Call Luca By Its Name (Film Thoughts: Luca)

Reasons why ‘Luca’ will be forever compared to ‘Call Me By Your Name’

1.       The two movies are set in Italy about two male friends who pal and bike around and have awakenings together. In both films, same male characters are hiding a secret from the world.

2.       Is Luca named after Luca Guadigno, director of ‘Call Me Your Name?’

3.       Doesn’t Luca look like a young a pre-teen Timothee Chalamet?

4.       Luca is voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays the Elio-like character in ‘We Are What We Are,’ which is a HBO series also set in Italy, and is directed by … guess who?

Seriously, though. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. You know why? This film has a nice, simple, relatable human story that anyone can understand, and more importantly, feel. Some of these cartoon films are so fantastical when, really, you just want a story that hits your core. The film more than satisfies in that department. I fell in love with the characters, and shed a tear or two. It’s really all I need. 

Hustling (Television Thoughts: The Housewife & The Hustler, Hulu)

Even though I only watch’Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ fleetingly, Erika Girardi was never my favorite – I always thought something was off about her – she was clouded not in enigma but inauthenticity, and her self-righteousness to e was off putting, to say the least. After watching ‘The Housewife & The Hustler,’ now on Hulu, I still fell the same way, and could even say that I felt some of my instincts were right. Her husband, Tom Girardi, is accused of stealing money from clients he represented, and the stories of these victims are heartbreaking, and you think to yourself, how can he have the heart to steal from these people? And living the lavish lifestyle, I don’t think there is a way that Erika did not know that something was off there. Okay, so I may not be totally convinced that she knew everything, but she knew something, and in my opinion, she is not innocent. This documentary mostly focuses on the stories of the victims, and as you see it with clips showing their lavish lifestyle, you cannot help but be mad. I really do think Bravo is a co-conspirator here. By showing and focusing on Erika, they glamorize her, and help her. I have already soured on the franchise, but now I want to spit on it.

T & T (Film Thoughts: Truman & Tennessee)

It seemed like a great idea. Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland was working on a documentary on Truman Capote when she added Tennessee Williams’ story in the mix. Both writers have parallelisms in their lives and this made for s perfect match. Zachary Quinto (as Williams) and Jim Parsons (as Capote) narrate words credit to the authors in voice overs and interspersed with clips from both their interviews with David Frost, I could see a glimpse on what made these two tick. But we never really get a. full picture of each, and int he end, I felt short sighted.Though I understand that wasn’t probably the point of the film, someone not too familiar with both subjects may be lost in the mix.

Renta Cubana (Film Thoughts” Revolution Rent, HBO Max)

Over the years, I have been very vocal about my dislike of the musical ‘Rent.’ I don’t think it’s the worst musical in the world, but I am immune to its charms – I only like ‘Seasons of Love’ from its score, and that song is too popular for me to really champion. But I get why people like i t- its subversively inclusive message can be infectious. But of course, anything musical related I watch, and HBO’s ‘Revolution Rent’ documentary was just begging for me.

I totally loved this film. Directed by Andy Senor and Patrick Alvarez, it shows Senor’s journey of bringing the show to Cuba – the first musical to be staged there in a long while. Senor was a replacement Angel in the original production of Rent on Broadway so obviously he has strong affinity for the material (it’s akin to Baayork Lee directing a production of ‘A Chorus Line’)

I found myself rooting for him and the production. We see him mount the production from scratch, compiling a cast fo Cuban locals who had to be molded into actors and singers effectively essaying the spirit of the musical. I thought the process was poignantly presented, and by the time they take the final bows on opening night Christmas Eve in Havana, I was in tears.

This Is My Life (Film Thoughts: Swan Song)

Todd Stephen has made one of my favorite films thus far this year: ‘Swan Song.’ It’s a wonderful November-of-my-year type of film that touched me deeply. It stars Udo Kier as Pat Pitsenbarger, an aging hairdresser living in a facility. He gets a visit from a lawyer who asks him to fix the hair of his old client Rita parker Sloan (Linda Evans) who left specific instructions on her will that she be done by him. Reticent at first (she had left him as a client) but he reconsiders when he gets offered $25,000 to do the job. He then does a walk back to Sandusky, Ohio (where he used to live) not only to do this but to tie up all the loose ends of his life.

I always say this, but maybe my older age has made me appreciate more these films of the ‘this is my life’ genre. Some of the situations here may be forced (the screenplay can be awkward) but I felt a lot of familiarity with the story. He first visits the cemetery where his ex-lover is buried (he dies of AIDS) and then finds out that the house where they used to live has been demolished. He also confronts his assistant, played by Jennifer Coolidge, who opened a shop across from him and tole all his clients. There’s a whole of bitterness and humor there, and it’s very sassy and campy, all served with delicious joy by Kier. His flamboyance never crosses to caricature, and there’s a certain sort of familiarity with his characterization that makes him relatable to everyone. It’s my favorite male actor performance so far this year.

I always gravitate towards films that touch me. I know this film has imperfections, but I had an emotional reaction to it, and for me, the heart is always stronger when touched. 

Her Name Is Rita (Film Thoughts: Rita Moreno Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It)

I thought I already knew a lot about Rita Moreno, but after seeing the documentary ‘Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It,’ turns out I knew diddly squat. I have to be honest that at times I look at her as a poor man’s Chita Rivera, but of course she isn’t. She is a trailblazer and broke a lot of barriers for Latina women. This film shows us all of that, and more. First of all, much has been said about her love affair with Marlon Brando, but I did not know that he used to abuse her physically. How she survived that is already a monumental achievement. And of course, she is the first Latina woman to win an Academy acting award. But if I have to be totally honest, I first knew of her from ‘The Electric Company,’ which I used to watch every day when I was a kid (‘hey you guuuyyysss’) But above all, she seems to be a wonderful person and deserves all the accolades she could get.

All Hail The Queens (Movie Thoughts: Queen Bees)

There’s nothing groundbreaking or unique in Michael Lembeck’s ‘Queen Bees.’ In fact, most everything in it feels familiar – you have seen all of this before. But there is something oddly satisfying about it. It’s the masterclass in acting being displayed by the cast that makes it not only watchable but immensely enjoyable. Most times, everyone – Ellen Burstyn, Ann Margaret, Jane Curtin and Loretta Devine – feels like they aren’t acting – they act so natural and comfortable in their roles. While the film won’t end up in the pantheon of the greatest songs of all time, it’s a nice enjoyable time at the movies.

Momma Drag (Movie Thoughts: Stage Mother)

Jacki Weaver is fantastic in Thom Fitzgerald’s ‘Stage Mother. This indie film has a great cast – it also has Lucy Liu and Adrian Grenier in the cast, and Weaver plays a conservative Southern mother who ‘inherits’ a San Francisco drag bar after his son dies of a drug overdose. That set up is a little on the unbelievable side, and sure, a lot of the story follows more or less a fantastical path, but I found myself enjoying this film. The sights are funny enough and the cast is across the board good, so you will have no problem believing. It’s a fun frothy kind of film for Pride month, and as far as gay movies, I have seen far worse. And Weaver is an absolute delight, so what’s the problem?

The Things We Did Last Summer (Series Thoughts: Love Victor, S02 E01)

I had been so looking forward to the second season of Love, Victor. I devoured the first season and it was one of my favorite shows from last year – a welcome treat during the pandemic. And the second episode starts exactly where it ended, with Victor finally coming out to his parents the night of the prom. They are shocked of course. In a lot of these cases, parents can be in denial and they blame themselves even though more often than not, the signs have been there all along.

And then the summer of love comes. Victor and Benji are together – they are calling each other boyfriends now. Wew get back to the action a week before school starts. The summer is almost over, and our characters are faced with different dilemmas. Victor’s mom is having the toughest time with hsi coming out – she just can’t accept it and is avoiding the topic altogether. The father is a little more understanding, but on top of their separation it’s all a bit too much (Victor can’t even mention it to his younger brother)

Mia comes back from camp with mixed emotions. She has a little bit of inkling for Andrew, but then finds out he has started dating someone else since she left for the summer. Lark and Felix are going strong as well, but Lark is caught between Mia and the lovebirds, and Felix is dealing with landlord issues. There’s a lot of things to ponder for the new season, and I will try my hardest to not try to watch it all too fast. I wanna savour this.

After All These Years (Movie Thoughts: See You Then)

I am starting off my Pride Month with Mari walker’s ‘See You Then,’ an intimate film between two ex-lovers seeing each other. The twist? One has transitioned. In a course of an evening, we see them reconnect, try to hash out unresolved issues, and get some kind of closure. Or not?

The screenplay, co written by Walker and Kristin Uno is a little awkward, a little insightful, and all heart. You feel like they are asking questions that you want to ask yourself, which can sometimes be uncomfortable, but necessary. Even though the film takes place in one evening, it feels cinematic enough, and never feels claustrophobic (the cinematographer gives it a specific feel) Lynn Chen and Pooya Mohseni play the ex-lovers, and you can sense the familiarity between the two characters. the film can be a little eye-opening experience to those unfamiliar with trans people. I hope the right eyes get to see this.