Broken Hearts Club, 20 Years Later

DATELINE: Sexy Romantic Comedy?

stellar cast

Of all the weird elements of the Broken Hearts Club is its subtitle, a Romantic Comedy.  It is nothing of the sort, but rather a version of a gay sex farce. That takes nothing away from its polished and entertaining qualities.

The other oddity, still years later, is the cast of all-straight men, mostly at the start of their big careers, and all playing mincing gay boys of different stripes. It’s like one of those World War II platoons with different ethnicity and stereotypes.

The cast is stellar, including Timothy Olyphant (of Deadwood and Justified) giving a slightly off performance that nearly convinces us he is gay. Of course, his kissing abilities are hot, but he has been married for years.

So has Dean Cain as the Lothario of the group and Zach Braff as the gayest queen.

The ragtag friends work part-time in some capacity or other at Jack’s a gay friendly restaurant in Los Angeles, and they play softball for the business. This gives the actors a chance to prance around in queenly fashion.

When dramatic moments are called for, the actors are highly polished and strong, even in their disappointments with love. They seem to avoid falling into bed with each other, but when it happens, look out.

Greg Berlanti writes and directs with aplomb and wit, though stereotypes are required. The young men are all 20-somethings, in the tail end of the AIDS crisis and not really part of it.

We would like the director to do a sequel and show us these men and their dissipated lives at age 50. It might prove more instructive, if not frightening, to see what happens to handsome gay men in middle-age.

World’s Most Extraordinary Homes, s2

DATELINE: Are You Being Served?

piers & caroline Your Presenters!

They’re back, and they’re just as lovable this time around. Yes, the two presenters for the BBC series, Caroline and Piers.

The hosts are like Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphreys from Are You Being Served? No American show would dare to give the reins to a middle-aged zaftig actress and a slightly epicene architect.

Together they tackle four episodes of garish homes with their usual flattering aplomb. Caroline does admit in a few instances that she is less than charmed with the accommodations.

The houses are in Miami, Portugal, Switzerland, and Japan. All the homes favour spectacular views and ostentatious shows of moneybags.

Once again, the hosts seem unbothered by endless staircases and innumerable stairs. These are not houses meant for anyone with shortness of breath or arthritis in the knees.

And the open walls are out-of-place in hot, hurricane prone areas. Are there no mosquitoes? Often out of the house before nightfall, these extraordinary homes are denied mundane appearances. In the latest season, they seem to find houses with the best picture windows in the world, no mean feat in itself.

Piers has taken on a more rakish look this season, with pop colors and shades of different hues, and Caroline is more of the same. Together they are genuine and effusive, perhaps a bit too much, like a dotty aunt and uncle.

Nevertheless, we enjoy every moment provided by the presenters of the amazing places, Even if they turn out to be a pyramid of vanity.

 

 

Children of Giant: Mexican POV in Marfa

DATELINE: Unavoidable James Dean Strikes Again

Children of Giant Children of Giant!

If you know anything about our Hollywood history books on the story behind making movies, you know that we would be hot on the trail of George Stevens’ 1955 classic epic Giant. 

Made On location in Marfa, Texas, with Elizabeth Taylor as an early feminist in 1920s Texas, and Rock Hudson as the laconic cowpoke who owned Reata, a cattle ranch, you are overwhelmed with James Dean who stood out on the landscape,

However much the director wants to make this a movie about the Mexican discrimination in Texas, James Dean is there to steal the movie. He dominates everything in the fascinating film called Children of Giant.

Actor Earl Holliman is still around to give his perspective, and Jane Withers appears to have declined to participate.

Director Stevens’s son, notable Hollywood producer George Stevens, Jr., offers many insights. They say little about Dean.

It was the film James Dean died making. It was a Western that showed the yellow rose of Texas was a yellow streak of Jim Crow laws against Mexicans. The children loved him, and they saw him as someone special and caring.

Today Marfa’s racism almost seems quaint, next to the horrors being inflicted on Mexicans under Trump.

New York historical novelist Edna Ferber was spot on depicting wild cat billionaire Glenn McCarthy (aka Jett Rink in the movie and book). James Dean’s makeup and style mimics McCarthy in his late middle-age.

Dean is remembered fondly by the Mexican children and adults whom he befriended in Marfa, Texas. Indeed, if you are looking for stories about Dean’s public urination in front of town onlookers, or even the tale of Dean going after director Stevens in a fight over his performance, you will find only slight nods in that direction.

Yet, as a social history document about a social history movie, you could not find a more spot-on documentary. It features townsfolk giving their insights and sharing their unusual photos.

It is nirvana for a movie maven who delights in the behind-the-scenes activity. This little PBS documentary packs a wallop and a message from the children of Marfa in 1955. Unfortunately, James Dean is still the big draw. George Stevens and Edna Ferber could not avoid him then or now.

 Dr. William Russo wrote The Next James Dean, which is available as an ebook and print work on Amazon.

 

Bend Unbroken, Stir Unshaken

DATELINE:  James Bond Satire

Chris Lew Kum Hoi Dr. Tu Yung

How amusing is a gay parody of James Bond? Well, if you tune into Matt Carter’s one-hour spoof, you may be more than pleasantly surprised. It is not too violent, nor too sexual.

It’s Jayson Bend: Queen & Country.

So, it falls into a Goldlocks world of gay cinema. And, thank heavens, it is not about teenagers with a coming out angst and done on videotape.

Some of it is heavy-handed, as it is always difficult to satirize a satire—and people often forget that James Bond was Ian Fleming’s satiric secret agent. He is taken too seriously.

Matt Carter seems to have his name and paws all over this little film. It stars Davis Brooks as Jayson Bend (not Bent), but it’s Jayson with a “Y”—and don’t ask.

We find the cute girls are replaced by cute boys—and Dr. Tu Yung is an adorable villain (played by Chris Lew Kum Hoi).

What may be a great surprise is that this film has a big budget look about it. The color is bright and bold, and the fast cars and special effects are just right. The only violence is at the start, and the sex is chaste: hints by kiss.

It’s safe for straight guys.

Tripping Again with Coogan & Brydon

 DATELINE: Another Sequel, not Deja Vu

 tripping

No, you didn’t read this movie review last week here.

What more can you ask?  Beautiful scenery, lovely music, and witty conversation. Yes, those two British actors (one with 2 Oscar nominations) are back to delight us.

We have skipped the second trip to Italy for now and cut to the chase with Trip to Spain. These two marvelous performers can hit the road and still hit their marks. This is another followup to their British series, The Trip, condensed and made into a feature film. No, it’s not a mid-life crisis movie, despite what the New York Times claims.

They seem to make the films every three or four years, which is just about right. They are reality-based, as the stars play themselves, notable thespians and comedians on a journalistic journey for the New York Times as food critics, or culture commentators.

With each stop at a breathtaking locale, Steve Coogan foams at the mouth with his erudite knowledge. Heaven help you if you know more or have enough. Rob Brydon can match him every mile, and that makes them chemically compatible.

Each morsel is back-lit with some of the funniest conversations this side of reality. Coogan notes how sorry he feels for anyone who thinks this stuff is not scripted and fully ad-libbed. It’s likely a circle within a square is outlined and the two drop in their witticisms.

However, the impressions make all the difference over the meals. When they argue over who does the best Mick Jagger impression as he plays Hamlet, you have moments that will knock fans of Noel Coward into the aisle.

Coogan remains prickly, but Brydon manages to break him up several times this trip, which may not have been planned.

If Coogan reminds us of ourselves, then we have had a bittersweet lesson. Sheer delight awaits the viewer.

 

 

 

The Wilder Sherlock

DATELINE:  Sherlock Takes a Bath!

 Stephens & Blakely

When master auteur Billy Wilder (who gave us gems like Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, One Two Three) gives us his take on Sherlock Holmes, we are ready for something unusual. So, we overly anticipated watching his film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

All that promise seems to go up in a cocaine dream as an overlong movie that could be half-an-hour shorter and more succinct, maintaining the early humor.

Wilder puts all your standard Holmes patter into the pot (Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft, and irritation with Dr. Watson’s stories). That stuff is quite amusing.

The first third of the film is filled with the kind of humor you expect from Wilder—sophisticated, sharp, and delightful. He raises the ugly specter that Holmes and Watson are consenting adults—and he makes more comprehensible, Holmes turning to his seven-percent solution.

Funny bits with the Russian ballet, and boring cases about midgets, make us think we are entering a funnier world than Conan Doyle envisioned.

Colin Blakely is a delightful Dr. Watson, and Robert Stephens protests too much about being a woman-hating fop. He plays Holmes with a tad flamboyance, disdaining deerstalker hats and women equally. He is more than a fop. We are almost in panty-waist territory.

Christopher Lee is around as a more peripatetic Mycroft, showing up in places other than the Diogenes.

Wilder cannot throw away a line. Midgets come back to haunt us, after one bad joke. And having Queen Victoria seem to resemble a Munchkin is over the top and under the height limit for small talk.

Throw in the Loch Ness monster of sorts, and you have something that would later be taken as gospel by the Robert Downey school of Sherlock acting and writing.

We wished the Private Life of Sherlock could have been taken for better, not for worse. We remain loyal in sickness and health, good and bad.

 

 

Code-breaker: Rebel Genius

DATELINE:  Einstein of Computers   

 real Turing

Alan Turing, age 14.

The inspiration for the movie with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, entitled The Imitation Game, was a small British documentary called Codebreaker back in 2011.

The term “codebreaker” refers to two distinct segments of Turing’s life. He was a war hero who invented computers in the early 1940s and broke the German Nazi secret code.

Later in his life, he broke the social morays of staid British sexuality with his gay lifestyle.

Some dim-bulbs on IMdB have criticized the film for forcing them to endure his terrible, tragic second half of life, that included sex scandal, arrest, and chemical castration by the government he worked assiduously to save.

The film is also strengthened by the performers who re-enact Turing and his psychiatrist, Franz Greenbaum. With many moments of fraught faces, we have a definitive portrait of anguish.

Ed Stoppard and Henry Goodman give masterful performances. They regard each other perfectly as patient and doctor, later as friends. Goodman’s paternal father figure looks with pain upon Stoppard’s victim of cruel treatment.

Their looks make the re-enacting of Greenbaum’s medical journals quite compelling.

The film is fleshed out with interviews from Greenbaum’s now elderly daughters who knew Turing and his coworkers in breaking the Nazi code.

What you have here is a powerful indictment of how governments abuse and use people ruthlessly. In many ways this documentary is far more fascinating than the tale of the man who invented computers in the Imitation Game.

The Eagle: Too Gay or Not Gay Enough?

DATELINE: Blue Man Group?

blue man group Whose Slave Is it?

Back in 2011, Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell commenced a series of roles in which they seemed to be walking on the wild side of homoeroticism. In one of their early incarnations, they went gladiator school for us.

The Eagle has over 400 Amazon Prime reviews—and only two picked up on the bromance tell-tale marks.

Like the Mechanic with Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent and probably Top Gun with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, the Eagle is about two men in an intense bromance—with all the bedroom scenes on the cutting room floor. You may gnash your teeth, or breath a sigh of relief.

You are left with a Roman Empire story about a handsome soldier and his slave-boy. Uncle Donald Sutherland knowingly buys the lad for his nephew Marcus. Later, Esca (Jamie Bell) reveals he has taken an oath of honor never to leave Marcus (Tatum). It’s about as close to nuptials as you lay it on in Ancient Rome.

The two go on a spiritual journey to recover the Roman Eagle lost by Tatum’s father in a battle in northern England where the Briton savages reign beyond gay Hadrian’s wall.

When they arrive, we have a switcheroo: in the land of beautiful men covered in blue dye, Bell is the master and Channing the slave. How their bromantic fortunes bounce.

The savage blue Britons also dance magnificently, the best we have seen English men dance since, well, Billy Elliot.

A few critics disbelieved Tatum and Bell were lovers in the script, as there were not enough smoldering looks to convince them that something was afoot. Since there are no closets in Rome or Britain of the age, we are unsure whether they were hiding there.

With intense battle scenes and violence, we have here a seminal bromance movie that will warm the cockles of your heart. It’s also the best Roman slave movie since Spartacus.

The Lost Career of Richard Cromwell

 DATELINE: Baby Face Curse

Cromwell holding clock 

Cromwell Holding Clock in Tom Brown of Culver!

Baby-faced Richard Cromwell was a shoo-in to play the panty-waist Baby-Face Morgan for a poverty-row movie production. He was always professional on the set.

Cromwell’s character is the unlikely son of Machine Gun Morgan, notorious crime boss in the syndicate. With all the FBI overwhelmed with World War II Nazis and saboteurs at home, the mob needs a front man and fall guy. Cromwell’s looks bring disparaging remarks and innuendo as he is propped up as a fake mob boss.

In case you hadn’t caught on, this was meant to be a comedy, featuring dumb blonde secretaries and mugs who are morons.

Cromwell’s career was already in the toilet, owing to the closed shop from the studios. After the pinnacle years of the 1930s when Cromwell appeared with Gary Cooper, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, and other stars, he was in rapid descent.

He married Angela Lansbury when he was 35 and looked like a teenager at the altar. Their marriage lasted only a few months and later rumors came forth that he was gay.

Cromwell remained on the periphery of Hollywood, having many friends in the industry. When he tried to make a comeback at age 50 in 1960, he became ill and did not survive, replaced in the movie.

In Baby Face Morgan, he is referred to as a kid when he was 33. A few years later, the same fate of looking young befell Audie Murphy for his entire career.

Cromwell’s movie is only passable to watch with flat yokel humor. It’s one of the forgotten tragedies.

 

 

 

M/M: Sexual Identity Thief

DATELINE:  Weird Sex Thriller!

m:m M/M

Drew Lint is a director whose name we will watch in the future. His effort called M/M refers to Matthew and Mattias, two trendy young gay men in Berlin. However weird, this is not your usual gay love story. It is more a story of bizarre sexual obsession and identity theft. It’s Strangers on a Train on steroids.

If Jean Cocteau were still making movies, this would be his updated Beauty of a movie. If Rene Clair were making movies, this would be his update of a Highsmith story. Drew Lint writes and directs this film that rises far above the usual fare of gay-themed movies.

Hitchcock dared to make a movie like this, without overt sex in Rope.

Dialogue is sparse throughout the film, but it is definitely international with dollops of French, English,  and German, often in minor conversation or background.

Matthew is an artist, and Mattias is a bademeister (or glorified pool boy). Mattias wants to become his near twin, and there is a Patricia Highsmith Purple Noon quality here.

Stealing your life and sexuality may be more daring than taking your purse.

Whether parts of the tale are a dream (as Mattias notes in the opening, he dreams of statues come to life), you may be left guessing. Since Matthew may be involved in computer sculptures, you have a connection.

The dream twins become more and more alike, which may be why they both are devotees of techno music. How Mattias comes to take over Matthew’s life is intriguing and almost expected from stalking.

If you are not squeamish about sexual peccadilloes, the deeper psychological by-play between the characters sexually will be part of the sophisticated puzzle of the movie.

Prepare for a roller-coaster of creepy psychological games.

 

 

New Book Vindicates Ossurworld…Again

DATELINE: Aaron Hernandez Revisited

Laughing Cavalier

When given the choice between staying silent or beating a dead horse, you know what side we fall on.

Once again, vindication and bragging seem to have paired up in our blog. We were an early source to call out and simply out Aaron Hernandez, New England’s Billy the Kid cum Jack the Ripper.

Now his common-law wife has written the introduction to lawyer Jose Baez’s new book on Hernandez:  in it, she admits that Aaron likely maintained a secret gay life. He also wrote a suicide note to his prison gay lover. And more.

Other tawdry revelations likely will follow.

Of course, even in liberal Massachusetts, prosecution teams would not go forth with the gay angle for murder motives. We went there, tastelessly and fearlessly, during earliest moments of the trial of Hernandez.

Police felt investigating a gay lifestyle of an NFL player would boomerang against the case: jurors and NFL fans would never accept that notion about one of their gladiators of the gridiron. Backlash even hit us.

Never let it be said that “gladis” is a Latin term popular in gay circles way back when gladiators roamed the athletic arenas.

So, what comfort do we take from our book The Strange Case of Aaron Hernandez? Not much. Mostly we take royalties as it continues to sell.

In our book and original blog entries, we took the tone of outright indignation over his crimes: revealed that he led one victim to a sexual tryst that turned into a shooting a mile from Hernandez’s home at 3am. What does it all come-down to now? A cheap TV movie? Sensational  books by lawyers and hack journalists (such as we are)? Fake news?

It’s all info-tainment. We used to say that our professorial lectures in college classrooms were nothing more than an exercise in edu-tainment. And blogs are merely the tease, as performed by any self-disrespecting fool or cheap-shot blogger.

We stand by our book on Hernandez. It depicts what is akin to what passes for truth nowadays when Rudi Giuliani tells us that truth is not necessarily truth.

Gone and Not Forgotten!

DATELINE: Disappearing without a Trace

 American Aeryn, Mr. Gay AustriaGillern

A parental nightmare centers on the sudden disappearance of an adult child in a foreign land.

This true story from 2011 tells the horror faced by a retired Ithaca, New York, cop Kathyrn Gillern whose son goes missing in Vienna. Without help, with a language barrier, and with many unanswered questions, this disturbing tale of Aeryn Gillern is told primarily from his mother’s viewpoint.

Alas, much is either withheld or minimized. We see the strapping handsome young American who has become an expatriate and moved to Austria to work for a branch of the United Nations. Then, we learn he is gay. Then, we learn he wants his mother in retirement to move in with him.

Most disturbing of all, we learn that Austria is not a friendly place for gay men. Like the attitude toward Jews 60 years earlier, the populace may be more than hostile.

Police are unfriendly and decidedly cruel to the mother, claiming she is “difficult,” and believe she has come to learn what happened with a chip on her shoulder.

Along the way, more details emerge. Aeryn (once Aaron) was at an elite sauna for well-to-do gay men—and ran out naked to the streets. Police contend it was a “spontaneous suicide” after learning he was HIV-positive.

When his mother goes through his belongings, his recent medical test said he was HIV-negative!  Police lie to her about search dogs, divers in the Danube, and other sundry details.

We hear he is Mr. Gay Austria of 2006!  What? An American? That seems to be part of a homophobic reaction by police, and a coverup of high-ranking gay officials.

Was Aeryn on drugs? Murdered by a jealous lover? A suicide?

Or was it even more nefarious? We think it sounds like he was somehow involved in high-level espionage. Was he CIA? You will never learn from this film.

There are no answers in this compelling mystery that ends in 2011 with annual trips by Aeryn’s mother to seek information in Vienna and hold a solitary vigil.

In 2015, the police finally dragged the river for his body—an example of too little, too late, and no results.

The story is almost as infuriating as the details we are not told.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hard to Kill, Harder to Watch

DATELINE:  Hard Jobs

Tim Unleashed Tim Kennedy Unleashed

Tim Kennedy, formerly of Hunting Hitler as the go-to adventurer who investigated dangerous people, has gone a step beyond for a new Discovery series.

Hard to Kill is one of those “dangerous job” shows where some rank amateur tries his hand, without training, at doing something where you need a few years of experience to do the job right.

So, Tim Kennedy, former Green Beret, muscle-man, pushing forty years, is perfect as the guy being a man in a world of wussies. In the old days we called him a dare-devil, or simply foolhardy, or blithering idiot.

He shows guts and lack of brains at the same time.

In the first show, he tries his hand at “American bullfighter,” and it’s not what you expect. In the jargon of pop culture, this job is rodeo clown:  the guy in clown makeup who distracts the rampaging bull from running over the fallen rider.

This is risky. Breaking bones is the easy way out. Jumping to the fence to escape the bull’s charge is not a good idea, as these pros tell Kennedy: you can be impaled on an immovable object (a fence slat).

Bulls run at 35mph and are reasonably adept at hitting their target. You can plainly see that the rodeo men take it seriously to protect their own—and sending out an untrained person is not only foolhardy, but unethical. Yet, the price of TV fame comes high, so to speak.

Kennedy is personable and overly energetic, but these kind of adventurers were the explorers of yesteryear. They may seem anachronistic today or suited only for TV derring-do.

 

 

Ideal Home is Broken

DATELINE: Gay  Grandparents

coogan & rudd

A big budget, well-acted gay comedy is not to be taken lightly. It’s as rare as hen’s teeth.

This one features a couple of solid actors:  Steve Coogan often is unrecognized, falling into parts like the protagonist who helps Philomena. In this film Ideal Home, he is a refugee from La Cage aux Folles.

Coogan’s partner is Paul Rudd (who plays a Red Sox catcher and real-life spy in another recent movie). He too can strike many poses. The two actors play a TV producer and his celebrity chef star and boyfriend. They are convincing.

Their extravagant and funny life is complicated when a nine-year old grandson of Coogan shows up in a shocking surprise. The foul-mouthed kid is not adorable, and the ultimate fuss over him seems implausible. He is pedestrian.

The strain put on the middle-aged gay couple is the source of humor and good-natured joking. It could have gone over the line and been offensive to gay people, but good actors tend to prevent that liability.

Alas, the plot is routine. The ne-er-do-well son of Coogan’s chef wants his son back when he is released from prison. Apparently, there is no problem with returning custody of a child to a convict.

The two grandfathers have, rather expectedly, grown accustomed to the child (for reasons that escape our comprehension).

Since this is a fun picture, you can expect an ending worthy of the Friends of Judy, which literally seems to come true.

All in all, it is a frivolous entertainment, and you could do worse than spending time with these loose cannons.

When a gnarly little boy is sent off to live with his gay grandfather who is a TV celeb chef, you have merriment galore.

This is enhanced with really good actors like Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan giving it their gay walkabout in a luxurious Santa Fe ranchero home.

 

Marilyn Monroe: Gone 56 Years

DATELINE: Sad Anniversary

MM 

Was it really so long ago in August, 1962, that Marilyn died so suddenly and mysteriously? We heard the news on Sunday morning on vacation. Was it an accident or some kind of bizarre conspiracy that did her in?

She was thought to be a sad, pathetic suicide at the time of her death, body claimed by former husband Joe DiMaggio. Her last film was the Misfits with Clark Gable, written by her ex-husband and playwright Arthur Miller. It was extraordinary stuff. She could play light comedy or heavy tragedy (Some Like It Hot, Bus Stop).

She had become emotionally erratic, fired by the studio and dismissed from movies (The outtakes of Something’s Gotta Give show her radiant and perfect. Over an hour of film footage was reconstructed a few years back. Why did they fire her?). The career trauma  seemed to explain her death—at first.

Over time, we learned she was a victim of the casting couch: with lurid stories of her promiscuity and misuse by producers and unscrupulous men (and Joan Crawford).

Then, we learned she was the victim of the President of the United States and his brother. Some even speculate that she was assassinated by the CIA because she was about to blow the whistle on political shenanigans and UFOs, state secrets she learned in her dalliances.

Now, more recently, we hear that she fought the casting couch mentality of Hollywood, walked out of movies when she was mistreated and sexually abused.

Whatever the truth, she was a luminous talent, who actually glowed on celluloid. Her career might have been on the skids because of age by the late 1960s, but we will never know whether she would have made a transformation to character actress, or into a legend as she is now.

Poor Marilyn. She was missed immediately– and is still missed today.