May 1, 2019

"Karate Kid," 34 Years Later

June 22, 1984:  Karate Kid premieres.  Diminuitive, baby-faced good guy Danny Russo, wearing pure white and mellowed by Taoist wisdom, clobbers the snarling, black-clad, bullying, hulking Johnny Lawrence.  Purity defeats corruption, light defeats darkness, good scores a definitive win over evil.  The audience cheers.

Thirty years pass.  We are older but not wiser.  The world has grown cold and dark, evil that we thought long-banished alive and vigorous.   Every day we think "It can't happen here -- can it?" Then we realize that it already has.  We need a new hero, a new baby-faced warrior in a white robe who can definitively defeat the Darkness.

May 2, 2018: The youtube series Cobra Kai reunites Danny and Johnny.

Except Danny is no longer a bastian of purity, and Johnny is no longer pure evil. Both do despicable things while the younger generation tries to find its way.

1. 34 years after being trounced in the big karate tournament,  Johnny (William Zabka, old photo) is middle-aged, unattractive, and poor, working at odd jobs, dreaming of his glory days.

2. One day Johnny saves a neighborhood boy, Miguel (Xolo MaridueƱa), from some bullies, and is inspired to re-open Cobra Kai, the karate dojo full of black-robed miscreants that bedeveled Danny Russo a generation ago.  Oddly enough,his teaching method involves bullying.

Johnny also starts dating Miguel's mom until she starts dating someone else, and they fight.

3. Miguel enlists some of his bullied friends to join Cobra Kai: the chubby Anthony (Griffin Santopietro), the nerd Demitri (Gianni Decenzo), and the disabled Hawk (Jacob Bertrand, left).  Hawk soon goes over to the Dark Side of the Force.

4. Meanwhile Danny (Ralph Macchio), who beat Johnny all those years ago,  has had nothing but good luck.  Karma, I guess.   He's still teen-idol hot, he owns a chain of car dealerships, and he has a loving family, including daughter, Samantha.

When he discovers that Cobra Kai is opening again, Danny is livid with rage, and tries all sorts of dirty tricks to shut it down or otherwise bedevil his old nemesis.

5. For example, he talks his cousin, I mean Louie (Brett Ernst) into destroying Johnny's car.

6. And he gives Robby (Tanner Buchanan), Johnny's estranged juvenile delinquent son, a job at his car dealership, just to get Johnny's goat.

Eventually he starts giving Robby karate lessons, and is inspired to open his own Miyagi-Do, based on the principles of his deceased sensei, Mr. Miyagi.

7. Danny's daughter Samantha happens to be dating Kyler (Joe Seo) one of Miguel's bullies.  But not to worry, the romance doesn't last long.  Samantha is rather a player, moving on to Miguel, and then to Robby, and then back and forth.

It's the eternal triangle: respectable but boring, or wild and dangerous.

8. Johnny is just starting to reform when his old sensei from the 1980s, Kreese (Martin Kove, old photo), returns and pushes him toward the Dark Side again.  But then he bonds with Danny, and the two work together to send Kreese back to Mordor.

Well, actually, alliances change so fast, among the adults and teens alike, that you can't really tell who's good and who's evil without a score card.  Maybe that's the point.

There are no gay characters.  Early fan buzz suggested that Robbie would be gay, but he turns out to be more obsessed with girls than with karate.

And, surprisingly, beefcake is limited.  No one works out shirtless, like in the original, and besides, most of the kids at the dojo are actual kids, not 20-something hunkoids pretending to be high school students.

I only watched the free episode.  A convoluted plot with no gay characters, limited beefcake, and a cast of scoundrels?  I have the original Karate Kid on DVD.

See also:The Karate Kid

"Crack-Duck": A Gay Couple in a World of Monsters

Danny Lacy (1989-2019), son of actors Jerry Lacy (Dark Shadows)  and Julia Duffy (Newhart), died on April 5th after a long battle with depression.

A 2007 graduate of Agoura High School in Agoura Hills, California, he was a comedian who performed with the Groundlings and Second City.

Here he and James Mastrioanni star in "Douchebag Karma": two douchebags plan to use date-rape drugs to get with some girls.  But they are so stupid that they take the drugs themselves, and pass out.

 Danny's acting credits include such lighthearted fare as  All I Want for Christmas, Correcting Christmas, and a Christmas Reunion.

Rather ironic, given that his most memorable creation was Crack-Duck.

Danny was always drawing weird, surreal, disturbing pictures of monstrous creatures.  Some appeared in a 2017 book he co-wrote with Mike Levine, At Least You're Not These Monsters ("So you hate your body?  At least your body makes sense.")   Crack-Duck was one of his creations, a grotesque wide-eyed duck with a crack in his skull.

In 2014 Danny teamed up with animator Stephen Sloan and various family friends to bring Crack-Duck to life in a series of 5-minute cartoons on Youtube.

Now Crack-Duck is living a life of not-so-quiet desperation, alone, self-hating, and miserable, manager of a down-and-out apartment building, Grungetown Towers.

He interacts with other monstrous beings, like his constantly enraged landlord Skiitch, and Zqiygyxz, an Enlightened dog who performs surgery on the sun.

An ongoing subplot has Skiitch realizing that he's in love with Crack-Duck.  But they're both boys.  How is that possible?

In Episode #4, Crack-Duck is tired of being rejected by countless women, so he walks up to random strangers on the street, screaming at them to love him.  Skiitch comes out as gay and interested.  At first Crack-Duck is leery, as Skiitch is 40 years old!  But he decides to give it a try.

After that, Crack-Duck and Skiitch are presented as romantic partners, fighting their demons together.  Although they're closeted to their friends.

Reviewers, of course, are quick to yell that Crack-Duck isn't gay, just lonely enough to try out a gay relationship.

Hint: that's not how sexual orientation works.  If you're a straight duck, it's women or nothing.  A gay duck, men or nothing.  Crack-Duck is probably pansexual.

All episodes are on Youtube.

Apr 30, 2019

"The Perfect Date": A Gay Sidekick in a Teen Operator Movie

Ordinarily I wouldn't be caught dead watching a movie called The Perfect Date. Sounds like the garbage movies of the 1980s, where teen nerd or operator tries to win the "it" girl, who is hot but dating a football jock, and ends up with the plain-but-nice girl who'se been rooting for him all along, meanwhile littering his speech with anti-gay diatribes.

But Noah Centineo is cute,so why not?  I've got 90 minutes to kill before dinner, and maybe he takes off his shirt.

Yep, this is definitely a 1980s teen-operator movie, with a money-making scheme, an "it" girl that he has a crush on, and a plain-but-nice girl who is rooting for him.

The premise: in order to make money for Yale, Brooks Rattigan (how's that for an entitled name?) hires himself out as a non-sexual gigolo.  Teenage girl clients only.  He provides last-minute service when your date cancelled, or when you need someone to make your crush jealous, or when you just want a perfect evening.

Pleasant surprise #1: No sex, only one kiss, the standard fade-out with the plain-but-nice girl. 

Pleasant surprise #2: His goal is to pay for college, not get a girl.  This is probably the first time that a movie teen has ever worried about tuition. 

Pleasant surprise #3:  His sidekick is gay.  The actor, Odiseas Georgiadis, may be a girl or nonbinary, but the character, Murf, uses he/him pronouns.

And he actually gets a boyfriend (Alexander Biglane, below). No kissing, but bf does appear on screen.

That's a huge improvement over the nonstop homophobia of 1980s teen nerd/operator comedies.

Criticism #1: Yale tuition is $41,000 per year, plus another $20,000 for room and board, so at $100 per date, Brooks is going to be very busy.

Criticism #2:  Have you ever seen such a self-centered, elitist, entitled jerk?  He blows off his sidekick, freezes out the plain-but-nice girl, and treats his Dad, struggling writer Charles, as a lackey.

Dad suggests that, given the state of their finances, the University of Connecticut might be a better choice.  In-state tuition is only $13,000, there are scholarships available, and besides, Murf is going there.   But Brooks will have none of it.  He's not going to spend the rest of his life embarrassed because he went to...ugh...a state university!

Criticism #3: Brooks learns What's Really Important in the end, and surprisingly, Dad, plain-but-nice-girl, and sidekick are all eager to forgive him.  Sorry, his redemption is too little, too late, and the gang rallying around him is too unbelievable. I'd be throwing him some major shade.

But the gay sidekick is revolutionary, and Noah Centineo is cute, so I'll rate The Perfect Date a B.

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