Mar 19, 2022

Cracow Monster: Bisexual "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in a Rain-Drenched Poland


Cracow Monsters (2022) sounds like a Polish version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: a teacher and his students, notably the Chosen One, fight demons.  Poland is the home of the "no gays allowed" cities, so there won't be any gay characters.  But maybe there will be some subtexts.

Scene 1: A scuzzy-looking, greasy-haired yooung woman roams a sleazy black-and-white bar, guzzling other people's drinks.  She approaches a scuzzy, dirty-haired guy, who asks if she's in med school: only med students drink that much.  

She hasn'd decided who she's going to sleep with tonight, so he offers to help: "Do you like boys or girls?"  Whoa, recognition that gay people exist in the first minute!  She hasn't decided that yet, either.  She goes onto the dance floor and kisses a girl, then a boy, then flashes back to a memory of yelling while her mother drove erratically. 

Scene 2:
The woman -- Alex -- awakens in bed, being screwed by a monster.  Then she wakes up again, next to her actual bed partner (a cute boy), takes some pills, and goes to the kitchen to eat.  Still a black-and-white world.  

Her roommate wonders why she is awake at 3:00 am. She snarls "Don't psychoanalyze me.  I'm broken.  You can't fix me.  Let me just lose myself in sex and drugs."  She goes back to the bedroom, starts screaming, and orders the boy in her bed out -- NOW!  (Some chest and back shots as he rushes out).  

She settles down to studying her Forensic Psychology textbook (in English).  Close up of the cover blurb:  author Jon Zawordski (Andrjez Chyra, left) is famous, innovative, and so on.  

Scene 3: Alex, who still hasn't washed her hair or cleaned the makeup stains from her face, is in a grocery store, getting her morning coffee.  She sees a homeless boy trying to return empty bottles for the deposit -- unsuccessfully -- and buys him a hot dog.  Just to demonstrate that she's nice as well as crazy.  Then it's off to the university in the rain. At least we have color!  

A giant lecture hall to take the entrance exam for getting into Professor Zaworski's class.  The Hot Teaching Assistant criticizes her for being a freshman.  

Scene 4: A giant construction zone.  It's raining; workers dig in the mud.  (The homeless boy walks past in the rain, for no apparent reason).  The workers find a weird three-legged statue.  The foreman grabs it, hears weird chanting, and takes it away.  Reminds me of the Warner Brothers cartoon "One Froggy Evening," where a constrution worker finds a box containing a singing frog.  But it only sings for him.

Scene 5
: Zaworski's huge, book-lined office.  Hot Teaching Assistant (Stanislaw Linowski) has graded all the tests; no one of interest.  But Zaworski is drawn to Alex's test (of course -- otherwise be lousy story).  They google her: and find a hot  shirtless guy narrating a paranormal tv show:  As a little girl, Alex survived a horrific auto accident, and was trapped in the car with her mother's corpse for several days.  Later, she survived another accident at the beach, where five other kids drowned.  Is she cursed?  Sounds like the opposite to me.  

Zaworski rushes to catch up to Alex (she's just leaving?), but a scary skinless humanoid being stands in his way.  

Meanwhile, the foreman drives away with the scary three-legged statue.

Scene 6: Zaworski leafing through an old book (why are they never modern paperbacks?  There are over 60,000 paperback books on the occult advertised on Amazon.)   He comes to a demon named Aitvaras, which looks like a humanoid salamander. He smiles.

Meanwhile, Alex comes across a picture of her mother and burns it with a cigarette.  Not very close to Mom, were you?

Scene 7: Zaworski goes into Hunky Teaching Assistant's bedroom to wake him up  (beefcake in black underwear).  "Has something happened?"  Zaworski just stares.  "No -- it can't be! You promised me that last time would be the end of it!"  

Scene 8: Alex at the sleazy bar, still allergic to shampoo.  Tonight she cruises a girl. but when Hunky Teaching Assistant comes in, the potential trick flees. If he's a demon-slayer, does that mean that she was a demon?  Oh, well, he's hot, he'll do.  

They go for a drive.  Suddenly Hunky Teaching Assistant revvs the motor and bails, leaving Alex trapped in the passenger seat.  The car goes off a cliff!  Alex almost drowns, but she is rescued by the salamander-demon Aitvaras. 

Scene 9: Alex awakens in her bed , wondering if it was a dream.  Uh-oh, the Dean has summoned her.  But it's good news: she's been accepted into Zaworski's study group.  All of the students live together, so she has to move.  

Alex calls her grandma to tell her about the study group, but Grandma isn't impressed: "Evil has awakened.  Leave Krakow!  It's not safe!"  

Scene 10: Zaworski's scary mansion.  HunkyTeaching Assistant answers the door.  She interrogates him about the murder attempt last night, but he claims that she just passed out from drugs.  

A long-haired hippie chick examines her height, eyes, and hands, and says "You'll do."  She leads Alex up some stairs and through a museum to her room.  

Scene 10: 
 Alex is awakened by a humanoid with a giant hole instead of a face.  Then she wakes up for real.  Just a dream!  But there are claw marks on her neck and shoulders. 

 She goes downstairs.  The other members of the study group are noshing in the kitchen.  Isn't it the middle of the night?  Gigi (Daniel Namiotka, left), tries to kiss  stringy-haired boy, who moves away.  Then a cleancut boy (Stanislaw Cywka, top photo), who just laughs.   Gay, or trying to upset them by rousing their homophobia? Check to see if Gigi is a girl's name in Poland.

Hippie Chick invites Alex to join in their game, analyzing their nightmares for clues to their past lives.  This reminds me of the group of sleep-deprived kids  in Nightmare on Elm Street 2.  One of whom is gay.  Maybe Gigi is gay, too.    Alex isn't up for it, and leaves. 

Scene 11: Alex, in her room, overhears Hunky Teaching Assistant talking to Zawordski.  "I've never seen anything like it!"  Zawordski: "She's our ninth.  We can begin."  Wait -- I thought they weren't planning on "it" happening again?   "Just don't scare here away."

But Alex is scared away.  She rushes out into the rain-drenched street.   Well, that's what you get for discussing your diabolical plan right in front of her door.  Hunky Teaching Assistant goes after her.

She comes across the Homeless Boy standing in the rain, chanting in Old Church Slavonic (like Latin).  He runs; she chases him through the deserted streets. into a graffiti-filled building, and up some stairs into a deserted apartment.  Except for a monster with a death's head and bat wings, which attacks the boy.   Fortunately, water makes it burst into flame  (maybe Krakow, where it's always raining, was the wrong place to manifest, Demon?).  She pulls down the water pipes and kills it.

The boy is catatonic.  Alex yells "Wake up!" and desperately performs CPR while the salamander demon looks on.  The end.

Beefcake:  Some guys with their shirts off and in underwear.

Other Sights:  Mostly dark sets, blue-black darkness, and pouring rain.  Very unpleasant.

Gay Characters:  Alex starts off as bisexual, but 100 to 1 she only sleeps with Hot Teaching Assistant from now on.  I don't know about Gigi (Polish for "Grandma").

Will I Keep Watching:  Maybe to see if there are any more gay references.

Mar 16, 2022

"What Happens Next": Old Guy Falls for Twink, with Lots of Gay 101 Lessons from the 1970s

What Happens Next (2012),
on Amazon Prime,  "explores the meaning, definition and redefining of family, the nature of relationships, the meaning of the varieties of love as a concept, attitude and human experience, fraught with laughter and surprise."  

Pro Tip: if your description uses the word "meaning" more than once, or "fraught" at all, your pretentiousness is showing.  

Wikipedia doesn't have a plot synopsis, although it has a synopsis of another What Happens Next (2012), a documentaary about a famous singer-songwriter that I never heard of.

The director, Jay Arnold, has his own website, where he sells his book, The Cucumber Diet, discusses the various tv commercials he's directed, and give the synopsis of the film, his first (a second, Shoulder Dance, is in pre-production).

So what happens next?

Scene 1: Stultifyingly rich Philadelphia businessman Paul Grecco (John Linstrom), who owns 54 tailored suits and 128 white shirts, sells his stultifyingly successful company.  At home, his boozy sister Elise (Wendy Malick) -- kisses him on the mouth!  Disgusting! -- as she prepares for the party tonight.   Paul tells her that the new owners have forced him into early retirement.  He's never done anything but work -- no hobbies, no pets, nothing.  What is he supposed to do with himself?  

Scene 2: A party full of elegantly attired white people. Not one person of color except the maid!  His friend Irene tells him that her husband is "dating a 12 year old."  I'm aghast, then I realize that she's exaggerating.  She move on to a cluster of biddies.  One thinks that she should throw herself at Paul, but another thinks that it's pointless: Sally dated him for six months, and nada!   She should have discussed her expectations instead of just complaining about him.

Elise gives Paul a puppy.  He balks -- he's never had a pet before!  But she insists -- give it six months, and if you don't like being a pet owner, Elise will take her.

Scene 3: 
 Montage of Paul and the maid disliking the dog.  Mindy the Dog Groomer advises that it needs to go outside sometimes, so he heads to the dog park (um...when you walk a dog, you don't carry it in your arms)  -- and meets young dog lover Andy (Chris Murray).  Chat, chat, flirt, flirt.

Scene 4:  Paul's nephew Brian (Ariel Shafir) comes for brunch and to complain about his mother Elise: "We don't agree on anything.  She has this picture in her head of what I'm supposed to be, what's socially acceptable..."  So Brian is gay, and his Mom is homophobic?

This was on Ariel Shafir's instagram page: the Egyptian god Horus.  No connection to the movie, but interesting.

Scene 5:  Andy from the dog park drinking wine in his elegantly appointed apartment.  Mindy the Dog Groomer stops by; except she is actually the owner of a snooty art gallery. So everybody in this movie is rich , white, and entitled?  Philadelphia is 40% black.  

Andy has just broken up with his boyfriend.  Mindy offers to introduce him to one of her artists, but he refuses: too young.  He's only into older guys.  How about Paul, then? 

Scene 6:  Montage of Paul and Andy flirting at the dog park, day after day. Eventually Andy comes out.  Paul stares: "I suspected that you know...that way"  Wow, what a homophobe!  Andy keeps talking.  His older brother was gay, too, and took him to his first gay bar. Paul:  "Oh, you turned gay because of his influence."  WTF?  What year is this, 1976?  

Paul tells us  that a boy at summer camp tried to kiss him, and he punched him in the nose.  "And I'd do it again."  He rushes off.  This is why you come out before you invest a lot of time in a guy.  He might not realize that you're flirting.  

Scene 7:  Paul continues to hang out with Andy at the dog park.  One day Andy is wearing a PFLAG cap; he explains that it's a support group for the parents and friends of gay people. In the old days, when having a child or friend come out resulted in  alarm and confusion, PFLAG provided an essential service.  Now you're just an ally. What year is this?

Andy's friend Jasper, an over-the-top gay stereotype of the sort you only see in homophobic movies, swishes over to gossip, and implies that Andy and Paul are dating.  Paul is horrified, and rushes away.  

The next day, Andy asks why Paul is uncomfortable around swishy queens.  "They're too's ok to be interested in men, but that doesnt' mean you have to wiggle when you walk!'  Andy gets offended, but Paul continues: "I've been one way my whole life, and now I'm confused about us...this whole thing."  Dude, you're friends who hang out at the dog park.  No one has mentioned dating.  

Andy is shocked; he had no idea that there was an "us."  But he's open to dating: he's attracted to "straight-acting" guys; why not an actual straight guy?   The idea that gay men reject other gay men for being too feminine, and fall in love with straight guys whom they can't have, dates from the 1930s.  It's long since been disproven.  What year is this?  They continue to hang out, talk, and cruise the hunks in the park. 

Sceene 8: While Paul goes on a date with Irene (remember her?), Andy discusses his dilemma with his bff Mindy (remember her?).  He argues that dating a straight guy would be perfect, the best of both worlds, masculine yet up for sex. Or maybe he's gay, just coming out at age 55!  

Mindy's boyfriend arrives, and they all have dinner. Girl, you were just criticizing Andy for liking older guys, and your boyfriend looks about 50!

I'm out of space, and low on beefcake images, so I'll stop the Scene-by-Scene there.  All you need to know is that:

1. Paul investigates "the gay lifestyle" by flirting with other guys and ordering porn in the mail (how about reading a book on gay history, or contacting one of the dozens of gay organizations in Philadelphia).    Eventually he's ready for dinner with Andy.  They kiss and have sex (off camera).  But then Paul decides that he's not ready to identify as gay, and dumps Andy.  For about ten minutes.

2. Never try to kiss someone when you're both wearing baseball caps.

3. Elise suspects that her son Brian is gay, and is horrified that she "turned him that way," , until her nail-stylist friend informs her that you don't "turn" gay, it's just who you are.  What year is this?  She talks Elise into going to a PFLAG meeting, where she meets Andy, without realizing that he's helping Paul come out (this is before their date).  They have a lengthy Gay 101 conversation.  What audience are they aiming at, that needs to hear that "it's not a choice?

4. Brian is actually straight.

5.  Mindy gets a cute assistant (James Duke Mason, top photo) and makes a racist comment that goes unchallenged.

Mar 15, 2022

Andre Norton: Gay Subtext Science Fiction in My Junior High Library

I found The Hobbit during fifth grade, in the Folklore section of the Denkmann Elementary School Library, and thought it the best book ever written.  There were rumors of a sequel, something about "rings," so I checked out Moon of Three Rings, by Andre Norton.

That wasn't it.

Thereafter, through junior high and high school, I hated Andre Norton, and refused to read any of her works.

But when I was in college, the bookstore gang loved Andre Norton, so I gave her another try.  

And found a homoerotic paradise, where men forged intense, passionate, loving bonds with men, mostly with covers that were beefcake-heavy masterpieces.

The Time Traders: crosstime adventures of crook-turned-adventurer Ross Murdock and his far-future companion Ashe.

Galactic Derelict: Ross and Ashe are accompanied by muscular Apache Travis Fox to investigate a space ship from another galaxy.

Storm Over Warlock: A Terran survey expedition is attacked, leaving only two survivors: elite Scout Ragnar Thorvald and servant Shan Lantee.  They must travel together across the hostile planet to safety.

Voodoo Planet: Same plot, Voodoo Planet.

 Star Man's Son: Two muscular barbarians bond in a post-apocalyptic world.

Operation Time Search: Photographer Ray Osborne is accidentally transported back to ancient Atlantis, where he befriends the muscular young Cho and gets involved in royal intrigue.  And the most explicit gay romance I had ever seen in science fiction.

And on and on -- she wrote hundreds, and is still publishing, though she died in 2005.

There are also a lot of novels about women forming strong same-sex bonds, and a few with heterosexual romances.

I don't know why the gay subtexts predominate.  Maybe Norton was writing for an audience of juvenile boys, and assumed that they wouldn't be interested in hetero-romance "yet."?  Or maybe she thought that the world of intergalactic exploration would exclude women, just as her contemporary society excluded women from the sciences and technology.

I just wish I had read them in junior high.

Mar 14, 2022

Davey and Goliath: Gay Christian Allies

During the 1960s, if you happened to be too sick to go to church but not too sick to stay in bed, you were stuck watching Rocky and Bullwinkle, Totalitarian Cartoons, Wild Kingdom, or the claymation program Davey and Goliath (1961-65, with many tv specials afterwards), about a 10-year old boy who depends on God (and his talking dog) to get him out of Timmy and Lassie-style scrapes. He gets lost in a cave, trapped in an abandoned mine, falls through the ice, and so on.

He also learns God's opinions on cheating, stealing, helping others, forgiveness, obeying police officers, and being prepared to administer first aid.

My parents disapproved, because it was produced by the Lutheran Church, which was nearly Catholic.  But I was fascinated -- this was my first glimpse of a religion that didn't involve constant shrieks of "God hates everything!"

At church, the list of what God hated was endless: movies, comic books, dancing, swimming, theater, card games, tv shows about witches, science fiction.  And people: Catholics, Jews, Presbyterians, liberals, rich people, movie stars, people who don't go to church, single parents, divorcees, hippies, anti-War protesters, feminists, college professors.  But the God of Davey and Goliath was a lot more inclusive:

"The Polka Dot Tie": Davey and his friends make fun of a boy who wears a funny tie, until they realize that God doesn't reject anyone for being different.

"Blind Man's Bluff": Davey's friend doesn't like white people, until he realizes that God doesn't reject anyone for being different.

"Louder Please": Davey doesn't know how to deal with a deaf neighbor, until he realizes that God doesn't reject anyone for being different.

Besides, Davey and his friends never expressed any heterosexual interest, and they were kind of cute.

In a "queer" connection, Davey was voiced by Dick Beals, who had a long career in voiceovers (he was the voice of Speedy, the Alka-Seltzer spokesman, and the singing voice for Bobby Riha in Jack and the Beanstalk).  

Due to a hormone problem, Dick never went through puberty, allowing him to perform high-voiced roles through his life, and also marking him as a sexual outsider (he doesn't mention a sexual orientation in his autobiography).

He remained the size of a child throughout his life, but didn't let that stop him from driving a car and learning to fly an airplane.  He died at the age of 85 in 2012.

The Cartoon Network's Moral Orel (2005-2008) parodied Davey and Goliath with a world full of bitter, sadistic adults and an Orel who takes every Biblical metaphor literally.  Two gay kids are portrayed as perfectly nice, but the "moral" adults hate them.  The only really moral person in town is the lesbian who runs the local sex shop.

Totalitarian Television: Underdog and Friends

When I was a kid, all of the grown-up men I knew worked in the great smoking factory that my Dad called "the goddam hellhole."  And all of the grown-up women were their wives, cooking and cleaning and raising their kids in the small square houses that stretched out to infinity in all directions.  Everyone assumed that this was my destiny, too.  When I grew up, I would spend every day in the goddam hellhole, and come home every night dog-tired and cursing to my small square house, where my wife and kids would be waiting.  

Most of the tv programs I watched offered an escape: Gilligan and the Skipper didn't work in a goddam hellhole, they were sailors, and Robbie Douglas' Dad and Uncle Charlie lived happily together without wives.  But if I got up too early on Saturday morning, or dared to watch tv on Sunday, a series of badly animated cartoons pushed obedience to Big Brother:

Tooter Turtle longs to escape his dreary pond in the woods, so he asks Mr. Wizard to hook him up with a new job: firefighter, lumberjack, pilot, astronaut, college student.  Catastrophe strikes, and Mr. Wizard returns him to reality with his chant: "Twizzle, twozzle, twozzle, twome, time for this one to come home."

Tennessee Tuxedo, a penguin voiced by Don Adams of Get Smart, thinks he is just as good as any human, so he and his friend Chumley get jobs as weathermen or movie producers, or start a rock band.  Catastrophe strikes.  Inevitably.  The theme song tells us: "He will fail, as he vies for fame and glory."  (Later it was changed to the less depressing "he may fail").

The message was clear: don't dream, don't aspire.  Conform.  No escape is possible.

Commander McBragg, a retired British army officer, told an unwilling visitor about his adventures in India, Africa, China.  But was he telling the truth, or making it all up?

At least they didn't have wives.  But the superhero Underdog (voiced by Wally Cox)  had a girlfriend, Sweet Polly Purebread.  And his alter ego wasn't a cool journalist, like Clark Kent, or a millionaire, like Bruce Wayne -- he was a shoe shine boy!

The cartoons were produced by Total Television.  Some originally appeared on King Leonardo and His Short Subjects (1960), and some on Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales (1963) or Underdog (1964), but by the time I was watching, they were relegated to the ghetto of early Saturday or Sunday mornings.

At least they were better than Rocky and Bullwinkle.

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