“The 4400” was one of the best sci-fi series: abductees return from the future, without having aged

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Another television series that explored the idea of “powers” was “The 4400” which aired on the USA Network, and was produced largely by CBS and Paramount, running from 2004-2007, for four seasons.  The pilot episode seemed also to be produced with the help of Universal.  It premiered on July 11, 2004, and was created by Scott Peters and Rene Eschevarria.

As the series opens, a UFO, looking like a large comet, lands near a lake between Seattle and Mt. Rainier.  The people who get off the spaceship are those who have disappeared at various times since 1946.  Reports had been rumored that some of them “went up” in a white beam.  None of the people have aged.  It becomes apparent that perhaps they have been shown the world’s future and have returned to change it, although that would seem to violate the “time arrow of physics”.

One of the government officials, Tom Baldwin, played by Joel Gretsch, has a son Kyle (Chad Faust) who has been comatose since his cousin Shawn Farrell (Minnesota-bred Patrick Flueger) was abducted.  Shawn’s abduction was unintentional, as he tried to intervene to protect Kyle.  But when Shawn returns, he takes on some powers, particularly being able to heal people.  Kyle comes back to life, but thinks he is someone else.

Shawn goes on to become one of the most charismatic young adult characters in the show, rather comparable to other similar sci-fi characters like Clark Kent, Jake 2.0, and Kyle XY.  He helps form the 4400 Center.

One of the female characters comes back pregnant, which obviously introduces interesting possibilities.

In time, the civil rights of The 4400 becomes a major legal and moral issue.

In the second season, the government learns that the nervous systems of The 4400 contain promicin (or promycin), a neurotransmitter that helps explain their powers.  (Actually, it’s hard to see how a neurotransmitter could manipulate space-time enough to cause self-teleportation, like Clark Kent can do – only aliens could do that – meaning that we ever encounter someone who can do that who is still human, we have proof that human life was seeded from another planet.)   The government tries to develop a drug to remove their abilities, a promicin inhibitor, which roughly sounds analogous to reparative therapy for homosexuals.  The drug induces AIDS-like disease, which even affects Shawn for a few episodes.  This leads to a great public scandal, until a particular character Jordan Collier (Billy Campbell) organizes The 4400 and promotes the idea of promicin for the general public as a healing drug (it sounds analogous to the medical marijuana issue).  Kyle eventually takes promicin and develops powers.

“The 4400” was one of the best of the sci-fi series, and is to be commended for lasting four seasons and holding a strong story line together, with likable characters and issues that map to contemporary moral and political conflicts.  It seems rather apt to consider now given the NSA scandal.

Published Wednesday March 19, 2014 at 11:50 PM EDT.

 

“Kyle XY” on ABC Family (2006-2009) presented a likable teen who may have been artificially created

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Kyle XY” was another series, this one on ABC Family, which played out the “gifted teen” concept.

The hero is played by Matt Dallas.  As the series begins, he wakes up in a part naked (but not imagined), covered with goo and with no bellybutton in a park outside Seattle.

He is taken to a juvenile detention center but then taken in to foster care by a psychologist, Nicole Trager (Marguerite MacIntyre) and her husband Stephen and gregarious teen son Josh (Jean Luc Bolideau).  He might be viewed as autistic, but he quickly learns language and social function, and toward the end of season 1 (which started in 2006) he is viewed as academically gifted and also an artist, and can help Josh and other teens with homework. He also has superior senses and athletic abilities.

Soon, it is apparent that he has to be protected from the people or company that seems to have created him.  Is he an example of “artificial life”?  Was he made outside the womb?  What are the implications of his existence?  Nevertheless, he is strong,  likeable and sometimes protective of others, in a way that reminds one of Clark Kent in Smallville.

The series was canceled after the third season in March 2009.  I will try to get the DVD that explains what the future plans for the series were and not them here.   The video that follows is a beginning of this effort.

 

“FlashForward” on ABC should have run more than one season

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Flash Forward” was, in my opinion, one of the most intriguing science fiction series ever aired on network television. It aired from September 24, 2009 until May 27, 2010.  It was adapted by Brannon Barga and David S. Goya from a 1999 science fiction novel by Robert J. Sawyer.

The premise of the series starts with the idea that for 137 seconds on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009, almost everyone in the world goes unconscious and has a vision of what their lives will be on April 29, 2010.  Because many people are in automobiles at the time, particularly in Los Angeles, there are many deaths.  Some people remember no dreams at all.  Others have to deal with the idea that spouses could have left them.

There are some curious twists.  One is that apparently a baseball game was going on at Comerica Park at the time in Detroit (must have been the American League playoffs) and a “Suspect Zero” there does not lose consciousness.  (I wonder how umpires would rule on a play.)  That person is said to possess a “quantum entanglement device” which may use quantum mechanics to create the impression of faster than light travel or of time travel.  Perhaps this could be viewed as relating to ideas like precognition, telepathy, maybe even teleportation (or Clark Kent’s “speed” in Smallville).  Accepted theoretical physics doesn’t let us make too much of this, however.

Another twist is that a similar effect is said to have happened in Somalia in 1991, at the time Somalia broke apart as a country, and the piracy problem (as in the movie “Captain Phillips”) got much worse.  There is an artifact of cell towers in Somalia related to the event.

Some of the main characters include FBI Special Agent Mark Benford (Ralph Fiennes), Dr. Bruce Varley (Zachary Knighton) who was about to commit suicide because of the apparent failure of his own treatment for cancer, when he learns that on the future date he will be in remission, and agnet Dmitir Fordi Noh (John Cho), who has no vision and has to try to prevent his own murder.  This would indeed violate the time arrow of physics.


Throughout the series we keep hearing “There’s going to be another blackout.”  The season finale had been shot before it was known that the show would be cancelled, but it does end with another blackout about two decades into the future.

Writing Screenplays, Part III: Dangerous Shorts

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To continue the discussion of my rogue screenplays (link in previous posting), I want to go over a few of the “short films” on the directory that were published before the fall of 2005.

Do Ask, Do Tell: Pilot”   presents a situation where I am a substitute teacher and one of the students has read about me on the Internet.  So I tell the story of my William and Mary 1961 expulsion in graphic detail.  An earlier version of the screenplay also included one charismatic student giving “Bill” a back hug.

Conflict of Interest” presents Bill as being sent to a client by a placement company.  The client discovers Bill’s controversial activity on the web through search engines.

Conflict of Interest 2” presents Bill as being hired onto a team to develop a system to screen job applicants for objectionable Internet activity.

Baptism” presents a situation where he is in a “reeducation” academy and has a fix on one of the instructors.  He finds that the initiation ceremony has erotic overtones.  This screenplay was submitted by my attorney to the COPA trial in 2006, but I hardly see that it really has any HTM materials.

Prodigal Brother” presents a situation where a gay man is cut out of a will, where everything goes to the brother.  But then the brother gets kidney failure and the gay man is a match.  Even so, he has to toe the line afterward.

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Beware of EMP” presents how a neighborhood comes to the realization that the power is out for good. They hope the attack is local and not nuclear.

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In “Nightcall” an older computer programmer is set up to solve a dump without help.  But then aliens come out of the computer terminal.  In one version of this screen play the programmer goes into work in his pajamas at night unawares.

In “Exposition for Dogs” some of the problematic situations in Bill’s life, including eldercare, are strung together for all to see.

Golf Course Hole 13” was an exercise for the screenwriting class.  A homeless man wanders onto the golf course during a storm.

Surprise Planet” presents Bill and his boyfriend at a hotel and a gay disco on Titan, the lively moon of Saturn.  It’s cold outside, unless you’re hot.  They exchange bodies, literally, at least according to mirrors.

Handymen” was an earlier version of “Baptism”.

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The Sub” was the most controversial item in the set.  I wrote it in October 2004 but didn’t post it until February 4, 2005 according to my records, after the first major substitute teaching setback (post here http://www.doaskdotellnotes.com/?p=214 ).  When Bill goes to a substitute teaching assignment, he is told to be prepared for special education assignments.   He get a music theory class and meets a charismatic high schooler Clyde,  The next day he gets a physical education class at the last minute.  heart attack and Clyde saves his life with a defibrillator.  In the hospital, Bill refuses coronary bypass surgery but recovers anyway.  Clyde comes to visit and invites Bill to his house one evening to record some music.  With parents gone, Clyde dupes Bill into helping him make a fake id card.  Soon Clyde shows up at a local disco and gets involved with Bill in a bizarre ritual on the dance floor involving a barber chair.  A security guard gets suspicious and asks them to leave.  Later, Bill has PE again, a swimming class, when the police show up and arrest Bill.  The district attorney will let Bill off with probation but would make him register as a sex offender.  Bill goes to jail, has another heart attack, and has surgery and dies on the operating table.  Clyde, however, plays Bill’s compositions in public concert and Bill becomes famous as a composer posthumously.

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The screenplay stayed up until late April 2006, but I’ll explain more why in subsequent postings.  I use it now as a sub-layer of a feature screenplay that I will also discuss in the future.  There are no sexually explicit scenes in the usual meaning of the concept in the script.

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The following school year, in 2006, Fairfax County Public Schools started to install defibrillators and a training film demonstrating application on a real male student.

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First published: Wednesday March 5, 2014, 11 PM EST

Writing screenplays, Part II: Big films

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By 2005, I had placed four full-length screenplay scripts online, as well as several shorts.  I’ve discuss some of them here, to set up discussion of a major incident when I was substitute teaching toward the end of 2005. There is a link showing almost all of the screenplays that were available to the public in 2005, here.


My Arlington screenwriting class had emphasized that Hollywood follows a “third party rule”. That is, studios don’t accept screenplay manuscripts directly from writers, and will respond rudely (with automated legal disclaimers) to unsolicited material, even loglines.  The reason for this is to avoid risk of copyright infringement, but that sounds silly in the Internet age.  That means everything goes through an agent.  But any third party can become an agent, a moviebiz “Jerry Magure”, perhaps as a retirement “second career”.  I rather chukle at Ellen De Generes’s remark at the 2014 Oscars that showbiz is for people who don’t have families.

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The “third party rule” could logically raise a question about the “purpose” of posting a screenplay online for free viewing by the public if one intends to present it to agents later.  But this angle has been little discussed.

Before diving in, let me mention a couple of references on screenwriting,   Here is the “three-act structure” by Syd Field, link.   Here’ an account my Nathan Marshall, “3 Acts and 5 Points”, link Michael Hauge has a piece on the 5 turning points here.

He analyzes “Gladiator” and “Erin Brokovich” according to this plan.

One of the four big feature scripts “Baltimore Is Missing”, was discussed here Jan. 29, 2014.

The feature sceenplays share some common elements:

(1)    Bill has written his “Do Ask, Do Tell” book and would like to get it filmed

(2)    Bill had the help of several friends in publicizing the book after publication, and these friends have their own ambitions, which might include Hollywood careers.

(3)    Bill’s self-broadcast on the Internet presents certain legal and practical risks to himself an others.

(4)    One of these risks is the possible attraction of hackers who might leverage his sites with steganographic messages for future attacks.

(5)    The workplace is changing in contradictory ways.

The first screenplay that I actually developed is called “Make the A-List”, and it is the longest.  I wrote it in the first part of 2002, on the iMac, in Screenwriter.  I did table-read parts of it with the screenwriting club in Minneapolis.  It runs 187 pages, too long – rudely so.  But it seemed like the most comprehensive way to lay out all my ideas at the time.

The screenplay starts by recreating a dinner meeting in Minneapolis between “me” (at 55) and a graduating college student, called Toby, who set up my televised speech. Soon we realize that the meeting is itself a recreation by the college student for a movie audition, where the perspective director was the roommate present at William and Mary when Bill got thrown out of school.  In the course of all this, it’s possible to reconstruct the sequence of the 1961 expulsion.

The film is divided into several parts, and one major section traces the career of Toby, who goes to law school anyway, while doing his auditions and male model gigs.  His girl friend gets into ambulance chasing Bill a couple years later when Bill outs someone in the military in his book and gets sued for invasion of privacy or some such tort.  Things get even more convoluted as Bill finds Toby’s film on P2P, but at about the same time his site is hacked and taken down by his ISP as a nuisance.  At the same tme, Bill is experiencing “conflict of interest” and difficulties over his double life in the workplace when a company walks in the door at work to conduct “career audtis.”   All of this sets up some courtroom legal battles.  A significant subplot concerns a gay male couple where the civilian works for the CIA and has to be out (post 1996), but where the military partner has to stay in the closet.  (This would have been possible from 1996 until the DADT repeal in 2011.)   Another battle concerns “trademark trolling”.

Eventually the former roommate (called Syd) enters the fray.  All of this leads to a “Bill of Rights 2” symposium in Williamsburg, and Toby eventually gets a big movie part and no longer needs to bottom-feed as a lawyer.

I can’t think of a Hollywood movie about making it as a star right now, at least with the subterfuge that Toby shows in this script.  I do recall “A Star Is Born” (1954), which I saw in Dallas at a special benefit in Fair Park in 1984.  The ABC show “Nashville” is rather about this.  I think of “20 Feet from Stardom” and even “Inside Llewyn Davis”.  Actually, the gay sci-fi about a filmmaker undergoing time travel, “Judas Kiss” is maybe a possible comparison.

American Epic” (also 2002) is a little shorter, 140 pages, and deals with some of the same issues, but focuses more on the terrorism, hacking and Patriot Act issues.  It starts with a lawyer Allison and lesbian partner Suzannah trying to adopt a foreign child.  Allison is also active with the issue of how to rebuild the WTC area in New York.   Bill and Toby are introduced, along with a teen computer hacker Erich (who had also played a similar but smaller role in “A-List” above).  Bill is experiencing some social issues in bars with his tendency to notice younger but adult men.  Erich invites Bill to his rural (parents’) home in Wisconsin and teaches Bill a little bit about hacking.  But eventually (as above) Bill’s own sites get hacked.  When there is a major but localized EMP attack near Las Vegas, the FBI traces steganographic instructions back to Bill’s site.

Bill is defended by Allison.  There is a sequence in the middle of the film where Allison visits Bill’s “Drogheda” in the DC area and a flashback recreates what the entire 9/11 day was like specifically in Arlington.   Eventually Bill is tried, and the government claims that Bill actually led Erich into hacking.  In the meantime, Erich winds up on the no-fly list, and gets off by hacking.  At Bill’s trial, a juror overhears what happened and hacks himself to find out the hidden story.  Bill winds up doing community service and being kicked off the web but staying out of jail.

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The third screenplay is “69 Minutes to Titan” (early 2005).  This script is under two hours, and has gotten some attention in the way of emails and phone calls.  The title refers to a possible length of time it would take light to reach the largest moon of Saturn from Earth, in a more optimistic orbital situation.

The script opens with “Bill”, named Clem here,  about to get out of jail. He meets with his young adult friends, Toby and Erich.  Then the action shifts back six years.  I’m not sure that this is the best way to start now;  Hollywood often embeds many films as mostly back story (start with Dr. Zhivago) but it may be better to start a story at the beginning and let the audience wonder where you will go.

Clem has befriended Toby, who is a teacher in this story, and has converted to Mormonism, and will marry Shelia.  Erich is one of this students, and Erich can speak in tongues.  As in the other scripts, Clem’s domain has been hacked.  Clem meets Erich at volunteer event and is invited to visit Erich at home.  There is some mild intimacy.  Clem’s job comes under fire, and winds up in a “re-education” Academy in West Texas.  Back home for a weekend, Erich shows Bill how to hack into a computer system controlled by extraterrestrials, known only to the NSA.  Erich comes to an “initiation” ceremony for the academy and “goes up” (into space).  When Bill returns home again, he finds he has been evicted and is arrested.

The government has the option of prosecuting him for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, in order to hide the UFO secrets he had hacked.  He winds up with several years to be followed by probation.   In prison, he is forced to undergo very intimate monitoring and then found to have heart disease, and gets coronary bypass surgery.

In the meantime, Erich journeys to Titan and finds that the largest moon of Saturn is being set up as a receiving post by angels for people from Earth from some great cataclysm expected to happen in the not too distant future.  There is a parent angel. Roger, who had given Erich his psychic gifts and enabled him to recover from an otherwise devastating medical problem himself earlier in life.

Erich “falls to Earth” (like “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, David Bowie) and returns, and Bill is prepared for early release with compassionate parole (returning to the beginning of the movie).  He will see Toby’s wedding and return to the straight and narrow.  On Titan, Roger shrivels up as Erich prepares to replace him as a master angel.  As the film ends, there are troubling warnings of a possible apocalypse.

The screenplay has a shorter version, that emphasizes the hacking aspect (compromising of classified UFO data, Snowden, Assange or Chelsea Manning inspired) and gets Bill put in prison for that, removing the charges of possible underage activity.  (It’s important that the film describes or shows no explicit sex, but suggests that some sort of preparatory intimacy could happen.)  The shorter version is online right now, and replaced the longer one after my 2005 debacle, to be explained soon.

 

I start writing screenplays (Part I)

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I first started developing screenplay scripts for my “Do Ask, Do Tell” material in 2002 while still in Minneapolis, shortly after my “career change” had started with “The Layoff”.  I often attended a screenwriting seminar in a local college building on Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis, where we did table readings for some of our materials.  Some scripts got selected for formal table readings, as at the Jungle Theater near Lyndale and Lake St., or sometimes in one of the theater auditoriums in Block E on Marquette.

I did get one “film” shown at the Flaming Film Festival in May, 2002, shot on a Sony Camcorder.  It was called “Air Raid” or, alternatively, “Bill’s Clips”, and runs about six minutes.  The simplest way to present the films is to give the first link, here   all the way through “airraid4.mpg” and also “plane2.mpg”.  The idea is that someone is walking on the streets near the University of Minnesota campus when an apparent enemy attack starts.  Post 9/11, it was pretty effective.  The festival was sponsored by Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis (on Lyndale)

Once I came back to Arlington VA, I took at least two adult education classes in screenwriting offered by the public school system (small tuition), taught by Carolyn Perry.  I started renting films from Netflix, and the very first film I watched this way was “In Praise of Love” (“Eloge de l’amour”, 2001), a New Wave film in two parts by Jean-Luc Godard. It’s interesting because of its birfurcated, two-part structure, black-and-white and then color, the second part occurring before the first (as opposed to “beginning, middle and end” in conventional screenplays). The film is meta-styled and layered, about an author’s making a film about several couples, including a particular person with connections to the past connections to the resistance in Vichy France.  It seems scattered rather than tightly focused, and that’s an idea that comes back in my own work.

I’ll add that on a cold Saturday in early 2002, I tried out for a part in the short film “The Retreat“, by Darin Heinis, in which some allied soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge encounter ghosts of Germans, and other supernatural artifacts.  I almost got a part of one of the Nazi ghosts.  I’m not sure what to make of that.  I would eventually see the film at Bryant-Lake Bowl in Minneapolis at an IFPMSP monthly screening party.

This train of thought, regarding my scripts, will continued soon.

Published: Sunday, March 2, 2014 PM 4:50 PM

 

Filmmakers often explore the problem of underage relationships, especially in smaller movies

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The issue of adults being (often wrongfully) perceived and accused for intimate involvement with minors comes up quite often in film.  I’ll cover a few of the major films here, setting up a later blog posting about another incident when I was substitute teaching.  I cover many of these films on one particular page, here.  See related posting here Feb. 13, 2014 on a controversial NBC Dateline series.

The most important of these films is probably “Student Seduction” (2003), a film from Lionsgate and usually aired on Lifetime, directed by Peter Svartek.  I saw it on cable the day after had started subbing on 2004.  The film presents a married female chemistry teacher, who makes the mistake of tutoring a high school male and then accepting help starting her car from him, and having a snack in a restaurant.  When he comes on to her and rapes her at school, she is accused of inappropriate behavior with an underage minor and prosecuted, and the boy’s wealthy parents keep the charges on.  It makes teaching look like a risky job.

One of the most important foreign films in this area is “Bad Education” (“La mala educacion”, 2004, Sony Pictures Classics) from Pedro Almodovar.  The film is layered  A young Spaniard presents a screenplay “The Visit” about an earlier episode of possible abuse in the Catholic priesthood.  Enrique uses writing to solve a real life mystery.

Strand will release a BluRay DVD of the 2005 drama “Mysterious Skin”, by Gregg Araki, based on the book by Scott Heim, which tells the story of two victims of a high school coach as they grow up and lives intersect.  One of these is a hustler played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the other is a sensitive kid (Brady Corbet) with an interest in UFO’s.

Frisk” (1999, Strand), by Todd Verow, based on a novel by Dennis Cooper, tells of the graphic crimes of a serial killer, from letters written by someone with the same name as the author, so it could be seen as possibly exploring the odd legal problem of self-libel or implicit content.

The Woodsman” (Mew Market, 2004) by Nicole Kassel, presents Kevin Bacon as going on parole after prison for a crime involving a small girl.

Capturing the Friedmans” (2003, Magnolia) has prosecutors on Long Island going after a family relentlessly for perhaps unfounded accusations of abuse.

Just Ask the Children” (2001) presents an overzealous prosecution of parents in California, where Gregroy Smith plays the grown teenager.  Smith would play in another film, “Kids in America”, about free speech in a high school, a film I would see in an auditorium by myself shortly after my own debacle.

L.I.E.” (“Long Island Expressway‘) , by Michael Cueta, presents a pedophile Brian Cox who has a relationship with a disadvantaged teenager whom he catches trying to burglarize his home.  I saw the film at a screening on Sept. 11, 2001 at the Lagoon Theater, and met the director afterward, who as stranded in Minneapolis for three days because of 9/11.  Later the film would be edited to remove a shot of the old World Trade Center.

Hard Candy” (Lionsgate, 2006) presents Patrick Wilson as a photographer who gets caught in a Dateline-like sting looking for a young girl, but the enforcer is the girl herself, ready for revenge.

Notes on a Scandal” (2006), from the UK presents Judi Dench taking advantage of another women whom she catches with a teen.

In “Whole New Thing” (ThinkFilm, 2006),  a gay English teacher in Nova Scotia develops a platonic relationship with a shy teen, and it is misinterpreted.

Edge of 17” (1999, David Moreton), tells a coming of age of a high school student who falls in love with an older college student in Ohio in 1984.  The title would suggest illegality in some states, however.

Deliver Us from Evil” (2006), by Amy Berg, is a documentary of the coverup of the pedophile scandal in the Catholic Church, told through the story of a particular priest in the California Sam Joaquin Valley.

The Country Teacher”  (“Venkovsky ucitel“), by Bohdan Siama (2008), from Czech Television and Film Movement and Netflix, presents a somewhat ungainly young teacher (Pavel Liska) taking a job in a rural high school, living on a farm and getting into an inappropriate relationship with the 17-year-old son (Ladislav Sedivy), which the boy suddenly rejects.  The consequences are not as severe as they would probably be in the US.  But some European countries may have more lenient age standards in this regard than the US and UK do.

Lolita”  has been made twice, once in 1997 by Adrian Lyne for Trimark, with Jeremy Irons, and earlier back in 1962 by Stanley Kubrick in black and white for Columbia, a setting that is somewhat comical.  In the later film, a middle aged man marries his landlady to get to her tween daughter;  in the earlier film, the oaf is a college professor played by James Mason.  It was also made in Germany in 1984.  There was also a TV movie in 1993, “Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story” about Joey Buttafuoco.

Picture: winter, childhood, Arlington VA, about 1948.

Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014, about 10:20 PM.

 

Films about gays in the military: Hollywood could do much more with this theme

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It’s logical to have expected activity in the film world over the issue of gays in the military.  Most of the films have been small, and there may have been missed opportunities.

One of the oldest was a television film, “Matlovich vs. The U,S. Air Force” on NBC in 1977, about Tech Sgt. Leonard Matlovich.

One of the first important Clinton era films was “Serving in Silence” on NBC, about the case of Washington National Guard colonel Grete Cammermeyer, as played by Glenn Close.  I remember a scene near the end where the Army  JAG lawyer for the government describes her as a fine person.

There was talk in the 1990’s that there would be films about both Joseph Steffan and Keith Meinhold, but they did not come about.

An important film about tension within the ranks. would be “Any Mother’s Son” on Lifetime, in 1996, about the murder of gay sailor Allen Schindler, from the Belleau Wood, by off-duty sailor Terry Helvey in Sasebo, Japan, in 1992, a killing that was in the same league as that of Matthew Shepherd.

In 2003, Showtime aired “Soldier’s Girl”, the tragic story of a solider (Barry Winchell) who fell in love with a trangendered person (Calpernia Adams) and was bludgeoned to death by unit mates, at Fort Campbell, KY.

In 2008, Johnny Simmons produced an important documentary “Ask Not” giving the history of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy,

There is a similar film in 2009 by Tom Murray, titled “Tell”, having mostly interviews of soldiers, and attorneys including Dixon Osburn.

Ned Farr’s “A Marine’s Story” presents a lesbian kicked out of the Corps telling her backstory as she trains a delinquent girl with tough love.

“Out of Annapolis”, by Steve Clark Hall, presents gay alumni of the Naval Academy.

In 2012, Marc Wolf produced the film “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on Snag Films, his monologue based on his play “Another American: Asking and Telling”, which I had seen at the Studio Theater in Washington DC in April 2000.

The best history film on the policy is probably “The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”  (Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato) on HBO, airing in October 2012.  The film did a particularly good job of distinguishing between the “privacy” issue and “unit cohesion”, which is a bit more subtle.

And there is the one hour history “Do Ask, Do Tell: The Documentary” on YouTube by Ali Sue.

There are many films in the past that have tangentially brushed the issue of gays in the military, including the 1929 silent classic “Wings” set in WWI, and even “A Few Good Men” in 1992.

Books about gays in the military, and the history of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

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In view of the content of my own books, it’s useful to survey the major books on gays in the military, including the history of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which was effectively passed into law at the end of 1993 and officially repealed in 2011.

The basic reference was by journalist Randy Shilts, “Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military”, originally published by St. Martins in 1993, and reissued, slightly updated, in paper by Fawcett Columbine in 1994.  Really, this is a history of gays in the US military, all the way back to the Revolutionary War, up to the beginning of DADT.  A critical time came in 1981, just before President Reagan took office, when the Pentagon came up with the notorious “123 words” (“Homosexuality is incompatible with military service” and the following litany or word salad), and a uniform absolute ban on gays in all the services, technically including the Coast Guard and Surgeon General corps.  Shilts also gave a history of the Vietnam era, when the Army had to try to stop men from claiming homosexuality to get out of the draft.  Shilts included a case of a man thrown out of a civilian college in Illinois in 1995 (officially “flunking out”), getting drafted and discharged again.

There was also a “book” by the Rand Corporation, the official study commissioned by Les Aspen in the Clinton Administration, “Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy”.  The book surveyed many other countries, including Canada, Britain and particularly Israel, before concluding that “sexual orientation was not germane to assessing fitness for military service” and recommending a “code of military professional conduct.”

But the really interesting books were the autobiographies by the individual gay and lesbian soldiers who had to deal with the ban

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The best of all of these books was “Honor Bound: A Gay Naval Midshipman Fights to Serve his Country”, by Joseph Steffan, from Villard (Random House) in 1992.  I actually bought this book at a signing party at Lambda Rising in Washington in September of that year and met the author, I read it in one night and couldn’t put it down.  It woke me up.  Steffan was about to graduate third in his class in 1987 when, in a bizarre set of circumstances, he was outed, and did tell the honor board and cadre that he was gay, and was denied graduation.  He had many accomplishments, such as signing the National Anthem at the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.  He did a summer cruise on a submarine without incident, and was apparently quite skilled at chess.  There was a great line in the book: “Personal honor is an absolute. You either have or do not have honor”.  For all its importance, I’m surprised that this book is no longer in print and seems to be available only from resellers.

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Marc Wolinsky and Kevin Sherrill authored “Gays in the Military: Joseph Steffan vs. The United States”, Princeton University Press, supplements Steffan’s book with all the legal papers.

Mary Anne Humphrey authored an anthology of cases “My Country: My Right to Serve” (Harper Collins), again, pre-DADT.

James Hollobaugh, in “Torn Allegiances” (1993, Alsyon) told the story of his life as an ROTC cadet.  Discharged after outing himself, he was pursued for recoupment of scholarship monies. One of the most harrowing passages, though, occurs in civilian life when he gets lost in a blizzard in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina (yes, it gets cold there).

Soldier of the Year: The Story of a Gay American Patriot”, by Jose Zuniga, 1995, Pocket Books, is the story of the Sixth Army Soldier of the Year who enlisted at Fort Bliss in 1989.

Serving in Silence” is the story of Grethe Cammermeyer, to be covered in another posting.

Rob Graham’s “Military Secret”, published in Dallas, was a first-person account of Desert Storm.

One of my favorite later books is Reichen Lehmkuhl’s “Here’s What We;ll Say: Growing Up, Coming Out, and the U.S. Air Force“., from Carroll Graf.  By clever manipulation, Reichen survived his four years at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and graduated.

Of special interest as Scott Peck’s “All American Boy” (Scribner, 1995).  Peck was the gay son of a Marine Corps general who opposed lifting the ban and who hosted a radio talk show about gay rights on Sunday nights in 1993.  He one time had a discussion with Frank Kameny on his program about security clearances for gays.

There were books by men in civilian fields similar to the military. There was Frank Buttino’s “A Special Agent: Gay and Inside the FBI”.  Mr. Buttino describes his meeting with the closety J. Edgar Hoover, and his own relationship with a gay sailor, who never was discharged and served without incident.

There are a couple of books by gay atheletes:  “The Dave Kopay Story”, and then Esear Tualo’s “Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL”.  There is also Mark Tewksbury “Inside Out: Straight Talk from a Gay Jock”, by a Canadian Olympic swimmer (sorry, that means “all that body shaving”).  And there is Greg Louganis, “Breaking the Surface.”

My own “Do Ask, Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back” (1997) inverts the usual story, where I was thrown out of a civilian college (William and Mary) for admitting homosexuality in 1961, then took the draft physical three times and eventually was drafted in 1968 and “served” two years without incident.  But Shilts relates a somewhat similar incident at one point.

We should mention John Barrett’s “Hero of Flight 93; Mark Bingham: A Man Who Fought Back on September 11

Regarding the history of the Repeal, I recommend Aaron Belkin and the Palm Center (at UC Santa Barbrara), “How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’” on Kindle.  Previously Belkin had authored “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Debating the Gay Ban in the Military” (2003).  I met with Dr. Belkin at his office in Santa Barbara in February 2002.   Another book of important is Nathaniel Frank’s “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America”  (2009). Vincent Cianni will publish a photographic book “Gays in the Military” April 30, 2014.

Some prescient sci-fi series in the 90s: “Earth 2” and “Seaquest DSV”

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I thought I would go through a couple older sci-fi television series and a few of the associated newer films.

One of these was “Earth 2”, 22 episodes in 1994-1995.  The series supposes an expedition to an Earth-like planet 22 light years away, because Earth has become uninhabitable and most people have to live on space stations.  Also, many children have a bizarre illness and cannot survive, raising the possibility that man could become extinct (as in the 2006 film “Children of Men”).   Apparently this was a private expedition that government wants to control/

On the Earth 2, the colonists find a primitive race of people who live mostly underground called the “Terrarians”.  The government would want to remove them, but they are essential to retaining life on the planet.  This is sort of the reverse of the NBC series “The Event”.

Antonio Sobato, Jr., later popular in the gay community, was a very visible star.

Actually, the stars thought to have earth-like planets within 25 light years of Earth are all red dwarfs, or M-stars, which means that the planets would have to be close to the stars and to be tidally locked, with the sun shining on one side only, and an annular twilight zone where temperatures are mildest.  However, if the planet has an ample atmosphere, wind currents might make the climate for the much of the entire planet relatively uniform. If a planet like this had been colonized by another civilization (the hypothesis of “Prometheseus”) the politics could be interesting indeed.  Will another planet with a civilization comparable to ours have money and a financial system?

A few recent cable films follow up on some of these ideas.  NatGeo produced a 90 minute documentary called “Evacuate Earth” where society has 75 years to build an ark to move 250,000 people to another solar system because a black hole is approaching the solar system.

Alien Planet” from the Discovery Channel imagines an Earth-like planet only 6.5 light years from Earth, with a living ocean, and creatures who more or less resemble humans.

PBS Nova has a documentary “Alien Planets Revealed”, and the BBC has a documentary “Titan: A Place Like Home” about the largest moon of Saturn, with a thick atmosphere and methane lakes.  In 2013 there was a film from Magnolia, “Europa Report” (referring to the moon of Jupiter with a large subterranean ocean), where a crew’s sudden evacuation is enabled by a subterranean creature’s helping them escape.  Actually, several satellites of Jupiter and Saturn, including Titan, may have subterranean water seas.

In 2005, NatGeo aried a one hour “Extraterrestrials”, where it pondered what life would be like on a tidally locked M-star planet.

Most Sunday nights, “Earth 2” was followed on NBC by “seaQuest DSV” (“Deep Submergence Vehicle”), a drama centered on a science submarine in a world, after 2018, where Earth’s resources have been depleted.   The series was notable for having a dolphin character, almost human, living in a tank on board, and for a civilian teenage computer genius Lucas Wolenczak (Jonathan Brandis) living on board.  In the middle 1990s, this might have sounded like an important point because the “intimacy” of people in closed environments like ships and submarines had become a political issue in the debate on gays in the military,

Posted: Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 7 PM EST.

Comparative media reviews on hot topics