Dec 14, 2019

"Happy Endings Sleepover": Spiy Twinks in Denmark Fall in Love

Happy Endings Sleepover (2019) is an oddly inappropriate title for a movie about international espionage.

Johnnie Allen, a bleach-blond twink who looks about 15 (Jeppe Forsgaard, right, in his first movie role), is in Copenhagen, Denmark, waiting for his first CIA assignment.

I don't believe that for a second.  This kid should be auditioning for the role of "gay best friend" in his high school drama club's production of "Musical Rom-Com."

Johnnie meets the older, bigger, but still twink-like Danish boy Sander (Jonas Kyed, who has been acting since 2015, mostly in film school shorts like Flagermusen et Vogteren, about two best friends who pretend to be superheroes until one dies of cancer).

Johnnie is deeply closeted due to his homophobic parents and job with the homophobic Trump Admnistration, and Sander has hidden his gay feelings ever since his junior high boyfriend rejected him and he attempted suicide. So they hit it off

After about 40 minutes of hitting it off, Johnnie gets his assignment: transport an American double agent named Petrenko from Denmark to Belgium.  Sounds dangerous, so of course he invites Sander along.

Finally the international espionage begins: they pick up the spy.  Then Sander overhears him talking on the phone -- in English,so he doesn't understand it well, but it's clear that Petrenko is dead, and they're hauling a Russian agent named Kolya (Danny Baertelsen, a "business developer, mentor, speaker, private pilot," and apparently an actor).

Uh-oh, what do they do now?  An attempt to arrest him goes wrong -- there's a shootout, and he steals their car and gets away!

A few lines of dialogue later, they're in Antwerp, and coincidentally so is Kolya.  Another shootout, Sander is injured, and the espionage plotline vanishes very quickly, without much resolution.  They spend the rest of the movie coming out to each other, having sex, telling Sander's parents that they are boyfriends, and arguing over whether to tell Johnnie's Bible-thumping mother.

You can't help but like this movie.  The actors are so enthusiastic -- about acting, about life, about being gay. It's fun watching them and thinking "Was I ever that young?  Was anybody?"

Still, I wish there was more espionage and less falling-in-love montage.  Some more plot twists, some more tense situations, maybe a kidnapping and nick-of-time rescue,with Sander displaying a knack for capers and deciding to join the team.  Instead of the climactic scene being "Why can't we tell your parents?"

Heterosexism: Johnnie and Sander are the only characters with more than three lines of dialogue, so no.  Kolya is homophobic, but he's a bad guy, so...

Beefcake: Chests and butts (neither actor is a gym rat), discussions of penises  (Sander's is bigger).

Other Sights:  Beautiful location shots in Odense (filling in for Copenhagen), rural Denmark, and northern Germany.

Famous Actors:  None.  This is the only credit for most of the cast.

In the original novel, which appeared in 2018, Johnnie is a 20-year old college student studying in Denmark ("They call it Danmark," he comments inanely, "Which is why they are called Danes."  He meets and falls in love with Sander, who "is not what he seems."  Is he the spy? That would make a little more sense.  Not much, but a little.

Author Cade Jay Hathaway actually was a CIA Agent stationed in Denmark when he fell in love with Lasse (it's a boy's name).  He retired, and now the two live together with two cats, writing semi-autobiographical novels and being in love.

And now you know why Johnnie is so darn blond.

Dec 13, 2019

The Disappointing Beefcake of "Animal Kingdom" (Not a Nature Show)

When I was searching for beefcake pictures of Joshua Cody of Santa Girl, about a thousand pictures of this guy appeared.  Another actor named Joshua Cody, with a respectable physique.But he doesn't appear on the IMDB.

On Reddit, someone posted this pic and asked "Are you on Animal Kingdom? I'm on Peaky Binders."  So this Joshua Cody must be on one of those.

I search for Animal Kingdom first.It must be a nature show on Animal Planet, like the Wild Kingdom of my childhood.

Nope.  The title is completely misleading: no animals (except for humans), no kingdoms, and it airs on TNT.  It's a drama about a crime family led by matriarch Smurf  (Ellen Barkin).

Joshua Cody must play one of her children.  And if he's got 10,000 shirtless and nude photos floating around the internet, there must be many more of the other mafiosi.  With visions of angelic faces, bulging biceps, and bulging bulges floating in my head, I check the list of Mama Smurf's boys:

1.Scott Speedman as Baz, who is  killed during a robbery in the second season.

Not exactly a gym rat. Rather plain, nondescript, the kind of guy cast as
lawyers and corporate suits.  I wouldn't go out of my way to meet him at a bear party.

2. Shawn Hatosy as Pope, who is mentally ill and spends time in mental institutions and churches as well as prison.  He's into Baz's girlfriend, and smothers her to death.

Ok physique, a little pale and waxy, but his face is grotesque.  I'm actively avoiding him at bear parties.

3. Ben Robson as Craig, who is a drug addict, "adrenaline junkie," and violent thug.  For instance, when his girlfriend overdoses, instead of calling 911, he ransacks her apartment looking for money and drugs.

Another pasty, waxy chest, gross tattoos, and a grotesque face.  I get that they wanted a drug addict to be less than gorgeous, but really, this is a bit much.

4. Jake Weary as Deran, a "former competitive surfer" who is gay.  He runs a legitimate business as well as participating in the family capers.

OMG.  At least they're not pandering to gay stereotypes.

 Question: how did the casting director get a list of my top 10 turn-offs?

5. Finn Cole as Joshua, Mama Smurf's grandson, who wants to take over the business.

His last name is "Cody" --  I finally found Joshua Cody!

 And Finn Cole turns out to be not grotesque.

His physique is nondescript, but at this point I'm happy just finding someone who can walk into a room without shattering all the mirrors.

Ok,  I get it.  The criminals were deliberately cast with ugly guys due to our stereotypic association of ugliness with evil: if they were hot, they would be too sympathetic.   But what about the rest of the cast?  There must be some hunks among them.

6. Spencer Treat Clarke as Adrian, Deran's boyfriend, another "former competitive surfer."

Lord have mercy, he's awful.  But he was cute as Jerathmiel on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina in 2019.  How....

7. John Beavers as Jake, Craig's father, a former member of Smurf's gang, seen in flashbacks.

He's got some pecs -- again, of the pale, waxy variety-- but no tats!  And he's reasonably nice looking.

8. Grant Harvey as Colin, Pope's father, Smurf's former mentor, seen in even moe flashbacks.

Not bad.  Give him a smile and a nice bulge, and I might ask him out.

9.  Gil Birmingham as Detective Pearce, who has been trying to bring the crime family down for 20 years.  From the name, I was expecting a Brit,but Gil is actually a Texan of Comanche ancestry, and apparently former bodybuilder.

In 1982, he appeared among the backup boys in the music video of Diana Ross's "Muscles"

It's been 37 years, so you have to cut him a little slack, but I still have a 40" chest and 16" biceps. It's not that hard to keep up.

10. Rigo Sanchez as Manny. a member of Smurf's gang in one of the endless flashbacks.  This photo is from before he was cast on Animal Planet.  You don't want to know what he looked like as Manny.

Dec 11, 2019

Philip McKeon after Alice

Philip McKeon was one of the biggest teen stars of the 1970s, mostly for his role as Tommy Hyatt, son of single mom Alice Hyatt (Linda Lavin) on Alice (1976-85), and also because he was the brother of Nancy McKeon, the tomboy Jo on The Facts of Life (1979-88).   But he had a respectable career in buddy-bonding and gay-vague roles, without Linda and Nancy around.

Born in 1964, the tall, grinning blond got his start as a child model at age 4, and soon moved on to television commercials and theater.  Linda Lavin saw him in Jason and Medea, a retelling of the Greek myth, and recommended him for Tommy.

While working on Alice, Phil did the usual Love Boat/ Fantasy Island guest shots, plus Leadfoot (1982), a cautionary tale about a teen who drives too fast, thus jeopardizing his life and that of his best friend Murph (played by fellow teen star Peter Barton).

In an episode of Amazing Stories (1986), Phil plays a World War II solder who is saved, along with other members of his platoon, by the outcast Arnold (Larry Spinack), who may have been a ghost. There's some glimmers of buddy bonding.

In Red Surf (1989), a drug dealer named True Blue (Phil) is busted by the police, talks too much, and draws the ire of crime boss Calavera (Rick Najera).  So his two buddies, Atilla (Doug Savant) and Remar (George Clooney) must rush to the rescue.

He also starred in a few horror movies before moving into direction (Edge of Nowhere, The Young Unknowns) and production, including Where the Day Takes You (with David Arquette as a bisexual prostitute), Teresa's Tattoo (with a full contingent of 1980s hunks, including Matt Adler, C. Thomas Howell, and Lou Diamond Philips),  Murder in the First, and The Jacket. 

Both Phil and Nancy McKeon have been the subject of gay rumors, but they haven't made any public statements.

There's a Hookup story on Tales of West Hollywood.

Phil McKeon died on December 10th, 2019, after a long illness

Dec 10, 2019

5 Heterosexist and 5 Gay-Inclusive Christmas Specials

Have you ever noticed that most Christmas specials are annoyingly heterosexist.  Here are the worst examples:

1. Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962): Why is Magoo/Scrooge so miserable?  He was so obsessed with money that he lost Belle, the girl of his dreams.  So he atones by helping a heterosexual nuclear family, Bob Cratchett, wife, daughter, and three sons.

2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964):  Ok, it's about accepting difference.  The "misfit toys" are all adopted out, Rudolph uses his glowing red nose to save the day, and Hermey the Elf gets to become a dentist. But Rudolph gets a girlfriend, Clarice ("She thinks I'm cute!") and Hermey dances with a female elf at a party.

In the closing "Holly Jolly Christmas," Burl Ives sings that there's a girl waiting for you (a boy) under the mistletoe: "kiss her once for me."  When a woman sings that song, it becomes "kiss him once for me."

3. Frosty the Snowman (1969): only a subtle a hetero-romantic subtext about a little girl in love with the snowman, but the sequel, Frosty's Winter Wonderland (1976) is all about the snowman finding a wife.

4. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970): a heterosexual love story between the young-adult Santa Claus (then known as Kris Kringle) and the future Mrs. Claus (a teacher named Jessica).  At least Kris (voiced by former teen idol Mickey Rooney) is a cute redhead.

5. The Year without a Santa Claus (1974). Mr.s Claus saves the day.  And heterosexual monogamy.

But not to worry, there are a few inclusive ones.  Here are the best:

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965): a reference to the Little Red-Haired Girl and Lucy's obsession with Schroeder, but otherwise about nurturing and friendship.

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966): the Grinch is a green-furred outsider who dislikes Christmas, so he and his dog Max set out to ruin the holiday for the residents of Whoville by stealing all of their stuff.  When he discovers that the townsfolk are happy together even without stuff, he relents, returns everything, and joins in the celebration.

No same-sex plotlines, but at least there's no hetero-romance, and few if any heterosexual nuclear families.

3. Olive the Other Reindeer (1999): a dog (Drew Barrymore), a penguin (Joe Pantoleono), and a flea (Peter MacNichol) save Christmas, and no one falls in love with anyone.

4. Billy and Mandy Save Christmas (2005): the cast of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy discover that Santa Claus has been transformed into a vampire. While looking for a cure, the Grim Reaper develops a homoromantic bond with a flamboyantly feminine, gay-coded vampire named Baron Von Ghoulish (voiced by gay actor Malcolm McDowell).  They even sing about how much they like each other.

5. Prep & Landing (2009).  Two high-tech Elves buddy-bond while saving Christmas.

Christopher Masterson in the Middle

From 2000 to 2006, Christopher Masterson played eldest brother Francis on the dysfunctional family sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, starring Frankie Muniz..  While Justin Berfield's Reese  got most of the gay references and subtexts (not to mention most of the nude and shirtless shots), Francis got his share.

The most significant gay subtext was in a story arc in which Francis and his friend Eric (Eric Nenninger) move to Alaska together (because they can't stand to be separated) are mistaken for a gay couple.

Born in 1980, Christopher belongs to a show biz family (his brother Danny starred in That Seventies Show).   He began acting at the age of eight, with guest roles on Murphy Brown and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.  

In 1995 he starred in Cutthroat Island, about the female pirate Morgan (Geena Davis) and her companion Shaw (Matthew Modine) searching for treasure.  He played Bowen, her assistant and protege, who displays no heterosexual interest.

In 1997 Christopher returned to the pirate world in Ecce Pirate, about a boy who is kidnapped by pirates and grows up to become their king.  Again, no heterosexual interest.

During Malcolm in the Middle, Christopher had some additional buddy-bonding and gay-vague roles, most notably in the "My Generation" episode of the anthology tv series Strange Frequency (2001), about two serial killers of different generations who decide to go into business together.

Of course there were heterosexist roles, too, such as Nice Guys Finish Last (2001), a "teen boy obsessed with girls" short, and Wuthering Heights (2003), which moves the "classic" Victorian novel into a modern-day high school.

I haven't seen much of his post-Malcolm work, but it doesn't look like there's much gay content.  As usual, you get to buddy-bond in your teens, before you graduate to "mature" heterosexual romances.

A Scientologist, he might not be a gay ally.

See also: The Top 10 Hunks of Malcolm in the Middle

Dec 9, 2019

"The Legend of Greg": Torn between Elf Boy and Dwarf Girl

The Chosen One is always the one you'd least suspect, born in a manger, living under a stairway, excluded from the reindeer games.

Or a pudgy, friendless 13-year old.

Greg, son of an eccentric organic-soap artisan, is the only scholarship kid at his fancy prep school, constantly being bullied and excluded.   He does have one friend, the uber-rich Edwin; they share a love of chess, bad puns, and taking off their shirts.

Gay-subtext best-buddies?  Ok, I'm listening.

But before I actually buy The Epic Misadventures of Greg, I follow my standard procedure:

1. Read the first 3 pages. Does Greg have a crush on the Girl of His Dreams?
2.Read the last 3 pages.  Did he meet the Girl of His Dreams during the adventure?
3. Do a word search for "kiss," "beautiful," and "girlfriend."
4. Check author Chris Rylander's blurb.  Does dedicate the book to "the love of my life, the light of my loins, the reason for my existence, the Eternal Feminine?"

No, no, no, and no.

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then we'll begin.

Greg's less than idyllic existence comes to an end when they visit the zoo, and a polar bear escapes and rushes toward him.  Edwin stands in front of him, and the bear suddenly turns away.  He claims that he was trying to sacrifice himself so Greg could escape  ("I couldn't live in a world without you") , but it looked like he was commanding the bear to stop.

After a few more mishaps, Greg discovers the truth:  he is a Dwarf, right out of The Lord of the Rings, except for the parts that Tolkien made up or got wrong ("I never saw those movies!" Greg protests).

For thousands of years, ever since the breakup of the Separate Earth, Dwarves have lived among us.  They tend to be short, hairy, and muscular, but poor, working in factories and as artisans, or shoveling shit for a living.  Only a few have achieved fame in our lifetime: Miley Cyrus, Dwayne Johnson.

Elves live among us, too.  They tend to be tall, slim, and androgynous, and rich.  They are the entrepreneurs and intellectuals. Nearly every famous person you can name, from Bill Clinton to Tom Hanks to Justin Bieber, is secretly an Elf (it's obvious with Bieber).

Dwarves and Elves have fought many bloody wars, and now they hate each other.  Greg is cautioned to never trust an Elf, never talk to one if he can help it; they are all duplitious, sneaky, underhanded, and evil.  All of the problems he has been facing, from the polar bear attack to the troll who kidnapped his father, were caused by Elves.

Greg's best friend Edwin? You guessed it -- an Elf.

Forbidden to see each other, they meet secretly, a whole Romeo and Juliet thing.

There's a girl.

Greg moves into an underground Dwarf community (literally underground, in caverns beneath Chicago) to be trained as the Chosen One.  At a Dwarven Hogwarts, he makes four friends, two boys and two girls.  But three of them are undeveloped placeholders; he interacts almost exclusively with Ari, a girl who is smart, pragmantic, and...beautiful. Uh-oh.

A clash between the modern world of same-sex romance and the traditional world of The Eternal Feminine.  Which will win?

I read ahead.  Greg and Ari don't become lovers. Not yet, anyway.  The first book ends with a climactic battle between The Chosen One and....Edwin.

All this time I thought it was just prejudice, that there were some fine people on both sides of the Elf-Dwarf divide.  But apparently Elves really are evil.

That's almost as disappointing as Greg's boyfriend turning into an enemy.  Same-sex romance fades away,but the Eternal Feminine -- well, Ari is still around in Book 2.
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