Teen Rebels (Movie Thoughts: Moxie)

Amy Poehler stars and directs ‘Moxie’ so I was excited for it, and had high hopes. I guess Netflix released this right after she and Tina Fey has just finished their stint hosting The Golden Globe Awards. And it is a very earnest effort from her – she has assembled a nice appealing young cast about a high school faced with racial inequality. I have heard some people compare this to ‘Mean Girls,’ and I kind of get that it has a similar vibe. This has a more rocker girl punk feel, wherein a teen, Vivian starts a fanzine addressing the inequalities in the high school system. The result? It’s a mostly funny affair, with some social relevance thrown in. It succeeds more as a teen comedy, also because it is more believable there. When it tries to cover more ‘serious’ issues, it kind of falls flat.

But you believe a lot of it, though. Hadley Robinson, who plays Vivian is appealing even though the villains are cardboard characters. You will feel a lot of the heart, though, and will probably feel that more. ‘Moxie’ is imperfect, but it passes time perfectly.

What’s Real, For Real (Television Thoughts: The Real World Homecoming S01 E01, Paramount Plus)

I am a child of the very first ‘Real World.’ I watched it and was obsessed with it, and saw these episodes over and over when it originally aired on MTV in 1992. It was a revolutionary show that changed the landscape of television as we know it now. felt like I knew these people, that these were my friends. I used to pass by that building on Broadway and Prince Street where they shot the show and looked at it longingly – and devoured everything I could see and read about this case.

So of course I would be on board with ‘The Real World Homecoming’ (streaming now on Paramount Plus) which is their first complete reunion since the 90s. And they all seem to be there, all seven of them, with a little twist – Eric Nies contracyted Covid shortly before the started filming, and is in a New York hotel room not far from the loft.

First, I have to admit I got teary-eyed when I saw all of them together. It’s all nostalgia, and the producers milked this – back to back shots of the cast arriving then and now – there’s so much flashback from the original footage to hammer the fact that you remember and knew them before. And the ‘where are they now’ stories emerge. Julie is married with teenaged kids, Kevin works for CNN, Andre has a daughter, Heather B brings booze. It’s all heady and nice, for now, just like the first episode when it first started. But you know, people top being polite at some point, and there will be fireworks.

I can’t wait.

Don’t Explain (Movie Thoughts: The United States vs. Billie Holiday)

Andra Day is so good as Billie Holiday in Lee Daniels’ ‘The United States Vs. Billie Holiday’ that you are with her every step of the way. She gives her all to make sure that the Billie Holiday we see here is as full, vivid and sympathetic, even if the Billie Holiday she portrays here is vaguely written and cartoonish.You can kind fo feel sorry for her, and I guess for Holiday. What the film doesn’t capture is what made Holiday tick – we see she is a great singer but we don’t see her and her artistry. What propelled her to her art?

But I guess that’s not what Daniels was interested at. The screenplay, written by Suzan Lori Parks, shows Holiday as a victim of racial discrimination, and was targeted because this is a singer who insisted on singing ‘Strange Fruit,’ a song about lynching. They said it incites violence – of the wrong kind.

The film also shows Holiday wallowing in misery – we never see her triumphs as a singer, besides fleeting shots of adoring concert goers and autograph seekers. I wanted to see more of her relationships – what drew her to Tallulah Bankhead? Holiday was pansexual becfore that word had any real meaning, yet that fact was side tracked and treated just in passing. There is so muich wasted opportunity here – we should have seen a legend, not a sick drug addict. Day’s performance is raw and inspiring, and it may be worth your trip, but I don’t know if it’s worth staying.

Easy Peasy Willie (Music Thoughts: That’s Life, Willie Nelson)

Willie Nelson has dipped into the Great American Songbook before, and successfully. His new album, ‘That’s Life,’ is a tribute to Frank Sinatra (it’s his second one) and is one of those nice easy-breezy albums that will put a smile on your face. It is perfect oin a lazy afternoon just lounging around in your lanai. He sings this songs effortlessly – he makes it look too easy. You know that he f=knows and feels for this music, and it shows. You can feel the twinkle in his eyes as he slowly croons these songs. Check out his duet with Diana Krall and you can see two people having fun. It’s kind of my favorite album this month.

Party and Play (Film Thoughts: Goodbye Seventies)

Todd Verow’s ‘Goodbye Seventies’ has a story that has been told numerous times already. It’s about a bunch of men in the 70s who start to make gay porn, and become successful at it, and then have heartbreaking ending, as the new decade ushers in AIDS. But Todd Verow is a different kind of filmmaker. Under his hands, his film becomes a celebration of a certain kind of smut film, so specific to the era. The movie is filmed like one of those films, complete with grainy film, stilted dialogue, awkward pauses. You will be transfixed watching this as if it is trying to hypnotize you. I admit not ‘getting’ it t first but once you get its wave length, you will understand (and appreciate) what exactly Verow is doing.

Boys, Always (Film Thoughts: To All The Boys Always & Forever)

Valentine’s Day is here again, and I normally just ignore this holiday but i was walking last night and felt that slight pang – seeing flower vendors on the street selling roses. But it passes – there’s always rom coms. And Netflix has released the final installment on their ‘To All The Boys Series,’ this one sub titled ‘Always and Forever.’

Directed by Michael Fimognari, we see our high school lover Lara Jean and Peter spend their Senior year in High School, and you know what that means – college applications, proms, and (though perhaps a little late) sex. The film offers no surprises in any of these fronts, but Lana Condor and Noah Centineo have mastered their chemistry that it hardly matters – you take everything easily, and it comes out sugary sweet like the cupcakes that Lara Jean bakes.

I wish I loved the film instead of just liking it though. I found it just a bit too long, and some of the situations felt forced, though the actors sell them well. Condor’s styling seems a little ‘off’ to me – I guess they are trying to make her look older – and Centineo seems a little bored (his body is jacked though) All in all, the film is not as memorable as the first one, but who are we kidding? The fans will lap this up.

On Ice? So Nice! (Perfume Thoughts, Roses on Ice, Killian)

Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, I thought I would write about a scent on the most popular flower ont his day: the rose.

Killian’s ‘Roses on Ice’ sounded very interesting. It’s one of the two releases from their new collection called ‘The Liquors,’ and is said to emulate a gin drink. And roses? Intriguing, right? And cold? what makes it cold?

It turns out this is a roses and cucumber combo. Those are supposed to be the main notes, and I do smell them in the beginning. But my body chemistry is so weird, I also smell some stems, green leaves. It’s not unappealing, but not quite what I was expecting. Somehow this cucumber note gets more prominent as I wear it, and stays there towards the drydown. I do get that ‘gin’ note they are talking about, and it does not smell bad boozy. I thought I would smell like someone who had been drinking the night before, but this note is more pleasing.

It’s definitely a scent that evolves in your skin as you wear it, attesting to its multi-layeredness. I do quite like it, to be honest, as it is unique, but I probably need more sampling to be thoroughly convinced.

Moments (Movie Thoughts: The Map of Tiny Perfect Things)

I was skeptical about Lev Grossman’s ‘The Map of Tiny Perfect Things.’ I mean, didn’t we just all watch ‘Palm Springs’ last year, and here we have the same conceit – the ‘infinite loop’ kind of day, but with teenage characters. But it promised me romantic comedy, and I am always game for that, so I acquiesced.

It’s not bad. I got bored with the Groundhog Day idea in the beginning, but the film is trying to say something: I think that we should enjoy tiny little ‘perfect moments’ because in the end that is what matters in life. In the Covid world we live in nowadays, it is resonating. There is some cute acting from the leads, so I didn’t get bored, and mostly believed what they are selling. But mostly, I felt like I have seen all of this before… as late as yesterday.

No Connection Morrison (Music Thoughts: Warm & Cozy, Barbara Morrison)

Sometimes you will just never ‘connect’ with a singer. Over the years, I have tried to listen to the singer Barbara Morisson, even seeing her live in concert, and I just felt…nothing. I find nothing unique with her voice – to me she sounds like any generic sounding ‘soul’ voice, and her lyrical interpretations leaves me very cold. But I still give her a chance with every new album she comes up with, to no success for me.

I feel the same with her new album ‘Warm & Cozy,’ which for me is anything but. Backed by Stuart Elster, to me her singing is colder than over. What’s worse, I think she has turned even pitchier, and the way she interprets lyrics to me a big loss.

Case in point: there should be a tinge of sadness in ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,’ but her version is of tone-deaf jubilance. Is she being improvisational, or she just does not respect the lyric? After that, I just got so bored with the rest fo the album. I felt wasted time.

Funny Pals (Movie Thoughts: Barb & Star go to Vista del Mar)

Josh Greenbaum’s ‘Barb & Star goes to Vista del Mar’ is definitely odd… and silly. I don’t know if anyone has ever used those two words together in describing a film but I cannot think of two adjectives that are more apt. Kristen Wiig and Annioe Mumulo both write and stars in this film, which sometimes feels like an overstretched and inflated SNL sketch. You have to re3ally ‘get’ it to enjoy it, and to be honest, I was only with them half of the time.

But I appreciate the silliness, and their total commitment to the piece. And they found a really dependable partner in Jamie Dornan, who flexes not his biceps here but his comedic chops. In my eyes, he became fifty shades hotter.

The silliness is sometimes just a tad too much for me, but I bet if caught on a airier mood I would enjoy this more.