Jul 18, 2020

The Umbrella Academy

 I've now watched the first three episodes of the the much-anticipated Netflix series The Umbrella Academy, and sampled the others to get a basic idea of the plot.  Here is my verdict.

It's glittery and cool, set in a Gothic film noir world where people wear gorgeous costumes and trade bon mots at a spitfire pace, and no one has heard of a computer or cell phone.  But the plot holes are legion.  Even in the first scene:

In  October 1989, during the waning days of the Soviet Union (but that's not relevant to the plot), some stout middle-aged women are taking some sort of swimming-pool exercise class.

Meanwhile, a teenage boy and girl flirt with each other.  They're obviously not part of the class.  Why are they there?  Well, at least the boy is wearing a swimsuit.

The girl is called into the pool (why?  is she an instructor?).  Suddenly we see clouds of blood.  She wasn't pregnant a moment ago, but now she is giving birth.

The narrator informs us that at that moment, 43 women around the world, not pregnant before, gave birth.  Shades of The Midwich Cuckoos! The births are never explained.

Eccentric billionaire Reginald Hargreaves goes around to the women, offering to buy..er, adopt the babies.  He gets 7.  We never find out what happened to the others.

The seven grow up, with the help of Pogo, the chimpanzee butler, and Grace, their robot "mother," to become a teenage superhero team, The Umbrella Academy.  They are famous, with games, toys, comic books, and a cartoon series.  Shades of The X-Men:

1. Allison (Eden Cupid) can alter reality by telling "lies" that instantly become true.  Whoa...wouldn't that solve every crisis?  "The villain has reformed.  The monster is dead.  The captain of the football team thinks I'm hot."

2. Luther (Cameron Brodeur) has super strength.

3. Ben (Ethan Hwang) turns into a monster.

4. Klaus (Dante Albidone) can teleport and communicate with the dead.

5. Number Five (Aiden Gallagher, left) can move through time.

6. Diego (Blake Tabalis) can hold his breath, which I guess is useful underwater.

The seventh child, Vanya (T. J. McGibbon), doesn't get to be a member of the Umbrella Academy, because as her adopted father constantly tells her, "You're ordinary.  There's nothing special about you."

Way to raise a psychological basket case!  Especially when she actually does have a superpower.

When he is 16 years old, Number 5 moves through time too fast, and ends up stuck in a post-Apocalyptic future, where he lives on canned goods and cockroaches and forms a monogamous relationship with a department store mannequin. When he finally manages to return, 56 years old but in his teenage body, 13 years have passed in real time.  The team has broken up and no longer stays in touch.  When they do get together, at weddings and funerals, they bicker constantly about old wounds.

1. Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) is a famous actress.  She got the job by altering reality.

2. Luther (Tom Hopper, top photo) is an astronaut with the body of a Martian ape.

3. Ben (Justin H. Min) is dead, but still appears to #4.

4. Klaus (Robert Sheehan, left) is a drugged-out gay partyboy.

6. Diego (David Castaneda) is a boxer by day and a Batman-like vigilante by night.

7. Allison (Ellen Page) is a mousy, reserved violnist.  Her tell-all book about the Umbrella Academy has caused her brothers and sisters to shun her.

Five has to get them to stop their bickering and hurt feelings the Apocalypse, whch is coming in 8 days.

Except the Apocalypse is supposed to happen, so a duo of time traveling secret agents, Cha-Cha and Hazel (Mary J. Blige, Cameron Britton) have arrived to prevent the Umbrella Academy from stopping it.

Wait...what?

Futher observations:

1. The superpowers are irrelevant.  Only Five's is ever used to solve the crisis.

2. The soundtrack is very loud and very annoying, popular songs blaring away so you can't hear what anyone is saying.

3.  With the time-travel agency specializing in making sure that tragedies happen, like the destruction of the Hindenburg and the assassination of President Kennedy, wouldn't you get the idea that it does not have humanity's best interests in mind?

4. The beefcake comes fast and furious.  Nearly every episode begins with one of the main characters or a walk-on with his shirt off.

5. Romance is literally everywhere.  All sorts of weird, creepy romance:

Vanya romances her violin student Leonard (John Maggio).

Allison and Luther smooch up a storm, even though they were raised together as brother and sister

Hazel romances the lady at the donut shop, even though she's old enough to be his mother (in fact, Cameron Britton is 32, and Sheila McCarthy is 62).

I'd swear Diego is in love with Grace, his robot mother.

Five, in his 16-year old body, gets constantly flirted with by older women, including his boss at the time-travel agency.

What's up with the young man-older woman tropes?

6. I'm not happy with the gay character being portrayed as crazy, drugged-out, and promiscuous, but I guess a crazy gay character is better than no gay character at all.  He has a boyfriend, too (Cody Ray Thompson), but it's a lost love from the Vietnam war (wait -- Klaus was born in 1989, and can't time-travel...).

7. The family bickering gets very boring.

8. What happened to the other special children?  Where did they come from?   Why didn't they show up to help in the end?

Oh well. 

A Trio of Swimmers, Parts Unknown

I like this photo (copyright Adam Regan) of the News Press male athletes of the year, 2019.  Even though most of the physiques are hidden, it gives you a good sense of the unique personalities of the swimmers.

Of course, the News Press is very stingy about revealing where it takes place, but it does give the first and last names of the swimmers.


To find out how I got from Indiana to Florida to California to New Mexico, check the full post on A Gay Guide to Small Town America











The Main Mystery of "Unsolved Mysteries": Where are the Gay People?

I'm a sucker for mysterious disapperances.  A hiker is a few feet ahead of you on the trail.  He goes around a bend and vanishes.  A debutante walks three blocks to the post office on a crowded New York street, and is never seen or heard from again.  During a plane flight, a businessman gets out of his seat to go to the restroom -- and never returns.

But I never watched Unsolved Mysteries (1987-2010).  It struck me as one of those shows you might watch on Saturday afternoon on a treadmill at the gym, where they say what they are going to show you, then show you, then say what they just showed you, followed by a five minute commercial break, five minutes of information in a 15-minute segment.

I started watching the 2020 reboot on Netflix due to the lack of other viewing choices and the summer theater season being cancelled.  It is well written; consisting mostly of interviews with the disappeared person's surviving family and friends and location shots.  The few recreations are very subtle, shoes walking down a hallway, silhoettes behind closed windows.  Interesting clues are spaced out between scenes of family and friends saying "Who would do such a thing?" and "It still hurts.  Because the mystery is "unsolved," the clues don't fit together into any coherent narrative.  It's always "how could it have happened that way?"

Mystery on the Rooftop: Ray, newly married, gets a mysterious phone call and rushes out of the house as if he's in a big hurry.  He is never seen alive again.  Days later, his car is found in a parking lot downtown.  Then his body is found in an unused conference room in the prestigious Belvedere Hotel.  He may have fallen, jumped, or been tossed off the 11-story roof, but his injuries weren't consistent with a fall.  And what would he be doing there?



13 Minutes; Patrice, a loving wife and mother, runs a hairdressing salon on a rural road in Georgia.  Around lunchtime, a customer calls, and everything is fine; 13 minutes later, another customer calls, and there is no answer.  Nothing in the salon suggests a crime; her purse is still sitting behind the counter.  Her car is still there.  She just walked out of the salon into oblivion. But a week before the disapperance, she asked her high-school aged son, "If I were to go away for awhile, who would you stay with?"



House of Terror:  French aristocrat Xavier is a perfect husband and father, with a wife and four kids, ranging in age from 13 to 20.  Then the family vanishes.  Days later, their bodies are found buried under the terrace in the courtyard.  Xavier is the prime suspect, of course.  But how did he shoot them in their sleep and drag them out of the house without leaving any traces of blood?  And he had a debiltating back injury --how could he dig holes under the terrace?  And where is he?

You get the idea -- photogenic people disappear.  Their bodies are found later, so the mystery is not "what happened?;" but "who did it, and why?"

Very heteronormative discourse ("they were very much in love -- he couldn't possibly have killed her").  But the "perfect" heterosexual trajectory of house, job, wife, kids is disrupted before your eyes as the vanished person turns out to have a lot of secrets.  There were threats of bankruptcy, foreclosure, divorce, "telling everyone what you did!"

No one is gay; no one mentions gay people, no one seems aware that gay people exist..

No Ride Home might be different.  Alonzo, in his early 20s, is a perfect son to a single mother in small-town Kansas.  He has a circle of friends, all male.  No girlfriends or even dates with girls are mentioned.  His friends, interviewed for the program, do not mention wives or girlfriends.

One night they go to a party held in an even smaller town about an hour's drive from home.  they don't know most of the people there.  Alonzo's ride goes on a beer run, gets lost, and finally gives up; he calls another friend to give Alonzo a ride home.  But the two miss each other..  Alonzo is never seen alive again, but his boots and hat are discovered on the side of the road near the house.

Alonzo was black, and everybody at the party in rural Kansas was white.  What happened is obvious.

In this case, instead of unraveling the perfect heterosexual life trajectory, the tidbits of information unravel the "perfect small town" facade, revealing an undertow of racism.  Alonzo stays perfect.

But if he was gay, why didn't anyone mention it?    Were they deliberately closeting him?  Or was he just another straight guy who didn't happen to have a girlfriend at that moment?

Jul 17, 2020

The Gay Enchanted Forest of Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost


When I was a kid in the 1960s, my favorite comics by far were the Harvey supernatural titles: ghosts, witches, and devils roaming an oddly-Medieval Enchanted Forest where same-sex desire was commonplace.

I preferred Casper, but in a pinch, I would read about Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost, a ghost boy with a Brooklyn accent, freckles, and a derby (or, as he pronounced it,  “doiby”).  (Not to be confused with Charlton's far inferior Timmy the Timid Ghost).

But while Casper was a 1960s nonconformist with a gay-coded softness and sensitivity, the hawkish Spooky had no aversion to booing.






 In Spooky’s wild region of the Enchanted Forest, ravenous bears, ogres, monsters, and evil wizards leapt out from behind every boulder, so booing was an essential form of self defense.  But for Spooky, it was an all-consuming passion.  He specialized in complex, artistic boos, creating statements similar to the happenings and guerilla theater of the 1960’s art scene: he might boo a horse and rider into trading places, so that the rider runs off with the horse on his back, or he might boo a lake out of its bed so precisely that the fish remain, swimming in mid-air.

In “Once upon a Scaresday," Spooky explains how he took up booing in the first place.  As a child, he was a coward and a sissy, always running away from danger.  One day he was walking in the hills beyond Spooktown with some friends, when cannibalistic monsters called Ghostcatchers attacked.  Spooky managed to run away, but his best friend Googy was captured and dragged off to be cooked and eaten.  Distraught with guilt and mourning his loss, Spooky asked his grandfather for advice, and the elderly ghost taught him how to defend himself by booing.  He proved to have a great gift for this ghostly martial art, and soon he was able to seek out the monsters and rescue his friend just as the cooking-fire was being lit.


A same-sex relationship originally motivated Spooky to boo, and a heterosexual relationship now compels him to stop.  Spooky and Poil (his pronunciation of Pearl) are quite an adult couple, dating, dining at each other’s homes, and even kissing on couches.  Pearl forbids him from booing.  She claims that it is immoral, but her real reason is class-based snobbery: she considers booing boorish and vulgar, a working-class pastime likely to offend her high-society ghost friends (but they usually turn out to be closet booing fans).


Spooky is constantly promising to refrain from booing, to keep Poil from brow-beating or even leaving him.  Many stories involved his frantic but quite clever schemes to continue booing after such a pledge, either for self defense or to assuage his addiction: he throws his voice, writes “boo” in the sand, spells it out with smoke signals.  But why would Spooky even agree to cease a useful, artistic, socially-praised, and strategically necessary activity, just because Poil disapproves?  Obviously she offers something more valuable than any of these things, more valuable than any love, but what?  I was mystified; I could imagine giving up a bad habit or even an innocuous hobby at the admonition of a friend, but a career, a passion, a veritable calling?

I knew it had something to do with the girls who jumped their ropes and played their singsong games in the shadow of the school.  At recess, we boys were herded far away to fields to play baseball and dodge ball, and if ever once we tried to play jump rope, or merely sit on the steps nearby to avoid the midday sun, a teacher would scream wildly at us to stay put.  What danger lurked there, against the cool bricks?  What threat did girls pose that could force Tommy Kirk to forsake his buddies at Midvale College, or Alec to forsake the wonders of the Earth’s Core, or Spooky to forsake his booing?

Jul 16, 2020

Manly P. Hall: Gay Psychic Murdered by His Lover

When I lived in Los Angeles, there was a University of Philosophical Research at 3910 Los Feliz, near the Silverlake gay neighborhood.  But it wasn't a university, and it didn't do any philosophical research, although it had a library of 50,000 volumes.  It was a mystical/occult organization founded by Manly P. Hall (1901-1990), who published The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928).

I haven't read it.  It's a gigantic compendium of occult lore, thick, dense, and impenetrable, with chapters on "The Bembine Table of Isis," "The Hiramic Legend," "Hermetic Pharmacology," and "Fundamentals of Qabbalistic Cosmogony."  But it was immensely popular, on the shelf of everyone from H.P. Lovecraft to F. Scott Fitzgerald, and it has never gone out of print.


Hall became one of the biggest celebrities of the era.  In 1934 he founded the Philosophical Research Society, and stocked its library with thousands of rare occult volumes purchased for him by wealthy disciples, notably oil heiress Carolyn Lloyd.

He wrote many more books -- nearly 200 -- some with beefcake covers, like this rather buffed deity with a shining phallus creating the worlds.

He delivered over 7,000 lectures.

For all his erudition, Hall's philosophy was simple.  His Ten Basic Rules for Better Living include:
1. Stop worrying.
2. Don't try to dominate and control other people.
3. Learn to relax
4. Cultivate a sense of humor
5. Reign in your ambition.
6. Don't accumulate more than you need.
7. Believe in something bigger than yourself.
8. Never intentionally harm anyone.
9. Beware of anger.
10. Never blame others for your own mistakes.


Elvis Presley was a fan.  So was Ronald Reagan. He officiated at the wedding of horror movie great Bela Lugosi.

Disciples stood in line around the block on Los Feliz Avenue to hear his advice.  Astrologers, bodybuilders, magicians, actors, writers, philosophers.

A few -- the best and brightest, the most eager, the most muscular (see top photo) -- stayed on, to become his assistants.  Like future paranormal researcher Arthur Louis Joquel.



Hall was gay or bisexual.  He was married twice, but neither marriage was ever consummated.  His wives and disciples turned a blind eye to his interest in attractive male proteges, and quickly put a stop to any hint of scandal. Except for the last one.

In 1988, when Hall had become morbidly obese, almost unable to walk, and showed signs of dementia, he fell in with a salesman-turned-psychic named Daniel Fritz, who claimed to be a reincarnation of a prince from ancient Atlantis, and his son David, who regularly took spirit-journeys to Jupiter.

No different than the hundreds of other psychics, astrologers, occultists, and reincarnated princes that Hall had entertained over the years.  But his disciples suspected that these two were con artists.  

In August 1990 Hall rewrote his will to give Daniel his entire estate, worth some $52,000,000.  Six days later, he was dead.  Daniel and David were alone with the body for several hours.  Disciples believed that the two had murdered him.

An inquest found no evidence of foul play.  But the will was contested, and the estate reverted to Hall's widow.  Daniel and David moved on to other clients.

What has Ryan Kelley Been Up to Lately Besides Posting Selfies?

Amazon Prime thinks I'll like a movie called The Dust Factory (2003), in which a 13-year old boy falls off a bridge and explores a limbo world between life and death.  He meets the Girl of His Dreams.

Aren't we all just dust factories?  We live, we die, we turn into dust?

Not interested, of course, but I was wondering what the boy, Ryan Kelley (-ey, not -y) has doing since.











In addition to posting selfies of an excellent physique and an ugly pouting face.

Seems to be mostly angsty stuff.

Still Green: some teens share a cabin, and feel stuff, and one of them dies. According to the writer, it's about "isecret crushes, crippling insecurities, excitement for the future, rumors and secrets, and crossing the line between friendship and sexual attraction...death changes absolutely everything between a group of friends, at a time when every second of life seemed vitally important and every emotion felt like the end of the world."

Yes, that came from a professional writer.


Prayers for Bobby: a gay teen commits suicide due to fundamentalist harassment, and his fundamentalist mother feels regrets.  Ryan plays the gay teen.

Letters from Iwo Jima: The World War II battle where nearly 7,000 American and 13,000 Japanese troops were killed.  Sounds entertaining.

Sexting in Suburbia: Sounds like a light comedy, but no, a teen commits suicide, and her mother searches for answers.  I'll bet they involve sexting.

War Pigs: Soldiers dying during World War II

Lucifer:  Not the tv series.  A horror story about a young man being tormented by the Devil.














From 2014-2017, Ryan played Deputy Jordan Parrish on Teen Wolf.   He was killed in a bomb explosion, and possessed by a hellhound, a demonic dog.

Pigs to devils to demon dogs.  The guy can't catch a break.




























Do I Say I Do?  A romance, go figure.  Maybe Ryan is getting too old for angst.

Realms: Two bank robbers and their hostages are stuck in a haunted house that is trying to kill them.  Well, horror is better than angst.

A Beauty and Beast Christmas:  A Christmas romance that has nothing to do with the tv series or Disney movie.  No connection to the folktale at all, except that the girl, Ginger Holiday (yes, that's her name), has a "damaged face," so maybe she's the beast.  So Ryan must be the working-class schlub who convinces her to leave her high-pressure New York job for the wonders of small-town America.










Jul 15, 2020

Just Another Night of Gay Tease TV

7Last night Amazon Prime suggested that I would like The Vanishing Shadow (2019), a homage to old time movie serials.  I watched the first five minutes, marveling at the lengths the producers went through to match the old-time serial style-- even the title fonts-- before getting suspicious.  Turns out that The Vanishing Shadow is a real old-time movie serial from 1934.  Amazon lied about the year to make us think that it was a clever homage.

Please. if I want to watch an old movie serial, it will be Buster Crabbe bulging as Buck Rogers.

Then it thought i would like Last Call  (2015): Underachieving siblings Phil (Ryan Hansen) and Danny (Travis Van Winkle, left) are forced to run the family pub to save their eccentric uncle from "jail and financial ruin."

But when I searched for a plot synopsis or reviews:
Last Call: With Jeremy Irons as Scott Fitzgerald and Sissy Spacek as Zelda.

When I added the year 2015:
Last Call: An indie drama about a suicidal alcoholic who calls the wrong number while trying to reach a helpline. And:
Last Call: A horror film starring Terry Alexander of Day of the Dead

Finally, when the word "call" was starting to sound strange from overuse, I added Travis Van Winkle and found a wikipedia entry for Last Call (2012). Amazon lied about the year again.  

The entry didn't have a plot synopsis, but I found a trailer.  No kissing, but lots of girls in bikinis tending bar and doing strip shows. They must turn the pub into a boob ranch.  No way!

Next Amazon suggested The Last Lovecraft.  The last living relative of Cthulhu Mythos writer H. P. Lovecraft must save the world from the real eldritch horrors from beyond time.  I'm interested in Lovecraft.  There was a plot synopsis on wikipedia: no girls mentioned.  No girls in the cast.  Charlie and Jeff (Kyle Davis, Devin McGinn) stay together at the end. Probably heterosexual life partners, not a gay couple, but good enough.

When I searched for Devin McGinn on Google Images,this photo popped up, labeled The Worst Team. Not bad.




,
And this one, labeled Unicorn City.

And this one, labeled 2013 Movies Preview

They had the beefcake sewed up, so ok.

Scene 1: Two guys are enjoying "their retirement" on a boat.  Obviously a gay couple!  An unseen but bloody horror kills them both. Darn.

Scene 2: At Miskatonic University (yeah!), a professor ofeldritch horrors is summoned by the others in his cult.  The Deep Ones are awakening, and they need to act fast.

Scene 3:  Kyle and Jeff are working schlub jobs at a call center, hoping that their comic book will get sold, and they'll be rich and able to live their dreams.....like a blow job from the hot girl that just walked by.

Ugh! Gay tease!  Next!

How about Unicorn City?  "Voss entices local games to create a utopia, but Paradise is disrupted when his nemesis lays claim to the city and his True Love."

Ugh!  Next!

Just enough time to watch an episode of American Dad on Vudu before bedtime.

Lesbian Subtexts in the Harvey Girls: Little Audrey, Little Lotta, and Little Dot


When I was a kid in the 1960s, I loved Harvey supernatural comics: Casper the Friendly Ghost, with his brave nonconformity to ghost society; Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost, who had a homoromantic back story; and Hot Stuff the Little Devil, who had homoerotic potential.

I didn't care much for Richie Rich, until he began bulking up in the mid-1970s, and I never bothered with the "girl only" titles: Little Dot, Little Lotta, and Little Audrey.

But I recently bought an anthology of Harvey Girl comics in the interest of completeness (I already had the other volumes), and in retrospect, those girls had a lot to offer.

No quiet, sweet, well-behaved "little ladies,"  they were intelligent, resourceful, and daring.  They gleefully surpassed the boys in every masculine-coded activity, from playing football to catching crooks, and their adventures usually had a satiric edge.

1. Little Audrey was named after a series of 1930s jokes about a girl who got into a terrible, morbid, or dirty situation, then "laughed and laughed" before delivering the punchline.

She had an African-American friend, Tiny, a first in 1960s comics, and a working-class boyfriend:  Melvin, who wore a spiked fedora and spoke Brooklynese.  Middle-lower class friendships were often forbidden, lending their bond a queer subtext.


2. Little Lotta was fat, a compulsive eater, yet very strong and athletic.  She had a small, eyeglass-wearing, feminine-coded boyfriend, Gerald, reminding one of the old blues song "Masculine Women, Feminine Men."

Some stories involved Lotta saving the day from bullies, but mostly they were extended gags with the gay symbolism that must have appealed to preteen lesbians:  Lotta's parents, teachers, or friends complain that she is inadequately ladylike so she unsuccessfully tries to "femme" it up.  In the end they decide that she's just fine the way she is.



3. Little Dot had two claims to fame: an obsession with dots, and an endless proliferation of uncles and aunts, who took her on secret-agent and science-fiction style adventures.

 In the 1950s stories, she had a boyfriend named Red, but by the 1960s, Red was forgotten, leaving Dot the only Harvey Girl who doesn't display any heterosexual interest.  She is the most feminine-coded of the trio, however, interested in "girly" fashion.

Dot and Lotta were best friends; the two often shared a story as well as a bed, giving them a nice butch-femme lesbian subtext.

Jul 14, 2020

"Spy Intervention": You Knew What You Were Signing On For

I  plugged in Spy Intervention, hoping for some beefcake, and maybe a best-buddy spy gay-subtext.

Scene 1:  A stereotyped caveman and woman (both blond white people). The voiceover: "At the dawn of time, men's and womens' roles were well defined."  Men hunted and gathered, and women stayed home "in the safety of the cave to cook."

That's idiotic.  No such strictly defined gender roles existed, and nobody actually lived in caves. 

"But over millions of years, something strange happened.  The lines blurred."

Ok, homo sapiens have only been around for about 300,000 years.  And the sexist fool is upset over women being able to work outside the home? 

Only 1 minute and 3 seconds in, and I'm already tearing my hair out.  I don't think I'm going to make it.

We go through history to the white-picket-fence 1950s, the couple kissing in each era.

Scene 2:  Spy (Drew Van Acker, top photo) and his associate Smuts (Blake Anderson, right) discuss where to take their girlfriends (Paris...Katmandu?).

Meanwhile Spy jumps out of a plane, kills an assassin, chases the bad guy through a shopping mall, and collides with the Girl.  They have a "are you as turned on as I am?" argument while the Bad Guy gets away.

Scene 3: Smuts and the two girls are in a hot tub in Katmandu, being stood up by Spy, who has taken the Girl ice-skating.

I fast forward through six minutes of them talking, kissing, talking, kissing, holding hands, having sex, holding hands, talking, and sitting on a couch in matching sweaters. Some long-shots of Spy's chest, but they are drowned out by the tight close ups of the Girl's face.  You can count the nostril hairs.

Scene 4: The Girl is at work in the mall, being hit on by a customer.  Sassy Friend tells her she's an idiot for not dating the rich guy, but the Girl is holding out for True Love.

Scene 5: Spy resigns (uh-oh, time for The Village).  He wants a normal life, with a job selling cardboard, a house with a picket fence, bowling on Tuesday nights, kids' soccer games, Satirdays at the hardware store.  Do men actually want the heteronormative trajectory of job, house, wife, kids, or is it just the power-elite trying to get us to buy things?

Scene 6: Spy and Girl move into a horrible house in the suburbs -- ranch, no picket fence.  They unpack boxes then kiss for 2.5 minutes of screen time..  This is every 1960s sitcom.  No, honey, I don't want any of your wealth/fame/witchcraft powers/genie powers.  I want to live a normal life, with you as my house slave...um, housewife.

Scene 7:  Spy is at his job selling cardboard from a cubicle, then joining the bowling team, then coming home to announce "Honey, I'm home," whereupon the Girl feeds him a sample of the Nepalese dinner she has prepared.  Nepalese?  Shouldn't she be making meatloaf? 

And what does any of this have to do with the first scene, the adulation of prehistoric times, where women knew their place," but then gender roles got all mixed up?  The Girl seems to know her place perfectly well.

Scene 8: Spy hates his job, and he's lousy at it; and he hates his bowling team for not being interested in winning.  Meanwhile, a lady dressed in a 1960s British raincoat photographs Spy (we never discover what that is about).

Scene 9:  Two minutes of Spy and Girl kissing. But then she refuses sex with him.  Uh-oh.

Scene 10:  Girl and Sassy Friend discuss how bored and miserable she is. Gee, too bad she didn't marry a spy, har-har.  

Meanwhile Spy and Smuts discuss how bored and miserable he is.

Scene 11:  Spy is captured and tied up -- by the other spies.  Smuts introduces him to his new partner, nicknamed Remora, the Sucker Fish (because he likes to give blow jobs?  Is this a gay reference?).

Remora is played by Akaash Yadav, who is attractive but has an Instagram full of pics of him hugging a woman, gazing into her eyes, dancing with her, and so on.

 They tell Spy that he is bored and miserable because he never finished his las assignment: to capture the Bad Guy he was chasing when he collided with the Girl 

Bad Guy recently got married, and is honeymooning right there in suburbia.  He's also planning to buy plans for a weapon that can destroy the world.  All Spy has to do is intercept the plans.

Spy refuses and walks out, but changes his mind later, while in bed in his...ugh...suburban home.

Scene 12:  Spy is paired with a Mrs. Spy (because marreid men seem more trustworthy to heteronormative heterosexist heterosexuals). But the agent assigned to be Mrs. Spy doesn't think that anyone would believe someone as babilicious as her would marry such a schlub so she gives him a hotness makeover.

There's some buddy-bonding homoeroticism between Spy and Smuts ("we've always worked together"), but it's drowned out by the incessant "we used to get lots of hot girls" talk.

Scene 13: Gone until late at night, hot makeover?  Spy is obviously having an affair.  The Girl commisserates with Sassy Friend.  Meanwhile, Smuts and Remora are filming Spy and Mrs. Spy in sexy positions, for some reason.

Scene 14: Spy attacks a guy at the hardware store, mistaking his princing gun for a real weapon.  He has problems at work and with the bowling team.  Then he rushes off to his spy assignment: dinner at the same restaurant Bad Guy (Max Silvestri) and Mrs. Bad Guy are eating at.  The Girl puts on a disguise to spy on Spy.

I skipped over the ensuing comedy of errors.

Scene 15: Spy at the bowling alley, complaining about the narrowly defined suburban life: "There's got to be more than this, right?"  His buds explain: no, there is no more.  "You get married, have a couple of kids, stop having sex, save for retirment, pick where you want your ashes scattered.  There is no grand adventure, just living."

This is certainly a critique of the heteronormative job-house-wife-kids trajectory.  But I don't think they mean to critique heteronormativity; they want to find the grand adventure in Her Eyes.

Scene 16: Spy goes home, takes off his shirt (finally, some beefcake!) and argues with The Girl over grand adventure vs. just living.

Scene 17: The Girl tails Spy to the hotel where he's staying with the fake Mrs. Spy.  They put on spy-swimsuits and head to the pool (beefcake and enormous bulge nearly hidden by tiny string bikinis).  They buddy up to Bad Guy and Mrs. Bad Guy.

Spy excuses himself and accosts the Pool Boy, who has the secret plans.

Then The Girl confronts Spy over his "cheating."  Mrs. Spy tries to salvage the con by saying that she is a delusional ex-fiancee, but Bad Guy and Mrs. Bad Guy are gone.

Scene 18:  Back home, Spy tries to reconcile with the Girl.  Suddenly the bowling team and their wives show up for the dinner party the Girl has apparently scheduled.  Then Sassy Friend.  Then the fake Mrs. Spy, trying to salvage things by explaining that she is the sexy dance instructor.  Then Bad Guy arrives to ask for his plans back, or he 'll shoot them all.

There's a tiny bit of lesbian-flirting between Sassy Friend and the fake Mrs. Spy, but it's over in a second.

Spy finally comes clean about the spy thing.  The Girl is angry with him for ruining the dinner party.

They subdue Bad Guy, and the bowling team subdues the henchmen (getting their grand adventure after all).

Scene 19: Divorced from Spy, the Girl quits her job and designs her own toiletry line called "Undercover: Discove who you really are."  Darn, I thought she was going to become a spy, like Scarecrow and Mrs. King.  How is selling shampoo adventurous?

Meanwhile, Spy, back in the spy biz, is climbing a mountain with Smuts, fake Mrs. Spy, and Remora..  Smuts asks Remora to go out for a beer later, but then reneges -- a tiny gay subtext?

Spy still misses The Girl, and....Tell me that True Love isn't going to win!  Please?

Scene 20:  Darn it!  "If we embrace our primal instincts, every day can be an adventure." In other words, invite Her along on the adventure, which is the exact opposite of the Scene 1 message that women should stay back in the cave, making meatloaf.

 Three -- three heterosexual couples and a fade-out kiss between Spy and The Girl.  True Love wins out, making the job, house, wife, kids trajectory wondrously fulfilling, with only the tiniest bit of "really stretching it" gay subtext.

But I knew what I was getting into from the start.  Should I be upset when it happens?

"The Old Guard": Life is Very Long, Even with a Boyfriend

Immortals usually spend their time becoming Leonardo da Vinci and Mozart, although in one story I read, a girl is trapped forever at age 12, which limits her life chances.  They generally keep a low profile, since, depending on the era, people who discover their secret will want to burn them at the stake or dissect them.  But The Old Guard has been fighting: wars, insurrections, rebellions, wherever they can help.  They are:

1. Andy (Charlize Theron), born as Andromache the Scythian, and also apparently the Andromache who was the wife of Hector in the Iliad.  She is bisexual; for a long time she traveled with another immortal, the Vietnamese Quyhn, but during the 17th century witch hunts, Quyhn was dropped into the ocean and lost.

Something I find annoying about Andy: she speaks flawless American English.  When you learn a new language as an adult, you always have an accent.  Scythian was an Iranian language, so Andy should sound like she's from Tehran.

2.-3. Joe and Nicky (Marwan Kenzari, top photo, Luca Marinelli), who were soldiers on opposing sides during the Crusades.  They kept killing each other until they realized that they were immortal.  They have been lovers for 800 years.

4.  Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts, left), a soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, who also speaks English with an American accent, even though.....

But...they are actually fighting, foot soldiers in the Civil War or World War 2?  How will that change anything?  Shouldn't they get elected to Congress?   Or writing speeches?

Especially since their immortality means that they don't age, and they=recover from wounds quickly.  They still feel pain,  and they still die -- they just get resurrected over and over, until eventually the immortality wears off.  Wouldn't you want to stay away from situations involving painful deaths?

Turns out that there's a Divine Hand at work, guiding them to missions that will save the world.  Rather, the people they save have descendants who do great thing.  But they never save Hitler's grandmother.

The Divine Hand also helps them find new immortals through telepathic communication.  Andy just recruited young Marine Nile (Kiki Layne) from her post in Afghanistan.

At that moment, heir ally, an American CIA agent with a British accent (Chiwetel Ejiofor, left), betrays them to the evil CEO of a big pharma company (Harry Melling, below), who wants to slice them up to develop anti-aging drugs.  Also, one of the immortals is a traitor.

I should have liked this movie a lot more than I did. The immortals consist of an open, "he's not my boyfriend -- he's my everything" gay couple, a bisexual, a heterosexual who hasn't dated since the Battle of Waterloo, and a marine who exhibits no romantic interest in anyone. Plus a lot of racial diversity; how often in a superhero movie is everyone in the room black?

But it consisted mostly of battle scenes where the immortals kill lots of people or else die agonizing deaths and then get resurrected, or not, or else get tied down to have things painfully extracted by evil geneticists.  Followed by scenes where they sit around saying "we've lost so much over the years.  What's the point?" 

No beefcake, no interesting exteriors.  They visit London, Paris, and Amsterdam, but we get no sense of the distinctiveness of these cities; they're all interchangeable. 

Plus the premise bugged me.  You live forever; you can acquire a vast amount of knowledge and skill.  Why not go out and become Mozart, instead of spending yuur immortality getting stabbed, shot, and burned at the stake.

My grade: A for diversity, C for actually slogging through.

By the way, you may recognize evil CEO as evil Cousin Dudley in the Harry Potter franchise.

Jul 12, 2020

Another Round of "Amazon Prime Moves We Think You'll Like"

Ready for another round of "Amazon Prime movies we think you'll like"?

Here's how to play: Go through the list of recommended movies to find one that isn't about a man and a woman finding love, or a conflicted, angst-ridden gay guy who finds love with a woman.  If you can find 1 or more  in 10, you win.

1. Spy Intervention: "When a spy meets his dream woman...."  Starring Drew Van Acker as the Spy (unfortunately, this is a scene from another movie."  Next!

2. Guns Akimbo:  "A guy relies on his newfound gladiator skills to save his ex-girlfriend...."  Starring Daniel Radcliffe, who just posted an impassioned rebuttal of J. K. Rowling's transphobia.  So I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and read the plot synopsis, just in case the two didn't break up just so they would get back together.  

They don't.  But I'm still not interested in a "Saving The Girl" plot.  Next!

3. The Unearthing: "An adventurous teenage girl unearths a supernatural mystery."  The trailer makes it look like either supernatural horror or fantasy-adventure.  No plot synopsis available, but according to a review, the filmmaker, Tristan James Jensen, was only 16 years old.  This was a student project.  How did it get on Amazon?  Maybe.

4. Bindlestiffs: Three high school students, all boys, act out the plot of Catcher in the Rye.  Holden Caulfield was a raging homophobe.  But I'll read the plot synopsis.  One of the boys has sex with a homeless woman because he's upset over discovering that his teacher is a lesbian.  Another has sex with a prostitute.  A third is forced to perform a gross, disgusting sex act...with a guy!  Aren't gay people the worst?  Next!

5. Just Jim: A Welsh teenager becomes the cool kid after making a "deal with the devil" with his new American neighbor.  The trailer looks very angsty, like Fight Club, but the poster says "hilarious!"  No plot synopsis available, but I'll bet that if there is a gay subtext, it's all evil and destructive: same-sex desire pushes you into violence and oblivion.  Next!




6. Reach:  Band nerd Steve (Garrett Clayton, left) is planning to kill himself (come on, playing a musical instrument isn't that bad).  Well, according to the review in Variety, he's being bullied by everybody, including a villainous gay drama nerd and a "closeted homosexual" ex-friend.  (The homophobic term is from Variety, not me).  Then the new kid befriends him.  The review didn't say if they start dating or not, but I'll bet, with all the homophobic queer villains around, they don't.  Next!

7. Totally Confused:  Johnny is a rock and roller "struggling with his sexuality."  "Confused" is a homophobic term for "gay."  The blurb on IMDB says "gay," not "confused," but still, it's totally offensive.  Next!

8. Speedwalking: Martin is "getting ready for the transition from boy to man."  Whoops, that usually means sex with a girl.  But according to IMDB, he has a "confused sexuality," homophobic for "gay."   And it's not symbolic -- he literally joins a "speedwalking" team. Who cares about sports, especially a weird sport like that, even if a "confused" boy is playing it?  Next!



9. The Trigger: Erik, a hustler just released from prison.... A hustler is a male prostitute.  You don't go to prison for prostitution -- it's a misdemeanor offense.   And 99% of a male prostitute's clients are men, but in the trailer Erik is shown sexing a woman.  Next!

10. An Awkward Sexual Adventure:  After The Girl of His Dreams dumps him, an uptight accountant meets a beautiful stripper, who helps him try to get The Girl back, but turns out to be The Girl herself.  Sure, I'd be happy to watch...just kidding.  Triple Next!

Looks like I'm watching the student project.

Post-script: It's horribly over-written and cliched, and the boy and the girl find love.
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