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Described as a “neo-noir mindbender,” Guys Reading Poems is being released into select theaters after its run last year as a film-festival favorite. Hunter Lee Hughes, the writer-director behind it, says that creating this film gave him a great sense of satisfaction.
Although the relationships depicted are mostly on the heterosexual side of things, plenty of those involved in making the film, including Hughes, are proud members of the LGBT community.
The story is told through 32 different (and often contrasting) poems that are used as a framing device for the larger narrative. The selections include classics from such gay and lesbian poets as Walt Whitman, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Thomas Gray, as well as from West Hollywood’s Steven Reigns.
Recited by different actors, including Hughes himself, they signify different personality traits of the intrepid boy at the center of the film.
“The film is designed as a dream with the dreamer slowly waking up,” Hughes says. An ethereal feel flows through it.
The story follows a troubled avant-garde painter, played by Patricia Velasquez, an out and proud lesbian actress. She portrays a wife and mother whose sanity dissipates when she’s abandoned by her womanizing husband (Alexander Dreymon) for his mistress (Lydia Hearst). Luke Judy makes his big-screen debut as their resilient young son who turns to poetry as a survival tool when his disturbed mother locks him in a small, box-like puppet theater — a plaything originally seen as a fun and harmless way to encourage his creativity.
After he is rescued, she transforms the box into a modern art installation. Dark, yes, but also surprisingly sublime, the film is shot in elegant and evocative black and white.
“It’s a very risky, very original idea,” observes Velasquez. “It’s something like you’ve never seen before. Hunter really went with his heart and his creativity, and that says a lot. This authenticity, I think, is the reason why the movie has been getting so much attention.”
Hughes said that throughout his adolescence and early adulthood, he enjoyed writing poems “here and there.” It wasn’t until he was in his late 20s, though, that he discovered the works of Rumi, the renowned 13th-century Persian poet, after going through a particularly painful break-up.
This discovery, he says, truly “kicked the whole poetry thing into overdrive.”
But he says it was his grandmother’s love of poetry — and her personal collection of poems — that ultimately inspired Guys Reading Poems.
“Many of these old ‘public domain’ pieces came straight from books she collected over the years,” he said.
She interacted with the poems on the page by circling, underlining, or making notes in their margins, Hughes said.
“Those marks became clues as to who she was as a woman,” he recalls. “She was also an inspiration in relation to how poems can be psychological puzzle pieces used to understand a human being.”
Hughes ascribes the hard-hearted plot twist about the boy’s confinement to a story he once heard about the childhood of a singer.
“I’m not sure if it’s a tall tale, or if it really happened,” he concedes, “but I read that as a very young child, [she] was locked in the closet by nuns at her school when she misbehaved. The legend also goes that being trapped in the closet frightened her so deeply that she taught herself to sing – to comfort herself and pass the time. … That story became a rallying point for me to explore how even extreme trauma can be transcended through a creative pursuit.”
Hughes says he drew from four different filmmaking styles in making the movie. For the sections in which the poetry readers speak directly to the camera, he chose Indian director Tarsem Singh’s 2006 fantasy epic The Fall for “the power of the embodiment of a character’s imagination.”
“Then, with the story of the family in the past, I thought of Joe Wright’s 2012 remake of Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina,’ because I loved the stylized look of that film,” he says.
For the scenes that take place in the present-day, when the mother returns home from jail, he was influenced by Walter Salles’ 1998 drama Central Station. “We made use of its wide shots and long, uninterrupted takes in that part of the film. It suddenly gets quiet and almost ‘ordinary’ in those sections.
“Finally, there’s the part toward the end where imagination and reality meet, and for that I chose David Fincher’s blockbuster Fight Club, which I think is pretty self-explanatory.”
When casting the team of “guys reading the poems,” Hughes explains, “I wanted guys who fit in with a sort of 1950s Dead Poets Society type of ‘vibe’– guys that you could picture either as boarding school alums or members of some offbeat secret society.”
Five of the seven — the characters who are referred to as “The Gambler,” “The Keeper,” “The Scholar,” “The Oracle” and “The Survivor” — were actor friends of his.
To cast “The Kid,” though, “we put out a casting call and eventually found 21-year-old Blake Sheldon that way.”
He himself read as the persona known as “The Artist.”
“I didn’t over-analyze my own attributes too much, but hey, it’s one way to get a job in this town!” he says.
Velasquez says that among all the poems introduced, the one Hughes recites, which he specifically wrote for the film, ranks among her favorites.
For Velasquez, working on such an unusual and intimate film as Guys Reading Poems was a welcome and challenging opportunity. Her credits include a recurring role on Showtime’s hit series The L-Word, the 1999 remake of The Mummy and its 2001 sequel, The Mummy Returns, and the title role in the 2014 LGBT-themed film Liz in September.
“When you study a role, especially as multi-faceted as this one, you approach it as ‘What is the main goal of this character? What is the main objective — what does she want from her experience, from her journey?’” she notes. “When I’m asked how I can approach such a role, I had to find in my heart and in my psyche the reason why I would, in effect, imprison my son. The only way I would ever be able to justify this was by thinking, ‘if I put him there, I was going to save him from me.’ Therefore, it becomes, in this character’s mind, a bizarre act of love.”
By then repurposing the very object used to incarcerate her child into one of her art pieces, she essentially reduces the boy to one of her art projects as well.
“Later, when she does the exhibition, that’s what gets the most attention. But what’s really fascinating about this understanding is that, given the same kind of symbolism, everybody has been [at some point in their lives] ‘put in a box’ — and this, too, is something that people really relate to in the film.”
With a tight shooting schedule of about two weeks, Hughes says, the greatest challenge he faced as a first-time feature filmmaker was the sheer complexity of making a film. Roughly 1,000 people are listed in the closing credits, he says.
“Every one of those names represents an action made on behalf of the film,” he says. “So just think of all the organizational skills it took to bring that together, with respect to schedules, contracts, and overall logistics!”
Velasquez was pleased with the result. She says, “I loved ‘Guys Reading Poems’ when it was just an idea and Hunter first approached me. Now to see it in its finished form, and to see how beautiful it is, just proves that we were all on the right path.”
Hughes says that he hopes audiences can be uplifted by what he sees as the primary message of the film: “Even in our most dire situations, creativity and the arts can empower human beings to persevere and draw meaning from their suffering. So many people have faced depression, trauma, disappointment, and rejection. … I hope that those who have experienced such dark elements of life see this film and walk away with the hard-won optimism that just maybe, a creative pursuit like poetry might help them process, find, or make meaning out of their misfortune.”
A limited theatrical run of Guys Reading Poems begins April 28 at the Arena Cinemalounge in Los Angeles. For more information, check out http://guysreadingpoems.com or “like” the film on Facebook. at /a>. For a sneak preview of several of the poems spotlighted in the movie, check out youtube.com/fatelinkproductions.
After the last 2 years of dealing with the pandemic and packing on those COVID pounds here are some motivational quotes that can be the spark plugs to our wellness engines. You can have a full tank of gas, a clean carburetor, all the fluids topped off, and 300 horsepower of Detroit’s finest under the hood, but you’re going nowhere without that initial spark. In your quest for well-being, you need a catalyst to move you from idle to ideal. Here are some motivational jolts to inspire you to get your health and fitness vehicle moving.
Make time for exercise each dayPhoto by Victor Freitas on Unsplash
Thomas Paine said, “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” You will have conflicts with making time for exercise each day. The treadmill will conflict with your enjoyment of the living-room couch and its fluffy pillows. Your body will engage in conflict with dumbbells and exercise balls as it seeks better health. Embrace these conflicts with excitement, and walk through the smoke and fire. Triumph is waiting on the other side.
Marathon runnersPhoto by Miguel A. Amutio on Unsplash
John F. Kennedy said, “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.” The firefighter’s 55-pound weight loss did not just happen one day on a call. The computer programmer’s success in the Chicago Marathon did not just happen on a Sunday in October. The 4th grade teacher’s significant drop in cholesterol level did not just happen the day before spring break. These people made things happen…and it took time.
Ralph Marston of The Daily Motivator website, wrote, “What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.” Let today be the first day in 28 years without a cigarette. Stay an extra five minutes on the recumbent bike at the gym today. Start training today for the three-day breast cancer walk that is scheduled for the fall. Tomorrow is always waiting to see what you put in your piggy bank today. Invest wisely and watch the dividends grow.
Full MoonPhoto by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash
Jill McLemore once said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land amongst the stars.” Set that goal to trim 75 pounds from your body. Only losing 42 pounds puts you way out there with the North Star. Aim to run 750 miles this year. Coming up 68 miles short will still put you past that former planet Pluto and on your way to the Orion constellation. Dropping eight waist sizes by Christmas instead of the projected 10 will let you glow with the luminescence of several brilliant wonders in the sky. By the way, I think there’s a full moon tonight!
Zig Ziglar stated, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” Tom Cruise was another aspiring pretty face in Hollywood about 30 years ago before starting to audition for parts in TV shows. Jared Fogle was a morbidly obese college student at Indiana University in the 1990s before beginning his Subway diet. Mark Zuckerberg was just another starry-eyed Ivy Leaguer until he began to implement a social network idea. They all have that common bond: They started something.
These motivational quotes should help get your wellness engine running and once your car is started there’s no telling where your health and fitness can go. Don't forget to end me a postcard when you get there!
This health and fitness article is brought to you by that guy who’s sneaky like a black hole and bright like a nebula. My name is Ron Blake and I can be found playing with my telescope at email@example.com.
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Stay safe and get tested!
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Is there any cost?
Regarding the tests, there is no out of pocket cost to the individual. Through the CARES act, all individuals with health insurance will be covered for a COVID-19 test. No one is ever charged a copay or deductible.
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How soon do I get the results?
Curative provides results within 24 hours of arrival at our lab (if not sooner). We pride ourselves on our ability to distribute tests rapidly, test patients easily, and send them their results quickly. Other highlights include:
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Please visit curative.com to schedule your no-cost appointment TODAY at a site nearest to you. Together we can end this pandemic!
Curative believes that communal well-being is fundamental to individual health.
Curative is building infrastructure to make essential health services easier to access for everyone. Their infrastructure is designed to change as the world does—offering nearby access, affordable services, and science-based guidance.
Their efforts are supported by the optimism and ambition we share with communities across the US, and together we’re imagining new ways to help more people stay safe, healthy, and informed wherever they are.
“I wish I could work out, too, but I just don’t have the motivation!”
Give me a dollar for every time I’ve heard that and I’d be in Cabo San Lucas with an umbrella drink right now. Let’s identify a few of your motivations to get you on the right path. They are there … you just need to realize them so you can make it a great 2022.
How about getting healthy so you can be at that Christmas celebration in 30 years with all the family gathered around and exchanging presents? There will be nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, children and maybe some grandchildren, all enjoying the sounds and sights of the season. That would be amazing!
How about being healthy so you can watch the first man land on Mars in 2030? You hear all the talk about preparing for a mission to Mars, but it will be a long time in coming. Just think if you were alive and well to see it happen!
How about being healthy so you can attend that 60-year class reunion? It might even be nice to walk into the function with a spring in your step and a glow of health about you! Many of your classmates will have walked past St. Peter and those pearly gates by that time, but you can give yourself a chance to stay here with some proactive measures.
How about being healthy so you can spend more time being relaxed and retired? It would be awesome to just not have to do anything you didn’t want to do! Get up every day and use that watch they gave you as a fashion accessory only. With a healthy body, you can spend ample time in the lap of leisure well into your 90s.
How about being healthy so you can walk your dog with your grandkids or great-nephews after that Thanksgiving meal many years down the road? It will be so cool to have that turkey dinner with all the relatives, but it’ll be even more fun to be able to move around without having to catch your breath between steps.
How about being healthy so you can continue to enjoy vibrant sunsets, thrilling football games, colorful leaves in the fall, summer barbecues, or birthday cards in the mail?
Everyone can find the motivation to work out! You just have to identify which motivation will get you to your starting line each day and which will help you get to your daily finish line.
There are plenty of great things to enjoy in life. Find your motivation and start earning your frequent flyer miles for your healthy life. Then soar into the future with excitement about what will be!
This article of motivation is brought to you by a guy who knows a good thing when he sees it. That guy of good vision is Ron Blake, and he can be spotted on that bright horizon at firstname.lastname@example.org.