Feb 9, 2019

The Top10 Hunks of "Once Upon a Time," Season 6

In the 6th and sort of final season of Once Upon a Time, about storybook characters having soap opera battles, the writers rev things up by throwing in characters from every storybook they can think of.

Episode 1:  Deniz Akdeniz (left) as Aladdin, a former savior who has failed to save Agrabah, plus Oded Fehr as Jafar and Giles Matthey as Morpheus, the God of Sleep, who turns out to be Gideon, the unborn son of Rumplestiltskin and Belle (from Beauty and the Beast)

Episode 2: Craig Horner (left) as Edmund Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo, who the Evil Queen hires to kill Snow White.








Episode 3: Cinderella, who does the glass-slipper bit Prince Thomas (Tim Phillipps), while her sister falls in love with his footman, Jacob (Max Lloyd-Jones, left),  Snow White is there for some reason, plus Gus (Jared Joseph), the rat turned into a hunk, is Cinderella's escort to the ball.








Episode 4: Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Hank Harris, Sam Witwer, left), who are actually ongoing characters this season, tell their back story, which involves competing for the love of the same woman.  Tom Sawyer (Reily Campbell) makes a cameo as a student in Snow White's class (her lectures all appear to be about birds).

Episode 5: Goldilocks makes an appearance in Agrabah.






Episode 6: Captain Nemo  (Faran Tahir) hangs out with Hook, along with Nick Eversman (far left) as Hook's long-lost half-brother, Liam (not to be confused with his full brother, also named Liam).





Episode 7: In a flashback about Snow White fleeing from the Evil Queen, the Woodcutter (Paul Johansson) makes an appearance.

Episode 8: "Henry anxiously prepares to take Violet to the school dance."  Way to throw in a mundane plotline.

Episode 9: Rumplestiltskin steals the newborn child of hill-climbers Jack (Nick Hunnings) and Jill.




Episode 11: Pinocchio usually bounces back between age 10 and age 30, with nothing in between, but here we see a teenage version (Rustin Gresluk, right).

Episode 12: Prince Charming's back story comes with Matt Ellis as Francisco.









Episode 13: Beowulf (Torstein Bjorklund), from the Old English epic, shows up in the Ogre Wars, making a deal with Rumplestiltskin.  Plus Brandon Spink as yet another incarnation of Rumple's son Baelfire.

















Episode 15: Vikings, cowboys, Prince Eric (Gil McKinney, left), who married Ariel the Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Captain Nemo, and of course Aesop (Thomas Cadrot), the ancient Greek storyteller, who was probably a real person.









Episode 16: Gideon, the son of Rumple and Belle (Gilles Mathey, left, as an adult, Anton Starkman as a kid), is captured by the Black Fairy, who happens to be his grandmother.  He bonds with fellow captive Roderick, and they escape together.  Gay subtext, finally!  Roderick is played by Grayson Gabriel (adult) and Mason Mackenzie (kid).

Episode 17: Back to Oz, with Alec Desert as the Tin Man.

After that, the cast is sort of full, so no new characters appear (except Tiger Lily  from Peter Pan.).  But it was a wild ride, with beefcake, bonding, and three lesbian characters.

Season 7 is a complete reboot, with an adult Henry Mills and a new cast facing a new Storybrooke.  I don't know why.

Feb 8, 2019

"Circus Camp," AKA the Four Frizzy Hairs and their Boyfriends

I was looking for Charlie Barnett, the costar of the Netflix dark fantasy Russian Doll, and I saw that his first screen role was Circus Camp (2006).

A trapeze artist opens a circus camp for kids on a tropical island.  Weird hybrid concept, but it starred 1970s hunk Ed Marinaro.  Probably a lot of beefcake, and it's on Amazon Prime. Why not?

I'll tell you why.

1. It was apparently a vanity project, written, directed by, and starring Audrey and Judy Landers and their kids.  If you've never heard of them before, it's because the only other project they wrote, produced,directed, and starrred in is The Huggabug Club, although Audrey has posed in Playboy, and her son Daniel is also a writer, director, producer, and actor, best known for Shitting on Things (2018).

The woman he's with isn't his mother or aunt, but she has the same general look.  Keep it in the family, you know.

2.  "In this light-hearted family adventure, 15 year old Gabrielle runs away from home to find her dead-beat dad, who is a trapeze flyer living on a tropical island. Together, they turn the island into a circus camp for teens."

Does this look like the poster for a "light, family-friendly adventure"?

Does it help that the original title was "Island Fever"?



3. We begin with Ed Marinaro on a beach, pretending it's the 1970s (although back then he looked like this).  He's on a beach fireside date with a woman with 1970s big, frizzy hair (hereafter Frizzy Hair Senior).   "You look just like my ex-wife!" he compliments her. "You're still hung up on your ex-wife!" she complains.

4. Meanwhile, on the mainland, a Mean Girl gets out of her limo, snubs the chauffeur, and approaches Billy (Charlie Barnett): "Want to go into the woods and have a...smoke?" she asks,putting an evil tinge on "smoke" as if it's a mixture of methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and strychnine.

It's tobacco. Big deal.

Billy eefuses with After-School self-righteousness.

Then a teenage girl with 1970s big, frizzy hair (hereafter known as Frizzy Hair Teen), walks by in slow motion, while Billy gasps in hetero-horny ecstasy and a ludicrous, maudlin song plays.  Ok, this is a teen nerd comedy.

And I'm thinking: there better be some beefcake soon,or I'm out ofhere.

Frizzy Hair Teen gets cigarettes planted on her, and gets a chewing out from Frizzy Haired Mom, who is also the principal, for no reason relevant to the plot.  She decides to run away from home, to find her father.

4. Back to the Beach: Frizzy-Hair Senior enters her house and calls her three kids by name, so we'll know who they are, of course (Mandy, aka Frizzy Hair Junior, Tucker, Tyler).  Apparently she's been married to Ed Marinaro for at least 12 years.

Frizzy Hair Junior is in regular communication with Frizzy Hair Teen.  She explains to the boys: their father married two sisters in succession, so Frizzy Hair Teen is their half-sister and cousin, for reasons irrelevant to the plot.

Wait -- so when Ed Marinaro said "You look exactly like my ex-wife," he meant Frizzy Hair's sister.  And she knew it.  What an odd way to discuss the family scandal!

Wait -- so Frizzy Hair Teen doesn't need to "find her father."  She's known where he is all along? Way to fake the suspense!

So Frizzy Hair Teen sneaks onto the island, where she takes up the trapeze with her half-siblings (the girls in bikini tops).

All of the Frizzy Hair eventually get together on the island and decide to open a circus camp for kids.

5. Yeah, like kids today are all totally into the circus.  That went out in the 1950s.

6. When we finally get some beefcake, it's a shirtless Billy at the camp, being lured onto the docks by the Mean Girl (left).  Tucker and Tyler are filming them, for some reason.

In the only plot complication in the movie, Mean Girl claims that he tried to rape her, whereupon Ed Marinaro ejects him from the camp.  One of the Frizzy Hairs (who can figure out which?) reveals that he was framed.

Billy apparently was not hired for his spectacular physique.

That's the end of Mean Girl's plotline.  There's no, like, competition to see who's the best, or to save the camp from her dad's evil realty company, or anything.



7. The promised circus camp exists only in a few montages.  There are some male performers twirling around shirtless.  This would actually make a good BDSM scene.












8. Come to think of it, a lot of the male circus acts would make good BDSM scenes.  The directors must think the audience likes to look at boys tied up and girls in bikini tops.

9. We end with the whole family, Ed, all four Frizzy Hairs, the two boys, and Billy standing on the beach, happy at last.  One big happy...um, is this an episode of Big Love?

10. Horrible acting, nonsensical dialogue, costumes from the 1970s, mixed-up premise.  Where are Joel and the Bots when you need them.

Feb 3, 2019

Gay Characters in America's Favorite Novels, Part 4

Ok, home stretch.  #76-100 of America's favorite novels, as determined by a PBS survey.  We're getting into mostly unknown territory here, but let's see how many I've read, heard of, or ran away from, and which have gay characters or gay subtexts.

76.Ready Player One.  Never heard of it.  Another future dystopia for young adults, this one involving a Matrix-like computer game.  And lo-ooo-ve between a boy and a girl.

The 2018 movie starred Tye Sheridan as the Boy and Olivia Cook as the Girl.

77. Left Behind.  Ran away from it.  The fundamentalist Christian series about the Rapture and Tribulation.  I heard more than enough about that growing up, thank you.  I'll bet there are lots of homophobic portrayals of gay stereotypes among the evilites.

Believe it or not, there have been five movies in the series, and not all of them star teen idol-turned fundie spokesman Kirk Cameron.

78. Gone Girl.  Never heard of it. Nick and his wife relocate from New York City to Hicksville.  Then she vanishes, and he's the prime suspect.  Actually, she's in hiding at her ex-boyfriend's house, hoping to frame Nick for her "murder."

In the 2014 movie, Ben Affleck plays Nick, and Neal Patrick Harris the ex-boyfriend.  Both are heterosexual.

79. Watchers. Never heard of it, but I've heard of author Dean Koontz, a sort of second-rate Stephen King.  But to be fair, his novels are reputedly short to put more than one on your Bucket List.  Genetically enhanced dog and his human, Travis, and the Girl fight Russian assassins.  Dated much?

Teen idol Corey Haim played Travis in 1988.

80. The Pilgrim's Progress.  Read.  Not really a novel, a 17th century allegory about a pilgrim's search for salvation, but I guess it could be the favorite of some people of a fundamentalist Christian persuasion (if they don't like Left Behind).  There are lots of abridged versions, kids' versions, and even a graphic novel.

81. Alex Cross.  Never heard of it. A mystery involving a missing girl and a murdered beautiful woman (couldn't they just say women?  Is the beautiful of a non-beautiful woman not important?).

Tyler Perry stars as Alex in the movie version.  This isn't him, but he popped up when I did a search, so he gets to stay.  A chest is a chest.

This time I know the respondents are going by the movie, not the book.  The book is just entitled Cross.

82. Things Fall Apart.  Read it. African traditions fall to European colonialism, seen through the eyes of Nigerian villager Okonkwo. He's a noted wrestler but also rather a jerk, regularly beating his wives and kids, and he sits by while his adopted son is murdered, because to intervene would appear feminine.  Eventually he commits suicide.  No gay people.

83.Heart of Darkness.  Never read it, but I know the basic plot: Marlowe journeys into the Heart of Darkness, Africa, where Kurz has created his own private kingdom. No gay subtexts.

The 1993 movie stars Tim Roth and John Malkovich.

84. Gilead.  Never heard of it. Some guy in Gilead, Iowa is dying, and writes his son a long letter about it.  Who'd want to read something like that.  No wonder it's #84.  I'm surprised it's not #4084.

It won a Pulitzer and a National Book Critics Circle Award, and there's a study guide available, in case teachers want to assign it to their classes.

Americans are sick.

85. Flowers in the Attic.  Read it.  Siblings imprisoned in an attic by their grandmother, who eventually tries to kill them, plus incest.  Cheery.

The 2014 movie stars Mason Dye as Chris, one of the incestuous siblings.

86.Fifty Shades of Grey. Never read it,but I saw the horrible movie.  The writer doesn't know the first thing about BDSM.  And it's all exclusively heterosexual.

87. The Sirens of Titan.  Never read it, because there's a naked women on the cover, and it's by Kurt Vonnegut, whose works make no sense. A rich guy named Malachi and his little dog build a private spaceship and head for Mars, but the end up on Betelgeuse, then Titan, then Trafalmador.

88. This Present Darkness.  Never heard of it. A thriller about Christians vs. evil New Agers who are trying to take over the world.  But it's two Christian guys, so maybe there's a gay subtext.

89.Americanah. Never heard of it. An African boyfriend and girlfriend are separated.  One goes to America and has problems, and the other goes to London and has problems.  But their love is re-ignited 15 years later. Ugh.

90. Another Country.  Read it.  Finally, a novel with gay characters, albeit an old-fashioned pre-Stonewall "gays all die" one.  Rufus is physically abusive to his wife, who is admitted to a mental hospital.  Then he commits suicide.  But...earlier in his life, he had a boyfriend!

The movie Another Country (1984) has nothing to do with the novel, but coincidentally it is also about a gay guy, Guy Burgess, one of the "Cambridge Spies." 

91. Bless Me, Ultima.  Never heard of it. A young boy questions the Catholic faith, but an elderly woman restores it.   And people die.

The 2013 movie stars Luke Ganalon as Antonio.

92. Looking for Alaska.  Never heard of it, but Alaska is kind of big, hard to miss. Seriously, Alaska is the girl that the protagonist falls in love with, and...um...searches for.   Ugh.

93. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  Never heard of it.  A Dominican ghetto nerd (named after Oscar Wilde) dreams of becoming the next J.R.R. Tolkien and finding love. When a girl disses him, he tries to commit suicide. But he recovers, graduates from Rutgers, moves to the Dominican Republic, and falls in love with a prostitute.  Her boyfriend doesn't like it, so he hires some goons to kill him.

Naming a character after Oscar Wilde, and having no gay references whatsoever?  What a tease!

94. Swan Song.  Never heard of it. A young girl with magical powers in a postapocalyptic wasteland.   A lot of people die, but Swan (the Girl) and Robin (the Boy) survive and settle down in a postapocalyptic Eden.

95. Mind Invaders.  Never heard of it.   Christian computer genius (male) and skeptical journalist (female( fight aliens.  And fall in love, I bet.


96. White Teeth.  Never heard of it. Indian and Jamaican friends in 1970s London. Maybe there are some gay subtexts, but all the characters listed in the wikipedia summary fall into heterosexual lo-oo-ve, get married, and have kids.

There's a 2002 mini-series with that name, with some male characters. The hunkiest is Deepak Verma, if this is the same one.

97.Ghost.  Never heard of it. Young adult sports novel -- no wonder. Ghost is actually a runner who is mentored by a coach named Coach. 

No actual paranormal activity.  False advertising!

98. The Coldest Winter Ever.  Never heard of it. Winter is the name of the heiress to a drug-dealing family.  The writer is named Sister Souljah. That would be a good title for a novel.

99. The Intuitionist.  Never heard of it. The synopsis made no sense: something about elevator operators competing with each other for an elevator operator award? 

100. Dona Barbara, the famous 1929 novel by Romulo Gallegos.  Heard of it, never read it.  Dona Barbara is a witch who falls in love with Santos, who is in love with her daughter.

In the 1998 Argentine movie, Santos is played by Sebastian Cascardo.


Ok, of the last 25, I have read only 3, and 18 I never heard of, but to be fair, this far down the list, we must be getting to the territory of one or two survey respondents. Only 1 of the 25 novels contains gay characters.

Terrible record!  Conclusions:  Americans like novels where:

1. Children: cool animals or kids die.
2. Young adults: Teens in a dystopian future die.
3. Adults: People fall in love, get married, go to war, and die.

And gay people do not exist, except occasionally as walk-ons.  The world of marriage and death is exclusively heterosexual.

Gay Characters in America's Favorite Novels, Part 3

On to #51-75 of America's best loved novels, as determined by a PBS survey.  Let's see if I've read it or ran away screaming, and if there are any gay characters or subtexts.

51. Their Eyes were Watching God.  Never read, but I heard of Zora Neal Hurston, a Harlem Renaissance writer who investigated Old South folkways.  A woman grow up in Jim Crow Florida and gets married a lot.  Out of print for 30 years, so how did all of these respondents find it?

Oh: it was turned into a 2005 movie starring Halle Berry as the Woman and several African-American hunks as the husbands.

52. Jurassic Park.  Never read.  Saw the movie. An dinosaur zoo is not a good idea, but if you must have one, invite a male and female paleontologist to fall in love.  No gay characters.

53. The Godfather. Read many years ago.  Not bad potboiler depiction of a Mafioso family.  The description of Michael Corleone's super-sized penis is worth the price of the book.  No gay characters, but probably some scattered "fag" and "fairy" slurs that I don't remember.

Al Pacino played Michael Corleone in 1972, back when he was cute.  I don't know if he has a super-sized penis.

54. One Hundred Years of Solitude.  Read a long time ago, but I recall being impressed.  Magic realism, non-linear plot, therefore hard to follow, but I think it's about several generations of a family in the town of Macondo, Brazil, which is cut off from time.  No gay characters.

55. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Read.  Oscar Wilde is gay, but his creation has to settle for subtext; he's got a picture in the attic that stays young and beautiful, while he engages in all sorts of beauty-destroying vices.

The 2009 movie also asks us to settle for subtext: Dorian (Ben Barnes) leers at a couple of guys while grabbing at every woman in sight.

56.The Notebook.  Ran away from this after seeing the movie posters with a couple (Ryan Gosling and a woman) kissing in the rain.  It's about an elderly man telling the story of their undying love to his wife, who has Alzheimer's and doesn't remember him.  How depressing!

57. The Shack.  Never heard of it. A girl is murdered in a shack in the wilderness, and years later, God invites her father, Mack, to visit the same shack.  There, the Holy Trinity takes him on adventures, like the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future in A Christmas Carol.  Incidentally, they also give him the info on how to catch the girl's killer.

In the 2017 movie, Sam Worthington plays Mack, and there's some boy-girl kissing.

58. A Confederacy of Dunces.  Started.  It was awful.  A bulbous creep criticizes everybody in the world for their lack of intelligence. I imagine there aren't any gay characters, but I wouldn't know.  I was too busy throwing the book away.

59. Hunt for Red October.  Never read.  Remember my rule about books in the airport gift shop?  American and Soviet submarines clash during the Cold War.  Red October is a submarine, by the way.

The 1990 movie starred Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin.

60. Beloved.  Never read.  An ex-slave whose daughter was murdered.  Why are beloved novels always about death?  And why do the characters always have names like Schoolteacher, Schoolteacher's Nephew, Denver, Suggs, and Beloved?  What's wrong with Sam, Dave, George, and Irene?

The 1998 movie turns it into a horror story, with the daughter showing up to haunt the mother (Oprah Winfrey).  Wes Bentley plays the evil Schoolteacher's evil Nephew.

61.The Martian.  Never heard of it.  A Martian explorer is trapped when his expedition leaves without him.  Eventually another expedition picks him up. I'm pretty sure he's not gay.

The 2015 movie starring Matt Damon added some hetero-romances.

62. The Eye of the World. Never read, but I heard it was a totally derivative alternate-world fantasy.  A group of friends are attacked by Trollocs and have to flee, finding various allies, enemies, lost cities, and magical implements.  Like the Eye of the World, a one-ring that can defeat the Dark One. But...The Lord of the Rings is right there on your shelf.

No gay characters, maybe some subtexts.

63. Siddhartha. Read.  A fictionalized biography of Gautama Buddha, played by Keanu Reaves in the film version.  No gay characters.

64. Crime and Punishment.  Read.  Spoiler:  Raskolnikov kills someone for the fun of it, then feels guilty.  Oh, and he romances a prostitute.  They did that a lot in Russian novels.

65. The Sun Also Rises. Read. Depressed, injured World War I vet searches for love, but he's impotent due to his injury, so sex is impossible (he never heard of the many sexual acts one can perform with hands and mouths?).  There's a homophobic reference to how much he hates gay people and wants to beat them up.

Last filmed in 1957, with Tyrone Power as the impotent Nick.

66. The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night Time.  Never heard of it.  Christopher is a 15-year old autistic boy who investigates the death of the neighbor's dog, and ends up reconciling with his mother, who he thinks is dead. Really. But at least he doesn't fall in lo-ooo-ve.

66. A Separate Peace.  Never read, but I know Louise's dictum applies: Children's books are all about cool animals or kids who die.  Buddy-bonding at a prep school, with a strong gay subtext.  And death.

The 2004 movie starred J. Barton, Toby Moore, Jacob Pitts, and Aaron Ashmore.

67.Don Quixote.  Read. One of the great novels of Western literature, at least Part 1.  Nothing like the musical with Don Quixote in lo-oo-oove with Dulcinea.  A lot of Quixote-Sancho Panza gay subtext.

68. Lovely Bones.  Never read.  14-year old murdered girl Susie leads her family and friends to her murderer. I feel left out.  Why ate the victims of serial killers in the movies always girls?

Chief among the investigators is classmate Ray Singh  (Reece Ritchie in the movie version), who had a crush on her and now falls in love with another girl.

The killer, by the way, is the loner neighbor with the porn stache who they suspected all along.

69. The Alchemist.  Never read.  I didn't even know it was a novel; I thought it was a philosophical tract.  It appears to convey the philosophical ideas through a non-gay boy named Santiago.

70. Hatchet. Never heard of it. A plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness, and the only survivor, a young boy, has to survive.  Who would want to read about that? 

I have heard of the film version, A Cry in the Wild (1990), starring Jared Rushton, who Google thinks is one of these guys.  I'm not buying it: he's now 44 years old, and blond.  But a chest is a chest.

72.  Invisible Man.  Read.  He's not actually invisible, he's black in a racist society. No gay characters.

73. The Twilight Saga.  Never read.  Is that the one with teen idol vampires who take their shirts off, and fans proclaiming that they're on Team Edward or Team Joseph? There are probably minor gay characters wandering around.

This is Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward in the movies. Very sloppy signature.

74. Tales of the City.  Read. Well, started to, many times,but it's so utterly dull that I always fall asleep.  Gay characters are prominent in this "comedy" saga of an intertwined group of friends in 1970s San Francisco.

75. Gulliver's Travels. Read.  But I'm pretty sure the respondents like the idea better than the actual novel.

Of these 25 Beloved Novels, I've read nine.  Several gay subtexts, but actual gay characters in one, maybe two.

Deplorable record.  Maybe #76-100 are better.
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