a grand piano, Geo works out so much in his music.  He labors through intensity and honesty with a crafted precision.  Novice Theory mixes together classical and folk tones, a tender darkness, cutting humor and an entrancing theatrical sound.  Experiences most difficult to process somehow become easy to listen to in the candid and lavish storytelling–or maybe just graspable, simply distilled to rich and vivid imagery.

The writers from Tongues Afire are about to set Brooklyn a-glow

Posted in Guide to What's Good, Mr Slate Honey, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Mr Slate Honey

This year’s members of the creative writing workshop for queer women, trans and gender-non conforming people of color will be presenting new works in two readings.  Common Grounds, the cozy Bed-Stuy cafe at 376 Tompkins Ave, will be hosting the first on Saturday December 6th at 7pm.  Later in the week, The Audre Lorde Project, sponsor to the group, will be hosting the second reading on Thursday December 11th at 85 South Oxford Street at 6:30 pm.  Both events are free and open to the public.

Be sure not to miss these.  Excellent artists pass through this workshop and judging from friends who have been in it or who will be reading, I can assure you that it will not disappoint even the most fine-tuned ear. For more information about Tongues Afire and applying to the workshop, contact tonguesafire@gmail.com

Slate Gets Milk- Gus Van Sant’s new Film

Posted in film, Guide to What's Good, Mr Slate Honey, People of Color, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Great review and thoughtful Analysis of Milk by Mr Slate Honey. Van Sant is giving a Q&A tonight at MOMA- hopefully I’ll get tickets and be able to report back tomorrow.-R

It seems everybody and their gay dads saw Gus Van Sant’s Milk as part of the Thanksgiving routine this year.  I was warned to go equipped with tissues and to be ready for problematic portrayals of the few characters of color in the film.  (Thanks lover, for the forewarning by the way.) I went prepared with a dewey heart and my critical lenses on.

I have been a committed Sean Penn fan ever since I saw Dead Man Walking when I was a little mister.  And I got on the Gus Van Sant train a bit late but his recent films Elephant, Last Days, Paranoid Park have served my grungy emo-homo skater-boy obsession very well.

Cinematographer Harris Savides and Van Sant make a great visionary team.  They previously worked together on Elephant, a film with a very precise, clean cinema verité style that transforms violence into real-time horror and renders its viewers innocent witnesses.  In Milk, Savides and Van Sant play with perspective, creating layers of consciousness for Penn’s character.  Switching perspective and cinematic style, and weaving archival footage into the film, Savides and Van Sant reveal a determined, emotional man at the center of a violent socio-political setting.  A particularly lush scene that is classic Van Sant perspective comes early on in the film.  Harvey and Scott (played by James Franco) fall in love in a soft-focus dreamscape of close movement, shot all in extreme close-ups set to the soundtrack of their tender conversation.  Gorgeousness.

Overall, Milk is very historically accurate.  Activist Cleve Jones and friend of Milk’s was on-set during production and connected Van Sant with screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who had long been preparing a manuscript. Milk serves as a good personal portrait counterpart to the 1985 documentary The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, directed by Rob Epstein.  I had the feeling watching MILK that I could trust the filmmaker team’s attention to detail and the solid sense of collaboration gave the narrative a documentary quality.

So the accuracy and detail of the film bring up a pretty big concern on the race-politics front.  I was charmed by Sean Penn’s old-school New York accent and faggy gestures, seduced by James Franco’s flirty eyes and mini handlebar moustache and increasingly worried as Josh Brolin’s character’s passive aggressive repression began to seep out.  And the constant influx of characters served well as a distraction from the tragic and narrow development of the few characters of color.

A member of Milk’s activist dream team includes an Asian man who is only referred to as Lotus Blossom despite his many appearances.  Random folks of color magically appear in the crowd every time Milk gets a further push forward in the political machine.  During an acceptance speech near the climax of the film, a black woman with a classic 70s look complete with afro smiles enthusiastically behind Harvey.  She promptly disappears behind a shower of balloons as soon as Harvey wraps up his speech.

Leaving the theatre, my mom suggested that the race politics of the film merely mirrored the San Francisco scene in the 1970s.  There just weren’t that many people of color, she argued.  And there were barely any women in the film, she added.  Historical accuracy?  (And, I might add, how much has the San Francisco gay scene departed from a mostly white gay male playground thirty years later?)

The seldom appearance of people of color is one thing.  I suppose you can reason this with some argument about accuracy.  What is more troubling is the passiveness of the characters of color.  Black and Asian extras dot the activist scenes, always with their thumbs in the air and big smiles.  Lotus Blossom doesn’t seem to wince at his nickname.  And finally, Jack, the one Latino character that makes it on-screen for more than thirty seconds is portrayed as an irrational, mentally unstable, co-dependent, infantile wifey.  Jack’s tragedy becomes expected and you can almost hear the characters whispering under their breath “She brought it on herself.” This is fodder for post-colonial theory.

So my warnings were well-heeded.  In the end, I cried like a baby, just as hard as I cried when I watched ‘The Life and Times of Harvey Milk’.  I left the theatre thinking about the fearless work of an older generation of queer activists that laid some ground for young folks to make demands relevant to what it means to be queer and fight for rights today.  I also left thinking about how race politics have systematically been swept under the rug by a white gay and lesbian rights movement in the 70s.  I thought about what work that has left contemporary queer activists of color.  And how truly far-thinking activists never get comfortable and only keep pushing and questioning.  Finally, making my way out of the city back to Brooklyn, I meditated on queer love as freedom, queer survival as civil rights, and a beautiful fearlessness that comes naturally to us.

Slate Honey reviews Recitement, Music/Poetry

Posted in Mr Slate Honey, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Recitement Review- by Slate Honey

A week ago, I immersed myself in Stephen Emmer’s poetry compilation album Recitement.  Pairing recited poems by a wide variety of writers (from Lou Reed to Jorge Luis Borges) with musical composition, Emmer curates a work that is more akin to a series of short films than an album with a solid identity.  Emmer does a comprehensive job of creating genre-specific music that works hard to set a tone for each spoken piece.  Recitement’s sounds bounce back and forth between dark, spacy down-tempo, bouncy classic rock, cinematic European pop and whispery retro French electro.  The musical style is laid a little too thick and is at times sentimental.  And melody sometimes becomes competitive with poetry.  The weight of the poetry often gets lost in the layered soundtracks.  Emmer does best when he presents pieces that really lend themselves to music.

Two tracks are particularly good. “Invergence of the Twain” is reminiscent of spoken word set to cool-sounding acoustic guitar and light percussion.  The beautiful rhyming and careful pacing of the poetry make for a sexy, relaxed sound that is easy to get into.  “Absolutely Grey” has the kind of melancholy space-age sound of Tricky and matches well to a sparse monologue on absolutes.  Especially good for those days when one is feeling super emo and particularly philosophical.

I’d recommend Recitement if you are tired of albums packaged with a singular look and feel.  It’s worth a listen if you want something really different.  Expect to be taken along several twists and turns and leave yourself open to the multi-media feel.  Recitement is not background music.

Slate Honey weighs in on Prop 8 and “Transvestite” Media Bating

Posted in politics, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I give you Mr Honey… This is not me, Robyn, I am not a gender-queer Junkie-Ha ha, that’s my most earnest sarcastic disclaimer…now for slate:

A response to gay disclaimers:

I should make a disclaimer myself. I’m a gender-queer junkie. All things related to the gender-queer and trans community immediately grab my ears and eyes. It’s a rainy Thursday, I am grant-writing for my current film project (a film about Transy House—a house that’s been home to a self-made gender-queer family and has been open to homeless trans women for fifteen years). All of a sudden, I hear an ad for the Leonard Lopate show on WYNC, something akin to “One thing you may not know about celebrity chef Jaime Oliver… he likes transvestites.” The web page relating to the Leonard Lopate show has some questions asked of Oliver, the last of which is:

WNYC:What’s one thing you’re a fan of that people might not expect?
J.O.:I love art and graffiti, jazz music, and transvestites.

So, I go to the on-demand podcast to listen. Disappointing! The interview itself is twenty minutes of Lopate and Oliver discussing meats, vegetables and home gardening. Among the chatter about poisonous rhubarb and raising chickens, there is no sign that anyone is about to talk about anything transgender. So, why use as the draw in (on the radio ad and on the webpage) this question that was not asked in the radio interview? Is anyone going to explain what exactly that means, to be a fan of transvestites?If I were Leonard Lopate interviewing myself, Slate Honey, it would go like this:

L.L.: What’s more difficult to grapple? Hetero disclaimers that precede pro-gay rights advocacy, or using a random line about transvestites (that’s left totally unexplained) as a way to draw a listener in to an interview about poultry?
S.H.: Well, Leonard, I don’t believe it’s a contest. What isn’t problematic on the queer and trans civil rights frontier? These both reinforce an already solid conclusion I have: We better self-represent and stick up for ourselves in this world!

On that note, November 20th is Trans Remembrance Day. Something to keep in mind and heart and maybe to counter some tokenizing advertising.

-Slate Honey

And now for an extra note from me-Robyn- Gawker and The View also seem unable to stay away from this subject. Without giving too much credence to the finger pointing dehumanizing antics implicated here: A link

Introducing Mr. Slate Honey, Trans Entities Review

Posted in film, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

As promised I have held true to my mission to offer multi-voiced meditations on this fabulous city from Brooklyn Socialites. It’s about time we got more variant translations up in here, so with that, I give you: Mr. Slate Honey…

Mr Honey will blow up your spot, so don’t get too comfortable!

Trans Entities: The Nasty Love between Papi and Wil + A Review

Way back in September, Robyn and I went to a Queer Black Cinema screening of Trans Entities at the LGBT Center in Manhattan. A small audience sipped wine in a room dotted with red candles as QBC hosts talked about their safe sex and HIV/STI prevention campaign. Two fiery erotic spoken word performances paired with an association game among audience members initiated by the enthusiastic MC to set the mood. Finally, the lights were turned down and the room quieted as Trans Entities began.

Trans Entities is a daring “docu-porn” that does not hold back. Its two main characters, Papi and Wil, are poly-partners open to exploring everything and anything they desire… and can handle. For the two, opening their bedroom door also means talking frankly about all aspects of their relationship. Between fast-cut scenes of Papi, Wil and their third partner fucking, slapping, punching and teasing one another, documentary footage shows snippets of their daily lives and interviews where they discuss gender-identity, queerness, homophobia, desire and love. In one scene, the three discuss the experiences of one hearing-impaired partner and open up powerful dialogue on body politics. Lifting the expected barrier between porn characters’ on-screen lives and their personal lives, Trans Entities gets truly intimate in a fresh way.

In a Q&A after the screening, the film’s two main stars compared Trans Entities to previous porn films they had acted in. Diverging from a staged porn production, transgender director Morty Diamond filmed the actors in their own home and used a documentary approach to capture a true-to-life portrait of the couple’s sexual relationship. The actors also discussed negotiated BDSM, revealing that some of the most hardcore play caught on film was a new experience for them.

Trans Entities is a unique video that balances provocative play with refreshingly thought-provoking conversation. And in Trans Entities, real conversation does not take the fun out of sex. Instead, Papi and Wil take role-playing, hard-core love and erotica to the ultimate level of pleasure and comfort. Check out http://mortydiamond.com to find out more about Trans Entities.

-by Mr Slate Honey