Mar 21, 2020

"12 Monkeys": An Excuse to Display Bruce Willis Naked

We're spending our social isolation watching one post-Apocalyptic movie per day, and last night we got around to 12 Monkeys (1995), directed by former Monty Python trooper Terry Gilliam.  I've watched the entire movie, and read a synopsis on wikipedia, as well as two or three reviews.

And I still have no idea what's going on.

I know that there's a stereotypic post-Apocalyptic dystopia, with weird Big Brothers in lab coats and dark glasses pushing weird wires and tubes into Bruce Willis.

They apparently send him back in time about 30 years, to 1996, to stop a bad guy from releasing a virus that kills 5 billion people and wraps the world in perpetual winter.  Except they send him to 1990 instead, where he stupidly tells everyone that he's from the future, whereupon he is admitted to a creepy mental hospital straight out of One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest.  Somehow he makes it to 1996, but now he thinks that he's just imagining the future world.

He also ends up in World War I, where his coworker Jose (John Seda, top photo) is stupidly telling everyone that he's from the future.  Jose may appear in other time frames, too.

And in his childhood, where he saw a murder in an airport, which is somehow important.  But it's all jumbled and non-sequential.

In one of the time frames, he kidnaps a psychiatrist.named Kathryn to try to...I don't know what.  But in another, she's an ally who tries to convince him that the future pandemic is real.

Bruce also kidnaps some animal rights activists, including Felix Pire (left).  I don't know why.

Brad Pitt appears in the mental hospital as the one who always says "we're not crazy, society is crazy." He also appears in other time frames, I think.

Meanwhile in the background we see a Woody Woodpecker cartoon about time travel,the Marx Brothers movie Monkey Business, and the Jimmy Stewart movie Vertigo.

I don't get it.

But there are three elements of gay interest:

1. Bruce Willis is naked a lot.  Of course, he's usually having weird tubes pushed into him or being covered with white goop, but still, there are frequent butt, chest, and crotch shots.  He runs down the street naked a lot, even though his fellow time-traveler has no trouble keeping his clothes on.  Is this movie just a ploy to display Bruce's body?

2. He doesn't display any heterosexual interest. I expected him and the psychiatrist he kidnaps to fall in love, but they don't.  In one scene, the dystopian scientists sing "I Found My Thrill on Blueberry Hill," and promise that he will soon be released (was he a prisoner of some sort?) and thus able to get women.  He yells "I don't want women!  I want to get well!"

No one else displays any heterosexual interest either, that I remember.

3.Brad Pitt has a hidden motive for helping Bruce. It might be explained at some point,but it looks a lot like romantic interest. At least in one of the time frames.

Mar 20, 2020

Mae West: Gay Diva of the 1930s

She appeared in ten movies between 1933 and 1943 -- a rather small body of work (during the same period, Mickey Rooney appeared in over fifty).  And two others during the 1970s.  Yet she is instantly recognizable today, and her lines are still being quoted:

"It's not the men in your life, it's the life in your men."

"Goodness had nothing to do with it."

"Why don't you come up and see me sometime?"

Like 1970s sitcoms, comedy movies of the 1930s were about people not having sex.  The Hays Code forbade any implication of sex, premartial, marital, or extramarital, so you could only talk about it through code, hints, and innuendos.  Mae West was an expert on innuendo -- her body language and intonation could make the most innocent line sound like it wasn't.

Maybe that's why she became an icon for gay men of the pre-Stonewall era.  Faced with police-state repression, where discovery would be catastrophic, they learned to communicate with body language, gestures, code-words.  That's the origin of the term "gay."

She was also a favorite model for drag queens of the era.  In fact, she claimed that she invented drag.

Mae West had a number of close friends who were LGBT, such as bisexual Cary Grant, and wrote the first play to openly mention gay people. It was closed down by the police during a run-through in Connecticut in 1927, but copies are available.  Her attitude was rather progressive for the era: she believed that gay men were feminine souls trapped in male bodies, and thus doomed to sad, empty lives.  But they weren't innate criminals plotting the overthrow of civilization.

Unfortunately, her attitude stayed the same as seasons changed, and by the 1970s it was old-fashioned and homophobic.

In her last film appearance, Sextet (1978), Mae West is presented as an ongoing sex symbol.  There's nothing wrong with the elderly having active libidos, but seeing the 85-year old actress surrounded by fawning musclemen and married to 34-year old Timothy Dalton is rather ludicrous.

Still, we get to see the musclemen.

See also: Madonna.

Mar 18, 2020

The Pajama Game: 1950s Beefcake

There once was a man who loved a woman
She was the one he slew a dragon for.

The American musical has traditionally been a vehicle for unvarnished heterosexism, two interspliced boy-meets-girl plotlines and as many songs about "love! love! love!" as a Cody Simpson album.  But with so many gay actors, writers, directors, choreographers, and producers, gay subtexts invariably sneak in.

The Pajama Game (1954) ran for 1,063 performances on Broadway, with revivals in 1973 and 2005, and a movie version in 1957 (starring Doris Day).  The title sounds risque, but it's actually about the Sleeptite Pajama Factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Romantic plot #1: Manager Sid and worker Babe, who is petitioning for a 7.5 cent raise.
Romantic plot #2: Boss's assistant Gladys and her jealous boyfriend "Hine-sie" Hines.

Gay subtext #1: Hines seems more interested in Sid than Gladys.
Gay subtext #2: Gladys has many masculine-coded traits, veering close to a stereotypic movie lesbian.
Gay subtext #3: Beefcake.  At the end of the movie, Sid and Babe unveil the new pajama style, Sid shirtless, barechested, and muscular, so risque that it was shocking in 1954.

  John Raitt (left) is the archetypal Sid, appearing in both the original Broadway and the movie versions.  University performers include Chris Ellis (top photo) and Stephen Boyd (above).

The Pajama Game is a favorite of high school and college drama clubs, for both actors and fans who can see their favorite hunk semi-nude.  Usually skittish directors insist that he perform with a t-shirt instead, as Harry Connick Jr. did in the recent Broadway revival.

For a high school production that displayed Sid  in his marble-sculpted glory, see "The Pajama Game Greek God" on Small Town Beefcake

Mar 15, 2020

Roadside Beefcake

Every year during Dad's vacation, we spent a week in a cabin on a lake somewhere in the northwoods, usually Minnesota, occasionally Wisconsin or Michigan, once Manitoba.  It was awful -- no tv, no movies, no museums or art galleries, just a lot of swimming, boating, and fishing (though once we visited Alexandria, Minnesota, site of the Kensington Runestone).  I might as well have stayed in the cub scouts.

But if you knew where to look, you could find beefcake anywhere, and not just in the shirtless man-mountains wandering the country roads, who could sometimes be persuaded to flex for you.

Many of the small towns we passed featured statues honoring local Native Americans, like Big Chief Germain in St. Germain, Wisconsin. There actually wasn't such a person; the bulging biceps came from the sculptor's imagination.

The descendants of Scandinavian immigrants have erected many statues that celebrate their Viking heritage (or to promote the theory that Vikings explored the region during the 13th century).  This one in Gimli, Manitoba, near Winnipeg, was constructed by George Barone in 1967. At the time I thought the Viking was bare-chested, but maybe he's just really, really muscular.

State and provincial capitol buildings were always good for beefcake based on Greek or Roman mythology.  When I was a kid, the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul was capped with this statue, "The Progress of the State," by Daniel Chester French and Edward Clark Potter.  The muscleman represents prosperity.  In 1995 it was moved to the southern entrance.

But the Holy Grail of Roadside Beefcake was the Golden Boy (real name: Eternal Youth), sculpted by Georges Gardet and perched atop the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg: amazingly muscular, golden, and naked.

I couldn't get close enough to see him this clearly, but as a symbol of Manitoba, his image adorned decorative plates, spoons, key chains, pin-backs, postcards, and toys.  When I spent my allowance on a few, Mom and Dad seemed happy that I was taking such an interest in my Canadian heritage.

See: The Biggest Beefcake Draw of Winnipeg

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...