Jun 13, 2020

Curon: A Creepier, Gayer "Locke and Key"

Curon, the new Italian horror series on Netflix, begins creepy and gets even creepier. And gayer.

Prologue: A church bell rings. We see the tower against a black sky, immersed in a black lake.  A solitary car moves through the darkness toward Curon.  Suddenly the teenage Ana goes into a house, where her parents are arguing.  Her father orders her to go up to her room and stay there. Awhile later,she hears screaming, and goes downstairs to see her mother killed-- by a girl with her face.

Scene 1:  17 years have passed, and Ana (Gilli Messer) is driving down that dark road again, while her 16-year old twins complain: rebellious Daria (Margherita Morchio) hates that they are leaving Milan for a hillbilly town in the sticks, and quiet, shy Mauro (Federico Russo, the owner of the abs in the top photo) is upset because he lost his drone in the Black Lake.

Scene 2: They arrive at the old, ornate hotel where the Empress of Austria once stayed.  She tells the kids that no one has been there since that night 17 years ago .  But the minute they split up to explore, Mauro runs into his grandfather, Thomas (Luca Lionello), still alive  (I assume).  He angrily tells them to get out.

Scene 3:  Grandpa Thomas feeds them. Ana fusses over her son while ignoring her daughter.  Grandpa glares at her.  Does he know something sinister abot Ana?

Scene 4:  The twins bed down in the same room (in a hotel, wouldn't there be enough rooms so they wouldn't have to share?).  Ana is um...doing lady stuff while taking a bath.  Mauro gets out of bed.  Good Lord, is he planning to join her?

No -- he's attracted to a mysterious locked door with a rumbling noise and leaking water.  But just as he's picking the lock, Grandpa intervenes and hugs him.  Why?  What almost happened?

Scene 5: Ana awakens, spooked by a nightmare.  She goes to the twins' room and asks to sleep with them.  Daria scoots over to make room, but she chooses Mauro's bed!  Ok, heavy incest vibe. This lady is a sexual predator, and apparently Grandpa knows all about it.

Scene 6:  In the morning, Grandpa Thomas shows them his pet wolf.  Then Ana takes them to school.  The local kids ignore the twins, so Daria trips one of them to get his attention.

Scene 7: In class.  The teacher conspicuously has a cross, not a crucifix, because crucifixes are "too sad."  Well, I guess they do depict Jesus dying.  We discover that Mauro wears a hearing aid.  Two guys hugging in a corner stare at him (Finally, some gayness.  I was getting tired of the incest)

Scene 8: After school, Daria is smoking and complaining, when one of the Hugging Guys steals Mauro's hearing aid.  She decks him.  Mauro wants to rent a boat to go onto the  Black Lake to get his  drone (from Scene 1), but the rental guy angry refuses: "You're the scum of Curon!"

Meanwhile, Grandpa Thomas and Ana are back at the "You can't stay here!" argument.

Scene 9: The twins are walking down the road, when a caravan of cars comes by.  Giulio (Giulio Brizzi, left) and Davide (Sebastiano Fumagalli), the hugging guys from Scene 7, invite them to a party.

It's a gay party outdoors. mostly boys dancing with boys and girls dancing with girls..  Daria flirts with a girl named Micki. The Hugging Guys flirt with Mauro, but he rejects them; he just wants to steal a boat and fetch his drone fromthe Black Lake.

Mauro keeps telling Daria that he wants to leave,but she blows him off.  Finally he walks into the woods on his own.

Back at the house, Ana and Grandpa Thomas are still having their "you can't stay here!" argument.  Ana can't forget that night.  She asks Thomas why she was holding the rifle after her mother "killed herself."  Thomas says "Your kids need you, and you bring them back here!"

My takeaway: The women in Ana's family  go crazy and kill people, if they're in the hotel.

Scene 9: The Hugging Guys ask Daria and her new girlfriend to do "possum rounds": you drink on a ledge or dock.  The last one standing wins. They tell her the legend of the tower: there's no bell, but sometimes it rings anyway, and if you hear it, you will die.

Meanwhile Mauro steals a boat and goes out onto Black Lake to get his drone.  He falls in; you expect something terrible to happen, but it doesn't.

Scene 10: Daria has a dream about meeting a wolf in the woods (what big eyes you have!)  She awakens on the dock.  The Hugging Guys ae gone (off to hug, no doubt).  She kisses her new girlfriend.

Scene 11:  Mauro shows us some skin, then lies down on his bed to fix the drone. Suddenly the lights go out, and the rumbling from Scene 4 starts up.  He investigates.  This time he manages to open the door.  Inside: Ana, chained to a bed!  Or maybe the demonic being who killed his grandmother 17 years ago.

He asks "Who are you?"  She attacks.

Scene 12:  The boat rental guy notices that the stolen boat is still floating on the lake.

Grandpa Thomas finds Mauro unconscious in the room.  He puts him to bed, then gets his rifle and leaves the house.  The end.

Whoa.  Who is the person in the room, Ana, her twin, a demon?  How can Mauro be still on the boat and home in bed at the same time? What happened 17 years ago?  Howis it connected to the submerged church tower?

Beefcake:  Mauro gets a body shot.

Other Sights: Exteriors in the real Curon Venosta, a German-speaking town in northern Italy, near the borders of Switzerland and Austria.  It really has a submerged bell tower.

Gay Characters:  Just about everyone seems to be gay or bi.  The alternative is to have sex with your mother.

Heterosexism: None.

Will I Keep Watching: Sure.

See also: Locke and Key; Curon, Episode 2

Gay Teens in the Summer of Love

In Island of the Lost (1967), South Pacific Islander Tupana (Jose De Vega ) befriends a shipwrecked anthropologist and his clan. He grins at hula-dancing castaway Judy, and kisses her, and holds her hand.  When the rescue boat arrives, he says goodbye, but at the last minute he decides to forsake his homeland and swims out to join her.  At least, that is how the scene can be read.

But Tupana also befriends another castaway, Stu (Luke Halpin of Flipper); they go fishing, and learn to dance, and touch each other's shoulders, smiling.  It is Stu who actually pulls Tupana aboard the rescue boat.  We are not absolutely certain, amid the fade-out hugs, which one Tupana has decided to followed.

In 1966 and 1967, as the first of the Baby Boomers was driving off to college, or flying off to Viet Nam,  teenage boys gazing at girls were as common as tie-dye t-shirts and patchouli incense.  But, within their quest for The Girl who would give their life meaning, gay kids and teenagers often noticed them grinning at boys.

In The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966), Renaissance Irish prince Peter McEnery rescues a princess, but he also spends an inordinate amount of time being rescued by an older man (Tom Adams).

In C'Mon, Let's Live a Little (1967), college freshman Jesse (Bobby Vee) woos the Dean’s daughter, but he also gleams at his grinning, redheaded boy friend Eddie (Eddie Hodges).  And while Jesse is off wooing a girl, Eddie sits alone in the dorm room, despondent, singing about lost love.

In It's a Bikini World (1967), teenage casanova Mike Samson (Tommy Kirk) trolls the beach in search of babes, but he also has a remarkably expressive bond with his best friend, Woody (Bobby Pickett).

In the comics, Robin and Jimmy Olsen date girls, but they are heartbroken when they believe that their superhero pals have found someone else.   Korak Son of Tarzan rescues a young African diplomat and introduces him to a girl, but not before the duo spends many panels gazing at each other with unparalleled delight

During the Summer of Love, nearly every teenage boy, whether star, buddy, or villain, was portrayed as aggressively and unequivocally girl-crazy.  Yet they often, perhaps usually, desired each other or fell in love with each other.

Their bonds were exclusive and permanent, yet always submerged beneath a girl-crazy fa├žade.  They would gaze at each other while discussing how much they liked girls, or while competing over the same girl, or while consoling each other when their attempts at getting girls faltered.

Their bonds were intense and passionate, yet always tentative, fragile, easily disrupted.  They would express their desire through hints and innuendos, through subtexts and double-entendres, through ambiguities in spectacle or plot, through moments stolen from the “main” story, lest anyone notice. Lest anyone realize that two boys or two men could walk into fade-out sunsets together.

See also: Fighting Prince of Donegal

Jun 11, 2020

"Men with Brooms": Canadian Beefcake and Macho Bonding

Amazon Prime thinks "I'll like" the new movie  Men with Brooms, "a wickedly funny comedy about four guys searching for true love and macho bonding."

The macho bonding sounds good, and with four guys, one of them is bound to be gay.

It turns out to be about curling, the Canadian sport where you brush a stone across ice with a broom (a real broom, or a special curling broom).

A recently deceased curler, Donald Foley, is narrating after his death.  Establishing shots of a factory town.  He introduces us to his family, beginning with "his Kama Sutra girl" Eva.

Introducing his wife by alluding to all of the sexual positions she knows? Is that supposed to be funny?

He has two daughters, Julie the Astronaut and Amy the Single Mother, and four curling proteges:

1. Chris (Paul Gross, top photo), who abandoned Julie the Astronaut at the altar and left town.  Maybe he realized that he was gay and high-tailed it to the glittering gay neighborhoods of Toronto or Montreal.

2. Eddie (Jed Rees, left), who has heretofor been unsuccessful  in getting his "sperm to hit the right spot" and make a baby with his wife. This dead guy's descriptions are really grotesque.

3. James (Peter Outerbridge) who gets so many girls that he can't recall the name of the current one.  "You'll never get a wife that way!," Foley admonishes.

This is Peter Outerbridge, but way more built than the guy in the movie.  Could there be two of them?  

4. Neil(James Allodi) who causes slapstick trouble at the funeral: corpse falls out of the casket and so on.

Could the cute guy whose tie gets stuck in the casket be his boyfriend?

James Allodi played a gay guy in a small Canadian town in Wilby Wonderful. My money is on Neil as the gay one.

Foley's last wish is for his cremated remains to be placed in the handle of the Copernicus Stone, an important curling artifact, and for the four guys to use it to win the Golden Broom Championship.  They will thereby save the town or something.

Chris gets his estranged father, who "does something irregular with cows," to coach.

Speaking of cows: Holy cow, this is boring.  I'm going to fast forward to see whether it's Neil or Chris that finds "true love" with a boy.  

Ulp. Neil hooks up with Julie, the Astronaut Daughter.  Chris hooks up with Amy, the Single Mother.   Fade out kiss.

Foley has two daughters, and two single curling proteges.  How symmetrical!  How heteronormative!  

Wait -- Amazon Prime lied.  This movie is from 2002.  That explains the heteronormativity.  In 2002 gay characters appeared only in rom-coms as the sassy best friend of the female lead, and in indie dramas about how horrible gay life is.

Beefcake: The guys climb into a lake.  Chest and butt shots.  They take a sauna.  Several chest shots of the guys in bed with their respective girlfriends and wives.  

Other Scenery:  Scenic small town location shots.

Gay Characters:  Not a whiff. 

Jun 10, 2020

"Kong: Skull Island: Cute Guys, Gay Subtexts, and Ludicrous Monsters

I have seen Kong: Skull Island (2017), a reboot of the King Kong mythos that takes place in an alternate world 1973: Nixon has just announced the end of the Vietnam War. Two scientists get permission to co-opt some returning soldiers to help them map a previously uncharted island in the South Pacific.

Well, "scientists."  One (Corey Hawkins) did his thesis on the Hollow Earth, and the other (John Goodman) is a bubbling cauldron of pseudoscience and conspiracy theories.

Also going along on the expedition to the Heart of Darkness:

1. Conrad (Tom or Tim Hiddleston, top photo)< a surly wilderness expert.
2. The Girl (Brie Larson)< a photojournalist.
3. Another Girl, who doesn't really do anything.

And the soldiers:
1. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson< the hard-driven, "let's kill the sucker" commander.
2.-4. The Three Guys (Jason Mitchell, Shea Wigham, left, Thomas Mann), who provide comic relief with their jokes and weird non-sequieters ("Key West isn't an island, it's an atoll.")

I expected a small military attache to the scientific expedition, but there are dozens more soldiers: they go in with an aircraft carrier and about a million helicopters.

They immediately encounter the 100-foot tall gorilla,and instead of backing off (save the ecosystem), they zoom in like pesky wasps.  Kong bats them away like pesky wasps.  When the smoke clears, all of the helicopters are down, and everyone is dead except for the main cast and a few redshirts who will be picked off later.   Still too many for any character development.

Especially since they need to make their way to the north side of the island, where they will be resuced in three days, and there are lots of ludicrous monsters to run from, including a giant spider, a giant ox masquerading as an island, and the things Kong is protecting the islanders fom, giant reptiles with skull heads (Kong's final battle with their leader seems to go on forever; that thing can't be killed0.

Someone please explain to me what these giant monsters eat?  There are herds of wild cattle, but a 100-foot gorilla would swallow them all in a few days.

Fortunately, they have help:  Marlow (yet another Heart of Darkness reference), who crash landed on the island during World War II, and has been living with the islanders (a scruffy bunch in Malay costumes, who are apparently telepathic and immortal).  He had a partner, Ikari, a Japanese pilot who crashed with him (played by Japanese pop star Miyagi), but Ikari has recently died (the grave is in Marlow's living room!).

Obvious gay-subtext.  They were partners for over 20 years.  .  There's lots of women among the islanders, so if they were so inclined, wouldn't they have married?  Marlow had a wife back home, but she thought he was dead and would certainly have moved on.  Maybe that's why Ikari doesn't appear: don't want the subtext to be too obvious.

And why there's a heteronormative epilogue in which Marlowe goes back to Chicago and reunites with his wife and son, who have apparently been sitting around waiting for him for 30 years)  The son  (Will Brittain) looks like a teenager, but he has to be pushing 40.

Plus:  Nobody falls in love. There are some glimmers of interest,  but nothing goes anywhere, which is a plus -- no fade-out kiss (except for Marlow and hisw wife).

Plus:  You know soldiers in movies talk about incessantly?  The Three Guys don't.  They have lengthy conversations about what they will do when they get home, but not a word about girls.  That's extremely rare, a breath of fresh air in both the military and the monster-movie genres..

Now, if only the movie weren't so darn boring.

My grade: B

Jun 9, 2020

"The Man in the High Castle": Wait for Season 3

The Man in the High Castle, based on the incomprehensible novel by Philip K. Dick, is set in a parallel world where the Axis won World War II by dropping an atomic bomb on Washington DC.  It's 1962, about 15 years after the war ended, and the eastern part of the former United States is now the Greater Nazi Reich, with its capital in New Berlin (formerly St. Louis).  In New York City, people are going about their lives, working at 9 to 5 jobs, listening to pop music (no rock and roll here!), watching Rock Hudson movies and tv shows like Guess My Game (What's My Line? in our world).

Young, eager Joe Blake (Luke Kleintanj, left) volunteers to help the resistance.  Gruff cell leader Don (Mike Rispoli) disapproves of recruiting kids who never even knew the old America, but he grudgingly gives him the job of driving a truck all the way across the Greater Reich to Canon City, Colorado, in the Neutral Zone in the Rocky Mountains.

Suddenly stormtroopers burst in, shoot a lot of the resistance workers, and haul Don off to be tortured for information (bare hairy chest). But Joe manages to escape (for some reason the Nazis don't fire on his truck).  He drives without incident except for a flat tire, which he fixes with the help of a friendly cop.  Curious about what he's carrying, he investigates, and finds a mysterious film.

Meanwhile, in the Japanese Pacific State (formerly California), Juliana (Alexa Davelos) is studying akido, buying tea, and being happily assimilated. Suddenly her sister Trudy shows up and announces that she's "found the way out." So she's joined a cult? She gives Juliana a packet just before she is shot by the police.

Juliaana takes the packet home and finds a bus ticket, an address in the Neutral Zone, and a film that appears to show the Allies winning the War.Her boyfriend Frank (Rupert Evans) tells her that it is one of the treasonous films produced by the mysterious Man in the High Castle to fuel the resistance.  They should turn it in to the police.

Instead Juliana takes Trudy's place on the bus. On theway to the Neutral Zone, her bag is stolen, so she has no money. But she has the film.

She arrives in Canon City, Colorado at -- you guessed it - the same momentas John.  100 to 1 they'll be falling in love.

Meanwhile Pacific States  Trade Minister Tagami (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), preparing for a visit by the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan, has a secret meeting with a Nazi official.  Hitler is in failing health, and when he dies, his successors,either Himmler or Rommel, will certainly start a war. Atom bombs dropping on San Francisco. Gulp.

Beefcake:  Apparently the only time people take their shirts off in this world is when they are going to be tortured.

Gay Characters:  Frank's coworker, played by DJ Qualls, is gay,but we don't find out until Season 3.

Heterosexism:  Looking ahead through the episode guide, I see lots of husbands and wives.

Science Fiction:  No one starts moving back and forth between the parallel worlds until Season 3.

Reflectiosn of The Handmaid's Tale: Lots.

Parallels to Our World:  Not enough.  Just a movie and tv show reference, and a couple of songs. I want to know what Elvis Presley is up to.  And the Kennedys. And if I Love Lucy exists

My Verdict:  Dystopias are fine, except when you are living in one.  C.

Jun 8, 2020

"Loaded": Overloaded, but With a Gay Romance

Loaded, on Netflix, is an 8-episode Britcom about four techies who suddenly become "loaded" after the iphone cat game they developed goes viral. Although they have apparently been friends for years, they have quite disparate personalities.

1. New Agey, "Everything happens for a reason" Leon (Samuel Anderson,).

2. Level-headed focus character Josh (Jim Howick).

3. Dazed, chubby, multi-tattooed Watto (Nick Helm)

4. Neurotic, afraid-of-everything Ewan (Johnny Sweet, below)

They spend the first episode driving around to insult everyone who didn't believe in them, and gifting Josh's parents with a totally inappropriate 3-month long tour of places of cultural significance around the world (like Uganda and Yemen).

Back at the office to deal with a glitch, Josh explains to an employee why his picture isn't on the advertising materials (not photogenic).  She obviously has a crush on him, but he is oblivious.

Neurotic and oblivious to girls?  I wonder if he's gay
I skip forward to Episode 5. "The Boat," because it says that Ewan has a crush on The Chef, without stating whether The Chef is male or female.

Scene 1:  The guys in their old caravan (trailer), where they do their best work.  Leon tries to get them to focus on their new game, while they are all distracted by rich-person pastimes.

Scene 2: Josh and his girlfriend having dinner.   He asks her to do something rich this weekend, but she's busy -- she has a job.  Anyway, he's supposed to be working on the game, right?

Scene 3: Establishing shot of London (for once, Tower Bridge instead of that darn ferris wheel).  Leon tells his boss that the game development is going great. Good, because she's planning a massively publicized announcment "on the main stage, right after the Angry Birds guys."  She lends him her assistant, Naomi.

Scene 4: Naomi talks Leon into buying a gigantic yacht so the guys can work without distractions.

Scene 5: The guys and Naomi board the yacht.  We meet the surly captain, Callum (Oliver Johnstone),  who insults Ewan for carrying a poofy pink pillow.

Scene 6:  They try to work, but keep getting distracted.  Ewan acts weird around Captain Callum,  They ask what he was doing; he replies that he was flirting.  They suggest a better approach.

Score! Ewan is gay!

Wait -- Callum is The Chef?  They hired someone to cook, but no one to drive the boat?

Scene 7:  Ewan goes down to the galley and tries to flirt again.This time Callum gets the idea,and they kiss.

Score!  A kissing scene!

Scene 8: The boss phones Naomi to get the dirt on what's going on.  Are they really working, or goofing around? Can she send a copy of whatever they have so far?

Scene 9:  The girl from the yacht next door arrives and reveals that the last owner killed his wife and himself here.  Weird -- I thought this episode was about being distracted from working.

Wait -- the heirs didn't throw out the blood-splattered sofa before selling the yacht?

Scene 10: Cut to Ewan and Chef Callum getting dressed after sex in the galley (nice chest shots).  Whoops -- Chef Callum thinks that Ewan is a fellow employee.  He hates the rich!  So Ewan, of course, lies.

Scene 11:  The guys discover that Naomi came on board to spy on them. Ewan pretends to be their valet.

Scene 12: In the kitchen, Chef Callum advises Ewan that he shouldn't let them belittle him.   He demonstrates the "spitting in the salad" trick, but notes that he just spits, he doesn't wank into their food like other chefs.

Scene 13: Naomi has gone over to the guys' side.  She tells the boss that the game is finished, and brilliant.

Scene 14: Subplot involving Josh's girlfriend cheating on him. This is getting a little long.  Callum and Ewan serve dinner.

Scene 15: Subplot involving Watto's mum.  What about the murder-suicide?

Scene 16:  Hokey smokes, not more subplots about Naomi being interested in Josh and Leon spiking Watto's drink with LSD?  I've got other things to do today.

Scene 17:  Ewan tells Chef Callum the truth.  He explains that the money didn't make him a twat;he was already a twat when he got rich.

Scene 18: More stuff happens.  I'm going to just fast-forward to the Callum-Ewan plotline.

Callum acts all bitchy to Ewan.  Leon intervenes: he's a great guy, you should give him a chance.

They have a heart to heart.  Ewan reveals that having money changes you, even if you don't want it to, and the worst part is, you don't realize that you've changed.  Callum invites him to a pub.  But they're stuck offshore, and Watto took the only lifeboat.  Not to worry -- they take off their shoes and jump off the ship.

They're going to go to a pub soaking wet, without shoes?

My verdict:   I liked Ewan getting a boyfriend, and everyone else being so nonchalant about it. (Callum appears in a  later episode as well). But there were so many other subplots running around, some thrown in for no reason, that I got bored. Nor was there an overall theme to draw things together.  A tight 23 minutes would be better. Just save the Naomi, mother, LSD, and murder-suicide bits for later, and do an episode with just Ewan-Callum-hate the rich.  Add a few more humorous scenes of Ewan pretending to be a servant, maybe with the guys helping out: "Ok, Valet, iron my trousers."

When a viewer can come up with a better episode than the professional writers, you know somethig is wrong.

My grade: C+

Jun 7, 2020

Tony Dow/Wally Cleaver

I was born too late to catch the first generation of Boomer sitcoms -- Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, Donna Reed, Leave It to Beaver -- and the teen idols they created -- Ricky Nelson, Billy Gray, Paul Peterson, Tony Dow.  But the gay kids who were old enough had a hunkfest, especially with Tony Dow of Beaver (1957-63).  Hired at age 12 to play older brother Wally and offer sage advice to the rapscalion Beaver (Jerry Mathers),

Tony blossomed into a dreamboat by around the third season, and while network censorship kept him under wraps, wearing nothing more revealing than a sleeveless t-shirt, the teen magazines were privy to dozens of shirtless pinups.

And dozens and dozens.  They just keep coming, all through the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Tony was already a Junior Olympics diver when hired, and his muscles grew bigger every year.

Wally didn't do a lot of male bonding; most of the homoromantic subtext comes from Beaver and his friend Gilbert.

After Beaver, Tony  -- or rather, his biceps -- landed a starring role on the teen soap Never Too Young (1965-66).  After so many years of censorship, Tony must have been surprised to discover that his character was to be shirtless or semi-nude in every scene, even at a fancy dinner party. Tommy Rettig of Lassie played his buddy JoJo.

A rather fascinating career followed, as actor, writer, and director.  Tony was active in the hippie counterculture and appeared in the underground classic,  Kentucky Fried Move (1977).  He reprised his role of Wally in Still the Beaver (1985-89).  He parodied Wally  innumerable times.  He is also an accomplished sculptor, with a piece on exhibit in the Louvre in 2008.

There are more beefcake photos of Tony Dow here.
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