Dec 28, 2019

Who is the Killer Hunk of "The Dare"?

Ok, you've got my attention.  Let's see what you look like without the weird mask.

Unfortunately, IMDB says that this is a photo of: Giles Alderson, Johnny Grant, and Robert Maaser.  I doubt that.

The movie is The Dare, which was scheduled to appear in December 2019, but I find no evidence of any premiere, and no reviews.  Internet searches are stymied by the similarity with the hororr movie Truth or Dare and the indie gay romance Dare.

All I have is a plot synopsis:  A rare family night for Jay takes a brutal twist when he awakens in a basement with three other prisoners. As their vengeful captor runs riot, Jay engages in a twisted battle to solve the puzzle to his past and save his family's future.

So a mash-up of the Saw movies and I Know What You Did Last Summer.


I thought the killer must be the character named Creedence, but he's played by  Richard Brake.

So the four people in the room?  They each have adult and child versions.











1. Jay: Bart Edwards as an adult, Oliver Cunliffe as a boy.















2.Dominic: Robert Maaser as an adult, Harry Jarvis as a teen.  Buffed, but not "scary buffed," with bulging, spidery veins











3. Adam: Richard Short as an adult, Alexander Biehn as a child.

Richard Short has a nude scene in Vinyl (2016).  Impressive, but not the hunkoid.













4.  Paul: Daniel Schutzman as an adult, George Pillsworth as a child.  Nope.

5. That leaves Giles Alderson, the director, and Johnny Grant, the writer.

So who's the muscle hunk?

I'm guessing Robert Maaser, filmed right after a workout when your muscles swell up,   maybe with some CGI enhancements to make him look more threatening.

You know what that means?

The killer is in the house!

Dec 27, 2019

The Three Unwatchable Scenes of "Cats"

On Christmas Day I went to see Cats, the 2019 movie based on stage musical based on some poems by T.S. Eliot.  We were the only ones in the theater.

The previous movie version was awful.  No plot.  Some cats introduce themselves, and one is chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn.

The new version is awful, too, but not nearly as bad. 





Granted, the cat costumes are grotesque; it takes awhile before you can look at them without shuddering. But what do you expect from human-cat hybrids?

There are only three scenes tthat are actually unwatchable; the others mostly suffer from poor direction that is always focusing on something other than what we want to be looking at.

 And the plot plods along. But at least there’s a plot.

In 1920s London, the Jellicles are a religious cult of housecats and strays who say "Jellicle" about as often as Grindr conversations say "cock."    They meet once a year, when the Jellicle Moon is full, for a Jellicle Ball, where the head Jellicle, Old Deuteronomy, will choose one to ascend to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn.  Cue Logan’s Run: “Renew!  Renew!  Renew!”

Victoria {Francesca Hayward] happens to be abandoned by her humans on the Jellicle Night of the Jellicle Moon of the Jellicle Ball, so she becomes the focus character,invited to wander around and watch the Jellicle Rehearsals: cats  singing and dancing about why they should be chosen:

Unwatchable Scene #1: Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) does a horrible risque dance and then displays her trained mice and cockroaches.

Bustopher Jones (James Corden) is fat and elitist.

Mungojerrie (Danny Collins) and his female partner Rumpleteaser are  petty thieves.

Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo,left) is a "curious cat", curious meaning "strange.": he always wants the opposite of what you offer him.

I forget the others; there are a lot.  Victoria views all this under the watchful eye of Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild, left), who seems to be the cult leader, and Mr. Mistofelees (Laurie Davidson, second photo), a "magical cat" who has a crush on her.

Problem: Macavity (Idris Elba, top photo), the master-criminal, who runs the prostitution and illegal drug trade in the city, and dresses like a stereotypical pimp, wants to be chosen (why?  he's already got a lot of power).  But he loses every year.  So this year he's using his dark magic to kidnap the contestants and tie them up on a barge in the middle of the Thames.  If he's the only contestant, he has to win, right?

They know that the chosen one is going to die, right?

Old Deutoronomy (Judi Dench) rejects him anyway, so he kidnaps her and threatens her. The Jellicles have to discover their inner strength and work together to save her.  They all happily sing and dance and nuzzle.  The end.

Nope.  Out in the shadows stands Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson), a former singing star who became one of Macavity’s prostitutes, ostracized by the Jellicles (rather a judgmental lot).  But Victoria takes pity on her, and invites her to meet Old Deutoronomy.

Unwatchable scene #2: She sings “Memory,” formerly my favorite song from the musical, as a screeching, agonizing bad complaint about how bad her life is.  The “new day” that has begun is not a ray of hope, it is a nightmare.

Surprise, Old Deutoronomy chooses Grizabella to be reborn.  Wait – this “fallen woman” who mopes about, complaining about how awful her life is now, best embodies the Jellicle spirit?

Ok, so she flies up in a chandelier-balloon (to her death!).  The end now?

Nope.  Unwatchable Scene #3: Old Deutoronmy breaks the  fourth wall and instructs us on how to address a cat (“O Cat!”).  We walked out of the theater.

Heterosexism:  None.  Old Deutoromy and Gus the Theater Cat gaze lustfully at each other, and Victoria has a subdued flirtation with Mr. Mefistoffiles – but no fade out kiss.  Cats don’t kiss, they nuzzle.

Gay Characters: Bustopher Jones gets a boyfriend, shown feeding each other in a brief scene.

Beefcake:  Sometimes the physique is visible under the cat costumes.

I  give it a C- C if you keep your eyes closed during the scene with the dancing cockroaches.  All in all, not a bad way to spend Christmas afternoon.  And there were a lot of cute guys at the theate (waiting to see something else).

Dec 25, 2019

The Lord of the Rings: Good Beyond Hope

It's one of the iconic stories of my life, told over and over again until it becomes myth.

How, in fifth grade, I stumbled across a copy of The Hobbit in the folklore section of the Denkmann School library, and read for the first time: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

I spent the next two days immersed in a new world, Middle Earth,with hobbits, elves, dwarves, goblins, magic swords, giant spiders, a dragon, a gollum,  and a beautiful, evocative map.

And no damsels-in-distress to gum up the works; Middle Earth was occupied entirely by men.

How, two years later, in seventh grade, the Scholastic Book Club offered The Two Towers, blatantly advertised as the "sequel" to The Hobbit.  I ordered it, waited patiently, and when it arrived, rushed home and began to read eagerly.  Aragorn, Boromir, Frodo..who were these people? This was not a sequel at all; it was the second book in a trilogy.  I had been swindled!

How I snuck a ride to the Readmore Book World downtown and bought the rest of the trilogy, and read...well, most of the Fellowship of the Ring.  The Shire scenes, with gay couples Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin wending through the Old Forest, fighting off Dark Riders and Barrow-Wights, meeting Tom Bombadil, reaching Rivendell, setting off with a fellowship of nine, including gay couple Legolas and Gimli.  Around the time they reach the Mines of Moria, it bogged down, and I started to skim.

The Two Towers was mostly unreadable, sheer boredom.  I skimmed through everything except for Merry and Pippin among the Ents.

The Return of the King, more of the same, with Frodo and Sam, especially Frodo, suffering for no reason, as if Tolkien delighted in torturing his heroes.  I skimmed through everything until the end, when they return to the Shire to discover that it has been broken up by the Industrial Revolution.

I couldn't bring myself to admit it for many years, but The Lord of the Rings is not a great novel, or even a good novel.  30% of it is torture porn (let's see what other horrible things can happen to Frodo!), and 60% is repetitive, ponderous, and dull.  Everyone has twelve names, everyone's sword has twelve names, and they're always stopping the action to sing.

And talk about anachronisms:  The Shire is 18th century England; one expects to hear the bothersome War of Independence being fought in the Colonies. But outside the Shire, it's the early-Medieval world of the Anglo-Saxon thanes.

Yet still I thought of it as the greatest book ever written.  I pressed it into the hands of my friends as if it were a religious tract.  I revered it as sacred writ.  I began working on my own fantasy world in imitation, with my own elves and dwarves, magic sword, and fabulous maps.

It seems like a paradox.

But the Lord of the Rings wasn't for reading.  It was for gazing at the covers.  The artist, Barbara Remington, had not read or even seen the book before drawing the covers, so she drew from magic and myth.

My favorite was The Two Towers, with its stylized sharp mountains, red sky, and dark flying riders.

It was about reading the cover blurbs, with quotes from Loren Eisley, W. H. Auden, and C.S. Lewis (none of whom I had heard of yet): "Here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron; here is a book that will break your heart....good beyond hope."

That line is better than anything in the book itself.



It was about gazing at the maps, and marveling at all of the mysterious places. I particularly liked the edges, the places not mentioned in the books: Rhun, Far Harad, the Ice Bay of Forochel, and Carn Dum ("here was of old the witch-realm of Angmar").

It was about reading the appendixes, with the languages, the indexes, the genealogical charts, and the timelines, with the discussions of what happened to the characters after the War of the Rings ended.

And it was about discovering the fates of the gay couples:

Merry and Pippin lived together for the rest of their lives

Legolas and Gimli crossed to the Elf paradise together

Frodo crossed over alone, while Sam pursued a heteronormative life of marriage and children.  But at the end of his life, he, too crossed over.

Was there ever a book so filled with gay romances?

That's what, in the end, rendered The Lord of the Rings "good beyond hope."

See also: The Lord of the Rings

Dec 23, 2019

Who the Heck is Kumail Nanjiani, and Is He Gay?

"Kumail Nanjiana is now ripped as hell, and he is refreshingly honest about it!" my twitter feed exclaims.

Three questions:
1. Who the heck is Kumail Nanjiani?
2. Why is having a nice physique such a big deal?
3. Is he gay, posing with his boyfriend?



1. Who the heck is Kumail Nanjiani?

The twitter link goes to Comicsands, which I can't stand because there are two lines of text per page, hidden amid endless popups and slow-loading videos that scroll down with you.  So I checked wikipedia, just in case this obscure bodybuilder had his own page.

One of the 100 most influential people in the world, according to Time magazine!  Why have I never heard of him?

He was born in  Pakistan in 1978, but didn't show up on screen until a Saturday Night Live episode in 2008.  He had a recurring role on the buddy-lawyer series Franklin and Bash (2011-2014), and after that a lot of guest spots and voice roles: Prismo on Adventure Time, Skip Marouch on Bob's Burgers.

Nothing particularly influential so far.

Kumail's only significant role seems to be in The Big Sick (2017), which he also wrote with his then-wife Emily Gordon.  It's a slightly fictionalized memoir about their romance. dealing with cultural differences and Emily's life-threatening illness.  In the end, she recovers, and they break up.

It sounds awful.  Who wants to watch a movie about a life-threatening illness?  But, depressing or not, it was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay, and pushed Kumail up into the ranks of the 100 most influential people in the world.

I'm pretty sure I could name 100 actors more influential than the star of one depressing movie, but ok, next question.


2. Why is having a nice physique such a big deal?

Apparently he was rather chunky just a few years ago.  Hitting the gym for the first time when you're over 40 is rather daunting, and Kumail deserves praise for sticking with it long enough to see results.













3. Is he gay, and posing with his boyfriend?

An article in Entertainment Weekly called Emily Gordon Kumail's "former wife," implying that they are divorced or she has died.  But Wikipedia just says that they've been married since 2007.  Which to believe?

He appeared in an episode of the Game of Thrones parody Gay of Thrones, but he doesn't play a gay character: one of the Queer Eye guys gives him a haircut.  That's entertaiment?

Also, Kumail and Emily are currently producing Little America, about the lives of immigrants.  Episode #8 features Rafiq (Haaz Sleiman), a gay refugee from Syria.

I'm going to go with "straight."

A straight guy who starred in a depressing movie and has a nice physique.  Big deal.

By the way, the other guy in the photo is Barry Keoghan, Kumail's costar in the upcoming superhero movie The Eternals.  

This is obviously a photo from a gay romance.  I wonder if he's gay in real life.

Google, here I come.

Dec 22, 2019

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Teen Tristan Strong's father and grandfather were famous boxers who want him to follow the family tradition -- he has the physique for it --but he would really rather do nerd things with his best friend Edward.  They make up stories, which Edward records in a journal.

You've got my attention.  

When Edward dies,Tristan is so distraught that he starts to hallucinate, seeing a green light glowing from the journal.  No one else can see it. His parents send him to Grandpa's farm in Alabama, hoping that a change of scenery will help.

Definite gay subtext!  I'm listening.

On his first night on the farm, a strange doll-like being, the Gum Baby, appears in his room and steals the journal.  Tristan pursues her to a Bottle Tree, and accidentally punches one of the bottles, opening up a hole in the sky.  They fall through into a scalding-hot ocean, pursued by ships made of human bones.  They are rescued by Ayanna, a girl-warrior...

Uh-oh.  The Girl!  I'll just skip ahead to the last chapter to see if they fall in lo--ooo---ove.  

All clear.  Tristan is talking to the Gum Baby and someone named High John (High John the Conquerer Root from African-American voodoo?)

Ayana is piloting a boatload of survivors from a disaster of some sort, including humans and talking animals. Like Brer Fox....

What the heck is going on? 

Tristan is trapped in the Midpass, a world populated by figures from African-American folklore. Such as the old trickster god Brer Rabbit.  And John Henry, the super-muscular 19th century railroader with the powerful...um...hammer.  

His story actually involves convict leasing (African-American men were arrested for the crime of being black and put to work on railroads and in coal mines, basically slavery by another name).

Whoa, heavy.  African-American folklore was born in adversity.  

When Tristan meets John Henry, he has to stop himself from asking to touch  his..um hammer.  

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.  Is this kid canonically gay?

That would be telling.  It's a nonstop race, with things trying to kill or eat them every moment, to the Warren, a temporary haven against the darkness that threatens to encroach all of the land.  There a council consisting of Brer Rabbit, John Henry, and a lesbian couple from the folktale "The People Could Fly" discuss the Book (which has been lost) and discover that Tristan is...guess what...the Chosen One.  

Tristan has to be the Chosen One, or else he couldn't participate in the adventure. The adults would just say "Wait here where it's safe."

He has to travel to the other side of the world to convince Anansi the Spider to come out of hiding and repair the hole in the sky. But there are complications.  

Of course.  Otherwise be lousy story.

When he meets High John the Conqueror, the ultimate Power, Tristan finds him him obnoxious, irreverent, and arrogant.

Whoa.  Now I know Tristan is canonically gay!  I'll check out the author, Kwami Mbalia.

Ok, but that's another story: he's  "a husband, father, writer, New York Times bestselling author, and pharmaceutical metrologist, in that order."  He grew up in the Midwest, graduated from Howard University, and now lives in North Carolina. This is his debut novel.

Nothing jumps out at me saying "I'm going to make the protagonist of my young adult novel gay."  But you never know....


"Birdy": A Gay Film?

One of my readers is very insistent that I watch Birdy, the 1984 film starring Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine as Vietnam War-era buddies: "Obvious gay subtext!  Barely hidden gay romance!"

Two questions: "Is there a gay subtext?"  and "If so, is it deliberate?"

Gay subtext: Two male characters who bond with each other in the absence of women, have a domestic relationship, and end up together at the end.

1. The plot: in working-class Philadelphia, Al (Cage) befriends Birdy (Modine), a weird kid who wants to become a bird and thinks he can fly.  Obviously he's trying to escape a traumatic childhood.  They grow up, go to Vietnam, and are both injured and sent home. Birdy refuses to speak, and is sent to a psychiatric hospital.  Al visits and complains that he's faking it; Birdy responds by jumping out a window, as if he can fly.  He doesn't die, however; he ends up on the roof.

2. The desire to fly, to escape, certainly resonates with gay people, especially in the 1980s, but Birdy is so completely broken that one can't imagine him in a consensual relationship with anyone.

3.  Meanwhile Al kisses every girl in sight, two in the trailer alone.

4. In the 1980s and 1990s there were a number of movies about guys befriending broken, unstable, sick, or crazy people.  The sheer custodial nature of the friendship detracts from the equality one expects in a gay subtext.

5. The director, Alan Parker (not to be confused with the porn star), also directed Angela's Ashes, The Road to Wellville, Midnight Express, Evita, and some Madonna videos.  He wrote Melody (about two 12-year olds who want to get married).

6. In the novel by William Wharton, Birdy really thinks that he's a bird.  He falls in love with a female bird (wet dreams but no actual sex)and has a brood with her. 

7. The 1996 stage version is explicitly homoerotic.

8. In the films of the 1980s everyday dialogue was littered with homophobic epithets. It was simply the way that screenwriters assuaged audience's fear that male characters might be gay: "he said 'fag,' he's straight, it's ok to watch."  But Birdy seems to lack homophobic epithets.

9. Matthew Modine starred in Streamers (1983), about prejudice among Vietnam soldiers, including a gay one and And the Band Played On (1993), about homophobic response to the AIDS crisis.

10. Nicolas Cage happarently starred in some movies with homophobic content, but in the 1980s, what actor didn't?

My verdict:
Is there a gay subtext?  Sure.
Was it deliberate?  Doubtful.




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