Jan 30, 2021

David Seville and the Chipmunks

When Wiliam Saroyan's play The Time of Your Life (1939) was first performed, Willie the Pinball Player was played by his 20-year old nephew, Ross Bagsadarian.

But while the elder Saroyan specialized in wistful melancholy, Ross was famous for whimsy.  For the songs that I heard when I was a kid, with secret messages about something big and important that I wouldn't understand until I was grown up:

When I was six or seven years old, two teenage boys on a church bus singing "Come On-a My House" (1951):
Come on-a my house, my house
I'm gonna give a you peach and a pear and I love your hair
Come on-a my house, my house
I'm gonna give a you everything

What did they mean?  What was one boy offering the other?

And a warm summer night when I was four or five.  I was already in bed, though it was still light out, and I gazed out the window at a teenager in a red tie-die shirt walking down the street by himself.  He was singing "Bird on My Head" (1958):
I'm just sitting in a vacant lot with a bird sitting on my head
Wicked, wicked, cruel, cruel world, what have you done to me?
I deserve to be in someone's arms.

Someone's arms, not a girl's arms!

When my friend Bill's older brother Mike  babysat us, he sometimes played his guitar and sang. One night in the late 1960s he taught us the words to "Witch Doctor" (1958).  He sang:
I told the witch doctor I was in love with you.

And Bill and I, facing each other, giggling, sang the chorus:
Ooo eee, ooo ah ah, ting tang walla walla bing bang

It was one of the best nights of my life.

In 1958 Ross recorded "The Chipmunk Song", which spun off into an animated sitcom, The Alvin Show (1961-62, and syndicated through the 1960s).  Ross's alter ego, David Seville, became the beset-upon manager of the singing group The Chipmunks.
1. Alvin, the troublemaker, Dennis the Menace in a red baseball cap.
2. Simon,  the intellectual
3. Theodore, the glutton

I didn't see the series often; it was on too early, or too late, or against something I liked better.  But David Seville was cute and nice, a perfect fantasy boyfriend, and a de facto single dad to an unconventional family, with no girls around.

I was angry in 1983, when Ross's son revived the Chipmunks, with girlfriends, part of the ongoing 1980s heterosexualization of children's tv.

Jan 29, 2021

Time Travel Movies: Winning the Girl of Your Dreams with Science

I love time travel stories.   Remember "Vintage Season": time traveling tourists visit some of history's greatest disasters.  So why are they visiting this bucolic small town?

Or "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed"?  A man tries to change the past, but can't, even after he kills more and more famous people.

Or "A Sound of Thunder": stepping on a butterfly in the Jurassic Era causes tragic changes to modern society. 

But contemporary time travel movies, not so much.  Most seem to be not only heterosexist, but really lacking in creative thought: you go back in time solely to win the Girl of Your Dreams.

Making Time: 
Nick (Mason Heidger, left) travels back in time and must re-propose to his ex-wife.  Lots of movies start with the couple divorced so they can get back together.

Time Freak: A college student (Asa Butterfield) builds a time machine to stop The Girl of His Dreams from breaking up with him. Or he could just date someone else?

When We First Met:
After the Girl of His Dreams decides that she wants to be just friends, the boyfriend (Adam Devine, top photo) travels back in time to convince her to date him. Or he could just go up to another girl and flex his muscles).

Project Almanac: David(Jonny Weston) and his friends use his father's time machine to go back in time and win The Girl of His Dreams, but things go horribly wrong. A tragedy, for a change.

An anime about a boy named Norimichi, whose best friend runs away with the Girl of His Dreams.  Fortunately, he has a magic ball that will allow him to go back in time and change her  mind.  Nice to have those magic balls popping up all over the place.

About Time: Tim (Dombhall Gleason) discovers that he can travel in time.  He can't change history, but he can get a girlfriend.

The Time Traveler's Wife:
Henry (Eric Bana)  drifts back and forth through his life, encountering the Girl of His Dreams at various points in their relationship.  

Palm Springs: Nyles (Andy Samberg) is stuck in a time loop, which allows him to woo the Girl of His Dreams (also the plot of Groundhog Day, of course).

Hot Tub Time Machine: Three guys travel to the past in a hot tub (well, what did you expect?) to help their younger selves.  Two win Girls of their Dreams.  I'm sure the male nudity on the cover is just a tease; inside it will doutbless be all boobs all the time.

See You Yesterday: A girl (Eden Duncan-Smith) travels back in time to save her brother, who has been killed by a police officer.  

Hey, an exception!  Now if only the brother were gay....

Jan 28, 2021

Mixing Deathbeds and Magic Swords


I cannot understand movies about terminal illness.  Who could possibly write such a thing, or agree to perform in it?   Who on Earth could want to watch it?   Maybe people who are suicidal.  The purpose of entertaiment is to make you feel good, not bad.  Optimistic, not "life is constant pain, and then you die."  

I especially can't understand movies which try to convince you that "life is constant pain, and then you die" through heroic fantasy.  Goblins, Elves, dragons, magic swords, and heroic quests are positive, life-affirming.  Exciting.  Fun.  

Yet they keep mixing up deathbeds and magic swords.

A Monster Calls: A boy deals with the trauma of his dying mother by imagining a helpful tree monster.  Sorry, not even the hunky Toby Kebbell as the boy's dad could convince me to get within 50 miles of ths monstrosity. 

The Dangerous Book for Boys. 
Some boyovercome the trauma of their father's death by imagining a fantasy world.  In addition to the sadness, it sounds sexist, all about stereotypic boys' interests in building things, racing things, playing sports, being loud and aggressive.  Lots of boys aren't loud and aggressive, whether or not their dad is dead.

Pan's Labyrinth.
A girl escapes the trauma of her sick mother and stepfather(Sergi Lopez) into a fantasy world.

The Place of No Words.
  A father (Mark Webber) helps his son deal with his own terminal illness by imagining a fantasy wold.

The Fault in Our Stars. Two teenagers cope with dying by imagining a fantasy world. Sorry, that's too depressing to even look up the cast list on IMDB to see if there are any hot actors.  

At least these movies are upfront about the dying part, even though being upfront is bound to reduce the audience from 2,000,000 to about 20.  Sometimes they lie to trick you into the theater.

The Bridge to Terabinthia was the worst offender, with trailers that promote a rousing fantasy adventure similar to The Chronicles of Narnia.  It takes about 20 minutes before you discover that you have been conned: you're watching a boy (Josh Hutcherson) and his girlfriend spinning fantasies in order to deal with the trauma of her terminal illness.  I still remember the shock as I bolted from the theater.

Even thinking about these soul-destroying nightmares has me depressed.  I'm rushing to Amazon Prime and watching the first comedy movie they recommend.

Like a Boss: Best friends Mia and Mel are running a cosmetics company.  They must fight a villainous beauty mogul who wants to steal it.  

How do you steal a company?  Are there any cute guys?  Any guys at all? Any gay characters?

Who cares?  There are no dying loved ones or magic swords.

Gulliver's Travels

When I was a kid in the 1960s, books were strictly divided into "boy" and "girl."  Boys got tales of swashbuckling adventure: Treasure Island, The Three Musketeers, Ivanhoe. Girls got families and horses: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Women, Misty of Chincoteague.

Both boys and girls got Swiss Family Robinson and Gulliver's Travels, maybe because they had both families and swashbuckling.

The main illustration was invariably Gulliver on the beach, tied by innumerable tiny ropes. It was strangely erotic, with Lilliputians walking all over Gulliver's body (one standing directly on his bulge, as if it was a little hill).  It was hard to resist imagining a comparison between a Lilliputian and Gulliver's  endowment.

Our adaptions of the original 1726 novel contained none of Jonathan Swift's misanthropy or biting social satire, just a man shipwrecked in Lilliput; and maybe, if we were lucky, Brobdingnag, the flying island of Laputa, and the land of the Houyhnhnms.

Like the original novel, our books contained no heterosexual romance.  Indeed, after Gulliver's stay among the sentient-horse Houyhnhnms, he can barely stand to be in the same room with his wife. But film versions always had to add some.

The 1939 Fleischer animated version popped up on tv occasionally. It stayed in Lilliput, and had Gulliver facilitating a Romeo-and-Juliet style romance.

The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960) saddled the hapless merchant (played by gay actor Kerwin Mathews, left) with a fiancee who shares in the adventure.

In 1996, the tv movie Gulliver's Travels starred Ted Danson of Cheers (left, reacting to someone standing on his bulge).  He was back home, telling his loving wife about his travels.

The only exception was The Adventures of Gulliver (1968-70), a Saturday morning cartoon that had a very buffed teenage Gary Gulliver (voiced by Jerry Dexter) shipwrecked in Lilliput, looking for his father and a buried treasure, and evading an evil pirate.  His dog is there, too. Quite a lot of plot for 17 episodes.  But no heterosexual intrigues, although the king had the foresight to name his daughter Flirtacia.

Jan 27, 2021

Jose Orozco:The Beefcake Murals of Mexico and New Hampshire

After the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), a number of artists tried to restore the Mexican national identity through muralismo, distilling their anxieties over modernism, industrialization, human suffering, and war into huge murals.

Jose Orozco (1883-1949) was the most prolific of the muralistas, painting murals primarily in schools all over Mexico and the United States. He was also the adept at beefcake,  using muscular men to signify what is important and valuable in the human spirit.

Many of his works criticize the Mexican Revolution, and are regularly censored or dismissed by the Mexican government.

Others use more universal themes, such as "Prometheus," the Greek god who brought wisdom to humanity (in the Frary Dining Hall at Dartmouth College).

He often used arcane, mystical symbolism, tying him into the Western hermetic tradition where homoerotic activity was a conduit to godhood. For instance, "Omnisciencia," ("Omniscience," 1925), in the the Casa de los Azulejos  in Mexico City, shows an ecstatic male figure, rays of power shooting from his torso, flanked by nude male and female figures who are being manipulated by half-hidden gods.

"Civilization The Coming of Quetzalcoatl" (at the Hood Museum) is a homoerotic masterpiece, combining Western esoteric and traditional Mesoamerican motifs.  It shows five ancient Mesoamerican priests holding down a naked, muscular sacrificial victim, the knife posed like a phallus, with the Aztec god approaching as if he intends a sexual assault.

No indication if Orozco was gay.  He was married, with three children, but during his era, many gay people married.

The best place to see his murals is in the Orozco Room at the Hood Museum, on the campus of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire (about 2 hours north of Boston).

Jan 26, 2021

"The Mess You Leave Behind": Nude Gay Teenagers and a Galician Mystery

The Mess You Leave Behind,
on Netflix.  I'm a sucker for Spanish language dramas, and this one is set in Galicia.  Maybe we'll hear the Galician language spoken (quite different from Spanish, a lot of Portuguese influence):.

Come back to my room and take off your pants
Spanish: Vuelve a mi habitacion y quitate los pantalones
Galician: Volve á miña habitación e quitate o pantalon

Scene 1:  Viruca, a middle-aged woman, nervously copying computer files onto a disk. Mauro, a middle-aged man with a gray beard, knocks on the door, worried because she has ghosted him. "Why the fuck are you here?" she yells. He bangs, bangs, bangs while she yells "Go away!"  

Scene 2: Coruña, Spain, on the northern tip of Galicia.  A young woman comes into her house. German, apparently the boyfriend or husband, tells her that her Mom just died.  She goes into Mom's room to check -- yep, deceased.  (Tamar Nova, top photo, was actually born in Galicia).

Cut to German and the woman packed and ready to move "two hours away" for a teaching job.  She's nervous because she hasn't taught a class in ages.

Montage of their car trip.  Nice scenery.  

Scene 3
: Novariz High School. Viruca from Scene 1 waits as her students come into the classroom.  Bad Boy Iago (Aron Piper, right) ) stares at her.  She orders him to write on the chalkboard: "Dying is an art like everything else.  I do it exceptionally well."  (a quote from Sylvia Plath.  I guess this is an English class).

She assigns them to write about their feelings about suicide.  The students whisper.  Roi (Roque Ruiz, left) discovers that Iago's Girlfriend has just dumped him.  Iago asks Viruca, "Why are you so cruel?"  Just because he left her a note?  

Scene 4: German and the young woman arrive at the home of German's parents.  

Meanwhile Viruca leaves a tavern to see "Puta!" ("Bitch") sprayed on her car, and the tires slashed.  She asks the bartender and a shy boy, Mijail, if they saw anything.  But Mijail doesn't look toward the parking lot -- it brings back bad memories.  

Viruca drinks gin and complains about her students.  "One day I'll leave for good."  The bartender suggests that she confide in a friend, but Viruca doesn't have any.

Scene 5: Meanwhile, the young woman is having dinner and basking in the love and warmth of German's parents.  No, wait, his father died recently.  His mother and Demetrio (Federico Perez Rey), who offers some pills to help him get an errection. So, uncle?  Older brother? Meanwhile Mom asks how long it took for her to get over her mother's death.

When the woman -- we finally learn her name, Raquel or Quela -- leaves, the family interrogates German: "How is she doing?  Is it as bad?"  Gosh, everyone in Galicia is full of secrets.

In the kitchen, Raquel asks German why he went to the bathroom four times during dinner.  Is he using cocaine?  He swears that he hasn't used in two years.  The bathroom breaks were so he could cool down and not yell at Mom.

Scene 6: Veruca drinking and grading papers in the dark.  Iago wrote: "Hypocrites should just die. Don't you agree, Teach?"  She tears the paper up.

Meanwhile, Raquel is unpacking boxes.  Her mother sitting on the couch, criticizes her for moving away.  Raquel counters: "You're dead!"  Mom doesn't believe it, so she checks for a heart beat.  Yep, she's dead.  

Ok, it was a dream.  Raquel awakens to the sound of German's Mom crying.  They must have awfully thin walls.  

Sccene 7:
Veruca passed out amid her papers and wine glasses.  She gets a text from Mauro (from Scene 1), but ignores it. There seem to be blood splatters on the floor, or maybe it's just wine.

Meanwhile: Nice exterior shot of Raquel on the way to the tavern, where she orders an espresso and a piece of cake. The bartender can tell that she's the new teacher.  For one thing, she doesn't understand Galician.  For another, she's obviously eager to start.

Scene 8: Veruca passes back the papers.  Roi got an A.  Nerea (the ex-girlfriend of Bad Boy Iago) alludes to "the rumors" (no doubt that Veruca and Iago are having an affair).  Veruca kicks her out of the class. Iago, too.

Meanwhile, Raquel arrives at the school (these are obviously time jumps, but I''m not sure who taught at the school first)  A huge Gothic space, all heavy stone and glass.  

Raquel comes in just as Veruca is going out.  Symbolism?  

Veruca goes into an auditorium where the speaker is criticizing "the heteropatriarchy," but she seems to mean just "the patriarchy": "They call us the weaker sex, but we are strong."  She gets a standing ovation.

Scene 9: Raquel is being shown around. "If you need anything, ask for help.  No heroes, no martyrs.  We've had enough of that." Uh-oh.

A middle aged male teacher (Mauro from Scene 1?) gets upset by her doe-eyed naiveté . "I can't believe that Xunta would send someone like you! You won't last two days!"  He storms off.

"He doesn't mean it," another teacher says.  "It's just hard for him after what happened to his wife."  Is that wife Veruca?

Scene 10: Bad boy Iago is showing Roi something in his knapsack; "I did it for you!  Let's go to the Hot Springs!"  They almost fight, but Veruca stops them.

Viruca leaves the school,  Middle-aged Teacher from Scene 9 (Mauro, no doubt) is sympathetic about her slashed tires.  She brushes him off.  Then a text: "I need to see you!  I'm losing my mind!  Do something with what I gave you, or I'll talk!"

Ok, that's obscurity for the sake of obfuscation.

Scene 11: At home, Raquel finds a coke tab and yells at German for lying to her.  "Coming here was a mistake.  Thinking that it would magically fix our relationship!"

Scene 12: Bad Boy Iago and Roi drink beer, do cocaine or Ecstasy (I can't tell which).  They get naked and jump in the hot springs, Roi photographing Iago waving a gun around. Very chummy, obviously boyfriends.  But before they can do anything, Raquel shows up.  

Iago says that his gun is just a prop for the photo shoot.  Then he drops his shorts to show Raquel his penis.  She isn't impresssed.

Are you kidding?  That's one of the biggest bulges I've ever seen!

Scene 13:  Back home, German wants to make up.  They kiss.  Raquel says "I'm ready to teach."

Sex scene: Raquel on top, completely nude, some of German's chest and butt.  He does oral sex because he can't get it up.  They stop, frustrated.

Meanwhile Veruca gets up, hungover, and looks in the mirror.

Raquel looks in the mirror, practicing her "first day of class" ice breakers: "Poetry doesn't want adepts, it wants lovers." 
Veruca goes to the library, where teachers are whispering: "She's gone too far."  "She's just going through a rough period." "Nerea (the ex-girlfriend of Bad Boy Iago) is starting to gossip"  She tells them to "Fuck off" and heads to the bathroom to send a text.

Iago rushes in and grabs her by the neck: "I should kill you!  You're killing me, you bitch!"  He kisses her, starts crying, and yells "Don't touch me!"  Wow, teenagers are emotional!

Meanwhile Roi, walking past outside, hears them yelling and rushes in to intervene.  He hugs Iago: "Are you ok?" snd yells at Veruca, "What the fuck did you do to him? I wish you'd never come into our lives!" 

Scene 14: 
 Raquel goes to the library/faculty office to talk about four students who are doing failing work, and should be expelled.

Shift to Mauro (the ex-husband) and Roi at the river, photographing Bad Boy Iago and Girlriend Nerea in wedding outfits. Suddenly they see something floating in the water.  Veruca, dead!

A teacher tells Raquel: "It can't be easy replacing a teacher who killed herself."  She is shocked; no one told her about Veruca.  

After that bombshell, Raquel heads off to teach her class.  She asks the students what Veruca had been assigning.  Lots of poets who killed themselves.  What a coincidence!

The students hate her.

Scene 15:  Raquel starts grading papers.  Whoops, a "Missing Persons" poster about Veruca somehow ended up in the folder, and a scribbled "How long before you die, too?"

Raquel takes a bath (no nudity) and drinks wine.  Suddenly the dead Viruca is in the tub with her.  "Leave this place!"  El FIn.

Beefcake: Naked, bulging Iago and Roi.  Some of German.

Other Sights: Nice shots of Galicia.

Gay Characters: Iago and Roi, no doubt.

Mysteries: Lots.

Galician:  Only incidentally. 

My Grade: A-.  The - because of the female nudity.
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