Dec 4, 2020

Popeye: Finding a Non-Traditional Family

Critics panned the 1980 movie musical Popeye, starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall, but I loved it.

I loved the world of Sweethaven, a tiny, cramped, desolate seaport, cut off from the rest of the world, where everyone is trapped, like the castaways in Lost or Gilligan's Island:

Sweet Sweethaven
God must love us
Why else would He have stranded us here.

It's the heart of the Depression.  People have no jobs; they must wear second-hand clothes and live in decrepit houses.  They spend their days drinking bootleg liquor, boxing, "horse racing" (without horses), and philosophizing on the futility of life: one day you're alive, full of hope for the future, and the next, you're food.

Everything is food, food, food

To make matters worse, the town is ruled by a Big Man (literally), Bluto (Paul L. Smith, top photo, bear-hugging Bruce Lee).  He levies arbitrary taxes, forecloses on houses, and beats up people at random.

He is engaged to Olive Oyl (Shelley Duval), whose parents run the local boarding house, but she really had no choice in the matter.  She tries in vain to think of a reason to like him:

He's tall...goodlooking...and large.

"Large" would actually be a plus for me.  Extra-large, even moreso.

Into this lost, shipwrecked world comes the one-eyed sailor Popeye (Robin Williams), not the sophomoric star of 1960s cartoons, but the ultimate individualist from the E.C. Seegar comics of the 1930s, whose mantra was remixed by Gloria Gaynor and became a gay anthem:

What am I?
I am what I am!

At first reluctant to get emotionally involved, Popeye befriends Olive Oyl and her family and decides to help out.

 He wins a boxing tournament to forestall foreclosure, and trounces both Bluto and a giant octopus.  On the way he adopts a founding child and re-unites with his long-lost father.

And there's a gay connection: there's no indication, anywhere in the movie, that Popeye and Olive Oyl have fallen in love.  Olive Oyl is ecstatic to finally find someone who "needs me," but Popeye, similarly, sings "Everybody needs somebodys," to his son Swee'Pea.

They work together to raise a child that neither has had a biological role in producing.  They are a non-traditional family.

 The movie is about finding a family, finding a home, not necessarily in a heterosexual embrace, but among people who care about you.

Nov 29, 2020

"Max Reload and the Nether Blasters": Not Heterosexist, Not Interesting


Max Reload and the Nether Blasters!
  Horrible title.  I assume it's either a Christian movie with a "life-affirming" heterosexual message or a retro "teen nerd wins The Girl."  But it stars the hunky Lukas Gage, so I stream it on Amazon Prime.

Prologue: Two ancient Egyptian gods are playing chess on a map of the constellations, I guess.  I dunno. Bursts of power flow into a pyramid and spell out the opening titles.

Scene 1: Max (Tom Plumley),  Reggie (Joey Morgan), and Lizzie (Hassie Harrison) are playing a Dungeons-and-Dragons-style video game.  Reggie and Lizzie, clerks in a video game store, are interrupted by rude customers.  Max is playing at home.

They play for a very long time, while the audience watches.

Scene 2: It's  6:15,  time for Max's shift, so he gets dressed and rushes into the kitchen to grab breakfast/lunch/something (swigging orange juice directly from the bottle).  A scruffy guy grabs him and points a gun at his head. 

Surprise!  They were playing a game.  Scruffy Dude suggests that he apply to tech school so he can learn to design video games instead of just playing them: "Be a hero in your own life."  

Aha!  Scruffy Dude is his Grandpa, raising Max after his parents died.

Sccne 3: Max's car won't start, so he takes a bike to work.  On the way, he is accosted by Seth (Lukas Gage), a bully from a 1980s teen nerd movie, who insult hims by implying that he's a woman ("Maxi-pad") and gay ("your little boyfriend Reggie").  Max counters by criticizing his game-playing skills and the size of his penis. 

At least Lizzie has already broken up with him, so Max won't have to spend the entire movie trying to Win the Girl.

Scene 4: At the video game score, Lizzie is explaining how to acquire "hookers, heroin and homicide" to a preteen player, while his mother looks on, horrified.  When Max arrives, she explains that Seth is jealous because he is a better gamer and coder, and of course much hotter.

Chuck the Cool Boss (Kevin Smith)doesn't mind Max coming in late.  Lizzie complains that Max always gets away with everything, because....well, they all seem to understand why, but I don't.  Because Max is hot?  Or because he's good at gaming?

 A lengthy scene where they discuss gaming stuff that I don't understand.  

Steve the Delivery Guy (Jesse Kove) delivers some heavy boxes of virtual-reality costumes.  Reggie flirts with him, but is rebuffed.

Next we spend a lot of time watching Max strap Chuck into his costume.  I don't know why.; maybe it will be important to the plot later?  

Max looks disgusted while strapping up Chuck's crotch.  That could mean he's straight, or that he doesn't find Chuck's crotch attractive.

Scene 5:
Steve the Delivery Guy asks Lizzie to join him at the gym for a workout.  She agrees.  Uh-oh, competition for The Girl.  So Max, naturally, waits until he leaves and then makes fun of him: he has poor gaming skills and goes to a gym.  What a loser!

Criticizing someone for being muscular?  Max must be straight.

They discuss video game developers. For a long time. Max's hero is Eugene Wylder, who developed the Nether Realm game in 1984. 

I'm bored.  I'm fast forwarding.

Eugene Wylder and Grandpa join Max, Reggie, and Lizzie to fight some glowing-eyed zombies.  

Reggie and Max have a heart to heart: "We're all proud of you."  

Lizzie kissex Max on the cheek. 

 Grandpa hugs Eugene. 

They cosplay their characters for a climactic final battle.  

Final scene: Max, Lizzie, and Reggie join the E-Sports league as the Nether Blasters.  Meanwhile, Eugene and Grandpa are being interviewed: "We will bring Nether Realm to the next level," with Max and his team as lead developers.  Chuck is jubilant: "This game is gonna change history!"

 This is more important than saving the world from glowing-eyed zombies?

Beefcake: No.

Heterosexism: Max and Lizzie are standing on opposite sides of the group.  There is no fade-out kiss.  They are obviously not a couple (unless they had a heart-to-heart while I was fast-forwarding).  

This scene does not appear in the movie.

Dirty Double Entendres: "Nether Blasters" sounds dirty, but otherwise everyone seems squeaky-clean.  Even a mildly off-color phrase gets Lizzie reprimanded.

Gay Characters: As far as I can tell,  there are no romantic entanglements of any sort, which is a relief.  Max, Reggie, Grandpa, Eugene, Chuck -- any of them could be gay.  Or none of them.  It's not LGBT representation, but it's not heterosexist, either.

Endless, Excruciatingly Dull Discussions of Gaming: Yes.

They Think Gaming is More Exciting than Fighting Monsters: Yes.

My Grade:  B if you are a gamer, F if you aren't. 

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