dallas-buyers-club

Dallas Buyers Club Review

The film “Dallas Buyers Club”, starring Matthew McConauhey in his Academy Award winning role, is about Ron Woodroof, a man exposed to the AIDS virus who starts a buyers club – a network of infected individuals that help each other get life-saving medication.

The homophobic, free wheeling cowboy Ron contracts the HIV virus through the casual sex he has on a regular basis. The disease, stigmatized at the time as a “gay man’s” ailment, forces Ron into personal hiding, as he’s affronted with homophobic slurs despite his heterosexual lifestyle.

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Dallas Buyers Club Reminds Us That The FDA Is Trying To Turn Everything Into An Illegal Drug

DBCRon Woodroof fought for the right to use non-FDA approved drugs as a means of treatment after he was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s.  As a result, he began distributing experimental drugs to AIDS patients who were unable to acquire them at hospitals.  Woodroof’s legacy lives on in the 2013 film, “Dallas Buyers Club,” directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.

The film opens with Woodroof’s diagnosis; he’s given 30 days to live.  Thinking he’s a homosexual, his friends and coworkers ostracize him.  When Woodroof finally seeks treatment, he is put on AZT, the only FDA-approved drug in America at the time, but this only worsens his condition.  Woodroof eventually travels to Mexico to find help, and there he’s treated with ddC and peptide T, drugs not approved by the FDA.

After three months on these new drugs, Woodroof’s condition improves and it occurs to him that he can make money smuggling ddC and peptide T into America for other HIV patients.  He teams up with Rayon, an HIV positive trans woman, who helps Woodroof get inside the gay community.  Together, Ron and Rayon form the Dallas Buyers Club, which provides the non-approved drugs to HIV patients at a price.  The club becomes very successful, but is short-lived, as the FDA is constantly trying to find ways to shut them down and make it harder for Woodroof to sell his own drugs.

Woodroof attempts to sue the FDA, seeking the right to take peptide T, which at this point has been proven to be a non-toxic drug.  Although he loses the court case, it is stated at the end of the film that Woodroof was eventually able to take peptide T for his own personal use up until his death.  He was also one of the main reasons that hospitals in America would eventually reduce the dosage of AZT it would administer to its patients after the drug was found to be toxic.

Dallas Buyers Club is based on a true story about what can happen to American patients when their health care system is fraught with bureaucratic roadblocks.  The government spends more than 50 per cent of all health care dollars and costs have been driven up by the FDA’s actions and deprived Americans of much-needed treatments.

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Love In Time of Science: “Interstellar” vs “Theory of Everything”

unnamedWhy on earth are we comparing a space science-fiction epic with a period romance melodrama  you ask? Simple: both Interstellar and Theory of Everything came out this weekend trying to tread the thematic tight rope between human story and scientific ideas.

For those of you who don’t know, Interstellar tells the story of a former astronaut-turned-farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), who travels to the edges of space on a dangerous mission to save humanity. Theory of Everything, on the other unnamed-1hand, chronicles the tumultuous romantic relationship between famed Cambridge physicist, Stephen Hawking, and the love of his life, Jane Wilde (Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, respectively).

Firstly: you should go see both. The performances alone are reason enough to justify a ticket for Theory of Everything, with Redmayne’s Hawking being the stuff that Oscar gold is made of. Likewise, Interstellar boasts one of the most immersive story telling experiences since Avatar, marked by stunning visuals and performances that manage to keep up – Jessica Chastain’s brooding turn as Cooper’s estranged daughter is particularly compelling.

unnamed-2At the core of these widely different films though is a single thematic concern: the interplay of science and love. Both films spend a considerable amount of their running time examining love in the context of scientific pursuit.

For Interstellar, this concern manifests itself primarily in the relationship between Cooper and his daughter Murph, who is both his reason for going and the source of his guilt for doing so. At its most cosmic, Interstellar asks the question of whether or not love can transcend the barriers of space and time, and if so, what that love looks like. On its most practical level though, it examines the conflict between one’s duty to science (and by extension, humanity) and one’s dedication to their family. Ultimately, without giving away too many details, the film’s answers are somewhat overly sentimental – resulting in an emotional resolution that is satisfactory though not perhaps as cathartic as the film’s director, Christopher Nolan, might have hoped.

unnamed-3Theory of Everything, though not dealing with love on such a macro scale, similarly examines if and how science and romance can co-exist. Ironically, it is not the physical handicap that presents the most obstacles to Stephen and Jane’s relationship, but rather Stephen’s academic pursuits and subsequent fame as physicist. In this way, the film questions whether the demands of science and one’s commitment to its tenants allow for a romantic relationship. The issue of the existence of God, for example, is one of particular importance to the couple who are divided along the lines of faith – Jane an Anglican Christian and Stephen an agnostic. Again without spoiling too much, Theory of Everything’s conclusion proffers quite satisfyingly that regardless of whether in science or in love – its the tangibles that count.

Part of the reason that Theory of Everything balances science and human emotion somewhat more convincingly than Interstellar would be perhaps because the film makes a point of not weighing itself down in the tech.

Interstellar, at its core, is about science in the context of love. Theory of Everything is about love in the context of science.

It’s this distinction that gives Theory of Everything the human edge over Interstellar. That’s not to say Interstellar’s human story isn’t compelling – its the very impetus of the film. But by its inherent nature as a space epic, Interstellar more interested in using its human elements to explore the larger questions of science than allowing them to take center stage.

Ultimately, both Theory of Everything and Interstellar ask big questions about love, science, and where we fit into all of it. And as stated before: both films are well worth the price of admission. But where Interstellar asks you to gaze up at the stars in wonder, Theory of Everything asks to train that same awe-inspired gaze at the person right next to you.

Trailer Tuesday: “Interstellar”

unnamedUnless you’ve been abstaining from all things entertainment for the last decade, you have definitely heard of Christopher Nolan.  His little film franchise called “The Dark Knight” trilogy made a bit of a splash over the last several years.

 

unnamedNow the man is back with what is gearing up to be yet another massively-hyped blockbuster.  The newest trailer for “Interstellar” was released just a couple of weeks ago.  A very vague teaser was released before this two-and-a-half minute party for the eyeballs came out. In true Nolan lore, there has been a very intentional cloud of mystery surrounding “Interstellar.”  Now, we know much more…but…not really.  We open up with a very serious Matthew McConaughey looking out his window onto a desolate and dystopian world that’s definitely seen better days.  Clearly there’s some apocalyptic-y threat going on (but which kind we still don’t know).  Michael Caine chimes in with a voiceover asking Matthew’s character Cooper to trust him. Still nothing is completely understood, but he’s essentially asking him to save all of humanity from extinction on a very dangers mission to outer space, with little-to-no information as to where he would be going or how long he’ll be gone.  Enter the human emotion and the unnamedmassive tug of heart strings as Cooper consoles his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) as she struggles to accept the fact that her father will be leaving her for what could very easily end up being years…or forever.  The sentimentality is extremely touching here and reminds us of the talent that Nolan has for creating relatable characters.  As Cooper reaches the depths of space with his fellow astronaut Brand (Anne Hathaway), we see them confronted with some seriously stellar images (pun partially intended) that I can only describe as being beautifully terrifying.  We end on yet another deep, emotional voiceover from Cooper saying, “We’ll find a way. We always have.”  Wow. This trailer has made me feel a serious rollercoaster of emotion…in less than 3 minutes.  There’s something extremely intriguing, mysterious and overwhelming when thinking about space and time travel.  And that’s a level of mystery that Nolan has succeeded in creating…at least with this trailer.

Here’s to hoping the movie is as good as this visionary eye candy! Oscar bait, anybody?