Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Have a Safe and Happy New Year's Eve!

Happy New Year! I've made it clear that I am not sad to see 2013 go. Here's wishing you and yours the Happiest of New Year's. I wish you and all those you love much Joy, Laughter, Prosperity and Health in 2014. Bring it on!

More, anon

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Netflix Revew: "Hansel & Gretel Get Baked"

I suppose a preface of sort is required here. For the past 10 years or so, my rock, K has spent Christmas Eve with Mom and myself. In a beautiful post on Facebook, K expressed how she was going to miss those weird and wonderful nights now that Mom was gone. And since I'll be at my sister's for Christmas Eve this year (something already passed by the time this post is published - how freaky is that?), I proposed that we have a Christmas Eve Eve with many of the traditions we've shared for so long. We were joined by our sweet, funny, weird, wonderful and adorable friend Michael for a lovely candle-lit night of good food, good drink and very good company. Honestly, everyone should be so lucky to have friends like mine - I love and thank them so much. 

Anyway... after dinner we decided to search Netflix for something to entertain us. K and Micheal searched through my personal list, which includes lots of movies only I (and a few of you... Pax...) would appreciate. And after an unabashedly intoxicated K had issues with the WiiMote, I took over, asking what they wanted to see. "Something funny!" they both said. So I went to the list of movies suggested because I'd watched Tucker and Dale vs Evil. I skipped along the menu until I hit upon a title that made me laugh and chose it, saying "If it sucks, we'll change it!" That title was Hansel & Gretel Get Baked. Starring "Castle" regular Molly Quinn as Gretel; the Twilight movies' Michael Welch as Hansel and a frighteningly over-surgeried and an almost unrecognizable Lara Flynn Boyle as a the immortal Bavarian-Nazi-Cannibal-Witch, Agnes who grows and sells enchanted dope to unsuspecting teens. Not surprisingly, the ingestion of those teens' flesh help both restore and maintain Agnes' youth.

Writer/Actor David Tillman's script is just clever enough to keep our interest, amusingly referencing  the story we all know and aided by costume designer Elizabeth Jett's very decidedly Tyrolean-inspired outfits for Ms Quinn. Add plenty of gross-out moments and hilarious puns (Agnes starts out as literally a 'Little Old Lady from Pasadena'), and Hansel & Gretel Get Baked ends up being a very funny modern take on the story via Cheech and Chong, where Skittles serve as breadcrumbs and hot young guys get slathered in herbed butter while strapped to a mortician's gurney. Cary Elwes makes a cameo as the Meter Man while a slew of other character actors you will recognize from every procedural TV show from the last 20 years crop up in other supporting roles.

Not everything works perfectly (Boyle's age makeups aren't quite convincing, though I suspect that may have more to do with her tragic cosmetic surgeries, than anything else). And some of the CGI FX (especially in the denouement) are a bit forced. But if you're looking for a funny, gory and gruesome distraction from all the Holiday nonsense you've been forced to endure in the past month or so, you could do certainly do worse than Hansel & Gretel Get Baked. I would definitely recommend it over the Big Studio crapfest that was Hansel &Gretel: Witch Hunters.

Screened at this year's Tribecca Film Festival, Hansel & Gretel Get Baked is currently available on Netflix and DVD. **1/2 (Two and a Half Out of Four Stars). Rated 'R' for Violence, Gore, Drug Use and Language, it was exactly what the three of us needed, even if K covered her eyes during the gory bits.

More, anon..

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merrily. Merrily, Merrily...

Enjoy the silence. Embrace your loved ones. Take joy in your Humanity. Accept beauty when you see it. Find your light and follow it. Merry Christmas, no matter that means to you. 

More, anon.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

NOT My Favorite Year

Florida is Weird...
Officially, Uncle P has one more work day before I'm on my 'Holiday Break.' To be honest, Monday should be fairly slow at the Day Job, though there are always those panicky clients who MUST get documents processed before the break (despite the fact that their documents aren't going anywhere until after we return). 

In my mind, I'm already in warmer climes, even though I don't leave for Florida until Tuesday morning. And yes, I have a bird/house sitter lined up, so I'm not worried about announcing I'll be away. My dear K will stopping in every day to give Skye fresh water; bring in my mail; watch TV and leave lights on.

This year, K. Michael and I are starting a new tradition: Christmas Eve Eve. Let me explain: For the past ten years or so, K would come over to my house on Christmas Eve to have dinner and take part in the orgy of presents Mom and I would share (long story - see previous posts). Since I'll be in Largo for Christmas Eve, I decided to push our celebration up a day and include a sweet and dear friend who has lent me loads of support in the past few months. We'll have our traditional shrimp cocktail and 'broasted' chicken dinner from Chicken Holiday, complete with their amazing fried creamed-corn nuggets; a small gift exchange and (hopefully) a viewing of A Christmas Story. K will be spending the night and taking me to the airport in the morning (though I have no idea who'll be picking me up when I get home, yet).

I hope to get together with my college friend Marousa (among other activities) while in the Tampa/Clearwater/St.Pete area. Of course, Sis has several activities already planned but I really hope this one happens. I'm very much looking forward to a meal at the African restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom's hotel (Sis and the BIL are Vacation Club Members) and honestly can't wait to visit the new Salvador Dali museum where I hope to spend some time gazing at my all-time favorite painting (I have no idea why it's so - it just... 'speaks' to me). I also hope to finish what little holiday shopping I have to do for folks with whom I won't exchange gifts until after the New Year. And among all that excitement, I hope to read at least one play and one novel. Great Expectations, indeed.

This will be the first Christmas spent with my sister in over 18 years. It's also the first Christmas Sis and I will spend without Mom. Ugh. So many feels. I'll be home in time to spend New Year's Eve with my BFFs, K.Q and Dale. So it's all good (or so I keep telling myself). 

It is my fervent hope that you are able to spend time with those you love (and who love you) during the Winter Holiday season, no matter what you believe. Merry Christmas; Happy Solstice; Joyous Kwanzaa and Happy New Year!

With the exception of at least one pre-scheduled post, this is probably (though not decidedly)  my last real-time post for 2013. I will not rue this year's passing. Goodbye and Good Riddance to 2013!

Hoping all of you (and I) have a better year coming!

More, anon.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Gayest Things You'll See This Christmas

Every time I try to get away, they just keep pulling me back! I really thought I was on E ("Empty," NOT Ecstasy). Apparently I'm not because here are two videos that actually helped raise... my spirits, you pervs!

I officially have one week before I'm off to spend the holiday with my sister in the land of lighted palms and be-shorted Santas.

So what does it take to make this Grinch's heart grow (not too much, because enlarged syndrome isn't really a good thing)?  Well, hotties in Speedos and/or undies and adorable frat boys frolicking in the snow to a Katy Perry song, of course.

So here are two very gay, somewhat pervy and often hot videos that warmed the cockles of my heart (look it up, pervs!). 

The first is via Wicked Gay Blog and involves the kind of weather that makes me think of Seinfeld, swimming and other cold-weather/water associated phenomena:

The second is the kind of video that makes me wish I was the self-confident (well, almost) version of myself now, when I was in my 20's (via):

What is it about Katy Perry?

More, anon.

Monday, December 16, 2013

2013 in Film

Saw several. Missed more (and a few have yet to open). Here (via) are 2013's movies in review:

I have lots to catch up on...

More, anon,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pachelbel Smiled

Adorable, no?
Couldn't resist this one. Regular readers know my obsession with Flash Mobs. I'm particularly pleased when they involve great music. Of course, when they include adorable cellists and woofy bassists in Air Force uniforms... Well, I don't know about you, but Uncle P must admit to feeling a bit like Garth when he climbs the rope in Gym.

Yesterday, I secured a gig directing a new short play for a new Short Play Festival in North Jersey. I'm very pleased by this and intrigued by the piece (a discourse - in part - on the value of art) and am about to submit a proposal to direct a Christopher Durang piece for a company which has always intimidated me, but which I am pretty sure I can convince to book me, if I get my sh*t together. I am moving forward; rejoining the world and expanding upon my life as an artist. And that's a very good thing, I think.

Someday, in conjunction with some project or other, I am going to stage and execute one of the most amazing Flash Mobs, ever. It joins a return to Paris, visits to London; Cairo; Brisbane; Sydney; Queensland; Tokyo; Bangkok and Machu Pichu and directing "Evil Dead: The Musical" and/or a black comedy 'splash zone' version of "Titus Andronicus" on my ever-growing Bucket List.

Here (via) is the Flash Mob video that inspired tonight's post:

Maybe... just maybe... I'm finally feeling a bit of Holiday Spirit. Or I may just be a sucker for a hottie in a uniform! If I believed in an afterlife, I would imagine Pachelbel smiling at this. It certainly brightened my day!

More, anon.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Last Words on this Topic

Okay, so maybe I was a bit premature. But I did say I'd post if something came up. And something actually has sort of blown up all over social media and I couldn't express everything I had to say about it in short bursts and comments on other people's timelines.

I'm sure you have figured out what I'm going to talk about from the the GrumpyCat meme pic I've posted to your right.

Uncle P's first experience seeing The Sound of Music was at a drive-in with Mom and my sister. I don't remember how old I was. It was certainly before the VHS boom of the late-70's and popular movies were often re-released to theatres many years after their initial runs. Mom thought we'd like it, so off the three of us went. That's almost all I really remember about it. I think I liked it. I do remember Mom telling us about a friend of hers who had left after the wedding scene (long movies often had intermissions) because she thought it was over. And unlike Mary Poppins,* it didn't make my sister cry because Mary left the Banks children. It undoubtedly had an influence on me. I have sung 'Edelweiss' for more auditions than almost any other song. And yes, it's old-school, Rogers and Hammerstein cheese. In fact, one of their cheesiest. But the film is a classic for so many reasons, Ms. Andrews' and Mr. Plummer's performances among the least of them. There is Robert Wise's amazing direction; the stunning scenery and photography; gorgeous period costumes and a score filled with songs that literally everyone in the Western world recognizes, if not knows the lyrics to. The movie is so beloved, that President Reagan rather infamously retreated from a G7 Summit which he was hosting, in order to watch it on TV.

You obviously think you know where this is going, but bear with me.

NBC presented an adaptation of the stage version of the show (in which Broadway legend Mary Martin originated the role of Maria) last Thursday. Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere in general exploded with both negative and positive reviews, comments and what one of my Facebook friends called a "Snarknado." To be honest, I had no intention of watching it. Don't get me wrong - I've performed in my fair share of R&H shows - they are staples of high school and community theatre. I played Emile in South Pacific my senior year in high school. But give me Sondheim; Schwartz; Kander & Ebb; Rado & Ragni or Parker & Stone, anytime. Especially when it comes to a show like The Sound of Music, which is far better suited for the screen than the stage.

The night it aired, I caught about a total of 30 minutes or so, starting with "My Favorite Things." Not wanting to gawk at the the train wreck, I caught subsequent sections while moving between programs I had DVR'd earlier in the week. I witnessed unsuppressed accents; breathy singing; some really bad acting and even worse dialogue; anachronistic costumes and some pretty crappy sets.

What I did not see, was a Musical Theatre production. There was no live audience; no pauses for applause or laughter; no energy reflected back to cast to inspire them. I saw a talented singer with no acting experience thrust into an iconic role which she had no business playing. I saw some amazing actors left adrift and others taking command. And then there was Audra McDonald's stunning rendition of "Climb Every Mountain:"

Yes, so many of my theatre friends want to tout "The Sound of Music Live!" as an introduction to and inspiration for young theatre enthusiasts. And yes, it's wonderful that TV wants to bring us live performances (something NBC already does on SNL). But if you want to bring live theatre to the masses, then really shell out the bucks give them today's live theatre. I would have been glued to a live performance of Wicked or Pippin. Instead, NBC chose a 'safe' musical, did some stunt-casting and hoped Ms Underwood's fans would tune in, And while the ratings were pretty good, the criticism was less than kind, even among mainstream media. Time Magazine's review had this to say: 

"When Carrie Underwood stepped out on the (wooded, not grassy) hills and started singing, I wished the hills were alive with the sound of hungry mountain lions." Ouch!

Trust me, NO ONE believes more in the power of the Performing Arts than Uncle P.  While a poorly produced and woefully miscast production from a rag-tag company in a Podunk town may be perfectly acceptable and delightful, we expect and deserve more from a multimillion dollar production on a major TV network. 

*Speaking of Mary Poppins, I think if I only see one Holiday movie this year (though I hope to see a few), it has to be Saving Mr. Banks:

And in case you're wondering how all of this ties together, please remember that Julie Andrews won her only Oscar for playing... Mary Poppins. My dear dancer friend 'Lizard' and I were lucky enough to see her live in the Broadway production of Victor/Victoria and while she didn't quite have the range for which she was once so renowned, her stage presence alone was enough to make for an unforgettable theatrical event. That, my friends, is why so many of us hated "The Sound of Music Live!" and it's many missed opportunities.

I truly hope this isn't the last time we see such a grand experiment. I just hope it's done right, next time.

Rant over. Break starts now. Really. Unless some other idiotic thing gets stuck in my craw.  << sigh >>

More, anon (I suppose I have to go back that now, too).

Friday, December 6, 2013

Taking a Break

West and Wewaxation

Uncle P has had a rough year (and an even rougher Fall). Last weekend I broke my toe; caught some sort of bug and then had a very hectic and rather exhausting week at the day-job. I'm tired, folks. So I've decided to take a small break from blogging (since I can't seem to get one anywhere else) for the rest of this year. I'm sure my small band of loyal of loyal readers will understand. That's not to say I won't pop in and rant if I find something that inspires me to do so. I hope I do. I may tweet (@Caliban761) and will certainly be on Facebook. And I will be scheduling a few auto-posts here and there. But I need to give up something for a bit, and right now, it's Caliban's Revenge

I want to get through the holidays as painlessly as possible and while I'll be spending most of Christmas week with my amazing sister and the BIL in Florida, I'm still in recovery mode and need some time to get re-energized and re-inspired.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, no matter holidays you do or don't celebrate. Take time for yourselves (and buy something to give yourself for Christmas - a tradition Mom started in our house while I was still in high school). Be good to one another and tell the people you love that you love them, every chance you get. 

See you in 2014.

More, eventually.

Monday, December 2, 2013

World AIDS Day 2013

 I spent World AIDS day painting my bathroom. Of course, that hardly means I ignored the day, even if I spent most of it painting my bathroom.

I won't get into who I've lost or why this cause is so important to me and many people I know and love. It shouldn't really matter. HIV/AIDS is still a global killer. AIDS doesn't care if you are straight or gay; black or white; Hispanic or Asian; African or American. The HIV virus works on the same imperatives we all do: live; feed; reproduce. That's all it cares about (not that a virus actually cares about anything). 

AIDS is NOT just a 'gay' disease. HIV doesn't care or know who it infects or kills. It simply wants to follow those imperatives, and it does so, quite well.

I have personally lost at least two friends (one of them an ex) to AIDS. Some folks I know have lost more.

I encourage all of my readers to give to AIDS-fighting charities like amFAR, The Hyacinth Foundation or even JTMF (or any organization dedicated to the eradication of this insidious virus. It is my dream to see a cure/virus in my lifetime. I hope you feel the same.

More, anon.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November Turkey of the Month

I couldn't let Turkey Month end without a true turkey, could I? Will Smith continues to ride the wave downwards with this 2008 stinker about the most unlikeable superhero, ever. Hancock may pose some interesting questions, but never bothers to answer them and it's hero ends up looking more like a dick, than anything else.

With no memories of his origins and lawsuits against him for the destruction he's caused, Smith's John Hancock is a cypher (if only). After his latest debacle, he his contacted by PR genius Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman),whose wife (Charlize Theron) just happens to be Hancock's immortal partner (or some such nonsense), doomed to immortal super powers (oh, boo-hoo!)

On a side note, no matter how adorable many of us may find Jason Bateman, there is little room in my imagination to allow Ms Theron to be his wife. 

"Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan may have come up with the concept for Hancock, but not every idea is a good one. Poorly written and loaded with bad CGI FX, Hancock serves as just another notch on Smith's increasingly large list of bad movies. I was 'lucky' enough to see this movie for free while on a business trip a few years ago. I almost felt guilty about billing it to my expense account. There are rumors of a Hancock 2. It is my fervent hope that they will remain just that.

Given Smith's most recent track record, which includes Wild, Wild West; I Am Legend; Hancock and M.Night Shamalamadingdong's After Earth, I'd say Will needs a new manager. And while I won't go into the rumors about Will and Jada and their supposed sexualities, I will say that Mr.Smith might want to consider going back into the music industry. At the very least, he should teach his son to keep his mouth shut when it comes to education

In the end, Hancock is a truly terrible movie and certainly deserves the title "Turkey."


More, anon.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Retro Review: "The Innkeepers"

Thanks again to Netflix, I was able to enjoy yet another movie I've been reading about for several years: director Ti West's 2011 haunted hotel movie, The Innkeepers. I recently saw West's debut House of the Devil and found it a bit tedious, but the he has upped his game here, creating compelling characters we actually care about (it may have helped that the young lead reminded me of a very talented young actress I've had the pleasure of directing twice - Yes, Sarah, I mean you!). 

It is the last weekend for the soon-to-be-closed Yankee Pedlar Inn leaving Claire (Sarah Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) in charge. Luke is a wannabe paranormal investigator who swears he's encountered the hotel's ghost, a woman who supposedly committed suicide after being left at the alter. The only guests are a single woman with her young son and a former TV star turned psychic (Kelly McGillis). As Claire investigates the story of Madeline O'Malley and McGillis warns about going to the basement, the tension rises toward a truly scary ending. Taking cues from The Shining and even The Sentinel, West manages to create a modern ghost story with a kick, using a single location with a likeable and talented cast (which includes an hilarious turn from "Girls" creator, Lena Dunham). I can imagine Dear D squirming in his seat through this one. It certainly got my blood pumping, especially in the third act! *** (Three Out of Four Stars).

Fans of smart, tension-building horror should be quite pleased by The Innkeepers. Rated "R" by the MPAA for bloody images and language.

More, anon.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

When Holidays Collide

"I'm not one of your faaaa-aaaa-aaans!!!"

I hope everyone had a delicious and filling meal with people you love.

More, anon.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Retro Review: "The Bay"

Netflix is a wonder, y'all. Why didn't you tell me about it before? Now I know it's not your fault. I'm not the best at electronics and thankfully sis set up my Wii for me (after having for three years) and now I have the service that put Blockbuster out of business. And because I do, I have seen quite a few movies I'd been reading about but missed their first times around (House of the Devil; VHS - a few others). Tonight, Michael and I watched director Barry Levinson's (Diner; Rainman; Toys) take on the Found Footage Horror genre, The Bay.

Set up like a documentary expose, The Bay tells the tale of a small Maryland town which is hit with an outbreak of a devastating parasites on July Fourth, 2009. Anchored by the account of TV news intern (Kether Donahue) and footage supposedly pieced together from surveillance cameras; cell phone cameras; video recorders; police dash-cams and Skype sessions, Levinson's film is both an indictment of corporate malfeasance and ecological indifference, with plenty of gross-outs along the way. Amidst the the Independence Day celebrations, the people of a small Maryland town along the Chesapeake bay are suddenly struck down by rashes, boils and other horrific symptoms which soon overwhelm the local hospital's ER and have the CDC at a loss. 

Unlike most 'Found Footage' films, Levinson doesn't rely on only one or two cameras to tell his story (Michael Wallach's screenplay is based on Levinson's original story), but uses a variety of digital cameras to capture the horrific events, lending an air of veracity often missing from many such movies. The performances from the mostly unknown cast (particularly Stephen Kinken as the confounded but dedicated ER doctor) are effective while the special effects are often quite cringe-worthy (in a good way). Levinson is a truly hit-or-miss director (I'm one of the few who actually likes the underrated Robin Williams fantasy Toys) but I think I have to count The Bay among his hits. Smart, effective and perfectly plausible, The Bay is almost reminiscent of The Ruins in its simple concept and execution. **1/2 (Two and a Half Stars Out of Four)

More, anon.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Boop Boop Bi Doop! (A 'Forgetten Gems' Post)

Bimbo's Initiation
I posted Bimbo's Initiation and commented briefly on Facebook, but I had to expand on it and the work of producer and animator Max Fleischer. The ever Happy Mutants at BoingBoing posted the video earlier today, describing it as Fleischer's 'darkest short' or something to that effect. Go to BoingBoing to see exactly what they said. Anyway, it ended up inspiring tonight's Forgotten Gems post.

Fleischer was a contemporary of Walt Disney and released his own animated feature Gulliver's Travels in 1939, two years after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs proved an animated feature could be successful. To be perfectly honest, Fleischer's film is technically superior to Disney's, using rotoscoping techniques that wouldn't surface in quite the same way again until Richard Linklater's 2006 adaptation of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly (albeit in an entirely different artistic interpretation).

Fleischer and his team were certainly more experimental in their animated films than Disney, catering to a more adult (if not exactly more sophisticated) audience. Most famous for producing the original Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons, the writers and animators at Fleischer's studio were undoubtedly influential on any number of animators to come after, including Friz Freleng; Tex Avery; Ralph Bakshi and modern animators like John Krikfalusi and director Joe Dante for his segment of the notorious Twilight Zone: The Movie.

So here's the bizarre, surreal and rather nightmarish Bimbo's Initiation in all it's weird glory:

And here is Dante's take on the style:

"Run, Ethel! Run!" Indeed.

Of course, Fleischer's Popeye cartoons could be just as dark (Sea Hag, anyone?). He also produced a series of simply gorgeous Superman shorts:

Still, I think Fleischer's masterpiece and a true forgotten gem is Gulliver's Travels. If you've never seen it, you should seek it out. Gorgeously rendered with a message of tolerance and forgiveness and a very clever score, every animation fan (or film fan) owes it him or herself to see it. The full movie is available on YouTube. The trailer is below:

Animated films aren't just for children. I promise. And while Fleischer's movie is hardly a definitive version of Swift's satirical novel, it is a good start in introducing kids to a classic while enjoying the artistry of the piece, itself. Hell, I've even referenced Fleischer's work in my screenplay 'Comatose Joe.' And there's no doubt in my mind that his creative team was a bunch of stoners and trippers, long before it was cool.I'm just sayin'...

More, anon.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Gayest Things You'll See This Week

While tonight's post may seem to some that I am just piggy-backing off another blog, which I suppose I might be, I have a few points about that to make before I actually get to  tonight's topics.

First, yes, I look at other sites and blogs for topics. All bloggers do. The trick is to not only give credit to where you found it, but put your own spin on it. Which is exactly what I hope I do. I also suspect that the majority of my readers (readers, not followers) are not regular readers of Towleroad; JoeMyGodWickedGayBlog; Kennthinthe212 or JustAJeepguy (links may be NSFW). Regular readers also know I can never pass up almost anything gay and/or hilarious, both of which I think apply here.

First is the demo/intro for a new video game claiming to the be the first gay video game, ever (I doubt that claim, but then I haven't played a video or RP computer game since "Leisure Suit Larry"). And to perfectly honest, having seen the clip I'm about to share, I'm not sure how I feel about "Ultimate Gay Fighter." Part of me wants to say 'Cool' while another part says 'Dude, are you crazy? Promoting stereotypes is so offensive.' One step forward, two steps back, I suppose. PocketGamer makes "UGF," though reviews of the game have been less than positive. Watch the game's trailer and make up your own mind:

Second, I follow The Onion on Facebook and probably would have seen this item there, but saw it on Towleroad first and found it hilariously gay and had to share. The satirical site's movie critic reviews The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with a decidedly 'Cougay' point of view:

Yes, I am a politically liberal gay man who advocates for Marriage Equality and ENDA; governmental transparency and Obamacare.

But I am also a human being who understands the humor in satire and irony. I hate political correctness. Some of the funniest jokes I know are horribly racist; sexist; antisemitic; homophobic or otherwise offensive to some group, somewhere.

Y'all need to get over it, already. To quote Robin Williams: "Joke 'em if they can't take a f*ck!"

More, anon.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Half a Century On

November 22, 1963
I was 28 months old (do the math) when JFK was assassinated in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963. I have no memory of where I was (Trenton, NJ) or what I was doing (probably dancing in my playpen to a Cheer detergent commercial, according to what my mother has told me). When I started elementary school, Lyndon Johnson was serving his second term as POTUS, soon to be followed by Richard Nixon. I wasn't really all that into politics back then. I was more interested in monster movies, playground games and any number of other things important to any kid under the age of 10. I have a vague recollection of a playground conversation with a classmate about who I would vote for if I was old enough to vote, but I don't really remember who either of us chose. 

Of course, Kennedy's murder was a major turning point in mid-century American history. The American 'Camelot' was gone and a decade or more of political and social turmoil was about to begin. The post-Kennedy era was time of massive change in the States. People were turning on ad tripping out; hippies and yippies were everywhere; women were suddenly burning their bras and men were landing on the moon. Woodstock shocked the country and the Chicago 7 outraged conservatives; Hair dared to expose naked people on a Broadway stage and the Feminist movement was taking hold. In New York, gay people had finally had enough and fought back against persecution and Martin Luther King, Jr. was fighting peacefully for justice and tolerance. 

Meanwhile, my suburban parents were far more concerned with making their $56.00 per month mortgage payment on the house that cost them $10,250 and which I have just had appraised at $175K. My mother, far more intent on raising her family than paying attention to the political/social climate, would much later talk about how she missed 'all the fuss' because she was too busy caring my sister and myself. 

And while I certainly don't begrudge Mom's insular life at the time (she undoubtedly lived the life she wanted to live), I can't help but think about all the changes she (and I) saw in the past half century.

To be honest, I feel sort of bad for those born in the 70's, 80's, 90's and Aughts. They have been totally insulated from the kind of sociopolitical turmoil with which I grew up. Stonewall is a buzzword to them. Rosa Parks and MLK are simply historical notes from an era they will never fully understand and appreciate the importance of the two-term election of an LGBT-friendly African-American POTUS. Yes, they will have their own moments of historical precedence. One day they will look back and laugh at those who opposed Marriage Equality; the idea that corporations can be people; the lack of health-care for the poor and the enslavement of minimum-wage workers (I'm talking about you, Walmart). But they won't have the sense of wonder and amazement of technological advancements that my mother and her generation experienced in the past 50 years. And that's a shame. Personally, I'm looking forward to what the next 50 years will bring. I can only imagine that advancements in health care will most likely insure that I and my contemporaries will be around to see them. 

All Americans should reflect on that terrible day when JFK was shot in the head by a man whose motives will probably never be understood. But we should all be focusing on the future and ways to make better for those yet to come. Uncle P will probably never have children to carry on my bloodline, but that doesn't mean I don't care about those who will be entrusted with the planet after I'm gone. 

Remember the past, but look forward to the future. Honor those who have gone before and live for those who mean the most in the present while leaving behind a world those who have yet to come can be proud to call home.

The past may well be prologue though I, for one, hope that future generations will actually use those lessons to make the world a better place. 

More, anon.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A November Cornucopia

Turn Off the Show
I'm still recovering from and dealing with the aftermath of Mom's passing (ugh - who knew there was so much to do after someone passes?), so I've been rather absent. But there is so much I want to talk about today that I had to post. So let's get started, shall we?

First, news from Broadway: In a scenario right out of a Mel Brooks movie, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (a show I've railed against since it was announced) will close on January 4th after having lost $60 million dollars. Playbill.com reports that the problem-plagued show (which cost $75M to mount and nearly ruined the career of director Julie Taymor) will leave many investors without seeing a dime in revenues. Taymor directed Disney's still-running biggest Broadway hit, The Lion King, but on-set injuries and a disjointed second act led producers to fire her (Taymor sued but the case was settled out of court). It got to the point where people were going to see the show in hopes of witnessing one of its many epic fails. Apparently, no one was going just to hear the rather lame score by Bono and The Edge. The show is so infamous, it even inspired and episode of "Law and Order: Criminal Intent." Still, it will live on in future Las Vegas and German productions, as well as a touring stadium show where some investors may recoup some of their losses. Good riddance to bad theatre, I say.

Next up, a story my sister, Dear D and sweet Mia will hate (sorry kids). Thanks to a video link on Towelroad, I have discovered one of the most interesting performers I've seen in quite some time. Puddles is a 7' tall sad clown with a rather amazing voice and range of styles. The video from revisionist cover band Postmodern Jukebox features Puddles as lead vocalist in a haunting cover of Lorde's "Royals:"

Intrigued. I looked up Puddles Pity Party, which led me to additional YouTube videos and this rather hilariously disturbing death-metal cover of Celine Dion's insipid Titanic theme, "My Heart Will Go On:"

Puddles has several other rather fascinating videos on YouTube, which I highly recommend to those among you who are decidedly not coulrophobic. While I truly admire his work, I can't help but feel a slight pang of jealousy at not being clever enough to come up with a character like that of my own. 

And finally, though hardly last, the still amazing gay icon Cher has given us what may well be the gayest music video ever, outside of an Adam Lambert song. The video for her latest single "Take It Like a Man," features some very hot guys in teeny-tiny Speedos, washing cars; diving off of sailboats and generally acting like they're in a soft-core gay porno. Muscles; tatts; twerking and bulges abound (not that I'm complaining):

Whew! I'm spent.

More, anon.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Forgotten Gems: "The Bad Seed"

Patty McCormack as Rhoda Penmark
Talk about obsessions... I don't exactly remember the first time I saw Mervyn LeRoy's 1956 thriller The Bad Seed, but I know it was Mom who introduced me to it. (Oh, yes. She had a dark side, too ). Based on the stage play by Maxwell Anderson and the novel by William March, the film explores mid-20th Century ideas about DNA and Nature Vs Nurture.

Young Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack, left)  is the perfect child. Smart, neat and loving, she hides a dark secret. When Rhoda's classmate, Claude Daigle is drowned at Rhoda's private school annual Spring picnic, Rhoda is suspected of killing him because he won the school's penmanship medal over her.

As Rhoda's mother Christine (Nancy Kelly) delves into her past, she comes to learn that she is the child of the infamous murderess Bessie Denker and may have passed her mother's psychopathy onto Rhoda. Henry Jones; William Hopper; Paul Fix; Elizabeth Varden and the amazing Eileen Heckart round out the stellar cast as Rhoda's family and victims, most of whom reprise their original Broadway stage roles. Jones, as the half-witted handyman Leroy and Heckart as the grieving alcoholic mother of the murdered Claude are especially good, but this is McCormack's movie and she owns every scene she's in.

Yes, it has a mid-50's camp feel about it, but The Bad Seed still has the power to be creepy and awful. Of course, having been produced under the Hayes Code, the movie couldn't be released with the  play and novel's original ending (SPOILER ALERT) and young Rhoda is struck by retributional lightning at the end, though she survives in the original versions.

I have wanted to direct a production of Anderson's play for almost 30 years, but have yet to come across a young actress capable of convincingly pulling off the role of Rhoda, while trying to justify the play's mid-century values and still holding relevance, today (though gun violence-related events in the past few years have made me rethink that).

The 1985 TV remake starring Blair Brown; Lynn Redgrave; Richard Kiley; David Ogden Stiers and openly gay actor Chad Allen doesn't hold a candle to the original.

If you are a genre film fan and have never seen this movie, you should. If you have seen it, then you know why it deserves to be seen,

Again, give me the money and I'll make a version of this story that will make you poop you pants!


More, anon.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Genre TV Will Never Go Away

Karl Urban and Michael Ealy in "Almost Human"

Yes, that's right. I had a perfectly wonderful post that I loved all ready to go about this very topic and then my clumsy sausage fingers grazed the wrong keys and it was gone... So I am working on an even better version of it. Hang tight.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Remember, Remember: Don't Shave in MOvember.

"Eets just so ree-dic-u-lous!"
November isn't just about Thanksgiving and Turkeys. Just as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (pink ribbons everywhere you look), November has been dubbed "Movember" for Men's Health Awareness Month (the Mo comes from Mustache, which men aren't supposed to shave instead of wearing a pink ribbon). 

Uncle P is a traditionalist and wears the goatee he's worn for twenty years because a) I look ridiculous without it and b) it helps define my face. The only time I shave it is if I have to for a show. The last time it came off was last for three weeks in April 2012 to play Edna is Hairspray. And that was the first time in a very long time. 

Unlike my Dear D and a few other hirsute gentlemen like myself, I don't have a magically regenerating beard (D get's an 11:30 AM shadow), nor nearly the thickness of facial hair to engage in anything fancy, like the Batstaches below:

Of course, some men have made their mustaches their trademarks:

And while some guys can really rock facial hair:

Other guys fail really well at it:

This Guy is the Real Dracula?

If Theodore Geisel had Been a Barber

Prince Justin D'Bague of Douchylvania

Of course, if you're really good at it, you might end up as a contestant in a beard and mustache competition like these weirdos:

Whether or not you shave this month is really irrelevant to me. What's not is our health. Yes, I said ours. Without you, I have no one to write for. Without me... well, who am I kidding? You'll find another blogger... or whatever is going to replace the format, eventually. Anyway...

Gentlemen, check yourselves for testicular, prostate and breast cancer (yes, men get breast cancer) regularly. If you are over 40 get a regular prostate exam and regular colonoscopies should start at 50. You get one body, guys. You should know it well enough to know when something's wrong. For more information, visit Movember United States. You can also donate money there towards men's health initiatives, including mental health groups. I'm not one to talk, but eat right (I really try and am getting better at it); sleep well (always an issue for me); move - if you can't outright exercise, just get up and walk around; stretch; wiggle; chair-dance; whatever - move!; stay in touch with friends and family and make time for them more often than you think you can. 

Just promise you won't try to grow a 'stache if it's going to look like the douche canoe in that last photo.

More, anon.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Channeling Bruce

I can't believe that I haven't written about this season's version of "American Horror Story: Coven" before now. Because holy hot hell, this show is on fire (literally) this season. 

I suppose because they are the most visible, I should start by talking about the cast. I don't know a director who wouldn't gladly give up a yank of hair or a few drops of blood to work with any and all of the amazing actors who've ever been a part of this show, but this cast in particular is... well, a director's wet dream. 

First off, there's the returning ensemble, headed by the astonishing Jessica Lange as the 'Supreme' Salem witch, Fiona and last season's star, Sarah Paulson as her daughter, Cordelia. Season one's burn victim (the highly underrated character actor Denis O'Hare) is back, this time as a cross-dressing, tongueless, necrophiliac version of Riff-Raff along with Taissa Farmiga as Zoe, the obvious 'Supreme-in-Waiting;' Lily Rabe as the Stevie Nicks-obsessed healer Misty; Jamie Brewer as a telepath with Downs; Evan Peters as the Teenage Frankenstein Frat Boy with rage issues and the glorious Frances Conroy in crazy flowing costumes, cat's eye spectacles and a crimped-to-death ginger fright-wig, as Fiona's mortal enemy Myrtle

As if that wasn't enough, add Academy Award winner Kathy Bates as the most vile woman in the history of New Orleans who has been cursed with eternal life by Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett!); Academy Award nominee Gabourey Sidibe as a 'Human Voodoo Doll;' Emma Roberts as a Pyrokenetic; gay imp Leslie Jordan as a member of the coven's High Council and Patti Freakin' Lupone as the holier-than-thou Uber-Christian new neighbor... Every director in Hollywood should be pounding on Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck's door, begging on their knees and offering up blood sacrifices to direct an episode of this show.

Of course, the best cast and director in the world mean little if the writing isn't up to snuff. Season One was daring and amazing and creepy and sexy and fairly linear, with glimpses into the past to fill in the gaps while maintaining a fairly singular plot. Season two, on the other hand -- while still amazing -- was a bit all over the place, taking on too many subjects for one story. There was alien abduction; sadistic nuns; demonic possession; Nazi experiments; lesbian empowerment and two serial killers!

'Coven' marks a return to the more focused story line of season one, this time telling the story of an old rivalry between witches forced to move south from Salem and the Voodoo witches who followed, soon after. Fiona is the headmistress of a witch boarding school, run in her long absence by Cordelia. When Zoe (Farmiga) is brought to the school after killing her boyfriend with sex, Fiona returns and all sorts of hell breaks loose. This season's writing team has just amped it up again, giving these incredible actors some powerful scenes and unironic (unless it needs to be) genre dialog.

Which brings me to why this post is titled "Channeling Bruce."  


Last week's Halloween episode ended with Cordelia having acid thrown in her eyes at a bar while the school was surrounded by zombies raised by Marie in revenge for the death of the minotaur Bastian.  This week, while Fiona waited at the hospital for word on Cordelia, Zoe stepped up and took control at the school. And as Fiona was wandering the hospital and resurrecting a dead child for another grieving mother, Zoe took up a chainsaw and went nuts on the zombies, channeling Bruce Campbell in his most gloriously blood-covered glee and all I could think was "Zoe went Ash on AHS!" Too much?

Holy crap, I almost forgot about Danny Huston! Keep the brilliance coming, boys! So glad that FX has already announced Season 4!  I can think of a certain East Coast legend they could explore...

If you aren't watching "American Horror Story: Coven," you're missing some truly extraordinary television. Forgive me for repeating myself, but I really want to see what happens when other genres take up AHS' 'repertory' format. And I really can't wait to see what other powerhouse actors show up for Season 4!

More, anon.