Jul 13, 2019

"Hereditary": A Gay Demon and his Boy Host

It was so easy to find gay subtexts in the gay free Midsommar that I thought I'd check out diretor Ari Aster's other movies.  Other than some film-school shorts, he just has one, Hereditary (2018).

Piece of cake.

Surly, depressed 16-year old Peter (Alex Wolff, who you may remember from The Naked Brothers Band on Nickelodeon) lives in rural Utah with his crazy artist Mom and wimpy Dad.  Mom forces him to take his little sister Charlie, who clicks her tongue and stares at fires, to a high school party.  While he mingles, smoking pot and talking to boys, she eats a piece of cake with nuts in it and has an allergic reaction.

Peter tries to rush her to the hospital, but while he is driving down the dark country roads, he swerves to avoid a deer and slams into a telephone pole, decapitating her.

Mom Annie (Toni Collette) didn't like Peter much to begin with, and now the gloves come off.  She tortures him by building a miniature of the accident, coming into his room at night and asking if Charlie is there, and forcing him into a seance to contact Charlie, who doesn't realize that she's dead.  In another weird scene, she climbs into bed with him, attempting a seduction.

Meanwhile Charlie comes back as a malevolent ghost, throwing things around and trying to set them on fire.

Dad (Gabriel Byrne) tries to keep the family together, lashing out at Annie for torturing their son (and trying to seduce him), but in the end he is ineffective and gets burnt to death in one of the dead Charlie's rampages.

Peter spends most of the movie hanging out in the same grey t-shirt, being morose and guilt-ridden, receiving hand-on-shoulder support from his buds, and crying in history class.  The wikipedia page lists a Bridget a "love interest," but the scenes where they fall in love must have been deleted.   Peter only interacts with boys.  He never discusses girls or looks at a girl twice. He is obviously gay. 

Eventually we discover that Annie's dead mom, Ellen, belonged to a cult devoted to the demon Paimon.  He's been trying to break through to our world, but he hasn't yet found a suitable human host.  He goes down the hereditary blood line and inhabits someone for awhile, but eventually they aren't good enough, and he decapitates them and moves on.  Ellen, Charlie, Annie's friend Joan, and then Annie himself.

Well, these have all been female hosts.  Maybe Paimon prefers men?

A buffed, naked man appears in Peter's closet (hang on -- I'm checking to see if there's a naked man in my closet) -- and leads him to the attic.  More homoerotic subtext: same-sex desire leads Peter to his destiny.

There he finds the decapitated heads of his family, plus Grandma Ellen's cult members  (all naked, penises and everything showing).  They crown him king.  I was right: women were ok temporarily, but for a permanent host, Paimon prefers men.

Sure, that's understandable.  Lots of gay men don't mind socializing with women, but when the lights go down and everyone gets naked, they want to be inside the body of a man. 

See also: Midsommar.

The Banned Beefcake Photo of Michael Burns

You may not realize it, but every word and image on Blogger is carefully analyzed by an army of censors to make sure there are no penises.  Bloody, decapitated heads and eviscerated corpses are fine,but God forbid anyone find out that men have dangling parts.

This photo doesn't show one,but it still got me banned from Blogger Advertisements, because he's obviously covering it with a towel.

It happens to be one of the iconic beefcake photos of the 1960s, with handsome, muscular 22-year old Michael Burns hiding his penis behind that towel in That Cold Day in the Park (1969): Michael's character is an innocent, possibly mute,  somewhat addled Boy taken in by the middle-aged, repressed Frances (Sandy Dennis).  She provides food, shelter, nice clothes, whatever he needs, and he provides a coy eroticism.

When Frances' flirtation becomes too aggressive, the Boy leaves, returns to his hippie commune, and we discover that the innocent-addled bit was all an act. He often defrauds the establishment that way, acquiring free food and favors in return for displaying his body and feigning a willingness to have sex.

The Boy represented the desire and dread with which the adults approached the youth counterculture, but he also served as a metaphor for the game gay male teens must play: pretend to be interested in women, let them desire you, but pull back at the last moment. Always remember that your real desires, your real emotions, your real life lies elsewhere.

Born in 1947, Michael Burns was a very busy child actor, with starring roles as an orphan kid on Wagon Train (1960-65) and the kid brother on the overtly homoerotic It's a Man's World (1962-63), plus guest spots on about 30 Westerns, dramas, and comedies.

But other than That Cold Day in the Park, he was most famous for a 1967 episode of Dragnet, in which the deadpan detectives investigate a houseful of hippies who are using the "new drug menace, LSD," and going crazy.  Michael plays Blueboy, who has half of his face painted blue and screeches in paranoia before dying. Again, the desire and dread of the youth counterculture.

Michael retired from acting in 1977 to pursue an academic career.  He became a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, a specialist on the Dreyfuss Affair of 1890s France.

Dick York: Bewitching Beefcake

I imagine that most gay male and heterosexual female Baby  Boomers have been desperate to see Dick York with his shirt off ever since their diaper days, when they saw him eye-bulge as Darren Stephens, mortal married to the witch Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) on the gay-symbolism-heavy "my secret" sitcom Bewitched (1964-69)  

Good luck.  As a stick-in-the-mud advertising executive in the Mad Men sixties, Darren usually wore a business suit, slept in pajamas, and was never shown in the shower or at the beach.  Dick was suffering from a debilitating back injury that prohibited most stunts and action scenes; finally the writers had to find reasons to keep Darren in bed for entire episodes.

Prior to Bewitched, Dick starred in various Westerns, thrillers, and dramas.  I haven't seen any of them except for Inherit the Wind (1960), but they probably didn't include significant beefcake.

But you can find everything on youtube.  A  compilation clip called Dick York: the Sexiest Man Alive seems to be displaying clips from Dick's very early work, playing high schoolers in "educational films" such as "How Popular Are You?" (1951).  They were used in classrooms for promoting conformity and compulsory heterosexuality.

In Bewitched, Darren was the "straight" man, in more ways than  one.  Not only the eye-bulging, slow-burning spectator to the mayhem, but aggressively heterosexual, faithful to Samantha but tempted by slithery witches, wood nymphs, sirens, and human women every five seconds.

But the compiler finds some gay-subtext images.  Dick and another boy check out each other's equipment in the shower (top photo), and he demonstrates that he is popular by walking off arm in arm with the school hunk.

There are also a few pics, very small, of an older Dick York at poolside, courtesy of Democratic Underground.  Not a bad physique.  Too bad Darren didn't get zapped out of his clothes from time to time.

Jul 12, 2019

"Butcher's Block": Creepypasta Cannibals and a Naked Killer

Channel Zero spins a tv series out of a creepypasta (an online story that pretends to recount an urban legend, but has actually been invented by the author.  If it works, people will "remember" other examples, and a real urban legend will be born,).

For Butcher's Block, they took a very intriguing creepypasta about staircases in the woods.  Regular staircases, like someone grabbed one from your house and plopped it down in the wilderness.  A park ranger seems them so frequently that they seem ordinary, although he's afraid to approach or touch them.

From that intriguing opening, they spun off a crazy story about cannibalism.

Two girls in their twenties, Zoe and Alice, move to the city, both to get away from their crazy mother (who did something horrible one night) and to hide from their creditors (Dave from Collections keeps calling).

They rent a room in a creepy old house from Louise, a retired journalist whose hobby is taxidermy (because it's creepy, I guess). Alice gets a job as a social worker, Zoe sits around semi-lucid from schizophrenia medication. And the weirdness begins:

1. The Crazy Scissors Lady ("Do you have any scissors?  I need to cut off my bandages.") warns them to stay away from the run-down Butcher's Block neighborhood, where people always disappear.
2. Alice has to go to Butcher's Block for her job.  The first family she is assigned to help, a mother and daughter, disappear in the middle of the interview.  Alice tracks the Missing Girl to an overgrown park, where:
3. She sees a gigantic, ornate staircase.   A dwarfish creature climbs down and chases her with a knife.

Louise reveals more details about the park.  It used to be the private residence of the Peach Family, whose meat-packing business was the sole employer of Butcher's Block (get it?).  One night in the 1950s, the whole family vanished.  Rescue workers found something in the basement so horrifying that they burned the house to the ground.

Louise helpfully shows Alice a photo of the family on the eve of their disappearance: Patriarch Joseph; his elderly mother; the oldest son Robert (Andreas Apergis, left), whose wife is about to give birth; Aldous ("the bachelor," Louise says with disapproval -- hey, lady, you're not married, either); and some miscellaneous kids.

The photo comes in handy, as Peach Patriarch Joseph starts hanging around, asking Alice (or Zoe -- I can't tell them apart) if she believes in a higher power (turns out he was quite the fundamentalist in life).  He offers to cure them both of their schizophrenia with homemade lobotomies.

Meanwhile Robert, dancing around like the Riddler, tazes the Crazy Scissors Lady, so Officer Luke (Brandon Scott, left) arrests him.  While in lockup, he kills and eats his cellmate.

But the police chief, who happens to be Officer Luke's father, lets him go!  (Robert doesn't actually have any mind-control powers; Dad just made a deal with the Peaches).

When Robert kills someone else, Officer Luke has had enough, and shoots him.

Wait -- the Peaches aren't ghosts?  No, but they're not living in ordinary time, either.  They made a deal with their god (spoiler alert: not exactly a benign god) to allow them to live on in their summer house at the top of the staircase., whence they send the dwarfish creatures or Robert down to kidnap people to eat.

The two teenage daughters of the family were murdered before they moved to Summerland, so the Peaches are very interested in having Zoe and Alice join them as substitutes.  All they have to do is climb the staircase and eat some people.

All that from a staircase in the woods?

There are a lot of disgusting scenes involving bloody this or that, and a lot of boring scenes of heart-to-hearts between Alice and Zoe, made even more boring by the fact that you can't tell them apart.  They could be identical twins (after Zoe is "cured," she dresses in bright colors, which help a little.)  I fast-forwarded, looking for gay characters or beefcake.
Homophobia:  Officer Luke checks up on Robert in the lock-up and recoils in disgust.  Robert is reclining naked on the floor, giving his cellmate a blow job!  Wait -- no, he's pulling out his cellmate's intestines.  But for a moment you think Officer Luke is recoiling in disgust over a same-sex act.

Gay Characters:  Dad tells Officer Luke "You were always a sensitive boy."  And he never expresses any heterosexual interest, never mentions a wife or girlfriend.  The last scene shows a creepy family at dinner:  Officer Luke, Louise (the retired journalist), Izzy (the girl who disappeared), and Zoe or Alice (I can't tell them apart), but there's no indication that any of them are romantic partners.

Aldous Peach ("The Bachelor).  At least, Louise seems to think so.

Actually, no one expresses any heterosexual interest except for Alice's comic-relief coworker (Aaron Merke), who admits to being sweet on her.

Beefcake: Naked Joseph, if you don't mind the pool of blood.  A couple of cute guys, such as Dave from Collections (Adam Hurtig, top photo).

My grade: D.

See also: No-End House; Candle Cove

Midsommar: Tweak it a Little to Find a Gay Movie

I'm interested in the possibiliy of ancient pagan religions surviving in contemporary Europe, in mummer's plays and Punch and Judy, so I wanted to see Midsommar (2019) in spite of the reviews pointing out that everyone is heterosexual and a lot of girls get naked.

In The Wicker Man (1973), an uptight British police officer investigates a free-love island  ("Children, what does the maypole represent?" "A penis!"), and ends up being their virgin sacrifice.  A naked lady bounces all over the place, and there's a lot of heterosexual shenanigans.  Midsommar couldn't be worse, right?

It could. It's very long and very boring, with the "surprise" ending broadcast loudly from Scene 1.  But with a little subtext-tweaking, it turns into a gay horror movie.

We did it all the time in the 80s.  It was the only way we could survive those horrible teen-nerd movies.

Anthropology student Christian (Jack Reynor, top photo) was planning to break up with his girlfriend Dani, but then her familiy was murdered, so he stuck around out of pity.  A year later, he's ready to pull the plug on the long-dead relationship and move on.  His new man-crush Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren, below) invites him and another couple, Josh and Mark, back to his village in northern Sweden to witness an ancient pagan midsummer festival.

Dani invites herself along.

Um...it was really supposed to be all boys, buddy-bonding, late-night groping, and orgies with Swedish studs, but....

Imagine the discomfort of sharing an 8-hour plane flight with your soon-to-be ex, while the guy you are crushing on is sitting right across the aisle!

When they reach the village, they meet Pelle's brother Ingemar  (Hams Holberg, left), who is bisexual.  He has invited a boy-girl couple, Simon and Connie, who he picked up in London.

The eager-to-experiment Simon (Archie Madekwe) is rather a clone of Christian, eager to break up with his girlfriend for the Swedish hunk Ingemar.

Things go wrong immediately when Dani has a bad trip on some magic mushrooms.  And when some of the village elders commit suicide by jumping off a cliff.

I'd be on the next bus back to Stockholm at that point, but the gang sticks around.

Mark (Will Poulter) is lured away by a naked lady to his death.  So much for heterosexual desire!  It can only end badly, either with a fragile, clingy, basket-case girlfriend or with a murderer.

Josh (William Jackson Harper) goes out in search of his boyfriend, and is killed by a naked man wearing Mark's face as a mask.  A nightmare of heavily symbolic homoerotic desires

Simon and Connie are separated and killed off camera.

Then Christian faces a fate worse than death: he is paralyzed and forced to have sex with a naked lady.


Of course the only way the villagers can get him to do the deed is against his will.  He's into guys!

Turns out that the villagers need nine human sacrifices: four outsiders, four villagers, and one who could be either, chosen by the Festival Queen.  That's why Pelle invited three people, and Ingemar two, so they'd have one leftover just in case.

For some reason Dani becomes Festival Queen, and has to decide: Christian or a random villager.  Who does she choose?  It's obvious, isn't it?

There are surprisingly few bouncing breasts, and enough Swedish-hunk chests and abs to keep you interested.  Plus Christian's penis.

If you want a bright, sunlit, openly-gay character, or any deliberate reference to same-sex desire, this movie ain't it.  Everyone pretends that they never heard of gay people.  But for a blast to the past, to the old days when gay people never appeared in movies except in occasional "fag" slurs,  it's a pleasant diversion.

And did I mention Christian's penis?

Jul 11, 2019

Parker Lewis Can't Lose

The 1980s was the era of the teen operator, the teenager who works behind the scenes, enraging tyrannical assistant principals and college deans.  He starred in virtually every TGIF sitcom, from Family Ties to Growing Pains; he used his stealth to save the day in Toy Soldiers; he ruled the school in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Parker Lewis Can't Lose (1990-93) was a late entry in the teen operator canon, a Ferris Bueller clone that aired on Fox on Sunday nights.

Parker (Corin Nemec, left) ruled the school with flashy costumes and surreal antics, along with his bud, the uber-cool Mikey Randall (Billy Jayne, previously Billy Jacoby, below), and their  nerdish protege Jerry Steiner (Troy W. Slaten).

They had several allies, including inarticulate man-mountain Kube (Abraham Benrubi) and Nick Comstock (Paul Johannson), manager of their diner hangout.

And several nemeses, including the cartoon-villain principal Grace Musso (Melanie Chartoff), who was obsessed with men with "big hands," and her vampiric crony, Lemmer (Taj Johnson), who could appear and disappear at will.

There was a lot of heterosexism; about half of the episodes involve somebody trying to get with a heterosexual crush.

But Parker and Mikey made a cute couple, with Jerry as their surrogate son, and later Kube found a soulmate in the obese Coach Kohler (John Pinette), in spite of their respective hetero-crushes.

In the third season, hunky bricklayer Brad Penny (Harold Pruett) became interested in Parker, and tried to win his "friendship."  When Parker rejected him, he got revenge by stealing Jerry, who dropped  out of school to join him in the career of bricklaying.

After Parker Lewis, Corin Nemec had a stable career, mostly playing sleazoids: two serial killers, an Adolph Hitler lookalike, and "himself" (in the webseries Star-Ving with buddy David Faustino).

He was the associate producer of the evangelical Christian film Hidden Secrets (2006), and starred as an ex-gay guy who can't accept God's forgiveness for his sinful past.  Yuck.

Billy Jayne had some acting and directing credits, but he's better known now as a commercial producer.

Troy Slaten is now an attorney.

Jul 10, 2019

A Frustrating 3:00 am Search for a Blond Swimmer

I get up at 3:00 am and start searching for beefcake photos to accompany a story about Western Illinois University in Macomb.

1. I am drawn to this extremely handsome, apparently buffed blond in a blue suit, who appears in a search for "Macomb swim team."

The site says: Macomb County Division 1 all-star sw, and swm dakota Colo all county.

Macomb, Illinois is in McDonough County.  Who knew there was another one?  But the guy is cute, and swm sounds like a personal ad (Straight White Male), so I click on the original article.

2. My screen freezes.

3.  dakota Colo sounds like a place name.

No, there's a Dakota Ridge, Colorado, about 15 miles south of Denver.   Dakota Ridge High has boys' and girls' swim teams, but a search reveals only photos of girls.

Here are some wrestlers carrying a slingshot and a sword, with the byline "Valor defeats Foothills."

So I imagine they're especially courageous?

4. Maybe dakota Colo is someone's name?

All I get is the Air Force Academy's swimming/diving schedule.  One of their opponent is North Dakota/Colorado.

The Air Force Academy Swim and Dive Team's Facebook page contains 2,344 photos of the swimmers fully clothed and 1 photo of them in swimsuits.

5.  Back to the other clue about the mysterious dakota Colo: Macomb County.  Maybe I can do a search on local high schools?

It's on the shore of Lake St. Clair, just north of Detroit.  The main town is St. Clair Shores, population 60,000 with 15 high schools!  Who needs so many high schools?  In Rock Island, population 50,000, we had one.

No way I can search all of them for someone named dakota Colo.

6. How about a search on Macomb County Division 1 All Star SWM?

That yields another article.  It's clogged with "Care about your community? (Yes/No)", "Subscribe to Our Newsletter?", a video about a golfer, and various ads for cars, "Single Women Want to Have Sex with You", photo storage clouds, and Macomb Community College.  But eventually it loads.  It's just a list of 50 names of various swimmers from Macomb County.

Wait -- I found a  Ricky Colo, Dakota.  (Name changed to preserve the athlete's privacy.)

7. There are two Dakota High Schools in Macomb County, in Algonac and Macomb.  Either one could yield the elusive Ricky Colo

A search for the swim team of Dakota High in Macomb, MI yields the swim team of Duncan High in Duncan, Oklahoma, about 90 miles south of Oklahoma City.  Four skinny guys standing on a "Second Place" platform.

8. 1 found a photo of the actual Dakota High, Macomb County, Michigan swim team.  It says 1800x800, but when I download it, it turns out to be a 100x100 thumbnail.

I don't care anymore.  I'm so frustrated that I take a screenshot, crop it, and blow it up to double size.  Does any of them look like Ricky Colo?

8.  I look up Ricky Colo on Facebook.  There are three.  The first attended Kittaning Senior High in Kittaning, Pennsylvania, which closed in 2015, and now works as a sales rep for a food company.  Obviously not the right one.

The second is actually the same guy with a different account, concentrating on his years in the army.  It says "I'm orange on Saturdays and a Falcon on Sundays."

This is actually a photo of his friend.  Ricky himself has posted no beefcake photos.

The third profile is empty.

9.  Wow, I found Ricky Colo's twitter account! The right one -- a swimmer from Michigan, graduated in 2019, planning to join his college swim team in the fall.

No beefcake on his twitter feed, but here's a fully clothed photo.

Wait -- straight dark hair.  dakota Colo has blond hair.

10. Back to the original article.  This time it loads -- slowly.  No, I don't care about my community.  No, I don't want to subscribe to the newsletter.  No, I don't want to meet Russian women who want to have sex with me.

The original image was mis-labeled.   The blond guy is actually Aiden B. from Lakeview!

11, There are three Lakeview Highs in Michigan, but no doubt he's from the Lakeview in St. Clair Shores, Macomb County.

Searching for "Lakeview High" "St. Clair Shores" "Swim team"  yields a photo of the Linganore Lancers swim team in Frederick, Maryland, 500 miles from St. Clair Shores.

The team consists of 387 girls and one boy.

12.  There are two Aiden B. profiles on Facebook.  Both empty.

It's 5:00 am, and I'm tired.  Here's a photo of a shirtless blond guy.  Close enough.

Jul 8, 2019

"Us": A Horror Movie That's Not Really About Us

In 1986, the preteen Addy gets lost on the boardwalk at Santa Cruz.  She's only gone for 15 minutes, but when she returns, she is so traumatized that she cannot speak.  Even after recovering, she never tells anyone what happened to her.

She never returns to Santa Cruz, for obvious reasons, until 2018, when her boorish, clueless husband Gabe (Winston Duke, left) insists:  he needs to kiss up to his wealthy coworker Josh (Tim Heidecker, below).

"See, Honey, something terrible happened to me on the beach at Santa Cruz.  That's why I spent all those years in therapy, and still wake up screaming.  So I'd rather not go."

"We're going."

"Ok, but I absolutely won't go to the beach where the terrible thing happened."

"We're going to the beach."


So they grab their teenage daughter and preteen son (Zora and Jason) and head out to the same summer house that her parents took her to 30 years ago.

That night there's a home invasion.  The intruders look exactly like Addy, Gabe, Zora, and Jason, except their movements are jerky and uncoordinated, they don't seem to be intelligent or even sentient, and they scream a lot.  Only the Addy-double can speak, in a pained, wheezing voice, as if she's suffocating.

This is obviously not an ordinary home invasion, but the clueless Gabe keeps saying "Do you want money?  You can have my car."

Addy-double explains that in 1986, Addy stumbled upon an old government laboratory, and somehow Addy-double was created.  She grew up in the lab, tethered to Addy, forced to imitate her actions, but with rocks instead of toys, and nothing to eat but raw, bloody rabbits.  When Addy married, Gabe-double appeared, but he was a grinning idiot (real-world Gabe the idiot squared).  When Addy gave birth, so did Addy-double, but her children were non-sentient monsters.  Finally they have broken free, and come for revenge.

What a coincidence that she breaks free the moment Addy returns to Santa Cruz.

Fighting, running, schepping on boats, killing, schlepping on boats again, and finally the family ends up at Jason's house.  But he and his family have just been killed by doubles of their own.

More fighting and killing, and then some time to watch tv: apparently doubles have been popping up all over the country.

Post-apocalyptic fighting and killing. Fade out to millions of doubles forming a hands across America chain.

Wait -- how could millions of doubles fit into that single underground lab?  They are physical beings, not spirits, so how did they eat?  How were they created in the first place?  Did you have to be near Santa Cruz?

 Back to micro-level sociological analysis: all of the doubles of Addy's family are killed.  Success.  But, as they drive away, Addy reveals that she is the actual double.  That's why she couldn't speak when she first appeared -- she had to learn how.

So the doubles aren't non-sentient, they're just deprived. They would be like us, if given the opportunity.

I get it; it's a parable on capitalism.  Every privilege you enjoy comes with the price of someone else's misery.  That tomato you bought at the grocery store was farmed by a migrant doing back-breaking work for starvation wages, and it's being sold by a cashier who works 12 hour shifts for minimum wage, with no health benefits.  

Pro: It's nice to see a black family in a horror movie, even though this is a post-racial society where racism does not exist.  The sole inequality is economic.

Pro: I like how the doubles are just exaggerated versions of the real people. 

Con:  There are so many plot holes, it strains suspension of disbelief to the breaking point.  If the doubles were spirits, maybe I could buy it.   Not millions of escapees from a lab in Santa Cruz.

Gay characters: This is a very claustrophobic movie,with Addy's family and Josh's family, and almost no one else.  Assuming that those people are all meant to be heterosexual, that leaves no gay people.  Us is not really about us.

Beefcake:  No.  This is rather a woman-oriented movie. Five female characters, three male, all jerks and losers:
1.  Gabe (Winston Duke) is buffed, but he's wearing a fat suit.
2.  Josh (Tim Heidecker) really is on the chunky side. 
3. Jason (Evan Alex) is only about 10 (whose bright idea was it to give two main characters similar names?  Did Friends have Joey, Jimmy, Jason, and Chandler?)
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