Jun 19, 2021

Love and Monsters: It's a Beatiful Day in the Neighborhood, Except for the Monsters


"In a post-Apocalyptic world, a boy travels across a monster-infested wilderness to reunite with his girlfriend." Heteronormative garbage!  Why did Bob order it for Netflix movie.  Besides, we've both been vaccinated.  We can leave the house.  Why even have a movie night?

Seven years ago, a giant asteroid threatened to destroy the Earth, so we sent missiles to break it up.  But 16-year old Joel and his girlfriend Aimee were too busy smooching and contemplating sex to pay attention.  Then chemicals in the missiles rained down, not hurting mammals or the environment but instantly transforming many cold-blooded creatures into gigantic carnivorous monsters.  Joel and Aimee rushed home, where their parents were rushing to evacuate the city -- Fairfield, California, near Sacramento, was "ground zero."

Seven years have passed, but Joel is still a teenager, living in an underground bunker.  All of his bunker-mates have paired off, leaving him without a romantic partner (they are introduced so quickly that I can't tell if any are gay, but in the last scene two women are sort of hugging).  He is also frustrated because he has been assigned the "worthless" jobs of cook and communications officer, while the others get glamorous jobs like supply run and bunker defense.  

Suddenly Aimee's voice appears on the radio -- she's living in a colony 85 miles away (about a week's journey) -- so Joel decides to drop by and pick things up where they left off.  Joel's bunkmates object -- he's never left the bunker, he doesn't know how to fight monsters, and besides, he's sort of a coward.  Besides, seven years have passed, and the world has ended -- how does he know that Aimee has just been sitting by the radio, waiting for him?  Joel dismisses their objects.  With inadequate supplies and a hastily-scrawled map, he's off.

Fortunately, the outside isn't as bad as everyone says.  It's bright and sunny, there are no corpses, food is plentiful, and the 1950s sci-fi monsters, although big and scary, are not numerous - and some are friendly.  

 This is not a Walking Dead world full of Negans waiting to steal your stuff and shoot you -- the sentients Joel meets are all exceptionally helpful.  A dog named Boy drags him away from danger, a robot named Mavys shows him photos of his dead mother, and clones of Tallahassee and Wichita from Zombieland give him survival tips: "you can get a hot meal or a good night's sleep, but never both." 

Aimee is in charge in a seaside commune full of elderly hippies.  She didn't realize that Joel was coming, or that he'd want to pick things up -- turns out that she moved on with her life and dated someone else, whom she lost last year (no, it's a guy).  No sex, sorry!

The whole commune is packing to join the bigger-than-life Australian sailor Cap (Dan Ewing), who lives on a yacht towed by a giant crab.

Wait -- why would Cap want to bring a lot of people who are too old to work, and require constant care, to come aboard his yacht?  And why would they want to go?  Aimee says something about the commune being "unsafe," but it looks fairly well fortified. 

Joel immediately resents Cap as competition -- he's goodlooking, muscular, charismatic, he has a sexy Australian accent, and he makes his own beer! 

Turns out that it's a plot complication to push Aimee and Joel back together -- Cap is planning to poison everyone in the commune so he can steal their supplies.  How about just threating to shoot them?  With his newly developed survival knowledge, Joel wins the girl and saves the day -- the newbie is a much better fighter than the girl who's been in charge of a survival commune for years.

Then Joel realizes that he misses his bunkmates back home, and leaves.  So he came all this way to reunite with his girlfriend, and leaves after one kiss?  I'd stick around for the sex, at least.

In the end Joel becomes the leader of the "leaving your bunker" movement, convincing colonies all over the West Coast that the outside isn't as bad as they thought. Humans can move out into the daylight and reclaim the world.   But they go outside for supply runs all the time -- wouldn't they know how bad it is?

This movie has an infectious optimism, a belief in the innate goodness of humanity that serves as a remedy for the incessant gloom-and-doom of the Walking Dead franchise. The monsters are beautifully drawn retro 1950s -- the  human-giant crab battle comes directly from Mysterious Island  (1961).  And no one dies!  

You can almost forgive the ridiculousness of the premise.  

But you really can't forgive the heteronormativity. Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Wins Girl.  With Monsters.   

Jun 18, 2021

A Gay Couple Arrives on "Sesame Street" (No, Not Bert and Ernie)

 "Sesame Street’ Drops Special ‘Family Day’ Episode Featuring Two Gay Dads." Wait -- why did they drop it?  Kowtowing to the pressure from homophobic groups who scream "The homosexual agenda!  You can't show two gay men on tv with kids watching!" 

Wait -- "drops" is apparently the new word for "broadcasts."  The show already aired on June 17th.  It's available on youtube.

Elmo introduces Family Day on the Street with a banner and a gaggle of human and muppet characters that I don't recognize.  The adult Alan(Alan Muraoka) says that his cousin is coming by  bus all the way from California.  Another adult, Nina (Suki Lopez), that her brother and his family are driving in.  Big Bird is sad because his grandma won't be there -- she's old and doesn't fly, even by airplane.

Whoops -- the moment he leaves, Grandma comes in -- Big Bird in drag, with a Southern accent!  She wants her visit to be a surprise.

Next, Nina's brother Dave arrives with his family -- his husband Frank and their daughter Mia. They haven't shown up before, so introductions all around.  Then the party is about to start, so they go help set up.  On the way, they are introduced to a Muppet named Maggie, who says she has heard a lot about them.

The plot shifts to trying to keep Big Bird from knowing that his Grandma is there before the party begins.

Inside, Dave and Frank unpack the vegetable lasagna they brought, while everyone exclaims about how DELICIOUS!!!! it smells (I guess over-enthusiasm is characteristic of Sesame Street).  Mia explains that they make it together, as a family. 


Grandma brought birdseed cupcakes. Then Big Bird arrives, and they have to hide her.  Strange -- Big Bird was not there when Dave and Frank arrived, but he doesn't ask for an introduction.  Plot hole!

Switch to the Arbor, where Dave, Frank, Mia, and Big Bird are arranging flowers for the party.  Big Bird is still depressed over his Grandma not being there.  

Switch to a lot of new characters: Nuclear families: humans Mary and Victor, muppets Emmett and Mae.  A mixed fairy-monster family.  Alan's cousin Andy. A child muppet exclaims "Wow, the families look so different."  Frank says: "There are all kinds of families."  Finally Grandma appears.  I'm not sure that the surprise was worth all the stress it caused Big Bird, but you have to have some sort of conflict, or it be lousy story.

We close to photos of various human and muppet families. Looks like some single parents, a lesbian couple, some interracial couples, and Alan and his cousin.

8:43 minutes.  I don't know if this was a stand-alone special or a segment from the show, but I missed Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, Ernie and Bert (they'd make a good family photo), and the theme song: "Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away.  On my way to where the air is sweet..."  And the various uses of the Letter L.  

But there was definitely a gay couple on Sesame Street.  And on Duck Tales.  And Arthur.  Can the Marvel Universe be far behind?  I'm looking at you, Bucky Barnes.

See also: What's Gay About Sesame Street?

More "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" Beefcake

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a 2012 play about two middle-aged siblings living in one of those Chekhov plays about nouveau-poor aristocrats struggling to survive financially on a doddering estate (it doesn't matter which one -- they're basically all like that).  Their movie-star younger sister arrives with her boytoy Spike, who strips to his unmentionables and draws everyone's erotic interest.

It won't be playing on the high school circuit anytime soon, but it's popular in colleges and community theaters.  The trick is finding a Spike who is hot enough to realistically draw the attention of all three siblings.

1. Jefferson Farber at the Arena Stage in Washington DC has the basket and biceps, but the tattoos are a definite drawback, and what's with the smirk?

2.  The Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples, Florida tells us who all of the other actors are, but refuses to reveal the actor who plays Spike.  Pity -- handsome face, sculpted physique, hangs to the left.

3.  Joburg Theatre in South Africa.  Nice pecs and abs, nice hair, no basket.

4. Citadel Theater in Illinois.  Is this the boytoy or the brother?

5. The Arts Commons in Calgary.  Nice muscular frame, impressive basket, but he's got to do something about that hair.

6.  Jefferson McDonald as a shaggy-handsome prince Spike in Cincinnati.

7. Berkeley Rep.  He sort of looks like Dick Sargent from Bewitched, who used to go cruising with my friend Randall the Muscle Bear.

8. Palisades Theater. Kyle Jordan is practically perfect.

9. Harlequin Theatre, Olympia, Washington.  Too skinny.

10. Stephan Mark Lucas in Smithtown, New York. 

See also: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Jun 17, 2021

"Black Summer," Season 2: Bury Your Hunks

I watched the first season of Black Summer when it appeared on Netflix two years ago: the first days of a zombie Apocalypse (very fast-moving zombies, not the Walking Dead kind).  Everyone is rushing through the ruins of Calgary, trying to "find my husband!" or "find my wife!"  No gay characters, no gay subtexts, only the tiniest bits of buddy-bonding that come crashing down when one or both of the guys gets monsterized.

Did I expect anything better from the second season?  I went through each episode until it was impossible to stomach, and then depended on plot synopses.

1. The Cold.  A man drives a car through a zombie-infested park.  He drives past a couple of men asking for help, but stops for a lady.  Sure, he stops for the girl.  But it's a trick: she has a partner (Kelsey Flower)
who kills him so they can steal the car.  

The rest of the episode is mostly about people asking other people for help, and being killed.

2. Prelude.  Officer Ray Nazeri (Bobby Naderi) quickly packs his stuff, while saying "Don't worry, babies.  It will just be a few more minutes." But his kids have already turned into zombies.  He leaves.

The kids look to be in their early teens.  I have never heard any father refer to any children over the age of 5 as "babies."

Meanwhile, two guys are  scavenging in a store.  Anna comes to the door: "Please let me in!"  They do.  So, in the Apocalypse, men are zombie chow, but women can get whatever they want?  But it's a trick -- Anna lets her group in (Rose, Spear, and Sun) to take all their supplies.

Later, Spear (Justin Chu Cary, top photo) is shot, so the rest of the group throw him down an embankment to die.  Sun, who speaks no English, is separated from the group.  Rose and Anna, a mother and daughter, approach a mansion.

3. The Card Game. 
 Freddie (G. Michael Gray), Sonny (Dakota Daulby, left), and their mother are holed up in the mansion.  Anna comes to the door and yells "Please let me in!  I'm a girl!"  They argue, but decide that since she's a girl and therefore precious in the Apocalypse, ok. They play cards, go on a supply run, and eventually Anna and Rose kill Sonny and the mother.  Freddie survives. .

4. Cold War.  Officer Ray's faction ties up Sun and tells her to approach the mansion, yelling "Please let me in.  I'm a girl!"  Another faction shows up, and everybody fights.  Everybody dies except for Officer Ray, Sun, Anna, Rose, and a guy who says he'll help them find an airplane and fly to safety.

5. White Horse.  The injured Spears, in the woods, meets...another guy!  Wait -- I thought men only met women in this world.   "The name is Braithewaite (Bechir Sylvain).  I know you." "Are we dead?"  "I don't think so.  Anyway, I got a place in the woods we can go to."

After initial misgivings, Spears decides to trust him.  On the way, they see a mysterious person on a pale horse.  Must be one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: the Pale Horse represents death.  

They build a fire,  talk, fight, fight zombies, take refuge in a crazy guy's house, kill the crazy guy for his supplies.  Eventually Spears remembers that, back in the hood, he killed Braithewaite.  Or thought he did -- two bullets weren't enough.  Braithewaite sees the pale horse again, just as Spears prepares to finish the job. Boo!  The only two guys together in the whole series, and they're enemies!

6. Currency.  Mance's group -- two guys, two girls, of course -- rush through the snowy woods to a cache of supplies parachuted down from an airplane.  Sam, who has a previous claim, suggest that they work together to drag it out of the valley, then split it equally.  Ray's group shows up, and everybody fights over the cache and dies.

IMDB lists only the main cast, and the episode credits just lists "guest cast" without telling which actor played which character, so I can't track down any more beefcake photos.

7. The Lodge
.  Rose, Anna, and Boone,  the man who offered to  guide them to the airplane find a mountain resort that has electricity, heat, food -- hot water for showers!  No zombies, and it hasn't been trashed.  Too good to be true. Spears joins them.  They have dinner, glaring at each other suspiciously.  

While Rose is in the kitchen, making a cake for dessert, she hears gunshots.  Anna has killed Spears.  She explains that he was infected, and about to turn.  Boo!  Bury your hunks!

8. The Plane.  Rose and Anna, Ray's group,  and Mance's group all converge on an airplane hanger.  A plane lands to rescue them.  Of course, it doesn't work out that way.  Everybody attacks each other, dies, gets zombified, and attacks each other some more, until no one makes it onto the plane except for Sun, who speaks only Korean.  Hey, the pilot speaks Korean!  Uh-oh, this is too good to be true.  She's dead, right?

Beefcake: No.

Gay Characters: No.

Gay Subtexts: No.  I thought Braithewaite and Spears would have one, but no.

Everybody dies: Yes.

My Grade: F

Jun 16, 2021

Trese: Filipino Supernatural Crime Anime


An animated supernatural crime drama set in the Philippines?   I'm there!  Who cares if it's called Trese, which evokes long girlish tresses, or if it the icon shows a heavily made up girl  -- I'll be able to hear people speaking Tagalog.  Besides, one of the voice actors is the uber-hunk Matt Yang King.

Scene 1: Naturalistic animation of a big city, night.  Suddenly a train breaks down.  The passengers exit, including three young women, who complain that this is the third breakdown this month.  They see an eerie dark figure on the track ahead, then a pack of growling, pointy-eared zombies.  They scream.  Darn, I thought the ladies were going to be kick-ass heroes.  They're victims.

Scene 2: Establishing shot of Manila.  Alexandra tells us that, although it's a beautiful city, at night there are monsters: "kidnappers and thieves are the least of your worries."  We see some of the winged monsters, fangs dripping blood. "Dark forces are getting stronger.  There is no light to keep the darkness in check."  Sounds like Gotham City.  

Scene 3: 
Alexandra Trese, the hunky Captain Guerero (Matt Yang King in English),  and the eyeglassed Lt. Tapio arrive at a crime scene.  The White Lady of Balette Drive, a famous ghost, has been murdered.  Wait -- how do you murder a ghost?  And why would you want to?   Suddenly the ghost springs back to life, vomits white light, and explodes.  

Flashback to the child Alexandra examining a dead bird.  Her Mom tells her that death is nothing to be afraid of; it just leads to another plane of existence.  While drawing magical symbols, Mom continues: "Our family has always been a link between worlds. Your father is the lakan, protector of the accords, and we are babaylan, assigned to help lost souls find their way to the afterlife."  The bird's ghost flies away.

Back to the crime scene: only a few stray bits of ectoplasm are left.  Alexandra collects some to study.

Scene 4:  To find out who has enough magic to kill a ghost, Alexandra summons an earth monster that looks like the Thing from The Fantastic Four, who leads her to a green goblin named Nuno.  He tells her that "the dizzy dame" was trying to join the answan gang -- in order to join, you have to sacrifice someone.  But she ended up becoming someone else's sacrifice instead.  Wow, a whole afterlife underworld.

After examining the ectoplasm, Nuno states that the ghost was killed with a ghost-poison made from ground mermaid bones.  The murderer must have gotten it from the aswang gang that controls the pier.

Scene 5:  Alexandra bursts into a slaughterhouse where aswang (pointy-eared vampire things) are processing human carcasses.  She bursts into the office, where clan chief Ibwa is examining human offal, and points out that, according to the treaty the aswang signed with her father, he must cooperate with her investigation.  He disagrees, and sends in his goons.  Alexandra dispatches them.  He still refuses to tell her who he sold the ground mermaid bones to, so she cuts out his eye.

Scene 6:
  Alexandra driving with her "boys": pale men with blank eyes, wearing suits (The Kambal, voiced in English by Griffin Puatu).  She dunks the eye in a glass of water and utters an incantation.  

Flashback to Mom summoning the Great Spirit of the Binondo Fire.  Alexandra is scared, but Mom reassures her: "His face is scary, but he's not a monster."  Uh-oh, Dad calls, and is cut off amid scary music.  A startled Mom tells Alexandra that she has to run and hide. Hey, what happened to the Great Spirit?  

Back to the car.  Captain Guerero calls and tells her to get over here, pronto.  Hey, I thought the eye was going to give her a clue.  

Scene 7: 
 A subway platform.  The Mayor (Rene Tandoc in Filipino) being interviewed by a flurry of reporters: "Crimes like this cannot wait for due process.  I promise to find and punish the guilty party myself!"  (Um...that's a tad fascist).  "This is why the people elected me."  (No, they didn't!  You're executive branch, and criminal justice is judicial!).  Captain Guerero, Alexandra, and the Boys stand on the sidelines.  She shows the Captain a handkerchief with the information the eye provided:  The Mayor shaking hands with an aswang!  

More intel: in life the ghost was Gina Santos, the Mayor's mistress.  She died in 1995 -- it was officially a suicide, but everyone knows that the Mayor had her murdered.  And now he has killed her ghost in order to gain the favor of the aswang.  

The Captain cautions Alexandra to not rile the Mayor: he can make people disappear.  But she approaches anyway, and accuses him of killing Gina Santos -- twice!  He scoffs. "You have no proof, and anyway the aswang don't even exist."

Scene 8: Finally they can investigate the crime scene: a subway car, lots of blood but no bodies.  The aswang gang must have been processing the bodies of the passengers they attacked in Scene 1.  But why was there blood inside the subway car?  They all exited.

Alexandra summons a fiery presence, the Great Santelmo, and asks him to investigate.  He says that the souls of the dead people are still in the car, plus three girls who don't belong, and some people who died in a fire.

When he leaves, Alexandra performs an incantation, and sees the ghosts standing in the car.  Plus an emissary of Ibu, the Goddess of Death, who tells her that she's ferrying their souls to the Underworld.  Alexandra asks about the three girls who don't belong:  they didn't die on the train; they were captured by the aswang and taken back to their lair to be killed.

Alexandra: "Can you show me where they were killed?"  Emissary: "Sure.  Just let me vomit some moths."  Is this another plotline?  What does it have to do with the ghost's murder?

Scene 9:
Alexandra and her Boys follow the moths to a cheesy Chinese Restaurant and Hotel.  A big bloody room, some girls in cages, another tied up and about to be sacrified.  Apparently they kill some humans for food, but the special ones --  I guess the ones who are cute girls -- get their souls removed.  Cute-girl souls are worth more than cute-girl meat.    

Just as Alexandra starts to dispatch the evil aswang, the Big Bad Xa-Mul arrives with about 300 hench-demons.  "The accords don't apply in this situation.  The humans were a payment, so we can eat their souls if we want."    Alexandra disagrees, so the hench-demons attack.  She dispatches them, with a little help from a deus-ex-machina: two guys wearing smiling face masks, whose guns shoot rays of purple light.  One, whose name is Crispin, quips: "Couldn't let you have all the fun, could we?  Oh, and we freed all the girls in the cages." Are they her Boys?

Scene 10: Aftermath, with ambulances and "Thank you for saving my daughter!"  And an explanation of the fire plotline: The Mayor wanted them to leave their apartment so he could build a condo, but they refused, so he set the place on fire.  Many died.  He took the survivors to the cheesy Chinese Restaurant and Hotel, where the aswang captured them and kept them in cages.  "And we weren't the only ones."  Oh, hell, no, not another plotline!  "The Mayor has been crashing trains and burning down buildings all over the city to provide them with humans to eat."

Captain Guerero: "Great!  Now we have enough evidence to arrest the Mayor for human trafficking and arson."

But Alexandra is sad: "There are monsters among us, and some of them are human."

Scene 11: Alexandra and her Boys arrive at the Diabolica Club.  The bartender, Hank, pours her the usual, while the tv news tells us about the Mayor being arrested.  

Suddenly, the Emissary of the Goddess of Death appears with a "peace offering," and asks Alexandra to "forgive her mistake."  What mistake?    When did Alexandra have a quarrel with the Goddess of Death?  They seemed to be on friendly terms.

The Captain calls. "Get over here, now!"  The end.

Beefcake: No.

Other Sights: Strikingly beautiful animation.

Monsters: A vast array of strikingly creative monsters and other fantasy beings.   I actually found them a little much: what is the point of talking to a monster to lead you to another monster to lead you to a third monster? Or of conjuring a spirit to tell you something that you can find out perfectly well on your own?

Questions: What mistake did the God of Death make?  Why were the three girls on the subway special?  If the aswang are eating the humans on the spot, what's with the warehouse where they are processing human carcasses?  And why are they trying to extract souls, too?  And why did the Mayor kill Gina's ghost?  He didn't need to appease the aswang, as he was already supplying them with lots of humans.

Gay Characters:  No one expresses any heterosexual interest.  Apparently one of the dead people is a Gay Man in Drag, but I didn't notice. Lead actress Liza Soberano has a history of homophobic comments, so I doubt that she would take the role if Trese was gay or bi.

My Grade: B.

Jun 14, 2021

"Timewasters": Black Jazz Quartet Zapped into the Jazz Age

 The Jazz Age!  Flappers and philosophers! Picasso, Charlie Chaplin, and Thomas Mann.  Christopher Isherwood in Berlin, E.M. Forster in Bloomsbury, Gertrude Stein in Paris, Garcia Lorca in Cordoba.  Drag balls in Harlem.  Ulysses, The Sun Also Rises, The Well of Loneliness, Death in Venice!   And...Timewasters?

A Britcom about a jazz quartet magically transported to 1920s London, where black people aren't exactly welcomed.  They become the wards of the wealthy Victoria and her twin brother Ralph.  Victoria starts sleeping with Jason (Kadiff Kirwan), and Ralph, who is gay, gets a crush on Lauren (Adelayo Adedayo), whom he thinks is a man.   I watched Episode 3, "Follow Your Dreams," because it says that Ralph "stands up for himself"

Scene 1: 
The group -- Jason, Lauren, Nick (Daniel Lawrence Taylor), and Horace (Samson Kayo) -- performing for their wealthy patron Victoria (Liz Kingsman) and her Mean Girl friends, who ignore them to look at dirty photos.  

Victoria gives her butler a 10 pound note to shove into Nick's crotch (wow!), and says "We'll have a dance."  

Scene 2: Later.  Jason in his bathrobe, Lauren pouring a champaign fountain.  Nick complains: "We're a jazz quartet in the golden age of jazz.  Why are we a rich lady's pets?"  "But it's a good life.  Look -- quail eggs.  They don't exist in the future!"

Victoria announces that they will be playing at her Egyptian-themed party tonight. She also brings a letter from Ralph in Algeria.  He has sent Lauren a lot of money.

Scene 3:  Nick bonds with the butler, Langley (Nigel Planter), while in the bathroom (huh?).   He hoped to become an opera singer, but that didn't work out.  Nick: "I'm going to tell Victoria about your talent. You just need a chance to shine." But Langley rejects the idea.

Scene 4:
  The party.  Almost all ladies.  The group is forced to wear ridiculous costumes, except for Jason -- shirtless, heavily muscled, getting objectified.  Lauren is fed up with the condescension and abuse, and pushes her way into a roulette game with the money Ralph in Algeria sent.  Surprise -- she wins!  Now the Mean Girls want to be friends.

Nick is fed up with the abuse they heap on Langley the Butler, and calls them out: "He could have been a great opera singer!"  Victoria immediately orders him to sing.   He performs an excellent "Ave Maria."  

Victoria: I had no idea that you were so talented.  You must follow your dream.  You're fired!

Scene 5:  Jason is trying to prove that he's not just a muscular boy toy by reading a book.  Meanwhile, Horace is being used as the post for a hoop game, and Lauren has joined the Mean Girls.  

Langley is in his room, drinking and crying over his lost job -- he's got seven kids to feed!  (Aren't house servants required to be single?)   He attacks Nick: "You've ruined my life!"  Nick: "I'll ask Victoria to give you your job back, but first put on some pants."

Camera pans out to show that Langley is lying atop Nick, naked from the waist down.  Apparently Nick doesn't like feeling a man's penis atop him.  I rather enjoy it, personally.

Scene 6: 
 Lauren buttering up the Mean Girls with fancy presents.  Nick enters and asks Victoria to give Langley his job back.  She refuses: "I already have a butler. Horace."  Langley responds by pissing on her furniture.  

Scene 7:  Nick and Horace help Langley get dressed.  "We tried, but pissing on the furniture may have been a turn-off. But you still have your opera dream.  Go out there, and become a star!"  Langley asks Nick to go with him, but he refuses.

Scene 8: Horace being used for the Mean Girls to play hop-frog on.  Jason appears with his new intellectual look.  The Girls order him to take his clothes off, but he refuses: "I'm not just a body.  I can do other things."  Victoria suggests some master-slave role playing, with him as the master.  They leave.

The Mean Girls discover that Lauren is out of money, and reject her. 

Scene 9: The group rehearsing.  Victoria enters and discovers that Horace can sing, so she fires him.  She'll do without butlers from now on.  

Langley drops by to tell them that he has become a famous singer -- in blackface!  Ulp!  

Beefcake: just Jason.

Other Sights: Every scene is inside the house.

Gay characters:
No.  Kadiff Kirwan is gay in real life, but his character is straight. 

Ralph appears in only the first two episodes.  I read the plot synopsis wrong: it's Jason who stands up for himself.

In the second season, the group ends up in the 1950s.  They reconnect with the middle-aged Victoria, and discover that she had a son with Jason, the now-32 year old JJ (Oliver Wellington).  I figured that the prissy, button-down virgin would turn out to  be gay, but no, he starts dating Lauren.  

JJ doesn't know that Jason is his father, but he still doesn't interpret Nick's sudden, intense interest as romantic. 

My Grade: B. 

Jun 13, 2021

"Call Me By Your Name": Or Better Yet, Don't Call Me At All

 I didn't want to see Call Me By Your Name (2017).  Movies about teenagers struggling with same-sex desire in a world where gay culture doesn't exist are so 1990s -- Edge of 17, Beautiful Thing, Ernesto.  Plus the whole "call me by your name" thing makes me sick to my stomach, evoking the old homophobic myth that gay people are all narcissists, falling in love with themselves.

But Bob ordered it for movie night, as a break from the endless rounds of superheroes.  

It's 1983.  A wealthy (as in two servants), multinational, multilingual family is spending the summer in their huge house in Tuscany, where Dad dredges up archaeological artifacts and writes books that for some reason reference Heidegger (what does the meaning of ontology have to do with underwater archaeology?).  Mom has some sort of job translating Medieval French romances from German into English.  16 year old Elio (Timothee Chalamant) spends his time his time writing and transcribing music, usually while swimming so the paper gets all wet, and playing Bach through the lens of Chopin or something.  

Elio does not own a shirt, and the camera positively drools over his body.  Granted, some teenage physiques are attractive, but the actor kept playing Elio as so aggressively childlike that I couldn't think of him as anything but a little kid.  

There is no gay culture in this world, but Mom and Dad are ultra-laid back about gay people.  When a gay couple comes over for dinner, Elio snidely refers to them as Sonny and Cher, and Dad berates him for homophobia: one of them knows more about economics than anyone else in the world.  Who cares if he's gay?  He's important!

When 24-year old Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives, Mom, Dad, and an unspecified friend fawn over him so exuberantly that I thought he was a famous movie star.  Turns out they're just absurdly over-enthusiastic about Dad's new research assistant, staying with them for six weeks to help catalogue some of his archaeological finds or edit the Heidegger out of his latest manuscript or dispute the Greek-Latin-Arabic etymology of the word apricot.  But Oliver doesn't do much work; he spends most of his time swimming, playing volleyball, going to village dances, and riding his bicycle endlessly through the countryside.

Elio instantly falls head-over-heels for the "arrogant" American.  It's unclear whether he has experienced same-sex attraction before, but he tries to counter by having sex with two girls (or with the same girl twice, I'm not sure).  

Oliver, busily courting a girl of his own (or it might be the same girl), pretends not to notice Elio's flirtation.  Then he says "We can't talk about this.  We just can't."  Finally he permits a kiss, but refuses to go farther: "We've been good so far.  We haven't done anything wrong.  But this has to stop here."

I was confused, and I'm still confused.  Why can't they date?  Is it the gay thing or the age thing?  Same-sex acts have been legal in Italy since 1890, and the age of consent is 14.  

Finally Oliver permits a sneaky clandestine relationship, which includes sex (while the camera shifts to a potted plant) and that "call me by your name" thing, which made me sick to my stomach to watch.

Oliver gets a little aggressive, forcing Elio to eat an apricot that he's just...um, never mind...and saying "Come here. Drop your pants," which gave me a bad feeling.  There's already a power differential, and now he's borderline abusive, after just one date?

Mom and Dad deduce that the two are dating, and are absurdly supportive.  Dad welcomes Oliver to the family.  Mom arranges for the two to go on a romantic vacation together.  But Oliver obviously wasn't planning on settling down with a 16-year old life partner; when his research assistant job ends, he says "it's been real" and high-tails it back to America.  

Six months later, he calls to tell Elio that he is getting married to a woman.  Dad tries to cheer Elio up with a long, rambling, convoluted heart-to-heart, but it doesn't work.  He sits by the fire and cries.  The end.

The movie is beautifully shot, with lots of scenes of the Italian countryside (no cities), but very, very long.  The two hours and 15 minutes drag and drag, as nothing happens, then nothing happens, then nothing happens. And I still don't understand why Oliver was so resistant: the gay thing, the age thing, or "I'm not into relationships.  With guys, anyway."   

Final thought: it's 1983  Why have I never heard of any of the songs they listen to?  

My grade: C+.

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