At Notting Hill (Film Thoughts: Love Sarah)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a feel-good movie like Eliza Schrieder’s ‘Love Sarah.’ In these tryign pandemic times, I would even say that is very much needed.

All boxes are ticked int his movie, and sure, there are clichés, too. But who cares? The performances are warm and fuzzy, like pre-covid hugs. Celia Imre is wonderful as always, as the mother who helps build a store that was her daughter’s dream.

And the movie isn’t dumb, it has things to say thought it sys it with subtlety – it celebrates London’s diversity and the story promotes inclusiveness. The London locale is vividly bright and cheery. I loved watching this movie, and no, you won’t take that away from me.

Call Her Caitlin, Maybe (Television Thoughts: We Are Who We Are, S01 E02, HBO)

I am continually enthralled with the second episode of “We Are Who We Are,’ which is really more like the first episode. In last week’s episode, we see life from the point of view of Fraser, who just arrived at the base. In this one, we see it from Caitlin’s eyes. There’s a difference, of course: she is at home at the base, and already knows the ins and out of the place and its people. Just like Fraser, though, she is still finding her real place in the world, just like all of us when we were at that age. Things are happening, things are changing: on that particular day, she even gets her period for the first time. It’s weird that I still gravitate towards Fraser, because even as we look at Caitlin’s day, I find myself looking for where Frasier fits in it.

And I can’t help but see similarities in ‘Call me By Your Name.’ As in the movie, we observe the characters her as they dance. Caitlin is dancing in the middle of the dance floor, just like Oliver does in the film, and we see how the people around her look at her. I wonder if this is just Luca Guadagnino repeating himself, or is it an homage?

And I love how teh characters express themselves here through fashion. We see how Fraser is into it (he mentions how a seamstress mirrors Raf Simons on the first episode) and in here, we see him sending a polo shirt and pants to Caitlin, after observing her flirt with women at the cafe. These little details certainly matter – they give us insight to both characters in a deep and meaningful way. 

I cannot wait to keep watching.

Elitists (Movie Thoughts: Coastal Elites, HBO)

Some (most?) of the material presented in Paul Rudnick’s ‘Coastal Elites’ was supposed to have been staged at The Public Theater in New York City, but because of the pandemic, it has been relegated to Zoom-type monologues. This has proven difficult – I think some of the pieces in the film work well in the medium, but I could just imagine it being better on stage.

But I like most of what I saw. But then again, I am the target market for this – a coastal elite, I can identify with most of what the characters her say. Some i have even said myself.

Bette Midler stars in the opening monologue, about a Jewish NYC woman. I like the character, and I have known a couple of them in my lifetime, and Midler is effective – funny and colorful. But it wore a little bit after a while. Issa Rae’s section to me was the most effective, and it was probably good that I didn’t realize it was her until later one, having been unimpressed by her everything in the past. Dan Levy’s section was weak for me – it felt unconnected to the rest of the pieces, and Sarah Paulson’s was as bti forced, too. All in all, though, most of it was entertaining enough.

Call It By Its Name (Series Thoughts: We Are Who We Are, S01 E01, HBO)

When I read that Luca Guadigno had a HBO series, I knew right away I would want to see it. Then came the description: teenagers in a US Army base in Italy, and I was more piqued. Could it be? Then I saw it stars a young curly haired twink, and I asked myself, is he messing with me? This show screams call my whatever, and people will just sit idly? My heart was pounding when I saw the trailer and I couldn’t wait till the premiere. (The title is even referencing a song from my fave ‘La Cage Aux Folles’)

And it did not disappoint. It is wonderful, heady, moody – just everything I am looking for in the series. In the first episode, the action revolves around Frasier (Jack Dylan Grazer) who looks like post-teen Bieber, without all the messy tattoos, but with the brooding complicated edge of an Elio – edgier even. Frasier is curious, questioning, fashion-forward. It is not clear yet what his sexual orientation is, but just like most young kids nowadays, no one really cares. He has an odd relationship with his mothers, and you know as this story progresses, he will get involved with something you will love – you can smell it in the air. It captures base life accurately – I should know because my father worked in one in my youth – capturing a place that looks acts and feel American even when it is in a soil that is not.

This is the perfect summer series, even as I feel the mornings getting a tad chillier right now. I want to live in its world.

It Was Not Exactly Paris (Film Thoughts: This Is Paris)

Can this be true? Am I really watching a documentary about Paris Hilton? And to make matters even worse, can I admit that this film is actually (gulp) good? I mean, 2020 has brought a lot of surprises in all our lives, but I didn’t really think I expected this to happen.

Well, it turns out that it’s true, Alexandra Dean has previously directed a documentary about Hedy Lamar, so now she has set her sights on Paris Hilton. I have to admit I only know fleeting things about Hilton – I never saw her reality show ‘The Simple Life,’ though I admit I did see her sex tape. I kind of ignored here during her height, but that’s just me ignoring anything that’s popular and hyped. I know that she was famous for doing nothing, although I realize know she does a lot of things although I have no idea if she does them well- if she is really a competent deejay, I ‘ll never know.

The documentary is pretty straightforward, and when it started, I thought it was going a by-the-numbers glamour bio. When she first hinted that she was suffering from PTSD, I initially rolled my eyes. It’s kind of hard to feel sorry for her after she shows you all her material things. But then the bombshell revelation came – she was abused at some reform school in Utah, and has suffered from that, traumatized from her experience. And just to prove that all is real, she even enlisted stories from women who were in the same school the same time she was there. I have to say that my perception of her did change, and her ‘poor little rich girl’ act became more authentic after. Dean loves her subject, and presented it to the world, maybe not warts and all, but certainly less photoshopped.

Ain’T She Cute? (Film Thoughts: Cuties)

‘Cuties,’ on Netflix has sparked controversy because of a poster that was used for marketing it. In said poster, four pre-teen girls are scantily clad, and because of this, ‘sexualized.’ There is an outcry among Trump supporters because of it, and calls to boycott Netflix. Phew. Much ado. Oversexualization of girls is the point of the film, and yes, the poster may have been misguided, but is it any different from anything you see in TikTok?

That’s a shame because that can push people away from seeing this film, the debut feature from Maimona Doucouré, and it is a fine coming of age film about a young woman finding herself in the midst of all the ‘noise’ in the age of social media. The one thing I really love about the film is its specificity: it’s about living in the poor section fo Paris, where Senegalese immigrants come an d live. You can see the diversity of nationalities in the school scenes, and more or less, the kids live and play together, and the dilemmas facing could have been anywhere in the world. Fathjia Yopusoff is Amy, the young girl lured into a group of young girls and their dance troupe, and I don’t want to say anything else because it will diminish the shock of what Amy goes through. Parts – well a lot of it – of the film will make you cringe, but it will make you think about everything you ever did when you were young in order to ‘belong’ to something.

When There’s No Forever (Film Thoughts: Los Fuertes/The Strong Ones)

Two souls passing in the night – this genre of love story always gets me. In Oscar Zuniga’s ‘Los Fuertes,’ this story is set in picturesque Southern Chil, Valdivia to be exact, and the gorgeous setting enhances the story of two people meeting, falling for each other knowing that this probably will not be forever. This film is a testament to enjoying the connections we have right now.

 

And that’s it, that is basically the plot of the film. While at first the simplicity made me want a little bit more, I enjoyed the simple subtleties in the characters’ connections. It helps that the two leads, played by Samuel Gonzales and Antonio Altamirano have chemistry for days. You see them and you really believe these two souls are in love with each other. I love the small intimate details – the pregnant glances, the way one massages the other’s scalp while the other is sleeping – these may be minute, but they contribute to the overall feel of the film. And it makes the ending more poignant, and touching. 

The D in Duchess (Series Thoughts: The Duchessm Netflix)

Netflix kept on recommending ‘The Duchess’ to me – via email, via the home screen when I log on – that it tired me out and I just pressed play without knowing ANYTHING from it. Well, to my surprise, it is (kinda) British so I fell in love with right away.

It’s about a mom (played by Katherine Ryan) who is raising her school-age child, and she is saucy. She curses, she fights with other moms in her school, but she does it all in shiny sequiny designer clothes. So what’s not to love?

And in the first episode, she gets the realization that she wants another child, because her first one turns out so well. She tries the local sperm bank, but is disillusioned by the teenage boys depositing sperm. So could it be her kinda boyfriend Evan? Nah, she doesn’t want to mess up what they have by adding fatherhood to its plate, so she speaks to her daughter’s father, a lapsed boy band member, because he did such a good job with their first child. This is a fun and witty show – sometimes crass but they say it with a British accent so its classier! I can feel the six episodes fly already.

Conceptions (Film Thoughts: The Surrogate/Unpregnant)

Jeremy Hersh’s ‘The Surrgate’ is one of the most thought-provoking films I have seen this year. It has become fairly common for A-gay couples to have a child, as if it’s an added accessory, and I can’t help but think and wonder if some of those couples are really on- board with raising a child, or is it all for ‘appearances’? In the film, Jasmine Batchelor plays Jess, a young woman who agrees to be a surrogate for her close friends. All is fine and dandy until they get a results of a test indicating the child will probably be born with Down’s syndrome.

And then things change, naturally, The couple realize they may not have the financial well-being to bring this child in a world with this suddenly more difficult situation. Batchelor is fantastic here, one of those ‘finds.’ Once they may a decision about her well-being, she spirals into a loop of different things. She wants to make her own decision about the fetus, her family has concerns about her being a single black mother, a cliche she did not want to be lumped under. Hersh present this all without judgement – one minute you are on one side, the next you are on the other. These characters are all complex, and they are all real. The cast is made up of theater performers, so they shine in the dialogue driven scenes, making you ache for what they are feeling. The film leaves you with a heavy heart.

It’s funny how one movie tackles the same subject and can have a much different tone. In Rachel Goldenberg’s ‘Unpregnant,’ a young woman Veronia (Hailey Lu Richardson) also finds out that she is pregnant. But there’s no dilemma here, she wants to terminate the pregnancy, and there is no question that it is ultimately the best decision for her – she is young, has teh world ahead of her, and has worked her ass off for everything she has been working for. She has a boyfriend who’s dumb but in live with her, so it would have been an easy out, but no, she had no plans of spending the rest of her life with him anyway.

She then asks her former bestie to take a road trip with her from Missouri to New Mexico. Her state requires her to have parental consent to terminate her pregnancy, and her ultra-conservative parents will never go for it. The movie then becomes a road-trip one as she travels several states to get to New Mexico. here’s where the film got a little dicey for me. Call it weird, but I am not the biggest fan of road trip movies – the journeys are never believable to me, and the ones here are no exception. Do you really meet those interesting people on the interstates? While I like the spirit of the film, it took a bit for me to get there, but nevertheless the film was mostly enjoyable anyway, thanks to the great performances – Richardson is charming and radiant. I bet some people will really despise this film based on their religious and political beliefs, and good, maybe it will get them to think.

In Any Language (Music Thoughts: Tokyo Sessionds, Delfina Oliver)

Delfina Oliver is an Argentinian jazz singer who got a gig in the prestigious Tokyo jazz room featured in the movie ‘Lost in Translation.’ When in Tokyo, she recorded ‘Tokyo Sessions,’ her fourth album, and really, that is all I know about this singer, and this album.

But the music says it all – Oliver has delivered a fine jazz vocal album. I was initially drawn to the album because of the cherry blossoms design on the cover, but the music is just as fragrant.

Oliver has a nice tender touch to these songs, and I like her nice Ella-esque version of ‘Moonlight In Vermont’ very much – it’s pure and heartfelt. But she can rhythmic, too, as evidenced in her ‘Love for Sale.’ And she gives tribute to her native Argentina with ‘Tonada del Viejo Amor,’ which is a tradional folk Zamba and in ‘Takeda No Komoriuta,’ a Japanese one. In any language, she is terrific.