Dec 30, 2017

The Gay Content of "Zack and Miri Make a Porno"

The View Askew peeps, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, and their friends, tend to make movies with a lot of subtle or not-so-subtle homophobia.  I try to avoid them whenever possible, and when I can't, I go in bracing myself for the onslaught.

In Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008), the slacker buds(Seth Rogan, Elizabeth Banks) go to their 10-year high school reunion, where Miri aggressively propositions her old crush Bobby (Brandon Routh), without realizing that he is "gay now." Has he just, like, switched teams or something?

Bobby gets into an argument with his boyfriend, porn actor Brandon St. Randy (Justin Long).  Zack looks on in amusement, commenting "They fight just like real people."

After that brief scene, the gay people disappear, but they give Zack the idea of making some money by producing a straight porn movie.

His friend Delaney (View Askew regular Craig Robinson) agrees to bankroll it, and Zack and Miri hire a ragtag band of amateurs to perform.

Such as Lester (Jason Mewes, the perennial Jay to Silent Bob), whose talent is getting aroused very quickly.

Yes, we do see his butt, his rather impressive penis, and his rather scrawny body.

The dimwitted Lester mistakenly believes that there will be gay sex in the film, and remarks "I'll make it with a guy if I have to, but I'd rather make it with a girl."

Delaney exclaims "What the hell is wrong with you?" in homophobic contempt.  Obviously any guy who would do something as disgusting as engage in same-sex activity must have something wrong with them.

So according to Kevin Smith, gay people are mentally ill? Not a big revelation.  Most of his movies make similar statements.

Later Lester demonstrates a way for two guys to have sex without doing anything gay.

They also hire Barry (Ricky Mabe), a chubby actor in young-adult theater.  He doesn't mind being an anal bottom, as long as the top is a woman.  In one scene his testicles are on display, probably (they could be a prop).

Deacon (View Askew regular Jeff Anderson) agrees to direct.

Naturally the group becomes a family, and work together to help Zack and Miri in their hour of need.

The porno is started but never finished.  Instead, Zack and Miri fall in love.

I'll bet you didn't see that plot twist coming.

So, to sum up, the gay content consists of: two gay characters who vanish after the first ten minutes, three homophobic statements, Ricky Mabe's testicles, and Jason Mewes' penis.

Not a bad way to spend 90 minutes.

Dec 29, 2017

Dan Shor Takes Off His Pants and Changes the World

Sometime in the 1990s we rented Strange Behavior (1981), mainly because the cover blurb said something about Galesburg, Illinois, which is near the Quad Cities. 

We weren't aware that it was written by a gay man, it stars a gay man, and it features the first "real" male butt shot.

Actually, no local Galesburg sites are mentioned; the writer apparently just picked a town at random on a map of "the flyover," the vast empty expanse that everyone flies over en route from L.A. to NYC and back.  It was actually filmed in New Zealand.

Strange Behavior is only the U.S. title.  In Australia it's called Dead Kids, in the U.K.Human Experiments, and in West Germany Blutige Schrie (Bloody Scream). 

It's about a mad scientist named Dr. Le Sange (Dr. Blood), who turns the teenagers of a small town into blood-crazed monsters, but that's not important right now.  What's important is the main teenager, Pete Brady (like the guy on The Brady Bunch).  He's a tow-headed, long-in-the-tooth high school senior played by 23-year old Dan Shor.

Born in New York in 1956, Dan Shor studied acting in England, then moved to Hollywood, where he landed roles in Studs Lonigan, Friendly Fire, and other dramas.  He would go on to an impressive career as actor, writer, and director.  An interview I read as research for this post mentions a wife, but I'm sure I read a lot of interviews in the 1990s where he stated that he was gay. Maybe he's bisexual.

The co-writer, Bill Condon, was also gay, a year older than Dan Shor, a recent graduate of Columbia University.  This was his first job in Hollywood.  He would go on to direct such gay-themed classics as Gods and Monsters and Kinsey.

The other co-writer and director, Michael Laughlin, had produced a few long-forgotten horror movies and dramas, such as The Whisperers (1967) and The Christian Licorice Store (1971).  This was his first directing job.

In an early scene, Pete and his father have just gotten up in the morning.  As dad shaves, Pete approaches him to discuss something.  Naked.  He then moves toward the shower.  We get an extended shot of his butt as he walks away.

It wasn't the first nude butt on film, but it was the first extended butt shot that wasn't for a comedic purpose.

There is no other nudity, male or female, in the film, not even a shirtless shot.  What was the directorial decision to film Dan Shor nude?

The most obvious reason is that the writers and director liked looking at naked men, and Shor was happy to oblige.  But, in an interview I read in the 1990s, he also said that it was a political act, an acknowledgement of gay potential in the homophobic 1980s. It disrupted the heterosexual male gaze, giving primacy to the love of men for men.

And it was hot.

I can't post the shot here, of course.  You can see it on Gay Celebrity Stories.

Dec 25, 2017

Gay Connections of the "Christmas Story" Kids

A Christmas Story (1983) is not just about Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) lusting after a rifle and a lady-leg lamp.  There are other plots and gag bits, other actors who are forever known as for their parts in this long-ago movie, no matter what else they've done.  Many have a gay connection.

1. Zack Ward (the bully Farkus) has become an accomplished actor and beefcake hunk, with many credits on tv and in movies, including Just for Fun (1993), "a story of homophobia and gay-bashing," according to the IMDB.

Look for him as Dave, brother of the titular Titus (2000-2002) and slacker college student Murray in The Pink House (2003).

2. Yano Anaya (his crony, Grover) is, according to Linkedin, a personal trainer at the Atlanta School of Massage.

3. R.D. Robb (Schwartz, Ralphie's buddy) continued his acting career into adulthood (including a role in The Brady Bunch Movie as a nerd who kisses Marcia).  He is also involved in directing.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire agreed to star in his Don's Plum (2001), which includes a gay teenager, only on the condition that it not be shown in the U.S.

4. Ian Petrilla (Randy, Ralphie's kid brother) continued acting as a teen and later studied the art of puppeteering. He has worked with the Henson Company, and currently owns an animation company in L.A.

5. Scott Schwartz (Flick, who got his tongue stuck to a flag pole) later starred as The Toy, and then used his Flick notoriety to land roles in some heterosexual porn films (mostly in non-sexual roles).  Now he still does some non-porn acting, and runs a baseball card and nostalgia shop in California.  He's heterosexual.

Dec 24, 2017

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Beefcake and Homophobia in the Worst Movie Ever Made

Long before he became nationally famous with Sneak Previews and Siskel & Ebert at the Movies, back when he was still a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert collaborated with schlockmeister Russ Meyer on what is probably the worst movie of all time, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970).

I've known about this movie for years, as a conundrum: how does a film critic produce such a bomb?  But last night I watched it for the first time.

And probably the last time.

It really is a horror, full of pretentious dialogue, ponderous moralizing, jerky jump-cuts, an infinite number of characters who look and sound alike, and a lot of homophobia.

Oh, and it's a Russ Meyer movie, so there are women nonchalantly walking around naked all the time, and closeups of their breasts instead of their faces when they talk.

As best as I could make out, the nonsensical plot follows the fortunes of Josie and the Pussycats or some such teenage all-girl rock group.

They all go to California to stay with lead singer Kelly's rich aunt Susan, in spite of the objections of their manager, Harris Allsworth (David Gurian) -- he thinks there are too many "perverts and fruits" in L.A.

They begin playing at the wild Laugh-In-style parties of the indescribably wealthy, ultra-flamboyant, ridiculously theatrical Z-Man (John LaZar).  There are both gay and straight couples hooking up in the various rooms of his mansion.

Z-Man becomes the group's new manager and pushes them into fame.  I think.  It looks like the same party, but I think time passes.

Everybody starts hooking up, in hetero-sex scenes with the naked woman atop the man, so most of his body is hidden.

1. Kelly starts dating hustler Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett).

2. Harris is seduced by an aggressive female porn star, who calls him "gay" when he is unable to perform adequately.  He tries to commit suicide, and becomes paraplegic.  Kelly dumps Lance to devote herself to caring for him.

3. The black girl starts dating law school student Emerson Thorne (Harrison Page), then boxer Randy Black (James Inglehart).  But she dumps him when his violent temper comes out.

4. Somebody else gets pregnant and starts a lesbian affair.

5. Aunt Susan re-connects with an old flame, I think (Charles Napier, seen here as a space hippie on Star Trek)

There's also some generation-gap pontificating and a muddled plotline about Kelly's inheritance.

One night Z-Man invites Lance and two women (I don't know who) to his house for a private drug party.  The women go off to be lesbians, and Z-Man tries to seduce Lance.  When Lance rejects him, Z-Man reveals that he is actually a woman, with breast and everything!

Lance still rejects him, so he kills everyone in the house in a psychotic rage.

Including his servant, who has become a Nazi, for some reason.

The three conventional heterosexual couples rush over and subdue Z-Man -- a little too late, but it took time to get Harris's wheelchair into the Scooby-Mobile..

Then there's a long, pretentious, moralistic voice-over about what was wrong with each character, including the minor ones, followed by a triple wedding (Aunt Susan-old flame, Harris-Kelly, the two black characters).

 Got all that?

Ebert hadn't originally intended this as a standard "transvestite killer" movie, with the twist that it's a female transvestite.  He thought of it at the last minute, after the filming was over -- the actors themselves had no idea. I guess he wanted to get in one last homophobic dig.

This is by no means the most homophobic movie ever made -- that honor goes to Chuck and Buck.  But it's an interesting example of the homophobia that formed an ongoing backdrop to Ebert's reviews throughout his career.
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