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.

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.

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.

The Devil Wears Animal (Movie Thoughts: Cruella)

Even though I wanted to see it, I was a little skeptical about ‘Cruella.’ I thought to myself: will it be too Disney, too commercial, too not my genre? It’s an origin movie, but I feel it will also be sleek and too shiny for me. When someone said the movie reminded them of ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’ though, that was reason enough for me to want to check it out despite my reservations.

Well, i was kind of right. The film was a little too much on the action/fantasy formula for me. The story kind of bored me, as it gelt very familiar and predictable. There were some elements I liked – that little bit reminiscent of ‘All About Eve’ and, yes, ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ but that part was a little on hte thin side for me and wasn’t enough to keep my over all interest.

As for the Emmas, I liked Thompson just a tiny bit more than Stone. But both characters were not three dimensional enough for me, though both actresses took the time and effort to give them depth.

All in all, the film is pretty to look at, bur just a bit too hollow for my taste.

Coming Home (Television Thoughts: Friends The Reunion)

I am not the die-hard ‘Friends’ fan that some people are. I know there are those who are such fanatics they have memorized whole episodes and dialogues from the series. I do admit that I used to watch the show Thursday nights, though I think later one I found it tedious. But I concede how the show is part of a lot of people’s consciousness – I won’t begrudge them for that.

And this reunion show comes in with so much hype I can’t help but feel somewhat cynical about it. Money, money money – I read that each casy member got paid 2.5 MM for their appearance here, this on top of the supposed $500K a month they get from residuals.

But I am a sentimental sap, and this show is chock full of them that I couldn’t help but really enjoy it. The show has a lot of poignant moments – you rally feel the love among this group of people (and it does feel either genuine, or they are much better actors than I think they are) Some have aged better than others, but their over all joy is still there. Clearly, they look at their time on the show with fondness, and now that their audience probably does as well.

Some bits work better than others. The script re-read through was great, and they even did my favorite episode – the one when they find ojut Monica and Chandler have been shagging each other. Some of the bits seem s little too obvious, but if you are a fan of the show, I am sure there was not a wasted moment. I enjoyed it well enough, and yes, I shed a tear, but then I cry about anything nowadays.

Plain Jane (Perfume Thoughts: Vanilla Vibes, Juliette Has A Gun)

I find Juliette Has A Gun’s later releases to be good solid uncomplicated perfumes. There was a time when everything they released was centered around the rose note, but obviously they have evolved. Vanilla Vibes is exactly like that – a plain jane vanilla of a fragrance. It’s a nice vanilla bean note – not gourmand and nothing too syrupy. And while I associate vanilla with heavier fragrances, this one is summery, with hints of coconut, and a little bit of that suntan lotion note. It’s not my most favorite thing in the world, but unlike other vanilla-centric scents that give me a headache, this one was at least tolerable…and wearable.

Love is Wet (Film Thoughts: Undine)

Christian Petzold’s ‘Undine’ is based on the fairy tale that I have honestly never heard of. In the fable, a water nymph falls in love with a mortal, and she herself becomes human. However, if he falls in love with someone else, she has to revert back to hat she was before. In the opening scene of Petzold’s film, a man and a woman is trying to be uncoupled in a café. When he threatens to leave, Undine, the woman says, “If you leave me, I would have to kill you.”

Much more happens to Undine, played here with extreme care by Paula Beers. Shortly after that scene, Undine meets another man, Christoph (Franz Rogowski) and a delicate and complicated dance of love ensues. The story and sequences do veer on the ‘weird’ side of things at times, but the chemistry between the two leads is palpable, and you get swept in their story, and do kind of root for their relationship to succeed. But of course, nothing in Petzold’s films are ever what they seem, and I will stop speaking now and won’t give any spoilers. But this is a truly engrossing film – you will find yourself in the middle of the maze and will come out gasping for air. If that floats your boat, then sail on.