Sep 2, 2014

Beefcake and Grammatical Atrocities in Hidden Valley

Have you heard the buzz for Hidden Valley: The Awakening?  It's being advertised as the greatest horror movie of this generation.  But it sounds utterly putrid.  A cliche plot, stereotyped characters, stilted dialogue, and bad grammar.

A dark mystery lies hidden in a small rural community as a chilling story unfolds about young love, life, and the extreme measures a small town is willing to undergo trying to win a high school championship.
The first rule of writing: cut back on the adjectives.
The second rule: cut back on the repetition.
You don't "undergo" measures.
And saying your movie is about "life" is like saying it's about "people"!

It's got a facebook page with random pictures of teen hunks, dead cheerleaders, and werewolves, and an official site full of gushing hyperbole (and bad grammar).

And a tie-in novel, incredibly, monumentally hackneyed.  High schoolers come up with better dialogue in their Remedial English classes.

"Well Sheriff...I know this is something you are not going to want to hear, I mean with your boy in the hospital and the town in a damn uproar an-"
He was immediately cut off by Tom.
Need a comma, and that's not being cut off "immediately."

"Yeah, yeah, I got everybody screaming in my ear and wanting to know what the hell is going on with this thing," he said as his face turned beat red. 
The cliche is "beet red."

He buries his face into his hands momentarily, then clasps them together in a sarcastically peaceful manner.
Changed tense there, and what is a "sarcastically peaceful manner"?

"And really, Doc, with all due respect, it really has been long, what the hell do ya got?"
Wait, I thought that the Sheriff didn't want to hear it, but now he wants to?
"Well, Tom, I am pretty sure it was an animal. I can't be sure without more testing, but there was most certainly saliva present on both of the boys.
Saliva was present?  That's how you tell that an animal bit them?

But I love the line: "There was most certainly saliva present on both of the boys."  I'm going to try to work that into conversations as often as possible.

Somehow it managed to land perennial gay-vague villain Malcolm McDowell, star of A Clockwork Orange and Caligula, as "Dr. Marcus."  He must be related to the producer.  Or the producer's GED teacher.

Sep 1, 2014

Here's Johnny: The Gay Snark of the Tonight Show

One night when I was 10 or 11 years old, I woke up to the sound of the tv in the other room.  I looked at the clock by my bedside -- 11:30!  What could my parents be watching?  There was nothing on tv that late but an emptiness of test patterns and static snow.

I walked out into the living room.  On the tv set, I saw a guy sitting behind a little desk, talking to a row of people in chairs.

"What are you doing up?  Did you have a bad dream?" Mom asked.

"I heard noise.  What are you watching?"

"The Tonight Show."

The people were just sitting around.

"But what is it? What's it about?"  TV shows were always about something: detectives, witches, spies, seven stranded castaways.

"It's not about anything.  It's a talk show."

"You mean....people just sit around talking?  That's dumb!"

"That's why it's on late at night," Dad said. "It's not for kids. Now get back to bed."

A few years later, when I was a teenager, I could stay up until midnight if I wanted to, but I was always in bed or had other things to do.

A few years after that, when I lived in West Hollywood, I could stay up until 1:00 am if I wanted, but I was always in bed or had other things to do.

So to this day I have seen only one episode of  The Tonight Show.  Johnny Carson was supposed to be interviewing a literature scholar who believed that Shakespeare didn't write the plays attributed to him, so I waited through an hour and twenty minutes of boring interviews to hear his five-minute spiel.

To be fair, it wasn't all boring interviews.  There were musical guests, and sometimes Johnny performed in comedic sketches like "Carnak the Magnificent."

Gay content was minimal.  Johnny Carson (1925-2005) had a trim physique and a bulge (always hidden behind that desk).  But he displayed a rather snarky twist on the rampant homophobia of the 1960s and 1970s.

His ongoing "sissy jokes" against singer Wayne Newton ended only when Newton burst into his office and asked "Which of your children have I deserve such treatment"?  (Equating being gay to killing a child?  Really?).

But in real life Carson had gay friends, including gay icon Truman Capote.

In those days gay people often put up with snark.

Cousin Buster: Growing Up a Stranger

When I was a kid, I wasn't close to most of my cousins.  They were mostly teenagers or grownups, like my Cousin Joe (who I saw naked when I was 7).  Or little kids, like my Cousin Tracy (born when I was 12).

Cousin George was just my age, but he lived in South Carolina, so I only saw him twice.

Next closest was Cousin Tony, who everyone called Buster, about a year older than me.  He lived in a trailer on my Grandpa Howard's farm in Garrett, Indiana.

His Dad was a grizzly-voiced Southerner named J. Wood, who played cowboy songs on his guitar and found dire threats everywhere:

1. Be careful eating fish, 'cause if you accidentally swallow a bone, you'll die.
2. Don't touch that castoff couch, 'cause the stuffing is poison, and you'll die.
3. Don't go near the peat bog, 'cause there are toads and poisonous snakes, and you'll die.

His Mom, my Aunt Mavis, had a huge repertoire of stories about ghosts, poltergeists, mysterious disappearances, and UFOs, probably the beginning of my interest in the paranormal that culminated with my date with actor Richard Dreyfuss in 1987.

And she made the world's best pancakes.

For the first 5 years of my life, Buster and I were raised together.  There are photos of us as toddlers, playing with blocks, spinning a world globe, hugging in Sunday suits with little bow ties.

Then my parents and I moved to Wisconsin, and then Illinois, and returned only for brief visits in December and July.

But for the next 8 years, during those visits, I always wanted to stay overnight in the trailer in the dark woods, where Buster and I could read Casper comic books, play with G.I. Joes,  listen to cowboy songs, and fall asleep side by side in his narrow bed while Aunt Mavis told us ghost stories. Some of my first glimpses of homoerotic desire.

But one summer we visited my Kentucky Kinfolk instead of Indiana, and that Christmas we stayed home for some reason, so I didn't see Buster for 1 1/2 years, until the summer after eighth grade.

His comic books and G.I. Joes were gone, sold at a yard sale.  Cowboy songs and ghost stories were for "dorks."  He liked hunting, fishing, working on cars, and talking about girls.

I gamely agreed to go fishing with him, but my eyes glazed over in the discussions of cars and girls.  And his eyes glazed over when I talked about escaping to Saudi Arabia with my boyfriend Dan.

When we visited that Christmas, Buster was off with his grandparents, and I didn't see him again until the summer after ninth grade.  We sat in the living room with glasses of soda, and I talked about our new house and the prospect of high school, and he talked about getting his driver's license and the cute girls who hung out at the Blue Moon Drive In.

"I have a date later," he said.  "To go miniature golfing.  She could get a girl for you, and we could double."

I had a boyfriend!  I didn't want to date girls!  "Um...thanks, but I don't think we have time."

"Go ahead!" My Mom exclaimed.  "It will do you good to meet some girls."

So I went miniature golfing with Cousin Buster and two girls.

During high school, my visits to Indiana became sporadic.  I was old enough to stay home alone, and often I had other things to do, like the church conference in Switzerland, or a part-time job at the Carousel Snack Bar.

When we visited in 1978, the summer after high school, we spent an hour or so at the trailer in the dark woods.  Buster was still asleep, but he came out in his pajama bottoms, bleary-eyed, to say "Hi."

"I hear you're going to college," he said.

"Yeah.  Augustana, right in Rock Island."

"Four more years of school!  I couldn't stand it!  I hated school, except gym and auto shop."

"I hated auto shop! I have no idea what goes on under a car hood."

We stared at each other awkwardly.  ", do you have a girlfriend yet?"

The question made me angry.  It reminded me of the "What girl do you like" chants of the adults.    "No. I've never had a girlfriend," I said with cool precision, "And I don't want one."

He stared.  "Yeah, I like playing the field, too.  A new honey every night -- nothing wrong with that."

I never saw Buster again.

I heard about him from my parents: working at the auto garage, moving into his own place, buying a house, collecting vintage cars, going hunting and fishing, getting girlfriends -- "a new honey every night" -- but never marrying.

He died a couple of years ago.

I didn't go to his funeral.  It was too late -- he was a stranger.