Swiss Army Film (Swiss Army Man Review)

“Swiss Army Man,” the film by Daniels (Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert), is one of the most fascinating, insightful, and important films that I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s so perfectly relevant to everything going on today, while also being completely absurd and so much fun you may not even notice that you’re learning.

This movie, much like the tool on which it gets its name, will be something completely different to every person watching it. So much of the interpretation of this movie will be entirely up to the viewer, and everyone will bring to it and take from it something extremely different and personal.

The premise of the movie is fairly simple (but also wildly inventive): Hank is stranded on an island and is preparing to kill himself. At the last minute, he spots the corpse of Manny on the beach. He discovers that he can use Manny’s corpse to help him do things—like jet-ski across the ocean, store rainwater, and chop wood. When Manny “wakes up” and begins to speak, Hank tries to teach him about life, and together they set off towards home, despite Manny not knowing what a “home” is.

Like any film that starts with our protagonist attempting suicide, this film is about finding joy in life. It’s about being brave, owning your self-worth, overcoming obstacles, challenging yourself, and doing your very best to fit into a world that just doesn’t understand you or care about you. It’s about misunderstandings, childhood, growing, learning, and honesty. It’s about finding love—and not the kind of love you think you’re looking for, but the kind of love you actually need.

Early in the film, Paul Dano’s “Hank” explains to Daniel Radcliffe’s “Manny” what love is. And he defines a very simple heterosexual definition of love. At this time, I was a little bit put off by this very narrow explanation of love as being that of a man and a woman being together. As the film progresses, it becomes apparent that this isn’t the film’s doing… it’s the character Hank. He’s grown up in a way that leaves him completely unable to open his eyes to anything different. He’s lived a life based on fear of judgment, mainly from his father, who raised him after his mother died when he was still very young. It seems she was the more encouraging one, albeit encouraging in a way that may have seemed confusing for a child. At least, confusing in a world that doesn’t accept anything foreign. As Hank tells it, his father caught him masturbating and told him that it would shorten his lifespan because it expends extra energy, which is why men, on average, life shorter lives than women. When Hank’s mother saw him crying, she told him that maybe if he masturbated enough, he could catch up to her and that way they could both die on the same day. Unfortunately, all the masturbation in the world couldn’t have helped, because she died very soon thereafter. Now, Hank is afraid to masturbate because it makes him think of his mother.

To me, there is no simpler or more perfect explanation for the way Hank is the way that he is. And there’s no more perfect explanation as to why any of us are the way that we are. We’re all told from a very young age that our body’s natural urges are wrong. They’re sins. We’ll go to Hell. We’ll go blind. And then we grow up in fear of our own bodies and of things that we enjoy, rather than actually doing anything that makes us happy. Manny’s complete and utter shock that anyone would tell someone not to do something that makes them happy is precisely the spark that sets off the rest of the learning in the movie.

At a certain point, Manny begins experiencing erections. Luckily, his boner acts as a compass that leads the two of them home. When he remembers a woman that he may be in love with, he believes that recreating a memory of her will be the key to unlocking his full potential as a multi-purpose man for Hank. Hank begins to dress like the woman in Manny’s memories (although he resists at first), and it is only when Hank is dressed as a woman that he begins to truly let go of his fearful notions of the world. It is as a woman that Hank is able to express true feelings for Manny, and is able to actually kiss Manny, an expression of love that literally doesn’t fit into his own definition of what love is. Thankfully, there is never a conversation about this being weird or unacceptable, because both characters understand that this is a thing that makes them happy, which means that it’s something that’s okay to do.

Oddly enough, the simple issue of “farting” becomes a poignant and meaningful metaphor for hiding our true selves. Manny farts a LOT. The decomposition of his body stores up a lot of gas, and that gas leaves his body the way gas leaves any of our bodies. Eventually, Hank tells him not to fart. That other people will judge him. Manny very sadly apologizes after asking a few questions about whether he is the only person in the world who farts. Hank recreates the book “Everybody Poops” (on a Bible, no less) so that Manny won’t feel bad about his body, and Manny takes that as a cue that his farts are A-okay. Hank doesn’t complain, because those farts are what helps Manny surf across the ocean like a jet-ski, light fires, and launch them through the air to continue on their journey. But at a certain point, Manny asks Hank why he never farts in front of him. His argument makes sense—I’m farting in front of you all the time, but you hide your farts from me. And if you’re hiding your farts from me, what else are you hiding from me? How do I even know I can trust you? The fact that it sounds juvenile is exactly the point… we’ve all become so afraid of ourselves and our bodies and our urges and just doing what makes us happy that we hide everything from each other.

I’m not advocating that everyone starts farting in front of each other all the time. I do, however, think that we should stop being ashamed of ourselves. We should stop teaching children to fear their own bodies, to fear their instincts, and to hate other people for being different. We need to teach people to love and accept themselves, because how else are they going to be able to accept anyone else? It is only once Hank realizes that he is completely accepted by Manny that he is able to come to terms with himself.

The ending of this film is where I’m sure a lot of people will be divided. After a journey of joy and excitement and discovery, Hank and Manny find their way to civilization, to the backyard of the love of Manny’s life. It is hinted that maybe Hank has simply been living in the woods right behind her house for a long time. Maybe he was never stranded on any island after all. Maybe literally all of this was just a hallucination. It’s revealed that this woman, Sarah Johnson, who has been the object of both Hank and Manny’s affections throughout the film, is actually married, with a daughter around five or six years old. The presence of Hank’s father adds insult to injury when he calls his son retarded in front of everyone. Here we gain even more insight into who Hank is, and how he grew up. Hank has always been different. Maybe he actually was diagnosed as being on the spectrum at one point. Maybe not. Either way, he’s grown up being called retarded and being hated and judged by his father, in a society that doesn’t understand him, where he has no friends, where he legitimately feels like everyone hates him. He hates himself so much that he attempts to kill himself (possibly) very near to the backyard of the woman he has loved, but never spoken to.

If these assumptions are correct, we read the movie in a very different way from this point. Rather than being about a man trapped on an island, it’s the story of an outcast from society who ran away, hid in the woods, and simply observed life from a distance, trying desperately to understand why he’s so different and what it is that he lacks that makes everyone else seem so normal. He’s tried to hide his farts. He’s tried to stop masturbating forever. He’s followed the rules. And he finds himself alone, friendless, and homeless. His mother is dead, and his father doesn’t care enough about him to check to see if he’s actually dead before leaving what at first appears to be Hank in a body bag.

Hank finds joy again when he meets Manny, who is actually dead. It’s only someone else who is a complete and utter outcast, someone friendless and alone, who can help Hank discover what it means to be alive.

Hank attempts to tell everyone how amazing Manny is. In front of a news crew, Sarah, his father, and the police, he looks like a complete lunatic as he raves about Manny’s magical powers and how he was saved by them in the woods. They find the makeshift bus he’s built, they find signs that he’s been out here for a very long time. And they start to take him away in handcuffs… when Manny begins to fart again. His body amazes everyone in the same way that it amazed (and rescued) Hank at the very beginning. Manny takes off into the ocean like a jet-ski, and the onlookers stand slack-jawed at something they never thought was possible; at the possibility that maybe, if they were wrong about Hank being crazy, maybe they’ve been wrong about everything. Maybe hatred and judgment isn’t the way to live their lives. Because if what they thought was lunacy actually turned out to be true… what else have they been wrong about?

I think I’ve raved enough. I adored this movie. I had a smile on my face pretty much the entire time. I’ve never seen a film so adeptly and intelligently navigate Transgender issues, Religion, Homosexuality, Mental Illness, Depression, Love, Life, Parenting, and Discovery. Much like Manny, this film is filled with secret tools to uncover, messages to unlock, and lessons to learn. It’s a film I will be revisiting many times over the rest of my life, and a film that I look forward to sharing with people.


Orlando and the End of Everything

The problem isn’t the guns. Nor is it mental illness. Nor is it poor security, drunkenness, or terrorism… Those things all play a factor, yes. But there is a cause that runs so much deeper. The reason we have guns. The reason we have mental illness. The reason we have terror. Hatred.

We live in a culture of hate. We live in a world where people are judged for being themselves. Where parents tell their children that it’s a sin to love someone of their own gender. A sin to define themselves as something other than what was put on a birth certificate. A sin to have sex with anyone before marriage. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people can no longer go into a bathroom without carrying a birth certificate on their person. A world where people are abused, beaten, shot, raped, killed… because they chose to love someone.

If the reports are true, the shooter in Orlando was gay himself. If that’s true, this crime was one of a self-hating person, who was raised in a world where people told him it wasn’t okay for him to be himself. If, instead, he had been shown love, and told “it’s okay to be who you are,” I almost guarantee this never would have happened.

Whenever something like this happens, people get up in arms about their rights, about their guns being taken away, about the real crime committed. We talk about how “crazy people will always have access to guns, regardless of the law,” and “the next time this happens…”


We have to do better than this. We have to aim higher than this. “Preventative measures” are not enough. Talking about the issues is not enough. “Better gun control laws” are NOT ENOUGH. We need to stop perpetuating a society that is allowed to hate people, or shame people for being who they are.

We need to start loving each other. For the love of God, just accept one another as being different from you. The fact that they’re different isn’t a threat to your existence. The whole world isn’t going to crumble around you. Everything is going to be exactly the same… but people will be happy. We won’t feel the need to pass laws because we feel unsafe. We won’t feel the need to stop people from buying guns or from shooting up schools. We won’t need to worry about children feeling so unloved that they take their own lives, or the lives of anyone else around them. We won’t need to worry at all.

Just stop. We don’t need to close our borders. We don’t need to run and hide away in our homes and shelter ourselves from the world. We just need to let people be. We need to shower each other with love.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is try to write this without breaking down in a fit of rage tears and “FUCK YOU”s at every person who continues to spew hatred… but that would only mean becoming an agent of hate myself. It’s so easy in times like these to judge, to pass blame, and run away. But it is our DUTY as humans to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “We are better than this. We can do SO MUCH better than this.”

I don’t personally know any of the people who were killed… but I could. I have hundreds of friends, of every possible sexual orientation, who might have found themselves at that club that night. I know people who go to clubs just like it, to unwind, to have a bit of fun, to relax… None of them are hateful people. They’re my friends. I’m proud to be friends with the people who aren’t afraid to be themselves.

I could be a victim myself. I’ve been to those clubs. I have a blast when I go to them. More recently, I was in a film that’s been playing at LGBTQ film festivals. Maybe that makes me a target. Maybe I’m choosing the “wrong” friends or the “wrong” roles; or I’m “giving people the wrong idea.” “You might get typecast.” Every possible fear that someone could have, someone has said it to me. I’ve been judged, I’ve been labeled, I’ve been lectured. Why? Because I identified with a character who was different from myself and chose to play him in a movie. Because I accept people. Because I’m not afraid of people “getting the wrong idea.” Because I’m not worried about whether or not people think I’m “different.”

When do we stop the hate? When do we stop pointing fingers at others and look at ourselves? We are perpetuating this. We are all guilty. There’s no point in blaming each other, and there’s no point in wallowing in guilt. We have to step up. We have to move forward. We have to MOVE THE FUCK ON.

All I can say now is just… please. PLEASE. No more hate. No more judgment. No more fear. I can’t take any more of it. No more bashing the presidential nominees. No more bashing our families, our enemies, our friends, our co-workers, our classmates, our teachers, our mentally ill, our handicapped, our celebrities… NO MORE!

This isn’t just a gay issue. This is a HUMAN issue. This is about the safety and the good of your children, your parents, your brothers, your sisters, your friends… This is about our country. This is about our PLANET. We have SO much work today. I’m ready to start if you are.

‘Game of Thrones’ star Maisie Williams joins ‘Doctor Who’ cast

Hello yes. This is a ridiculous amount of excitement calling. Just wanted to say AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

Hero Complex - movies, comics, pop culture - Los Angeles Times

Maisie Williams will guest star in "Doctor Who." (BBC) Maisie Williams will guest star on “Doctor Who.” (BBC)

“Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams, who plays fan-favorite character Arya Stark in “Game of Thrones,” is headed to the TARDIS.

The 17-year-old actress will guest star in the upcoming season of “Doctor Who,” the BBC announced Monday, though her character remains a mystery.

“It’s not possible to say too much about who or what she’s playing, but she is going to challenge the Doctor in very unexpected ways,” the show’s lead writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat, said in a statement. “This time he might just be out of his depth, and we know Maisie is going to give him exactly the right sort of hell.”

Maisie Williams in a scene from "Game of Thrones." (HBO) Maisie Williams in a scene from “Game of Thrones.” (HBO)

The sci-fi adventure series, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, returns this fall for its ninth season since rebooting a decade ago…

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New Perspective

It’s important to know who you are. What makes you different? What makes you stand out? What makes you you? Unfortunately, sometimes we are also the people who have the absolute worst perspective on who we are. I heard a metaphor once that really stuck with me—it’s like you’re driving down the highway, and you’re dragging a huge log beneath your car, but you can’t see it. You’re too close to the situation, you’re focused in the wrong direction, but this log is slowing you down. You know your car is going slower than it should be, but you just can’t see why. You also know that you don’t want to stop. You’re in a hurry. And it’s not like the car isn’t working, it’s just not at its full potential. It takes someone else to wave you down, some Good Samaritan to get your attention and tell you, “hey, you do realize that you’ve got a log under your car, right?”

If this happened to you, you’d have to be crazy not to listen to that person. When someone points out something about you that is slowing you down or holding you back in your life or in your career, it’s the same thing. You’d have to be crazy not to listen. So I’m thankful that I have people in my life who will tell me when I’m carrying around a tree that I didn’t even know was there.

One of the “trees” that I’ve been dragging around with me is that sometimes I’m just far too focused on looking forward that I forget to look at what’s happening right now. And I absolutely love my life right now. I’m enjoying every second of growth, friendship and camaraderie that I’ve experienced since moving to Los Angeles. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss my friends and family elsewhere, because I definitely do (sorry, it would take too long to list you all—you know who you are!), but I’m enjoying where I am. I’m taking this one day at a time, working on myself, and soon enough I’ll be where I need to be to succeed. Success happens when preparation meets opportunity. And I’m taking every day to make sure that I’m prepared when opportunity comes knocking.

Another tree I’ve been dragging around with me that I didn’t even know about is caring too much what other people think of me. I’ve been too much of a “people-pleaser,” trying to make sure that everyone else is happy and never focusing on myself. If I’m happy, I’ll be more equipped to help others, so shouldn’t I work on me first? It was pointed out to me that sometimes I answer questions in a way where I actually seem to be apologizing for my answer, just in case I happen to be offending someone in the room. I answer this way because I’m afraid of what people will think of me. It took some time of self-reflection to realize that I keep “playing small” in my answers so that I don’t come across as too “braggy” or “cocky.” But I’ve realized—I don’t need to do that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with claiming my worth as a person. I don’t need to apologize for having talent. I don’t need to apologize for my hard work. And I definitely don’t need to apologize for who I am.

So I’m not doing that anymore. I am a talented, hard-working, driven person, and I’m not going to try to hide it. Come take a look at me.

Starting New

Monday, being the “beginning” of a typical week, is the day of starting over. The day of new beginnings and freshness. A lot of people dislike Mondays. It even started that horrible expression, “somebody has a case of the Mondays!” That isn’t the case with me. For me, if you’re ever getting a case of “the Mondays,” then you have some work to do in your life. You’re not living up to your full potential and you’re squandering your abilities and your passions on something you hate doing.

So don’t. Start over. Let Monday be the day that you become something better. Ask yourself the question, “What am I doing today that makes me a better person than who I was yesterday?”

There are countless ways you can improve yourself. Whether that means forgiving someone for hurting you, making that phone call to a loved one that you’ve been putting off, letting go of a meaningless grudge, taking some fair criticism, doing something positive for a stranger, focusing on something you’re passionate about, or just giving love to the world in some small way… there is always something you can be doing.

This is me saying, I’m letting go of the past. I’m not worried about it. It’s the past. And I’m not going to worry about the future, either. It’s a realm of infinite possibility and as I improve myself in my present, the future will take care of itself. I will naturally attract things to myself that are positive and joyful. Things I may not even be aware exist. People I don’t know, people who can help me enjoy myself and advance my career. But I’m going to meet them later, and there’s no point in stressing out about any of it now.

This weekend I went to a staged reading of a script called “P5ych” and made a few friends and connections that I’m very happy to have made. I got new headshots taken on Friday. I made time to hang out with some old friends. I made a few final changes to my screenplay to finish what is now the third draft. And I had two auditions where I challenged myself to only care about one thing: Own the room. It wasn’t about the read, it wasn’t about the performance or the character, it was about being present and letting everyone know that I was a person with confidence who they could trust. And I’m very confident that I was successful in my goals.

I have to give another shout out to AJ Riley for constantly pushing me to become a better version of myself, for reminding me of my talent and potential. We were definitely meant to meet out here.

And here’s the other thing: you don’t have to only “start fresh” on Monday. Do it every single day. Do it every hour if you have to. Assess mistakes that you’ve made, reevaluate, and make the change. Press forward. There is nothing ahead of you but pure potential and it’s up to you to fight for it. But you do that by fighting for yourself. Constantly improving. There’s no version of you that is “perfect,” and there never will be. But you can always be better. And that’s where I am. I’m getting better.

Last week was a challenge for me in my personal life for a few reasons that I won’t get into here, but after understanding the reasons the week was challenging and making conscious choices to change and better myself and my relationships with my friends and family, I’m confident that I am a better person on this Monday than I was on the last.

The best part is: nobody has to notice or care about any of this except for me. I’m not making these changes for anyone else’s benefit. I’m doing it for myself. Because I want to be the best me that I can be, and part of that involves not worrying about what other people think about me.

All I really want to say is this: I’m excited. I’m so excited for everything that I’m working towards. And I cherish every single moment of the life I’m living, because I want to be able to enjoy my life. And the key to enjoying life isn’t working towards something that you think will make you happy, it’s being happy with what you already have. Change your outlook, change your life.

And that’s it for me for this post. If you’re reading this, I love you. If you aren’t reading this, I still love you. And I hope you have a terrific week and I hope you know or learn that it’s okay to start anew. I’m off to the gym to continue improving myself.

Progress, Excitement, and Achievement – An Update on life in Los Angeles

This will just be a quick blog about excitement and progress. As long as you stay focused on what you want, you’re sure to get it. I focused hard on getting an Agent in Los Angeles, and as of this week, I am officially signed with Prodigy Talent. Soon the auditions will be rolling in and I’ll be doing exactly what I came here to do. I mean, I’m already doing what I came here to do, but I’ll be one rung higher on the ladder.

Los Angeles is so full of potential and opportunity. Last night, I went out with some old college friends (some of whom live in LA now, some are visiting) and while we were out, it just so happened that I bumped into the host of one of the podcasts that I always listen to. I did a massive mental double-take when I realized this girl’s voice has been coming through my car speakers for the past 2 years. And when I told her how much I loved the show, she said she’ll have to bring me on as a guest host in the future because the show needs more male perspective.

And this happened because I decided to go out with some friends.

Opportunity is everywhere, as long as you’re open and willing to look for it. Every day makes me even more excited for my own future. Every time I meet a new person, I realize that there is so much we can be accomplishing together. There’s so much we can all learn from each other, and there’s so much growth we can all go through. And I cannot wait to continue growing and changing and finding new opportunities.

I’m getting more and more excited about my screenplay every day, because I know my writing partner and I have hit on something really good, and really fun, and really important. And I can’t wait to make the movie. Count on seeing “Sick For Toys” in your theaters, redbox, and your Netflix lists at some point in the future because I’m not going to let this movie go unmade.

And behind all of this, I’m still growing and developing as a person. I’m learning so much from each new person in my life (and the ones who have been around awhile) and I love the person I am becoming. It’s all about progress, one day at a time! I am so, so excited about everything that I’m going to make happen in this world and this lifetime. Because that’s the thing—if you wait for things to happen TO you, you’ll wait forever. But if you make them happen, you can do anything you want to.

Live long and prosper, my friends. Go out and achieve something!

The Power of Intention

When you claim you want something and are willing to fight for it, no matter what, you’re probably going to get it. Last year, I made the decision to move to Los Angeles. My plan had always been to move as soon as I became SAG-Eligible, booked a role on a network television show filming on the East Coast, and completed my web series. When I finally made the decision, “I’m moving in January, no matter what,” I still hadn’t achieved those milestones. But as soon as I claimed that I was moving, everything started falling into place. I became SAG-Eligible first, having worked on three SAG sets and paid SAG rates. Then I booked a CO-STAR role on AMC’s “Turn: Washington’s Spies,” with dialogue and everything. And finally, we released the Season Finale of Door to Door the Web Series in December of last year.

It isn’t magic. It’s the power of claiming what you want. Setting a very specific goal and working toward it however you can. Keep trying things. There’s no point in giving up. Ever. If your goal was to become a Doctor, and you went to Medical School, and then graduated and started looking for work… If you didn’t have a job in the first 6 months, would you GIVE UP on being a Doctor and resign yourself to a life of other jobs that you were overqualified for? No. So don’t let your dreams become the same thing. You can chase down and accomplish literally anything you set your mind to… but you have to be specific in what you want. “I want to act” isn’t good enough. “I want to book a role on a network television show” might not even be specific enough. “I want to be the lead in a JJ Abrams sci-fi film” is getting pretty damn close (That’s one of my new goals, by the way).

After moving, my biggest goal was “Get an agent.” Well, I can now happily say that I’ve met with four agencies and two of them have already offered me representation. It’s a very powerful position to be in when you have choices, and I’m eternally grateful to all of the people who taught me that it’s okay to claim my worth and to go after what I want. That anything is possible as long as you have the determination and the drive to go after it.

I have a few other goals that I’ve made that I’m pretty sure are very close to happening, but I’m not going to announce them until they’re at 100%. Just know… they’re exciting.

That’s all for me today. Always remember to be true to yourself, and never give up.