Dec 20, 2019

"Holiday in the Wild": Rob Lowe and Son

All Christmas rom-coms have the same plot:

Girl Looking for Love:  Hi, I'm visiting your small town.  But I have a career in the big city, and therefore am not interested in romance.

Hot Guy: No problem.  I'm afraid of commitment, so I'm not interested in romance, either.

Girl Looking for Love:  You're arrogant!  Definitely not boyfriend material!

Hot Guy:  You're annoying!  I'm glad I'm not interested in romance.  But do you want to have a falling-in-love montage?

Girl Looking for Love:  Sure

Hot Guy:  Please drop your career and stay here in the small town with me.

Girl Looking for Love:  What a wonderful Christmas present!

The latest Netflix iteration --does its title really matter? -- stars Kristin Davis as a Big City socialite whose husband (Colin Moss) dumps her just before their second honeymoon, so she goes on the trip herself -- to Zambia (yuch!  one of the most homophobic countries on Earth).

Obviously there would be no gay characters, but I figured there would be some African beefcake  and maybe some nice location shots, so it wouldn't hurt to go through it on fast forward.

First scene:  New York is awful, crowded yet lonely,  Kristin is bored as one of the Ladies Who Lunch.  Especially now that her son, John Owen Lowe, has gone off to college.

The dumping comes, and:

Second scene:  She's in Zambia, in a fancy hotel bar full of white people.  The only black people are the bartenders and waiters.  A racist colonial fantasy.

One would expect Kristin to fall in love with a black guy -- only 40,000 of Zambia's 17 million residents are white -- but no, she meets Rob Lowe, a hot but arrogant pilot who happens to be her safari guide.

Third scene: They fly out into the wild, rescue a baby elephant, and take it to an elephant sanctuary run by Fezile Mpela.  Kristin helps out (she used to be a veterinarian), and likes it so much that she sticks around  -- and does the cooking?

A lot more scenes of saving elephants.  Broken up only by John Owen being miserable at college (too crowded and lonely).  He drops by at Christmastime (ergo the Holiday Connection) to tell Kristin that he's planning to drop out to become a musician.  She suggests that changing his major from Big Business to music woud solve all of his problems (not crowded, not lonely).

Complications:  I couldn't really see any during the fast forward, except for Rob being arrogant and Kristin being annoying.  Everyone at the elephant sanctuary is remarkably friendly, a big happy family (not crowded, not lonely)

Last Scene:  Kristin returns to the Big City and starts a veterinary practice.  But she's just handling the pampered pets of Ladies Who Lunch, and there are elephants to be saved (and elephant conservationists to cook for).  So she goes back to Africa and kisses Rob Lowe.

Gay Characters:  Maybe John Owen.  He never mentions girls.  In the "off to college" scene, a girl with a suitcase hugs Kristin and says "Thanks for letting me drive him."  At first I thought she was a sister, but the family photos show only one child.  If she's a girlfriend, why would she have a suitcase?

By the way, John Owen Lowe is the real-life son of Rob Lowe.  What was it like growing up with the gay poster boy of the 1980s?

Beefcake:  Rob Lowe takes off his shirt in one brief scene.  Been there, done that.  Fezile Mpela has a respectable physique, but we never see it.

Other Interesting Sights:  None. It's all interiors and the wild.  We don't even get an establishing shot of the Freedom Statue in Lusaka.

My Grade:  Not even worth a fast-forward.  F.

There's a Rob Lowe hookup story on Tales of West Hollywood.

60 Movies I Will Never See (Or Saw and Regretted)

There are 6 basic emotions, 1 positive (happiness), 3 negative (sadness, anger, and disgust), and 2 which could be either (surprise, fear)  The function of a movie, book, song, or other work of art is to elicit positive emotions, to make the audience feel better after viewing than they did before.

So I don't understand movies that deliberately elicit sadness, anger, or disgust.  Why would anyone want to watch something that makes you feel bad?  Don't you get enough bad feelings in real life?

Here are 60 movies that I will never see, or that I saw and regretted.

No dying of long, slow, debilitating diseases.  With scenes of yelling at doctors, reconciling with estranged relatives, sobbing, sobbing, sobbing, and holding hands on death beds.

1. Terms of Endearment (1983). Shirley Maclain's daugher dies of cancer.

2. Beaches (1988).  No one surfing or swimming, just Bette Midler singing and crying.

3. Steel Magnolias (1989).  Women face tragedy in the South.

4. My Girl (1991).  Boy falls in love with a dying girl.

5. Lorenzo's Oil (1992).  Family tries to cure their dying son.

6. Stepmom (1998). Hugging and dying.

7. Here on Earth (2000).  Boy's girlfriend dies.

8. Bridge to Terabithia (2007). With Josh Hutcherson (top, recent photo). They fool you into thinking it's a fantasy movie, like Harry Potter.  It's actually about a boy befriending a dying girl.

9. Moulin Rouge (2008).  Fortunately, I walked out because it was so awful long before the deathbed scene.

10. The Fault in Our Stars (2014).  A support group for people dying of cancer.

Especially no dying-of-AIDS.  Yelling at doctors, reconciling with estranged relatives, sobbing, sobbing, and so on, but with homophobia.  Lovely way to spend an evening.

11. An Early Frost (1985).  Guy dies of AIDS.

12. Parting Glances (1986).  Guy dies of AIDS.

13. Longtime Companion (1989). Guy dies of AIDS.

14. Philadelphia (1993).  I was forced to watch this, but kept my nose in a book the whole time.  Guy faces discrimination because he's dying of AIDS.

15. And the Band Played On (1993). The government refuses to acknowledge that people are dying of AIDS.

16. The Cure (1995).  Guy dies of AIDS.

17. It's My Party (1996, left).  AIDS and suicide!  Fun!

No Holocaust as entertainment.  Um... 6,000,000 people died. How can that be turned into two hours of fun?

18.  Sophie's Choice (1982).  She has to choose which of her kids to kill, and later gets a couple of boyfriends.

19. Schindler's List (1993). He helps some people escape from the Holocaust.

20. Life is Beautiful (1997).  Set in a concentration camp. Are they kidding?

21. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2009).  More concentration camp hijinks.

No main characters dying, period. Who had th bright idea of killing off the protagonists in car accidents, gunshots to the head, or zombie bites?  Why would I want to get invested in a character, only to have them die?

22. Easy Rider (1969).  I saw this, not realizing that everybody dies, and the movie is ruined.

23. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969),  What's the point of a homoerotic buddy "comedy" if they're just going to die at the end?

24. Thelma and Louis (1991).  I watched this, too.  No one told me that they go over a cliff.

25. Titanic (1997). I was conned into seeing the musical.  Hint: they all drown.

26. The Perfect Storm (2000).  They all drown.

27. Children of Men (2006). Everybody is dying.

28. Pan's Labyrinth (2006).  Girl is dying.

29. Into the Wild (2007).  He starves to death!

30. 28 Weeks Later (2007).  Zombie movies are supposed to have survivors!

31. Burn After Reading This (2008).  I went into this thinking it was a comedy, and walked out when Brad Pitt's comic relief character suddenly was shot to death.

32. Apollo 18 (2011).  Dying astronauts.

No inmates on death row.  You know they're going to die from the beginning.  Why bother to watch?
 33. The Executioner's Song (1982).
34. Dead Man Walking (1995)
35. The Green Mile (1999)

No war.  War is one of the biggest tragedies of life, not a source of entertainment!  If the movie is about humorous hijinks far from the combat zone, ok.  But angst-ridden, somber music, people dying of bullet holes -- no way!  I don't care if the whole platoon struts around naked.
36. Platoon (1986)
37. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
38. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
39. We Were Soldiers (2002)

No ends of the world.  Nuclear holocaust, giant meteor, whatever.  Even worse than the main characters dying, the end of everybody and everything, the most depressing thing imaginable.

40. Dr. Strangelove (1965). Why would you yell "yahoo" while plummeting to your death on the back of a nuclear bomb? I actually saw this, under the impression that it was a "comedy."  It's not.

41. Miracle Mile (1988).  I actually saw this without realizing that the world ends until it was too late, and I was trapped there with a date.

42. 2012 (2009).  A new flood kills everybody on Earth, except for two hetero couples.

43. Cabin in the Woods (2012). I thought it would be a standard horror movie, with survivors at the end, not "the old gods awaken and start the Apocalypse," and everybody dies.

44. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012).  A "comedy" about a man and a woman (of course) falling in love just before an asteroid kills everybody on Earth.

45. This is the End (2013).  I actually watched this.  Everybody dies,but some of them go to heaven.

No LGBT people dealing with homophobia.  Getting yelled at, rejected, beat up, experiencing angst, and dying.

46. Get Real (1998).  I saw this, thinking it would be ok because no one dies.  Horrible!

47. Boys Don't Cry (1999). Transman is killed.

48. The Laramie Project (2002).  A movie about a real-life horrific hate crime!  Just the thing to brighten your day.

49. Brokeback Mountain (2005). Bisexual cowboys facing homophobia and dying.  No way!

No horrifying handicaps.  I don't care if they overcome adversity and find love, having a handicap is by definition bad, so no movie about it can be good.

50.  The Miracle Worker (1962). I got grossed out by the passage in the book where the child Helen Keller doesn't eat at the table, she just goes from plate to plate and grabs whatever she wants.

51. Johnny Got His Gun (1971).  A blind, deaf, and dumb quadriplegic?

52. Tommy (1975).  A blind, deaf, and dumb boy, plus homophobia.  I turned off the DVD and zapped it back to Netflix.

53. The Elephant Man (1980).

54. Mask (1985).  I don't know what it's about, but it sounds gross.

55. My Left Foot (1989). This one sounded even more gross.

56. The Sessions (2012).  A man living in an iron lung decides to have sex.  Gross.

No movies where the plot summary itself makes me nauseous.

57. Harold and Maude (1971).  I saw this one.  Sickening romance between a teenage boy and an 80-year old lady.  No, I don't think it's at all hypocritical that I'm 55 years old and dating twinks. Plus she commits suicide because she loves life so much.  Huh?

58. Pink Flamingos (1972).  Seen it.  According to John Waters, they offered Divine a substitute, but no, she wanted to really eat the dog poop.

59. Funny Games (1997).  A family is terrorized and killed by a pair of psychos.  Uplifting!

60. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008).  He ages backwards!  Can you think of anything more disgusting?  I couldn't even sit through the trailers.

See also: 10 Gay Movies  I Hated.

Dec 19, 2019

Filipino Barbarians and their Teen Sidekicks

The Philippines has a huge comic book industry, dating all the way back to the 1920s.  Most are in Tagalog, with some English and Spanish loan words thrown in; a few in the other major languages, such as Ilokano.  If you can't read Tagalog, you can usually figure out what's going on anyway, by looking at the pictures: a lot of beefcake, Filipino man-mountains saving the world.

1. Conan-style barbarian heroes who battle weird monsters, such as Tartaro and Malcan (by contemporary comic artist Arman T. Francisco, who runs a Filipino Komix blog).

2. Semi-nude Tarzan-style jungle heroes, often with teen sidekicks in tow (or else kids themselves), such as  Lawin, a boy raised by eagles, or  "Haring Wupong" (King Cobra), by Francisco V. Coching

 Boy Shabu, a boxer with magical powers written by Vic J. Poblete, appeared in Aliwan comics.

Many comics offer a pleasantly zany mix of history and myth. In this"Aram" comic by Joe Lad Santos, an ancient Greek hero and his teen sidekick use the sword Excalibur to explore the Bermuda Triangle.

The 18th century European adventurer Prince Amante, by Mario Del Mar, became so popular in the 1950s that it was adapted into the first full color feature film in the Philippines, Prinsipe Amante (1950), starring Ben Rubio.

Dec 18, 2019

The Great Cock of the Darking Wood, and Other Hunks from "The Magicians"

Back in 2015, I watched half of the first episode of The Magicians, now in its fourth season on Netflix.  Quentin and his childhood friend Julia are invited to apply to Brakebills University, a secret magical academy that's not Hogwarts. 

Quentin is admitted.  He meets various eccentric classmates and teachers, plus he discovers that the fantasy world from his favorite childhood novels, not The Chronicles of Narnia, is real.

Meanwhile Julia fails the exam.  Failed applicants get their memories erased, but in her case the erasure doesn't work (for Reasons)  so she starts learning magic on the downlow in a dream world.  Plus she wants to find out why her brother died at Brakebill five years ago. 

That was enough.  I just didn't have the patience for yet another mythology-heavy, secret-agenda-filled series.  Besides, it was way too heterosexist, with men and women constantly glimmering at each other.

Four seasons later, The Magicians has become as complex as Lost meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with endless secret agendas, people who are not what they seem, parallel worlds, poltergeists, dragons, and maguffin piled onto maguffin.  Just listen to this plot synopsis from Season 3:

Elliot and Fen, along with their now-grown child Fray (who is secretly a spy for the Fairy Queen) try to retrieve the First Key from a priest on Alter Island.  Meanwhile Quentin realizes that Emily has the last of Mayakovsky's batteries, but Kady steals it before he can get to it.  Then the Lamprey posseses him.

Whatever happened to The Golden Girls?  Season 3, Episode 5: The girls have to fly to the Bahamas for a funeral, but Rose is afraid of delivering the eulogy, Dorothy is afraid of flying, and Blanche is afraid of bald men.

But if you want to stick with it, The Magicians has been acclaimed as "the queerest show on tv."  Most of the main cast has been revealed as bisexual -- starting in the second season, after the homophobes get invested.  There are same-sex liasions and relationships. 

Personally, I don't have the time for it.  I'll make do with a list of Top 10 Hunks.

1, Hale Appleman (top photo) as Elliot, the world-weary, well-seasoned, hookup-happy upperclassman.  Later he becomes the Monster at the End of the World.

2. Jason Ralph (second photo) as Quentin, the newby who has an unrequited crush on Julia but also falls in love with Alice and Elliott.  Later he becomes The Beast.

3. Arjun Gupta (third photo) as Penny, an upperclassman who becomes Quentin's rival/best bud and later Librarian of the Neithrlands (don't ask).

4. Adam DiMarco (left) as Todd, a miscellaneous student at Brakebills.

5. Arlen Escarpeta as Prince Ess of Loria.

6. Mackenzie Astin as Corrigan, a member of a free trade alliance who is taken over by Reynard the Fox, a trickster god who is searching for his mother, the Greek goddess Persephone. Huh?

7. Jesse Lukan as a miscellaneous hunk who shares Elliot's bed.  Aren't you glad he's not the Mercurian Azaroth who is taken over by Seth the Unyielder?

8. Charles Mesure as Martin Chatwick, one of the kids from the not-Narnia books who became High King of Fillory, then turned evil and started breaking through to Earth in order to cause havoc.

9. Markian Tarasiuk as Prince Micah in the episode where Quentin and Elliot go to a parallel world and grow old together, or else see each other in a parallel world, or else...

10.  Darien Martin as Lunk.  I just like the name "Lunk." 

The cast also includes characters named Tick Pickwick, Bender (not that Bender), Our Lady Underground, the Stone Queen, Santa Claus, Bacchus, Fairy Ambassador, and:

The Great Cock of the Darkling Wood.

That's who I want to invite to my Christmas party.

Dec 17, 2019

Why do we still have the H-word?

Every semester I tell my students "The proper terms are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQQA, and queer.  The proper terms for same-sex desire or behavior are same-sex, homoerotic, or homoromantic. The H-word is offensive, and may not be used."

Every semester they are shocked.  "Wait...that's offense?  I thought it was what them people liked to be called.  I thought 'gay' was the bad word."

So I ask them:
1. How many gay organizations have "gay" in their title?  Answer: About 5000
2. How many gay organizations have the h-word?  Answer: None.
3. How many festivals and parades are called "Gay Pride."  Answer: Over 300.

4. How many festivals and parades are called h-pride?  Answer: None.

5. In a survey, The Advocate asked "What should we be called?"  How many said gay, lesbian, LGBT, or queer?  Answer: Over 90%

6. How many suggested the h-word?  Answer: None.

The H word brings a history of oppression.  It was used to label LGBT people criminal psychopaths.  It was used to justify why they should go to prison for 20 years to life.  It was used to justify placing them in mental institutions, where they were subjected to lobotomies, electroshock, castration, and forced sterilization.  It was used to justify the belief that they were not human beings at all, but demons and monsters plotting to destroy civilization.

It's still used that way.  Check  The books with the H word in their titles are mostly written by homophobes to justify a continuing policy of oppression.

In 1969, the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance said "Enough!  That word will no longer be used!  The proper term is Gay!"  The Mattachine Society and E.M. Forster disapproved, but their objections were quickly silenced.

My question is, why don't heterosexuals know it?

In 1966, the Civil Rights Movement said "The word 'Negro' is offensive.  Do not use it.  The proper term is 'Black.'"  Within two years, all books, magazine articles, and tv broadcasts were saying "Black."

Why did it take a sit-in protest to get the "New York Times" to say "gay"?

Why did it take the American Psychological Association until 2003 to say that the proper term was "gay"?

Why do students still walk into my class every semester thinking that "gay" is bad and the H-word, the word denigrated by gay rights groups since before their parents were born, is ok?

Dec 16, 2019

"Home for Christmas": The Girl with 5 Boyfriends and a Girlfriend

One reason I hate the holidays is my memory of many Christmases past with endless dissimulations and awkward silences.  Some of my relatives back home had a "don't ask, don't tell policy," and others didn't know at all (and would start screaming if they did), so:
West Hollywood became Santa Monica
Gay Pride became "a street fair"
Volunteering for the AIDS Project became volunteering for Big Brothers
The Metropolitan Community Church  became First Presbyterian
The boyfriend became a "friend," if I mentioned him at all.
And I had a "girlfriend."

So I was interested in Hjem til Jul (Home for Christmas), a Norwegian short series in which 30-year old Johanne (Ida Elise Broch) gets so tired of her family's constant sneers and digs about being single that she blurts out "I have a boyfriend!"

Now she has three weeks to find a boyfriend for real and present him at the Christmas Eve dinner!

I know, this is the plotline of about 50% of Hallmark Christmas movies.  But bear with me.

With the help of her roommate/best friend Jørgun, Johanne posts a provocative profile on a dating app.  Some of the men are utter jerks, like Paul (Nader Khademi), who goes beserk in an escape room and then yells that they aren't intellectual equals, but most are perfectly nice, with one fatal flaw:

1. Stein (Mads Sjøgård Pettersen,top photo), a fitness enthusiast whose idea of a date is a spin class.

2.Henrik (Oddgeir Thune), who is old enough to be her father, and may in fact have dated her mother.

3. Jonas (Felix Sandman, left), only 19 years old, who is amazingly good in bed but dumps her by claiming that he's "leaving for Bali to go to college."

She also meets people on the street, at parties, and at the hospital where she works as an unconventional, "let's bend the rules" nurse:

4. Thomas (Kinsgford Siayor), a "cry on my shoulder" Christmas tree salesman and bartender.  He turns out to have a girlfriend.

5. Raul (Paul Andino), the hospital's "cheer up" clown.  Johanne just isn't into clowns.

6. A woman Johanne meets at a party, who goes down on her on the train.  She's just not into women, either.

After some subplots involving patients at the hospital and Johanne's parents trying out an open relationship, it's Christmas Eve. Who does Johanne bring home?

All eyes turn to the hallway as she brings in (spoiler alert!)

Jørgun, the roommate/best friend.  Everyone turns on their "little sister's coming out" smiles.  But then:

Raul the hospital clown, who has just started dating Jørgun, and:

The tough, non-nonsense hospital patient who has been mentoring her.

She brought people that she cares about. What difference does it make if they're romantically involved?

Gay characters:  The woman at the party.  Maybe Johanne's younger brother Sebastian (Arthur Hakalahti).  But everyone seems rather nonchalant about it. And subverting the "boyfriend for Christmas" trope queers the text.

Beefcake:  Three of the guys are displayed semi-nude.

Other Scenery:  Not very interesting.  The exterior shots are all on one street in the town of Røros

Misleading Title:  Johanne is not going "home for Christmas."  She lives in the same town with her family. It should be "A boyfriend for Christmas," but that tile is already taken by 5,000 Hallmark movies.

My Grade: B+.

Dec 15, 2019

Why I Walked Out on Tony Danza

October 10th, 1978, a Tuesday night.  I'm 17 years old, a freshman at Augustana College, studying in the tv lounge at the student union.  It's crowded with jocks and their girlfriends, Dungeons and Dragons nerds, future Lutheran preachers, and ironic-artsy types. Tuesday is the power night of must-see tv: Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Three's Company, Taxi.

I figured "it" out last summer, but I haven't met any gay people yet, and I know nothing about gay life.  Except one thing: no straights must ever know.  At best they will never speak to you again.  More likely they will attack. You will be kicked out of the house, expelled from the college, arrested.

So watching tv in a group presents a problem.  You have to feign disinterest in the hot male actors and pretend to find the "hot chicks" attractive.  If you make a mistake, and accidentally express an interest in an "uggo," it will all be over.

And what about the occasional gay characters? If you seem too interested, act as if you want to hear about "fags," the straights will suspect.  But they wil also suspect if you bellow with outrage ("Why do you care so much? Are you that way?)

You have to express just the right level of disgust: "I don't care what they do in the bedroom, as long as they don't try anything with me."

Happy Days: "Happy days" in the 1950s.  Fonzie, motorcycle hoodlum turned role model, bonds with his ex-girlfriend's son, whose father abandoned him.  No references to gay people, no hot guys, a few murmurs about the hotness of the ex-girlfriend, no big deal.

Laverne and Shirley: More "happy days," with two working girls in 1950s Milwaukee.  Neither is presented as particularly attractive.  They go on a quiz show.   No big deal.

Three's Company:  Jack Tripper (John Ritter) pretends to be gay so the uptight landlord will let him share an apartment with two girls.  Usually not a problem: no actual gay people appear, and when Jack has to "be gay," he swishes and limp-wrists to elicit laughter rather than outrage.   He doesn't even swish in this episode: the gang mistakenly believes that Helen is cheating on her husband.

Taxi:  About a disparate group of drivers for the Sunshine Cab Company in NewYork.  This is only the fifth episode, but it's already a major hit.

Not a problem, except for trying not to sigh over the rock-hard hunkiness of Tony Danza.  This episode centers on Elaine (Marilu Henner), an aspiring artist who doesn't want her snooty friends to know that she drives a cab.


Elaine's fare (William Bogert) believes that she is deliberately driving the "scenic route," and refuses to pay.  She threatens to claim that he tried to rape her.  He says: "You may have a little trouble getting that story to stick when the police find out I'm the National Secretary for the Gay Liberation Force."

I blink in surprise.  Is there such an organization (no, there wasn't)?  Do gay people have groups, clubs, national organizations?  I thought it was just clandestine bars. 

Suddenly I realize that everyone is laughing. 

Should I laugh, too? Should I make a comment about how New York is full of fairies?  What if he turns out to be a major character in the episode, the owner of the art gallery or something? What if he turns out to be a recurring character in the series?

Should I stay or should I go?

I go.

See also: Taxi

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