Jun 20, 2020

"Mozart in the Jungle":: No. No Way. Forget It. Absolutely Not.

Mozart in the Jungle: "what happens behind the curtains at the symphony is just as captivating as what happens on the stage."

I've never seen a backstage show about a symphony.  It might be interesting.

Besides, one of the stars is Sandro Isaack (left), a Brazilian actor who is gay in real life, and illustrates children's books about same-sex parents. Another is Gael Garcia Bernal, who played a gay character back in Y Tu Mama Tambien.  Plus Malcolm McDowell, whom I've been assuming was gay for the last 30 years (he apparently isn't).  And come on, it's the music industry.  90% of the men are gay.  There will certainly be gay characters.

Plus there are 39,000 votes on Amazon, with nearly a 5 star rating.  Ok, let's try it.

Scene 1: A restaurant with ornate Gothic buildings in the background. I'm guessing Oxford.  A teenage girl  (Lola Kirke) is teaching a young boy (Griffin Birney) how to play the oboe.

I assume the guy on the right is the same Griffin Birney: the head of the Choate cross-country team in 2018. How many could there be?

The teenage girl bends down; the young boy stares at her cleavage.

Ugh!  Five seconds in, and already it's heteronormative "girls! girls! girls!" nonsense.  Who could possibly think that offensive heterosexist garbage would be a good way to draw viewers into a tv show?  

Well, maybe it gets better.  It has a gay star, after all.

Teenage girl advises horny boy to...um...practice every night before bed.  Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

When he leaves the room, his cell phone buzzes.  She picks it up -- he's been texting a friend about her breasts: "I wish my penis was a woodwind."

Ugh, ugh, ugh...

Scene 2:  The fictitious New York Symphony  is performing, featuring real-life violinist Joshua Bell, with Malcolm McDowell as the conductor.

Malcolm is leaving the orchestra (though he'll stick around in an advisory capacity).  He introduces Bernadette Peters, the chair of the board, who in turn introduces the new conductor, Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal, left), a rock star in the classical music world.

A montage of Rodrigo conducting lighting strikes and atom bombs, and getting his picture on the cover of Rolling Stone.  

Scene 3:  Outside, after the performance, a musician is describing a gig where "the hostess is working my shaft, my balls."

Ugh.  But I admit it's rather nice to think about the guy's shaft.

Cynthia the Cellist flirts her way into a cab.  She's on her way to another gig.

Scene 4:  The terrible Oedipus Rocks, with the music of Styx performed by people in togas.  Oedipus (Constantine Maroulis) is singing.  Fully covered up, surrounded by about a billion girls in skimpy bikinis.

Ok, this series about the backstage world of classical music is obviously intended for the sole viewing of heterosexual frat boys getting warmed up for an orgy.  Are they generally big fans of classical music? I know I'm absolutely not welcome here, but I have this quirk -- when I'm told I shouldn't go somewhere, I go there.  So I'm watching this heterosexist garbage through to the final fade out  tit joke.

Cynthia gets to the performance late, and sits next to New Girl Hailey (from Scene 1), an oboist.

Scene 5: The performance is over.  Bernard (Tom Bateman), the director, chews Cynthia out for arriving late, and then invites Hailey to have sex with him (no rules against sexual harassment in the Heterosexist Garbage world).  Cynthia comes to the rescue and drags her out.

Scene 6: Cut to an after-performance party for the New York Symphony.  Wait -- everyone left at the end of the performance, Cynthia went to a second performance, and now they're all back?  I'm lost.

Malcolm the Has-Been is angry with Rodrigo Rock Star for being a poseur with air-headed rock-star plans for the orchestra. But Rodrigo shows that he knows his stuff: "the second clarinetist was flat 17 times in the first act," and so on.

Scene 7: Hailey and Cynthia bonding.  Isn't it like 4 am by now?  

The waiter, Alex (Peter Vack, left), pays for their drinks in order to flirt.    He has a cute butt, so he's probably a dancer, Cynthia says.  Dancers are very good in bed.

She elaborates, while we watch the guys doing their thing (some bare chests).
1. Violinists (like Samuel Strickland) finish too quickly.
2. Percussionists (like Raymond McAnally) pound you.  Yes, that's really his name.
3. Pianists (like David Shih) are into three-way ensembles (boy-girl-girl action, if you're into that).
4. And stay away from conductors. Ok, Hailey is going to be dating Rodrigo the Rock Star.

Scene 8: Cynthia leaves so Hailey can hook up with the hot waiter.  He's about to get off  work, and is hanging out with some friends -- would she like to come along?  But she blows him off.  (Wouldn't you -- it's like 5:00 am!)

Scene 9: Cynthia gets into the limo with Malcolm the Has-Been who complains about the new guy taking over, with his newfangled ideas. Ok, Boomer. (Actually, Malcolm is about 2 years too old to be a Baby Boomer).

Then Malcolm unbuckles his belt.  Are they -- no -- they aren't going to have oral sex right there in the limo?  But he was her conductor -- her boss. 

Oh, right -- no sexual harassment in Heterosexist Garbage World.


Scene10:  Hailey gets home, only to find a  party full of orchestra bohemians. She wants to go to bed, but they all cheer and chant her name, and she is dissuaded. (Whoa, this girl is popular!).   

They all bet on a weird musical contest between Hailey and a flautist (Matt Braver), where they have to drink shots and then play selected musical types (baroque!  three shots!).

So, you play your oboe all day for a living, and when you get home, you play your oboe some more for fun?

Suddenly, Alex the hot waiter shows up.  The party he was talking about is at Hailey's house!   Well, New York is a small town, after all. She gets all flusterd and leaves.

Scene 11:  Hailey is hiding from her faux pas on the front steps of her brownstone,  with the Empire State Building visible down the street (like every apartment in New York), Rommate Lizzie comes out, planning to seduce Hot Alex. She asks "Do I looklike a tranny train wreck?"

Ok, number 1, it's transgender, and number 2, many transgender women are quite attractive, you transphobe.

Alex joins them, roommate scrams, falling in lo-oo-oove montage.

Scene 12: It's morning.  Everybody stayed over and slept in a giant pile.  Hailey goes to her job tutoring the sleazoid kid from Scene 1 (weird -- I thought that was a flashback to ten years ago, and he would be a famous musician now).

But suddenly she gets a text from Cynthia -- Rodrigo the New Conductor has fired some woodwinds, and is holding auditions for their replacements!  A chance to get out of the ghetto of Oedipus Rocks!

So -- it's early in the morning, the day after Rodrigo took the job.  He can't possibly have decided to fire anyone until about an hour ago. Where did he advertise the woodwind auditions? How has anyone had time to hear about it and show up?

Scene 13: The audition.  Rodrigo is thunderstruck with amazement at the magesty of Hailey's performance. Or else he has suddenly found the Girl of His Deams.  Of course she gets the job -- otherwise be lousy story.

The End.  Thank God.

Wait -- where's Sandor, the gay actor?  I was promised a gay actor.

My Grade: F minus minus.

The Catbird Seat: Strong Women, Gay Men

I hated a lot of the stories that teachers foisted on us in school. They were always heterosexist, and usually depressing, dreary, and boring.  One of my least favorites, was James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat."

Two teachers assigned it in high school, and one in college, and none of them ever explained what the heck a catbird seat is.

A catbird is just a regular American bird.  Thurber made up the catchphrase "sitting in the catbird seat," just to confuse his readers. 












James Thurber (1894-1961) was a  mid-20th century writer who made a career of pointing out the humorous foibles of men as they pursued women, or women as they pursued men, heterosexual desire to the max: "The Male Animal," "My World and Welcome to It," "Is Sex Necessary?", etc., etc.

"The Catbird Seat" (1942) is about mild-mannered, gay-vague Mr. Martin, who is not interested in women and therefore reprehensible.

He clashes with brash, braying Mrs. Ulgine Barrows, a coworker who is dating the boss, and therefore invulnerable.  She loves incomprehensible catch phrases  like "Are you sitting in the catbird seat?"

She's really annoying, and about to take over the business, so Mr. Martin decides to kill her.  But his plans don't work out as expected.

So its basically a conflict of wills between two people who are outcasts in 1942 society, a strong woman and a "weak" (read: gay) man.

Strong women and "weak" (read: gay) men were savagely lampooned during the 1940s.  On the Burns and Allen radio program, Mel Blanc played a mild-mannered, nebbish postman who dreamed of killing his overbearing wife.  But "The Catbird Seat" is notable for its utter misogyny and intense heterosexism.


It's a very short story, but still, it's been filmed twice.

1. In a 1948 episode of Actor's Studio, starring Broadway actor Hiram Sherman, who often played gay-vague roles.

2. In the 1959 movie The Battle of the Sexes, with Peter Sellers (34 years old, but wearing old-man makeup), which frames the conflict as a modern American vs. old-school British.

Jeff East: from Disney Adventure to Superman

During the 1950s and 1960s, Walt Disney single-handedly selected and groomed boys whom he thought could represent "youthful masculinity" -- and make money for the studio: Tommy KirkKurt Russell, Tim Considine, James MacArthur.  After his death in 1966, the Disney Adventure Boy was a rarity.  Ike Eisenmann came close, but perhaps the last was Jeff East.



Born in 1957, the tall, lanky, curly-haired teenager made a string of Disney moves in the mid-1970s, all set on the 19th century frontier.  However, Disney curtailed the shirtless shots that made Robbie Benson's Westerns a success -- Jeff displayed his chest (and nude backside) only in Tom Sawyer (1973) and Huckleberry Finn (1974), when he was barely pubescent.(That's a surprisingly muscular Johnny Whitaker next to him).






In his teenage roles, Jeff was stunningly handsome, but fully clothed.  Maybe for that reason, he remained relatively obscure,  receiving almost no notice in the teen magazines.





In 1977, Jeff moved on to his first "adult" role, as a college student who participates in a deadly hazing in The Hazing, also released as The Case of the Campus Corpse.  As if overcompensating for the censorship of Disney studios, he takes everything off -- he spends about half the movie in nothing but a revealing jockstrap.











And he has a painfully intense, overt same-sex romance with his costar, fellow college student Charles Martin Smith.










His most famous role came in 1978, when he played the teenage Clark Kent (but not his voice) in the blockbuster Superman.

Afterwards he continued to act, but mostly in low-budget projects.  Pumpkinhead (1988) was memorable for the same-sex romance between his harassed camper Chris and country boy Bunt (Brian Bremer), but most were of little interest for gay fans.

Today, somewhat chunky, no longer blond, but still handsome, Jeff East has retired from acting and works in real estate.

Jun 19, 2020

"The Perfect Wedding.": Much Ado Over a Kiss

A Perfect Wedding, on Amazon Prime, is a "light romantic comedy about two men who..."

That's as far as the blurb will go.  Do I dare imagine that the two guys are planning their own wedding?  Or will they be competing over the a girl in a heterosexual farce?

Ok, here we go.

Prologue:  Establishing shot of an ornate Florida mansion with incongruous kitsch like garden gnomes and pink flamingoes The hunky Paul (Rico Aragon), who apparently collects kitsch, wakes up to the Chipmunks (the 1960s novelty group) singing "We wish you a merry Christmas."   Nice chest.

Paul goes downstairs to an older guy (James Rebhorn) at the breakfast table.  The boyfriend? No-- "Hi, Dad."  He grabs a Christmas present and leaves.

A hunky older guy, Zack (Sal Rendino), picks him up. The boyfriend?  No, apparently his sponsor at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  Paul is 18 months sober!

Scene 1:  A middle-class house with a Mom and Dad puttering aorund doing old-person stuff.  Wait -- this is Paul's house from the prologue, just much less ornate, that's Paul's Dad, much older! Why the complete change  in setting and character?

Daughter Alana and Vickie arrive.  Hugs all around. Girlfriends?  Is the perfect wedding theirs?

Scene 2:  Cut to an American Sign Language class, where the rather feminine  Gavin (Jason T. Gaffney, left).  is the instructor and Roy (Roger Stewart) one of the students.  Ok, maybe they're the boyfriends?

Scene 3: Alana and Vickie, unpacking, discuss Roy.  He is Alana's best friend,but still,should he come to the wedding? Her brother Paul the Kitsch Collector will be there.

Scene 4:  Gavin the ASL Teacher and Roy load up the car and drive to Christmas/wedding at Alana's house.  On the way. Roy gives Gavin a plot dump:

Roy and Paul the Kitsch Collector were together until he caught Paul cheating and showed him the door.  Then Roy started dating Gavin the ASL Teacher.

Confused?  You won'tbe after today's episode of Soap.

Scene 5: Paul the Kitsch Collector and Sponsor Zack, also his coworker, are hard at work at a plant nursery.  See, Paul has reformed. He is no longer a jerk.  And he wants to fix up Zack with his sister's friend Vickie.  (Is this a Shakespearean comedy, where everyone gets paired off?)

Meanwhile, in the car,  Roy finishes the plot dump; "As you know, Gavin, we have broken up, but we're going to pretend that we are still together to stick it to Paul the Jerk."

Scene 6:  The house is an ornate mansion again, and Alana and Vickie are making Christmas cookies. They start discussing two new characters, Kirk and Merrill, but before another plot dump, Gavin the ASL Teacher and Roy the Ex arrive.

After small talk, Paul the Kitsch Collector arrives.  Hugs all around. Did I just see Gavin giving him a cruisy look.  When he finds out that Gavin is an ASL interpreter,he tries a little signing ("I am a goat."}

They play charades.  We literally watch them playing charades for five minutes of screen time.

Scene 7:  Paul gets Roy the Ex alone to apologize for being such a jerk (that's one of the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, isn't it/).  Gavin eavesdrops.

Later, Gavin tries to talk Roy into getting back together with Paul (um...he's your fake boyfriend, remember?)

Gavin is sleeping on the floor, ,so when Alanna drops by, they have to scramble to jump in bed together.  Come on, I've shared beds with countless friends, including ex-lovers.

Alanna brings in mistletoe and insists on seeing a big, sloppin Christmas smooch from the obviously uncomfortable pair.  Not approp, girlfirend!

Scene 8: Paul and Gavin the ASL Interpreter have a heart-to-heart about Paul's horrible childhood (in a house that keeps morphing into a mansion?) and the car accident that caused him to get sober.  Gavin  discusses his hearing impairment.

Then some wedding planning and Christmas tree stuff.

Paul gushes over the book Gavin wrote (all 588 pages of it).  Here's a line:

"Fear not your destiny, for you have shaped it well."

Yeah, Paul is just being nice. Or cruising.




Scene 9: Gavin and Alanna bond.  Takeaway: Alanna doesn't want a big wedding,but her parents have their hearts set on one.

Zack (Paul's sponsor from Scene 5) arrives, and he brought Kirk (Brendan Griffin), the groom. They all have lunch (the house is a mansion again). Kirk tells Paul that doesn't want a huge wedding, either.  But...the parents...hearts set?

I didn't think it was important to mention,but Dad has been forgetting things and acting weird.  Turns out he has Alzheimer's.  So they have to have a big wedding to make him happy before he forgets everything.

Scene 10:  They're playing another game. We watch for five minutes of screen time.  Geez, turn on a tv set once in awhile.  Paul's a kitsch collector -- maybe there's a cheesy Christmas special on.

Scene 11:  Kirk and Alanna discuss a scheme to have a small, intimate wedding instead of the three-ring circus Mom and Dad want.  Their wedding song will be "Amazing Grace."  (Seriously? Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me?)

Scene 12: All of the younger guests are in on the scheme: it will happen tonight, so Mom and Dad don't get a chance to put a kibosh on it!  Paul and Gavin rush over to the nursery to get flowers and flirt.  Come on, Gavin -- the deception is just to torture Paul, who is no longer a jerk.  Tell him the truth already, so you can date.


Scene 13:  Mom and Dad find out about the small wedding..  They're ok with it.  So...um..where's the conflict?

Scene 14: The wedding.  Well, that was easy.

Scene 15:  The reception.  Zack the Sponsor flirts with Vickie (Alanna's best friend,remember?  She's staying at the house, but she's been absent since Roy arrived in Scene 6.  Why was she even in the cast?)

Scene 16:  Late that night, Gavin sneaks downstairs to learn to play the weird Dungeons and Dragons-type game he is giving his "boyfriend" Roy for Christmas.  Another game?  If they are actually shown playing it, I'm leaving. 

Paul comes downstairs to help (right, I forgot that he lives in the Incredible Morphing House)

Scene 17:  Christmas morning, but no one is even thinking about presents.

Paul talks to Sponsor Zack.  He's overcome with guilt over kissing Gavin, Roy's "boyfriend," last night.  It's all starting up again!  He's an inconsiderate jerk!  (Knowing his guilt over cheating in the past, why wouldn't Gavin just tell him about the deception?)

Surprise!  Gavin packed up and left last night! (So now Roy doesn't have a ride back to whatever town they live in?)  He left a note saying he's going to catch a plane to California.

Why does he feel bad?  He wasn't cheating.

Paul tells the whole family about the kiss.  They are all shocked and horrified.  Finally -- finally -- Roy tells them about the deception.  What a jerk, torturing Paul for so long!  Oddly, no one is angry, not even Paul.

Scene 18: I thought there'd be a rushing-through-the-airport scene, but Paul just shows up at Gavin's apartment for the fade-out kiss.  And wedding (a big one).

Beefcake:  Paul and Gavin are shirtless several times.


Gay Characters:Yes.

Amazing Morphing Houses: Mansion in one scene, middle-class drab in another.

Overstuffed Plot:  Yes. Poor Vickie was forgotten about.  The conflict over big-small weddings faded out. Paul's kitsch interest -- forgotten.  Dad has Alzheimer's -- what's that about?  And who are Tessa, Brad, and Louis?

And: we spent the whole prologue being reminded about that Christmas present, over and over.  Then it was never given to anyone, or mentioned, ever again.

Unrealistic Character Motives:  Keeping up the deception for so long.  Actually, I thought they came clean during the game-playing scenes that I fast-forwarded through. Or forgot about it.

My Grade: B.  At least there are gay characters.

Jun 18, 2020

"Hotel Artemis":A Gay-Coded Man Mountain Will Be Your Health Care Provider

Artemis is the Greek goddess of childbirth and all things related to women's physiology, so I figured that Hotel Artemis was a somber, serious indie movie with women having heart-to-heart talks about women's physiology. No doubt one of them would give birth, and another would die of cancer.

But the icon on Amazon Prime showed only one women and several men, and the blurb used masculine action-adventure terms like  "high octane" and "fast-paced."  So I had to check this out:

Scene 1:  L.A. June,2028. "The largest civil unrest California has ever seen," over the privatization of the water company.  Really? Not racism? In the midst of all the turmoil,  four guys are robbing a bank.  Lots of hostages.  They blow a hole in the wall, burst out -- and get shot by a riot squad. How ironic!




Scene 2: The elderly, dour Thomas (Jodie Foster) smokes, drinks, and stares at a photo of her dead son.  She's completely lost it.  She walks through a dark, gloomy hotel full of mechanical gadgets to meet three of the bank robbers.

She rejects Buke (Kenneth Choi) because he is "not a member" (I guess this a subscription-based hospital, like a Sam's Club for criminals).  But the other two are members, code named Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and the critically injured Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry).

Yeah, I know, dumb code names.

Scene 3: Everest (Dave Bautista, top photo), Thomas' muscle, discusses his anxiety issues as he carries Buke out into the alley.  Suddenly Buke attacks. Everett, 20 times his size, says "Really?"

Scene 4: Thomas treats Acapulco the Sleazoid (Charlie Day).  He asks her to keep some scented candles in the room, "cause it smells like someone died in here."  Thomas: "They did."

Then on to Nice (pronounced like the city in France)(Sofia Boutella), who is complaining about the tv in her room.

The moment Thomas is gone, Nice turns on a futuristic holo-phone.  She's here on an undercover assignment!  She had to shoot herself in the arm to get in!

Scene 5: Thomas tells Waikiki (the bank robber from Scene 1) that 3-D printed livers dont work very well with heroin addicts, so Honolulu is in critical condition.

Scene 6:  Crosby (Zachary Quinto) calls.  He's rude, so Thomas hangs up on him.  He calls back to tell her that his father, The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), a major gangster who owns half the city (including the hotel), is on his way.  .

Meanwhile, Everett the Muscle reveals that the riot is heading their way.  They might have to evacuate.  He bickers with Acapulco the Sleazoid from Scene 4.  Do I detect some homoromantic interaction?

Nope.  Acapulco makes a sleazy comment about Nice next.  They insult each other. Waikiki the Bank Robber intervenes.

Scene 7:  Suddenly Morgan (Jenny Slate), a wounded cop, wants in.  Thomas has a rule against admitting non-criminals, but Morgan was a childhood friend of her dead son, so she makes an exception.

Thomas has to go fetch Morgan herself, even though she has agoraphobia and hasn't left the hotel in years.

Scene 8: Crosby the Gangster's Son and his boyfriend Rocco (Nathan Davis Jr.) are securing the alley for Wolf King's arrival.

Meanwhile Waikiki the Bank Robber and Nice the Hired Assassin chat.  Apparently they have a history. Waikiki "could have been one of the greats," if he ever left the country.  But he won't do foreign jobs.

Wait -- is Waikiki an assassin?  I thought he just robbed banks.

Scene 9: They bring in the wounded cop.

Waikiki has stolen a vial of yellow diamonds worth $18 million from the Wolf King, who will be there anymoment!  He has to leave the hotel,but he's waiting for his partner to recover.

Scene 10:  While operating on Morgan the Cop, Thomas flashes back to her son under a pier, with water flowing in (uh-oh),  When Morgan awakens, she tries to apologize for what happened that day, but Thomas won't listen.(So when they were kids, Morgan was responsible for the boy drowning?)

Scene 11: Thomas goes to the penthouse suite to treat Niagara (who is apparently herself -- the lady is falling apart.)  She flashes back to the boy under the docks, who suddenly becomes a dead teenager (so, did he die as a boy or as a teen?)

Meanwhile, Acapulco has called for a helicopter to leave the hotel.  He runs into Nice on the roof, and offers her a job as his bodyguard.  She refuses; being a hired assassin is more fulfilling.  She's going to kill the WolfKing (I guessed it).

Meanwhile, Waikiki the Bank Robber finds a secret corridor

Scene 12: Plot exposition dump.  We learn all about how the son died.

Things are now zapping back and forth too quickly to divide into scenes. Everest talks to Morgan, Thomas works on the Wolf King, Nice prepares for her kill (she has to make eye contact), Waikiki wanders around.  Everything goes very wrong.

When the smoke clears, every one of the named characters is dead except for three, who have overcome their problems and are now "free for the first time in their lives."

Beefcake: None.  A few glimpses of Waikiki's bulge.

Gay-Subtext Characters:  I'm going with Everest. No heterosexual interest, flirts with Acapulco, has body issues. Crosby, the Wolf King's son, might be gay, but we don't get enough screen time with him to find out.  Probably Thomas.

Erasing the Racism:  Riots about water, not racism.  Acapulco spews anti-immigrant rhetoric -- to a white girl from France. There's a reference to "going South past the Wall," so apparently he built it.

Lost Plot Threads: Several. Waikiki opens a  secret door, goes down a hidden corridor, and is shocked by what he finds.  What does he find?  I don't know -- we just get a reaction shot.

And why did Thomas stat a hospital for criminals in the first place?  Because her son died? I don't get the connection.

Character Development:  There are so many characters that we don't really get a good sense of any of their motives or goals.  In the last scene, Waikiki and Thomas act like they're best friends, but they've interacted twice.

My grade: B-

The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Remember the cave where Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher got lost in the classic Tom Sawyer?  In yet another 1960s rendition of the "boys trapped far from home" genre (others included H.R. Pufnstuf,   Land of the Lost, and Journey to the Beginning of Time), that cave led to a time-space warp that zapped  Tom  (Kevin Schultz), Becky Thatcher (LuAnn Haslam), and Huckleberry Finn (Michael Shea) into various worlds based on fiction, legends, and history.

After battling or befriending Aztecs, ancient Egyptians, mad scientists, Don Quixote, Indian thuggees, Captain Ahab, a medieval Caliph, cavemen, and wizards, it was another zap and another adventure.

Huck, who was only marginally literate, narrated the story, and made humorous malapropisms and mispronunciations.

The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn aired on Sunday nights in the fall of 1968, where it faced stiff competition from Land of the Giants.  Twenty episodes aired before it was cancelled.  I saw them as reruns during the summer of 1969.  Later they were syndicated in The Banana Splits and Friends.  

Tom and Becky are friends only, with no romantic inclinations.  But Tom and Huck have ample buddy-bonding, particularly when one or the other requires rescue.  And they require rescue a lot.


And though there were few shirtless shots, both of the boys, aged 15, were on display enough to attract the interest of teen magazines -- and of gay kids.  Michael Shea, the "hunk," wore a white shirt unbuttoned to his navel and a red vest, and was frequently tied up, so his muscles could strain against the ropes. Kevin Schultz, the "brain," wore a white shirt with a thin red tie and tight slacks.

The New Adventures turned out to be the summit of their acting careers.  In adulthood, Michael became a police officer.  Kevin and his identical twin Keith started a musical group in 1970, chummed around with fellow teen idol Jon Provost (below), and later became professional photographers.




Jun 17, 2020

"The Vast of Night": More Weird Alien Signals, but At Least There's Movement

After the Cosmos cotillion yesterday, I wanted a movie with people actually moving around, even if it did involve a man and a woman falling in love. 

I selected Vast of Night (2020), which appears to have the same plot as Cosmos:  "In the twilight of the 1950s, on one fateful night in New Mexico, a young switchboard operator and a charismatic radio DJ investigate a mysterrious radio signal."  But this time, to make sure they don't spend the entire two hours, I read a plot synopsis,watched the trailer (lots of scenes of people running about in a panic), and researched the stars:



Charismatic radio DJ Everett is played by Jake Horowitz, a theatrical actor whose credits include Our Town, King Lear, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I can't tell if he's gay in real life or not.

Young switchboard operator Fay is played by Sierra McCormick, who has a lot of credits in Christmas movies and Disney Channel teencoms. She writes on twitter that her pronouns are she and her, and in 2016, when fascism took over, she tweeted a "don't give up hope" message to her Muslim, gay, immigrant, and female-identified friends.

Not much beefcake potential, but a reasonably gay-friendly cast, some movement, and a lot of "magnificent achievement' gushing, so here goes:

Prologue:  We zoom into an old-timey tv set, while an announcer says "You are entering a realm between clandestine and forgotten, a slipstream caught between channels, the library of shadows."  It's Paradox Theater,  a parody of the old Twilight Zone.  Tonight's episode: "The Vast of Night."

Scene 1:  On a cold night in the 1950s in small-town New Mexico, Everett and his pal Benny (Gregory Peyton) enter a high school gym just before the Big Game starts, to repair some flickering lights.  

I like how Everett says "Make me feel good, Benny.  Tell me something good." And that "Remy is up in the stands, playing with his horn."  Lots of gay double-entendres so far.

Some beefcake shots of the team warming up; crotches and butts of basketball players.

Scene 2: Fay has a new tape recorder. Everett takes her outside to show her how to use it.Two guys whistle at him as they drive past. He says "I know those guys.  They like me."  I'll bet they do....

Scene 3:  Fay goes to work at the telephone switchboard.  She and her coworker discuss the hot Indian boys on the rival basketball team. The lights flicker,and one of her calls is just a series of clicks.  Another caller talks about a "strange dark object hovering," before being cut off.  She tries calling the police and her mother, but no one is around (small town Saturday night, everyone is at the basketball game).

Meanwhile, Everett is at his radio dj job, advertising the Udder Stand and playing hits by Screaming Scooch.  Fay calls to tell him about the humming sound (not about the UFO?)

Scene 4: The camera goes from Fay's switchboard through the town to the high school gym, where the game is in progress.  Benny from Scene 1 is announcing. I understand that set designers spent $20,000 to make the basketball court look like they did in the 1950s.  Who would know?  

Scene 5:  At the radio station, a caller named Billy tells about when he was in the military, he was taken to a secret installation in the desert, with something enormous covered by a tarp (you and I both know that it was an alien spaceship, right?) And it made the same humming sound that's disrupting everything.  Then Billy is cut off.

Scene 6: Billy calls back.  He says that some guys on the mission were intercepting mysterious signals, as if someone or something was sending messages "up above, where you couldn't see." (It's a spaceship, I got it. Why doesn't Everett?  They had UFOs in the 1950s.)

Scene 7: The tapes with the signals are  in the library, for reasons. Fay runs home, gets her library key (what, you didn't have a library key when you were a teenager?), bikes to the library, and gets the tapes. Everett shows up in a car (so he couldn't have driven her over?)  

Scene 8: Fay and Everett at the radio station, laboriously going through the tapes.  They find the right one and broadcast it. So, it's like telling the aliens, "Come and get us." 

The lights go out.  Fay and Everett conclude that they are about to be invaded by the Soviets (the possibility of aliens never crosses their minds?).

Scene 9:  They run into Bertie and Gertsie, a teen or adult couple (I can't tell ages) who saw something big in the sky.

A woman calls the switchboard and says she has the answers at her house (really?).

Scene 10: I thought Bertie and Gertsie would be important, but Fay and Everett leave them behind (and the switchboard and the radio station unattended) to drive to Blanche's house.

Blanche tells them the long, disjointed story of her life, finally getting to the part where aliens have been abducting townsfolks for years.  (Finally, someone mentions aliens!)  They abduct people in groups, like everyone on a train when she was a girl. And tonight, everyone at the basketball game!

Scene 11:  Ok, Blanche was nuttier than a fruitcake.  Fay forgot that her sister's babysitter cancelled, so she rushes home, grabs the toddler, and runs out (this is the part in the trailer where they lead you to believe that she's fleeing from some catastrophe). She then runs to a friend's house to borrow a camera, and runs out again (you know, Everett has a car).

Unintentional gay reference:
Gretchen (to Everett): What are you doing?  I'm in my nightgown.
Everett (looking away): I don't care what you look like in your night gown.

Scene 12: The couple from Scene 9 picks them up.  They start driving,but there's a whooshing sound and a bright light coming from above, and Bertsie goes catatonic.  Everett and Fay jump out of the car and run away.

They see lights in the woods, and walk toward them.  A giant spaceship is hovering overhead.

Cut to people leaving the Big Game in a daze, and walking past their cars to be abducted.

Beefcake:  Not really.  This picture has nothing to do with the movie.

Falling in Lo-oo-ove:  A hug in the last scene, but that's all. 

Gay characters: Everett doesn't seem to be interested in girls.

Dialogue:  Very fast-paced, witty, interesting.

Twilight Zone-like twist ending, where it's all just paranoia:  No.

Name mix-up:  Bertsie is sometimes called Gerald;  Blanche says her name is Mabel.

Misleading trailer:  Yes.  Making scenes look suspenseful, when they are actually humorous.  This is a comedy.

My grade: B  

Jun 16, 2020

"Cosmos": Three Guys Sitting in a Car in the Dark

After wading through 23 blurbs of "movies we think you'll like" on Amazon Prime, all about men and women falling in love, I come to Cosmos (2019).  Three amateur astronomers intercept a signal that they think is from an alien civilization, but...

Sounds like the same plot as Contact. But at this point, I'll take anything that doesn't feature a man and a woman falling in love.  The amateur astronauts are all men...a good sign. They doubtless have wives and girlfriends at home who won't understand their obsession, but I can handle that.


Plus it stars Tom England.  This might not be the right one, but it's a promising start.

Scene 1: Harry (Joshua Ford), Mike (Tom England), and Roy (Arjun Singh Panam) are driving through the English wilderness at night, listening to "Space Gab" on the radio.

Closeting the Sikh by naming him "Roy Kennedy"? Maybe the role was already written when he auditioned for it, but why not just change the character's name to something more Indian-sounding?

Roy has been away from the group for a few months.  Mike says "It's great to have you back," and then, tentatively, "What are you doing this evening?"

Asking him for a date? Does he have a crush on Roy?

They get to the observation site and unload their new telescope, named Annabelle, which, Mike declares, "Makes life worth living."  Roy points out that it is "stiff, and lifeless, and weighs a ton," not like a real relationship.

Later, Roy is sitting in the car while Mike works on something on the roof.  His crotch presses against the window.  Roy doesn't seem to appreciate the bulge.

If pressing your salami against the glass doesn't get his attention, he's a lost cause.  Time to move on, Mike.

Wait -- we're  still in Scene 1?

Fifteen minutes in, and still in Scene 1. 

Are they going to be chatting and flirting with each other in a darkened car through the whole movie?

I fast forward.

2 hours at that observation site in the dark, then driving down a country road again, to stop and talk to another guy in the dark.   Oh, and Mike and Roy hug.  I guess they agreed to date after all.

Regardless of the gay subtext or text, I don't get it.  Where is the scene with them trying to get government officials to listen?  How about the scene where their home life is affected by their "obsession"?  And the scene where they meet the aliens?

Who would make a movie that's nothing but sitting in a dark car for two hours, talking about nothing?  Who would expect anyone besides their mother to watch it (and Mom would be fast forwarding)?

The writers/directors are Elliot and Zander Weaver, two brothers who apparently have never been to film school.

Or seen a movie before, ever, in their lives.

Or looked up the definition of "movie" in the dictionary.

Guys, it's a moving picture.  There has to be movement.

Maybe I'll just take a peek at one of those movies about a man and a woman falling in love.

Jun 15, 2020

Tom Brown's School Days


I saw Tom Brown’s School Days (1940) on Matinee at the Bijou, a 1970s tv series that replayed classic movies.   I had never heard of the original novel by Thomas Hughes (1857), about the agonizing love between two boys in an elite British boarding school, but later I sought it out.  Robert Drake writes that it became “one of the more influential texts for emerging gay writers, or writers with a gay sensibility."  The same can be said for the movie.



A tall, slim seventeen-year old named Jimmy Lydon plays Tom, “the typical American boy” even though he is still scripted as upper-class British.   He expresses his typical American boyhood by being stoic, courageous, and adventurous, by taking off his shirt to reveal a slim physique.  And by ignoring girls.  The daughter of a local shopkeeper plays a pivotal role in the plot, but Tom never gives her a second glance.  Instead, he falls in love with an aristocratic upperclassman.

East (Freddie Bartholomew, previously in Captains Courageous), tall, thin, brittle-looking, and as feminine as a young Quentin Crisp,  takes the initiative in the courtship, approaching Tom the moment he gets off the train, showing him around, taking him by the arm or shoulder, and gazing at him with rapt ardor.  He gives Tom a picture of two ancient Greek warriors shaking hands -- a 19th century beefcake poster -- and marks them as “Brown” and “East."

East carefully dismisses or outwits Tom’s other suitors.  When they go out for “murphys” (baked potatoes sold as a snack), he protects Tom from a groping, leering boy named Tadpole.
Tadpole: Is this the new fellow? Nice looking, isn’t he?
Tom: How do you do?
Tadpole: (Looks him up and down.) Hungry, thank you.

A more violent threat comes from Sixth Formers (high school seniors), led by the bestial Flashman (Billy Halop of Dead End, shown here playing Humphrey Bogart's gunsel).  He offers several shirtless and semi-nude scenes, with a more muscular physique.

Flashman bullies Tom, and forces him to endure dangerous hazing.  Their fight, oddly, serves as the subject for the lion's share of lobby cards and posters.











When Tom is accused of “telling tales,” the worst crime in the boys’ honor code, East breaks up with him, tearing up the picture and sending him his half.  Even after Tom is found innocent, East refuses to take him back, using oddly romantic rhetoric: “I’m not interested in you or anything about you!  I never want to see you again!”

Adult women in movies of the era rely on the phrase “I never want to see you again” to angrily break up with their boyfriends, but this is nearly the only example of its use among "buddies."  The implication, of course, is that Tom and east are not buddies, but homoromantic partners: their relationship is emotionally intense, physically intimate, and exclusive, and but for their breakup, it would be permanent.

The movie ends years later, when Tom and East encounter each other by accident at the tomb of their beloved headmaster.  Tom asks “Can’t we be friends?” and East grudgingly shakes his hand, thus giving closure to their romance.  In the original story, Tom stands at the tomb alone. Only in the 1940 are Tom and East homoromantic partners, so only in 1940 do they require closure.

Bartholomew and Lydon were paired again in Cadets on Parade (1942). Rich kid Austin Shannon (Freddie Bartholomew), an eighteen-year old military cadet, is bad at sports and reviled as a “sissy” by his self-made-man father, so he runs away and encounters street tough  Joe Novak (Jimmy Lydon).  The two set up housekeeping together (in a flat with only one bed).  Joe never mocks his partner's sissiness, but he does gently suggest that success at school may depend on an increased manliness.  Austin’s salvation, his return to middle-class society, comes through learning to box and play football, not through heterosexual experience: no girls appear or are mentioned in he movie.  But Austin draws Joen into civilization through the same rubric that girls use with jungle boys, through teaching him to read and use proper table manners.  In the end they both enroll in the military academy.  The tagline is: “The Story of Two American Boys…On the Road to Being Men!”


 The last of the Jimmy Lydon - Freddie Bartholomew pairings was The Town Went Wild (1944):  gangly sophisticate David (Freddie) and blue collar Bob  (Jimmy) are best friends, but they do not share a homoromantic bond.  David is dating Bob’s sister, but there is no hint at triangulation: he really does spend all of his time with her, while Bob is relegated to the status of third wheel.  It is interesting that the sissy gets engaged, while the he-man never expresses any interest in girls, but still, one must wonder why the scripted homoromances between Freddie and Jimmy ended so abruptly.  Perhaps the subtext was becoming too obvious, veering too close to conscious thought.

The Little Vampire and Pal

Movies starring preteens, such as The Never Ending Story and Journey to the Beginning of Time, are a good place to find gay content.  Preteen boys aren't required to drool over girls quite as often as teenagers and adults, and the myth that there are no gay children -- gayness is something that happens to you as an adult -- means they aren't being patroled by the Thought Police quite as heavily. So same-sex romance can be displayed, as long as no one actually Says the Word.


In The Little Vampire (2000), an adaptation of the novel series by Angela Sommer-Bodenberg, Tony (9-year old Jonathan Lipnicki, left) moves from America to Scotland, and becomes involved with a boy vampire named Rudolph (13-year old Rollo Weeks, right).  They rather obviously fall in love, rescuing each other from danger over and over, and flying through the air holding hands in a scene reminiscent of Superman flying with Lois Lane in the 1978 movie.


Rudolph and his family (Mom, Dad, older brother, and sister) don't attack people -- they drink animal blood, not human blood.  They just want to live in peace, but they are always in hiding, from evil vampires, bigoted humans, and especially a vampire hunter named Rookery.

Everyone is looking for a mystical stone that can either destroy the vampires or turn them human. Tony finds it.  In a climactic battle, he turns them human to save them, but now they lost their memory and don't know who he is.  A tear trickles down Tony's cheek as he realizes that not even Rudolph knows him.

















But in the final scene, Tony whistles the mystical tune that the vampires taught him, and their memory is restored, and Tony and Rudolph, and their two families, can be together again.

This was not the only gay-friendly project of the two stars.  In 2006, Rollo Weeks starred in The Thief Lord, which also featured a strong same-sex romance.

Jonathan Lipnicki was a busy child star before The Little Vampire, with starring roles in Jerry Maguire (1996), The Jeff Foxworthy Show (1996-97) and Stuart Little (1999, 2002).  Recently he has been involved with independent films -- and bodybuilding.

I couldn't resist; most of these pictures are of the grown-up Jonathan rather than from the movie.




Jonathan is a strong supporter of gay rights. In 2011, he played in the STIKS Celebrity Video Game Challenge for Charity, representing the Trevor Project, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline for LGBT and questioning youth.

Jun 14, 2020

Curon, Episode 2: Every Gayer and Creepier

I don't usually do second episodes, but...the plot twists!  The gay subtexts and texts!  The beefcake!

Recap: Curon, the Netflix tv series, sends Ana and her two teens to her hometown in northern Italy, where her mother was murdered 17 years ago by someone with her face.  Grandpa Thomas is not happy to see them, probably because there's someone with her face trapped in the attic.  But Ana is staying anyway, and sends the twins to school.   Daria gets a girlfriend; and Mauro seems to be out on the Black Lake and back home in his room with his shirt off at the same time.

On to Episode 2:

Prologue:  Grandpa Thomas and Ana quickly drive away, while someone who looks like Ana climbs out of Black Lake.

Scene 1: Breakfast.  Grandpa Thomas tells the twins that Ana has gone off by herself to calm her nerves, so she won't be answering her cell phone.  He also shows Mauro the room where he saw the person with Ana's face last night; it is empty.

Scene 2: Micki, Daria's new girlfriend, reveals their kiss last night to Lucas (Luca Castellano),a shy boy who obviously has a crush on her but is stuck in the friend zone. He isn't happy with this new development.

Scene 3: Grandpa Thomas tells his friend Berger "Thanks for last night" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).  He asks if there are one or two bodies.  (I'm lost.  Who died?)

Scene 4: In school, the teacher forcibly separates the twins.  Daria must sit next to Mickie (not a problem!), and Mauro, next to Lucas (matchmaking?). They insult each other.


Scene 5: Albert Asper (Alessandro Tedeschi)), the guy Ana used to date back before the murder-leaving town 17 years ago,  comes across some dead sheep.  There's a wolf in the woods!  (I hope this isn't a boring werewolf story!)

 Meanwhile, teacher is telling a story about how there's two wolves inside of us, one good and the other evil, fighting for control.  (Ulp;; it's going to be a boring werewolf story....)

What a coincidence -- teacher is Klara Asper, Albert's wife.  And Mickie and Giulio (one of the Hugging Guys) are their children!  I hope they are ok  with having two gay kids.

Scene 6:  Classes let out early in Italy: Mickie invites Daria home for lunch (bringing the new girlfriend home to meet the folks?).   She blows off Lucas, who gets mad and punches a mirror and then tells someone about last night's lesbian kiss.  Soon it's all over the school.

Scene 7: Lunch. The family is deeply religious, with crucifixes everywhere (wait -- Klara the teacher won't allow crucifixes in her classroom, but she's got a house full of them?  Something's wrong with this family).


Scene 7: Grandpa Thomas and his buddy are tracking "them" in the woods.


Meanwhile, Lucas and Mauro bond.  Suddenly the Boat Rental Guy shows up and asks about the boat that Mauro stole.last night.  Why is it still on the lake?

He calls them "pansies," and they run away.  (Is everybody in this show gay?  But Lucas is in love with Mickie...)

Meanwhile, Daria and Mickie discuss the kiss.  It was Mickie's first time, and her parents would have a fit if they found out.

Scene 8: They're just sitting down to lunch.  Dad Albert criticizes Klara's cooking; she cringes. Giulio gets up from the table without permission, and Dad practically attacks.  Authoritarina, abusive jerk!  And, no doubt, homophobic. (With two gay kids!).

 Scene 9:  Instead of kissing Mauro, Lucas gives him a plot exposition dump.  The submerged church is not due to a demon invasion.  After the War, Daria and Mauro's great-grandparents) pushed through a reservoir project which submerged the whole village, and everybody had to move. That's why the Rania family is hated so much.  (Political/economic tensions. I'm disappointed.  I thought it was Satan).

 Meanwhile, Grandpa Thomas and his buddy are still tracking (after that plot dump, something exciting had better happen soon.) 

They go into a cave and call for a someone to come out ("I won't hurt you.")  But the person or werewolf won't.  So they keep tracking, and find a cell phone with a call from Mauro on it.  Maybe the missing mom's?

Scene 10: Someone wrote "Mickie Asper Lesbica #Maiunagioia" on the wall of the school.  Luca desperately tries to erase it.  Mickie assumes that he did it and yells "You're dead to me."

Scene 11: Giulio is boxing with his shirt off, while the other Hugging Guy, Davide, plays on his cell phone. He practically kills his opponent; Davide has to rush into the ring and pull him away.  Then Giulio showers naked, while Davide asks "What happened back there?  You looked possessed by...."  He throws him a wad of cash. "Now either smile, or tell me what's wrong."

 Giulio smiles.  "I missed you."

The homoeroticism of that scene is breath-taking.  I need a break. I'll be back later.

Scene 12:  Lucas goes home, where his fat, fruity Dad is playing with their cat.

He takes a shower and hangs around nude, upset over the day's events.  Suddenly he sees a naked guy standing behind him.  With his face.

Scene 13:  Mickie and Daria are shooting up an abandoned trailer for fun. They discuss Lucas.

Meanwhile, Grandpa Thomas and his buddy are still tracking (hasn't it been, like 8 or 9 hours?  Did they get a bathroom break?) Thomas wants to continue tracking "them" down a ravine, but Buddy points out that "they're" already dead, and anyway it's getting dark.

Scene 14: Mauro is playing with his drone.  There's someone in the attic room where he saw his mom's doppleganger!  He rushes to investigate.  Albert the Jerk, who stands too close, bugs his eyes, and generally acts gross nd creepy ("I'm worried about your mother's disappearance because we used to be friends...good friends..."}

Scene 15: Mauro tells twin sister the plot exposition dump he got earlier.  They find Mom's cell phone -- still in the house! Why would she leave without it?  Is Grandpa Thomas lying?

Scene 16: Albert the Jerk is wandering around in the dark, being creepy.

Meanwhile, Lucas is crying and holding his head with his shirt off.

Suddenly we see his doppelganger climbing naked out of the Black Lake. Shudder.

Beefcake: A lot.

Weirdness: A lot.

Heterosexual characters:  Lucas, maybe?

See also:Curon: A Gayer, Creepier Locke and Key

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