“LINES OF WELLINGTON”— US Release of Raul Ruiz’s Final Film



US Release of Raul Ruiz’s Final Film

Amos Lassen

“Lines of Wellington” is the final film started by renowned filmmaker Raul Ruiz and completed by his widow Valeria Sarmiento and will be available to own on DVD and at all digital providers on November 25, 2014. It boasts an all-star international cast including John Malkovich, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Mathieu Amalric, Jemima West and others. This is a lavish epic that is set during The Napoleonic Wars of 1810 and it follows the lives of many characters— soldiers and civilians, men, women and children, young and old as war tears apart their lives. We see chaos everywhere and it is impossible to escape. Each of the main characters will follow different venues to get to the lines of Torres where the final battle will determine the fate of all.


 I love epics and while this one is not all it could be   it is never boring. The story spans an untold number of months or years and it about a major passage in the Peninsular War between France, Spain, and Portugal, wherein the English Duke of Wellington ordered a series of massive barricades to defend Lisbon from seizure by the French invaders. The Duke (John Malkovich) appears in a few scenes only and then mostly to express dissatisfaction at the painter he’s commissioned for his portrait. The important story is about the soldiers in the field, the women who are affected (and sometimes damaged irreparably) by the ongoing chaos and strife and a massive wave of refugees who were routed by the French army. Then there are small stories (large in the eyes of their protagonists and witnesses) that are also included.

John Malkovich in The Lines of Wellington

However, there is something about the film that appears to be a bit too mechanical. The music is always just right, the photography seems to be borrowed from other epics. Basically the film tells the story of the Napoleonic invasion of Portugal and the withdrawal of Wellington’s Anglo-Portuguese forces to the southern hill country. The general’s devastating tactic was to compensate for his army’s comparative lack of numbers by luring the French into hostile terrain, fortifying the lines of Bussaco and picking the invaders off as they climbed the slopes. And yet the Wellington we see here is hardly the all-seeing genius we know from popular history. We see him as a egotistic despot who is more concerned with publicity than practicality. Wellington is concerned about the battle scenes daubed by his official army painter. He wonders he should be offended by having a meat dish named after him and we see that his mind is nowhere near what is going on.

We see the human drift of the retreating army, which the film paints as a vast city on the move with the merchants and the prostitutes. I felt that the film meandered and the depiction of the suffering of the people is often too sentimental. The scene is set immediately — it’s 1810, and Napoleon’s army is advancing down through Portugal with its sights set on Lisbon. Wellington attempts to hold them back and soon they retreat towards the ‘Lines of Wellington’ – better known as the Lines of Torres Vedras, a ring of fortifications encircling the Portuguese capital that the British general has been secretly building. Here is where the subplots come in. We become acutely aware of the complexity of the conflict and the banality of war.


Technically the film is wonderful and we tend to forget the shoddy dialogue and some of the poor acting. I wanted and expected so much more but the film really only satisfied me superficially and is a far cry from some of the epics that I have loved.

“MY UNCLE RAPHAEL”— The First Armenian Lead Character Ever Featured in a Major Motion Picture

uncle rafael

“My Uncle Rafael”

The First Armenian Lead Character Ever Featured in a Major Motion Picture

Amos Lassen

Vahik Pirhamzei is Uncle Rafael and he is the man who made this character popular in his mother country, Armenia. Rafael is a seventy-one year old, bluntly honest uncle who uses morals and dialect from the old country to give people advice and encouragement in present day America. I’ve always silently felt that in times like these, when people seem to becoming more and more intellectually and morally vapid, that people like Uncle Rafael are almost essential to the prosperity of good-natured wholesomeness in society. So thinks a television producer who is desperate for a new idea for a show.

She convinces Rafael in his son’s coffee shop to star in the pilot of a reality show, helping a dysfunctional family who is currently filing for divorce. The couple consists of Blair (Missi Pyle) and Jack (Anthony Clark) who have been going through a rough period ever since Blair insisted that Jack cheated on her the night he got drunk at a party. Their two children, Kim and Beau, are caught in the middle of this, and are finding it difficult to adapt to mom’s new boyfriend Damon (John Michael Higgins), a cocky and obnoxious self-proclaimed genius.

uncle 1

Uncle Rafael is well aware of how deeply dysfunctional the family is and tries to lay down ground rules that they must obey. The obligatory happens when we see how everyone but Jack is against Rafael and his old-school ideology until they see that he actually may be able to help them with marital problems.

However, I have to say that the comedic elements never seem to be funny or amusing as the writer thinks they should be. Most of the puns in the film fall flat. When the TV producer asks Rafael if he’d be interested in doing the pilot for the show, he replies, “pilot? But I don’t fly.” At later points in the film he enjoys quoting and impersonating Jay-Z, as well as cracking strangely unnecessary jokes about Kim Kardashian and they really have nothing to do with the film (and believe I am no Kardashian fan).

The film does succeed in showing us that problems can be fixed with effort and commitment. Uncle Rafael does a good job of being a moral character and Pyle and Clark do have a chemistry that’s rewarding to watch and there is enough human interest to make you want to see these characters succeed in the long run. There is another problem with the film in that this is the kind of film where the message rings true once and the more you see it the more deluded it gets.


Marc Fusco, a former protégé of Spielberg directed the film and he took a brave step by having an Armenian main character, something that had not been done before this movie. There are plenty of laughs and it is fun to watch.


Facebook allows gay Jesus crucifixion ad–2 new posts


Facebook u-turns to allow gay Jesus crucifixion ad

Advert was promoting a book showing Jesus as a gay man in a modern city who gets crucified and rises again
A depiction of Jesus as a gay man living in a modern city who gets crucified.
Image by Doug Blanchard via Facebook.
An author of a book depicting Jesus as a gay man was furious after Facebook baned his advert showing Christ’s crucifixion.

But now, after Gay Star News contacted the social networking site for comment, they have reversed their decision and ruled it didn’t breach their guidelines after all.

The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision, is by author Kittredge Cherry.

Art in it by Doug Blanchard shows Jesus as a gay man in a modern city, including the crucifixion and resurrection.


They started a Facebook page to promote the book, which was allowed, but an advert on Facebook to draw people to that page was banned.

The ad showed their gay Jesus being crucified.

Facebook told them: “Your ad was rejected because the image violates the Ad Guidelines. Ads may not use images that are shocking. Prohibited images include: Accidents, car crashes, dead or dismembered bodies, ghosts, zombies, ghouls and vampires.’

Cherry responded that Facebook contains many other images of crucifixion.

‘The book is indeed controversial, but its intentions are not blasphemous, there is no sexual content, and the violence is unavoidable in any retelling of Christ’s Passion.

‘We are fighting what appears to be censorship and discrimination based on sexual orientation at Facebook.’

Facebook told Gay Star News the ad was blocked but they have now reviewed it and decided it doesn’t breach their terms and shouldn’t have been removed.

They say Cherry and Blanchard can now upload it again.

Victory! Facebook approves gay Passion of Christ ad
Victory! Facebook backed down today and approved the ad for our gay Passion of Christ book. Thanks to good friends, the gay media, and God!

Artist Doug Blanchard was able to get the ad running again today. The book “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” features Doug’s paintings of Jesus as a contemporary gay man in a modern city.

I consider this a win for the power of the people and the press. As Doug said, “We have the best friends in the universe!” We are especially grateful to Tris Reid-Smith of Gay Star News.

“Gay Star News contacted the social networking site for comment, they have reversed their decision and ruled it didn’t breach their guidelines after all. … Facebook told Gay Star News the ad was blocked but they have now reviewed it and decided it doesn’t breach their terms and shouldn’t have been removed” Reid-Smith reported today in the article “Facebook u-turns to allow gay Jesus crucifixion ad.”

Facebook shut down ads promoting the book’s Facebook page on Monday because the image “may shock or evoke a negative response from viewers.” They banned image was “Jesus Goes to His Execution,” which shows the gay Jesus carrying his cross.

In a strange and holy twist, the controversy brought the book even more attention than it would have gotten from the ads. Doug and I are deeply grateful to the many friends old and new who “liked” the Passion book page and invited their friends.

The page currently has 403 “likes,” and about half of them came AFTER the ads were shut down.

It reminds me of Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Facebook didn’t know what it was up against!

You can still show support by “liking” the page that Facebook didn’t want us to advertise: www.facebook.com/GayPassion.

Censorship of social media, especially social media advertising, is a grey area / new frontier with very few laws and legal precedents to govern it. It’s the like the Wild West, and we won this round. I found a valuable article about it this week during the battle with Facebook: “The Brave New World of Social Media Censorship” (Harvard Law Review)

“Standing Under the Wrong Rainbow” by G. Deon Thompson–A Wake Up Call (?) From the Bible— REALLY? NOW HERE IS SOME FOOLISH PRATTLE

standing under the wrong rainbow

Thompson, G. Deon. “Standing Under the Wrong Rainbow”, Abbot Press, 2014.

A Wake Up Call (?) From the Bible

Amos Lassen

 “’Standing Under the Wrong Rainbow’” brings together insights from the Bible and the opinions of the author, G. Deon Thompson, to make the case for the durability of the traditional view of marriage as the lifelong union of one woman and one man, while exposing the shortcomings of modern arguments that speak in favor of gay marriage. Chapters treat a variety of topics, including the history of the notion of “rights” the scriptural grounding for the traditional morality of marriage, philosophies of truth, the challenges of modern life, the sacrificial nature of godly love, and the essence of marriage as God intends it for human life. If you have found yourself struggling with contemporary debates over the nature of marriage, if you wonder whether the church’s traditional teachings still apply in the twenty-first century, and if you feel a growing divide between the practice of your faith and the life of the wider community, then ‘Standing Under the Wrong Rainbow’ serves as a wake-up call and a guide to reclaiming the power of longstanding tradition”.

I say take it or leave it but he has had his say but as for it being a wake-up call, go back to sleep.

“Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas” by Patrick Modiano—Memory and Mystery

suspended sentences

Modiano, Patrick. “Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas” (The Margellos World Republic of Letters), translated by Mark Polizzoti, Yale University Press, 2014.

Memory and Mystery

Amos Lassen

Patrick Modiano, 2014 Nobel laureate in literature has reached time in time and memory and explores the mysteries that are there. The three novellas in this volume, “Afterimage”, “Suspended Sentences”, and “Flowers of Ruin” give us examples of Modiano’s originality and distinctive narrative voice as well as the beauty and grace of his prose.

I understand that originally the novellas were published separately yet as we get them here, we find a whole—place, time and characters haunt the three stories. Author Modiano draws on his own experiences, blended with the real or invented stories of others, to present dreamlike autobiographies that are also biographies of a place. Appearing in this three-part love song to a Paris that once was are orphaned children, mysterious parents, forgotten friends and enigmatic strangers.

The novellas also share the shadows of that dark period of Nazi occupation and we become aware of Modiano’s fascination with the mysterious, the obscure and the lost. We read of a young person’s confusion over adult behavior; the repercussions of a chance encounter; the search for a missing father; the aftershock of a fatal affair. By reading these three stories we enter into Modiano’s world of uncertainties and how people stumble upon their fates as it by accident. I am an avid reader and had never heard of Modiano before the announcement that he won the Nobel Prize and by reading him now I realized how correct the choice was and how much I have been missing. He writes directly with precision and uses everything he has to present what he wants to say. There is no questioning meaning—it is all right there. My French is not strong enough to read him completely in his own language but I have been assured by those who know that the translations totally and completely catch “the timbre of his voice.”

“EXILE: A MYTH UNEARTHED”— Rethinking a Biblical Myth?


“Exile: a Myth Unearthed”

Rethinking a Biblical Myth?

Amos Lassen

Ilan Ziv’s new documentary, “Exile, A Myth Unearthed” looks at the exile of the Jewish people from the land of what is now modern Israel. According to history and Jewish theology, the Jews were exiled in the first century AD, following the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. This has been a major theme and depicted in artwork and lamented in poetry and prayer for nearly 2,000 years. But what if it never happened? This provocative film looks at the exile through the lenses of archaeology, history, myth and religion and asks what it means for our understanding of history and the contemporary struggle over land in the Middle East.

“Exile” looks at new evidence that suggests the majority of the Jewish people may not have been exiled following the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and asks us to rethink about an event that has played a critical role in the Christian and Jewish traditions.


The myth of exile is an essential narrative in Middle Eastern and European history, and of critical importance to both Christian and Jewish theology. The possibility that some Jews simply remained where they lived raises some uncomfortable questions. Could some Palestinians actually be their descendants?

The issues raised in this film are of more than passing historical interest-they can help us re-shape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new way, and illustrate that history can shape our future.

“K2: SIREN OF THE HIMALAYAS”— Getting to the Top



Getting to the Top

Amos Lassen

 “K2: Siren of the Himalayas” looks at the history and geography of the legendary Karakoram Range while at the same time considers the risks and rewards of modern-day exploration. The second highest peak on Earth, K2 is also one of the most dangerous and “for every four people who have reached the summit, one has died trying.” Yet this is a movie of unbelievable beauty as well as adventure. It does not fully answer the question of what there are those who want to try to reach the world’s second highest peak but it certainly tries. The answer is one I do not think we will ever get.

Director Dave Ohlson looks at two world-class Alpinists who team up to try to reach K2, which we now know to be the most dangerous peak in the world. The expedition took place as a tribute to the 100th anniversary of an expedition led by the Duke of Abruzzi. The film follows a group of mountain climbers, namely, Fabrizio Zangrilli, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Jake Meyer and Chris Szymiec, as they try to ascend Mount K2 in the world in hopes of reaching the summit or at least beating the record of 7,654 meters set by The Duke of Abruzzi back in the early 20th Century. These men and women risk their lives for doing what they do and they love it. This is a film that is inspiring and thrilling to watch as these people ascend the mountain and brave the elements.. The footage that Ohlson captures is breathtaking and no Hollywood production would be able to attempt or even copy. It is thoroughly captivating to watch and I am sure it is that much better on a big screen.

DVD Extras include a short Film: “After K2” • extended Interviews • a deleted Scene: “Death on Broad Peak” • bonus clips

“Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits – and Won” by Marc Solomon— The Legalization of Same-sex Marriage

winning marriage

Solomon, Marc. “Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits – and Won”, ForeEdge, 2014.

The Legalization of Same-sex Marriage

Amos Lassen

Most gay men my age are still stunned by what has happened in this country regarding gay rights. For me it is really shocking since I was raised in the South where being gay is certainly not easy. When we think that just ten years ago there was not a single state in the United States that allowed same sex couples to marry yet today there are seventeen that do, it is almost too hard to grasp. Nowadays polls show majority support for gay marriage and almost three-fourths of Americans believe that legalization is inevitable.

Marc Solomon was one of the early leaders in the movement for marriage equality and in “Winning Marriage”, his new book, he takes us to “the strategy-setting and decision-making table in the campaign to win and protect the freedom to marry”. Many times a book like this could be quite boring but this is far from it and every word and every sentence was perfectly chosen to give us what we need to know but also to provide us with a meaningful and well written reading experience. He shows us what went on behind-the-scenes— “the inner workings of the advocacy movement that has championed and protected advances won in legislative, court, and electoral battles over the decade since the landmark Massachusetts ruling guaranteeing marriage for same-sex couples for the first time”. I cannot say how much I appreciate this especially since I now am a citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Unfortunately I was not here when the whole business took place but after reading this, I feel that I understand exactly what went on.

Solomon takes us “from the gritty battles in the state legislatures of Massachusetts and New York to the devastating loss at the ballot box in California in 2008 and subsequent ballot wins in 2012 to the joyous victories of securing President Obama’s support and prevailing in the Supreme Court”. He was there and at the center of the entire program. Here is the struggle with some very tough opponents—fundamentalist Christians, the Catholic Church, the religious right, ultraconservative politicians and operatives and yet the movement was triumphant. This is not just Marc Solomon’s story, although the tells it beautifully, it is America’s coming-of-age story. Solomon knows so much because he was there and his voice is the voice of authority, commitment and reason. It is also the voice of pride. Here we see America changing and changing rapidly.
Solomon gives us the accurate details that we need to know if we really want to understand what went down. He shows us that the best approach to have used was one that was both disciplined and intelligent. There have been other books written about how same-sex marriage came into being and I have read most of them so I feel qualified in saying that this is the best written and easiest to understand of them all. The details are here but they enhance rather than become troublesome and more important than anything else is that this book inspires us to keep working for justice and equality for all people. Solomon’s story is absorbing and amazing and when we look at the timeline in black and white on the page it is totally astounding and takes our breath away.

It is important to note that this is not just the story of the successes—it is the story of a battle that includes mistakes and failures. Even though we know how it all ends, we are still pulled into the story and I believe that because it is a personal story it is that much more interesting.

I am including here a look at the table of contents so that you can see that Solomon has done his work well and leaves nothing out.

  • Foreword by Governor Deval Patrick

  • Author’s Note

  • Prologue


  • The Decision Heard ’round the World

  • Tying the Knot

  • Do-or-Die Elections

  • Organizing for the Fight

  • Defying Gravity

  • Sealing the Deal

  • How Did This Happen?

  • Cuomo

  • The Republicans

  • Sealing the Deal (Redux)


  • Losing California

  • Preparing for the Ballot

  • The Final Stretch

  • Fierce Advocate?

  • Evolving

  • Cementing a Legacy


  • Courting Justice

  • Epilogue

  • Acknowledgments

  • State Victories and Other Key Milestones, 2003–2013

  • Index


“MARC SOLOMON is the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry where he directs programs to win marriage nationwide. In 13 years of work on marriage equality, he has led the campaign to protect marriage in Massachusetts and played key roles in New York, Illinois, California, New Hampshire, Maine, and elsewhere. He has innovated programs to make advances with both the Democratic and Republican Parties, and has led efforts to enlist elected officials and business leaders to the cause. He is a regular media spokesperson—on television and radio and in print”.

“Penthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going Down” edited by Barbara Pizio— The Debut of a New Series from Cleis

variations on oral

Pizio, Barbara (editor). “Penthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going Down”, Cleis Press, 2014.

The Debut of a New Series from Cleis

Amos Lassen

I really never thought about improving my oral sex techniques until I read this new book from Barbara Pizio and Cleis Press. Now I feel like a novice even though I have been enjoying oral sex for a very long time and this proves what I have always thought and that it that we are never too old to learn something new.

Let’s face it, “great oral sex can be mind-blowing (not my pun), life-changing and create memories that will last a lifetime”. Here is the debut book in a new series that is inspired by Penthouse Variations Magazine and in this volume the emphasis is on oral sex and the pleasures it brings. It is as if to say (and I totally agree) that a good blowjob is the height of eroticism… and that comes both from giving and receiving. When a person gives head, he or she takes in “the essence, taste, smell and sexy up-closeness of a lover” and just that act by itself is a powerful aphrodisiac that affects us in three ways– physically, mentally and emotionally. Having a partner in one’s mouth lets the giver feel the desire and passion as well as allows him/her to see it in the other’s eyes.

This new book allows us to see the many ways that oral sex can be an act of love, “tenderness, devotion or just pure sex” and as a result we can sense the emotion and the sensuality that goes right along with it. This is a sexy read of twenty-two explicit stories that are there to be enjoyed and to perhaps teach us something new. Contributors include familiar names and new writers—Alison Tyler, Justin Lewis, William McLoughlin, Molly Webster, Brian Gardner, Maria King, Matthew Emerson, Evan Wilcox, Andy Kessler, Tammy Smalls, Gary Holmes, Sonia Choi, Dana Travis, Bethany Fisher, Elisa Nolan, Chloe Parker, Adam Vane, Nancy Richman, David Carlson, Fiona Hoffman, Peter Berman and Mike Schwimmer. There is also a wonderful introduction by Barbara Pizio, the editor.

There is something for everyone in this volume and it is very sexy and the contributions are well written. In fact some of the stories are so real that there were times when I felt that I was not totally alone while reading.

Facebook censors gay Passion of Christ ad


Facebook censors gay Passion of Christ ad

NEW YORK, NY – Oct. 23, 2014 – Facebook canceled ads purchased for the new book “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” this week because the images “may shock or evoke a negative response from viewers.”

The book features art by Doug Blanchard showing Jesus as a gay man in a modern city, including the crucifixion and resurrection.

“We are fighting what appears to be censorship and discrimination based on sexual orientation at Facebook,” said author Kittredge Cherry.

Blanchard suspects that complaints from religious conservatives scared Facebook into canceling the ads. He bought the ads to promote the book’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/GayPassion

“The book is indeed controversial, but its intentions are not blasphemous, there is no sexual content, and the violence is unavoidable in any retelling of Christ’s Passion,” he said.

The artist, author and publisher contacted Lambda Legal over the matter.

The ads were supposed to run for a week starting on Oct. 17, but Facebook shut down the promotion on Monday, Oct. 20. A message from Facebook explained, “Your ad wasn’t approved because the image or video thumbnail may shock or evoke a negative response from viewers.”

Blanchard complained to Facebook, and they sent a surprising reply on Wed., Oct 22: “Your ad was rejected because the image violates the Ad Guidelines. Ads may not use images that are shocking. Prohibited images include: -Accidents -Car crashes -Dead or dismembered bodies -Ghosts, zombies, ghouls and vampires.”

One purpose of the book is to reawaken people to the reality that violence is unacceptable and shocking. But the artist and author believe that Facebook is being unfair in how it applies its policy.

“Facebook publishes crucifixes all the time, which would always violate the criteria that they lay out in their reply,” Blanchard said. “Why was our book singled out? I suspect strongly that it is because of the gay content.”

Cherry invited people to show support by “liking” the page that Facebook won’t let them advertise: https://www.facebook.com/GayPassion.

In the book’s 24 paintings, a contemporary Christ figure is jeered by fundamentalists, tortured by Marine look-alikes, and rises again to enjoy homoerotic moments with God. His diverse friends join him on a journey from suffering to freedom. Each image is accompanied by an essay on its artistic and historical context, Biblical basis and LGBT significance.

Douglas Blanchard is a gay artist who teaches art and art history at the Bronx Community College of the City University of New York. Kittredge Cherry is a lesbian author and art historian who founded JesusInLove.org, an online resource for LGBT spirituality and the arts. She was ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches.

“The Passion of Christ” (ISBN 194067140X) was published this month by the Apocryphile Press, a publisher based in Berkeley.


* Book website: www.passionofchristbook.com
* Artist website: www.douglas-blanchard.fineartamerica.com
* Author website: www.jesusinlove.org
* Publisher website: www.apocryphile.org

Kittredge Cherry, kitt@JesusInLove.org
Doug Blanchard, counterlight@earthlink.net