Apr 18, 2021

"Thor" (2011): I See the Way You Look at Him

In the year 965 AD, some benevolent aliens called the Aesir, who had super-advanced technology but still preferred to ride horses and fight with swords, used a transdimensional bridge to come to Earth and help the primitive inhabitants of a small town in Norway stave off an invasion from evil aliens (called Jotuns or Frost Giants).  

After the crisis was over, they left, but the Earthlings continued to worship them as gods, especially Odin Allfather and his son Thor (whom they imagined as an adult wielding the magic hammer Mjolnar, even though he was still a little boy and wouldn't get to wield Mjolnar for centuries).

Time passes slowly in Asgard, the Aesir's homeworld; it took over a thousand years for Odin's two sons to pass through childhood and adolescence and become men.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth), whose blond hair signified goodness, became amiable, gregarious, fun-loving, surrounded by loyal companions: Sif, who the Earthlings imagined as his wife although she was just a little girl when they last saw her, and the Warriors Three, Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Josh Dallas, left)), and Hogun.  

Odin's other son Loki Tom Hiddleston), whose black hair signified evil, became introverted, sullen, a loner, jealous of his brother's popularity ("Dad always liked you best!").  Eventually he discovered that he was adopted, a Frost Giant, so innately evil. Nature, not nurture, in this world.

When some Frost Giant activists broke into the Aesir vault and tried to re-take a cultural artifact that Odin's troops stole from them, Odin forbade retaliation, but Thor disobeyed him and led Sif and the Warriors Three to their planet for a vengeance-battle.  Enraged, Odin stripped Thor of his powers and threw him off the transdimensional bridge to a place called New Mexico, on Earth.  He sent Mjolnar along.  When Thor proved his worthiness, he would be allowed to pull the sword...um, I mean the hammer...from the stone.

Fortunately, all Aesir are equipped with universal translators, so Thor was able to communicate with the humans.  He didn't understand Earth customs, of course, but he learned quickly under the tutelage of a scientist, Erik Selvig, and The Love Interest, his daughter (actually his colleague's daughter) Jane, who happened to be studying intradimensional bridges.  There was another girl with them, but she didn't do much.  

Jane civilized Thor, like the Jane in Africa civilized Tarzan, teaching him human traits of compassion, empathy, and kindness.  Dr. Selvig assumed that they were falling in love; "I see how you look at him," he noted, without realizing that, when Thor took his shirt off, everybody looked at him like that.  But eventually they did kiss.

The heterosexual romance turned out to be essential to Thor's salvation, allowing him to prevail over many threats: Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), head of the sinister SHIELD organization, which stole all of Jane's research; Loki, who usurped the throne, put on an evil-black costume, and set out to kill him; and Laufey, king of the Frost Giants, who was emboldened by an alliance with the new alt-right king of Asgard.  

The kiss allowed Thor to finally embrace his humanity, receive the hammer Mjolnar, and regain his powers.  But after the final battle with Loki (it always comes down to a sword fight), the transdimensional bridge was destroyed, so Thor was forever cut off from the Woman He Loved. Until the sequel, anyway

Beefcake: Only Thor, but isn't he enough?  I see the way you look at him.

Other Sights: Very impressive depiction of Asgard and the Bifrost Bridge.

Getting the Myths Wrong:  Don't get me started.

Heterosexism: Only Thor and Jane express heterosexual interest, but their romance is crucial to the plot.

Gay Characters: I figured that Loki was a standard gay villain, but during the climactic final battle he threatens to go to Earth and rape Jane (according to The Hollywood Reporter, he's canonically bi).

Cliche Plot: Extreme.  But still fun.

My Grade: B+.

The Bloated White Caterpillar of "A Confederacy of Dunces"

When I was an undergraduate at Augustana College (1978-82), I got bored to death with Southern Gothic. It was all any English major ever talked about, except for Ulysses:  I had my fill of The Sound and the Fury, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Light in August, The Grass Harp, A Streetcar Named Desire, the disgusting stories of Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty...

So when everybody began praising A Confederacy of Dunces, around the fall of 1980, my junior year in college, I wasn't interested.

But they kept up.  Spectacular!  A masterpiece!  A classic!  The greatest novel ever (except for Ulysses).

Plus, like all "great novels," it had an interesting origin story.  John Kennedy Toole (1937-1969), a gigantic mass of flab, an aspiring writer, a literary wit, a permanent student who never finished his Ph.D. (although he was much smarter than his professors), an avid heterosexual stymied by constant "just friends' speeches from girls  (maybe cut back on the cake?), an anti-Catholic teaching at a Catholic college, a prude who railed against the vulgarity of the 1960s co-eds who filled his classes, finally couldn't take it anymore, and committed suicide at the age of 31.

While cleaning out his things, his mother found a carbon copy of a novel called A Confederacy of Dunces (the original had been rejected by some publishers and finally destroyed).  She contacted writer Walker Percy, who at first refused to read it -- who needed another Truman Capote, especially a heterosexual one?  But eventually he gave in, loved it, and after 11 years managed to get it into print.  The rest was history:  Stupendous!  Colossal!  A masterpiece!

Prey to peer pressure, I bought a copy, read a few pages, and threw it out, not so much offended as disgusted, like when you touch a door handle and there's something gross and sticky on it.  Nearly 40 years later, I don't remember what the problem was.  I remember that it featured a bulbous jerk who hated everybody and everything except Boethius, but why the visceral disgust?  Why does it come back every time I hear about Confederacy.

So, 39 years later, I found a preview on Amazon and read the first few pages.

Page 1: In a godforsaken small town in the South, no doubt somewhere near Yoknapatawpaw County,  the bulbous Ignatius waits for his mother to finish shopping and criticizes the fashion choices of passersby (Ignatius is O'Toole. I get it).  He's wearing a hunting cap and boots too small for his bulbous feet.  He's so fat that movement is difficult.

Page 2: The town turns out to be New Orleans (not that small).  More about how fat he is:  when he tries to move, "in his lumbering elephantine fashion," he sends "waves of flesh rippling."  Even his boots are swollen to bursting from his swollen fat feet. (This guy isn't just fat, he's a disgusting bloated white caterpillar with a nearly human face..  That's what caused the disgust!  I feel my gorge rising even now!).

Plowing on:  the bloated white caterpillar is upset because his favorite game at the arcade is missing, which we hear about for several paragraphs.  (Boring, but it beats hearing how fat he is again).

 Page 3: More about the arcade game.  A police officer, seeing his bag of sheet music and spare string for his lute, saunters up and asks him for an ID.  Ignatious objects, complaining that the city is full of criminals, like sodomites and lesbians.  Why not target them instead?  (And he's blathering homophobe!  Help!)

Page 4: Meanwhile, Mom is buying macaroons and cakes.  More about how fat her son is. She talks to a friend, who complains about her feet (More about feet!  Was Mr. Toole a bit of a foot fetishist?).  They discuss the fact that Ignatius isn't married, and how he gets nasty when she doesn't provide enough cake (he's nightmarishly fat -- I get it).

Page 5: Back on the street, people are gathering around in defense of Ignatius, and the cop threatens to arrest them, particularly when they imply that he might be a "comuniss." Fortunately, Mom comes to the rescue, macaroons and wine cake in hand (I'm never eating a piece of cake again.  I may never eat again, period).

According to wikipedia, I'm not missing much plot.  Confederacy seems to be mostly episodic, minor adventures with various colorful characters, in fact, just about everyone from his opening-cop diatribe, including a sodomite, lesbians, strippers, onanists, and so on.   Meanwhile, Ignatius discusses how vulgar modern society is, and how much he likes Boethius.  The only major events:  Mom decides to get married, and to commit Ignatius to a mental hospital (good!)

There's a statue of Ignatius on Canal Street in New Orleans, to scare away the tourists. He looks rather svelte for a bloated white caterpillar.

There have been numerous attempts to film the book, but most actors who have agreed to play Ignatius died before they could sign a contract: John Belusi, John Candy, Chris Farley, Divine.  John Goodman is still alive, but getting a little old to play the 20-ish misanthrope. Will Farrell and Zack Galifianakis have also agreed to star in versions that never got made (good!)

Oddly, I have no problems with chubs or even superchubs in real life.  I find them rather attractive.  But the bloated white caterpillar was disgusting. And homophobic.

Apr 17, 2021

Three Questions about Paul Forman


I first saw spectacular beefcake extravaganzaPaul Forman yesterday in an episode of Frank of Ireland, and wanted to see more.  Preferably a lot more.  I also had three questions:

1. What else has he been in?

2. Where is he from?

3. Is he gay?

IMDB: No biographical information, and only five on-screen credits:

1. Dreams (2018), a short about dreams, in which the Boy (Paul) pursues some girls.

2. Nevrland (2019), an Austrian psychological drama. 17-year old Jakob (Simon Fruwith) suffers from an anxiety disorder, which makes it difficult for him to pursue a relationship with 26-year old artist Kristjan (Paul).  A reviewer on IMDB decries "the artiste, who tries to overlay trash with art, such words as homosexuality, psychoanalysis, hallucinations..."

3. Seagull (2019).  A British thriller.  After 8 years lost on a beach, Rose returns home to settle scores. Connor (Paul) is far down in the cast list.

4. The Spanish Princess (2020), a miniseries about Catherine of Aragon, one of the wives of Henry VIII.  In three episodes, Paul plays King Francis (1494-1547), one of Henry's allies, and the lover of Anne Bolyn.

5. Two episodes of Frank of Ireland.

Twitter:  "The Frenchest Englishman."  From London.  Mostly posts about Manchester United,  the COVD pandemic, and his tv roles,  but he does mention representation by modeling agencies in Britain, France, Australia, and Denmark.

Youtube: mostly exercise videos.

Facebook: an empty page.

  Biographical data!  

Paul attended the Lyce√© Francais Charles de Gaulle (in London), then Cardiff University (B.A. in mathematics, 2015) and Drama Studio London (B.A. in drama, 2017). 

Other than acting and modeling, his only job has been bartending at the White Horse (a famous pub in Parsons Green, London).  He is fluent in English, Spanish, and French.

Interesting, but what about my third question?  

A huge gallery of beefcake photos, with captions like "What makes you happy?" and "What is your idea of the perfect vacation?"

Mostly professional -- photo shoots in Bali, London, Copenhagen, and so on.  Not much about his private life.  

But I'm happy just seeing Paul's physique.

Desnudo Homme claims to be a magazine devoted to "male models, fashion, and nudity," but when I visited their website, they immediately logged me into an "online chat" and tried to sell me their clothing.

Paul didn't appear nude.  He's even somewhat skittish about underwear shots; I only saw one or two in his gallery.

I can't imagine why.

Wait -- the very last (earliest) photo in the gallery, apparently before he decided to devote it to his professional work: "Reunited with my bae."

Bae means "boyfriend."  

Gay or bi.
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