Monday, April 29, 2013

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week: The Beginning of the End?

Jason Collins
Putting aside my Essential Movie Guide for the night, I had to talk about today's huge LGBT/Sports news. Former Nets, Lakers and Celtics (now a Free Agent) NBA player Jason Collins made history today by coming out of the closet in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated

For many weeks, there has been speculation that a group of three or four NFL players might come out collectively, so as to 'soften' the impact. But Collins beat them all to the punch and became the first active professional team sports athlete to embrace and proclaim his queerness. The 33 year old, 7' tall twin says he started thinking about his life during the 2011 NBA shut-out, though he doesn't say why it took him another 2 years to come out. Of course, coming out publicly is a deeply personal and often painful process (though I personally know of no one who has regretted doing so). I was in my mid-30's before I came out to my family (all of whom said they already knew), though all of my friends already knew, so I can totally sympathize with Collins. 

As more and more countries and U.S. States are affirming that LGBT people have the same basic human rights as straight people, Collins' announcement couldn't come at a better time. Not only has he set a precedent for other professional athletes (who I hope will follow his lead), he joins the growing ranks of celebrities who raise both our visibility and (though I hate to use the word) 'normalize' homosexuality. The last ten years have seen great strides in LGBT rights and the last 2 years alone have shown leaps and bounds in people's attitudes about what being gay means. 

Of course, there are still homophobic asshats out there who want us to stay silent and 'repent' for our 'sins.' As an atheist I don't believe in sin. What I do believe in is common decency; human rights; doing good for its own sake and accepting people for who they are. Yes, there are horrible people who want to plant bombs at public events; take out thousands of innocents with hijacked planes and generally destroy all that is good and right in the world, simply because some religious fanatic brain-washed them into doing so. But those people are the exceptions. And yes, there are those who would twist the words of 'holy' books to suit their own needs and persecute those who disagree. Again, these are the exceptions. Seriously, if you believe in "God," how the hell can you say what "He" (or "She") thinks? Get over yourselves, already.

Here's the thing: We are still just at the very beginning of the 21st Century. As more and more famous LGBT people make themselves visible, the more the public at large will realize we aren't freaks, perverts or sinners. We are simply people; living the lives we were born to live; loving the people who make us happy. Isn't that what life is really about, anyway? As we move further into the century's second decade, I can only imagine that things will continue to improve and can very clearly imagine basic human rights for everyone, regardless of sex; race; creed or orientation. I'm very much looking forward to other pro athletes inevitably following Collins' lead and a time when sexuality is no longer a dividing issue. The Bryan Fischers and Maggie Gallaghers of the world have already seen the writing on the wall (you should excuse the Biblical reference) and they are becoming more and more desperate in their attempts to defame and decry our rights as fellow humans. And while I would never deign to deny them their right to believe what they want to believe, I will happily stick out my tongue and make fun of them for being the losers in the fight for what's right.

I am so happy that I am alive to see at least the beginning of the end of homophobia and a new path towards acceptance and understanding. It's been a long time coming and it's actually exciting to see it happening. 

More, anon.

Prospero's Essential Movie Guide Part 2

Director Tod Browning
Right up there with Science Fiction, Comedy and Drama, Horror movies played as much a part of early films as they do today.

Lon Chaney, "The Man of a Thousand Faces" was THE star of silent horror and his contribution to the genre is immeasurable. I was lucky enough to attend a screening of Phantom of the Opera at the Princeton chapel (really a Cathedral) with a live organ accompaniment, using the film's original score. The organist was a true professional, never skipping a beat when almost an entire reel was accidentally replayed. Chaney made an astounding number of silent genre films, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame; He Who Gets Slapped; The Unknown; London After Midnight (directed by Browning) and two versions of The Unholy Three (the original also directed by Browning). Chaney's son, Lon Chaney, Jr. had a lucrative career playing The Wolfman in the 40's and 50's, though he never rose to the height of his father's fame.

Sadly, not much footage remains from London After Midnight:

Luckily, Browning went on to direct two of the genre's iconic films: Dracula (Uncle P's introduction to horror) and the once-banned Freaks, both of which are readily available.

Of course there are those (Uncle P included) who think the Mexican Spanish Language version of 1931's Dracula (shot at night on Browning's sets) is superior in both tone and technical fimmaking:

I'll be moving on to more "talkies" in the next installment. Again, if you've never seen these films, I urge to seek them out.

More essentials, anon.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Prospero's Essential Movie Guide, Part I

Georges Melies - The Father of Narrative Film
Let's try this again, shall we? The original version of this post was lost to an unfortunate keystroke, which may well have been for the best. 

Anyway, a few days ago, a friend of a Facebook friend posted a list of 10 'essential' movies he thought his daughter should see. The list was made up of mostly good films, but was hardly comprehensive. And while I have no children of my own to advise about the movies that helped shape my view of the world, I thought I might like to pass on a list to my sweet Caitlin M, who loves movies, but also loves Zombies; the Cthulhu Mythos and Python

Of course, as I compiled my list, it grew rather unwieldy. I soon realized that I loved too many films to reduce them to a list of just 10. How can any cinephile create such a limited list? I know I couldn't possibly. And that was how my first ever series was born. Will I ever finish it? Maybe. 

Bear in mind, these the movies that inspired, excited, confounded and ignited my imagination and my personal love of film. Your list may (and probably should) vary. I've tried to keep the films in as much chronological order as possible, though I would highly recommend watching the in the groupings I have placed them (or not). I saw and shared many of these movies with my sister, who is almost as big as a cinephile as I am.

So let's get on with it, shall we? This first group of films everyone should see comes from the early days of cinema, using the technology available (some of it very clever) at the time:

Metropolis: Fritz Lang's visionary Sci-Fi classic serves as an indictment against both Mechanization and Economic Imperilaism.

Modern Times added Chaplin's silent voice to the anti-machine movement:

And Chaplin went on to create one of film's iconic sequences in The Gold Rush, using only forks and dinner rolls:

But the silent era wasn't just about fantasies and comedy. Sergei Eisenstein brought the horrors of war home with Battleship Potemkin:

Perhaps the most controversial (though well-worth seeing) film of the silent era is D.W. Griffith's 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, which depicts the KKK as the film's heroes. The Civil War was still a very sore subject in the South in 1915 and Griffith's movie was understandably popular there.

There are many more essential silent films to talk about and I will do so in the next installment. If you haven't seen these films, I suggest you seek them out.

More, anon.

A Quickie Update: Playing for Change

It's been a while since I've talked about Playing for Change. I still strongly believe in what they do and why they do it and I hope you'll join me in supporting their cause. What could possibly be better than Peace through music? Art can unite us and save the world, even if it's just one person at a time. Visit them at Here's their latest 'around the world' recording,  a truly International cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" Enjoy:

More, very anon.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Filthy Birthday to John Waters!

John Waters c.1969
Guerrilla filmmaker; trash auteur; social commenter and hilarious purveyor of outrageousness, Baltimore's favorite trashy son John Waters turns 67 today. Waters is single-handledly responsible for the career of plus-sized drag impresario Divine in his underground films of the late 60's and early 70's, while continuing to push the envelope after having gone more 'mainstream.' in the 80's and 90's.

Like many Waters' devotees, I first discovered his work in college in the 80's and his infamous (and career-making) Pink Flamingos. I remember renting it over Christmas break and watching it while my then teen-aged sister was baking cookies (even then, she was Little Betty Crocker). I kept telling her "Stay in the kitchen..." more than a few times. I haven't seen since, but have seen just about every other Waters' film available on VHS, DVD or on line. Some are very good (Cry-Baby; Serial Mom); some are fair to middling (Pecker; Cecil B. Demented) and one or two are downright terrible (A Dirty Shame). 

Regular readers know that I was lucky enough to play Edna Turblad (a character created by Waters and Divine) in a rather tumultuous though ultimately successful production of the musical version of Hairspray last year. If pressed to name my favorite Waters' movie, I'd have to split into three:

Of his early films, 1977's Desperate Living is probably the most insanely brilliant films of Waters' early works. He manages to create his personal version of Oz (he admits that The Wizard of Oz is the most influential film he's seen) in Mortville, a cardboard kingdom of criminals and perverts ruled by an insane Queen. One of Waters' few earlier films that did not feature Divine,  Desperate Living is certainly among  the most entertaining of his underground films. The trailer below is decidedly NSFW:

After 1988's Hairspray opened Waters to the mainstream, he made two more movies I absolutely adore.

1990's Cry-Baby is Waters' Rock-a-Billy musical parody starring a very young Johnny Depp in the title role and former porn-star Traci Lords in a Romeo & Juliet parody set in 1950's Baltimore. There are some amazing performances from  Polly Bergen; Amy Locane; Susan Tyrrell; Iggy Pop; Ricki Lake; Troy Donahue and even Willem Dafoe. That's not mention one of the best prison-set musical numbers since "Jailhouse Rock":

Probably my favorite Waters' film, Serial Mom is his 1994 parody of Suburban Perfection and sociopathology. Starring Kathleen Turner; Sam Waterston; Ricki Lake; Matthew Lillard; Traci Lords and a very unfortunate Patty Hearst, Serial Mom is Waters' first real (and only successful) exploration of filth in Surburbia:

Waters continues to write and lecture and can be seen in the documentary version of his one-man show, This Filthy World:

Happy Birthday, John!

More, anon,

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Strange Bedfellows or: End of the Weekend Gratuitisness

PA State Representative Brian Sims of Philadelphia
This has been a rough week for the country, and especially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and in particular, the city of Boston and its suburb, Watertown (and I have the audacity to complain about a bad movie...).  A very long time ago, someone I once knew told me "The worst thing that is ever going to happen to you no matter what, and you have very little control over it, so why live in fear of it? Embrace your finite mortality and engage in every moment of your life, even your dreams. They are all we'll ever have." He may have been stoned at the time (shh... don't tell) but he was right. It took me a long to actually process what that really meant.

Anyway, I thought the majority of my readers (straight women and other gay men) might want to just have a moment to ourselves and share some happy, probably Safe for Work beefcake, if only to bring a smile you face.

That's openly gay and super-hot State Rep Brian Sims making my blog look so good, right off the bat. A champion of Equality, the 35 year old is the first openly gay person to be elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly and remains the only openly gay football captain in the NCAA while at Bloomsburg University. Sims received his Juris Doctorate at Michigan State and served as both the President of Equality Pennsylvania and Chairman of Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia. Talk about husband material. Sorry ladies. this one's ours.

Of course, that doesn't mean we can't share. You know you want the Ryans as much as we do:

Sensitive; enigmatic; baby-faced Gosling is simply irresistible with his knowing smile and non-judgmental eyes and smoking hot body! And he can actually act!

Reynolds, on the other hand, just exudes sexy. The Canadian actor's insanely hot body; 'Boy-Next-Door' good looks and generally genial manner make up for the nonsense that was Green Lantern. Seriously, what kind of moron hides that body in a CGI suit?

Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris.... Oh, sorry. Got a little lost there for a moment. He's been both the Human Torch and Captain America. Evans stopped listening to the agent who told him to keep his clothes on, thank goodness.

Bollywood Superstar Hrithric Roshan will always be on my list of Things That Make Me Happy.

Of course, there's always my personal Obsession:

Feel better. I know I do. Hope this week is better for all of us!

More, anon.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: "The Lords of Salem"

I'm in the minority and actually like musician-turned-director Rob Zombie's 2003 debut film, House of 1000 Corpses. Conversely, I am among the majority in really liking it's brilliant 2005 sequel, The Devil's Rejects. And his fake trailer for Grindhouse (Werewolf Women of the SS*) is hilarious. I was dubious when I heard he was remaking John Carpenter's career-maker, Halloween but was pleasantly surprised that he actually did it some justice. Then came the remake's sequel, which proved disastrous. Still, I had hope for Zombie's latest film, The Lords of Salem. The trailer looked like another trippy, creepy 70's-referencing movie, much like his first two films but influenced this time by Hammer Studios. It won me over with it's weird and wild imagery:

The film's conceit is among the oldest of the genre's old chestnuts: "The Witch's Curse." What a great starting point. Screw history! Let's burn us some real witches in Salem. Naturally, the head witch curses the female descendants of the original colony and makes the descendant of the clergyman who condemned her bear the Devil's child. Trust me, this is not a spoiler and I'll tell you why. Despite hoping for an original and actually scary take on the trope, Zombie takes ideas from dozens of other (and much better) films about witches, the devil and the anti-Christ; throws them all up on the screen and hopes they stick. 1/3 of the way through the film's 101 increasingly absurd minutes, it starts to become apparent that they don't. Another 15 minutes in and the movie stops making any damned sense at all and it becomes an exercise in directorial indulgence for predictable, uninspired shocks; bizarre imagery and as many references to other works as he could fit in. 

There are some highly uneven performances from the cast of genre veterans, which includes Dee Wallace; Meg Foster; Bruce Davison; Patricia Quinn; Ken Foree and Maria Conchita Alonso with cameos from Michael Berryman and Sid Haig. An unrecognizable Foster comes off the worst as the curse-spewing witch, Margaret Morgan, out-hamming Al Pacino in Scarface and William Shatner in almost anything. Wallace, Quinn and character actress Judy Geeson seem to be at least having fun as crazy, elderly satanists while Davison and Alonso make an unlikely pairing work. Zombie's wife, (Sheri Moon Zombie) continues to be his muse and leading lady, though at almost 40, Moon Zombie's child-like performance is ridiculous (though only slightly less ridiculous than her awful dreadlocks and her eclectic, pop-art perfect apartment down the hall from Old Scratch). As for those amazing visuals in the trailer? Yes, they're in the movie. But so are dozens more that serve no purpose other than to perplex or disgust or cause some sort of reaction without any rhyme or reason. Note to Rob Zombie: No one wants to look at flabby, old naked ladies (not even flabby, old straight men); your wife still can't act and no matter how much you draw on imagery from Bosch; Fever Ray; Roman Polanski Ken Russell and David Cronenberg, The Devil should never look like a frog in a chicken suit as played by Chuy Bravo. My friend Michael and I (as well as the rest of the small crowd at the 8:10 show) laughed out loud at one too many things that were obviously not supposed to be funny, while often asking ourselves aloud: "What the...?"

I suppose it's good to know that Zombie knows his genre's history, but knowing the stories hardly makes him a story-teller. In the end, The Lords of Salem tries too hard to be too many things at the same time, hitting the audience over the head with heavy-handed imagery and totally uninspired references to far better works. While some critics are calling it 'daring' and 'ambitious,' I think The Lords of Salem is self-indulgent twaddle from someone who should know better. Bizarre for the sake of being bizarre is never interesting. Honestly, who actually decided to release this crap? I hope he or she gets fired for it. 0 Stars Out of Four.

Have a marathon at home, instead. Rent Rosemary's Baby; The Sentinel; The Devils; Lair of the White Worm; Naked Lunch; Altered States and The Fly and have an actual good time watching movies with the same themes and visuals, made by actually talented directors. What the hell happened to the guy who made *this?:

I'll never get the time back that I wasted on this POS, but Rob Zombie owes me $11.00, damnit! The Lords of Salem is rated 'R' for violence, nudity, male masturbation, gore and language. It should be rated 'P' for Pee-yew!

More, anon.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

All Shook Up

Paul Kevin Curtis

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bizzaro Forgetten Gems: "Liquid Sky"

While visiting my usual haunts, I came across a video teaser (via) for a group (or song - not sure which) called Sparkles and Wine. I have no idea exactly why, but watching it sent me right me right back to the weirdness that was the 1980's and Russian director Slava Tsukerman's 1982 film Liquid Sky. Performance artist and model Margaret (Anne Carlisle) is addicted to heroin and sex. She has so much sex that aliens, who live on the endorphins produced by heroin and orgasms, land on the roof of the building across from her apartment in order to consume her many partners' (including male model Jimmy - also played by Carlisle) endorphins. Much mayhem ensues.

I saw this movie with my friend Deb (the mother of my godson) at the Ritz* in Philadelphia. We were both very into the music, fashion and "F*ck You" attitudes of the anti-mainstream, just like every other 20-something of the time. Loaded with time-lapse images, outre dialog and loads of folks on the fringe, Liquid Sky was (and is) very much a product of it's time.

Carlisle and Tsukerman went on to a few more projects, though neither has been heard from in the U.S. since the 90's and few (if any) of the rest of the cast has gone on to do anything significant. It may not exactly be brilliant, but Liquid Sky is certainly indicative of the anti-establishment movements of the 50's, 60's and 70's, simply replacing Beatniks and Hippies with Punks and New Wavers.

"Delicious, delicious. Oh, how boring."

More, anon.

*Also where I saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch for the first time.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sorry - Monsters Are Still Real, Kids.

Faneuil Hall - Boston, Massachusetts.
So... Yesterday, another insane person (or persons) perpetrated another horrific crime against innocent people, this time against those who were attending and/or participating in the Boston Marathon.  I needed a day to process yet another horrific event before I could comment on it. And here's what I think.

The first time I ever went to Boston, I was working for a facility which housed mentally and physically disabled people. It was what I thought I wanted to do with my life right out of school. The 'school' really turned out to be a place where rich people dumped off the children of whom they were ashamed, but that's another story for another time. 

Anyway, a client was going home for the Holidays and I and another 'Houseparent' were asked to accompany him on the short flight to Boston. We flew in in the early morning morning, dropped the client off with his family and had nine hours to explore and play before flying home again. We shopped at Faneuil Hall; we walked all around downtown and ended up in a seafood place because the young lady I was with (i have no memory of her name) wanted chowder. I hate clam chowder and I have no idea what I ate - probably a fried platter. But I liked the city's vibe and wanted to go back.

In college, my friends Terry and Marly and I drove up to visit our friend Brian at his grandparents' once state-of-the-art mid-century home in Amherst. The next day we went into Boston and I am proud to say that my 20-something self did pretty good navigating the insanity that is Boston traffic. There was also an infamous 'research' trip to Salem (we were doing The Crucible and we left on Thursday, the 12th, after Mary called my new job, weeping and saying she was my sister and that Grandmom had died, so I could leave early*) which is very close to Boston. Of course, my dear K has family ties to the area, and I've been there on more than one occasion with her. It's a good town, filled with college students; teachers and professors and businesses of every kind, just like any major city. There are good neighborhoods and bad ones; fun things to do and lame things to do; history, art, theatre; shopping; great bars - Boston has always meant a very good time, every time I've been there.

So please bear with me when I say that I can't imagine the horror, the pain and the suffering inflicted on people who were, up until that moment, also experiencing Boston as a very good time. The fear and confusion must have been so intense. And so much pain (both physical and emotional). Horrible!

And for what? As of this writing, we still don't know who or why. Of course, the why almost doesn't matter. Did 'God' tell someone to do this to advance a political agenda? Or did a dog claiming to be God tell someone to do this so someone will finally acknowledge his pathetic existence? Was a spurned lover out to kill an ex who was running in the marathon or in the crowd? Maybe an angry, disqualified runner from the past wanted to exact his revenge. It doesn't matter.

What matters are the people killed and maimed; people whose lives have been irrevocably and horribly changed. And whether this was the act of an organized group of religious fanatics or of a loner writing a manifesto in a woodshed, it was ultimately an act of madness. When we were children, our parents did their best to convince us that there are no monsters under the bed or in the closet or hiding behind the coats on the coat-rack. "Monsters aren't real," they told us. But they lied. While there may be no green-skinned bogey-men with fangs and claws waiting to rend us to pieces, there are other monsters who never fail to prove their existence. In schools, malls, movie theaters and major sporting events; on trains and in office buildings; in the air and on the the ground; the monsters keep shouting "I am here! I am to be feared! I am a Monster!" 

Here's the thing: Don't fear the monster. He doesn't deserve your fear. Find the monster and punish him, so other monsters may think twice. I know there are far more good people in the world than bad, just as there are more beautiful things than ugly things. There's great art and literature and philanthropists and scientists who are working to sure disease and end suffering. There are dew-covered spiderwebs spilling prismatic rainbows in the morning sun and exotically plumed birds wading in warm swamps; romantic sunsets; sparkling beaches; fields of wildflowers... you get the idea. And we all should be able to take time to revel in the good things about life, without worrying if a bomb is sitting in that trashcan on the corner or if the guy sitting next to me at the AMC24 has gun under his unseasonal coat. 

I'm offering no solutions - that's for smarter folks than I to sort out. Of course, without bad things; without pain and suffering; we wouldn't be able to appreciate joy and pleasure, would we? Be glad for every day you wake up. Stop taking things so seriously. Smile.  Let the monsters know we're on to them and that we have no intention of letting them win.

Call me "Pollyana." Call me a cock-eyed optimist. Call me (gasp!) a Liberal. I really think Lennon and McCartney had it right:

Oh - I also think we really need to overhaul the mental heath care system in this country, ASAP. After Reagan dismantled it in the 80's, it's about time we overhauled and reinstituted comprehensive mental health care for those who may pose a danger to society.

More, anon.

*Another trip worthy of it's own post.

Monday, April 15, 2013

TV Review: "Hannibal"

The Cast of NBC's "Hannibal"
Now that I've finally had the chance to see the second episode of Bryan Fuller's latest series "Hannibal," I have a better idea of what I think of it. 

Fuller ("Wonderfalls;" "Dead Like Me" and my beloved "Pushing Daisies") has created a prequel of sorts to Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon (the novel introduces the already incarcerated Lecter as Grahame seeks his advice in tracking down a serial killer - much like Clarice Starling would do in The Silence of the Lambs). "Hannibal" takes place several years before the events of Red Dragon, when Grahame (who self-identifies as being 'somewhere' on the autism spectrum and possesses an extraordinary ability to get inside the heads of serial killers) is called in by Agent Jack Crawford to work a case involving ritualistic cannibalism, of all things. Lecter is called in to consult - and later take Will on as a patient, and the two try to analyze one another as they begin to play a very intriguing cat-and-mouse game. 

This is the third pair of actors to to play the duo; William Petersen and Brian Cox in Manhunter (Michael Mann's excellent 1986 adaptation of Red Dragon*); Edward Norton and Anthony Hopkins in Brett Ratner's regrettable remake and now Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen in a 'pre-boot' (forget all about Harris' last novels Hannibal and Hannibal Rising and their mostly dreadful adaptations). I must say that I am enjoying both of their interpretations of the characters, though Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) makes it clear from the beginning that he is quite insane, simply by raising an eyebrow or twisting an odd smile on his magnificently cheek-boned face. Dancy ("The Big C") is trying his best not to overact in a role ripe for some set gnawing. He doesn't always succeed, but his restraint is generally effective. I wish I could say the same of Laurence Fishburne's Jack Crawford. Fishburne's very dark storyline on "C.S.I." is undoubtedly what led Fuller to cast him in the role previous played by Dennis Farina, Scott Glenn and Harvey Keitel. Fishburne plays Crawford as a volatile hot-head, practically bullying Will to return to fieldwork The rest of the cast is fine and it's great to see former Kid in the Hall Scott Thompson as saucy lab technician Jimmy Price. 

Dripping with weird atmosphere and loaded with Fuller's often outlandish and always beautiful visuals (even the gory stuff, though kept to a minimum, is gorgeously shot) and his very dark sense of humor, "Hannibal" may well be the best series Fuller has created, yet. I'm certainly interested to see where it goes and how the relationship between the eventual adversaries develops. Still, as much I like it, I can't imagine it going beyond a few seasons, and I'll tell you why. Fuller's concepts are smart and original and engaging, but they usually aren't enough to sustain more than a few seasons' worth of story before getting repetitive. I think he'd be much better served creatively, if he would start writing a feature film. I'll also say that while "Hannibal" is only slightly less salacious than A&E's 'preboot" "Bates Motel," it seems this may just be another attempt by NBC to jump on the genre bandwagon after the success of "Grimm." But what I've seen so far has been fascinating and I am very hopeful. *** (Three Out of Four Stars).

More, anon.

*And sorry Ralph Fiennes - you may be an excellent actor in most things (we won't mention The Avengers), but Tom Noonan is far creepier and far more compelling as Francis "The Red Dragon" Dolarhyde.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Please Don't Shoot Myrna's Dog

John Daker
I have absolutely nothing bad to say about most religious people. I may think they are silly and misguided, though most of them are decent people with good intentions; inclusive and non-judgmental; loving and fervent in their beliefs. That's fine with me. As long as they don't try to impose their beliefs on me, that's just peachy.

Of course, they are also human, which means they have egos. Egos which lead them - despite their most devout intentions - down the path of derision, ridicule and just plain patheticity (Yes, I made up another word. Deal). These folks truly believe they are doing 'service' to their Lord with these performances, While I have no doubt about their sincerity, their obvious lack of musical talent far surpasses the messages they are trying to import.

A few years back, I stumbled upon the video below and shared it during the Holidays. I remember commenting that poor Myrna looked as if her dog was being held at gunpoint off-camera, which was a reference to former Little Rascals star Jackie Cooper (Superman), who claimed producers threatened to shoot his dog to make him cry on camera.

And I imagine that attorney Michael Clancy wishes this next video never found it's way to YouTube. I'm guessing this is late 80's to early 90's. Ladies and Germs; I give you young, white, untalented Christian rapper Michael Clancy and Nu Thang:

I'm lucky enough to be from a time before video cameras and when the most embarrassing photos are safe inside an album. Poor Mr. Clancy will have this follow him in Cyber Space well beyond his death.

And speaking of things from beyond the grave (rimshot, please), the latest of such performances to pass across my feeds is "My Name is John Daker." Mr. Daker, undoubtedly confident of his presentation before actually shooting, does his best to keep from looking terrified at forgetting nearly every word of both of the songs he was supposed to sing. The fact that neither song has anything  to do with the other makes it all the better (or worse - I'm not sure which).

Oh, dear. Of course, since then, I've discovered two rather genius takes on that clip. First this animated version from cr0uchingtiger:

But best, this 'Daker on Idol' mashup from Erik Hollander:

I really don't have much more to say. I think the clips speak for themselves. No, I'm not 'God.' Yes, I am judging you (well, your performances, anyway) and I find your lack of talent disturbing. Just promise you'll never record yourselves 'singing' again and we're cool. And Myrna - I hope your dog was okay.

More, anon.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Next Gayest Things You'll See This Week

I was going to talk about Jonathan Winters' passing, but I've had enough sad stuff this week. And yes, I will finish yesterday's post. I'm still trying to figure out how I want to say what I want to talk about, without coming off as maudlin or sappy. Again, it's been a tough week.

So instead, tonight I thought I'd I'd write about some pretty funny; somewhat sexy and very, very gay things.

First up (via) comes a film industry oddity - a teaser trailer for a movie that hasn't even started shooting (um... so where did the teaser footage come from?). Anyway, the movie (for which I can find no IMDb listing) is called TOM, a long-rumored biography of illustrator and designer Tom of Finland. Born Touko Laaksonen in 1920, Tom of Finland's illustrations influenced and informed mid-century gay culture with his stylized, hyper-masculine erotic art. Featuring leather-clad muscle boys; tightly-uniformed sailors and fetish-wearing Pony Boys (most with impossibly large um... 'equipment'), Laaksonen's work most certainly influenced The Village People and the controversial Al Pacino movie Cruising in the late 70's and early 80's. The teaser's very amusing (and fairly safe for work until the last 30 seconds or so). Nathaniel at The Film Experience identifies the adorable actor playing the artist as an actor named Olli Rahkonen. I love his dirty smirking!

It also reminds of the time I was playing the Cowardly Lion in a 1978 production of The Wizard of Oz and my innocent young sister bought me a greeting card with Dorothy and Toto in a leather bar, lamenting about not being in Kansas. That card was funny to a 10 year old girl in a very different way than it was to her 16 year old gay brother. Yikes! If only she'd known.... wait. DUH!

In less salacious gay entertainment news. Britain's ITV has released the trailer for "Vicious," (via) about a bickering older gay couple (Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi - wow!) whose lives are changed when a new neighbor moves in. I should be so lucky...

If "Vicious" is a hit, it won't be long before we see an American version. Who would you cast? I can see Fred Willard and Martin Mull. Scott Thompson (so happy to see him on "Hannibal" this week!) and Stephen Rutledge, perhaps? Now there's a duo I'd love to direct.

More, anon.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Another Friend Lost

My Friend, Chris
I took my time in college, attending several schools; starting out full-time and ending part-time (mostly because I couldn't afford to do so any other way). One of the advantages of taking my time was that I got to do and learn from lots of great theatre and lots of great directors and acting coaches. The other was that I got to meet and make friends with a whole lot of people, many of whom I still know and love to this day.

One of those people was my friend Chris, seen to your right in a rather blurry photo taken by our mutual friend Marly while on a trip we took to Salem, MA to do 'research' for a production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Chris lived close to campus and we had many parties at his house. We also went on lots of adventures together. 

One of those adventures was a Spring Break road trip to Florida, which probably deserves a post of its own one day. Myself, Chris, our friend Rich and his future wife Dawn all headed down I-95 in car I rented (because I was only one old enough to do so). We took turns driving and I remember waking up around 3 AM somewhere in the Carolinas, as Chris was driving. I glanced at the speedometer - the needle was pressed as far right as it would go. I simply shrugged and went back to sleep, knowing that someone who had once been pulled over for speeding on the Autobahn was at the helm and we would be fine. There's a ton more to tell about that trip, but again - that's for another post.

As much as Chris had a reputation among our clique for being for being a madman, he was sweet and kind and gentle and often very, very funny. A talented carpenter (his father was a cabinet maker) and an often reluctant actor, Chris was known to have a bit of a temper and once infamously and very completely destroyed a beautiful art deco set he'd built for a production of Dinner at Eight after a dispute with the director (the show had closed). We all knew who'd done the deed, though none of us told, even though the incident made the local papers.

Many years passed and while some of us were still in touch, it wasn't until the advent of Facebook that we all reunited (as much as folks can on Facebook). It was last fall when Chris joined Facebook and we were all glad he had done so. 

Then news came in January that Chris had gone missing. Suffering from bi-polar disease, Chris was visiting his sister who noticed he wasn't himself and set out to take him to a local hospital for treatment. She went to get her coat and upon her return found him gone. Scent dogs traced him to a footbridge on the Delaware-Raritan Canal. While Chris was an avid outdoorsman and knew how to survive in harsh conditions, the situation didn't look good. Although we were scattered all over the country, our mutual friends expressed concern and worry. This past Sunday, a family canoeing the canal stumbled across a body which was identified by a driver's license as Chris. Local police are speculating that he committed suicide, though there is no hard evidence to support that theory.

It doesn't matter to me how or why Chris passed, only that he did. And that my life is all the better for having spent time with him. And I can only hope that his was better for having spent time with me and our mutual friends. While I and our friends mourn his loss, we can all celebrate the many wonderful; hilarious; joyous; confounding and exciting times we shared together. I only hope he is finally at peace.

Tonight, at 10 PM Eastern, our mutual friends raised a glass in Chris' memory and posted photos of ourselves doing so on a private Facebook page dedicated to him. I can imagine him smiling at the thought. 

Here's the thing: None of knows how long we'll be here. Take the time to tell the ones you love that you love them. Do so often and sincerely. Savor the joyous moments of your life because they are truly few and far-between. Spend as much time pursuing the joyous moments as you can. Spend even more time pursuing time with friends and family. Be kind to everyone you meet - you never know who'll be part of your life for all of it, or just some of it. Laugh as often as you can. Love as much as you can. Share your joy, but never gloat about it. Slow down. Live the life you want to live and make no apologies to those who disagree with that life. Take time to remember everyone who touches your life, no matter how briefly.

This was one of Chris' favorite songs, and while it isn't exactly a 'happy' song, it's one all of his friends will always remember him by:

I truly hope that Chris' pain has receded, even while his family's and friends' is peaking.

More, anon.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week

Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in Behind the Candelabra
It's been a while since I've done a "Gayest Thing" post, but I think this movie warrants one. 

I'm still not sure how I feel about HBO's upcoming film Behind the Candelabra. When I was kid in the 60's and 70's (I keep telling you I'm old), Liberace was a huge star, as famous for his diamond-encrusted pianos and feathered capes as he was for his prodigious talent as a pianist. He loved performing and loved his fans, most of whom were middle-aged straight ladies who imagined the fairly attractive son of Polish immigrants could be theirs for the asking. Liberace was so popular, he even appeared on "Batman" as concert pianist Chandell and his evil twin, Harry who goaded Chandell into becoming the villain "Fingers." In real life, Liberace was born with a twin brother who didn't survive and parodies of him often refer to his brother 'George.' His flamboyant life of excess came to an end in 1987 when he died of AIDS-related pneumonia at the age of 67. Though he was sued for palimony by former chauffeur and alleged lover Scott Thorson in 1982, Liberace denied his homosexuality up until his death. Thorson settled out of court for $95K. At one time the highest paid performer in the world, Liberace supposedly made Thorson have cosmetic surgery in order to make him look like a younger version of himself. 

Director Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike; Contagion) and HBO have teamed up to bring us Behind the Candelabra, screenwriter Richard LaGravense's take on the tumultuous three-year relationship between Lee (as Liberace's friends knew him) and Thorson. Michael Douglas plays Liberace and Matt Damon is Thorson. As seen in the trailer below, Douglas went out of his way to study and emulate Liberace's iconic vocal patterns, while Damon obviously buffed up to play the flamboyant entertainer's boy-toy:

Rob Lowe; Dan Ackroyd; Cheyenne Jackson; Debbie Reynolds; Scott Bakula and Paul Reiser all have supporting roles (all of whom may well prove far more interesting to see than Douglas and Damon) in what promises to be an exploitative and over-the-top movie from one of the most innovative directors in Hollywood. Uncle P is actually considering subscribing to HBO just to see this film, though in all honestly, I'll probably wait until it's on Netflix or available on DVD. 

Honestly, does it get any gayer than this?

More, anon.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: "Evil Dead"

Jane Levy in Evil Dead
In 1981, director Sam Raimi and his brother Ted put together a very low budget horror movie called The Evil Dead. The movie caused a bit of a sensation, despite its terrible acting and laughable effects (it also scared the crap out of Uncle P's sister). 1987's Evil Dead II wasn't so much a sequel as a deliberately funny re-make (think The Three Stooges meet The Exorcist). Raimi's last movie in the trilogy, 1992's Army of Darkness, was a full-out horror comedy, combined with a medieval fantasy. The movies made Bruce Campbell a cult star, legitimized Raimi as a director and even spawned an hilarious stage musical. All this from the simple story of five college friends who unwittingly unleash an evil force by reading from a human skin-bound book of spells. Rumors of a fourth movie have taunted fans for decades, but Raimi was busy making the original Spider-Man trilogy, the very under-appreciated Drag Me to Hell and this year's disappointing Oz the Great and Powerful. When it was announced that he would be producing (along with Campbell) a reboot, written and directed by Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, fans were up arms. Today, Dear D and I saw the new version, and I'm happy to report that Alvarez and company (with a few exceptions) got most of it right.

Mia ("Suburgatory" star Jane Levy) is a drug addict trying to go cold turkey with the help of her brother David and their friends, who have chosen Mia and David's family cabin in the woods to seclude themselves while she goes through withdrawal. What they don't know is that the cabin was recently the site of a ritual to... well, the less said about that, the better. The performers of said ritual have left behind a dozen or so dead cats and a book wrapped in plastic and barbed wire. Unable to contain his curiosity, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), the scholar among the group, unwraps the book and reads aloud from it, opening the door for a terrible demonic entity which invades Mia and basically dooms them all.

Approaching the story as a full-out Horror movie mostly pays off for Alvarez, working from a script he wrote along with Rodo Sayagues and an uncredited Diablo Cody (Jennifer's Body). The four friends have vowed to keep Mia at the cabin, no matter how much she begs to go home. When she starts behaving strangely, they attribute it to withdrawal and ignore her pleas to leave. Of course, things quickly escalate and it is soon apparent that something is very wrong. The violence and gore escalate, with plenty of stabbing; gouging; shredding; dismemberment and enough blood to fill an Olympic pool (this isn't a movie for the faint of heart, kids). There are demonic voices, slamming doors and exploding mirrors; raping trees, scalding showers and more than a few homages to the original (Mia is first discovered sitting atop Ash's dilapidated car, for one). I was fine with all of it, until the movie went and used two truly ridiculous cliches that drive me crazy - SPOILERS AHEAD: Skip to the next paragraph to avoid them. Cliche #1: Nail guns cannot fire nails like a firearm! There is a safety catch on every nail gun ever made which makes this impossible. Cliche #2: Shooting a plastic gas can will never cause an explosion! Gasoline itself is flammable, but not explosive. Gasoline fumes are explosive, but require a flame or a spark to ignite them and neither can be achieved by shooting through a plastic container. I don't know why Hollywood continues to perpetrate these fallacies. They are insults to the audience's intelligence and they should go away forever (though I'm sure they won't). 

The actors in the new version are certainly better than in Raimi's original, with Levy going all-out to make Mia as different as possible from the character she plays on "Suburgatory." Shiloh Fernandez (Deadgirl: Red Riding Hood) is fine as David, Mia's conflicted brother. Pucci (Carriers); Jessica Lucas (Coverfield) and newcomer Elizabeth Blackmore are all more than competent in what must have been physically demanding roles. Alvarez's direction takes several cues from Raimi's original, including running shots through the woods and close-ups of painful-looking slicing and dicing. D and I both winced more than a few times at the imagined pain the characters were put through (not that she would, but my dear Q should avoid this one at all costs). Alvarez thankfully eschews CG imagery and opts for physical FX which far outshine Raimi's original efforts. All in all, I had a great time, though D was disappointed at the lack of camp. *** (Three Out of Four Stars). And fans of the original should stay for a special Easter Egg after the credits.

On a personal note, I was horrified to see a family bring a young boy who couldn't have been more than 8 or 9 to see this movie. Inappropriate on so many levels for such a young kid, I hope they are kept awake all night by the boy's nightmares. Evil Dead is rated a hard "R" for language and extreme gore, violence and horror. Anyone who brings a child to see it should be reported for abuse.

Oh - One more thing... why do filmmakers allow trailers to contain material which doesn't actually appear in the final cut? 

More, anon.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

TV Review: "Bates Motel"

Now that AMC has the highest-rated show on television with their often frustrating though usually amazing adaptation of Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead," it seems that every network is jumping on the horror bandwagon (more on NBC's "Hannibal," soon). Cable rival A&E (which used to stand for 'Arts & Entertainment') has given us their reboot of the Psycho franchise with "Bates Motel."

Set in modern California, "Bates Motel" is all about the young Norman Bates, his relationship with his mother and all the things that would eventually lead him to become the serial killer we all know and love. Novelist Robert Bloch based Norman on the infamous Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein, who also served as inspiration for the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Gein dug up the graves of middle aged women he thought resembled his mother and made 'trophies' of their various body parts. In Bloch's novel Psycho (and Alfred Hitchcock's astounding subsequent film), Norman Bates kills and taxidermies his mother, takes on her persona and kills women "Mother" thinks jeopardizes their relationship.

"Bates Motel" begins with the 'accidental' death of Norman's father in the family's Arizona garage. Norman (Freddie Highmore) is devastated, though his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) is surprisingly calm. Flash forward six months and the Bateses have moved to California where Norma has purchased a house and motel in order to start a new life for her and her son. Soon, the property's former owner, angry at having lost the motel in foreclosure, shows up to harass and eventually rape Norma. After Norman bashes the rapist over the head, Norma stabs him to death and convinces Norman to help her cover up the crime by dumping his body in a nearby lake. It isn't long before the hot Sheriff (Nestor Carbonell) and his younger, but equally attractive, deputy (Mike Vogel) show up with questions about the former owner's disappearance. It doesn't help matters that Norman, while ripping up a blood-stained carpet in one of the motel's rooms, discovers a hand-drawn diary of sorts, detailing the murder of an Asian sex-slave at the motel. Oh, and there are several attractive young girls at Norman's new school, who find the nerdy geek attractive, one of whom is the CF-suffering daughter of a taxidermist (hit us over the heads, much?). Of course, we all know nerds rule the world, but since when did 17 year old girls find them so hot?

Series creator Anthony Cipriano has set up an intriguing premise, though I can't say that all of what he's attempting to do works. There are some fine and interesting performances from Farmiga (Up in the Air) and Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as the dysfunctional mother and son. Carbonell (listed in the credits as a 'Guest Star,' so we already know he doesn't have long to live) applies the same intensity as he did to the FBI agent he played in the ill-fated "Ringer," but comes off as a bit of a jerk, much like his age-defying character on "Lost." Vogel (coincidentally having appeared in the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) is certainly pretty, but not much more. In fact, it seems like the producers (among them "Lost" producer, Carlton Cruse) of the show have gone out of their way to cast it with only very attractive actors, many of whom could be replaced with similarly attractive actors without anyone in the audience taking notice. It's almost as if they want to distract us from the very silly plot (which involves a town-wide marijuana farm conspiracy and a sex-slave story) with eye-candy. Not that I'm against eye-candy, per-se. I just prefer some substance to go along with it. The relationship between Norma and Norman tries to provide that substance, though the addition of Norman's half-brother Dylan (the also very pretty Max Thieriot), does little to help the cause.

While "Bates Motel" is certainly interesting, I don't think it has the legs to carry beyond a season or two. Especially since we all know the outcome. ** (2 Stars out of 4).

More, anon.

Upcoming Reviews

Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal 'The Cannibal' Lecter
I have so many things to review, I'm not sure where to start...

So I won't... at least not until later tonight. It's officially Saturday morning and while I haven't posted anything here since my overtly obvious April Fool's post, that doesn't mean I don't have plenty to talk about.

"The Walking Dead" had it's Season 3 finale last Sunday and I have plenty to say about the season as a whole (in general: better than Season 2, but still not as good as Season 1). Of course, there are two new genre shows to talk about. I've now seen three episodes of A&E's "Bates Motel," and while I do seem to generally like it (mostly thanks to the very interesting performances from Vera Farmiga and Freddy Highmore), it's hardly without its flaws. And I have yet to see the season premiere of Bryan Fuller's "Hannibal" (it's been DVR'd), I can't imagine a better actor to take on the iconic role of the serial cannibal than Mads Mikkelsen

Most exciting, Dear D and I will be seeing the reboot of Sam Raimi's career-making film The Evil Dead, featuring smart and adorable "Subugaratory" star Jane Levy; produced by Raimi and cult-icon (and original star) Bruce Campbell and written by Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez and Diablo Cody, Evil Dead is one reboot  Uncle P is actually excited to see.

This weekend looks like a return to my opinionated nonsense about Horror. Whew! I was getting worried there, for a bit. In the meantime, please enjoy the latest (albeit spoilery) trailer for the latest film version of Stephen King's breakthrough novel Carrie, starring the always amazing Julianne Moore and the underrated Chloe Grace Moretz:

Of course, if you are familiar with King's novel (I've read it at least six times) or Brian DePalma's brilliant first adaptation, then you were only a little surprised by what that trailer had to offer. Blogger buddy JA may despise Moretz (though I'm still not exactly sure why), but I think she's one of the most promising young actresses (along with Elle Fanning) to come out of Hollywood in a long time. Seriously, did you see Let Me In or Kick Ass

More, anon.