Jan 29, 2022

"The Eternals": The First Gay Character in a Marvel Movie, Plus Conversations in Ancient Babylonian


I have seen The Eternals (2021), the first movie in the Marvel Universe to depict a gay character (although the comic books have been doing it for years).  It is a very plot-heavy movie, with characters not given enough time to distinguish and lots of unjustified squabbles.  Maybe a trilogy would have been more appropriate.

The premise: A Celestial (God) creates a group of Eternals (immortal superheroes) and gives them the task of saving humans from Deviants (monsters). I found the name Deviant disturbing, since it actually refers to someone who breaks a social norm, especially a sexual norm, and historically it has usually been applied to gay people.  

So the Eternals appear in Neolitic Mesopotamia and save villagers from some monsters by zapping and pushing them out of the way. I'm not sure who has what power, or if they all have everything.  When the monsters are all toast, an Eternal gives a Neolitic boy (Zain Al Rafeea)  an ornate knife, which one expects to become important, but the plotline is dropped.

Too bad -- 18-year old Zain Al Rafeea has an interesting biography.  A Syrian refugee, he was discovered on the streets of Beirut by director Nadine Labaki.  He was cast as the star of Capernaim (2018), for which he won five "best actor" or "breakout actor" awards. He and his family have since settled in Norway.  The Eterrnals is only his second movie role.

On through the centuries, with Eternals zapping monsters but not allowed to do anything else to help humanity.  Really, how many people could be killed by a handful of monsters, compared to drought, disease, earthquakes, wars, and general evil?  They chafe at their limitations, and finally, at the fall of Tenochtitlan in 1521, they split up.  Or else their god tells them that the coast is clear, they've killed all the monsters.

Sersei (sounds like Circe) and Ikarus (the boy who flew too close to the sun)(Richard Maden, top photo) live as romantic partners for several generations, before Ikarus leaves the planet.  Sersei becomes a biologist working at the British Museum, and dates a mortal named Dane (Kit Harrington, left).  She also "adopts" Sprite, who is a perpetual child, but sometimes can appear in adult form or something.

I don't know what Ajak does.  (Sounds like Ajax, but a girl).

Kingo (Kumali Nanjiani, below right) becomes a Bollywood star.  So he was created as South Asian in 7000 BC, long before the Indo-Aryans settled in South Asia?  He is flamboyantly feminine, so I figured he was gay, and actually he doesn't display any heterosexual interest.

Phastos (Bryan Tyree Henry) settles in America, where he gets married, buys a house, and starts a family, the whole heterosexist American dream, except that he has a husband. not a wife.  It's not hidden: they have two scenes together, and kiss.  Nothing like the extensive groping, grabbing, and tongue-swallowing of Ikarus and Sersei, but 100 times more than anything Marvel has shown on screen before.

Makkari, who is deaf, hangs out in a Dom in the ruins of a Babylonian city.  Why create a superhero with a disability?

Druig (Barry Keoghan, left) has a strong Irish accent, even though he was created thousands of years before there were Irish accents, or Druids.  He settles in the Amazon to help the descendants of the Aztecs.  Wait -- wrong continent.

Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-seok) settles in the Australian outback with another Eternal, maybe Thena (Athena, get it?), who suffers from an Eternal-only mental disorder.

In the present, things start to go terribly wrong.  Deviants return, only now they're sentient. Some of the Eternals go to the Dark Side.  Others have to be convinced to come out of retirement and join the team (this happens in virtually every Marvel movie).  Old rivalries that we didn't know about surface again.  Unrequited crushes that we didn't know about surface again.  Their God is not what he seems.  

And the writers keep confusing "millions" and "billions." 

It's all very confusing, but at least there are fun references to other Marvel characters and events.  

And there is an extended scene set in ancient Babylonia, where conversations take place in Babylonian (actually Akkadian, but why quibble?).  they hired an Akkadian expert to translate, which turned out to be problematic. We have many legal and religious documents in the dead language, but nothing colloquial.  They probably used a phrase similar to "May I help you?", but they never wrote it down.  See this interesting article in "The Conversation."

My Grade: A for the gay character and ancient Akkadian, D for the convoluted plot.

Jan 28, 2022

"The Woman Getting Drunk in the Stalking Chair in the House Across the Street from the Girl and the Hunky Dad Taking His Shirt Off in the Window"


The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window
.  An absurdly long title, but after years of 1-word Netflix titles, it comes as something of a relief.  With two women mentioned, I'm not hoping for any gay characters.  But maybe one of the women will have a cute boyfriend.

Scene 1: Closeup of a woman in a white bathrobe preparing to cook fish.  With Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup.  This commercial break has been brought to you by....  She is so flustered by a flashback of sex and death that she drops her casserole and screams.

She sits down and voice-overs us about her husband's criticism of her over-active imagination, her lack of focus, her alcohol abuse, and so on.  Sounds like a real jerk.  Fortunately, he dumped her.  Then why is she making the fish-and-mushroom-soup casserole?  Just order Chinese.

Scene 2:  Next day.  White Bathrobe is still sitting in her chair, ruminating and watching people have lives out the window.  She sees a nuclear-family moms taking her kids to school and exclaims "Shit!'  Then:  "Elizabeth, let's go!  You'll be late for school!!"  Great, so far four women and nary a penis in sight.

Scene 3:  Standing outside the school, White Bathrobe ruminates: "We tell our kids not to be afraid of monsters.  Why don't we tell them the truth?  There are monsters."  

The other nuclear family moms stare and gossip.  Well, she's still wearing a bathrobe!  She tries to scram, but one of the moms, Carol, approaches to ask how she's holding up after the breakup -- three years ago!  I usually need about 24 hours and a self-pity hookup.  

Also, you never called Mark back to confirm your date tonight.  Girl, she's way too broken for a date!  Maybe after a few years of therapy!

White Bathrobe tries to cancel, but Carol insists: Mark is a client of her husband, and if she flakes out, he'll probably cancel his big account.  Aha, Carol isn't really a friend, she's pimping out White Bathrobe for money.

Scene 4: 
 Back home, White Bathrobe sees movers carrying boxes into the gigantic Georgian mansion -- um, I mean middle-class home -- across the street.  She stops to ask the working-class Buell how his repair of the mail box is coming.  Finally, a man!

Inside, White Bathrobe starts her daily routine of boozing and window-staring.  She checks out some photos of her and her ex, Doug (Michael Ealy), on her phone, flashes back to their wedding reception, and gets even more depressed.  Delete them!  

Oh, boy: a cute nuclear family dad and his daughter emerge from the house across the street, to ask the movers for a cliche teddy bear.  White Bathrobe perks up, thinking "Yum!  And he's single!"  Or maybe his partner is inside, or at work, or at the gym, or at a meeting of the LGBTQ Alliance....

The phone rings.  It's Sloane, another woman, asking why she hasn't been in contact for a few days.  Also, she wants one of White Bathrobe's paintings for her new exhibition at her ritzy gallery. 

White Bathrobe checks out her paintings -- a lot of Georgia O'Keefe vagina-flowers -- and ruminates "I was so talented once."  Before hubbie left, or before you started hitting the booze at 9:00 am?

Scene 5:  Hey, White Bathrobe owns clothes.  She puts on a red dress and earrings, and asks Daughter what she thinks.  Daughter won't say, and when pressed notes that she can't do much because she's dead.  

"Oh, right.  Why do I keep forgetting that?"  So the Moms were gossipping because White Bathrobe tried to drop her dead daughter off at school.

Scene 6: In the bathtub. Carol calls, irate because White Bathrobe stood Mark up, and now her husband's business will tank.  It's Carol's fault for making the entire account depend on the action of someone who is clearly unstable.  

Suddenly there's a thud and a creak, and the trap door to the basement is swinging.  White Bathrobe walks carefully to the trap door, considers opening it, and decides to get drunker instead.  She sits in her stalking chair and watches while, across the street, Hunky Neighbor takes off his shirt -- in front of the window!  After we get a good look, he closes the curtains.  Darn!

Scene 7: 
 Morning.  White Bathrobe awakens to a knock at the door.  It's Hunky Neighbor (Tom Riley, with a beard), bringing her flowers. Nope, he doesn't have a secret crush on her -- they were delivered to his house by mistake!  You could have said that first, instead of the super-misleading "These are for you."   He introduces himself as Neil.  They gaze in hetero-horniness. No husband at home, darn! He leaves.

The flowers are actually from Sloane the Gallery Owner, to turn into a vagina painting.  

Scene 8: White Bathrobe visiting her daughter's grave, which she does every day.  Once a week would be more than enough.   

Back home, the Girl from Across the Street is selling chocolate bars for a school fundraiser.  She needs to sell a lot to get the other kids to like her.  Great, another severely broken person.  White Bathrobe orders five boxes and interrogates the Girl about her hunky dad.  Dead wife, naturally.  She offers to bring over a chicken casserole for dinner tonight.

Scene 9:  Bringing over the casserole.  Buford is still fixing the mailbox.  Isn't that like an hour-long job, tops?  Is he really there?

It starts to rain, which upsets White Bathrobe so much that she collapses in the middle of the street.  Hunky Neil rushes to her aid.   She explains that she suffers from ombrophobia, fear of rain.  Wouldn't you run away instead of collapsing into it?

Hunky Neil decides that this is the perfect moment to describe his wife's tragic death: she drowned at the lake house.  That's how the victim dies in 3,000 murder mysteries. But I bet the little girl did it, not Neil.

White Bathrobe counters with her daughter's tragic death.  That's not going to get you laid, girl.   They flirt a bit, and Hunky Neil leaves.

Scene 10: White Bathrobe decides to investigate the attic after all.  Nothing important up there.  She's scared by a bird, rushes to take some pills, and sits in her stalking chair.  

Across the street, Hunky Neil is on an exercise bike in front of the window.  He sees White Bathrobe watching.  Girl, you have to keep the lights off for night-time stalking.   He comes over, furious.   No -- horny. They kiss and sexify.

Wait -- nope, White Bathrobe imagined the whole thing.

Scene 11:  Morning.  Rufus is still working on that darn mailbox.  White Bathrobe brings over a new casserole, and gets invited to dinner.  Cut to the three laughing and joking and not being depressed.  Upon discovering that White Bathrobe is an artist, Little Girl displays some of her art: a duck.  I expected something scary.

Scene 12:  Dishes are done, Little Girl is in bed, it's time to sexify for real.  Well, just some accidental hand-touching, whish is apparently a major turn-on for heterosexuals.  

Scene 13:  White Bathrobe in bed, reading The Woman Across the Lake (from the Girl in the Window?).  She voice-overs that she's happy that she can finally dream of a future where she is "no longer alone."  Meanwhile, there's a shadowy figure flitting through the attic.  The end.

Beefcake: Neil takes his shirt off twice.

Gay Characters: Probably not.  Maybe Sloane the Gallery Owner.

This is all about White Bathrobe Finding Love Again, but doubtless Neil is a murderer.  Or maybe his daughter.

Buell:  Cameron Britton appears only in the first episode, so I don't know whether he's really repairing a mailbox forever, or a figment of White Bathrobe's imagination.

Top Photo: Benjamin Levy Aguilar, who appears in one episode.

My Grade:  This was actually a lot of fun.  These characters don't behave anything like real people, and the dead wives/daughters all the way down was stunningly ridiculous.  I wonder if it was intentional.  Is this supposed to be a comedy?  B.

Jan 26, 2022

The Bob Cummings Show: Uncle Bob and Chuck

Dwayne Hickman (right) of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and 1960s beach movies started his tv career as Chuck, a high school boy who lives with his widowed mother and sleazy photographer uncle Bob (former film noir star Bob Cummings) in Love That Bob (1955-1959), aka The Bob Cummings Show. 

At first Chuck is interested in hot rods and rock music but not girls, so Uncle Bob tries to instill in him an appreciation of "the important things in life."  Since Bob's job involves drooling over, gaping at, and sometimes photographing girls, he's something of an expert on girl-craziness, and he has spent many episodes promoting heterosexual desire among gay-coded colleagues: his butch lesbian secretary (Ann B. Davis, later  Brady Bunch); a butch lesbian buddy (Nancy Kulp, later on The Beverly Hillbillies); and a "girl-shy" male buddy (King Donovan).

Bob's overenthusiastic attempts to induce girl-craziness in Chuck looks unconfortably like an attempt to displace his own homoerotic attraction.  Even the teen magazines seemed to notice, treating the two as a couple of "bachelors out on the town."  The December 1957 issue of Teen shows Bob and Chuck slurping ice cream sundaeas, gazing into each other's eyes while wearing matching effeminate fur coats.

Eventually Chuck went off to college, his girl-craziness still tentative, in spite of Uncle Bob's constant girl-ogling, and Dwayne Hickman went off to play high schooler Dobie Gillis.

Jan 23, 2022

"Summer Heat": Not Much Heat, But a Tragic Gay Guy Named Maicon


Summer Heat (Tempora da Verao
) is a Brazilian teen soap set in a "paradisical resort."  I don't understand why anyone would want to watch except to see young adult muscles glistening in the sun.  I'll fill you in on the plot, such that it is, so you can fast-forward to the muscles.

Premise: Employees having soapy adventures at the Mariesa Hotel on an island resort in Brazil.

Focus Character:  Catarina, a rich guest en route to grad school, who suddenly becomes poor when her mother is arrested and her assets frozen.  With nowhere else to turn, she takes a job at the hotel.  

Other Drama:

1. Catarina's fiance Rodrigo (Leon Bittencourt) decides that he wants to get into the hotel business, probably so he has an excuse to stick around.

2. Employee Yasmin believes that hotel owner Mariesa (Felipe Roche, left) is her biological father.  Photo is from another series; he's heterosexual here.

3. Diego (Jorge Lopez), who has a tragic secret in his past, has to decide if he wants to get serious with his girlfriend, who has a dark secret in her past.

4. Miguel (Andre Luis Frambach) is a drug dealer who reforms under the guidance of his friend Conrado.  

5. Aspiring singer Conrado (Malcon Rodrigues) falls in love with Miguel, who isn't into it, but still wants to be friends.  Unfortunately, Conrado doesn't find a boyfriend;  he's stuck in the tragic "gay guy in love with straight guy" trope.

Beefcake:  Surprisingly little.  They are employees, usually working, and we rarely see any guests.

Gay Characters: The tragic Conrado.

Heterosexual Hijinks:  I expected them to be hooking up constantly, but there's surprisingly little hetero-romance going on.  Most of the drama concerns clashing career goals, dark secrets from one's past, and hotel development plans, with an occasional near-drowning.

Malcon:  Have you ever tried searching for someone named Malcon?  Google absolutely will not permit it.

Me: Search for Malcon

Google: Did you mean Malcolm?

Me: No.  Search for Malcon.

Google: Here are results for Malcolm.

Me:  No.  Search for Malcon.

Google: Did you mean Malcolm?

Whoops, I read it wrong.  His actual name is Maicon, and he's famous in Brazil, with a dozen tv series and 400,000 Instagram followers.  

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