May 30, 2020


In the early 1960s, before Google Maps, if you wanted to see southern Europe, you got on a plane for an expensive, once-in-a-lifetime trip, or you went to the movies.  Dozens of films had plots about glamorous, attractive people (except for an occasional comic relief lout) doing something or other that required them to drive mopeds through quaint hillside villages in Sicily or rush at breakneck speed through the Parthenon, giving viewers a bright technicolor Cook's Tour.  Usually you saw France, Italy, or Greece, but in Topkapi (1964) you got to see Istanbul.

Glamorous jewel thief Elizabeth Lipp (Melina Mercouri) invites us to tour the  Topkapi, the palace complex of the Ottomans during the height of their empire, now open to the public.  Many tourists are drawn to the Treasury, with its displays of Turkish opulence, especially the emerald encrusted daggar of Sultan Mahmud (1730-54).  It was actually crafted as a gift for Nadir Shah of Iran, but never delivered, but she tells us that it was a gift from his lover. And she plans to steal it.

The caper requires her to assemble a band of experts:

1. The dashing, cosmopolitan Walter (Maximilian Schell, right)
2. Mechanics expert Cedric (Robert Morley)
3. Acrobat Giulio (Gilles Segal, left)
4. Muscle Hans (Jesse Hahn)
5. Stooge Arthur (Peter Ustinov), who will take the fall for them.

Beefcake: Hundreds of shirtless hunks engaging in Turkish oil wrestling.

Hans, Giulio, and Walter all have their shirts off (Giulio is ripped!).

Buddy bonding: Walter and Giulio (they definitely look like they are going to kiss), Arthur and a burly Greek cook (Akim Tamiroff) who becomes his confidant:

Cook;  You foreign, no?
Arthur:  No, I'm English.
Cook: (Puts his arm around him).  Everybody out there -- Russian spies.  I kill.  I get medal.
Arthur: (Suspecting that he is a spy.) Are you here officially?
Cook: Fishily?  No, I give  English friend good meat.
Arthur:  Good meat, I understand.  (Cook kisses him.)  Well, I thought I understood.

There are complications, some humorous, some suspenseful, and of course they don't get away with it.  But not to worry, they are soon out of prison and on their way to a new caper: stealing  the crown jewels in the Kremlin!

No sex, no romance, no violence,some buddy-bonding, lots of oiled-up Turkish guys, and location shots in Greece and Istanbul.

Not a bad way to spend two hours.

May 28, 2020

Who is Doug Brochu, and Why am I Following Him on Twitter?

I just found out that I follow Doug Brochu on Twitter.  He tweets so rarely that I don't remember why I followed him, or for that matter who he is.

He's an actor, born in September 1990 in North Carolina, and he seems to have been a Disney and Nickelodeon kid, with roles on Sonny with a Chance, ICarly, Pair of Kings, and So Random.

I must have seen him on the Disney Channel and thought he was gay.

Not a lot of gay content on his twitter, facebook, or instagram, though, nor are there a lot of gay roles in his recent work.

He played "Handsome Lover" in the short film Winesburg: Death, an adaption of a Sherwood Anderson story,but it was a heterosexual lover.

He's friends with the gay-friendly former Disney kids Sprouse Brothers, but also with the non-gay-friendly former Disney kid Nathan Kress.

I probably should be following his older brother, Chris Brochu, instead.

1. More shirtless photos.

2. He's friends with Scott Eastwood.

3. He played a gay character in The Vampire Diaries.

4  In 2018 he starred in Tell Me a Story, a tv series with fairy tales reimagined into a "dark and twisted psychological thriller."  One of his costars was Disney boy Austin Butler.

See also: Missouri City, Texas: The New Gay Suburb of Hell-fer-Sartain

May 27, 2020

The Best Half of "The Half of It"

Netflix gives The Half of It has a 97% match, based on what I usually watch.  Shy, lonely outsider Ellie agrees to Cyrano de Bergerac dumb jock Paul by writing love letters to The Girl, whom Ellie is secretl in love with, too.  The trailer shows Ellie staring folornly at the couple through windows a lot, playing the cello, bonding with Paul, and staring forlornly at the couple some more.  The tagline: "Not every love story is a romance."

Scene 1:  Ellie is,,, you know what?  I don't feel like wading through all the "shy, lonely outsider" gay teen angst.  Let's just skip to the beefcake.

1. Daniel Diemar as the dumb jock Paul. A Victoria native, he played Cole in the tv series Sacred Lies.

2. Dean Tierney, a  New York stage actor, as Paul's Dad or brother or something.  His only other screen credit is A Sip With Vodka: A Russian Guide To Becoming A Real Housewife And Making It In America  (clever if there's not a lot of acting roles on your resume, make sure that every title is extra-long to take up space).

3. Cronin Cullen as another of Paul's relatives.  Dumb Jock has a really hunky family.

4. Billy Thomas Myott guessed it.  Yet another of the Hunk Family.  Top photo: his appearance in Damn Yankees  (the one wearing a shirt).

5. Wolfgang Novogratz as Trig, the entitled snob  who the Girl is dating (does he have siblings named Geometry and Algebra?).   He's the son of Robert and Courtney Novogratz, the design team who host By Design and Home By Novogratz.

6. Actor/martial artist Collin Chou as shy,lonely outsider Ellie's cash-strapped father, who starts a sausage-making business with Dumb Jock.  He's been in some Matrix movies, Marco Polo, and a lot of movies where young martial arts students overcome tremendous obstacles.

7. Enrique Murciano as The Girl's Dad.  He was named #7 in People magazine's annual Sexiest Man Alive list in 2006.

8. Spencer Wawak, the co-founder of the stArt Theater project, as Hangout Dude.  It's not Ibsen, but it plays the bills.

9. Logan Riley Bruner  plays One Person.  He has a very impressive website, with dozens of pictures and video clips, but this is the only shirtless shot, from A Friend of the People (2015).

That's it for the beefcake, except for a few more Hunk Family relatives and some miscellaneous "Student in Hallway" types.  I guarantee that this was more fun than slogging through the shy outsider loner gay teen angst.

May 25, 2020

Fleabag: Britcom Filled with Hunks and Horror, but no Lesbi....

I've only heard the term "fleabag" in reference to a cheap hotel, but on Fleabag (2016=2019), on Amazon Prime, it's a woman (Phoebe Walter-Bridge) who addresses the camera and makes jokes to keep from crying. She has a lot to cry about:

She is running a struggling coffee shop, but can't get a loan to keep it afloat.

Her close friend/business partner Boo accidentally committed suicide by walking into traffic (planning to be injured and get attention,but ending up dead).

She hates her family:

Demanding,perfect sister

Brother in law who makes snarky sexual innuendos and then, when she gets offended, complains that she can't take a joke

Elitist artist stepmother who ha an exhibition of works devoted entirely to her sexual activity (I definitely want that penis wall for my living room).

Father who can't stand to be alone with her (and she instantly recognizes his penis from the penis wall.  What was going on in that family?).

Fleabag tries to fill the yawning void of guilt and pain in her life with sex.

1. Steady Boyfriend (Hugh Skinner, left, Prince William on The Windsors), who insists on slow, boring, "making love" instead of just doing it.  Fleabag dumps him regularly, which gives her an opportunity to get other sex partners (and he always cleans her apartment).  At the end of Season 1, he makes the breakup permanent.

2.  Arsehole Guy (Ben Aldridge), who suddenly stops being able to stay aroused during sex.  Fleabag informs us that this is a sign that he's in love, so all his blood is rushing from his penis to his heart.  He's in love, all right, but with someone else.

That's not why he's called Arsehole Guy. 

3. Bus Rodent (Jamie Demetriou), who has bad teeth.  This would be a deal-breaker, except that Fleabag is horny.  She gets angry when he won't put out on the first date,but gets revenge by introducing him to her family as "her new boyfriend," then dumping him (after sex).

4. Jack (Anthony Welsh), Boo's boyfriend.  Their affair made Boo decide to walk into traffic,which is one reason why Fleabag is such a mess.

5. Hot Misogynist (Ray Fearon, left)

6, Chatty Joe (David Hargreaves)

7. Hot Priest (Andrew Scott, left).  Fleabag spends most of Season 2 chasing him, even though she feels guilty about making him break his vow of celibacy, and seems to think that it's illegal.

Fleabag does not have sex with:

1. Her brother-in-law (Brett Gelman, left), although he tries to kiss her and then claims that she tried to kiss him.

2. Her possibly-autistic nephew (Angus Imrie), although he does spy on her in the bath.  When he begs her to ask his Mom to leave his Dad, one wonders what's going on in that family.

3. Boo (Jenny Rainsford), although the intensity of their relationship (in flashback) does suggest a lesbian subtext.

No gay characters appear or are  mentioned, except we are told that Hot Priest's mother "was originally a lesbi...."  What did she do, convert?

Oh, I forgot to mention: Fleabag is a comedy.

May 24, 2020

"Young Sheldon": Gay Subtexts in East Texas, 1989

I was never a big fan of The Big Bang Theory: the gang of nerds was too obsessed with  stereotypic masculinity, loudly proclaiming "Aha!  You're really a woman!" when one of their crew (usually Raj) made the slightest feminine gesture.  And gay people did not exist, except for an occasional homophobic joke.

But I did like the character of Sheldon (Jim Parsons), a theoretical physicist whose eccentricities place him on the autism spectrum.  At first I thought he was gay; then he starts dating a girl,but insists on no physical contact, so I concluded that he was a hetero-romantic asexual.

The prequel, Young Sheldon (2017-)  cost an exorbitant $35 per season on Vudu (I won't even pay that much for Riverdale),but it just dropped to $15,so I plugged it in.  I've seen the first three episodes.

It's 1989, and 9-year old Sheldon (Iain Armitage) is living in East Texaa with his Dad, football coach George (Lance Barber) and his Mom Mary (Zoe Perry), who is a quasi-fundamentalist Baptist (there are wine and cards in the house, which a real Baptist would never permit).

 He also has a 9-year old twin sister (Reagan Revord), the standard pre-teen operator, and a jock older brother Georgie (Montana Jordan, the only one of the cast with beefcake photos available).

"Meemaw" Connie (Annie Potts) differs considerably from how she is described on The Big Bang Theory.  Here she is a chaotic presence, drunken, shady ("Shelly, can you use science to predict who will win the big game? Meemaw owes some people money...")  I'm surprised the parents let her babysit; she'll just get drunk, fall asleep, and leave the kids alone to get into mischief.

His parents can't afford to send him to a private school for the gifted, so Sheldon is going to high school with teenagers.  This would be a problem for any 9-year old, but Sheldon's quirks make it worse. For instance, he insists on pointing out the violationa of the school dress code and hygiene code, for both students and teachers.

After three episodes, it is obvious that this is no sitcom; it is a family warmedy, like The Wonder Years (with the adult Sheldon narrating), dedicated to demonstrating that, in spite of his intelligence and various quirks, Sheldon loves his family and will do anything to help them.

Mom: Who's going to church with me today?
Sheldon: I'll go.
Sister:  But you don't believe in God
Sheldon:  But I believe in Mom.

They get the church right, anyway, instead of making the Baptists Catholic. Pastor Jeff (Matt Hobby) is apparently a regular, stopping the service to spar with Sheldon about the six-day creation of the world:

Jeff:  There was no Big Bang, just the Word.
Sheldon: What word was that, "Kaboom"?

I was interested in the episode where Sheldon promises to demolish Pastor Jeff's belief in God "next week."  But then his Dad has a heart attack,so Sheldon finds the hospital chapel and prays for his recovery (to French philosopher Blaise Pascal, not to God, but still...).

Beefcake:  None.  There are some locker room scenes, but the entire football team seems to be comprised of 14-year olds.

Other Sights:  No.  There are some exteriors, but nothing impressive.  By the way, they drive through endless farmland to get to school, but the psychiatrist's office is walking distance.  Somebody check the geography of this town!

Gay Characters:  Like on The Big Bang Theory, gay people do not exist.  But like The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon's lack of heterosexual interest can give him a gay reading ("Cheerleaders hugged me!  It was dreadful!").  The other 9-year olds on the show, Sheldon's sister and the dimwitted boy next door, are hetero-horny.

The gay reading is particularly evident when Mom encourages the loner Sheldon to make a friend, using the same language you would use to promote romance ("you can't be alone -- you need somebody.").  When Sheldon finally finds Tam (Ryan Phuong), the family is so excited that they invite him over for dinner and pepper him with questions ("So -- how did you two meet?), precisely as if he is a boyfriend.

In the next episode, Tam shows up at the front door, wearing a suit, and asks "Is Sheldon at home?  I want to ask him to come wijth me to a party.").  It turns out that he is just using the newly-popular Sheldon to get into a popular party, where he can meet girls, but he acts precisely as if he is asking Sheldon out on a date.

I'm not even going to go into the gay symbolism of the scene where Tam is eating Red Vines, and Sheldon becomes fixated with his mouth.  He's actually just hungry, having had no solid food for several days, but still....

See Also: 10 Homophobic Things about the Big Bang Theory
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