Nov 26, 2022

The The Music Man: Trouble in River City

The Music Man (1962) was a big hit in Rock Island, but not because the first number was entitled "Rock Island" (the town is not mentioned).  

Because it was set in River City, probably Davenport, our rival across the Mississippi, portrayed in small-town stereotypic fashion as tiny, close-knit, backwards, and absurdly prudish.

So we loved it.

Besides, there were some gay subtexts going on.

Into River City comes con-artist Harold Hill, played by Robert Preston, who is most famous today for the gay-positive Victor/Victoria (1982).  He intends to con the townsfolk by pretending to start a boys' band, and then absconding with the money he's collected for the band instruments and uniforms.

He incites the townsfolk's interest in the band by claiming that it will be a remedy against the pernicious influence of pool halls and other "sinful" activities, like "libertine men" (a backhanded reference to gay people), penny dreadfuls, ragtime music, and smoking.

Everything goes fine, until Hill's former partner, Marcellus, who is now "legit," shows up.  They have an unspecified previous history; perhaps they were romantic partners.  At any rate, Marcellus doesn't express any heterosexual interest, except for the novelty song "Shipoopi."


The prim, prissy Marian the Librarian is also a problem, but Hill brings her over to his side by pretending to romance her.  They, of course, fall in love.  When the con is revealed, Marian argues that Harold Hill accomplished what he promised: he brought the town together.

Oh, he also cured her little brother Winthrop of his speech impediment, surely with some gay symbolism along the lines of "don't be afraid to be who you are."



Big city types have been transforming bigoted, depressing small towns for a generation of movies -- and even curing speech impediments.  There's a reflection in To Wong Foo (1995), with three drag queens bursting into a small town to solve problems like fairy godmothers.

The top photo is of Josh Walden, but not in The Music Man. .  You're not going to see a lot of beefcake in the men decked out in early 20th century costumes, unless you drop in on a rehearsal.

Huck and Jim on the Raft

I don't remember a time when I didn't know Huckleberry Finn.  He was everywhere in my childhood: in a tv series starring Michael Shea, in movies starring Eddie Hodges, Mickey Rooney, Jeff EastElijah Wood, Anthony Michael Hall, and Brad Renfro, in the musical Big River (left).








One Saturday afternoon in the mid-1970s, I saw a weird prepubscent version that reminded me of  Journey to the Beginning of Time . Later I discovered that it was a Russian adaption called Hopelessly Lost (1972).









By the time I was 10 or 11, I began accumulating editions of the novel at garage sales and library book sales, mostly those with cover art emphasizing physicality, broad shoulders and muscular arms gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight. 

I already imagined Huck and Jim escaping from their bondage like Will fleeing the Tripods, and now -- in an eternal now -- rafting slowly, lazily down the Mississippi, free from the pressures of school and "after school sports" and "someday you'll find a girl." The raft became their good place, where Huck and Jim could gaze into each other's eyes, hug, kiss, alone with each other forever. 

But the novel wasn't really about that.  Huck doesn't have any romantic interest in Jim -- he thinks of the escaped slave as a child who needs protection.

He does spend a lot of time evaluating masculine beauty: "Tall, beautiful men with very broad shoulders and brown faces";"men just in their drawers and undershirts, and resting their hands on their thighs easy and comfortable...I never seen anything so lovely."

And he tries to find a lasting romance,  twice.

First he meets and buddy-bonds with Buck, a boy involved in a Hatfield-McCoy feud. They sleep together and smile at each other, and Huck is adopted into his family.  But then he is killed in a feud, and Huck cries and moves on.

Then Tom Sawyer, his old friend from Hannibal. Huck invites Tom to  "come here and feel me."  He does, and "he was that glad to see me again he didn't know what to do."




But when Huck discovers that Tom's Aunt Sally intends to adopt him, he rebels, and decides to "light out for the Territory." It is unclear why  he accepts adoption by Buck's family but not by Tom's. Maybe because he finds Tom immature and annoying.  Or maybe because Aunt Sally wants to "sivilize" him, like Daisy Duck civilizes Donald and Poil civilizes Spooky,  teaching him poetry and etiquette and how to open a checking account.  Love, even homoromantic love, domesticates a man, ends his story with "and they lived happily ever after," and Huck's story must continue.  Or not a story, an image, an eternal now to hang onto when we are overwhelmed by the problems and constraints of life.

We must not remember anything that came before or after, just Huck and Jim, muscular bodies glistening in the sunlight,  as they raft lazily down the river.

Nov 25, 2022

Fall 1982: Confessions of a Mask

When I started grad school in Bloomington, Indiana in 1982, I didn't have much trouble finding gay books.  There was no gay section at the campus bookstore or the White Rabbit bookstore downtown, but you could just scan the fiction shelves for titles that were dark and sinister, about secrets and lies and despair: The Flowers of Evil, A Thirsty Evil, The Thief's Journal, The Color of Darkness, The Immoralist, City of Night, The Young and Evil.

So when I saw Yukio Mishima's Confessions of a Mask (1949) on the shelf, I knew that it was gay-themed.

It's about Kochan, a Japanese schoolboy in the 1930s who is tormented by same-sex desire.

He gazes lustfully at a night-soil carrier (a man whose job it is to carry human excrement) and at pictures of dead soldiers, knights, and Christian martyrs, especially St. Sebastian who was pierced by arrows (traditionally a subject of gay painters; Franz Kafka also posed).  He fantasizes about killing beautiful young men, enjoying the image of their beautiful faces bruised and bloodied, their muscular bodies seeped in blood.  Homoerotic desire is inextricably linked to the desire for filth, and to the desire to destroy.







Through his childhood and adolescence, Kochan never falters in his belief that he is wrong, deviant, evil, a monster masquerading as human.  He watches his schoolmates, especially a muscular boy named Omi who writes his name in urine on the snow.

He tries to suppress his urges for excrement, men, and death, even going as far as to have sex with a woman, but he realizes that he can never truly love anyone.  His desires are not only deviant but impossible; male beauty can only appear amid excrement;  a man cannot love a man without killing him.

Wow.

A rather depressing view of my future, in spite of the organizations listed in the Gayellow Pages







Mishima was gay himself, and led a tortured life, obsessed with bodybuilders and death. He felt humiliated by the Japanese defeat in World War II, and in 1970 attempted to incite a coup d'etat to restore the power of the emperor.  When that didn't work, he committed ritual suicide.

See also: The Flowers of Evil; and Gay Chinese Literature


Jules Verne: The Disney Version

During the 1960s, every boy I knew loved Jules Verne -- journeys to distant corners of the world or to its center, lost civilizations, monsters, volcanoes, maelstroms, and nick-of-time escapes, all in an environment so masculine you could practically taste the homoerotic tension.

I read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From the Earth to the Moon, Mysterious Island, and A Journey to the Center of the Earth in elementary school, in abridged Scholastic Book Club editions.  In high school, I read the originals, and collected some of the Ace paperbacks of Verne's lesser-known works: Michael StrogoffThe Begum's Fortune, The Carpathian Castle, Master of the World, The Village in the Tree-Tops.  

During the 1950s and early 1960s, "Disney" versions of these Verne classics appeared, with two important changes:
1. To draw the all-important Boomer audience, a teenager.
2. To ensure a Hollywood fade-out-kiss, heterosexual obsessions were added.

In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the French scientist Pierre Aronnax, his assistant Conseil, and his Canadian friend Ned Land are captured by Captain Nemo, who holds them prisoner in his electronic submarine.  Nemo became an outcast after his wife died, but no other women are mentioned or longed for.

In the 1954 movie (the only one actually from Disney), Ned (Kirk Douglas, not a teenager) sings about "the girls I've loved on nights like this," whose kisses make him "bubble up like molten lava."



In A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Professor Lindenbrock, his nephew Axel, and their Icelandic guide Hans journey alone, although Axel does have a girlfriend waiting back home.  In the 1959 Disney version (actually from 20th Century Fox), the Professor meets a lady, and the girlfriend gets a more substantial role.  But at least there are substantial shirtless shots of teen idol Pat Boone as Alec (Axel).  And in the last scene he's completely nude except for a sheep.



In The Mysterious Island , five Civil War POWs escape in a hot-air balloon and end up on the mysterious island, where they fight giant bees and pirates, encounter Captain Nemo (Omar Sharif), and flee a volcano eruption. In the 1961 Disney version (actually from Columbia), there are women on the island for the men to fall in love with.

But at least they are shirtless or semi-nude most of the time, especially Herbert Brown (Michael Callan).  The scene where he and the girl hide from a giant bee in a honeycomb is still scary today.



In Five Weeks in a Balloon, three men explore Africa in a hot air balloon. Again, no women are mentioned or longed for.

The 1962 Disney version (actually from 20th Century Fox) changes the cast, adding pilot Jacques (teen idol Fabian Forte) and newspaper report O'Shay (Red Buttons).  Each falls in love with a woman en route; the movie ends with two couples enthusiastically kissing. And there's no beefcake (although Fabian, right, often appeared shirtless and nude in other productions).

This was also the era of the Disney Adventure Boys -- like Tommy Kirk, James MacArthur, and Kurt Russell -- hired to display Cold War masculinity, which meant two things: muscular physiques and heterosexual obsession.

Nov 23, 2022

"John from Cincinnati", Part 2: Surfing Has Nothing to Do With It

Having bing watched all 8 episodes of John in Cincinnati in 2 days, I can report the following:

1. "Three generations of surfing champions find their lives turned upside down by a mysterous visitor."  Wrong!  The surfing is completely irrelevant.  They might as well have been family of taxidermists.

2. I thought that Butchie the Black Sheep Son and John from Cincinnati were a romantic couple because Butchie sees him and immediately wants to be part of his life forever.  But it's more like a religious conversion.  After their life-changing day together, Butchie gets off drugs and reconciles with his father and son, and John moves on to help someone one else (but of course they stay friends forever).

He performs some miracles, like curing the teenage Shaun's broken neck, but mostly he hangs out with you, smiling and repeating back what you have said, tinging it with cryptic but life-changing significance:

"Get back in the game"
"What do you want?"
"See God"

 Someone suggests that "When you repeat my words, I can hear the voice of your Father." 

Get it?  Well, he said he was coming back.

Among the publicans and sinners who get transformed through John smiling at them: 

Ramon (Luis Guzman), who runs the fleabag motel, starts to cook

Dickstein (Willie Garson), the sleazy corporate lawyer, quits his job, dumps his fiance, and joins the motel gang.  Ramon and Dickstein remain a gay subtext couple.

Kai (Keala Kennelly) starts to write again

Drug dealer Steady Freddie (Dayton Callie, right) cleans up , moves into the hotel and helps with the renovation.

His sidekick Polacka (Paul Ben Victor) moves in with him.  Gay-subtext couple.

Barry Cunningham (Matt Winston), the teddy-bear lugging gay guy who is tormented by the physical and sexual assault in his past, joins the motel gang.




Dr. Smith (Garret Dillahunt), a doctor who saw grandson Shaun cured of a broken neck, joins the motel gang and starts dating Barry.  Canonical gay couple.

Beefcake: An occasional shirt off.  Most of the actors are unattractive, anyway.

Heterosexual romance; Almost none. Butchie reconciles with the estranged mother of his son, estranged Grandma and Grandpa Surfers reconcile.  Some minor kissing, no sex. Grandson Shaun is 14,but displays no interest in girls.

Gay characters/subtexts:  All over the place.

My grade: A-.

See also: John from Cincinnati: Surfing Great Gets a New Boyfriend

Grant Wood: More Than Pitchforks and Cornfields

When I was growing up in Rock Island, we had a lot of local celebrities.  Grant Wood wasn't one of them, even though he was the most famous American artist before Andy Warhol, and he was local, from Anamosa, Iowa, just north of the Quad Cities. He spent his life in the area, overseeing Stone City Art Colony nearby, and teaching at the University of Iowa, about 45 minutes away.




We ignored Grant Wood because of American Gothic, the second most famous painting of all time, and the most parodied.

It gave the Midwest a bad name.  The goggle-eyed farmer with pitchfork looks like he's about to go storming off to protest civil rights, or gay rights, or violence in comic books.  The weepy woman, her beauty faded by the boredom and isolation of farm life, dreams of escape.

Even today, if I admit to being from the Midwest (I usually don't), I get "How awful it must have been for you!  Nothing to do but watch the corn grow and fight all those redneck bigots!"
Um...no.  We had more to do than watch the corn grow: we had symphonies, live musicals, operas, ballets, art galleries, and museums. And about those bigots:  Iowa had the first class in Gay Studies in the world, and was one of the first states to get gay marriage.

So I didn't know much about Grant Wood until I started investigating John Bloom, who sculpted the statue of a naked man that I got for Christmas in junior high.


In 1926, the aspiring artist won a prize for an oil painting, "The Burial," at the Iowa State Fair.  The judge, celebrity painter Grant Wood, invited him to join his new Stone City Art Colony.  For the next two years, they lived together, in a converted ice wagon (rather a small space!). Together they worked on murals for libraries and post offices all over the state.

In 1934, when Grant went to the University of Iowa, he took John with him.

In 1935, Grant married Sara Sherman Maxon (the marriage ended in divorce three years later).  John moved to Davenport, where he married Isabel Bloom in 1938.

Sounded a lot like a spurned lover.

Sure enough.  A new biography, Grant Wood: A Life, by R. Tripp Evans, reveals that Grant was gay.  When he got to the University of Iowa, some faculty members in the Art Department suspected, and they already looked down upon Grant for rejecting the status quo of European Impressionism -- ergo his screen marriage and giving John Bloom the boot.

After his divorce in 1938, Grant had a series of handsome male "roommates."  This riled the homophobic faculty so much that, superstar or not, they wanted him out.  They waited the fall of 1941, when he was on sabbatical, and invited a writer from Time magazine to investigate "sexual improprieties."  The University President managed to put a kibosh on the story and quickly moved Wood into a new division.  However, he didn't get a chance to return to the faculty that loathed him.  He died of pancreatic cancer in February 1942.

But if you look carefully at his work, you can see the glimmers of homoerotic desire.

And even that stupid American Gothic isn't heterosexist.  Everybody thinks the woman is the farmer's wife, but she's his daughter.

"John from Cincinnati": Former Surfing Great Gets a New Boyfriend

"In the coastal town of Imperial Beach, California live the Yosts: three generations of surfing royalty with a family curse..until a stranger arrives."

Presumably the title, John from Cincinnati, refers to th stranger.  Sounds like rather an overstuffed plot, and the cover blurg shows only a frizzy-haired woman, but maybe there will be some hot surfers.

Opening Credits:  Establishing montage of hot surfers, a naked lady at the beach, and the town of Imperial Beach, which is right on the Mexican border.

Scene 1: Luke Perry and his Brother (Austin Nichols, left) complain about illegal immigrants acting like "it's just another day on the beach."  Mitch Yost (Bruce Greenwood) is surfing; they ask him to "get back in the game," but he refuses. Luke stays behind and apologizes.   They discuss the problem with Butchie,who "fucked up" and now has no sponsor, and his grandson "breaking his cherry" at Huntington this afternoon.

Is it possible to get lost after the first three minutes?

Meanwhile, Frizzy Haired Woman is watching her kids or grandkids surf.

Scene 2: Ramon has sold his hotel to someone who is "not nice," so Butchie can't stay there for free anymore.  The Society of Surfing Lawyers has just settled his claim for $2300, so he should be able to pay the back rent.

Society of Surfing Lawyers?

Scene 3:  Brother gets accosted by a guy in military gear, whom he owes money.

Scene 4: Butchie (Brian Van Holt, left) gets a visit from Shaunie (Greyson Fletcher), a long-haired kid who is breaking his cherry later.

Scene 5: Frizzy-Haired Woman (Cissy) tells Mitch that she sent a demo tape of Shaunie  (the grandson) to all potential sponsors, including the one who got Butchie into a drug-addled "shitbird."  They argue.

Shaunie and Kai (his mother?) come in.  They argue some more.

Cissy tells Shaunie (enough with the ie-endings!) to let Bill drive him to the competition,but don't tell him about the liability waver until they are at the registration table. This is very important!

What about the family curse?  Something supernatural -- i.e., interesting -- should be happening any moment now.

Scene 6:  Military Guy and Brother have a cryptic conversation about Mitch, Butchie, and health insurance (I'm not kidding).

Scene 7: Weird recluse Bill (Ed O'Neill, the Dad from Modern Family) agrees to take Shaunie to the competititon. But don't tell Grandpa Mitch!  This is very important!

Scene 8: Chubby Ramon (Luis Guzman) and the Surfing Lawyer (Willie Garson) are packing up stuff and flirting with each other.

Meanwhile Butchie the Drughead is threatening someone over the telephone; if they don't make him right, Ice Cream Man goes over a cliff.

Brother  (name: John: hey, he's the titular character!) arrives and gives Butchie his $2,300.  But the Ice Cream Man doesn't know him, so Butchie gets very upset.  I'm not sure, but I think Brother John tricked his way into Butchie's apartment in order to represent him or have sex with him.  Either way, he'll have to pay.

 They get very close very often. I keep waiting for them to kiss.  They don't, but this is getting interesting.

Scene 9: Frizzy-Haired Cissy and Grandpa Mitch argue,then have sex (we only see them in bed afterwards).

Scene 10: Butchie and John show up at the surf shop where Kai the Ex-Wife  works, to buy a full outfit.

Kai asks Butchie about his new boyfriend (where did you dig him up?) and tells him about Shaunie's competition (don't tell Grandpa Mitch!  This is very important!).

Butchie is furious with Kai for letting Shaunie compete.  He gropes John (I'm not kidding) and holds his hand. They decide to go beat up his Dad (Mitch).

Scene 11: Frizzy-Haired Cissy at Wal-Mart. Gary the Stock Boy flirts with her..  They argue (Jeez, does she argue with everybody?)  It's obvious that she wants some of him.  But he calls the police on her (what for?)

Scene 12: Bill (Al from Married...with Children) is driving Shaunie to the competition.  He yells at other cars: "Up your nose with a rubber hose!", which was the catchphrase of Barbarino on Welcome Back Kotter.  They get a flat tire.  Shaunie sees Frizzy-Haired Cissy going past in the police car, and says "The pigs got Grandma."

Pigs?  What is this, 1968?

Scene 13: Having just had "a lei," Ramon and Surfing Lawyer emerge from their apartment to meet the hotel's new owner, Mr. Cunningham (Matt Winston),who talk like a tough from Breaking Bad.   He's newly wealthy, and he intends to level the hotel because he had a bad experience there a a kid.

Butchie and John arrive.and discuss each other's penises.  Eventually Mitch, Bill, and Shaunie all show up.

Mr. Cunningham fires shots and addresses Mitch in Breaking Bad speak: "Dos your grotesque spawn still wield the old broom handle, Mitch?  Brain the occasional 12-year old shell collector?"   Apparently Butchie beat up Mr.Cunningham when they were both in 6th grade.

Bill disarms him.

John plays nice with Shaunie (have to win over the boyfriend's son, right?)

Scene 14: The gang goes down to the police station to bail out Frizzy-Haired Cissy.  Surfing Lawyer tells Mitch that he had a crush on him at age 12.  Bill asks him to not let the Fruit get behind the wheel of a car (I don't know who he means).

Mitch and his son Butchie the Druggie have a heart-to-heart.  During which Mitch rises 2 inches into the air!  What?

Scene 15:  Surfing Lawyer invites Mr. Cunningham to go surfing (a date?  But I thought he was dating Ramon?). 

Scene 16:  The gang goes surfing.  John admits that he's never been on a board before; he lied about his surfing skill to get into Butchie's pants. But Butchie is fine with it ("we'll be friends forever, no matter what").  After knowing each other for a day? Butchie moves fast!

The three of them (including Shaunie) go in together.  Then John turns out to be an excellent surfer. Why lie about something like that? To see if Butchie wants a surf buddy or a relationship?

Cissy comments that Butchie often dates "doofuses."

Bill is suspicious of John's intentions.  He decides to get him checked out, make sure there is nothing fishy going on, just an ordinary romantic relationship.


Beefcake:  They all surf in body suits.  Mitch takes his shirt off.

Other Interesting Scenery:  No.

Gay Characters:  Butchie-John, Ramon-Surfing Lawyer, and Mr. Cunningham are all gay, or have strong gay subtexts.  (The reviews only mention the crazy, teddy bear-lugging Mr. Cunningham).

Heterosexism:  None.  Mitch and Cissy have sex, but off camera. No other male-female romantic interaction.

Will I Continue to Watch?  Only long enough to find out whether the gay relationships are subtext or text.

Nov 22, 2022

10 Reasons Why Thanksgiving is the Gayest Holiday

If you're not from the U.S. you might not be familiar with Thanksgiving, a holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November (it's also celebrated on different dates in Canada, Liberia, and Grenada).

It's my favorite holiday.  And the gayest:

1. It's in November, so it's cold outside, and dark at night like it's supposed to be.  No one is forcing you to go out and "enjoy the outdoors."

2. There are no tv commercials depicting heterosexual couples giving each other gifts or watching in rapt joy as their children unwrap gifts.

3. There's no religious significance, so you won't feel guilty if you accidentally say "Happy Thanksgiving!" to someone who is Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, or atheist.  Although sometimes vegans will lecture you.


4. Gay men spend many extra hours at the gym in anticipation of over-indulging on Thanksgiving.  As a result, at Thanksgiving they're more buffed than at any other time of the year.

5. Everyone gets to demonstrate their culinary skill.

6. You only get Thursday and maybe Friday off work, so there's no time to take a plane ride 2000 miles to the place you grew up.  Thus, "home" is no longer in the past, it's the place you are today, and "family" is what you make of it.

This Advocate cover shows Howard Cruse's character Wendel being served Thanksgiving dinner in bed.  But why is the kid wearing a mask?  Is he the famous Thanksgiving character, Zorro?

7. If you do go home to visit extended family, Thanksgiving dinner is the traditional time for making Big Announcements, like "Guess what?  I'm gay."

8. Most of the bars, clubs, and bathhouses have special Thanksgiving Day events, so you don't have to waste all Thanksgiving afternoon watching football.





9. The origin story, about 17th century Pilgrims and Indians coming together to share a meal, is an imperialist myth, masking a history of conquest and genocide.  But it does lend itself to some interesting ideas for homoerotic revisions (picture from Crow821 on deviantart.com).

10. Gay people have a lot to be thankful for.  They grew up in a culture where they told, over and over, that "discovering the opposite sex" was inevitable and universal, that no gay people existed except for grotesque monsters.  And they survived.


Nov 21, 2022

"Dark": Missing Boys, Dead Dads, a Mysterious Cave, and Five Horny Teenagers

 


For reasons I don't recall, I avoided Dark, the paranormal horror series on Netflix.  But it has the same producer as 1899, which I am enjoying, and a review stated that there are "four queer characters," so I thought I'd give the first episode a try.

 Prologue: Albert Einstein tells us that "the distinction between past, present, and future" is an illusion.  While the narrator elaborates, we see a scary bunker in the woods, full of emergency supplies and photographs of people "yesterday, today, and tomorrow." 

Scene 1: 21 June, 2019. A rustic house. Dour-looking middle aged man hangs himself in his workshop, leaving a letter next to a photo of his wife and kids: "Do not open before 4 November 2019, 10:13 pm."  Very specific.  A teenage boy awakens from a nightmare, and takes a prescription pill. Couild this be the son, or the teenage version of the dour-looking man?

Cut to: 4 November 2019: Suicide note opening day.  The teenage boy (top photo) comes downstairs, checks the refrigerator, and yells: "Mom, the power's out again!"  But she's busy having sex with a naked man named Ulrich (very muscular back and butt shot).  They disentangle, discuss the meeting tonight, kiss a billion times -- weird kisses, like they're attacking each other's faces.  He leaves -- through the window!  

Scene 2: The teenage boy biking through a scary woods.  He stops at a smoke-bellowing factory so we can see a poster for a missing boy, Erik Obendorf, about his age.  We zero in on his face, so he must be important.   


Meanwhile, Ulrich of the Muscular Butt (Oliver Masucci) jogs through the scary woods toward some dark, sinister caves.  In this world, it's scary all the way down. 

Scene 3: The teenage boy walking in the woods with a suit-clad man, who compliments him on doing well in group therapy.  Must be his psychiatrist.  "I still see him."."  "Well, keep taking your meds."  "I want to know why he hanged himself." 

Meanwhile, Ulrich jogs home, where his wife is chastising their preteen son Mikkel for dressing like a skeleton when it's not Halloween.  Another teenage boy, Magnus, thinks that Mikkel stole his black hoodie, and hits him in the head a dozen or so times.  The teenage daughter is a social activist.  Ulrich kisses them all on the top of the head and explains that he took so long because there was a line at the grocery story (and he stopped to have sex).

By the way, preteen Mikkel is an aspiring magician.  I assume that this will be important later.

Scene 4: Having finished his 5:00 am therapy appointment, the teenage boy goes to school, where everyone stares and points in slow motion.  His friend (Paul Lux) hits him in the head to welcome him back.  I guess that's a display of affection in Germany?  "Don't worry, I told everyone that you were on a study tour of France, not that...you know."  

Meanwhile, Ulrich goes to work at the police station, where the missing boy's parents are yelling: "You don't do anything!  Find our son!"  A female police officer reminds them that they've scoured the woods and conducted 172 interviews.  Whoa, Mom spits on her!  In the U.S. that's aggravated assault!  Ulrich handles the situation much better; the female cop roils with envy. 

Scene 5:  Magnus, Ulrich's teenage son (who lost his black hoodie), is behind the school, smoking pot, when a girl approaches. They flirt briefly. Plot dump: his mom is the school principal. 

Meanwhile, teenage boy and his friend go to a start-of-school assembly.  A girl approaches.  The teenage boy grins, expecting a flirtation, but she kisses his friend!  When are they going to give these people names?   Stares all around.  I deduce that she was previously his girlfriend, but switched during his absence.

The teenage boy continues to stare in jealous rage while the assembly starts: it's about Erik, the missing boy. 

Scene 6: Ulrich and the female cop discussing case details that they certainly already know: Erik vanished after practice one day, leaving his money and cell phone behind.  Ulrich thinks that he ran away, because the small town is boring.  The female cop mentions his brother, and Ulrich rages: "He had nothing to do with this!'  Plus Ulrich is dissatisfied with his life: it's "the exact opposite" of what he wanted.  Big deal.  I wanted to teach Gay Studies.

Scene 7: At the Winden Forest Hotel, very elegant for a small town, desk clerk Regina is panicking.  She calms down enough to answer the phone. Unfortunately, it's a bill collector; she's behind on her loan payments.  She pleads: "No one wants to come her on vacation because of the boy's disappearance."  She screams; she curses; she gets hanged up on.


Scene 8:
 Magnus of the black hoodie (Moritz Jahn) in class, learning about black holes (which will be important later, I assume), and complaining about the girl who flirted with him earlier.  His friend notes that, if Erik is dead, all of his drugs must still be in the cave.  They could haul out a big score!

Scene 9: A working-class apartment complex.  Ulrich visits his nearly-catatonic mother, who complains that she saw something in the woods: "a dark figure with a gigantic head. Also I found a Raiders candy bar wrapper.  Mads loved those."  Is Mads the vanished brother?  We see a photo of the two brothers as kids in 1986.  

"Everything is repeating," Mom concludes.  "Erik is your brother all over again."

Switch to a rest home, where an elderly man with a weird ear starts yelling "It's going to happen again."  Must be Ulrich's dad.

Switch to a flashback: On TV, a music video of "You Spin Me Around (Like a Record)," 1985.  Cute animal wall paper, a panda in a rocking chair, milk and cookies on a tray, and a redheaded boy covering his ears, trying not to listen.  

Scene 10: After school, Magnus, the friend, the girlfriend, and the teenage boy decide to investigate the drug cave.  I've had enough of this refusal to say characters' names.  I'm checking the IMDB: the teenage boy with the dead dad is Jonas, and his friend is Bartosz.  

Meanwhile, Ulrich calls Jonas' mom about the meeting tonight. She doesn't want to go: everyone will be staring and pointing and gossiping about her husband's suicide.  "Ok, then, I'll be at a training in Frankfurt this weekend.  Why don't you come, and we can have sex?"

And at Ulrich's house, the wife notices a long black hair on his sweatsuit. And it smells like lady's perfume!  Obviously Ulrich is a drag queen.

Scene 11: Jonas' Mom is massaging an old guy at the nuclear plant.  He complains that he's been working there for 33 years, and now it's closing.  She goes on to the meeting, which is about the missing boy.  I don't think have town meetings about missing kids in the U.S.  It quickly devolves into a snitting-and-name-calling match.  The old guy bursts in and yells "It's going to happen again!"

Jonas' Mom goes outside to smoke a cigarette.  Ulrich follows.  They kiss oddly a billion times.

Scene 12: The four teenagers head for the cave, discussing Erik's disappearance and the nature of evil.  Magnus brings his preteen brother, Mikkel (the aspiring magician), because his sister couldn't babysit.  

At 10:13 pm,  an old lady opens Dad's suicide letter.  Wait -- is that Ulrich's Mom?  Why would she have the letter, and not the dead guy's wife?  She is shocked by what she reads.

The teenagers, joined by the girl that Magnus flirted with earlier, reach the cave, hear a mysterious wailing from inside, and run away.  Jonas grabs Mikkel's hand, but he trips and falls and lets go for a moment, and the boy vanishes!  Plus he sees his Dad, all bloody! 

Scene 13: The parents and police arrive to hug their kids and search for Mikkel.  Ulrich, his Dad, runs into the cave.

In the morning, the teenagers are home, still being hugged by their parents, except Magnus is at the police station.  The police scour the area with metal detectors, and come across a child's body, covered by leaves.  Ulrich rushes to the site; it's not Mikkel!  It's a boy with a 1986-era walkman.


Back to the room with the cute animal wallpaper and the 1986-era music videos playing on the tv.  The first missing boy, Erik (Paul Radom), is strapped to a chair, whimpering as a weird device is clamped to his head.  The end.

Beefcake: Just Ulrich's back and butt.

Heterosexism:  Ulrich's affair with Jonas' Mom.  Jonas and Bartocz in love with Girl #1.  Magnus having a sparring "you're arrogant!" romance with Girl #2.

Gay Characters: All of the teenagers have expressed heterosexual interest. There are photos online of Jonas kissing a guy, but that may be from something else.

Soap Opera:  All of the adults have a history together.

My Grade:  I'm interested in seeing how Erik ended up in the 1980s room, and why Mikkel was replaced by another dead boy (no doubt Ulrich's brother).  But there are so many characters with interlocking, unstated relationships and so much weird kissing.  And where are the four queer characters?  C.

Update: I found out who the queer characters are: a pedophile murderer who likes trans women; a trans woman prostitute; a predatory lesbian; and her prey.  That must be the reason I avoided watching the program. New grade: F

Nov 20, 2022

1899: Paranormal Peril on a pre-Titanic Ship, with At Least One Gay Character, I Hope

I don't do boats, canoes, kayaks, pontoons, or the deep end of swimming pools -- even standing on a dock makes me anxious.  So I've been avoiding the Netflix series 1899, about steamship passengers dealing with paranormal peril in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  But it has received good reviews, so I streamed the first episode.  The moment someone mentions an iceberg, I'm out.   

Scene 1: A woman -- Maura -- tells us that "the brain is wider than the sky" as we see disturbing images of a ship crossing the desert,a pyramid, a maelstrom, a cliffside mansion, and a psychiatric hospital, where she screams that her brother discovered the horrible things Dad was doing.  And he was on the Prometheus!

She awakens in an elegant stateroom on the ship Kerberus (Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guards the gates of Hell).  She sees a newspaper headline about the Prometheus disappearing four months ago, looks through some books about the human brain, and comes to her brother's letter: "I discovered the horrible things Dad is doing.  Please meet me in New York."

Scene 2: In the huge boiler room, a half dozen muscular, shirtless guys are shoveling coal and discussing the disappearance of the Prometheus.  The Polish Olek (Maciej Musial, top photo) climbs up to fix a clog in the coal flue (nice muscular back as he climbs).  There's something sinister up there with him! 

Scene 3: In the dining hall, a French man, Clement (Jonas Bloquet), looks bored while his wife discusses the disappearance of the Prometheus.   Two Japanese women caution each other to "play it cool."  Wait -- they're dressed in traditional Japanese kimonos, but speaking Cantonese!   



Meanwhile, a male-male Spanish couple disguised as a priest and his brother (Miguel Bernardeau, left) quarrel.  

When Maura sits down, a British woman joins her and fills her in the gossip: "They're all running away from something.  Why else would you want to travel to somewhere new?"  Vacation?  Business? School? 




Suddenly the doors burst open, and Krester (Lucas Lygaard Tonnesen), a Danish man  from steerage (the lower-class section of the ship), yells for a doctor to help his sister.  The ship's doctor ignores him. Security drags him out, and throws him back into steerage.  Maura, who has trained as a doctor,  follows. Sister is having a problem with her pregnancy.  






Scene 4
: The mysterious presence in the coal bin isn't a monster, it's a stowaway,  the French African Jerome (Yann Gael, left). He sneaks into a stateroom to steal some clothes.  

Meanwhile, the French couple is trying unsuccessfully to have sex. The husband blames the wife for his inability to perform, and storms out.  

In steerage, Maura finishes treating the sister, flashes back to being tied down in an asylum, and rushes to the deck to throw up.  The Captain (Andreas Pietschmann)  approaches and stares suspiciously, before he is called away by the radio operator: "We've received a signal from the lost ship.  Just coordinates, over and over: 42.4 W, 57.7 N" That's about 100 miles east of Nova Scotia.

Scene 5: The Captain checks it out.  "But if they drifted off course four months ago, how did they end up in that spot? Well, we can be there in 9 hours, so let's go."

Down in the boiler room, the shirtless hunk Olek asks why they are changing course, and is told to shut up. 


Scene 6:
In their stateroom, the fake priest (Jose Pimental) warns his boyfriend, Angel, to be more careful.  "It's as if you want people to find out."  Hey, they're not a couple, they're brothers, and the priest is worried about some other secret. Gay tease!  They notice that the ship is turning, and get very upset: what if they go back to port?  All will be lost!

Down in steerage, the pregnant Danish woman discovers that they've changed course to look for the lost ship, and gets very upset.  "We can't stop!  We can't!"

In her stateroom, Maura examines her brother's letter, with the phrase: "What is lost, will be found."  The Captain stops by to stare suspiciously and tell her that they're going to look for the Prometheus.  It's been four months, but if they rationed food, they could still be alive.  Why tell her personally?  They stare at each other some more.

Scene 7: When Maura steps out, the Captain sneaks into her room and goes through her things, finding the letter from her brother.  

Scene 8: The hunk Olek is sitting in a loading bay, legs hanging over the side (my anxiety is rising -- he could fall in at any moment).   The stoaway Jereome asks him for food.  They only speak Polish and French, respectively, but they manage to exchange names. 

In the ballroom, the Captain tells the passengers that they're going to look for the missing ship.  "Growl, growl, but I must get to New York!"

Scene 9:  The Captain finds Maura on the deck.  They have a staring, brooding, Heathcliffe and Katherine sort of conversation.  Then they see the Prometheus in the distance.  It's all dark.

Crew: "The passengers are dead.  Let's just go on to New York and wire the company the ship's location."

Captain: "No, I'm boarding.  I'll take Maura.. the hunk Oleg, the stowaway Jerome, a couple of minor characters....and the priest, in case someone needs last rites."  

Scene 10:  While they're gone, the fake priest's brother, Angel, shares a smoke with Krester, the Danish guy with the pregnant sister.  They stare broodingly at each other.  Is a gay romance coming up?  But when Angel caresses Krester's face, he backs off and runs down to steerage.  Dude, it's 1899.  Be a little more discreet.

Scene 11:  The Captain and company board the drifting Prometheus.  In the radio room, they find the ticker machine that broadcast its coordinates, still going.  Wait -- it suddenly stopped, as if it was waiting for them.   No humans aboard, just weird ribbons and ropes hanging everywhere.

Back on the Kerberus,  the Cantonese women discuss their plan.  The younger one complains about having to wear all that makeup all the time.  "Well, if you had just accepted your fate, none of this would have happened. Now practice your Japanese."

Scene 12:  While a mysterious figure climbs aboard the Kerberus, Maura and company continue to explore the Prometheus.  In the ballroom, they find a locked cabinet with something thumping inside.  They open it: a little boy, alive and well!  He doesn't speak. He just walks up to Maura and hands her a small stone pyramid.  The end.

Beefcake: The shirtless hunks in the boiler room.

Gay Characters:  If Angel, the fake priest's brother, isn't gay, I'll be very upset.  Maybe Krester, the Danish guy -- he's got a pregnant sister, not a pregnant wife.  Or Clement, the French guy who can't perform sexually with his wife.

Soundtrack: All modern songs like Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit."  I hate it when period pieces use modern songs.  

The "Lost" Syndrome: On Lost, characters omitted explanations that any normal conversation would reveal, like "There are only three of you.  You said there five survivors."  "There were."  1899 is doing the same thing to annoying excess.

My Grade: B

Update: In Episode 2, we discover that Krester is gay, and Angel and Ramiro are lovers, not brothers. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...