Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Prospero's Trauma

Regular readers know that I visit multiple blogs and movie sites every day. I visit some to be informed on any number of topics (Towleroad; Boing Boing); some to be amused (Regretsy; BizzaroBlog; Sleep Talkin' Man); some because I just love the opinions of like-minded folks (Just a Jeep Guy, Are You There Blog? It's Me, Stephen); some because they are even more obsessed with movies than yours truly (My New Plaid Pants, Final Girl, Film Experience) and some just because I like what the folks writing them have to say (Post Apocalyptic Bohemian). I have become online friends with several other bloggers (Sean at Just a Jeep Guy and the two Stephens at Are You There Blog? and Post Apocalyptic). I comment on all of them from time to time and many of them comment here.

One of my favorite blogs is Kindertrauma. The writers on Kindertrauma are Aunt John and Uncle Lancifer, who I assume are romantic partners (and they should forgive and correct me if I am wrong). They write about the things (movies, mostly) that left traumatic scars on people as children. People write in with stories of books, movies and TV shows that gave them nightmares as children, often asking for help in identifying those traumatic TV shows, movies and/or books.

Well, as you can imagine, not much traumatized your Uncle P as a kid. Thanks to a weird father, I grew up on the Universal Monsters canon. I was the 10 year-old who stayed up past his bedtime to watch Doctor Shock movies on Saturday nights. I was the kid who drew vampires on his Valentine cards and thought that blood tasted like cherry syrup (big surprise there, eh?).

Still, there was one thing that really freaked me out - burning alive. The story of Joan of Arc could send me fleeing to my room and tales of witch burnings in 15th Century Europe made me cower under the covers. Of all the ways one can die, burning to death freaks me out like no other. I think its the combination of pain and the smell of burning flesh that really gets to me. I once dreamt about a horrible wreck in which I could smell the burning flesh of those in the wrecked car, and I woke up gagging. It really is the most horrible way I can think of to die. So imagine my horror when, as a youth in the early 70's when I saw a movie (TV show?) in which a young woman was exhorting her friend to burn her at the stake for being a witch. Yikes!

So recently, I sent an email to Aunt John and Uncle Lancifer about that very trauma, asking if they, or any of their readers, could identify the scene for me. Lo and behold, the posted my query here, Of course, no one has stepped forward to identify the source of my particular Kindertauma, though I am hoping some one will.

And almost as importantly, they have linked Caliban's Revenge on their site. Hopefully that will mean more traffic for your Uncle P. That, and the answer to my question. Perhaps one of you know what movie or TV show I'm referencing. It's been bugging me for years, now. Any ideas, friends?

More, anon.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Music, Cartoons and a Much-Delayed Review

I really should have titled that in a different order, since I'm actually starting with the last item, first ("Oh, Uncle P, you're such a card!").

Anyway, while I finally was able to watch two episodes of Comedy Central's newest animated series "Ugly Americans," I had been putting off my official review for one reason or another. But I finally realized it's actually because I hate writing bad reviews. And I am sad to say that "Ugly Americans" is not very good, at all. That's not to say they don't try.

Set in an alternate reality version of New York City, "Ugly Americans" suffers most from trying to jam too many sub-genres together in one show. Mark works at the Bureau of Integration, trying to help various supernatural and extraterrestrial beings assimilate into life in Manhattan. He runs counseling sessions, job placement programs, etc., for beings other than human. His boss is literally from Hell (Daddy is the big S, himself), but that doesn't stop him from sleeping with her; his roommate, Randall, is a zombie (who turned for a fickle girl who only dated zombies, but had moved on to warlocks by the time he did); his co-worker is an alcoholic wizard and his clients are any number of beasties, monsters, aliens and robots in need of socialization.

Lord knows, I'm all for alternate realities; monsters; zombies; vampires; demons; aliens and robots. I'm just not sure how they all fit together. And, apparently, neither are the writers. One joke characters pop in and out with no rhyme or reason and the regular characters are simply tired cliches, stereotypes and been-there-done-that parodies. The first episode introduced us to the show's characters and the second dealt with a man accepting that he'd become a werewolf, while forgiving the werewolf that ate his arm, along with a "Meet the Parents from Hell" sub-plot. Neither episode was particularly funny (I may have chuckled a few times between them) and to be quite frank, I've seen better animation.

I suppose my biggest problem is with the show's central conceit. If this is an alternate reality where such beings are commonplace, then there would be no need for a Bureau of Integration. And if the Bureau exists because of a change in the status of "reality," then we need to why (or at least how) the status of reality changed. Yes, I know - "It's an animated comedy, fer cryin' out loud! Get over it!" I would, if the damned thing wasn't trying so hard. *1/2 (One and a Half Stars Out of Four).

It's a shame, because I really had high hopes for "Ugly Americans." And maybe it will get better with time, though I kind of doubt it. For now, I'll happily await the return of "Futurama."

And probably thanks to Sunday's Betty Boop cartoon, Q seems to be in a Max Fleischer kind of mood, because she posted the below video on Facebook today. Personally, I'm always in a Max Fleischer kind of mood, but that's just me. I am not familiar with The Real Tuesday Weld, but after hearing "The Day Before You Came," I intend to find out more about them and their music. It's an interesting song that fits amazingly well with the old Felix the Cat cartoon (even better than Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz):

That sort of reminds me of this:

And finally, via Towleroad's Tuesday music roundup, comes this clever and just a little gay video from Diane Birch. "Valentino" is Bubblegum Pop Song fun, with a video that is sure to elicit a smile or two:

I think I may very well love this young woman. Or her art director.

More, anon.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ricky Martin (Finally) Comes Out

Okay, I'll admit it. I was torn here. I didn't know what to run with tonight. It was between my promised review of "Ugly Americans" or Ricky Martin's Big Announcement. After careful consideration, the review remains, TBA...

But never let it be said that Uncle P is above some gratuitous images accompanied by legitimate social comment.

Of course, everyone in the world has run this by now, but Latin hottie and former member of Menudo, Ricky Martin, has officially come out. Entertainment Weekly broke the story (they seem to be the go-to when celebs come out) here. As they say, "double-duh." There still might have been a few delusional 30-something fangirls who had dreams of one day becoming Mrs. Ricky Martin, but the rest of us knew a long, long time ago. Straight boys (even hot Latin ones) do not move their hips like that.

Now, a real hero of mine, James Randi, recently came out as well -- at age 81! Randi, if you aren't familiar, is Houdini's heir-apparent. A former magician (The Amazing Randi), Randi has spent the latter years of his life as a psychic debunker. The James Randi Educational Foundation has a standing offer of $1M to anyone who can reproduce and/or prove the existence of psychic phenomena under true scientific test conditions. I believe several have come forward to try, but none have collected. I have known about and loved James Randi for exposing frauds and espousing truth for many years. I love him even more now that he has found the courage to finally tell the truth about himself. You can read about it from the man himself, here.

Here's the thing: Even though everyone knew (or at least suspected) about Ricky, making it official not only validates Martin's personal life, but it encourages both celebrities and average folks to do the same. Our lives matter. The people we love and who love us matter. Speak up and let them know we aren't going away. You know by now how I feel about coming out, being heard and making our voices count.

ACTUP, the AIDS activist organization, had a slogan: SILENCE = DEATH. I think we need a new one to replace it. I'm thinking: TRUTH = FREEDOM. What do you think?

"Enough with politics and LGBT issues, Uncle P! Geez you gotta a high horse!" I know - that's why its so hard to get down off of it, sometimes. I'm getting to be so political in my old age, it's starting to scare me. But I will get off my very high horse and move on to something lighter. Like some hot Latin gay booty:

Damn, that boy was pretty! And Ew; I just made myself feel like this.

More, anon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

You Must Remember This...

Tomorrow is Q's 50th Birthday. I've been friends with the loveliest, most gracious woman I know for almost 30 years! I've only known my own family members, longer. Though I did meet her husband Dale when we were both teenagers. I acted at his father's Dinner Theatre the summer I turned 17. It was my first paid acting gig - $500 for the entire run. I thought I was on my way. The show was awful, but Dale and company introduced me to Rocky Horror that summer, and I found out that it was starting to be okay to let your freak flag fly. Then there was a very long gap before I saw Dale again, in 1995 (which is another story about directing he and Q as Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, during which they fell hopelessly in love....).

In the meantime, I'd done a whole lot of stuff, including meeting Q in an Acting class in 1981. But it wouldn't be until later that year when I was stage-managing a production of The Heiress, in which she had the lead, that we truly bonded over a long night of conversation which included quotes from every single Little Rascals moment my sister and I loved so much. I knew we would be friends for a very, very long time, that very night (which also is another long story involving my car getting broken into and sleeping in my friend Deb's bed, several weeks before I ever met her).

There has rarely been a major event in either of our lives which Q and I have not shared. She's probably the only person with whom I've seen more movies than my sister. She's undoubtedly the best actress I've ever been privileged to direct on more than one occasion, though I wish we would find something to act together in, already - before one of us kicks. We've held each other while we cried, we've laughed together a whole lot, and even had our disagreements. But that's what friends, do.

So, what's the point, Uncle P? Well, I'll tell you.

Today, Q & Dale hosted a movie party at the historic County Theater in Doylestown, PA. they could have up to 150 guests (there were a good 60 or so), all the popcorn we could eat and the movie of her choice, as long as it was commercially available on DVD. Q struggled with what to choose (Bringing Up Baby was on the list, which pleased yours truly to no end) but she kept it a well-guarded secret. Finally today at 1:00, after a very funny Betty Boop cartoon:

...we finally discovered the what movie Q had chosen and a cheer went up as the names Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Paul Henreid lit up the screen:

It has been years since I've seen Casablanca, and I'd never seen it on a big screen. And I think the the thing that surprised me the most, was that I'd forgotten how funny it could be. Bogart has some of the best snappy comebacks, ever. And I'd forgotten how in every closeup, Bergman's eyes are brimming with liquid, as though they might spill over at any moment and drown you in her beauty. I'd forgotten how small a role Peter Lorre actually has, and how terrific Claude Rains is as the pragmatically corrupt Captain Renault or that Renault's uniform changes as he changes alliances. Small moments, like those created by S.K. Sakall as Maitre d' Carl; Dooley Wilson as Sam and Curt Bois as the Pickpocket, are what make Rick's Cafe Americain a real place. Writers Julius & Phillip Epstein and Howard Koch were able to turn around a rather unsuccessful stage play called Everybody Comes to Rick's and with director Michael Curtiz, create what many argue is the Best Movie Ever Made. And I'm so happy that Q helped remind me why that is.

Happy Birthday Q! I love you so very much!

Yes, I know I promised my review of "Ugly Americans," but I wasn't expected to bowled over today by a 68 year-old movie that I haven't seen in probably 10 years. It's coming.

More, anon.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Gayest Things I've Ever Posted?

Alright, some of you youngin's might not recognize the two ladies to your left (which is a terrible shame), though folks of a "certain age" (i.e. Uncle P and his friends) can tell you that not only are they both show biz legends and gay icons, but between them have slept with more gay men than most gay men do (and that's a lot of gay men).

And if you really need to be told, that's Liza Minnelli and her mother, Judy Garland. Many say that Judy's death was indirectly responsible for the raid on the Stonewall and the consequent riots, which reportedly took place while legions of gay fans had gathered to mourn their Diva's passing. That may or may not be documented somewhere, but I'm too lazy to look it up tonight. It came to me apocryphally, and so I now pass it on to you, in the same way.

Anyway, Punchy Players (via) have a very weird, but very funny commercial parody for Cream of Wheat, starring the mother/daughter superstars, both of whom are voiced by someone credited only as "Jeff." It's pretty damn gay:

Personally, I think Mario Cantone's Judy & Liza are better than Jeff's, but that weird photo animation lent it something that took the bizarre to whole new level.

Here's Mario's take:

And that took the gay up almost 3 levels... Let's see if we can't even the scales a bit.

You may have heard about this new little Internet phenomenon called Chatroullette. I would love to go on it, but you need a webcam, and I'm not going there. But people are starting to record and edit their sessions rather cleverly. I believe it is the very first music video made using Chatroulette. Gay because the music is Gaga and features a very funny guy in increasingly bizarre drag; bizarre because of the increasingly bizarre drag (and his facial hair) and hilarious because of some of the reactions, which range from horrified to hysterical to participatiorydancing. Ladies and germs (also via), I give you the Chatroulette version of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" (may be NSFW):

It's hard to know exactly what to say after watching that, isn't it?

Was I right? Are those the gayest things I've ever posted? If nothing else, they're all kind of weird (though that's not really anything new around here, now is it?). Kisses or venoms; applause or rotten tomatoes; thumbs up or down (and can I hear a sad little sigh for the end of "At the Movies" from all of you, please? The balcony is closed... ); agree, disagree or just want to share lewd limericks, then leave me a comment. I love hearing from you.

Last night I was working on both my screenplay and a critique of a play by a young friend, and time just got away from me. I really didn't have much to say, anyway (if you can you imagine such a thing). Tonight, I had a wonderful dinner at the Lambertville Station with three of my very BFFs (I've known Q, K and Dale for most of my adult life), which was what I hope will be the start of a wonderful weekend.

Of course, tomorrow also starts Phase II of The Great Plumbing Disaster of 2010: The Bathroom. The same problem that forced my kitchen renovation in January, also caused some damage to the wall in my bathroom (to save on plumbing, the builders put the bathroom and kitchen behind each other, so they shared water and waste lines in a single wall). And since it really also needed it anyway, my amazing contractor, Sam, will be replacing the tub with a shower unit; replacing the damaged wallboard behind the toilet and sink and re-tiling the floor. He's promised to have it done in three days. I'm guessing it will be Tuesday before I get to take a proper shower again. Looks like it's washcloths, baby-wipes and kitchen sink shampoos for a few days. You never learn to appreciate anything until you don't have it, I suppose. Yes, I always like to end on a cliche. It's so soothing...


More, anon. Read me tomorrow at the Zombie Zone.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tiny Art Director

This is a quickie tonight (again), but I love this blog I've just found (via) so much, I had to share.

The painting to your left is "Dog Legs" by artist Bill Zeman, who as been collaborating with his now 5 year-old daughter, since she was 2. Basically, she tells him what to paint, and he does so. Then he posts the results and his daughter's critiques. The directive for this particular painting was "Draw a dragon sneaking up on a girl. She's picking flowers." She complained that the dragon had dog legs, hence the title.

Tiny Art Director is also now a book, which I will be buying for a certain someone for a certain day coming up, because I know this person would love it (and I'll be buying a copy for myself, as well). I urge you to buy it, too. Prints of Zeman's works are also available for purchase on the site.

Off to write elsewhere but as always, more, anon,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Gayest Conspiracies You'll See This Week? What the...

So, the 2010 US Census is finally interested in us, and allowing us to be identified as spouses, whether or not our union is legally recognized. Or at least, that's what Sulu and his robot sex slave from Regula 12 want us to believe. I think they want to know how many of us there really are so they can round us up and ship us off to an island where we will all die of AIDS. Or feed us to the Vs. Seriously. The video proof is below.

I imagine that writing headlines and stories for the Weekly World News was much like what I just went through in that last paragraph. I can see the WWN headline now: Aliens and Bigfoot Help Move Gays to Gay Island; Elvis Oversees Operations.

I have already filled out and returned my census form. It is truly easy and painless (unless you have seventy-four billion people living with you). And it truly is our chance to be heard. Today saw historic health-care reform and we may very well be on the brink of historic military reform. We should be counted the way we want to be counted. The way we deserve to be counted. So (via and via), comes this PSA from George Takei and Brad Altman, reminding the LGBT community to not only participate in the census, but to be counted as members of the LGBT community.

Also via Towleroad, comes this clip of Dame Edna Everage's version of the clip that started my "Gayest Thing" posts:

I don't know... it kind of lacks energy...

Seriously, Barry Humphries has made a name for himself (or, er... uh... herself?) as Dame Edna, a raconteuress (yes, I may well have made up a word, but I don't care) and chat show 'hostess' who married into her title and is never afraid to speak her mind. Cheeky and oh so campy in that very Aussie way, Dame Edna is a Python Pepperpot who married well.

Admittedly, the clip is out of context. We don't what came before or after, how long it goes on or what the punchline is (though I suspect the punchline is, sadly, no more than the premise, itself). Humphries should have been parodying Lady Gaga, if anyone. Last year's topical humor is this years 'been there, done that' and a seasoned performer like Humphries should know that.

Off again to work on the screenplay. I promise a review of something, soon. Fill out and return your census form. Demographics are more important than you think.

More, anon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Judging Wired VII

I spent the majority of my college years at what was then Trenton State College, a respectable state school with a reputation for turning out teachers and nurses. Theatre majors were few, but that meant we all got to participate in a large number of shows in a great many capacities, both on and backstage. It's where I learned to design scenery and costumes; stage manage; build props and apply stage makeup, along with acting and directing, while working on as many as six shows a year. Its where a wonderful professor taught me how to use my basso profundo to its fullest effect on stage, and another taught me how to fill the pauses in Chekhov. I have many fond memories of TSC, though now its The College of New Jersey, a consistently top-rated public college with an ever-changing and expanding campus.

And I still do theatre there as a member of Shakespeare '70, the Classical Company in unofficial residence at TCNJ. It's where I directed The Skin of Our Teeth and where for the second year in a row, I have been privileged to be invited as an alumni judge for WIRED, an annual 24-hour student play competition. Participants have 24 hours to write, cast, rehearse and produce a 15 to 20 minute-long play, all of which have certain conditions applied to them as the writing process goes on. Whatever play they wrote, had to reflect the plays' theme, which this year was Aesop's Fables. Each play had to tell a story that represented a moral from each team's pre-selected fable. Each team was also assigned a particular genre. Twists were added at irregular intervals, which also had to be part of the show. It went something like this:

8:00 PM: Adjudicators assign each team their fable and genre, as well as which type of crazy prop they must use in a way that makes sense. The writers start throwing ideas around.

9:00 PM: The writers receive their first twist: Each play must quote Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."

10:00 PM: The second twist: Each play must have a character who stuffs his/her face with food at some point.

And so on. You get the idea. Each play also had to have a monologue in which the speaker reveals some dark secret from his/her past. Of course, being college kids, they all strive to be as hilarious as they can. And quite honestly, there was no shortage of laughs (both juvenile and insightful, mostly aimed at pop culture references). The plays presented were: Wish Granted; Papa Mia; Invasion of Chaos with Buckaroo Banzai & the Teleportation Device and Granny Mae's Samurai Smackdown. They were all very funny and outre and geeky all at once (Wish Granted started with a 'Dungeons and Dragons' type RPG being played, while Papa Mia pointedly spoofed the Abba musical from which it took its name). Some of thethings they tried worked beautifully; some worked better than others and some... not so much.

The show that almost swept the awards was Granny Mae's Samurai Smackdown, which won Best Actress (my ridiculously dirty dirty-girl Maddie, playing a ridiculously dirty old lady with great glee and amazingly perfect comic timing), Best Writing and Best Play. The award for Best Actor went to a young man in Invasion of Chaos... who gave his completely hilarious revealing soliloquy as a series of nonsensical words and syllables which somehow made perfect Star Wars sense (you had to be there), thanks to the young man's extraordinary delivery. Invasion... was co-written by my Go-Go Elf, Matty, whom I discovered as an actor while judging last Year's WIRED, where he played about 6 different hilarious characters (including Hitler) in one piece.

Although I was only there for the last 2 hours of the event, by the end, I was nearly as exhausted as the students were (though I suspect that has more to do with Uncle P's age, than anything else). After a drink or two with my co-judges, I came home and collapsed, too tired to do much more than check my mail and post an apology on The Zombie Zone.

Still, the evening (despite many obstacles - including 2 snow-related postponements), was a rousing success. Creativity was encouraged and rewarded, students engaged in some friendly competition and more than a few nerves were frazzled, when all was said and done. The entire theatre experience in one exhaustive day! I wish ther ehad been a WIRED when I was a student there. I can only imagine what might have come out of those competitions. Kudos to the all of the students who participated in WIRED. I hope to be asked back as a judge again, because I had myself a wonderful, exhilarating and hilarious evening of Theatre-by-the-Seat-of-Your-Pants last night. Bravo!

More, anon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Worst Movie Actress, Ever?

I have hardly ever seen a movie starring Jennifer Aniston that was actually any good. She was OK, I guess, on "Friends," though to be honest, I would much rather have hung out with Phoebe and Monica (Courtney Cox) than Rachel. Monica was a world class chef (if a little OCD) and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) was a totally hilarious flake. Rachel, on the other hand, was just a whiny, self-absorbed bitch.

Its not that she's unattractive. In the picture to your left, she's actually kind of pretty. But she really has very little range. I honestly cannot imagine her playing Ophelia or Juliet (though I'm sure she probably attempted those roles in acting class - if she ever actually took one). Nor can I see her as one of Chekhov's Three Sisters or Nora in A Doll's House. Or any other 'serious' role.

Her movie career started with a very, very bad movie (1993's Leprechaun) and hasn't gotten much better since.

There was a string of forgettable TV roles and then along came NBC's "Friends" in 1994. Notable for its great writing and ensemble acting, "Friends" became a cornerstone of NBC's Must See TV Thursdays. Meanwhile, Aniston became most famous for a hairstyle which came to be known as "The Rachel." A hairstyle. Not her acting. A hairstyle.

For her next movie, she lucked out in a supporting role in Edward Burns' She's the One, though she wasn't particularly memorable in it. And the film was hardly as good as Burns' debut, The Brothers McMullin, though she somehow managed to earn top billing.

Then came Picture Perfect; The Object of My Affection (co-starring hottie Paul Rudd); a voice role in Brad Bird's underrated The Iron Giant; Bruce Almighty; Along Came Polly; a supporting role in Office Space and her first serious role in The Good Girl, an overrated domestic drama that had critics raving, but left audiences cold. Then there was the simply godawful thriller Derailed; another terrible rom-com called Rumor Has It; another attempt at drama with the flop Friends With Money which was followed by The Breakup; Management; Marley and Me and her current cinematic turd Bounty Hunter, co-starring Gerard Butler, the worst thing to happen to Romantic Comedies since Jennifer Aniston:

Finally (via), comes the trailer for her next movie The Switch, in which she plays a single woman who decides to impregnate herself with donor sperm, only to have her best friend (Jason Bateman - Oh, Jason... really?) switch his own donation for the one she chose. Originally titled The Baster (as in 'Turkey Baster' - Get it? **sigh**), The Switch is everything that's wrong with romantic comedies, today. The witty banter of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn; Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell; Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert; hell, even Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, has been replaced with formulaic nonsense even a 10 year-old could tell you is rubbish. The Switch makes Dracula, Dead and Loving It look highbrow in comparison. See for yourselves:

Ugh! I need a shower after watching that. Drivel incarnate. And what the hell are Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis doing in this mess?

So, is Aniston actually the worst actress working in Hollywood today? Probably not. She's certainly no worse than others of her generation. Is she the most over-paid? Most certainly. Does she make make poor decisions when choosing the movies in which she'll appear? Most definitely. I imagine that in another ten years, Ms. Aniston will be a footnote in film history, known best for being the first Mrs. Brad Pitt, than her prowess as a thespian. Maybe, just maybe, she'll fool us all and she'll one day appear as the quintessential Lady Macbeth. Ah... who am I kidding?

More, anon.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Clash of the Trite Ones

That's flavor-of-the-month Sam Worthington, late of Avatar in his next blockbuster role as Perseus in the upcoming remake of Clash of the Titans.

Your Uncle P is (sadly) old enough to have seen the original 1981 Desmond Davis version on the big screen. I saw it with my sister and we were both very excited. We grew up on movies featuring the amazing stop-motion special effects of the master, Ray Harryhausen. The movie starred a little-known stage actor named Harry Hamlin as Perseus and a slew of former A-listers which included Maggie Smith, Claire Bloom, Ursula Andress and Burgess Meredith. It also starred the incomparable Laurence Olivier at what is assuredly the nadir of his long and illustrious career.

Much like Disney's animated Hercules, the story is a total bastardization of the Greek mythology. In this version, Perseus must rescue the princess Andromeda from the clutches of the evil Calibos, assisted by the mechanical owl, Bubo (a lame attempt to attract kids who loved the the chirping, whistling droid R2D2 from Star Wars). Perseus tames the wild, winged horse Pegasus; battles the snake-headed Medusa and even fights a Kraken (a beast from Norse mythology!). The script, by Beverly Cross (Jason and the Argonauts) is ridiculous (why would one impose Norse mythology on a movie about Greek mythology?); the acting is laughable and the special effects? Well... let's just say they're not-so-special. Yet, somehow, it's become a classic. I suspect it's because most of the people who love it were children when they saw it and their memories of it probably don't live up to the actual thing. I was 20 when it came out and my sister was 14. Both of us immediately saw through its nonsense and declared it "Clash of the Trite Ones," a name we still use for the movie. See for yourself:

Hamlin was almost pretty then, wasn't he?

Of course, Hollywood, being the unimaginative pit of crap it's become in the last 30 years, felt the need to remake this steaming pile of cinematic excrement, using modern CGI and 3D. This time, Worthington takes on the role of Perseus, and a whole new cast of former A-listers are on hand, including Ralph Fiennes; Liam Neesom; Pete Postlethwaite and my current favorite vampire, Danny Huston.

Bigger and louder, though I fear equally as stupid, Clash of the Titans is due for release in IMAX 3D on April 2nd, despite what that trailer says. Will I see it? Probably. I've always been a sucker for Sword & Sandal & Sorcery epics. And I have two Re-Admit passes from Avatar being snowed out. Though I doubt I will like it any better than the original. Maybe someday someone will make a movie that's actually true to the old mythological tales. I suppose someone other than myself must own a copy of Bulfinch's Mythology. But I'm not holding my breath...

More, anon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why Isn't Everyone Hungarian on St. Stephen's Day?

I'm Hungarian. And German, with a little Scotch thrown in for good measure. But I grew up knowing more about my father's Hungarian roots, simply because he was first generation and my mother's family had been here much longer. My father's parents came over in the early 1900's as children and ended up in the Hungarian neighborhood of Trenton's Chambersburg section, which was mostly Italian. I grew up eating my grandmother's Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage, Chicken Paprikash and a curious version of bruscetta that in phonetic Hungarian is called "shutney sullan-ya," which translates as "Dirty Bread." It's delicious, but so bad for you. Diced onions, tomatoes and peppers on rye bread, covered in the drippings of slab bacon which has been cooked on a stick over an open wood fire. When the bacon is cooked, that gets sliced up and put on top. I haven't had it in years, but my mouth is watering describing it for you.

Anyway, today honors Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, who supposedly drove all the snakes out of the country. Everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick's Day. We all wear green; get sloppy drunk on Guinness, Harp and Jameson; eat corned beef and cabbage and have green bagels for breakfast.

The Patron Saint of Hungary is Saint Stephen, the first Catholic King of Hungary. Saint Stephen's day is a big day of celebration in Hungary, but nowhere else. Americans don't spend the day eating goulash (a dish my grandmother hated and never made), dancing the Csardas and drinking pear brandy until they puke.

So, if I'm going to be Irish today, I'm going to do it in my own way. Via BoingBoing comes this rather amusing, silly Steampunk vid about catching a leprechaun from the League of S.T.E.A.M.:

And while this has nothing to do with Ireland or Steampunkery, I haven't talked about movies since Sunday, so... BoingBoing also recently posted this amazing trailer for the upcoming Ridley Scott-produced film Parallel Lines. Five different directors were given the same dialogue with no stage directions and asked to make a film out it. Each short is totally different in tone, style and genre. I think the whole concept is fascinating and can't wait to see it:

Oh, well. Back to being a boring old American tomorrow. Until then Saide Felte everyone.

More, anon.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nor'easters, Blackouts and the Gayest Things

I got a new camera for Christmas and just now got around to uploading the pictures I've been taking. That's my Santa Fe the day after the first of two blizzards we had in February. And this past weekend, we had a massive Nor'easter that dumped over 3" of rain on us between Friday and Saturday. Today was the first time we saw the Sun in at least 5 days. I have never been a fan of winter, but living in the Northeast, I got used to it. Until this year. If it weren't for my proximity to NYC, all of my favorite people and my very good day job, I would move to the Southwest in a heartbeat. Of course, the cons of moving far outweigh the pros, so I'll be staying where I am, thank you. Of course, Summer in the often very humid Delaware Valley can be brutal, too. But Spring and Fall are usually lovely, and I do enjoy the change of seasons (even if my sinuses don't).

Last night, just as I was signing on to post a "The Gayest Things You'll See This Week," I experienced a completely unexplained blackout. Blackouts this time of year usually don't last very long (even at the height of Saturday's storm, the power went out just enough to be annoying), so I waited. And waited. And after 20 minutes, I gave up and went to bed. Two hours later I was awakened by the power coming back on, but by then it was well past midnight and I simply turned off the lights and went back to bed.

Anyway, below you will find an abbreviated "Gayest Things" post. Well, abbreviated and expanded, really. Because the blackout allowed me to find a second music video to include. First, I don't how I missed it when it was on Towleroad originally, but here's a terrific video of the lovely and melancholy "End of the World" from gay singer/song writer Matt Alber.

You can be sure I'll be posting more of Mr. Alber's work, which somehow reminds me of a cross between Rufus Wainwright and early Billy Joel.

And today (via several sites), I came across this video from David Fudge (who made the fabulously gay version of Miley Cyrus' "Party in the FIP"). Here's an unofficial video for Lady Gaga's "Monster:"

Monster by David Fudge at fabulis from fabulis on Vimeo.

Just what I needed to help me get over these Winter doldrums. Spring is just around the corner, which means I'll be getting into full swing on the JTMF show, which always warms my heart. I hope it's warm and wonderful where you are (or it will be soon).

More, anon (barring any more blackouts).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Luc Besson Returns to Sci-Fi

That's the poster for French director Luc Besson's latest, a Steampunk adventure titled Les Aventures Extraordinaire d'Adele Blanc-Sec, based on the French comic series by author Jacques Tardi. Besson wrote and directed one of Sci-Fi's most underrated films, The Fifth Element and 2006's CGI Fantasy flop, Arthur and the Invisibles.

The story surrounds the titular Adele Blanc-Sec, a popular early-20th Century novelist who turns investigative journalist. The beautiful Adele has to deal with a bevy of suitors while fighting off any number of monsters, beasties and assorted creatures.

If you've been reading from the beginning, you know Uncle Prospero loves him some good Steampunk. In fact, I basically started blogging to document my Steampunk-inspired production of Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth. And my fascination with the genre goes back to before it actually had a name. I grew up loving the novels and stories of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells (and the countless movies they inspired), so it's no wonder I have an affinity to the movement. The Victorian era saw the Industrial Revolution and Verne and Wells were prescient enough to imagine nuclear submarines, space travel, computers and even wireless communication (though I'm still waiting for time travel, teleportation and the discovery of Atlantis).

As for Besson's films (which include the movie that made my obsession a star, The Transporter and the actioner, La femme Nikita), they always manage to be over-the top, if nothing else. In The Fifth Element, starring former obsession Bruce Willis and future Zombie-fighter extraordinaire, Milla Jovavich, Besson imagines a future with government-regulated tobacco use; vacations on other planets; McDonald's uniforms designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier and what is possibly Gary Oldman's creepiest villain, ever. I, for one, can't wait for what he does for Steampunk aesthetics. The trailer below (via) is in French, but you get the general idea.

Les Aventures Extraordinaire d'Adele Blanc-Sec is scheduled for release in France, in April. No word on a U.S. release date, but you can bet I'll be among the first in line.

More, anon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Vampires Do NOT Sparkle! or: Why I Hate Stephanie Meyer

The English word "Vampire" was first recorded in 1734 (look it up), though it's Eastern European variations probably appear much earlier than that. The first true vampire novel, The Vampyre, was written by John Polidori during the same sex and drug infused summer of 1819 in which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. The Vampyre would later inspire Scottish playwright and novelist Bram Stoker to write the quintessential Gothic Horror novel, Dracula: as well as hundreds of other authors and screenwriters who came after him.

Traditionally, a vampire is an evil, undead creature that sustains its existence through the drinking of human blood. Creatures of the night, vampires (or beings like them) seem to exist in most cultures' folklore. Indeed, alternate versions of the Old Testament include the story of Lilith (or Lakme; Lamia or any variation thereof) who was the real first woman; made of Earth, as was Adam. Spurned by Adam, Lilith turned to "The Dark Side" and she and her children stalked the children of Adam and Eve in their quest for blood and eternal life.

Throughout historic folklore and most 20th Century literature and films, the vampire was a monster to be feared and reviled. And while the actions of a vampire were, if not overtly then certainly subconsciously (especially during the Victorian era, in which Dracula was written), sexual in nature -- penetration of the flesh; exchange of bodily fluids -- they were still considered horrific, if not downright evil.

Then the free-wheeling 70's came along and in 1973, author Anne Rice created Lestat de Lioncourt; a depressed vampire and Louis de Pointe du Lac; a vampire with a conscience. Lestat is the anti-hero of Rice's Vampire Chronicles, a series of novels which details her version of the history of vampires, dating back to ancient Egypt when Akasha (Rice's Queen of the Vampires) creates the race of omnisexual blood suckers. And thus was born the Romantic Vampire genre.

While Rice's over-blown (and overly verbose) novels turned the subconsciously sexual vampire into the overtly sexual vampire, it would be another 30 years before Mormon author Stephanie Meyer would ruin the genre forever. Twisting the genre into a Mormon parable about sexual abstinence, Meyer's books (and the subsequent films) in the Twilight series turned vampires into fey creatures who feed off the blood of animals so as not to kill humans, while falling in love with hopelessly romantic teenagers who find the prospect of of superhuman powers and eternal life to be the most romantic thing, ever. And while traditional vampires cannot stand the light of the Sun, often decaying rapidly or even bursting into flame when exposed, Meyer's vampires merely "sparkle." Please.

While I have never read the Twilight novels, nor seen the movies on which they are based, I tried reading Ms. Meyer's first "adult" novel, The Host. And while I found the concept intriguing (an alien invasion story told from the point of view of an alien inhabiting the body of a human woman who fights back), Meyer's writing is... How can I put this delicately? I can't. Her writing stinks. Trite, ineffective and downright boring, The Host is probably one of the worst novels I've ever tried to read. I got through the first three chapters before putting it away out of both both boredom and disgust. Someone really thought this woman's work was worth publishing? And no one realized that the whole Twilight series was actually a Mormon diatribe on abstinence? Honestly? I've read 15th Century pamphlets on biology that make more sense.

So, you may well be asking yourself what prompted this post, in first place. And even if you aren't, I'm going to tell you. It was the YouTube video below (via) that made me wish Stephanie Meyer had never been born. Behold British video blogger Nutty Madam's response to the latest Twilight movie trailer:

IMHO, "Nutty Madam" is need of some serious psychological help. Honestly, if you get this worked up about a movie trailer (or even an entire movie), you need to get a life. Yes, I get excited about movies and movie trailers. Yes, I love a good movie, no mater what its genre. But if I ever get this worked up about about any movie (good, bad or mediocre), please shoot me. I'll even leave a note explaining why you shouldn't be prosecuted.

Thankfully, films like 30 Days of Night and Let the Right One In, continue the tradition of the vampire as monster. I, for one, would hate to see these Creatures of the Night denigrated to creepy, flat-faced, hairless twinks who simply 'sparkle' when exposed to sunlight. Honestly, how gay is that?

More, anon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sharktopus? Really?

The image to your right is NOT from the upcoming SyFy movie Sharktopus. It is, however, the most pertinant image I could find to represent one of the most ridiculously conceived movies of all time. Not that I'm bitter, mind you.

Well - that's not exactly true. I am just a little bit bitter. Why? Because my own screenplay, Army of the Dead was in the running for Sharktopus' spot on SyFy's schedule. If you haven't read it (and you can do so, here), my anti-war, political satire, zombie rom-com was one of three scripts pitched by Roger Corman's New Horizons Pictures for production by the basic cable network. Army... has been on Scriptbuddy's Top 5 list for more than a year and was a Top 1000 contender for Project Greenlight's final season.

Yes, I am tooting my own horn here, but I have to ask... Would you rather see an intelligent and politically relevant horror movie, or what is assuredly a ridiculous monster movie about a genetically impossible creature? The very enthusiastic rep from New Horizons assured me when he called, that AOD was "really good" and that he was going to push hardest for it in his pitch to SyFy. So what happened? I can only imagine the Suits at SyFy thought it was probably too smart and original, and went with the script that most embodied their usual crappy "Original" movies.

Have you ever seen a SyFy "Original?" They are, without exception, terrible. So maybe this is a blessing in disguise. And I don't mean to knock or demean the writer(s) of Sharktopus. I am sure he, she or they put as much work into that script as I did with mine. I just can't help but feel that Sharktopus is a sillier concept.

Call me "bitter." Call me a "sore loser." Call me a "narcissistic a-hole." Call me anything but "unoriginal. " And maybe I actually am a bad screenwriter. Maybe I think too highly of my own work. Still... of the hundreds of scripts listed on Scriptbuddy, one of mine is still rated by the site's users in the Top 5. Can the same be said of Sharktopus? I think not.

Oh, well. One company called and expressed an interest in producing it. Another one will. Things move slowly in Hollywood. My time will come.

And just so you know, here's a clip from one of SyFy's Originals:

Maybe I should be glad they didn't produce my piece, after all...

More narcissism, anon.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dear D and My Rock, K, Revealed! (sort of)

Okay, so maybe it's not the best photo ever. Still, here are two of my best friends posing for a rather incestuous pre-publicity shot for the upcoming JTMF production of Del Shores' "Black Comedy About White Trash," Sordid Lives. That's D in the cowboy hat looking rather lustfully at K, who will be playing his great aunt in the show. And yes, that's a real casket behind them. The very gracious folks at the Peppler Funeral Home in Bordentown, NJ allowed us to shoot some photos there tonight (and no, there is no one in the casket).

For those unfamiliar, Sordid Lives tells the story of a south Texas family gathering for the funeral of their beloved matriarch, who has died as the result of a head injury sustained while tripping over her lover's wooden legs on her way to the bathroom in the cheap motel in which they were spending the night. The play addresses addictions; infidelity; homosexuality; familial relations and bad anti-gay therapy, among many other topics. The show was made into a film in 2000, starring Bonnie Bedelia; Beth Grant; Olivia Newton-John; Beau Bridges; Delta Burke and Leslie Jordan. It was also adapted into a short-lived series on the LGBT cable network, Logo.

I'm the kind of director who likes to work with people he knows and can trust, and while the show hasn't been completely cast yet, I know and trust (and love) D and K enough to know I want them in this production. Both of them appeared in last year's production of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told and both of them will be amazing in this year's show.

The James Tolin Memorial Fund was established in 2002 to both honor a fallen friend and to make a difference. We produce an annual show to raise funds for HIV support groups and Arts Education charities in New Jersey. And recently, one of our co-founders who has since moved to the Great White North (a long story involving the NHL), established the JTMFWest in Edmonton, Alberta, making the JTMF a truly international organization. The JTMFWest supports HIV Edmonton and helps spread the message that HIV/AIDS is truly a global issue that still needs support and research funding. This coming December, we will be producing out first ever Winter Fundraiser, a radio play version of It's a Wonderful Life.

If you haven't joined our Facebook pages, I urge you to do so. If you live in (or travel to) central NJ or the greater Edmonton area, I also urge you to attend our shows. Your money goes to good causes and you are pretty much guaranteed a great time. Our annual summer event features a catered reception and silent auction, as well as live musical entertainment before and after the play. Proceeds from the NJ events benefit The Open Arms Foundation and the James Tollin Memorial Scholarship at MCCC, while proceeds from the JTMFWest event benefit HIV Edmonton.

Tickets to the JTMF production of Sordid Lives can be purchased here, and tickets for the JTMFWest premiere production are available here. We hope to see you there!

More, anon.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Gayest Things You'll See This Week

I really need to find other gay blogs to read than Towleroad (though it is the best one out there). And there are lots of them out there: Pink Is the New Blog; D-Listed; Just a Jeep Guy; Are You There Blog, Its Me, Stephen? and... of course... Well, the rest all seem to have content that's NSFW (Not Safe For Work). Maybe that's why I don't link to them so often.

Anyway, thanks to Towleroad, I am linking this item about the Gay Men's Choir of D.C. and their all-gay production of Grease. I imagine the character of "Sandy" (played Olivia Newton-John in the film version) becomes "Andy" in the GMCDC production. And the singer of 'Beauty School Dropout' becomes "Teen Gayngel." The rest of the characters' names are asexual enough to be left alone, I suppose: Rizzo; Kinickie; Doody; Sonny; Putzie (now that's a name); Jan and Frenchie (need I elaborate on that one?) could be applied to either sex.

While I have no personal objection to making traditionally straight characters gay (I once played Jaques in As You Like It as gay, as supported by the text - look it up), I don't think I always agree with such radical interpretations. The tagline for this show is "The musical you know and love. Only gayer." Really? Now I know other shows have taken a similar tact. Evil Dead: The Musical had a similar campaign:

Still... Do we really need to make everything gay? Let straight people have their straight shows and let us gay folk have our own shows:

And no, I am not saying they are exclusive. What I am saying is we don't need to make straight things gay, just because we can or because we need to prove something. Just because the LGBT community wants to (and should) be part of the larger world community, doesn't mean we have to co-opt everything. Let's be honest here, some things are straight and some things are gay and never the twain should meet, as it were. And as it should be. It's called 'diversity' for a reason, folks. Let's celebrate the differences that make us all the same, is what I guess I'm saying.

But I digress...

In somewhat of the same vein (and also via), comes this new version of the video for Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me," a song and original video I love, and apply to my own life all the time. Made by students at the University of Rochester in New York, it expresses how I've felt on more than one occasion...

And in case you're wondering, here's the original:

Here's to the day when "gay" and "straight" have lost their meaning altogether and "love" means the same thing to everyone.

More, anon.