What “The Birdcage” Did for Me: A Short Tribute to Robin Williams

Sometime after the release of The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams, I remember my mom telling me how much she had enjoyed the film. It was a revelation that stuck with me because I was surprised to see that she – a devout, lifelong Catholic – was completely unfazed by the film’s sympathetic (yet over-the-top) portrayal of a “non-traditional” family. The movie depicted the de facto marriage of two unabashedly flamboyant gay nightclub owners, along with their having raised a seemingly happy, healthy, well-adjusted son together. It was edgy fare for 1996 – the year that DOMA became law – flying in the face of what many, perhaps most Americans still believed about queer families. But my conservative-ish mom didn’t seem the least bit bothered or offended by any of it. In fact, she loved it.

It was with this specifically in mind a few years later that I finally summoned the courage to come out to my mom. And she has been nothing but awesome ever since.

Mom and me on my gay wedding day.

So thank you, Robin Williams, for the many great performances you gave us, but especially, thank you for The Birdcage. 

Rest in peace.  



My New Life in Movie Land, Part II

Yesterday Mike and I took advantage of the glorious sunshine and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a first for both of us:

Enjoyin’ the view

We then followed our little cross-river excursion with a visit to an equally iconic NYC landmark:

That’s me haunting the street corner

This one was not a first for us (I stumbled across it totally by accident while exploring the city shorty after moving here), but it was the first time pictures were taken:

(Cute texting fireman not included in tour package. I asked.)

Amazingly, there’s a Ghostbusters sign hanging inside the station, and the on-duty firemen seem relatively unbothered by the occasional gawking tourist (or newbie local) wandering in to pose beneath it:

I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghostly white legs
Who you gonna call?
This is my life now.

(For further reading on the Ghostbusters firehouse, my friend Geraldine made the same pilgrimage a couple years ago, and did a great write-up on her blog. Check it out!)

I Finally Watched “The Godfather”


Yes. Finally. I watched The Godfather, parts I and II, for the first time a couple of weeks ago, largely at Mike’s urging.

I know, I know. You’re shocked. You’re appalled. You’re wondering how it’s possible this otherwise normal, red-blooded American male lived nearly 33 years without experiencing these universally acclaimed, ubiquitously influential cinematic masterpieces. It’s a completely valid question – especially considering that these films have been readily available to me since Mike and I merged movie collections almost four years ago.

I have nothing to say for myself. I’m the sorry thirty-something cad who opted for dozens of repeat-viewings of Billy Madison before bothering to watch The Godfather even once. It was a life choice I was doomed to regret.

Indeed, the list of masterpiece films that have eluded me over the years is shameful. I’ve still never seen Casablanca, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Tootsie, to name a few of the titles I’m assured are must-sees. I’ve caught only bits and pieces of the LOTR trilogy (another beloved saga collecting dust on my DVD shelf at this very moment). I may never watch a Matrix movie (which I’m somehow okay with). And many have been dumbfounded to learn that the only Barbra Streisand movie I’ve ever seen is Meet the Friggin’ Fockers(Here are my gay-credentials. You’ll be wanting to revoke these).

So why now? What is it that finally nudged me into the essential cinematic rite-of-passage that is viewing The Godfather? I can’t say, exactly. Maybe it’s because I’m about to turn 33 and am beginning to feel a little short on life accomplishments. (At this age, Jesus was already a skilled craftsman, a medical-miracle worker, an innovator in winemaking, and a long-haired guru ready to be martyred for his hippie convictions. I figure I’ve got some catching up to do). Or maybe it was just another planned milestone in Mike’s ongoing quest to mold me into a better, more well-rounded individual (“You should really eat more vegetables, volunteer for a non-profit, and watch the Godfather movies, Dan”). I don’t know, really. I suppose it was just my time.

So how do I feel now that I’m “in the club”? Well, to be honest, roughly the same as I did before. It’s been a couple weeks, and I’m still waiting for the whole “these movies changed my life” moment to kick in. (After all the hype, I expect nothing less). This is not to say I didn’t enjoy my Godfather viewings. I enjoyed them a lot, as a matter of fact. It was six-plus hours of my life very well spent. And, as is usually the case with great cinema, I get the sense that they will only improve with repeat-viewings. So I’ll be looking forward to that.

But there was also a sort of “I’ve seen this all before” quality to the experience. After decades worth of pop-culture references, quotes, spoofs, parodies, and Godfather-inspired films and TV (one only needs to watch The Simpsons, really), it was virtually impossible not to already recognize most of the movies’ signature moments and indelible dialogue. But the fact that I was surprised by so little in these films is surely a testament to their lasting impact and far-reaching influence.

So now that I’ve fully cultured myself, and closed this embarrassing gap in my film-viewing history, what’s my next move? I suppose it’s time to watch The Godfather Part III, no? I’m told by some that it’s entirely miss-able, and by others that it’s unfairly underrated. But by all accounts, it falls well short of its predecessors. Perhaps I’ll just save that one for a rainy day (no shortage of those where I live), and maybe catch up on a few of my other overlooked classics first. I’ve seen the important ones, and finally initiated myself into High Godfather Society. I am indeed proud of myself.

And with this important accomplishment now securely under my belt, I feel justified in recommending – insisting, in fact – that you reflect on the cinematic merits of The Godfather while considering the thought-provoking exchange below: