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.

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.

 

Trump’s Deadly Numbers Game

DATELINE: Serial Tweeter?

 glow in dark pee pot

President Bone Spurs Trump, Liar Emeritus, and ace wriggler out of any blame, now contends that 2975 people did not die in Puerto Rico from two hurricane rescue missions his Administration completely mismanaged.

Let them drink those bottled waters sitting on pallets, never distributed to thirsty Americans.

In his prevaricating way, T-Rump contends that Democrats (not even the fake media this time) have inflated the death figures to make him look bad.

He doesn’t need anyone to make him look bad. He does it all by himself.

If his Mad Hatter attitude strikes you as appalling, you number among the 60% of the country who disapprove of this horse’s rear end sitting on his rear end in the White House.

He rises up only to golf and charge taxpayers with the cartload of Secret Service who must follow him hole to hole to the tune of $300,000.

The minority of racists and white supremacists who believe the island of Puerto Rico is a foreign country, not an American territory inhabited by American citizens, support Trump’s new math calculations.

In fact, when you boil it down in history, with the anniversary of terror attack on 9/11 only a few days past, you have 2996 Americans killed by two planes driven off course by terrorists. Mr. Bone Spurs, the artful draft dodger, falls merely 20 fewer dead among his derelict presidency with twin hurricanes he ignored.

Trump has killed 2975 Americans in two hurricanes that he allowed to fester without assisting the suffering.

There is something delusional about a cretin sitting in power. More reasonable people now await the day that lends itself to men with nets in white coats coming to the White House to cart him off.

Throw him some bottled water on the way out. It cannot come soon enough.

 

 

Trump on Candid Camera

DATELINE:    Pictures  of 1000 words             

warhol doubleDateNight?

President Bone Spurs, aka the draft dodger, and now liar emeritus, Donald Trump claims he has photos of James Comey and Robert Mueller up a tree, kissing.

If he has such pictures, they were obtained illegally at the least.

If he has made up this story, in the Mark Twain tradition, of great liars, then he is amoral and disgusting.

If he has seen fake photos from some odd Internet source, then he is a dupe.

Worst of all, if he believes that these two honorable men would allow photographs of themselves in compromising positions, then he is utterly deluded.

In short, he  is  totally  koo-koo.

However you  slice this baloney, Trump is a loathsome animal.  No surprises there.

There are likely a few Evangelicals who will defend this crap,

But Nazi punksters are everywhere in Trump’s  twisted world.

People  who live in White glass Houses should not cast aspersions before their first sin is revealed.

We have in our possession a photo of Mr. Trump in flagrante delicto with one Rudi Guiliani.   They have locked  lips   and Rudi is in drag.

On top of that, we also hold a photo of Mr. Trump out on a date with Andy Warhol on the way to Studio54 in their heyday.

Photos tell quite a story.

                                                        

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.

 

 

 

Unlocked: Bloom of Youth Gone?

 DATELINE: Spies Who Came in from the Heat

bloom Fading Bloom?

Unlocked is a gender-bender spy tale in which the producers take a routine story and make the hero a heroine, casting the burned-out case of an agent from man to woman. In this case it is Noomi Rapace or is that Roomi Napace?

You can’t tell CIA agent without a scorecard or iPO address.

She is a manly girl, and so is her butch boss, Toni Collette, playing one of those MI6 supervisors in conflict with her American counterpart in the CIA, John Malkovich.

There is some deadpan humor evident, but the main point is whom can you trust? And is anyone really dead?

Don’t make any bets.

Michael Douglas is Noomi’s mentor in a few clipped scenes. He takes a clip or two more than once.

Orlando Bloom looks haggard and covered in tattoos to diminish his once-boyish charms as some kind of thug-cum-wish-come-true.

Yes, there are twists galore and violence unremitting as we try to figure out who the terrorists are and why they are so sympathetic. It seems their cell in London wants to downplay terror attacks in multi-cultural London.

We recall the days when it was New York City that was the melting pot, but times and spies change the war terms.

The film is utterly brazen in its attempt to create a franchise, following the exploits of this female James Bond hopeful. Most of the cast likely could return in one role or another as the spies who loved each other.

 

 

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.

 

Endeavour 5.6. Endings & Loose Ends

DATELINE: Disappointing Finish to Season

 last endeavour

Inspector Morse has certainly come to the end of one line. Season wraps are often cliff-hangers, but this one seemed less definitive. There is no cliff and no hanging story. Morse’s entire Oxford station has closed and been re-assigned. He is now separated from most of his closest associates.

Like most series that attempt to close the loops of character stories at season’s end, the price is the actual mystery of the tale. Endeavour is so concerned with the loose ends that the big picture suffers in the final episode.

This season closer featured a few of the regulars in smaller than usual, compact scenes: Abigail Thaw, daughter of the original Morse actor, showed up for a funeral at the end of the show, in her role as the tough news journalist.

Thursday’s daughter seemed about to re-kindle her role in the life of Endeavour Morse, and the Thursday and his wife have split over trust issues.

The Chief has tendered his own resignation but has some solace in that those left in service will work to learn who was responsible for the death of one of their regimen.

As obvious, this mystery episode about Morse going under cover as a teacher at a hoity-toity school was really secondary to the wrap-up of a variety of story lines that have grown this season—and travel backward four other seasons.

We know only that the original series set in the 1990s featured the coroner and one of Morse’s fellow officers, in a supervisory capacity, twenty years later. Beyond that, we may come to the only other fact: Morse remained unattached, unlucky in love.

A sixth season will come next year. It will be largely unrecognizable in terms of the past few years. The deadly 1960s are about to give way to the overwrought 1970s. The series may be on its last legs.

 

 

The Business of an American Home

 DATELINE:  Wright House, Wrong Address

American home

Let’s face it: the city of Kankakee, Illinois, needs all the help its Chamber of Commerce can provide.

Enter director/writer Thomas Desch.  He has put together a fascinating centerpiece for reviving the city: its greatest single tourist and artistic point is the house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed at the turn of the 20th century.

An American Home has an unwieldy and ridiculous subtitle Frank Lloyd Wright’s B. Harley Bradley House, but don’t be daunted. You have here architectural history and how it is personally tied to the fates of real people who try to live and work within a building’s architecture.

Wright was a genius and his first example of the Prairie Home was in Illinois where the well-to-do young Bradley’s commissioned a house, stable, and accompanying residence for their family. Perhaps some places are benighted and cursed.

As amazing and beautiful as the house was—and now is again—it had a hard journey over 100 years. And, so did the cursed owners.

With its stunning stained glass, lead-lined windows, largely sold at auction, and its furniture and tables bought for exorbitant prices by celebs like Barbra Streisand over the years, the Wright house has been decimated.

The owners have variously committed suicide and been kidnapped and murdered (one during renovation of the structure).

Yet,generous patrons have thrown millions of bucks into refurbishing the Yesteryear Restaurant of 50 years (bankrupt in the 1980s) and fallen into disrepair, to save it from demolishing.

Its stable was an afterthought that was saved only by large protests. You may be shocked to learn 20% of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs have been destroyed.

So, we have no issue with the Kankakee people who are proud of the most impressive building and home of their city. Interesting history and biography.

 

 

 

LBJ with Woody & Rob Reiner

 DATELINE: Sympathy for Lyndon

LBJ

Two of TV’s biggest personalities in the 1970s have managed to survive as two highly respected professionals today. These are Woody Harrelson who started out as a boy toy on Cheers, and Rob Reiner who was Archie Bunker’s son-in-law punching bag.

They team up as star and director of LBJ, an interesting and sympathetic portrait of a man who has fallen into disfavor among Kennedy fans and conspiracy theorists. It’s all the more interesting when you consider Woody Harrelson’s father was a CIA agent arrested as a person of suspicion in Dallas in 1963.

The ironies of history are not lost on this film in which Johnson is largely despised by Bobby Kennedy, almost with a pathological hatred, and mistrusted as a Judas figure by the Southern senators of which Johnson was often a key leader.

Under heavy (and impressive) makeup, Harrelson is an amazing likeness of LBJ. It’s matched by Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Bird.

The movie jumps between re-enacted assassination scenes in Dallas and times before and after with the Kennedys. John Kennedy seems to laugh at the wit of Johnson, but nothing can save LBJ from Robert Kennedy’s disgust. This may be the most negative portrait of the Attorney General in movies. Bobby is played by Michael Stahl-David as a sourpuss.

LBJ quotes Shakespeare and one smarmy Kennedy aide notes that he is quoting Brutus. A little knowledge is dangerous.

The film dismisses Vietnam in one sentence in one scene, and though Johnson talks to J. Edgar Hoover in a one-sided phone call, there is nothing about the Warren Commission.

LBJ is devastated by the death of JFK and swears to bring forth Kennedy’s desire for a Civil Rights bill, even if it brings him into loggerheads with Sen. Russell of Georgia (Richard Jenkins). He calls his long-time friend a racist to his face.

Johnson’s crude humor and drawl contrasted badly with the debonair charm of JFK—but this film tries to go below the surface, and therein is the movie’s importance.

 

 

Man in Orange: Cottage in Oil

DATELINE: Parallel Stories or Tag Teams?

cast that never appears together

Cast actually never appears together.

Not to be confused with dull plotting, Man in an Orange Shirt is a Masterpiece PBS drama.

The film is a complex examination of gay life across 60 years with a focus on two generations: the post-World War II veterans, and the modern 21st century.  If there is any relief here, it is that this is not your typical gay story about randy American teenagers, charging out of closets.

However, the angst spreads over the decades. The older generation keeps a stiff upper lip and sucks in their tears, whereas the contemporary gay men let it all out. The tale is about a gay banker and his artist lover, separated by social convention and a wife in the 1940s. His grandson is also in the closet with a different inability to be monogamous, and never knew about his grandfather.

The stories share Vanessa Redgrave as the difficult grandmother, a painting of the man in an orange shirt, and a remote love-nest cottage, shared by the two divergent generations.

Suffering seems to be hereditary in this tale. Vanessa Redgrave took the role because her father, Michael Redgrave, was gay. She understood the sturm und drang in the script.

The cast includes Redgrave, Julian Sands in the modern tale, with Laura Carmichael (of Downton Abbey), and James McArdle in the past. As always, you have the best actors in the field, unlike American gay casts of beauty pageant boys.

Since England has been about 50 years ahead of the United States on the subject of homosexuality, it seems to have smaller moments of fraught tension. Young men forced themselves into a bisexual mold, whether it fit or not, in the old days.

Today’s gay men must fight to be faithful, and open relationships appear to be compromises that make for overwrought drama.

This is not your teenage gay disco dolly gay movie. Thank heavens.

Coke & Pepsi: 100 Years of Marketing War

DATELINE: Bottoms Up!

cola

Well, it’s not exactly the War of the Roses. You might be surprised at the back and forth of the fates and fights of the two soda pop giants. A documentary entitled Coke and Pepsi: the Marketing Battle of the Century offers to eliminate your six-pack with caloric intake.

It seems like much ado, full of sound and fury but signifies billions of dollars and millions of lives over the empty bottles, cans, and soda fountain glasses.

Many factoids emerge from their origins in the time after the United States Civil War. Coca-Cola arose in the 1880s out of battle scarred Georgia, and a few years later in South Carolina, you had the birth of the purer Pepsi. Coke was originally laced with cocaine, long-since discontinued. Both were overly laced with sugar.

Both started small:  like six ounces in a bottle, not like today’s mega-drinks that are three times the size and deadly to the human diet and nearly a diabetic shock in one swallow.

In the 1930s, Pepsi made great strides by selling itself at half the price of Coke. It became the drink of poor people and disadvantaged Americans and reinvented itself as the drink of the elite.

The Colas are as political as you might expect. They created marketing: red and blue ribbons of their banners. Santa Claus drank Coke. And, Coke was the patriotic American thirst-quencher. It was a staple of World War II and had to be discontinued in the Third Reich (where Coca-Cola became Fanta for the duration).

TV appeals and musical ditties permeated the 1950s: you are who you chose to drink with. When Joan Crawford became Pepsi’s spokesperson, Bette Davis drank Coke.

Nixon drank Pepsi and tried to force it down the Russian throats. But Coke went for the Red Chinese market.

When health fanatics became their enemy in the 21st century, the colas teamed up against the political forces of the health industry and the diet Puritans.

Which tasted better? Which one shot itself in the foot and became a classic? Which one is more akin to rot your gut? This documentary may be for you if you want to learn the answers.

 

 

Ancient Aliens 13.6 Return to the Start

 DATELINE: Round & Round We Go! 

 out there

In the thirteenth fake cycle season, Ancient Aliens seems to have come full circle. Have we not already seen an episode on Area 52? Have we actually seen many episodes about the secret installation?

Oh, wait, you are one step ahead of us. Area 52 is ahead of the game.  Area 51 is so passe, apparently, as if it really was anything but a show horse to throw us off.

We were confused by that 1947 Roswell newspaper headline that seems to appear somewhere in every episode of the series. It’s like a Hitchcock cameo from one of his movies.

Ancient Aliens has moved on to underground bunkers and high-speed rail stations that will carry you anywhere fast. You can’t get a monthly pass, and no one ever sees the train. There are deep underground tubes on Long Island to Montauk Point, and from Roswell to Area 51 in Nevada.

These rails beneath the surface of America are more advanced than the newest rapid transit tubes. You can now de-centralize the alien secrets.  Smaller bits of the spaceship are back engineered, and they are sent where no man or journalist can go, nor can the rest of us.

Government agencies are no longer viable. To keep the snooping public out of it, private companies are now in charge of research and development. This undercuts Freedom of Information seekers—and producers of the cottage industry of secret alien hideaways on TV shows.

Apparently the government is also back-engineering an Egyptian pharaoh’s time travel chair.

The show’s episodes for this summer will continue later after a hiatus, but they stressed the government research into telekinesis, mind control, and other devices are the keys to unlocking the universe.  Stay tuned for ESP reports on the next go-round.

 

Re-fighting the Battle of the Sexes

DATELINE: Gay Lib, Not Gay Lob

Bobby & Billie Truly a Doubles Match!

Many viewers may not know the story of Bille Jean King and Bobby Riggs and their ridiculously hyped tennis match of the early 1970s.

The earlier TV movie was called When Billie Beat Bobby. This new version is the Battle of the Sexes, but it’s more of a coming-out story.

Many may not know that an earlier cable movie effectively told the story with all the limitations of small screen propriety. If you wonder about the differences, there was no hint of gayness in Billie or her marriage. She had no bedroom scenes with a female hairdresser.

She did not have a gay best friend (marvelous Alan Cumming as Ted). She did not have a cantankerous relationship with Margaret Court in the first movie who is always holding a baby in the remake.

You did not see Bobby Riggs’ nude layout. You did not see his marital problems, or his hilarious attendance at a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.

You had a greater sense that Bobby and Billie were, above all else, “good sports” and actually remained lifelong friends.

The big screen smash has magnificent performances from Emma Stone and Steve Carell, looking more like their real counterparts. Carell is making an industry out of playing peripheral sports characters (Dupont in Foxcatcher). There are some marvelous effects too, bringing Howard Cosell back to life to play himself.

This is a big budget film with a great music score, pictures of celebs of the times, and the Houston Astrodome itself.

We recall the match was a grand joke, only taken seriously by those who’d be willing to buy the Brooklyn Bridge from Bobby Riggs. How could anyone think that old man could beat a young athletic woman?

Well, as we recall, yes, there were men crushed by the defeat. This movie brings it all back to us.

Boston Hits a Low Spot: Trolley Cars Underground

DATELINE: Boston’s First Big Dig

dig down No-park Street Station

American Experience presents some interesting little films that collect amazing movie clips and photos. They then intersperse them into literate narratives.

This one is narrated by Michael Murphy and tells the fascinating history of how Boston became the first major subway system in the United States. The documentary is oddly titled The Race Underground, which is misleading and has unfortunate connotations outside the point.

Explaining how people associated the underground with dead bodies six feet under, there was a general belief that travel beneath the Earth was unnatural, if not demonic. The electric trolley ended man’s inhumanity to horse.

When big dig excavations down Commonwealth Avenue uncovered Revolutionary War graves, you might find the point being made as a warning.

Tracing the electrification of motors to Frank Sprague, an independent inventor who tried to shy away from that behemoth of American technology, Thomas Edison, he sold his electrified trolley systems. It didn’t matter much because Edison inevitably bought him out and took his name off the product.

Without Sprague, the underground subway would be a dark and dirty trip, filled with soot and fright.

We enjoyed seeing the old trolleys in turn of the century film with destinations to North Cambridge and Roxbury Crossing. And, the information was new to us: how Boston was in the 1890s one of the most congested cities in America, worse even than New York—a rivalry Bean Towne would prefer to lose.

You don’t have to be a local Bostonian to enjoy this little film, but having traveled on the rapid transit when Scollay Square was a stop, we found it a delightful trip back in time.