From Afar, but Too Close for Comfort!

 DATELINE: Caracas Maracas

 Smoldering Luis Silva.

A few years back, a film made in Caracas called From Afar caused a minor stir in arty film circles. Indeed, some reviews left by “average” viewers noticed the only people who were intrigued with the movie were “professional” movie-goers.

What a miniscule, expert audience indeed.

Most called this a “hate” story, not because they were homophobic elements to the May-December relationship of a 50-year old denture technician and a teenage boy with an interest in cars, but because it did not fit the convention of an upbeat gay story.

Good grief. Two unusual and secretive people may well behave in non-traditional ways—and perhaps they are not really nice people deep down. Another critical crack at the movie pointed out that the ending was obscure, downbeat, or negative.  Oh, no, not in a gay movie!

It is what it is. But, activist gay types are limiting the rainbow colors. Only positive gay images should appear in your movie.

The two star-actors (Luis Silva as Elder, Alfredo Castro as Armando) are quite perfect in their roles. As a stand-offish older man who really isn’t into sex with an angry, passionate younger man who is “straight,” we have the makings of a power play of chess moves.

There is indeed something smoldering below the surface in which the younger (named ironically Elder) may be manipulated into a trigger man for a dirty job.

This is not a movie for those who see subtle psychology as “boring.” If you cannot read a Henry James short story, you may not be able to sit through a 90-minute film about motives under the surface.

As for us, we give all movies an even-break. This one deserves much more for its integrity.

 

 

 

 

 

Just Friends is Just Marvelous!

DATELINE: A Sleeper to Wake You Up!

 New Stars!

We had the pleasure of watching a Dutch movie that was not insipid, nor overly obvious. Just Friends is a gay movie with a light touch.

Subtitles are secondary to the beautiful production and images, and Josha Stradowsk is stunning to look at, and he meets a Syrian played by Majd Mardo. They have chemistry and are delightful in their growing friendship.

The usual angst over coming out and family conflict are truly not part of the sophisticated tale. They are sexy, chic, and well-to-do. There are other conflicts that impede their relations, but Majd takes a job as housekeeper at Josha’s grandmother.

She is a delight too, as matchmaker and wise old lady.

These are intelligent young men, and their maturity makes for a story that appeals to all viewers. Josha is the one who has a hobby with his drone, and he sees Madj surfing from above. It is intriguing how connections are made.

Without a doubt, you seldom meet people in character movies that you really would like to spend time with, but these two are pleasant dinner companions.

What impediments to their friendship that must be overcome are not melodramatic and work out, making your time with this story fly like the drone, over the Netherlands and its beautiful world.

If you’ve been stung by horrible gay-themed movies of all stripes, you need your faith in a good film restored. This is the antidote.

Serge Lifar: A Life with Ego & Dance

 DATELINE: Collaborator

 Lifar with Diaghilev & Stravinsky.

The French documentary is entitled A Revolution in Dance, and that is applied to Serge Lifar, a danseur and ballet maître who went from the era of Diaghilev to the dawn of Nureyev.

With covert and sly methods, the teenage Lifar managed to put himself before the grand Maestro—and caught the eye of the aging powerbroker. It led to an education, seven years of stardom in the Ballets Russes, and a future however Lifar chose to go.

After Diaghilev’s death in Venice, Lifar went to the Paris Opera House and made himself a home for thirty years. Literally, a home. He was there day and night, choreographing and plotting.

His outrageous demeanor became the stuff of social life and gossip columns. It was only incidental that he made ballets—and innovative ones too, Icare, based on the Greek legend of Icarus.

For a dozen years, he was the staple of the Opera House and transformed the focus of the Paris scene on dance. Then, the roof fell in: sort of.

When the Nazis captured Paris in 1940, Lifar was a stateless person—and played ball with Joseph Goebbels. He even met Hitler, at least twice we know of, and he allegedly refused to go to Berlin to start a corps de ballet there. We suspect Lifar would never deny Hitler directly. It led to charges later that he was a Nazi collaborator. He was even seen parading around in a Nazi uniform and the theatre for his performances were Aryan Nazi officers who loved his shows.

After the war, a tribunal banned him from dancing in France—but he wheedled his way out of that guilty verdict and was back on stage by 1947. You could say he overstayed his welcome, remaining a principal danseur until his mid-50s when his bones creaked over the stage.

When he finally retired, he was still a tabloid sensation, a good headline and an outrageous media person until he was 81 and the new era had fairly forgotten this legend.

More Lunacy: Whitey, UFOs, and MK-Ultra

DATELINE: Conspiracies Gone Amok?

Whitey as Man in Black

With more circumstantial evidence coming out about James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, you begin to think he will soon be the subject of Ancient Aliens as the Manchurian candidate of choice.

Yes, it appears that MK-Ultra, that mysterious CIA organization may have had more to do with LSD experiments on criminals and that could account for 16 years of missing time for Whitey when the Feds couldn’t find him.

Good heavens, can it be he was abducted by aliens who used him with the same experimental enthusiasm of our government agencies? After all, men in black have divided loyalties. Whitey would be the ironic Man in Black.

After all, Whitey was a split personality in his own way: preying off older gay men he picked up at gay bars around Boston in the 1950s, but also reserving the right to meet movie star Sal Mineo for some nefarious sexual purpose.

MK-Ultra is an off-shoot of the kind of occult UFO tie-in that the Nazis had with their notorious “Bell” project. You know, the one where the Nazis were experimenting with time travel with the help of ancient aliens living in Antarctica.

There are those who think Hitler and other high-ranking Nazis used the technology to speed away to another dimension, or through another dimension in their bell-shaped curve of time and space.

We once believed all this was fanciful and hallucinatory stuff coming out of the mouths of MK-Ultra victims who wanted an insanity defense at their trials.

Now we wonder if their fantasies and insanities correlate with other dimensional beings. Call us anything, but we haven’t done mind experiments with LSD. Our mind is more apt to be under the control of the Twilight Zoneof TV sci-fi.

You know those who know too much end up like Whitey, under federal prison protection, and assassinated. Only recently we saw the same scenario worked on Jeffrey Epstein. If you know too much, you are a sitting duck in a prison cell.

 

 

Butt-Slapping Reaches New Bottom

DATELINE: Hard Knocks?

 Culprit caught red-handed.

You know society has hit rock bottom when pro athletes now are being tossed out of games—and arrested—for going for the formerly acceptable cheeky assault.

We cannot recall when butt-touching went public in our sports arenas. It must be a carry-over from hauling ass around the gym. Once upon a time, it was considered a means of expressing male “affection.”

We are unsure if we have ever seen this activity in a gay bar, but we believe that it will now be forbidden even in the inner sanctums. Queer as Folk avoided such behaviors. But, Downton Abbey’syoung butler may be guilty.

A pinch on the cheek used to be quite continental, but continence has reached a new plateau when it comes to below the belt buckles with knuckles.

OBJ recently slapped the butt of a mall cop, or pardon us, arena security after a college game. It was the locker room and one can almost explain how these things become viral.

The alleged hard-ass cop took umbrage and wanted to sock OBJ, but held his piece instead. New Orleans used to be a place when Fat Tuesday meant any buttock passing was slugged. No more!

Now, former Celtic Jae Crowder was innocently standing at the free throw line, ready to cut loose when Tristan Thompson, apparently without Iseulte by his side, added insult to injury by shocking Crowder with a tap on the buttocks.

You’d think he’d been given an injection of penetrating flu vaccine. Crowdah jumped like he fell into a bowl of hot chowdah.

Tristan Thompson claimed it was a means of bonding between former teammates. Heavens, high fives and man hugs, all now chaste and robotic, are the new currency. No one is paying for their erogenous zone to be invaded, and short of a porno film, we don’t expect to see this impact on our cable television when we are not on the LOGO network.

We remember when a crime was committed if your fist hit the tip of another’s nose. Now, the blow is lower than the standard for congressional oversight.

We believe the five-second rule should be enforced. If your food falls on the floor, you can still eat it within five seconds of being retrieved from any dirty crevice.

We hold that a slap on the butt that does not linger or return for second helpings should be excused with heart-feltmea culpa.

Slapping a bun of steel of your pro athlete of choice may be injurious to your digits. And spare us a fist pump.

Pink at Heart for Grant Williams

DATELINE: In Romeo’s ‘do?

At least one Celtic player in the NBA wants his three teammates to be on the All-Star team.

There is some doubt that the Celtics will be able to muster Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown, on the team. It seems a glut of wealth may be the Celtics counterweight.

There is a great disbelief that the Celtics will have enough support to see their three hot stars in the All-Star lineup. It seems especially so since Tacko Fall holds more votes than almost anyone else.

Much to our amusement, fellow Celtic, the intriguing Renaissance Man off the court, Grant Williams, is making an offer we can’t refuse. No, this is not the Incredible Shrinking Man: this is the incredible, smart Celtic.

Grant is quite a genius, in case you are wondering, with a nerdy photographic memory, the ability to speak several languages, and play several instruments of music. His specialty de la Maison is the piano, but we have yet to demand a duet with the other piano player on Celtics: Jalen Brown.

But we are ahead of ourselves: Grant made a deal that if fans vote the three starters on the All-Star team, he will dye his hair pink for one month. Now, this is not so earth-shattering and may not be much of a stretch for the non-traditional Grant. We’d like to see Grant with pink hair regardless of the all-star vote.

So, vote often for the trio of Celtics. We love Grant in Pink. No, not Cary, and not Ulysses. We mean #12.

Boston Stars Join Police Lineup in California!

DATELINE: Wine Chaser?

Call it Selfie Destruction?

Julian Edelman is preparing for off-season surgery by jumping on the hood of an expensive car in Beverly Hills. It’s called drunken vandalism.

Only in Beverly Hills is jumping on a MB SLK considered a misdemeanor.

Now arrested for vandalism, he will appear in the airport courthouse next month—that is, if he’s out of the hospital and Bill Belichick’s doghouse.

Tom Brady’s close chum was out celebrating not being in the Super Bowl with a bunch of former Boston stars; Danny Amendola (his usual mate and partner in crime, and the unusual addition of Paul Pierce, notably of the Celtics Past).

One can presume the stars were imbibing beyond the limits of good sense.

It may be that Edelman is planning to jump ship and is checking out the teams on the West Coast (he is originally a Bay butt). If he is on a mission to scout out teams for Brady, they may be going there in tandem. He may be practicing his jump skills by jumping on car hoods.

We presume Pierce is a technical advisor, and Amendola (as always) is a partner in crime and unnatural activities. They have also done Mexico last year on a skateboard tour.

The latest scuttlebutt from the butt buddies of Edelman is that he will have at least 2 surgeries to repair damage from his insane play at age 34. It’s enough to figure that Bill Belichick wouldn’t take him back or give him a plug nicklel for his future.

No wonder Tom is sending him out to test the TB12 market in the Bay area. Unfortunately, Julie has been derailed in Beverly Hills, a far cry from the Raiders  franchise. Josh McDaniels can have Cleveland! Give the Brady Bunch something of Hollywood.

The Peter Pan Syndrome is alive and well in anyone who thinks they can play NFL football beyond a certain age. How low can down-low go?

Whose Roy Cohn Was He?

DATELINE: Ethel’s Killer

 Master of Slime.

You may be aghast at the idea that Roy Cohn managed to be so powerful and so hidden in the open. He was adviser to Joe McCarthy, Ronald Reagan, and his final resulting horror, Donald Trump.

His philosophy borders on evil incarnate: he claimed to hate hypocrisy and was the biggest hypocrite around. Now, the man who put together the shocking Studio 54 documentary turns his research on Cohn. The result is unnerving and frightful. Roy Cohn, claims the movie, was dangerous, like a caged animal: open the cage at your own risk.

Most people may know Cohn from Angels in America,the play and movie in which he is depicted as haunted by Ethel Rosenberg whom he assiduously worked to have executed as a Russian spy. Today, Donald Trump lamented that he could find no lawyer like Roy Cohn to defend him against impeachment.

Yet, the lessons of Roy Cohn now are shaping America. And Cohn died of AIDS in 1986, Words like evil, Machavellian, ruthless, despicable, permeate the film, and he had a tendency to become infatuated with tall Nordic blond men (the last of these was Trump). The Army-McCarthy hearings were an attempt to impress his companion, David Schein.

He made big money by getting John Gotti, crime boss, off from a murder charge—and became the mob mouthpiece. Trump, with his own crime connections, took to Cohn like a duck to water.

Among his strongest defenders are convicted political trickster Roger Stone, a long-time friend, Barbara Walters whom Cohn said he wanted to marry, and Donald Trump, his protégé. When he needed character witnesses, all these people came to his aid.

When he was dying of AIDS, denying it emphatically to Mike Wallace in an interview, Ronald Reagan pulled strings to put him in an experimental drug program.

Cohn was reprehensible, and this biography doesn’t help his reputation or those guilty by association.

 

 

Boston Celtics Dynamic Duo

DATELINE: Young Guns

The Boston Celtics have a problem: it is a nickname to be applied to their young tandem 30-points each in a game stars. We haven’t felt a giddy issue in the Celtic world since we heard Larry Bird isn’t walking through that door.

The Celtics are no longer looking to trade one or both: you can tell that from the new public relations spots in Boston that urge fans to vote them as teammates to the All-Star squad.

The big problem is their nickname: for past vainglorious stars like Bird and McHale or Russell and Heinsohn, nicknames were superfluous. But social media and youth must be served. Young fans want to label their new generation of superstars for the upcoming decade.

Originally Jalen Brown wanted to call themselves 7-11. Open all night, or something, but Jayson immediately changed his number from 11  to 0.  Such are the results of testosterone and competition.

Jayson once said he would be Brown’s trainer for free if he no longer had an NBA career. His pay: a room in Jalen’s big house, which appalled Jalen.

Scary Terry Rozier thought they were simply two annoying youngsters.

They are not your average Batman and Robin.

To their teammates, they are simply JT and JB. And, they are a new version of Bird and McHale, who also never had nicknames, and also had a rather contentious intra-team rivalry: their mutual glue was Danny Ainge, which may be the same factor today.

When McHale scored 50 points one night, Bird said in laconic fashion, “It’s not enough,” and promptly went out and scored  more points a week later, leaving McHale with a record setting for one week.

Some contend they have never seen Jayson pass the ball to Jalen. Perhaps that’s strictly a metaphor. They are two of the most unassuming, quiet, soft-spoken types you would ever meet. They are not flashy or overwhelming in any public way.

It’s difficult to come up with resonating naicknames for two who speak softly and carryi big balls.

We don’t like Triple Double 0-7, and we don’t like Green Jays.

They seem to accept Kid ‘n Play as something workable. They are too accommodating. We still don’t know who’s the kid sidekick.

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To Be Taken by Takei

DATELINE: Across Culture and Sexual Stereotypes

George pulls an Errol Flynn Moment on Star Trek!

You have known him as the original Sulu on Star Trek since 1966. George Takei is as familiar as an old shoe. His autobio- documentary is To Be Takei.

Yet, his life is both moving and horrifying. As a child he was sent to several Japanese camps in Arkansas because his family was deemed disloyal and dangerous. He was subjected to an American concentration camp—and though embittered, never let it ruin his life.

Howard Stern’s radio program gave him a voice outside his acting—and made him an activist in the gay rights scene. He was in the closet until 2005 when he charged out and married his 20-year companion Brad Altman.

The little bio is filled with clips of his performances—from Twilight Zone to Rodan (voice-over) to costarring with John Wayne in The Green Berets. His family supported his acting career, but felt he would be typecast and given limited roles. He appears to have transcended the Asian stereotype while becoming the new Franklin Pangborn.

There are surprises, of course: Leonard Nimoy genuinely liked and respected him—and the animosity between Takei and Shatner is beyond uncomfortable. We don’t know what put these two into feud mode, but there it is in this film at every turn.

If the life-story tends to focus considerably on his life partner, it is understandable—as they fought for gay marriage in California. They ran into hostile people like Schwarzenegger, but George also won over Ronald Reagan to win restitution for the Japanese Americans who suffered in camps during World War II.

His busy life continues with no end in sight. To be Takei is to be a show biz dynamo/dreidel. He continues to spin and provide everyone with a big charge.

 

 

 

 

Darwin, Living in Death Valley!

Darwin: Evolution of Death Valley

 No Services Ahead.

Death Valley is the end of the line. How fitting that Darwinis the end of the road. The subtitle here is “No Services Ahead.” It is meant to discourage people from visiting. You cannot go to a place that is the polar opposite of Downton Abbey—unless it is Darwin.

This film is not a documentary about the collapse of the New England Patriot dynasty and the end of Tom Brady.

The film is nearly ten years old, and we figure half of those in the movie are now buried in the town cemetery. Who could be left?

If your idea of stark beauty with the sty of trashed junk cars and beat-up trailers is a town, you have found your niche.

About 35 souls live there, mostly old and waiting for nothing in particular. It looks like a spot the Grim Reaper might visit when he is not busy. Two residents, the youngest, prepare to leave: they are a transgender couple. One is undergoing testosterone therapy.

The town folk are quite tolerant, despite the history of violence and death for over 100 years. Nowadays, even the graveyard is fading away. Locals bury their own, and many cannot recall who is buried where.

On a short trip outside of town, a couple takes you to the place where Charles Manson lived in the desert with his motley crew of despicable types. One resident described Manson as a piece of human refuse.

The place has been vandalized.

We kept wondering about electricity (there are poles and wires) but no wi-fi reception. There is a post office run by a woman with an attitude, though she hasn’t killed anyone, she boasts.

You may not want to visit, and you may not want to watch this show of reclusiveness. We puzzled over how they were all overweight when there seems only to be a few small vegetable gardens around.

Darwinmay be home to these lost souls, aging hippies, and mentally challenged motley crew. You won’t want to spend the full 90 minutes on this film. It’s more depressing than watching Tom Brady’s deterioration.

 

 

 

Downton Abbey: the Movie!

DATELINE: Moving On Up!

The classic TV series returns with a feature film, and the King and Queen of England are coming to dinner. You too, even a commoner, are invited to be a fly on the wall, which is even lower than the downstairs staff.

If you feel like this was already done, you likely saw Upstairs/Downstairsin some rerun incarnation in which the King came to dinner—and sent the TV show into a tizzy. The Fellowes motion picture of Downton Abbeyis lusher and grander.

The original Downton cast is back and kicking up their idiosyncrasies in the upper and lower chambers.

The man cursed by King Tut, Lord Carnarvan, left his beautiful castle home to serve as a stand-in for noble living, which is still the real star playing the scandal-ridden abbey.

Hugh Bonneville is back—and so are his two rival daughters (Laura Carmichael and Michelle Dockery), but you will be swept back into the luxury by the marvelous suite music that is the theme. The music transports you to another era.

Julian Fellowes, creator, was never totally original, but he manages the materials from dozens of sources to produce an optimistic and pleasant diversion from anything resembling modern life.

All the characters pick right up on the spot: Maggie Smith’s acerbic dowager countess is known even to the Queen for her biting wit. There are polite family feuds brewing beneath the surface of the upper-crust, and sexual peccadilloes are sweating in the downstairs with Barrow (Robert James-Collier)  and his gay feelings for a footman. We see the inside of a 1927 gay bar,

If the entire mess is to be derailed by such shenanigans, it takes Carson the butler(Jim Carter) to come out of retirement to save the day.  The conflicts, as always at Downton, are small and personal. And, we learn in a class society how unimportant we truly are at Downton Abbey.

As expected in British repertory company, the cast is brilliant (even down to American Elizabeth McGovern), but the treat here is the sumptuous production—even grander and more movie-like than the small screen version.

 

 

Paint Whose Wagon?

DATELINE: Don’t Fence Clint In!

  A couple of song and dance men?

Back in 1969, Clint Eastwood had just returned from his stint on the spaghetti western circuit. He wanted to break molds—and went on Mr. Ed,then made a musical Western. It’s not easy to turn Clint into Tab.

Paint Your Wagonhad credentials to stagger into a gold-digging mode. Josh Logan directed another 1951 classical musical from Broadway. Paddy Cheyevsky (urban TV legend) wrote the screenplay—another unlikely figure out West.

The only true singer in the cast allegedly was Harve Presnell who stops the movie with his stunning rendition of “They Call the Wind Maria.”  Even Logan in his inepti director style could not screw that up.

As far as Clint singing, we had forgotten that in 1962, on the heels of every TV and movie actor with heart-throb fan clubs made a musical album:  as we recall, Sal Mineo, Richard Chamberlain, Tab Hunter, and even Clint Eastwood sang.

The big difference was that Clint’s album of country-western tunes was actually a hit. You need to hear his version of “Don’t Fence Me in.”

Lee Marvin also sings in the style of Rex Harrison—and he is witty and delightful. He also dances cheek-to-cheek with Ray Walston, which certainly puts Fred and Ginger to the test.

The film is an all-male homoerotic gold rush until Jean Seberg shows up: beautiful and damaged. We cannot imagine what off-screen between-takes conversations went on during this production.

There are enough offensive ethnic stereotypes to make this film about as incorrect as any Western of the 1960s. And, in a true 1960s mode, the film is nearly three hours long—really.

If you like surprises and changes of pace, you cannot go wrong with this Western that seems to be the exclamation point and end punctuation to the era of Hollywood westerns.

 

 

 

 

Master of Dark Shadows: Dan Stevens or Jonathan Frid?

DATELINE: Halos For All?

  Stars Jonathan Frid & Joan Bennett

 Perhaps it is more than amusing that the production company of Dan Stevens actually produced a documentary about Dan Stevens and his ground-breaking soap opera, the gothic Dark Shadows.

We expected that you’d have full participation of the original cast and crew—and the treat, or horror, is to see these young actors in their twilight years. Yet, it is fun too.

Many are gone of course: like Frid, Joan Bennett, and the marvelous Grayson Hall (barely mentioned).

Stevens himself was an ad-man who went to producing a golf show—and had a dream for a gothic serial. Never did he expect it to be a daytime hit for kids with sympathetic vampires, tormented governesses, and cross-time crossover storylines.

Who really made Dark Shadows a hit? Was it the producer with the classic hard edge or the gaunt actor who played the reluctant vampire? Well, you know who produced the show and produced the documentary. Frid did not join the cast until nearly a year had passed, but with him it zoomed to cult status.

There was recently a fiftieth anniversary shindig with survivors like David Selby, Lara Parker, John Karlen, Jerry Lacy, and so many other favorites. They all grew up as actors on that show as much as their audience grew up. The show had bad sets, primitive special effects, and sometimes awful plots badly acted. It was of no consequence to fans.

Frid and Stevens ultimately came to loggerheads, and Stevens was better able to move on to Winds of Warand other films. It is a trip down memory lane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miguel Dieppo: Memoirs of a Penitent Heart

DATELINE: A Lost Generation  

You may never find a more flattering sense of duty and obligation than to have a niece who barely remembered you as a child make a documentary of your life 30 years later. The little documentary is called Memoirs of a Penitent Heart.

Cecilia Aldarnondo was on a mission. Only after making her film did she seem to have second thoughts about letting the dead stay dead. She uncovered more than the tragic death of an uncle who passed away from AIDS during the height of the epidemic.

She tracked down his lover, a former priest who spent twelve years with the young Puerto Rican transplant to New York. They might have been an odd couple, but the family of Michael had no use for him, never followed up on his whereabouts, or even his name. It was for a niece to dredge it all up: to discover an old man who still carried the flame for his lost lover.

Father Bob had saved everything; the love of one’s life is like that.

 

What Cecilia discovers is the fanaticism of religion and how it set up terrible and irreconcilable conflicts between mother and son’s lover. She even tells him on his death bed to remove the friendship ring or he will be denied entrance to heaven.

The director sticks it to her own mother for abandoning her brother Miguel. No one is spared from the hook.

This is a personal film, showing conflicts between gay and straight, between living la vida locain Puerto Rican and immigrating to New York. It shows the genetic horror of learning about a parent’s own sexual secrets.

The film may seem irrelevant if you are not a Catholic, a Puerto Rican, gay, or even promiscuous. Yet, it is relevant and it is moving. The past is always with us, ever changing—and the future is immutable. It’s called irony.