Disrespected (Movie Thoughts: Respect)

I had such high hopes for Liesl Tommy’s ‘Respect.’ I mean, Aretha Franklin played by Jennifer Hudson – a wet dream for me if there ever was one. I had been looking so forward to the film, and was disappointed when it was delayed from last year’s Oscar bait season. So now that it is finally here, is it worth my wait? Unfortunately, no. It’s a sad, sad picture. And I don’t mean sad in the melancholy sense. It’s a joyless story of a great talent.

First of all, I don’t think there is any lack in the source material. Franklin sure led a very interesting (and dramatic) life but the film felt very by-the-numbers. Worse, it tells the story so blandly without taking any kind of stands. We know that she got impregnated at an early age, but the film just skims through that. I mean, I don’t want the story to be salacious, but a little juice would have kept the film interesting. And the screenplay turns every storytelling trope there is – there i no drama or surprise to anything.

And while Hudson sings the bejesus out of the songs, the character isn’t provided any kind of depth and sorry to say she just doesn’t have the actor’s instinct that gives the role more gravitas. She was Aretha’s choice for the role and I never believed for a second that she wasn’t Jennifer Hudson playing Aretha. Skip this.

I Hear You (Film Thoughts: Coda)

I was looking on Letterboxd of films I have watched this year, and realized that I loved Sian Heder’s ‘Coda’ so much that it’s one of my top two films of the year. I rate films based on my emotional connection to them, and ‘Coda’ made me feel a lot of different emotions: happy, enthusiastic, I mean, even the music in it gave me joy. I know it is now streaming on Apple+ and I just hope people are able to find it.

‘Coda’ is a coming of age film about a young woman, Ruby, who is the only hearing member of her family. The film is a story of her growing up and realizing that her world could be much larger than what she thought it could be. The film is centered around a wonderful performance of Emilia Jones as Ruby. She displays warmth and vulnerability in her character, and has a great singing voice to boot. And most of the supporting actors are great as well – probably Marlee Matlin’s best performance since she won her Oscar, and Troy Kotsur nearly steals the movie playing Ruby’s father. It’s one of those movies that is making you laugh so hard you haven’t realized you are already crying.

Don’t Kiss Me (Movie Thoughts: The Kissing Booth 3)

Look, I wasn’t expecting ‘The Kissing Booth 3’ to be Citizen Kane, but I wanted at least something sensical. Talk about outstaying a welcome. I liked teh first two installments well enough for me to look for this on Netflix as soon as it became available, but I just have to be honest, I have a huge crush on Jacob Elordi. His presence here is worthwhile, but the film is a chore to get through. Yes, we get the usual teen problems, but the cast seem to have. checked out and I feel like everyone is just counting the hours until check out time. They all look bored, and I felt it.

The Water Is Still (Film Thoughts: Stillwater)

Tom McCarthy’s ‘Stillwater’ is a lot of things, and at times it may be too much, but the one thing it isn’t is boring. Running at two and a half hours, the film is on the long side, but for me, it never felt long winded. It tells the story of a redneck, Bill, played by Matt Damon, who flies to Marseille to visit his daughter, who is incarcerated there and accused of murdering her lover. (It is supposed to be base on the Amanda Knox saga) and the film is sort of a drama/mystery akin to a procedural. But it’s also kind of an ugly American story, and a little bit of a love story as well. I feel that its last quarter a bit problematic, as if McCarthy ran out of ideas and the story became less believable. Still, it is well anchored by a great Damon performance, and I think it’s his best oen in a while (I keep forgetting how good he can sometimes be) And as I said, it’s mostly riveting and will probably be worth your while.

It’s All About The Sale (Series Thoughts: Making the Cut Season Two, Amazon Prime)

I just finished the whole second season of Amazon’s ‘Making The Cut’ and of course I have thoughts.

First of all, I still love these fashion-specific centric competition shows. I always loved ‘Project Runway’ (and still do despite the new host) but I do have a special fondness for Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. While watching this, I thought to myself: they really make quite a good team, and they do make a difference. There’s no charm like Gunn charm, and Klum’s fearless hosting is still unparalleled, at least compared to that Trump-supporting Karli Kloss (I don’t think i will ever warm up to her) You can actually tell the difference. In this show, the designers were not as talented, and sometimes the challenges feel forced (the Covid restrictions this season did not help) but the show never was less than very entertaining. As a matter of fact, it became appointment viewing for me (I would rush home every Friday to catch new episodes) I love shows wherein you have to have some kind of pracrtical talent/skill to win – you just aren’t the most popular.

I still root for the ‘wrong’ person, though. Just like last year, I was rooting for someone who I think is the most unique, and for me displays the most talent. I keep on forgetting this competition is looking for ‘the next global brand,’ and in this case, it goes to the designer/brand that is most sellable. In my book, that may not necessarily be the same. I was rooting for Gary. Graham, who had a very specific and artistic point of view in their fashion choices. I take comfort in the fact that Jeremy Scott, the only fashion designer in all of the judges, is on the same side. For me, it’s all about what they bring to the table. His stuff probably won’t sell as much as Andrea’s, whow on, but then I always want more distinct points of views in my clothes anyway.

But – it’s all good. It will make me just want to root for these ‘underdogs’ more. Maybe one of these days, my bet will win.

Almost Precious (Film Thoughts: Joe Bell)

So here’s the conundrum. There are so many good things going for ‘Joe Bell’ that I can’t help but root for it – it has a screenplay by the tandem of Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry (they did this little thing called ‘Brokeback Mountain’) and film is expertly directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. And I have to admit, I weeped a couple of times during the film, and I was especially moved by Reid Miller’s performance as Jadin, the gay teenager who took his life because he was bullied by his classmates. And the message, of course, resonates, and will always be timely and important. I mean, all these elements should add up to something special.

But… the stench of Mark Wahlberg permeates. This is a star vehicle for him, designed to elicit sympathy, a redemption vehicle seemingly from his racist past. And I may have been able to get past that if he were good, but he isn’t. He tries subtlety but I did not see any depth there. As a matter of fact, I did not feel anything from him, and I found it such a waste of effort. This could have been any actor’s piece, and it would have worked infinitely better.

So – did I like the film? Yes, in a lot of ways I did. I am begrudgingly recommending it despite its bad central performance, and just wish for what might have been.

Love Letters Straight From The Heart (Film Thooughts: The Last Letter From Your Lover)

I will always be in the mood for soapy melodramatic romance pieces, and on a Summer Saturday night, Augustine Frizell’s ‘The Last Letter From Your Lover’ is exactly what I am looking for. It has everything I want: glamorous period piece sets, fashionable wardrobe, fab women and cute guys, and a swoony love story that will make you fall in love It will make you yearn for something while munching on pop corn. It’s a modern day Douglas Sirk extravaganza, and you don’t have to think too much about it. And it is very well acted, so even if things are a little on the ‘can you believe it’ side – there’s an abundance of issues here, like amnesia, car accidents, missed messages – you can just shrug and believe. And Callum Turner’s smoldering turn makes me warm on the collar, if I have to be honest. So what are you waiting for ? This is the perfect Netflix and Chill flick.

Amber Elegantly (Perfume Thoughts: Le Lion de Chanel, Chanel)

I’ve wanted to sniff Le Lion de Chanel for a while now. Obviously, the name appealed to me, and I have always been fond of most of the Chanel Exclusif collections. I always fantasize about making it my ‘signature’ scent, as it would be so fitting, title-wise. And upon first blast, I had one instant reaction: it smells very Chanel.

Meaning: it’s refined, it’s couture, it matches everything the house represents. It’s an amber scent, and it does so beautifully. I imagine wearing this scent with pearls, I imagine wearing it with tweed. It would not feel out of place wearing it with head to toe Chanel things. It’s a sweet elegant amber, with added notes of leather, and incense. It’s strong but not cloying, it has its presence felt for sure but never overstays its welcome. It’s rich but never overpowers. The aldehydes are abundant, just like a Chanel scent would, but it never feels synthetic. It smells expensive.

If I had smelled this ten years ago I would have grabbed it instantly. Nowadays, I am more cautious with warm scents. But I don’t know if I can resist this.

Row Two Rivers (Series Thoughts: never Have I Ever, S02 E01)

I am so happy that the second season of ‘Never Have I Ever’ is here, as I binge-watched the first season quickly. This time around, I will savour the series slowly, and I won’t be as greedy consuming it. I just watched the first episode and love it – the zing is still there, and the it hasn’t lost any of its wit and intelligence. The action starts literally where it ended the last time: Devi is kissing Ben after she has scattered her father’s ashes, and it looks…promising. But that’s just the beginning of her dilemma – he asks her to be his girlfriend, and she is receptive.

But everything isn’t as easy, though. Paxton is also now showing interest in her and now she…has two boyfriends? Devi has decided that she will row two rivers, as they say. And thats where teh fun begins – this Indian who was once a nerd now has two hottie love interests. But wait, isn’t her family moving to India? At least, her mother is threatening that, even selling her patient list to a rival dermatologist, played by Common.

It is kind of pissing me off – should I be rooting for Devi and her American dream? All I will know is that it will be a lot of fun finding out.

An Actor’s Life (Film Thoughts: Val)

‘Val,’ a documentary about Val Kilmer is quite an interesting watch, and I had no idea it would be. It celebrates the actor’s life of Val Kilmer, and it benefits from a lot of video footage taken by Kilmer himself. As an actor who became popular during the 80s and 90s, Kilmer also had thousands of hours of footage from his experiences, so he had ample material to present from his varied filmography. I of course know him as Iceman from ‘Top Gun’ and he says that’s his most popular role, with people calling him that characters’a name everywhere. But I did not know that he was a Juilliard-trained actor. As a natter of fact, he still is its younger enrollee in its history. Kilmer is also a little bit of a method actor, and you can sense how his roles envelope his life as he shoots them. The film is bittersweet – he now suffers from a medical condition that makes him unable to speak clearly – his voice is compromised so he has son do a lot of the film’s narration. It has a little bit of a sense of what might have been – as an actor he has accomplished a lot but makes you think if there will be more.