It’s very easy, from the year 2014, to think about how many incredible advances that’ve been made in the treatment of, and prevention of, HIV and AIDS in the past 30 years.
Breakthrough medicines, a much greater awareness of how the disease is contracted and spread, and just plain smarter thinking have, at least in America, led to a much longer life span for AIDS patients and a reduction in the number of positive tests. (At its peak in the 1980s, 130,000 new AIDS cases were diagnosed each year; now we’re at 50,000 per year.)
But recent movies like “The Dallas Buyers Club” and now, HBO’s awesome adaptation of Larry Kramer’s groundbreaking 1980s play “The Normal Heart” very, very quickly bring you back to the reality of the early ’80s, and how incredibly scary and helpless it was to have AIDS.
I finally watched “The Normal Heart” last weekend, after not having seen either version of the play on Broadway, back in 1985 or the 2011 adaptation starring Jim Parsons of “Big Bang Theory.”
It was… superb. The tale of Ned Weeks, an openly gay man in 1981 New York City screaming, shouting, pounding his fists on the table trying to get anyone to care about all of his friends dying of this grotesque disease all of a sudden, is beautifully acted by Mark Ruffalo, Parsons and Matt Bomer, among others (Julia Roberts, in a small but pivotal role, is sensational).
It’s truly remarkable storytelling, with one of many fantastic moments coming when Weeks and others berate a member of NYC mayor Ed Koch’s staff for not funding AIDS treatment at all, all the while Koch was known to be a closeted gay man (I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but trust me, everyone in New York in the ’80s thought Koch was gay.)
This plague wrecked so many lives, and in “The Normal Heart” those lives are portrayed tenderly, and bitterly, as the disease takes its course.
In 2014, with gay marriage becoming legal everywhere at once, it seems, and a gay NFL player and so many other breakthroughs, the horrible dark period of the ’80s fear seems so long ago. But it’s really not ancient history.
“Thank God for activists like Kramer who fought tirelessly for this cause. “The Normal Heart” achingly, beautifully, harrowingly tells their story. I expect Emmys for Ruffalo and Bomer; the movie, and their performances, are that good. Definitely see it if you can.
**Next up, this is an incredible commercial filmed by the Chilean miners who were rescued two years ago, created to inspire Chile’s World Cup soccer team, which starts play as a big underdog in two weeks.
The translation of the commercial is posted below; it’s really pretty great. (“Group of Death” is an old soccer term referring to the preliminary group each country is put in; the “Group of Death” is always considered the hardest one, though every country thinks they’re in it.)
We were trapped in this place for 70 days. The earth had swallowed us and it was there, where we had to prove what we were made of. We knew that outside, there were millions of Chileans waiting for us, and this dirt, was witness to it all. Thats why we will take this dirt to the pitch where OUR team will practice to fill it with hope and courage. And to show the world, that for a Chilean nothing is impossible. Spain is difficult, Ireland is difficult, the group of death does not scare us! We do not care about death! Because death has not beaten us before!”
**And finally, because why not, the Michael Jackson classic “Bille Jean,” played on beer bottles. Very cool…