We Are What We Wear (Series Thoughts: Work Stories, Netflix)

I bet we all have articles of. clothing in our closets that have a ‘special meaning’ for us. For me, it is a brown dress shirt that I wore when I met my last love. For some reason, I think it’s a ‘special shirt,’ one that brought me love, even if that person is no longer in my life. I cling to it, wear it once in a while, and even feel that I could meet the next person I will fall in love with wearing that shirt. My dad had a Knicks sweat shirt that he wore to death, so much so that we searched high and low for a similar one just to get him another one. Alas, it was not even an ‘official’ team item, and couldn’t one to replace it. My sister still keeps it in memory of him.

The new Netflix series explores this concept, and its a wonderful show, a definite feel-good kind of show, We hear stories from different people on how certain items of clothing have a special meaning in their lives.

These run the gamut from a woman who wears her yellow sweater when she wants to feel good, a saxophone player who used to play with Tina Turner who was given by her a codpiece that transformed his life, to a Muslim football player who can’t let go of his first football pants. These are wonderful human interest stories and at least one made me cry: a convict who finally gets to wear a shirt after coming out of prison. It shows how our lives are shaped by what we wear.

For Family (Film Thoughts: Happy Cleaners)

The Korean-American experience is being celebrated everywhere in ‘Minari,’ but I like Peter Lee and Julian Kim’s ‘Happy Cleaners’ just as much. At first, I thought the film would be full of stereotypes – the tiger mom, the meek dad, bratty kids – but I was proven wrong by how these characters grew, and I think the story here is much more relatable.

The family owns a ry cleaner, and is being run by their parents. The daughter, Hyunny, is a success story of sorts – she finished her schooling and works at the doctor’s office. The other child, the son, is somewhat of a bum – he is more interested in being a chef than finishing college, and to the somewhat shrill mother, that’s a big problem.

Then the family starts to face hurdles, and your heart is torn apart by them. This film tries to make you understand how an Asian family works, how they stay together and never leave each other in times of need, and how they put family above everything else. This could prove to be very tiresome to Western folks, but the film accurately captures the feeling of being ‘stuck’ in how things are done for Asian cultures. I found the film very affecting, and found myself shedding a tear or two – it made me miss my parents who are now both gone.

The Shadows of a Song (Music Thoughts: Out Of The Shadows, Parry Ray)

Parry Ray is a London based everything – she is a singer first and foremost, a blogger, an influencer – and she even likes perfumes as I do, so I feel an instant connection to her. And she sings show tunes, which make me love her even more. And based on her new album, ‘Out Of The Shadows,’ it looks like she can sing. I saw her song selection and gasped – wow she has chosen some of my favorites: ‘All That Jazz,’ ‘You Will Be Found,’ and she even does ‘Losing My Mind,’ and let’s see how she does that.

And while her rendition is not very Sally-like, I like it. Ray has a full-bodied voice that is clear, and she sings in a very direct manner. It’s very cabaret, although her arrangements have a bit of a jazz setting. She definitely evokes more mood than rhythm, though. She knows how to express these songs concisely – she doesn’t give as manic interpretation in ‘Losing My Min d,’ but more ‘losing my mind over love for you’ stand. I dig it. Her songs skew more ballad, and I don’t have a problem with that, though listening to the album non-stop could be somewhat of a downer. But I think she’s swell, and this is a much listenable album. I bet she would be great live.

Scenes At The Shiva (Film thoughts: Shiva Baby)

Forget ‘Godzilla vs King Kong,’ because I think ‘Shiva Baby’ is the most thriller-like, stressful movie of the year. And it’s also intelligent and smart, and funny – all the things you are looking for in a movie.

Set in a funeral, Emma Seligman’s film is about Danielle (Rachel Sennott) who is just about to graduate from College. She is invited by her mother to sit shiva on someone she vaguely recalls but doesn’t really know. She is just coming from her sugar daddy, and doesn’t want to face all her relatives, who make a big fuss about her marital status, her college degree, her weight. Of course, when she gets there, she is accosted by her ex-girlfriend, and surprise of all surprises, her sugar daddy shows up, accompanied by his wife and child. Are we having fun yet?

We are. Seligman captures the stress of the situation, with tight shots that make us feel as claustrophobic as the main character. It all adds up to a big boil of a climax, and then tempered down by ridiculous humor. The acting is superb all around – Sennott is magnificent, able to relay all emotions at the same time flawlessly. And the pace is crisp and brisk – so much happens in 77 minutes. This is a must-see.

Pop Goes the Show Tune (Music Thoughts: R & H Goes Pop, Concord)

Pop versions of theater songs are as old as the hills (are alive) and this continues with Concord Musicc’s ‘R & H Goes Pop,’ which is based on the successful YouTube series of theater actors singing Rodgers & Hammerstein tunes. On video form, they can be kind of amusing, but on just an aural level, do they still work?

For me, sometimes yes and most times no. But look, I can be a curmudgeon with show tunes – it is one of the few areas where I tend to lean on the conservative side. So the more ‘successful’ tracks for me here are the ones where the singers veer closest to the melody. Gavin Creel’s ‘Something Wonderful’ is close enough that the message of the song isn’t diluted, and by God, I would never think a Rodgers/Hammerstein/Jason Robert Brown mash-up would ever work, but there you go, Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes’ duets in a wonderful ‘The Next Ten Minutes Ago.’ On that track, their voices blend effortlessly – chemistry is really key. I had higher hopes with Matt Doyle and Jelani Alladin’s ‘We Kiss In A Shadow’ but here they sound like they are both singing to walls – there’s just no spark there. And speaking of walls, when the arrangements try to go extreme, I just put up one. In Ariana DeBose’s ‘Shall We Dance,’ I thought the whole thing was atrocious, and maybe I could take Ashley Park’s ‘Do Re Mi,’ but really, does that song ever work out of context?

Look, I tried. I thought the whole album was challenging, and I tried very hard to just listen and let go, but….maybe I just can’t.

Christian Camp (Movie Thoughts: A Week Away)

Use the ‘High School Musical’ formula, insert Christian elements in it, cast same fresh-faced bland teenagers, and what do you get? Netflix’s ‘A Week Away.’ You could just imagine that the film is rife for mocking, but you know what? It all went down smoothly for me – the songs can be mostly forgettable but it kept the screen moving, and in a bizarre iconic twist, the male lead is a dead ringer for a young Brent Corrigan. So what’s not to like? It was enjoyable in the most basic and simple way.

Enchanted Evenings (Television Thoughts: Overserved, E!)

I am definitely Team Vanderpump, even though lately I have soured on the whole Housewives franchise. But, I was a bit skeptical when I read about Overserved, her new show on E!. But I was going to check it out anyway, and I was kind of surprised how I liked it a lot more than I expected to. Basically, it’s a simple premise – she invites two guests at her Villa Rosa mansion, and well, she (and we) hope that with the proper mix of liquor, decoration, and conversation, it turns out to be an enchanted evening. Supposedly, she and her daughter Pandora does all the cooking (I don’t know if I believe that, but okay) and, on the first episode, she invited Lance Bass (and his husband Michael Turchin) and Vivica A Fox as her guests. It was inspired pairing, as Fox was a sparkling conversant to the table. Vanderpumo has this ‘concept’ of overserving her guests so they would be oiled with liquid courage, making the conversations more sparking. Turchin was good, and you can see how he got more and more intoxicated as the evening wore on. Not all of Vanderpump’s ‘antic’ worked – a pranks he want Turchin to give Bass fell flat. But all in all, it’s an interesting shpw for me – it felt like eavesdropping on a great dinner party. I’m hooked now.

Daddy Duty (Movie Thoughts: Sugar Daddy)

You think a movie is going somewhere but it ends up some place else. That’s what I felt while watching Kelly McCormack’s ‘Sugar Daddy.’ In this film, a down and out musician, played by McCormack starts ‘daddy dating’ for a living. It’s some kind of set up where she accompanies wealthy older men, and in the beginning, no sex is involved. Of course, she is drawn into that world and you think that the film will end up just like any other morality tale. But then again, is it prostitution, what she is doing? The film explores all these issues intelligently, and asks questions pertaining to how society nowadays perceives this kind of work. Should sex work really be decriminalized? And should there be stigma, still in this day and age of OnlyFans? The film is a thoughtful watch, even if the second half kind of limps.

No Bloom (Perfume Thoughts: Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet, Christian Dior)

Another day, another forgettable Miss Dior flanker, this time it’s ‘Blooming Bouquet.’ This one is even less interesting than the other one I wrote about earlier (Rose n Roses) This one is a fruity floral, a pretty generic one, with peonys and mandarin. Seriously, it just lacks any kind of imagination, and to think this was done by Francoise Demarchy. I mean, what is there to say? Teh flower smells watery, the orange note thin. If I closed my eyes, I would never have guessed this was a Dior perfume. But on second thought, I may have.

Titanic Princess (Film Thoughts: The Last Cruise, HBO Max)

The cruise industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, and I don’t really know when it will recover from it. And I have been vocal about my love for cruising so it makes me very interested in seeing ‘The Last Cruise,’ a documentary on HBO Max about The Diamond Princess and how it was affected during the early days of the pandemic. It is fascinating, and in some ways similar to the voyage of the Titanic.

The documentary is mostly done through personal video recollections fo some passengers, and even in its scant forty minutes, is pretty powerful. It shows the difference from the points of view of passengers and of the crew, showing the disparity of how they were both treated by the cruise line.

The voyage starts nice enough withs tops in Asian cities in Hong Kong and Vietnam. But somewhere along the way, the ship gets the virus, and when they finally are to disembark in Yokohama, they are told they couldn’t – they have to quarantine for at least fourteen days. That’s when the horror starts, as passengers (as well as infected crew members) are trapped in their cabins. You see the harrowing experiences, the fear as they look out and see people going into the ship in hazmat suits. Meanwhile, the crew has to continue working and serving the passengers, albeit on an abbreviated level. You can also see how the crew was treated. a group of Indonesian dish washers hand together and send a SOS video.

It will make you think twice of the inequality. I know at some point I will cruise again, and these images will haunt me forever.