Apr 5, 2019

The Polish Teen Idol of "1983"

I'm a sucker for those international tv series on Netflix.  Who wouldn't want to watch a tv show in Catalan, Basque, Romanian, or Polish?

And the premise of 1983 sounded promising: a terrorist attack in Poland in 1983 altered the course of history.  It's 2003 and Al Gore is president of the U.S. (well, that's a good thing).  But the Iron Curtain has never fallen, and Poland is a 1984-style dystopianpolice state.

There must be time-travel, paradoxes, trying to restore history's true timeline?  Cool.

Law school student Kajetan and police detective Anatol are drawn into a conspiracy that might lead to revolution.

Two guys together? Time travel and gay subtexts! I'm in.

But I had to be careful.  I've been burned before with what looks good, but is actually heteronormative "boy and girl staring into each other's eyes forever" tripe. So I researched the two leads.

 Robert Wieckiewicz, age 52, has a long list of credits in Poland.

 I picked All will be Well, because it showed two guys together, so I figured it would be gay-themed. Nope: A teenage boy, whose mother is terminally ill, and his alcohol-addicted sports teacher set out on a pilgrimage to Czestochowa.


Maciej Musial, age 24, also has a lot of film and tv credits.  A child star, he played Tomek in the long-running nuclear family sitcom Rodzinka.pl (2011-).

Apparently he became something of a teen idol, and fans demanded that his character appear nude on occasion.

I found a gay reference:

"Maciej Musiał advertises lipsticks by Baby Lips from Maybelline. 'A guy and a lipstick ... it's not so gay any more'"


And this instagram photo, which sparked a furor of racist outrage,and a news story.  Maciej explained:  "Yes,I am a patriot,but I am open to other cultures."

So was the outrage about him dating a man, or being friends with a black person? 
Maciej must be gay or bi.

So I watched 1 episode, then fast forwarded the others.

The good news:  Polish is a fun language, Slavic but written in Latin, with lots of interesting diacritical marks and consonants used as vowels:

To okazało się świetną szansą dla Adama. Zdrójkowski niebawem poprowadzi "The Voice Kids", co z pewnością wpłynie na wzrost jego popularności, choć już teraz nie powinien narzekać.

The bad news: No time travel.  No suggestion that this is the "wrong" timeline. Not even many interesting details about how things are different (unless you're intimately familiar with modern Polish history).  The guys get involved in a revolutionary movement.  Lots of long, boring political conversations.

The worse news:  No interesting location shots. Almost every scene is set in a bunker, a secret headquarters room, or an alley.  And for some reason it's always night.

The worse-than-that news: No beefcake, except for Katajan occasionally having sex with his girlfriend.  Otherwise everyone wears 1984-style uniforms all the time.

The worst news: No buddy bonding, no last minute rescues, no "if it wasn't for you, I'd be." The guys rarely interact with each other. A couple of gazes, one hug, and otherwise they're hanging out with their girlfriends.

I'll give it a D-. But Maciej is cute, so C-.

Apr 4, 2019

Dynasty 2017: For Fans Only

Rebooting classic series is tricky.  You have a built-in audience of aging fans of the original, but after the initial nostalgia, they will get bored and leave -- unless you give them something to make the show stand in its own right.  After all, the original is still available on DVD, right?  And new fans want more than a retread of a show from dinosaur days.

Dynasty (1981-1989) was the quintessential 1980s show, a glitzy, trashy escape from the horrors of Reagan's America, about the scandals, schemes, backstabbing, and power-plays of a super-wealthy Denver family:  brutal patriarch Blake Carrington, his trophy-wife Krystal, his socialite ex-wife Alexis, and the scheming, catfighting, problem-of-the-week beset younger generation, notably Fallon (who falls in love with every man she sees) and Steven (who struggles with being gay...er, straight...er, gay...er..."confused").

It was all the rage in West Hollywood. There were Dynasty nights at the local bars. Drag queens would perform as Alexis and Krystal. We would bet on whether Steven was gay or straight in this episode.  But will a 2010's reboot work?

1.  The 2017 cast is much younger.  John Forsythe (the original Blake Carrington) was actually only five years older than Grant Show (left), and Joan Collins (the original Alexis) was younger than Nicollete Sheridan.  But we have gyms now, and nobody eats transfats, so the entire cast looks like twinks.

2. In the original, Fallon just went shopping and dated, leaving the business to the men. In 2017,she's a vice president of something or other, and is scheming to become CEO.  She still sleeps around, though.

3. In the original, Steven was closeted, conflicted, guilt-ridden, harrassed by his homophobic Dad, and constantly dating and marrying women (which was common on tv in the 1980s; audiences were rooting for the gay guy to "be cured").  In 2017, being gay is no problem.  Dad sets Steven (James Mackay, top photo) up on dates.  And Sammy Jo, one of the women Steven marries in the original, has become a guy (Rafael de la Fuente, left).

3. The cast is considerably more diverse.  Blake's competitor, Jeff Colby (Sam Adegoke) has become black. So has Michael Culhane (Robert Christopher Riley), the chauffeur Fallon is sleeping with. Trophy wife Crystal is Hispanic.

But is Dynasty 2017 worth a watch?  In a field overcrowded with soap operas about glitzy rich people, does anything make it stand out?

I don't think so.  Most of the fun is for fans of the original: "Look what they did with the Fallon character!  Look, Michael Culhane is black!   Look,Steven is not 'confused!"

Which is good for about an episode.  Then it gets boring. 

Then we pop in a DVD of the original and relive those golden days in West Hollywood when the drag queens all dressed as Alexis, and we bet on whether Steven was gay or straight this episode.

Get Out

African-American photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) reluctantly accepts his white girlfriend  Rose's invitation to visit her ultra-rich family for the weekend.  They're not at all racist!  she assures him.  They have black friends.  They voted for Obama -- twice!

Chris knows that white people often suffer from unconscious racism that allows them to congratulate themselves for just saying hello to a black person.  He expects to spend the weekend hearing about black friends and becoming a spokesperson for the black condition.  But he goes.

The family, passive-aggressive Mom and Dad and crazy-aggressive "let's wrestle!" Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), are pleased as punch to meet Chris. They say all of the things that liberal white people say to prove they are not racist.  Jeremy compliments Chris on his genetics, but...ok.   Just the usual microaggressions.

The black servants, Georgina and Walter, act like zombies, like Stepford Servants.

That weekend, the Armitages invite a lot of their wealthy white friends to a party, where they all but drool over Chris. They obviously want him -- physically.  Is this a club for black fetishists?

There is only one other black man at the party, a young guy named Logan King (LaKeith Stanfield).  He has the same vacant zombie vibe as the servants.  Plus he dresses and acts elderly, and he has a much older wife. Gigolo?  Or hypnotized?

Turns out to be much worse.  Spoiler alert:

Rich white people are transferring their brains into young black bodies, so they can be younger, stronger, more talented, more athletic, more hung, better in bed, better at practically everything.

Aha!  Black people have always suspected that white racism is rooted in jealousy.

Afterwards the old personality is still there, but stuck inside, unable to act.  That's why all of the transferred people act like zombies.

Georgina and Walter actually have the brains of Grandma and Grandpa Armitage in them.

Wait -- they wanted black bodies just so they could become servants?

Sometimes they kidnap the bodies they need, and sometimes Rose procures them by dating them and inviting them up "for the weekend."

Chris is next!  Both Jeremy and Jim Hudson (Stephen Root),  a blind art dealer (rather a poor career choice) want him.  A desperate escape attempt follows, with everyone in hot pursuit, getting offed by Chris as he struggles to Get Out!

Beefcake:  Not much.

Gay references:

Rose's previous conquests include 14 men and a woman (if each wooing takes about six months, that's a lot of work for someone of her age).

Chris calls his comic-relief buddy, Rod (comedian Lil Rel Howery), who suspects that something nefarious is going on. Remember Jeffrey Dahmer?  Some black dudes went to his house, thinking "I'm just gonna suck some dick, maybe jiggle some balls," and they got decapitated.

Gay subtexts:  Where to begin?  Every white man in the movie is arguably gay, leering at Chris, commenting on his attractiveness.  One assumes that they desire Chris's body. Only later do we discover that they want to live in it. 

Plus Chris and Rod work together to solve the mystery.  In the last, scene, Rod saves Chris, and they drive off into the sunset together, subverting the trope of male-female fade-out kiss.

Apr 3, 2019

The Moline Morons

Looking for beefcake in my home town of Rock Island,Illinois has proven fruitless.

Too little, late.

But Moline, the town next door, is a beefcake paradise.

It literally abuts Rock Island.  Five blocks from our house, 18th Avenue in Rock Island instantly became 19th Avenue in Moline. 

But the two towns could not be more different in structure and ambiance.

Rock Island was the poorest of the Quad Cities, with 15% of the population under the poverty line. Moline was richer.  Not as rich as Bettendorf, across the river, but only 5% of the population under the poverty line.

Rock Island was about 20% black.  Moline, almost all white.

When I was in college, Rock Island's main employer, J. I. Case Company, closed.  Many young adults left  town.  Some of the grade schools were demolished, no longer needed.  Rock Island became a town of the past.

Moline's main employer, John Deere, is still around.

Look at Moline High -- all glass and steel, sleak and modern.  We were going to high school in a relic from the 1930s.

Of course, Rock Island had the Arsenal Island, Augustana College, the Centennial Bridge, the Hauberg House, and Harris Pizza. What did Moline have? A mall.

Their high school team was the Maroons (the color),but of course we called them the Moline Morons. 

They had better training facilities and high-end coaches, so they usually won the games.

Looks like they still have excellent fitness facilities.

Ok, what's with the proliferation of beefcake photos of the swim team? It's almost as if they are bragging.

Plus wrestling, track, football, tennis, and even powerlifting.

Ok, Moline athletes are buffed.  I get it.

But at least at Rocky High, we weren't all blond.

See also:  The Better-Dorks of Bettendorf, Iowa

Apr 2, 2019

Eli Goree Keeps His Shirt On

Eli Goree was on Riverdale, briefly.  He had a total of three scenes in three episodes, and about a dozen lines. Most viewers didn't hear any of those lines, because they had fainted at the sight of his perfect face and breathtaking physique.  Nobody can get a glimpse of a Greek god and remain unfazed.

After I watched his scenes a dozen or so times, the initial shock of seeing perfection diminished, and I could pay attention to the plot.  After rushing to the IMDB to see if he has appeared in anything else.

Surprise: Some 26 credits.

 Eli grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  While attending Dalhousie University, he hosted The Big Black Rap Show on the campus radio station. He transferred to the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto, where he received his degree in Film and Television Acting.  Meanwhile he became a freelance journalist for Canada Now, hosted the Canadian teen talk show Street Cents, and started auditioning.

His most important roles are:

1. Da Kink in My Hair (2007-2009), a sitcom about Jamaican-Canadian women who run a hair salon, based on a play by Jamaican-Canadian queer playwright Trey Anthony. Eli played Malik.

2. Secrets of a Black Boy (2009) on stage.  Five friends meet in a Regents Park, Toronto recreation center to reveal their secrets.  Eli plays Jakes, whose secret is...wait for it...he's gay.

3. Pure Pwnage (2010), a mockumentary about a gamer. Eli had a six-episode run as Tyrel, a professional gamer who falls in love with a girl.

4. Race (2016), about Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics (even I know about that).   Eli played fellow athlete David Albritten, who was apparently straight.

5.Dead of Summer (2016 tv series), about "ancient evil" awakening at a summer camp in 1989.  Eli played Joel Goodson, who helps reveal the identity of the Tall Man.  The series features a trans character, Drew (Zelda Williams),who -- wait for it -- is not the killer.

6.  The 100 (2014-2017).  A space ship of teenagers try to settle on a desolate far-future Earth. Eli plays Wells Jaha, who is in love with Clarke (sorry, a girl) and appears to be at odds with every one of the male colonists. It has a gay male character.

I was disappointed to find no nude pictures, but then, if he's perfect beneath the belt, too, the effect might be overwhelming.  As it is, Eli rarely takes even his shirt off.  I guess he can't, or no one would be able to pay attention to ...um....to the...what was I talking about?

See also: Riverdale, Season 3

Apr 1, 2019

The Borg Twins, Kurt and Cody Wetherill

I've been watching Star Trek: Voyager.   Dreadful stuff.  A Star Fleet ship is zapped across the galaxy, 70,000 light years from home, and have to find their way back. They come across many species that are identical to humans in language, culture, and physiology, except for little things on their foreheads.

Earth today has far more cultural diversity than the galaxy as a whole.

I hate Seven of Nine, the most annoying of the endless "learning to be human"  characters.

But I sort of like Azan and Rebi (Cody and Kurt Wetherill), the twins who are rescued from the automaton Borgs wearing the male equivalent of Seven's bunny suit. They spend six episodes in 2000  learning to be human (that is, entering a school science fair and hearing ghost stories).

Cody and Kurt were born in Wyoming in 1986,  and then moved to Battle Ground, Washington.

They were originally planning to become tennis pros, but they got bit by the acting bug in 1998,and were soon cast as 12 year old Mitchel and Michael Loring in the pilot of Safe Harbor (1999). They did not make it into the series, as Aaron Spelling felt that there were already enough twins on tv.

Then came Voyager; small roles as Chet and Russell Lucre against Michael Angarano in The Brainiacs.com (2000); and Philip and Victor Kiriakis on a 2001 episode of Days of Our Lives.

And that's all.

But sometimes a short acting career is better than a long one; it gives you a chance to be a kid and a star.

They graduated from high school and majored in film studies at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. 

For their senior projects, Kurt wrote, edited, and produced Rock Bottom (2006), about a homeless man who meets a woman; and Cody wrote, edited, and produced Garden of Weedin' (2007), about a gardener.

Then they returned to Hollywood for some behind-the-scenes work, as production assistants, cinematographers, and so on: Meteor, Family Holiday, Be My Friend, and The Amazing Race (2006-2009).

Now they're back in Portland, where they own CinePrints, devoted to movie and tv posters.

Cody is on Facebook, but he mostly likes bands I've never heard of and may be married to a woman.

Or maybe they're gay.
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