Evil Dust

The sun is actually out today and there aren’t many–if any–clouds in our beautiful blue sky this morning, which is lovely. It’s rained pretty constantly ever since Tuesday afternoon, and everything outside is still wet from nearly a week of rain. I love rain–especially thunderstorms–but even I thought five straight days of them was a bit extreme. I wound up running my errands in the rain yesterday–I dropped off another five boxes of books to the Ladder Library sale yesterday (you actually can tell now that I’ve gotten rid of books)–and made groceries and got the mail. It was pouring while I did all of this, so my plans to go to the gym yesterday were finally scrapped. I also wound up taking the day off from almost everything yesterday–I think I needed a brain-free day, frankly–and so we watched a lot of television–we binged all the way through a delightful comedy called The Other Two, watched the Tom Holland movie Cherry on Apple Plus, and then switched over to Acorn for a riveting crime show called The Cry.

Yes, I was a slug all day and I am not a bit ashamed of it.

Oh, sure, I had my journal with me and scribbled notes freeform all day–my favorite is that I came up with a short story title I now HAVE to use, “To Live and Die in La.”, while having absolutely no idea what the story would actually be, but I laughed at the title and now want to. use it–so I did do something. But today I have to start revising/copy editing/making notes on Bury Me in Shadows–due to be returned to my editor no later than the first of May–and so, if I do go to the gym today (leaning towards it, since it’s sunny out) I can curl up in my easy chair to do it, so that’s a start. I really need to work on my story–the deadline for that submission call is May 15, I believe–and so I need to kick everything up a notch this week. I am getting caught up on a lot of other things as well–it’s never-ending, and have also accepted that I only have so much bandwidth for things. The emails, for example…I’ll never get caught up on those, ever…so I need to prioritize and so forth in order to get through everything that absolutely needs to be responded to immediately.

I also need to spend some time getting organized and cleaning a bit this morning. There’s filing to be done, of course–always–and somehow the kitchen looks like a tornado ripped through here (not completely an exaggeration, to be honest) and I need to get that taken care of this morning. I have a load of laundry to do, and there’s always dishes–always. I also want to organize the refrigerator a bit more this morning. Since the sun is out, I’ll probably grill hamburgers later on this afternoon, which is always an absolute treat (I really prefer all meat to be cooked over hot charcoal, frankly–or at least, most). I am also a bit excited that the next step of book decluttering (and yes, I am aware I am completely Marie Kondo-ing my apartment) is to go up into the storage attic and start clearing the boxes up there. This will, of course, be more complicated than the bookcases and the hidden boxes in the living room, since I’ll have to bring them down and go through them, combining the ones to keep (I can’t imagine there will be many of those) while putting aside the ones to donate. The goal is to clear out enough space in the storage attic so I can clean out my storage rental and close that account; most of the books in the storage are copies of my own books (and my kids’ series collection) along with some other things–mostly papers–and it would be nice to either no longer have that bill every month, or to use that space for other things…but at the moment I can’t think of anything that we’d need to keep it for.

But it would be great to lose that bill by the end of the summer.

Not as great as paying off the car, but still pretty good.

I think I’m going to add Semi-Tough to the donate pile. The first three pages are nothing but racial slurs as well as justifications for using them, and how the main character–it’s a first person narrative–isn’t really racist and the slurs are just words that don’t mean offense and so on–and yeah, I really don’t feel like spending any of my time with that kind of character. I certainly wouldn’t in real life–imagine being at dinner or a cocktail party and the person you are talking to says, and this is a direct quote from page one: Just because I may happen to say (the n-word) doesn’t mean I’m a racist.

Um, actually it does. It says a lot about you, who you are, and how you were raised, as well as how you see people and the world.

And I really have no desire to read a book filled with racial slurs…because you KNOW its also full of gay slurs, too–and most likely without the caveat justifying the racial slurs: Now listen, just because I say “faggot” doesn’t mean I’m homophobic.

Sure, Jan.

There are so many other good books to read, why reread something I originally read as a teen that plays on racism and homophobia and misogyny for humor? I stopped rereading The Last Picture Show, a book I absolutely loved, a few years ago when it got to the part about bestiality, and how it was perfectly normal for the teen boys to fuck animals…I closed the book and put it away. I may go back and reread the entire thing at some point–the reason I was rereading it in the first place was to examine how it handles homosexuality–which I distinctly remembered it doing–but I don’t think I was able to get far enough into it to get to that part. I know that Coach Popper–long-suffering Ruth’s awful husband–was a deeply repressed one, who favored one of the more athletic boys primarily because of his attraction to him; that the preacher’s son Billy Bob Blanton was often mocked and teased and bullied and humiliated for being a “four-eyed queer” (before he molests a little girl, after which he’s taken away as a pervert); and that the heterosexual English teacher, who was cultured and sensitive and kind, was accused by the coach of impure thoughts and fired (everyone, of course, would never suspect the manly football coach of anything, or question him); and I remembered a particular poignant scene between the fired English teacher–who’s been fired, whose wife has left him and taken their daughters and filed for divorce–and Ruth, where he’s just so beaten down and defeated that it’s heartbreaking. But yeah–that whole “boys will be boys” attitude towards bestiality was too much for me to get through again.

The Last Two is a terrific show, and quite funny. Paul and I really enjoyed it; the premise of the show is the two older children are in their late twenties–one is a struggling actor whose most recent audition was for a commercial in which he would play “Party-goer who smells a fart”; the daughter had wanted to become a dancer until she broke her ankle and dropped out of dance school and cannot figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life–when suddenly, their thirteen year old brother puts up a video of him singing a ridiculous song (“Marry Me at Recess”) and becomes an overnight viral sensation with a record deal and a manager under the name “Chase Dreams”; which makes them feel even more like losers. The older brother, Cary, is also gay and in a weird relationship with his straight roommate; the daughter has broken up with her boyfriend and is now homeless at the beginning of the show. I thought it was terrific, frankly, and look forward to season two.

My primary takeaway from Cherry is that Tom Holland is an amazingly talented actor–he really gives a stunning performance as a poor young man who falls in love, gets his heart broken and joins the military, serves as a medic in Iraq and comes home to nothing but PTSD and drug addiction, which leads him to a life of crime. It’s a very dark story–but also weirdly a love story at the same time–and I don’t think the film, worked overall; the Russo Brothers, who directed, turned it into this big grand opera style thing in the way they shot it; to the point where the beautiful imagery is almost intrusive. It’s a very real story–based on a true story–and it highlights, very powerfully, how we abandon our troops completely after their service is over (since they’re no longer the troops….”support the troops” makes me angry because it is used primarily as a political prop and the actual soldiers themselves suffer in silence and neglect while we give billionaires and corporations every break in the world), but it’s worth watching for Tom Holland’s performance–he was also fantastic in The Devil All The Time–and it’s really nice to see him pushing himself in his non-superhero roles (he’s also the best, in my opinion, Spider-Man).

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

Coat of Many Colors

And just like that, we’ve made it to Friday. How lovely!

I slept extremely well, which was lovely. I feel rested today and I also feel as though I can actually handle whatever blows the world and life decide to throw at me today. Yesterday wasn’t an easy one; I felt tired most of the day and the lethargic lack of energy wasn’t, frankly, very much fun. I got home and rewarded myself with a quick view of Spider-man Into the Spider-verse, which is my favorite super-hero movie of all time (not that I am dogging on Tom Holland, whom I adore as Peter Parker) and that eased me into going to bed last night. I had already decided to go to the gym after work today rather than before; so I have this morning to regroup and get on top of everything again.

I did write a little bit yesterday. I had decided to revise a story I’d written for an anthology, which was rejected (rightly so, he typed grimly, after starting to reread it last night), and submit it to yet another anthology (I have three stories to submit by the end of the month), and I found myself wondering–I can’t say the name of the story, since the anthology is a blind/submission read–if I needed to tone it down a little bit? It’s a gay story, from a gay man’s point of view and there’s a lot of sexualizing and a lot of the gay male gaze; and I began wondering, as I revised and removed sentences from passive past tense to the active past tense (it is amazing how easily I default to passive voice; a problem I never seem to be able to kick; and it’s really not that difficult to avoid, really) and changed some things and made sentences stronger, how often do my stories get rejected for fear of offending a reader or a reviewer, rather than the quality of the story? That’s one of the issues one consistently faces as a gay writer trying to publish in a homophobic society and culture; you’re never sure if your story just wasn’t up to par, or if the gay point-of-view made the editors uncomfortable–or made them worry about offending readers and getting one-starred on Goodreads and Amazon as a direct result.

It’s shitty, but it’s my reality, and that of every gay writer. I’d like to think that a good story that is well-written would rise above that kind of bullshit, but every time I think we’re making progress, either in the culture and society and publishing–we get shoved back hard and shown our place.

And for the record, I’ve only published one short story in a mainstream market with a gay male character and theme. ONE. Everything else I’ve published in a mainstream market was about a straight character without any of the gay in it.

Over the last week or so, I’ve been sickened by the levels of overt and covert homophobia I’ve seen on Twitter. Yes, I know, I know; Twitter is a cesspool roiling with trolls and incels and every other kind of monster imaginable. But I don’t follow a lot of people over there; mostly other writers and maybe some journalists and reporters and reviewers and magazines, etc. Every so often I seem something appalling being tweeted at someone I know and like in the real world, not just cyberspace; I often report problematic tweets I see as harassment against someone else, and it may take a couple of days, but that account eventually gets suspended. It may be like trying to drain the ocean with a teaspoon, but I figure it’s the least I can do. And it has to be something egregious–like the use of a slur and an outright slander–for me to do something; my litmus test generally is if I start typing out an angry response I should just report it and not engage.

Typing out the tweet before deleting it always makes me feel better, and then I delete and report the person instead. This works for me.

Anyway, many years ago I stopped talking about politics publicly, either here, or on my blog or Facebook, because I have no desire to debate anyone or argue with anyone on my social media accounts. Part of it was, indeed, joining the national board of Mystery Writers of America; the realization that not everyone in the crime fiction world would agree with me on everything and I didn’t want to get into pissing contests on social media, particularly as a board member whose conduct might be held against the organization. Obviously, I still talk about queer equality and homophobia, but anyone who follows me on social media knows I’m a gay man (the pictures in every blog post alone is a tell, hello?) and as such, I feel I’m entitled to talk about that; I also feel like I have every right to speak out against racism when I see it, as well as misogyny and transphobia. These are, in my opinion, societal ills and I cannot just sit idly by and not speak my piece on these things from time to time.

One of the things I’ve noticed over the last week–I’ve actually noticed it before, but not to this extreme–is homophobia, particularly from people who actually should know better. That’s the true evil, to me, in our society; that all the hatreds–racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia–are so deeply engrained and systemic that people who should know better sometimes fall back into them quite easily, without thinking twice about what they are saying or how it can be perceived. Do I think these people are actually and actively homophobic? Probably not, but it’s really easy, as I said, to fall back into it.

Pete Buttigieg did something no openly gay man had ever done before; he ran for president as a prospective candidate in one of the two major parties. I don’t know Pete; I’ve never met him or his husband, Chasten, and what I do know is from reading about them in the press (I also follow Chasten on Twitter) and from seeing them speak on television. I’ve been impressed from the very first with Pete; he’s smart, articulate, and passionate about wanting to help other people. If Chasten’s name was Christine, I honestly think Pete would have been mopping the floor with the other candidates; he’s young, he’s attractive, a Rhodes scholar, a great public speaker, and a military veteran. He has flaws, obviously; there’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, no matter what anyone might think. But when he announced, I braced myself for the homophobic onslaught to come.

I just didn’t expect the majority of it to come from the left.

Campaigns always tend to be ugly, and this year’s presidential election will be no different from any previous one’s. Primaries can also be ugly–I remember the ugliness of the Democratic primaries of 1968, 1980, and 2016 very vividly, thank you very much (an aside: please note that ugly Democratic primaries inevitably lead to Republican presidents being elected–Nixon, Reagan, and Trump)–and so there are going to be slurs and insults and snide questions thrown around; I get it. Politics and power are an ugly business. But as I observed without commenting…I couldn’t help but notice that people who should know better, either consciously or subconsciously, were falling back on their internalized homophobia.

I never saw derisive nicknames, for example, for any of the Democratic candidates…except for Buttigieg. Think I’m wrong? How is Pete Buttigieg so much whiter than any of the other candidates, so much more so that an appellation of “Mayo Pete” was appropriate? No one was calling Amy Klobuchar “Wonder Bread Amy.” And sure, the ‘Mayor Pete’ branding might have had something to do with that–but as a gay man of a certain age, I couldn’t help notice that he was the only one with such a nickname. Were the other white candidates that much better than him on issues of race?

As for the leftists slyly shortening his name to “Pete Butt”–do you really think you’re fooling anyone? Yes, yes, I’m sure you were only calling him that because, of course, you were saving characters on social media where you have limited characters; but you could have saved three more by calling him “”Pete B”; people would have known who you were talking about. I daresay you could have even just said “Pete” since you were talking about the primaries.

So, why Pete Butt? Unless you’re using it as a dogwhistle; you know you can’t call him “Pete Buttsex” or “Pete the Fag” so instead you say “Pete Butt”–knowing full fucking well how that would be read. Congratulations on your wokeness, and go fuck yourself. By disrespecting Pete Buttigieg, who accomplished something I never thought I’d see happen in my goddamned lifetime, you are exposing your own inner homophobia. Oh, sure, you  can criticize him for his conduct as mayor, you can criticize his positions, you can oppose his candidacy all you like without being homophobic…but the glee I saw in basically calling him a faggot by using a dog-whistle?

Yeah, thanks for dropping the mask.

I’m not hurt by this behavior–I’m mostly disappointed. Disappointed in the left, disappointed in Democratic voters, disappointed in people I thought knew better and were allies. Disappointed in myself for once again thinking cishet straight people actually gave a shit about me and people like me.

Kind of like “woke” people who have no friends that are people of color. Why is that, precisely?

I mean, how very dare he run for president! Queers need to know their place, and certainly the halls of Congress and the White House aren’t, apparently, it.

And for the record, he won Iowa.

Nothing will ever change that. You may not like him, you may have dipped into your soul and the dark recesses of your lizard primordial brain to come up with a way to dismiss him and get away without being outright homophobic, but I see you.

And I’ll never forget–nor will I ever look at you the same way again. And don’t bother trying to explain how you’re not homophobic to me.

I SAW for myself.

Bravo.

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Passionate Kisses

Hello there, Tuesday, how’s the wife and kids?

I forgot to mention yesterday that I also watched Spiderman: Far From Home over the course of the weekend, and while I’m not entirely certain it was as good as Spiderman: Homecoming (I can say without any equivocal doubt it was NOT as good as Into the Spider-verse, which was simply brilliant, and probably the best super-hero film I’ve ever seen), I did enjoy it. It’s hard not to like Tom Holland; and I shall repeat again, I had no desire to watch his debut film as Spider-man/Peter Parker until I saw the clip of his Lip Sync Battle performance as Rihanna doing “Umbrella”, and I also like the way they’re doing MJ, with Zendaya taking the role. It did have some funny moments, some very cute moments, and one can never go wrong with Jake Gyllenhaal; but there was just something off about how they explained away the whole Thanos /half-the-universe disappeared etc.; there are more holes in that explanation (as there inevitably always are when it comes to time-travel and so forth) but it couldn’t be unexplained, and by glossing over it with barely a mention or any explanation…I guess that made it go down easier for fans? But I’ll continue to watch Tom Holland in the role–I’ve never seen any of the Andrew Garfield Spiderman movies, and I didn’t enjoy the Tobey Maguire one I did see, so stopped watching them. But it was entertaining enough, and it held my interest…but while super-hero movies can be fun, I am really getting bored with the BIGGER and BETTER effects, and the fight scenes….they all begin to seem the same after awhile.

It’s kind of why we stopped watching Arrow, despite my passion for Steven Amell.

I wasn’t tired yesterday, per se, although I felt sort of out of it all day; like my brain had never completely woken up. It was strange; it was like a part of my brain never completely woke up so I was sort of sleepwalking through the day despite having full awareness? I can’t really describe it other than that, it was weird and I wasn’t a fan, actually. Last night I slept very deeply and well; I feel very rested this morning and my mind is sharper than it was yesterday–a very low bar, to be sure–but I also managed to get a lot done yesterday despite not feeling completely awake. It was rather strange, to be sure; but I cannot argue with successful production.

But this morning I feel more alive and awake and alert than I certainly did yesterday, so we’ll see how this day is going to turn out. I was curious how the return to the gym, coupled with an early morning, would turn out yesterday; I don’t think that was indicative of how things will be from hereon out, though. My body was just trying to adapt to something new, a change in routine. Last night’s amazing and deep sleep was perfect, and I feel terrific this morning, which is lovely. How I will feel at the end of this day remains to be seen, but I am confident it won’t be that bad. I wasn’t tired at all last night when I got home from work–I even stopped at Rouse’s on the way home–and tumbled into bed relatively early, after an episode of Sex Education. There’s only two episodes left, but it occurred to  me last night that each episode of the show actually is sex education; I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before, but with each student/client, some aspect of sexuality is discussed and covered and destigmatized; for example, last night’s episode’s sex education had to do with anal douching and hygiene for gay men; one of the gay characters was afraid to have sex for the first time with his boyfriend because he didn’t know how to douche and was worried about what would happen if he didn’t….which turned into a lovely lesson about speaking to your partner, being completely honest about your feelings, and ultimately, Anton lost his anal virginity.

The show is actually a sex education course cleverly disguised as a comedy series about teenagers and their relationships, so the title is even more clever than one might think.

I also managed to figure out how I am going to have to schedule myself through parade season so I get my work hours in without having to use any vacation time–I have to save my vacation time for my trip to New York for the Edgars, and the train ride down to Malice Domestic for the weekend after. Not sure how vacations the rest of the year will play out, other than Bouchercon in Sacramento; but I definitely need to let the vacation time start accruing again. One good thing about the day job–my vacation time accrues relatively quickly, but I am near rock bottom right now with very little time left at the moment. Tomorrow is Pay the Bills day, and I also need to get my tax stuff together and off to the accountant–the sooner I get the return filed, the sooner I’ll get my refund, which undoubtedly will be less than last year.

And on that note, I’m going to get ready for the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

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Don’t You (Forget About Me)

I hit the wall yesterday during Iris. I came back home to rest for a bit before Tucks arrived, and was so exhausted from everything that I decided that it was wiser to just stay in the house and rest, otherwise there was no way I’d make it to any of today’s parades. There are four today; Okeanos, Mid-City, Thoth, and Bacchus. I usually make Okeanos and Mid-city; but am too tired for Thoth and Bacchus. I’ve never seen Thoth; we used to go to the Quarter in the afternoon on Sundays, and then I worked outreach during Thoth. The last few years I’ve not done outreach on Sundays I’ve been too tired; and I don’t think I’ve seen Bacchus since Drew Brees reigned. I’m going to give it my best shot today.

The rain held off yesterday until Endymion; I was ensconced in my easy chair streaming Spiderman Homecoming when the thunderstorm arrived and it was a beaut. The thunder was so loud and long the house shook; and the downpours so intense that there was some street flooding (nothing major, like in August; but still it sucked for both the Endymion riders and the folks out there watching).

I also watched, in my ongoing quest to rewatch as many of the disaster movies of the 1970’s as possible, Earthquake, which was, without a doubt, one of the worst movies ever made. The whole point of the disaster formula was to see how people–character archetypes, really–placed in extraordinary circumstances having to experience physical difficulties and hardships and emotional distress, to see if they can overcome this and survive; and at the end, some do: the damaged plane lands safely, the fire is put out, they get off the sinking ship. But by it’s very nature, making a film about an earthquake doesn’t end with the characters getting to safety; therefore there is no way to end the film on a satisfying note for the viewers. So, Earthquake merely ends with the camera pulling away from the characters who’ve just escaped the flooding tunnel, showing a ever expanding view of the ruins of Los Angeles, where many fires are still burning; a most unsatisfying end to the film. But it’s not like we cared about any of the characters in the first place, particularly the main character, played woodenly by Charlton Heston. Heston was never the best of actors to begin with; his idea of acting was over-acting under the best of circumstances and at worst, woodenly reading his lines with absolutely no emotion whatsoever. The casting choices made for the movie were also curious; Lorne Greene was playing Ava Gardner’s father and Heston’s father-in-law, despite being only seven years older than the former and eight years older than the latter; his current love interest was played by Genevieve Bujold, who was only thirty. I’m a fan of Gardner, to be honest, but she’s terrible in this film. Everyone is terrible in this film, from the afore-mentioned stars to the rest of the cast, which includes Richard Roundtree, George Kennedy, Victoria Principal, and Marjoe Gortner. Even by 70’s standards, the special effects are particularly bad; and there really isn’t a cohesive story for any of the characters, so the actors have no center for their performances. It was just an attempt to cash in on the success of the Airport movies and the disaster movie craze of the time; with the end result that it’s a terrible, terrible film.

Spiderman Homecoming, however, is just as charming on a second viewing as it was on the first; and Tom Holland is so appealing, as are all of the diverse young actors who play his friends, or frenemies, at his high school. Michael Keaton makes a great bad guy, and the guest appearances by the other Marvel heroes–Iron Man and Captain America–successfully weave the character of Spiderman into the Marvel/Avengers universe. Also, by not  making it an origin story–we already see Peter with his powers, his uncle is already dead–and instead making it about him trying to adapt to his powers while juggling his life as a high school teenager, made it a much stronger film. Well done, Marvel.

After that, we watched the Olympics. I also did some reading, getting back to the Short Story Project, and then I slept deeply and well; I even allowed myself to sleep in, and this morning other than some slight aches in my lower back I feel terrific. Okeanos starts in fifteen minutes; I am not sure which parades I’ll be watching today. There’s rain again in the forecast, and this morning the windows are covered with condensation, just like yesterday. It does seem bright out there, but there’s an awful lot of cloud cover as well. Paul is still sleeping, so there’s that as well. 😉 I don’t like waking him up on the weekends, and besides, Okeanos won’t be here for another hour at least. Iris kept stalling yesterday; despite moving up an hour it still wasn’t finished passing here until almost one thirty.

I don’t have to work tomorrow; Paul’s going into the office for a bit, so I will most likely make a grocery run in the morning and try to get some work done around here as well. I need to get back to work on everything; just because everything in New Orleans comes to a screeching halt for Carnival, we sometimes forget that the rest of the world does not.

Ah, well. And I need to clean the kitchen again; I’m hoping to cook out today, should the weather hold.

Here’s a hunk for your Sunday:

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Skidmarks on My Heart

Last night, we abandoned The Mist in the midst of episode 4. I wanted to like it, but the characters weren’t likable or relatable; and the mist itself is completely different from what Stephen King wrote in the original novella and what was translated to the screen for the original film. I can understand the need to reboot  a concept once it’s gotten overplayed and tired, but I don’t think The Mist was either of those; I don’t think the movie was seen by all that many people (it may not have been a flop, but it wasn’t an enormous runaway success, either). I’ve seen some theories (maybe even from the producers/writers?) that the show is actually a sequel to the film, years later; there are references occasionally that intimate ‘this has happened before in local legend[‘, or some such. In either case, the show isn’t working, and about halfway through last night’s episode I was done with it once and for all.

It’s a pity, because I had high hopes for the show. I didn’t care for Haven, either, which was (very) loosely based on The Colorado Kid. That show ran for several seasons, so it obviously had an audience; I just wasn’t a part of it. (I also didn’t get very far into Under the Dome.)

I slept very deeply last night and very late this morning, which was actually kind  of lovely. My muscles aren’t aching and tired, and neither are my joints; I am going to stretch again this morning in a moment or two; perhaps when I finish this entry. Later this evening we are going over to our friend Susan’s to watch the season premiere of Game of Thrones and eat pizza; we used to watch True Blood with Susan (we all agreed on Pam as our favorite character, and it was fun watching with her).

As I mentioned yesterday, we went to see Spiderman Homecoming last night. The time of the show we wanted at our usual place, the AMC Palace 20 in Elmwood, wasn’t convenient, so we tried out the Palace at Clearview Mall. I wasn’t overly impressed with this theater, so I doubt we’ll go back there again–except for convenience. (The Elmwood location is really quite nice.) So, what did I think of the movie?

I’ve watched two or three of the original Spiderman films with Tobey Maguire, which were okay; pleasant entertainments and a nice way to whittle away some time. I’ve not seen the second iteration with Andrew Garfield; the reviews weren’t great and it was never convenient for me to watch them, nor was I particularly interested in carving out the time to watch them (I might now, honestly, simply for the sake of comparison).  I decided I wanted to see this version–despite an original lack of interest–because Tom Holland, the young man playing Spiderman this time out, won me over with his stellar performance of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” on Lip Sync Battle:

How could I not see the movie after watching that?

As I’ve said before, I was a DC kid growing up and didn’t really read much Marvel until I got back into comics in the 1980’s; and the Spiderman books quickly became my favorite Marvel books, and one of my top favorite superheroes. I loved the character of Peter Parker, the brainy nerd who accidentally becomes super-powered; who comes from a poor background and struggles in his private life while not truly getting the superhero cred he deserves, either–which was such a huge departure from the DC mentality, and one that I really liked. (All of Marvel’s superheroes have their detractors and aren’t universally loved in their universe; probably the most astute and brilliant thing Stan lee did with the superhero genre.) But ultimately, Peter was a nice guy who understood ‘that with great power comes great responsibility.’ And I was never able to put my finger on what it was that made me not love the original films as much as I loved the character.

Now that I’ve seen Spiderman Homecoming, I can tell you exactly what it was: Toby Maguire didn’t quite embody that Spiderman ideal; the geeky, smart, nerdy unpopular kid who is actually a hero in disguise. Tom Holland, though, has nailed the role perfectly. He’s likable and you root for him; the crushing disappointments of how he misses out on the things that are important to the private person while trying to become the hero he feels he should be. It was also a stroke of genius to not only not make this an origin movie (he already has his powers, obviously, since his cameo appearance in one of The Avengers movies), but to take Spiderman back to his mid-teens. I didn’t read the original comics (I wasn’t old enough to read when Spiderman first was published, obviously) but I’ve always believed Peter got his powers when he was a teenager; and by taking him back to his teens means Holland can play the role for at least another twenty years, if not longer (of course, he might lose interest, the series could run out of steam, any number of things could happen in the meantime), and it will be fun to watch Spiderman/Peter grow up and evolve into the great hero he’s meant to become. The key to Peter is he is a good guy, who always wants to do the right thing but sometimes fails, and feels those failures deeply; Holland nails that youthful earnestness perfectly in what is undoubtedly a star-making role. I thought that several times while watching the movie: This kid is going to be a major star.

One of the film’s other strengths is its diversity; there are many characters who could have easily been cast with white actors but instead the roles were given to a multi-ethnic cast, seamlessly integrated into their roles so beautifully that I didn’t really notice it until after the movie was over; on the way out to the parking lot I realized there were a lot of people of color in this film, and it worked beautifully.

Maybe because people of color are fully integrated into the society in general?

Pay attention to this, film makers. THIS is how you do it.

The weakest–to me–part of the movie is the mentoring relationship with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man/Tony Stark; I’ve been a fan of Downey since I first saw him in Weird Science thirty or so years ago (he was the best thing in that execrable Less Than Zero movie, along with the brilliant Bangles cover of ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’) and I am glad he finally has the blockbuster star career I always thought he should have, but I’m not really a fan of the Iron Man movies; his presence in the movie also made me wonder, every single time Spiderman was in trouble, if Iron Man was going to show up and help him. Michael Keaton was terrific as the villain; and Marisa Tomei wasn’t given enough to do as Aunt Mae (just called Mae in this iteration; it was a bit of a shock to have a younger, much hotter Aunt Mae). I wasn’t really sure why Zendaya was in the movie, either–although she was terrific, and the “a-ha!” moment late in the film made me really, really happy; again, well-done, Marvel Films, well done.

I’ve seen commentary that the movie sort of was a nod to the John Hughes films of the 1980s; there was some of that, and the 80’s music helped with that sense (you can NEVER go wrong with the Ramones, period). The other young actors were stellar, as well; Jacob Batalon as Peter’s best friend Ned steals every scene he is in.

However, one warning: if you suffer from vertigo/fear of heights, do not see this movie in 3-D.  As one of those who suffers from that, the realism of two action sequences–one involving the Washington Monument and the other an airplace–was so intense that I literally got not only nauseous and dizzy but severely anxious and had to look away from the screen or close my eyes at times; the Washington Monument scene is so realistic it’s like you are literally on top of it; you can only imagine how someone who is terrified of heights the way I am reacted to that scene; it was quite traumatizing for me.

In conclusion, I absolutely loved this movie, and can’t wait for the next Spiderman film. I highly recommend it.

And now, I need to get some writing and cleaning done. Here’s a gratuitous beefcake shot of Tom Holland:

Tom-holland-shirtless-spiderman