May 3, 2019

"Where's the Money?" Where's the Black Beefcake?

There was a guy who used to play basketball in the campus gym while I was running laps.  Whenever he made a basket, he would yell "Give me my money!  Give me my money!" at the top of his lungs. I assumed that he was quoting a rap song.

Where's the Money (2017) is not all about the Benjamins.  South Central kid Del (Andrew Bachelor, right) needs money to keep his father's gym open.  Calling from prison, Dad reveals that years ago he and Uncle Leon (Terry Crews flexing his biceps) stole $1 million and hid it in the basement of a flop house.   So Del goes to retrieve it.

Unfortunately, the flop house is now home to a college fraternity, KAX (the college is never identified, but I'm guessing USC). 

Del tries to get into the basement by posing as a safety inspector.  When that doesn't work, he consults with his buds Alicia (Kat Graham) and Juice (Allen Maldonado, left), and comes up with the plan of pledging the fraternity.

Wait -- don't you actually have to be admitted to the college first?

There are three main frat boys:
1. Brock (Devon Werkheiser, unrecognizable from his turn on Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide)
2. Eddie (Logan Paul).
3. Clarke (Josh Brenner)

They are all paralyzed by white guilt, constantly policing each other for racist microaggressions:

 "How dare you say that that our new pledge looks like that fake inspector!  Implying that all black people look alike -- that's racist, man!"  So Del can easily play them.

The interactions are very funny.  I rarely laugh out loud at a movie, but I was laughing constantly.

By the way, Logan Paul's muscles are ubiquitous in the trailer and posters, and he is indeed shirtless in nearly every scene,but he's not a major character.  He has maybe three lines. 

Problem: Del starts to bond with the frat boys.  They become family.  He doesn't want to deceive them, or steal the money that is now rightfully theirs (due to an obscure, made-up legal loophole).

Another problem: The sociopathic Uncle Leon and a gang banger named Trap (Method Man of the Wu Tang Clan) also want the money.  If Del can't get it through his sneakiness, they'll go in with guns blazing.

Not to worry: this is a comedy, so everything is revealed and forgiven in the end.  Uncle Leon gets clobbered.  Trap gives up gang-banging and takes a job at the gym.  The frat boys start to volunteer at the gym, and Del enrolls at the college for real.

Heterosexism:  Suprisingly little.  The frat boys give lip service to "getting pussy," but their heterosexual shenanigans are limited to one scene, where Alicia distracts Brock while Juice tries to retrieve the money in the same room.

Del has a fade-out kiss with The Girl (Alicia), but before that they have such a laid-back, nonsexual relationship that at first I thought she was his sister, and then a platonic gal pal.

Gay Characters: None, or all of them.  There is a decided lack of heterosexual interest in this movie. But no specific same-sex pairs.

At a bachelor auction, where sorority girls bid on the new pledges, there's a brief shot of frat boy Eddie (Logan Paul) with a bidding paddle.I'm not sure what that means.

Beefcake:  The black actors are rather circumspect -- Terry Crews flexes to be menacing, not to be hot.  But the white actors are usually shirtless, sometimes pantsless. 

So black people can't be objects of desire?  That's racist, man!

I give it a B+.

See also: Jake and Logan Paul; Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide

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 Vinny...um, 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.


Apr 29, 2019

Searching for the Gay Characters on "On My Block"

Netflix keeps pressuring me to watch On My Block, about four high school friends in a Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles.

"You like quirky comedies with gay characters, right? Then watch On My Block."
"You watched Special, right?  Then you'll love On My Block!"
"All of the cool kids are watching it.  You want to fit in, don't you?"
"If you don't watch it, we'll raise your rates."

Surely there must be some gay characters for Netflix to be pushing it so aggressively.  But, I recall, Netflix also pushes endless dramas with descriptions beginning "After the death of his wife....", so I'm wary. 

I watched one episode, entitled "Chapter Fourteen," about the Valentine's Dance.  If there are any gay characters, they'll certainly be out here.

1. His older friend Cesar (Diego Tinoco) has just become homeless, so Jamal (Brett Gray, left) takes him in.  They share a bed, which results in a humorous montage of problems: snoring, feet in face, and so on.

No gay subtext here, but at least the two aren't homophobic.

Later Cesar is trying to make out with his girlfriend, but they have problems meeting all of Jamal's rules, like "you can't wear outside clothes on the bed, too many germs."




2. Monse (Sierra Capri) and Ruby (Jason Genao, center) discuss the upcoming Valentine's Day dance.  Monse seems surprised that the ultra-feminine fashion plate Ruby wants to go, but he explains that he wants to win the dance contest.

Slicked-back hair, fashion-plate ensemble, girl's name -- this guy is definitely gay!



3. A big,boisterous, lesbian-coded girl  appears and tells Ruby that she has some potential dates lined up.

Oh boy, a whole roomful of cute guys for Ruby to choose from.

Except it's a roomful of girls. 

Ok, is Big Girl unaware that Ruby is gay, or are same-sex dates not allowed?

Ruby rejects all of them.  He would like to have sex with the girls, he explains, but in order to win the dance contest, he wants to go with Big Girl

Foul!  Ruby is straight!  Big Girl might still be a lesbian, though.

4. Jamal is watching football practice, when the Coach appears and says "I need you tomorrow night."

"Are you asking me to the dance?" Jamal asks.

No, the Coach wants him to work off his debt by chaperoning.  Jamal doesn't have a date, so why not?

No date, awareness of same-sex relationships, no outrage over the possibility that a guy might be asking him out -- .Jamal must be gay!


5. Monse's Mom, who is white, shows up and wants to take her away to Brentwood because South Central L.A. is too dangerous.

6. Monse and her boyfriend, who looks like Cesar, discuss what to wear to the dance.

7.  The Coach and Jamal bond.

8. Cesar and Jamal's Dad bond.

Lots of male bonding on this show,but does it always have to be adult-teen, thus precluding gay subtexts?



9. The Dance. One of the dance contest pairs is Javi and Javier, but I don't think they're a gay couple, since one grimaces when the other kisses his cheek.  We don't actually see their dance.

10.  Jamal accidentally breaks the Coach's cell phone.  Then he runs into Tyrone in the hallway and hugs him.

Wait -- he's hugging a guy?  Definitely gay.  Even if the hug is just an excuse to plant the phone on Tyrone, so he'll be blamed for stealing and breaking it.

11. Ruby has a flashback to when he was shot at another party.  Everyone is upset.  Monse says "One day the world's a dream, the next day it's a nightmare.  I can't believe she's gone."  Cesar is crying.  Jamal hugs him.

Wow, bummer.  This is definitely not a comedy, it's a drama with jokes.

So, is Jamal gay for real?  According to fan wiki, he's never been in a relationship.   In an interview, Brett Gray states that he hopes Jamal finds a special someone this season.

"Special someone"!  Definitely.....

He continues "A sexy lady..."

Straight.

Bummer.

Apr 28, 2019

Why We Watched "Amen" in West Hollywood

When I was living in West Hollywood, Saturday night was cruising night; at 9:30 pm, just after The Golden Girls, you headed out to Mugi (for Asian men), Catch One (Black men), Basgo's (Hispanic men), the Faultline (Bears), or the Gold Coast (Sleazoids).

In by 10:00 pm, out by midnight with a phone number or a hookup.

But the bars didn't get busy until 11:00, so you might stall after The Golden Girls, and watch Amen (1986-91) before heading out.

It starred Sherman Hemsley (left), formerly of The Jeffersons, as the deacon of a black church in Philadelphia, who uses sneaky, underhanded tricks to get ahead (woo a new singer for the choir and so on).

He butts heads with the straightlaced Reverend Gregory (Clifton Davis, right),who finds himself loosening up and even making up some schemes of his own. Clifton Davis was a real minister, affiliated with the Seventh Day Adventist Church (and later a Baptist), so he made sure the shenanigans never got too immoral.

Although they did involve alcoholism, gambling addiction, divorce, and suicide (no gay people or AIDS, of course).

Meanwhile the Deacon's man-hungry spinster daughter Thelma (Anna Marie Horsford) sets out to grab Reverend Gregory.  After a few seasons of "will they or won't they?" and a few false starts, like the Reverend passing out before he can say "I do," they finally get hitched in the spring of 1990.

There wasn't a lot of buddy-bonding between the Reverend and the Deacon. The main draw was Clifton Davis, his hunkiness intensified for those with a preacher fetish.  Unfortunately, he never appeared shirtless (the top photo is another Clifton Davis).

The rest of the cast was of limited beefcake interest. The gossippy Hetebrink sisters.  Ultra-elderly Rollie, who, true to tv tradition, has a very active love life.

Farther down the guest star list, we find Bumper Robinson as Clarence, a street kid who the Deacon takes under his wing (left); and guest spots by many recognizable black actors, including James Avery (Fresh Prince of Bel Air), Ron Glass (Barney Miller), LaWanda Page (Sanford and Son), Richard Roundtree (Shaft), Nell Carter (Give Me a Break), Darius McCrary (Family Matters, below), and Shavar Ross (Diff'rent Strokes).


In retrospect, the main impact of Amen was to revv our engines.

"Ok, Amen is over. Where do you want to go cruising?"

"No doubt: Catch One."

See also: The Jeffersons

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