Apr 15, 2022

"Luna Park": Rich and Poor, Gay and Straight Intermingling in a 1960s Carnival

 Luna Park
(2022) is set in Italy in the 1960s.  The era of Antonini and Fellini, the sword-and-sandal epics, the spaghetti Westerns!  I'm in.

Scene 1: An outdoor cafe.  Close up of a girl's body, with a butterfly tattoo, unusual in the era.  She steals a cute guy's wallet and then goes home to her trailer, where her grandmother criticizes her: "We're carnival folk.  We don't steal."  But at least Grandma agrees to let her run the fortune-telling booth tonight.

She tells Grandpa the good news about being allowed to do the fortune-telling.  He shows her his new "magic camera," which develops photos instantly.  It will be a hit at the carnival! 

Scene 2:  Luna Park is a carnival.  A girl named Rosa and her brother Giggi (Guglielmo Poggi, top photo) have dates with two guys.  Giggi keeps hitting on girls, but his boyfriend jealously pulls him away.   They're probably not written as a gay couple, but the way they keep hanging on each other and going on rides together gives them a strong gay subtext ("Take me on the bumper cars!"). 

Carnival Girl talks Rosa into getting a tarot card reading.  Her question: "Will I ever find my twin sister, who disappeared when we were kids? No one knows what happened.  Dad even hired a private investigator; he's still paying, 20 years later."   Let me guess: it's Carnival Girl.   "She has a birthmark shaped like a butterfly on her back."  Carnival Girl says "She's alive, and very close to you," but doesn't reveal her tattoo.  Instead she gets upset and kicks Rosa out.

Scene 3:  Rosa tells the guys that her sister is close by.  They advise her to stop being so obsessed; fortune tellers say what you want to hear.  Uh-oh, she dropped her wallet in the tent (or had it lifted).  Giggi's boyfriend goes to retrieve it, and sees Carnival Girl's butterfly tattoo.  They flirt, and tell their back stories: Carnival Girl has lived all over the world, and Boyfriend is an aspiring photojornalist.  

Scene 4: 
Giggi and Rosa's Dad, a rich businessman, is wheeling and dealing in his palatial mansion. Wait -- he's rich, but hiring a private investigator is a financial burden?   Then he sits down to breakfast, and announces that he got Giggi an audition!  Mom criticizes Dad for coddling him: let him get his own auditions!   I guess when you lose a kid, you get overprotective of the others.  We get the names of the two boyfriends: Giggi has Simone (Alessio Lapice, left), and Rosa has Matteo.

Scene 5: Giggi and Simone waiting in line at the audition.  The girl behind them introduces herself: she's right off the boat from Sardinia ("Toto, I don't think we're in Sardinia anymore.")   Everyone gasps as superstar Sandro passes in the back seat of a convertible.  He stops to ask Sardinian Girl out to dinner!  There are 300 girls in that line.  What does she have that's special?  

Scene 6: 
 The carnival family is working on a haunted house exhibit.  Grandma complains that a skeletal Marilyn Monroe is in bad taste, since she just died (on August 4, 1962).  A sketchy-looking guy wearing an earring comes in; everyone is shocked, and Grandpa hugs him.  He's Grandpa's younger brother Ettore (Mario Sgueglia) visiting from Paris.  Younger brother?  He looks like a grandson.    

He found an old home movie of Carnival Girl and her mother, so they all watch and get nostalgic.  Carnival Girl sees the butterfly tattoo on her back, and wonders if she is Rosa's long-lost sister.  

Scene 7: Giggi gives a terrible audition, goofing around when it's a dramatic role.  But one of the directors offers him a job in television.  

Switch to Rosa and her boyfriend Matteo playing tennis.  She is still thinking about the "your sister is very close to you" line, and has made a list of prospects.  Giggi and Simone drop by with the good news about the audition.  Rosa and Matteo are sitting on opposite sides of the lunch table, but Giggi and Simone are pressed against each other.  Lovers or not, don't they need some elbow room?

Scene 8:  Superstar Sandro and Sardinian Girl arrive at the restaurant for their date.  The papparazzi pounce.  For some reason, Carnival Grandpa and Brother Ettore are there, complaining about superficiality and glitz.  "I'm so glad Nora grew up in the carnival, where people are good and honest."  I've never heard carnival workers described like that before.  But at least we finally get Carnival Girl's name.

Switch to the carnival haunted house, with Carnival Girl Nora playing Marie Antoinette.  She interrogates Grandma about her butterfly tattoo, but Grandma refuses any intel.  Next she confides in her bff Celeste: "I'm not who I thought I was." Groan.  Yet another best friend who is stuck in the friend zone with the Girl of His Dreams.  

Scene 9: A huge book-lined office.  Rosa asks her old college  professor if she can borrow his Henry Miller book.  Just buy your own copy.  They have tea, and discuss... "You and Dad are bidding for the same property. I want you to bid, so you will build a place for people from the countryside to stay when they come to Rome."  Like a youth hostel? Or a homeless shelter?  

Scene 10: 
Aspiring photojournalist Simone's dark room.  Rosa's boyfriend Matteo (Edoardo Coen, right)  says that he's going to ask her to marry him tonight.  "But...you haven't even kissed yet."  "Yes, but I..."

Simone looks shocked. "What is the problem?"  he asks.  Afraid that Matteo is going to come out?  Being gay would be quite a scandal in 1962.  Matteo just says "Um...her...I want to wait for the right time." 

Meanwhile, Younger Brother Ettore is introducing the carnival folk to his new friends; they all glare and snarl.  The friends want him to audition for the movies, where acrobats make a lot more than in carnivals.  They have other ideas, too.  Shady ideas.  Uh-oh.

Scene 11:  Carnival Girl Nora sneaks into Grandma's trailer (she used to be the Fabulous Miranda).  She doesn't find anything, and Grandma won't budge.

Scene 12
: Rich Dad's fabulous birthday party.  Giggi is hugging and holding his boyfriend Simone.  Dad gets drunk and starts acting silly.  

Matteo invites Rosa outside to make out, but loses his nerve.  She has had enough: "Either make a move, or get out.  Do you like me or not?"  He proposes marriage, but that's not enough.  "You have to kiss me!"  He hesitates.  "There's nothiing wrong with you, is there?"  She means "Are you gay?"   "Ok, ok, I'll...ugh, kissing girls is so disgusting....I'll do it." 

They kiss.  Simone and Giggi see them and congratulate Matteo on finally getting the job done.  They provide champagne.  To celebrate a first kiss?  Well, Matteo is in his twenties, so they are probably celebrating "proof" that he's straight.  

Scene 13:  As the party devolves into seances and smoking, Rich Dad goes out onto the patio, gazes at the two couples, and gets depressed over the disappearance of his daughter Adele.  "I couldn't save her."   His friend: "Why don't you tell your family that she is dead?"  "No; only you and I know the truth."  Wait -- if Adele is dead, then who is Carnival Girl?  And why won't he tell his family?

Scene 14: The next morning, Carnival Girl appears at the gate of the fabulous Villa Gabrielli.    She sneaks Ain.  The two couples from last night are asleep on lawn chairs (well, Rosa is reading her Henry Miller book).  The end.

Beefcake:  None.

Gay Characters: Maybe Matteo.  Maybe Ettore, for that matter.   I know Simone is going to hook up with Carnival Girl, but so help me, the actors playing Simone and Giggi are deliberately pushing a gay subtext.  

Heterosexism:  Not much.  No one really expresses any heterosexual interest yet.  I'm not even sure that Carnival Girl's Grandpa and Grandma are a married couple.

Plotlines: Five so far.  Carnival Girl as the long-lost daughter; Simone's photojournalism career; Giggi's acting career; Dad and the Professor fighting over property; Matteo not being interested in girls.

My Grade:  A if they keep the gay subtext going OR Matteo turns out to be canonically gay.  Otherwise B.

Update:  Giggi stays gay throughout: no interest in women after the first episode, lots of interest in men.  He dumps Simone to become "best friends" with Superstar Sandro, who can't keep his hands to himself.  There's even an "I was so drunk last night...." scene.

Apr 14, 2022

Outlaws: "Breakfast Club," But with Grown-Ups, Four Times as Long, and Twice as Boring


, on Amazon Prime: A disparate group of convicts is assigned to restore an old building for their community service, and become friends.  I'm sure it will be full of procedural mistakes, but a review called it a comedy masterpiece.  And  maybe one of the convicts is gay.

Scene 1: Teenage Rani and her Mum are shopping for clothes.  Mom criticizes her for not having a social life.  When Mom leaves, Rani shoplifts a sparkly evening gown, and is stopped by John Lomas (top photo) as a hunky security guard.  After a chase through the mall!  Convict #1.

Scene 2: 
Another household.  Grandpa is coming to visit, and Mum is trying to convince her kids, a teenage boy (Luke Bedward, left) and a little girl, that he's actually nice, not a lying, thieving, selfish old bastard at all.  Switch to Grandpa Frank (Christopher Walken) being released from prison. But he still has to stay under house arrest.  For forging checks?   Convict #2.

Scene 3:
Christian (Gamba Cole, left) and VIP John going through security.  VIP John complains and causes a ruckus. Rani from Scene 1 goes next (Christian flirts with her),  followed by the scary, glaring Jerzy, the dreadlocked Myrna, and Mr. Bean-style nebbish Gregory (Stephen Merchant).   I'm glad they didn't go through the back story of every single convict.  I don't have all day. 

Nebbish Greg tries to break the ice with a joke about his enormous penis.  It falls flat.  Then the supervisor, Diane, explains their Community Payback assignment: turning an abandoned warehouse into a community center.

Scene 5
: They arrive at the warehouse (some nice location shots) and begin cleanup.  VIP John (Darren Boyd), a right-wing nutjob, bonds with the far-far-left Myrna.  Christian flirts with Rani again.  Finally the last of the convicts arrives, tailed by reporters and her chauffeur: the Rich and Famous Gabby.  Grandpa Frank falls over his tongue in horniness.  

Scene 6: Supervisor Diane bullies Rani into becoming a spy, reporting on the others' activities. 

Scene 7: Flashback to Rani constantly shoplifting, filling a dumpster with her contraband.  She's definitely got a problem.  At the hearing, scary, leering Jerzy from  Scene 3 (Gyuri Sarossy), apparently her Dad, tells her: "If you get so much as a parking ticket again, you are dead to us. There is no place for you in this family."  

Scene 8:
More bickering.  VIP John complains that he can't use racist slurs anymore (reminds me of my readers who gripe about not being permitted their beloved homophobic slurs).  Suddenly the plot moves forward: some bad guys led by James Nelson Joyce (left) watch Christian.  They decide that it's too risky to do it now.  A tease?  I thought the plot would move forward.  Remember the first rule of writing fiction: something has to happen.

VIP John and Christian fight over a marijuana joint, and get demerits.  And Supervisor Diane gets in trouble with her supervisor, Mr. Wilder.

Scene 9: Work day is over.  Scary, leering Jerzy tells Rani how much he hates her.  Grandpa Frank's daughter tells him how much she hates him.  VIP John's wife and kids tell him how much they love him.  Far-Far-Left Myra puts flowers on a man's grave (darn, I thought she was a lesbian).  Christian retrieves his sister from the gang-bangers she hangs out with.  The end.  

Actually, we are only halfway through the 60-minute episode, but I'm tired of waiting for a plot.

Beefcake:  None.  

Story: None.

Gay Characters:  None.  John: wife and kids.  Grandpa Frank: Hetero-horny.  Greg: too nerdish.  Christian: in love with Rani.  Myrna: Has a dead boyfriend.

Heterosexism: A lot of hetero-horny references.  The romance between Christian and Rani will drive the plot, if there happens to be one.

Comedy: This was advertised as a comedy, but it's actually a drama.  Or maybe it's understated British humor that I didn't get.

Stephen Merchant:
One review, which also called it a hilarious comedy, said that the drawing points were Christopher Walken and Stephen Merchant, whom I never heard of.  So I looked him up: he's heterosexual.  Here's his body and bulge, in a scene with a naked women.  There's also a naked lady portrait on the wall.

Groan.  It's heteronormativity all the way down.

Apr 11, 2022

"Wafku" or "Wakfu" or Something: Rampant Heterosexism and Sexism in a Beefcake-Heavy Elf World


The trailer to the French series Wafku displayed animation resembling Elfquest, with muscular magical beings running around with swords. And no heterosexual romance.  So I'll give it a try.

Scene 1:  A Medieval village.  Human and blue, horned beings interacting.  Males with muscles, females with boobs.  Suddenly the Dark Lord teleports in, pushing...a baby carriage?  Hostile stares, whispers of "Darn Ogrest!"  He pushes the carriage across a bridge, dispells two bandits, and is stopped by a being whose head is hidden under a mushroom hat.

Mushroom Hat, who plans to eat all the Wafku, has just discovered an incredibly powerful source of Wafku (is it a countable noun, like "the gems", or a non-countable noun, like "water"  Make up your mind!).  

He wants to know what's in the baby carriage -- maybe the powerful source of wafku/the wafku?  The Dark Lord, Grougaloragran (Sauron was taken?), refuses to say.  They fight with energy blasts and time-stopping powers. Then the Dark Lord turns into a dragon and flies away.

Scene 2: 
The Medieval village.  Two funny-looking guards have arrested the hunky Jason for stealing an api.  He tries to talk his way out of the charge, but they respond with an old proverb: "He who steals an egg will soon steal a Gobball."  (In other words, in for a penny, in for a pound.)    Then his daughter starts crying, so they release him.  Darn, I thought he hired the girl to tug at the guards' heartstrings.  And I thought he would be a regular.  Nope.

The funny-looking guard, Alibert, is tired of arresting men who have kids, so he's going to quit.  The old one wishes him good luck and leaves.  The Dark Lord Grouga-something, watching from the bushes, magicks an egg from a nest into a sentient bird.  Then he leaves the bird, a magic feather, and a baby Elf for Alibert to find.  

Scene 3:  The baby Elf is now 12-year old Yugo, who has very long hair hidden under a blue animal cap. Dad Alibert sends him to Jason's house for some bread.  Great, the hunk will be back!

Scene 4:  Ruel, the elderly guard from Scene 2, is wandering the countryside, scamming people. Two teenage beings, male and female, in parkas, riding dinosaurs, ask the way to Emerkal.  He offers to guide them, for an extravagant fee; they refuse.  "Yet more tight-fisted country-bumpkin tourists!" he muses.

Scene 5:  No, the hunk isn't back.  We skip over the scene of Yugo getting bread from Jason, and go directly to Dad Alibert cooking dinner.  Yugo's friends, who look like the Lost Boys of Pe ter Pan, invite him to go out and play, but he refuses; he has to cook.

Alibert apparently runs an inn; he is serving drinks to a male-female couple, when Ruel the Scammer bursts in.  Alibert is delighted to see him (they used to work together, remember?).  They discuss their new careers.  Ruel wants to know how Alibert got a kid.  Who's the mother?  Ever hear of adoption?  

Yugo is cooking.  When he knocks some condiments off a shelf, he instinctively magicks them through a portal so they won't make a mess.  Gulp -- he didn't know that he had magic powers!

Scene 6:  An outhouse.  A guy is reading a girlie magazine and preparing to...you know (Isn't this a kids' show?).  Suddenly he hears village houses being bombed, and thinks it's someone farting outside.

The bomber, a gray Orc-like being with a third eye, enters the inn.  He heads for the trophy case -- "Pretty!" -- but the third eye tells him to stick to the agenda and "Crush! Kill! Destroy!"   Ruel tells us that he's possessed by an evil spirit, and tries to fight him off.  He is wallopped.  Then Yugo uses his newfound powers to annihilate the Orc, which reverts back to a skinny red-headed teenage human.  "I have something very important to tell you!" he says before passing out.

Alibert tells Yugo that when he found him, there was a message in the baby carriage: He is the Chosen One (of course; otherwise be lousy story).  When his powers awaken, he must go on a quest to find his "real family" and save the world.  Um..you mean biological family?  Adopted parents are "real" parents.

Closing Credits:  The skinny red-headed teenage human introduces himself as Sir Percedal of Sadlygrove.  His message: there are two kinds of knights in the world, the posers and the ones who can actually fight the baddies and Win the Princess. Boo!  Sexist jerk!

Beefcake:  Some.  But we never see hunky Jason again.

Heterosexism: Alibert acts like a gay dad, but Ruel teases him about the girl who "bandaged his wounds that time."  

In later episodes, Yugo and Sir Percedal team up.  Both fall in love with ladies.   

Sexism: The Ugly Princesss appear in one episode.  They kept refusing suitors, so the God Osamodes punished them by making them ugly; the only way to break the curse is to be kissed by a man.  Ugh! Heterosexist and sexist!

Gay Characters: 
 Youtube has a "Gay Scene" from Episode 11, in which during a sports match, one guy tries to kiss another, then conjures a homophobic image of a drag queen.  But I can't find it in Episode 11 of the Wakfu series.  It must be from something else.

Will I Keep Watching:  Heck, no.

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