Why I Don’t Have Dallas Buyers Remorse

March 3, 2014

This year, The Academy Awards were once again touched by the hand of the AIDS epidemic.  In 2013, AIDS activists rejoiced when How To Survive a Plague was nominated for Best Documentary.  A decade before, Nicole Kidman won for Best Actress in 2003’s The Hours… and a decade before that, Tom Hanks got the nod for Best Actor in Philadelphia in what was, before this past weekend, AIDS’ greatest triumph at Hollywood’s biggest night of the year.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Oscar night…

When both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes two months ago, each actors’ acceptance speech failed to mention AIDS.  Much like the trailer for the movie, there wasn’t mention of the medical condition that figures so prominently in the movie’s plot.  And, as an AIDS educator, I get it- the word “AIDS” scares a lot of people. Get them in the theater and entertain/enlighten them by any means necessary.

In regard to the AIDS community’s outrage over the Golden Globes speeches and the omission of our struggle… I really didn’t get it.  I don’t expect actors to be activists.  They play roles, do the job and get in and out of character and on to the next role.

I saw Dallas Buyers Club in a theater, which was more than I expected after hearing about the movie months before its release.  I figured it would be an indie flick that wouldn’t find its way to my hometown theater and that I’d catch it half-a-year later on Netflix.  The fact that it got so much buzz after its release made me happy- friends of mine were going to see it on their own without me (the “friend with AIDS”) nudging them.

So last night, both actors won again on Oscar night.

Jared Leto mentioned the millions of people who died from AIDS at the tale-end of his acceptance speech, certainly making amends with a portion of the AIDS community… but Matthew McConaughey, the biggest winner, remained mum on HIV/AIDS.  He also failed to mention the name of the man whose life he interpreted for the film.  Matthew did mention God, and a vision of his father doing a little victory dance in Heaven for him.  Which made me wonder: if pressed, could Matthew picture Ron Woodroof in that vision of Heaven, sharing that tender moment of glory with dad?

Who knows.  I don’t know Matthew personally.  Perhaps he does think Ron is up there, too.  And perhaps he didn’t mention AIDS in his speeches for fear of offending anyone with a clumsy comment about HIV/AIDS? He has a famously loose style- so maybe we should be thanking him instead of ridiculing him for his choice of words…

I, for one, am not mad at McConaughey.  He rescued a dead script from obscurity and breathed life into the performance.  An actor mentioning AIDS out of obligation at an award’s ceremony might give us, those living with the virus, a good feeling inside.  But I believe it does very little to educate those in the dark or get them truly interested in the cause.  Where an actor has true strength is in the artistry of their craft- and in choosing the role of someone living with AIDS, McConaughey took a risk and it paid off for him professionally.  He did his job.

So kudos to Matthew and Jared for going out on a limb and attaching themselves to Dallas Buyers Club.  Just because they portrayed people living with AIDS, I don’t expected either of them to emerge from their roles as, say, an activist like Peter Staley of How To Survive a Plague.  In fact, after the Golden Globes speech fiasco, Peter himself said: “I’m just happy Hollywood has made an AIDS film again.  The crisis is far from over, so we still need reminding.  And I hope Matthew McConaughey wins an Oscar.”

Hear, hear.

Positively Yours,

VLOG: Movie Night… How to Survive a Plague

February 19, 2013

In this week’s video, Gwenn and I discuss How to Survive a Plague- the movie about the early days of treatment activism.  Our fingers our crossed for this incredible film, as it is up for Best Documentary at the Oscars this Sunday.

Hope everyone is doing well.

Positively Yours,

T & Avatar: Piranha 3D A Bloody Good Time

August 23, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a movie with my movie-reviewing partner, Steve Schalchlin, or, as we are collectively known, the Hemo2Homo Connection.  Right now, Steve (whose partner, Jim Brochu, is starring in the hilarious play, Zero Hour) is in the process of moving from Los Angeles to New York City, so I decided not to harass him into going to see Piranha 3D.  Instead, I dedicate this review to my good friend as I wish him a happy relocation to the east coast.

Piranha 3D: A Bloody Good Time
by Shawn Decker

For the thinblooded community, I cannot recommend this movie enough.  It’s got so much blood in it you may want to sneak some extra clotting factor along with that bag of smuggled candy.  If you’re a clotter who isn’t scared of the sight of human plasma, then you too should crack open this pearl.

Before I begin, I must say that the previews for this movie really turned me off.  Why pay extra for a 3D SyFy network-caliber movie?  It wasn’t until I read a string of great reviews on Facebook that I opened my heart to the concept.  The phrase “cleverly gory” pretty much sealed the deal the same way “starring Dolph Lundgren” had gotten me to The Expendables the weekend before.  Also, the last 3D movie I saw on the big screen may have been Jaws in 3D, so I figured I was long overdue to dip my toes into these trippy waters and I was curious to see how far 3D technology has advanced in the last two decades.

And after seeing Piranha, I’m glad I didn’t ruin the effect by seeing Avatar… which I doubt had an extended underwater scene of two naked women swimming together… in 3D! (For my gay brothers, don’t worry, there’s more than enough beefcake in this movie to leave your sweet tooth for eye candy satisfied as well.)  Outside of the neato visuals and bloodshed, the movie maintains a fun feel throughout- charmingly goofy, not too concerned with overplotting and supported by a great cast of familiar faces peppered by capable newcomers.  Sure, the ticket price is upped a few more bucks for 3D, but in this case I didn’t leave the theater feeling cheated.

If you’re looking for a fun summer movie and have a soft spot in your heart for bloodthirsty monsters and scantily clad victims, then run- nay, swim- as fast as you can to the nearest theater.

Positively Yours,

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Website: ShawnandGwenn.com
Also check out the lovely Gwenn’s Fashion/Coffee Blog

Like what you’ve read? Then buy me an iced mocha or check out my new CD: Synthetic Division, A Symptom of Life, which is now on iTunes!


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One Condoms Giving Away Free Music

June 18, 2010

My buddies over at One Condoms are celebrating their big splash in Target by giving away 1,000,000 free songs- I’m honored that Synthetic Division is among the bands whose music they will be sharing.


To get your free song, simply do one of the following things via onecondoms.com:

  • Signing up for their mailing list
  • Becoming a Fan of One Condoms on Facebook
  • Following @onecondoms on Twitter
  • Signing a Safer Sex Oath
  • Filling out a Sex Survey
  • Touch Shawn’s Balls

Okay, I stuck the last one in to see if you were paying attention.  One Condoms can’t help you out on that last item, but do take them up on their offer for a free song.  They provide lots of cool bands and musicians with free condoms that are passed out on tour (much like Synthetic Division did on the recent tour with Bella Morte).  I’m sure the bands feel the same way as I do about returning the kindness of One Condoms and giving away a free song.

Enjoy, hope everyone has a good weekend!

Positively Yours,

Watch, Friend and Follow me on:
YouTube, Facebook and Twitter
Website: ShawnandGwenn.com Also check out the lovely Gwenn’s Fashion/Coffee Blog
Like what you’ve read? Then buy me an iced mocha or check out my new CD: Synthetic Division, A Symptom of Life, which is now on iTunes!


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The Breakfast Club Game

August 7, 2009

The passing of John Hughes is my Michael Jackson moment.  In my opinion, three weeks of full-on news coverage of his death would be appropriate.  I want to see Long Duk Dong on CNN explaining how Mr. Hughes brought attention to the slave trade/foreign exchange student situation of the 1980’s, the true agenda of the movie Sixteen Candles.

That’s my favorite of all of his work.  Just watched it last night.  Aside from a couple of uses of the word “fag” and “faggot” as insults, the movie is perfection.  What I like most about his work is that he championed the misfit, and really made it clear that everyone feels the isolation that is usually only acknowledged/accepted in the teenage years of our existence.

bclub.jpgI was pretty young when Hughes unleashed the Holy Trinity of the 80’s (Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink and The Breakfast Club, respectively), but it still resonated with me and my friends.  We wanted to be John Bender from the Club so badly that we invented a neighborhood game based on the movie. If you want to play in tribute of Hughes, here’s how:

– find the friend with the biggest house

– use front porch as the library/detention

– to avoid arguments, randomly draw characters from a hat (geek, jock, criminal, principal, whatever Ally Sheedy was)

– you can only use movie quotes that involve cursing

The Principal just walks around the house aimlessly, while the others “sneak out” from the porch from time to time.  It was really fun when I was 10.  I bet the game holds up today.  Post a Comment if you play with friends.  Bonus points if you videotape it and upload to YouTube.

ferris.jpgFerris Bueller’s Day Off, I remember seeing that in the theater with friends.    The movie came out about a year before I was diagnosed with HIV, and it must have influenced me to use my HIV status as a reason to stay home from school.  Thank you, John Hughes, for that.  Of course, I drew the line at stealing a friend’s dad’s car.  But only because I was 12.

The “Save Ferris” campaign in the movie still cracks me up.  I could have made so much lunch money if I’d been out about my status in junior high school.

It’s tough to make teen movies that stand the test of time, but John Hughes managed to pull it off.  At 34 I enjoy them just as much- if not more so- than I did on first viewing.  Sure, he made some crappy movies, but that was intentional- Hughes just wanted to show he was human.  I was saddened by the news of his passing because of my sentimental connection to his work, but was happy to read that he’d spent the better part of the last decade with his family.

He took Ferris’ advice about life moving pretty fast, and slowed down to take a look around. 

Good for him.

Positively Yours,

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Hemo2Homo Connection: Bruno

July 14, 2009


HOMO: I know why you wanted to see this.  Big homosexual terrorizes the public at large! It’s because you thought it was a horror film — “Saw” for straight men.

HEMO: Actually I thought Bruno was the a wrestling biopic for Bruno Sammartino.  When I found out it wasn’t, I decided not to go.

HOMO: You flaked on me again?

benefitshawndark.jpgHEMO: I was totally busy this past weekend, playing an HIV benefit with my synthpop trio.  MAC artists were there, and they totally made me up in guyliner, check it out.

HOMO: Mmmmm, hmmmm… say, what band did you meet through the Make-A-Wish Foundation back in 1990?  Was that Guns N’ Roses?  Motley Crue?  Bananarama?

HEMO: No, Depeche Mode.  What are you getting at?

HOMO: Well, I don’t want to say you look a little gay or anything, but not even Bruno wore that much eyeliner…
When I first heard that there would be this insane movie about a totally exaggerated, offensive gay stereotype running around scaring straight people, I was waiting for the scene where he asks Carrie Prejean about gay marriage and then calls her names in an insane rant equal only to “Leave Britney alone.”

HEMO: Leave Hemo alone!

HOMO: But it wasn’t Perez Hilton they were talking about- it was that fake Austrian oversexed sissy who once asked a skinhead, “Are there any of you who aren’t gay?”

HEMO: Not even Bruno Sammartino would say that to a skinhead.

HOMO: I thought, “What could Bruno do that’s worse than Perez, a guy who makes Ross the Intern look like Johnny Carson?”

HEMO: Wait- did the Latoya Jackson scene make it in?  He asked her to talk like Michael because that way he could say he interviewed the legend.

latoya-michael-jackson.jpgHOMO: NO! See what I mean? This is Bruno Lite. They took that scene out.  It doesn’t matter.  After seeing the film, I realized that it has the same plot as the Kathy Griffin Show, trying to get famous every week, except Life on the D List is much, MUCH gayer.

HEMO: That’s one of my favorites.  On the most recent episode, she went off on Reagan for not saying “AIDS” for so long after someone gave her a jelly bean.

HOMO: See, she’s a lot funnier than Bruno, who’s a bit of a hum ho.  I mean if you’re gonna do shock comedy, does anyone really think that Bruno is even REMOTELY as outrageous as Divine…

HEMO: What does that hooker that Hugh Grant banged a decade ago have to do with this?

divine.jpgHOMO: Okay, maybe you’re not gay, thinblood.  John Waters’ Divine, who picked up a piece of dog crap and ate it, and who had a character who chained lesbians in a basement so she could sell the babies.

My biggest problem with Bruno is that very few of the people they ridicule are showing homophobia. Most of them are just reacting to someone putting a dildo in their face in public, or  someone would trade a baby for an iPod. You don’t have to be homophobic to hate that. I don’t know who he’s skewering.

Or does it matter?

HEMO: It matters.  I would have been there on opening night if his MTV Movie Awards show stunt with Eminem wasn’t totally staged.  I mean, it makes sense to drop your balls in a rapper’s face unexpectedly, right?  Em was great, acting offended, but he and MTV were in on the whole thing.

Which means that, despite Bruno’s balls being in Eminem’s face, the entire stunt had no real balls to speak of.

HOMO: Exactly.  Hell, even the big scene at the end with all the wrestlers going nuts over “a same sex kiss.” Well, no.  It wasn’t a kiss.  It was a full-on sex scene with a guy who wasn’t that cute.  I was just as turned off by it as the so-called redneck haters.

So, you think they were rioting because they found out they weren’t starring in Bruno Sammartino?

HOMO: I don’t know. How cute is he?  Given how gay wrestling is — big sweaty guys, doing S&M sex for pay — I wouldn’t want to miss that.

HEMO: Here he is.

HOMO: Never mind.

HEMO: So, how do you rate Bruno?

HOMO: Kinda funny, but not as gay, or as edgy, as the Republican Senate.

Steve’s Pick: If you want to see the scariest movie of the year, go see “The Hurt Locker.”  It’s only showing in parts of the country, but this is the movie that will have you on the edge of your seat, and should be nominated for best movie Oscar.


The Hemo2Homo Connection is Shawn Decker and Steve Schalchlin. Just two guys with AIDS who like to review movies.

The creators/stars of the Hemo2Homo Connection met online in 1996, and
posted their first movie review in 1998. Both have been living with HIV
for over twenty years, and have annoyed their friends and loved ones
for much longer than that.

Steve Schalchlin (“Homo”) resides in Los Angeles, CA. He is an award-winning musician, singer and songwriter. Shawn Decker (“Hemo”) lives in Charlottesville, VA. He is an HIV/AIDS educator and the author of My Pet Virus.

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Hemo2Homo Connection: Star Trek

May 18, 2009


The Hemo2Homo Connection is Shawn Decker and Steve Schalchlin. Just two guys with AIDS who like to review movies. 

The creators/stars of the Hemo2Homo Connection met online in 1996, and posted their first movie review in 1998. Both have been living with HIV for over twenty years, and have annoyed their friends and loved ones for much longer than that. 

Steve Schalchlin (“Homo”) resides in Los Angeles, CA. He is an award-winning musician, singer and songwriter. Shawn Decker (“Hemo”) lives in Charlottesville, VA. He is an HIV/AIDS educator and the author of My Pet Virus.


The STAR TREK Review

HEMO:  Seen any good movies recently, Hemo?

HEMO2031: Why yes, I have.  Star Trek.  Did you see it as well, Hemo?

HEMO:  I did.  And, overall, I enjoyed this film.  Star Trek is the best Space AIDS movie since Starship Troopers.

HOMO:  Shawn, who the hell are you talking to?

HEMO:  I’ll tell you- in the future.  For now, just know that I’m tired of being the young, wide-eyed half of this movie duo.  You and I have been working together for 10 years now, and you always get to play the part of “Wise Sage Steve”, or “Mr. Movies” as they call you on the streets of Hollywood…

HOMO: No one has ever called me that.

HEMO:  Not my point.  My point is- I’ve survived over twenty years with HIV.  But no matter how much older I get, you age at the same rate!

HOMO:  Did you learn that heady stuff from Star Trek?  What the hell is HEMO2031? 

HEMO:  It’s me, 22 years from now.  That makes HEMO2031 your current age- 55.  He/me is your equal. And I brought him back from the year 2031 to review Star Trek with me.

HOMO: This will be fun to watch.

HEMO2031:  Nice to meet you, Steve.

HEMO:  I call him “Homo”.

HEMO2031: In the year 2031 calling a gay man “Homo” is a crime that is punishable by death.  If you don’t mind, I’ll call Steve “Steve”.

HOMO: He doesn’t mean anything by it, Hemo2031.  I call him “Hemo.” Is that okay?

HEMO2031: Sure- but no one will know what you’re talking about in the year 2031, because hemophilia will be cured by then.

HOMO: Ha!  Hear that, Hemo?  Your kind will be extinct, and my kind will rule the Earth! 

HEMO: This isn’t going how I planned.  Look, this is all fascinating stuff about the future, really, but can we get back to Star Trek?

HOMO: Did you see the coming attractions?  Previews are starting to feel longer than twenty-two years.  This time, there was a long live-action version of that puppet film, Team America, complete with a fake Eiffel Tower being destroyed by some guys dressed like Iron Man who fight some multi-colored robots from outer space who are also attacking the Vatican.

It was called G.I. Transforminator.

HEMO: The G.I. Joe guys in those suits look like the NFL robots. 

HOMO: Hey, Hemo2031, if you’re from the future, then you’ve already seen this flick.  Any good?

HEMO2031: It will be deemed a classic of all time and they’ll pass a law that all movies must be sequels to G.I. Transforminator

HOMO: With nothing but robots as characters?  That will be the end of the AIDS movie as we know them.  Will there be a Hemo2Homo Connection in 2031?  My God- I’ll be 77.  Will I be… alive?

HEMO2031: Yes, and yes.  But the Hemo2Homo Connection will only review Michael Bay directed G.I. Transforminator movies from the year 2012 on, when President Jeb Bush signs into Michael Bay Act into law.

HOMO: That sounds like a fate far worse than death to me.

HEMO: … so no more movies about AIDS?  We should really cherish Star Trek

HOMO:  You really see this as an AIDS movie?  I thought you’d see it as a horror movie!  It started right at the beginning with Kirk  sitting at a table with Kleenex stuffed up his bloody nose.   Then came Kid Spock kicking some other Vulcan kid’s ass… just like they used to beat you up in school just to watch you bleed!  Fortunately, Spock’s blood is green and not all AIDS-y like yours.

HEMO:  I was too distracted by the green-skinned bimbo to notice the green blood.  It wasn’t until Spock’s planet was destroyed that it all clicked for me.  “There’s only 10,000 Vulcans remaining,” Spock said.  An obvious reference to the 1980’s blood scandal and The Committee of Ten Thousand.

HOMO:  So this isn’t just an AIDS movie?  It’s a thinblooded AIDS movie?  Geesh.  Hey,  I wonder if they have Vulcan blood clogger-upper or if AIDS can be transmitted into copper-based blood?  HEMO2031, any answers?

HEMO:  I have a confession to make: I made up the HEMO2031 thing.

HOMO2031:  Past me forgives you.

HEMO2031:  Past me accepts.

HEMO: I can’t imagine how cranky you’ll be about movies at age 77, Homo.  So what did you like most about Star Trek?

HOMO:  I loved how the other characters on the bridge who channeled the spirit of the originals–and not just like extras. Each of them showing motivation, strength, innocence and fortitude.  Not as much as us, and our ability to survive with AIDS.  But close.

HEMO:  The cast is great.  My only beef with Star Trek was the CGI snow creatures scene, and the hanging on by the fingernails scenes.  I hate those kinds of things in any movie, especially in one where you care about the characters.  I’d rather have seen young Spock having a private conversation with his lady than watch Kirk narrowly cheat death.  Again.

HOMO:  Yeah, note to directors out there: The word “cliffhanger” is a metaphor.  Still, you gotta give it up for a Hollywood movie with actual characters. They must have hired a gay.  It’s the only explanation. 

HEMO:  It’s the only explanation for not seeing Green Alien Bimbo’s ta-tas.

HOMO:  Kirk did look good in his undies in that scene. Maybe his not-so-light saber and her green boobs will be in the extras on the DVD?  But Star Trek was just like the Hemo2Homo Connection… it was funny!  This movie made me laugh out loud again and again. It felt like the real Star Trek, not like that tired Wolverine farce.

As for the rest of the summer, I’m already tired of G.I. Transforminator.

HEMO2031:  Just wait until the year 2017, when you’re reviewing G.I. Transforminator 29: Rise Again of the Machines Again

HOMO:  Please, AIDS, take me now?

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Hemo2Homo Connection: Wolverine

May 11, 2009


The X-Men Origins: WOLVERINE Review

Hemo:  Hey Homo, everyone’s all like, “Have you seen Star Trek?  Have you?  Huh?”  It’s a recession, and I’m still counting my dollars trying to figure out if I’m going to see the Wolverine movie…

Homo:  I’ve never been so disappointed in a movie in my life.

Hemo:  See?  Good thing I didn’t rush out to see Star Trek

Homo:  No, I’m talking about Wolverine.  You know, positoid, that I am a lifelong X-Men fan. Growing up, they were the superhero gays that I couldn’t be. I even put this into a song in The Big Voice.  The first two X-Men movies were so good, especially the second one, because the filmmaker knew what most comic readers know: It ain’t about the action. It’s about the characters.

Hemo:  Yes!  That’s why Watchmen was so good.

Homo:  Exactly.  Your mutant abilities are finally forming, Hemo.  But in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, they manage to take all the mystery out of Wolverine, reducing him to a whiny little bitch, running around afraid of his big, bad older brother…

Hemo:  Maybe in part two of Origins they reveal that Wolverine was born a Thinblood?  It’s scary being a little brother with a bleeding disorder, knowing that at any time your big bro can erase you from existence.

Homo:  That’s how it is for all little brothers.  In this, he’s trying so hard to be a nice guy: THAT IS NOT WOLVERINE.  That’s a whiny little bitch who hates being all mean and stuff.  Where’s the fun?  Where are the wisecracks?  WHERE IS WOLVERINE??

So, having drained all the blood out of Wolverine, we’re treated to a movie that looks like it was made from stock footage from other “action movies” with Hugh Jackman’s face painted on the “hero.”

Tacky, dull, stodgy.

Not only that, but it’s the kind of movie where you are saying the cliched lines of dialogue along with the actors on the screen because there’s not a single original thought being expressed. And, but, for an origin story, we don’t really learn anything about what drives him.  There’s a generic falling in love story. Bad guys kill the girl / must get revenge plot.  But you don’t really know the girl and you don’t really fall in love with their relationship.

Have I mentioned how angry this makes me?

Hemo:  Not to my knowledge.

Homo:  Wolverine is a great character.  It’s not right for him to be the SECOND BADDEST GUY in the story.  And who’s the bigger, badder guy?  My most unfavorite character in the Marvel Universe whose “power” is that his fingernails grow really long.  I saw that on RuPaul’s Drag Race.  I don’t need it in a super not-quite-villain whose motivations are also fuzzier than a homeless man’s belly button.

Shall I tell you how much I loathed this movie, Hemo?

Hemo:  Be like the old Wolverine, don’t pull any punches!

Homo:  I walked out during the end credits.  Not because of low t-cells or anything- I just didn’t care about the extra scene.

Hemo:  Sounds like this film should be sent off on the Starship Enterprise, to be reviewed in a future not so far away by the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 guys.  Thanks for saving me some money, sorry your heroes let you down.


Wanna know a hero who never let Steve of the Hemo2Homo Connection down?  Dom DeLuise. This review is dedicated to the actor’s memory, who passed this month at the age of 75.

Positively Yours,

dom.jpgJim and I are heartbroken. Dom was one of the nicest persons to me. 
When we met, I think I was very ill at the time. We were invited to a
family picnic.  I was just treated like one of the family.  As he became
increasingly immobile, we would see Carol, but never Dom.  He was a genuinely hilarious comedian.” 

                                       – Steve Schalchlin

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