When There Is Hope (Film Thoughts: The Way I See It)

So where were you when the Networks proclaimed Joseph Robinette Biden Jr the 46th President of the United States? I was at home, getting ready to go out, as my friend and I were going to IKEA to buy scented candles there (the Byredo collab) It is, of course, a historic moment for our country, and a bright day after years of darkness.

I thought it was also time for me to finally see Dawn Porter’s documentary ‘The Way I See It,’ which chronicles Pete Souza’s years in the Obama administration as the official photographer for the administration.

I’ve been itching to see it, but wanted a momentous occasion. Or really, if I have to be honest, I want it to supplement the moment when Biden finally won. I wasn’t mistaken – it’s a film that will give you hope. It will give you a window of what’s to come, and what’s to come will be most welcome after this disastrous time we have right now.

Souza was the photographer for part of the Reagan years. Like myself, he wasn’t really a big fan of Reagan’s policy, but of course as a statesman, no one can rival the man’s charisma. In interviews, he outlines the significance of an administration’s official photographer – it captures in moment’s a president’s moments, whether big or small. IN Obama’s case, he ventures to say that he thinks Obama’s biggest moment was a small; one – when he coached his daughter’s basketball team. You will be in years when he talks about the mom ent marriage equality became the law of the land – he says it is one of those rare instances when he asked his wife t drop everything and take a cab to the White House to witness history unfolding.

Maybe I am just being emotional, but this is a real gem of a film.

Not Only December (Music Thoughts: Christmas Is: December Duets: Mike Renzi and Jim Porcella)

I write about a lot of jazz vocal albums, and while going through this year’s Holiday releases, one jumped at me – a jazz vocal Christmas album that I fell in love with instantly.

It’s ‘Christmas Is: December Duets,’ a ‘duet’ album with pianist Mike Renzi and jazz vocalist Jim Porcella. Renzi is a legend in my world – he has played with some of the best singers (Sinatra, Bennett) and to me he is the star of this album – the piano playing is exquisite here, calm and assured.

Porcella is no slouch either. He is based in new England and sings in a relaxed menial voice with a great way with a lyric. You find yourself listening to how he interprets these words, and you feel like you are hearing these songs in a fresh manner. I love how different a song like ‘Blue Christmas’ sounds for example, where the meaning of melancholy is mined with the arrangement here. And speaking of longing, listen to ‘A Christmas Love Song,’ and marvel at how longing sounds.

Broken Romance (Film Thoughts: The Broken Hearts Gallery)

It’s exciting to see a talented young actress get her due, and especially one who isn’t your white cookie cutter type. Geraldine Viswanatahn stole ‘Blockers’ and it’s good to see her front and center on ‘The Broken Hearts Gallery.’ And she is fantastic here – charming and funny and you just know you are seeing a big star in the making.

Too bad, the movie around her is just so-so, as it is saddled by a lifeless screenplay, even if the set up of the film is somewhat interesting. I didn’t think any of the bits were funny, and Viswanathan tried to sell everything a little too broadly at times.

And since this is supposed to be a romantic comedy, I found that part of the film lackluster as well. I never believed her with Dacre Montgomery’s character – they had little no chemistry, and the relationship of the characters was shallow. All in all, this was just sad because it had so much potential.

Conner in Covid (Television Thoughts: The Conners S03 E01)

I don’t know what compelled me to watch the Season 3 premiere of ‘The Conners.’ I mean, I saw the second season premier4e last year and that was it – I never revisited the show after that. Maybe because I read reports that the show will be dealing with how the family handles the pandemic and I thought it would be interesting to see where and how the show takes the topic.

I thought the show has finally become so unfunny now that the whole episode passed by and I did not even crack a smile.

The addition of Katey Sagall doesn’t seem to help, as she brings no personality to her character. She is just there. Everyone else seems to be jus there as well. The jokes are lifeless, they do not land, and the depressing situation feels more depressed. The old show was funny, even as the situation felt dire for the family. Geez, theee’s enough downer in life right I don’t need this at all.

Dreamily, Emily (Series Thoughts: Emily in Paris, Netflix)

Darren Star is back and he is now on Netflix with his new series, ‘Emily in Paris,’ and it is a watchable bingeable show that I took all of it in (almost) one sitting. I think it’s the best thing for our pandemic quarantined times – it’s fun, frothy, and it takes place in Paris, and this Paris never looked better – the clothes are chic, the food delicious, the men delectable. I know we cannot travel there right now, and watching it is the next best thing to being there. I was instantly hooked.

All of this despite the fact that I have a little problem with the premise. Emily (Lily Collins) is sent to Paris by her Chicago-based Marketing company to be their liaison. Why they would do this is baffling as she does not speak French. And Emily at once displays all the traits of an ugly American – she sends back her steak because it is ‘bloody,’ creates a commotion in her building because her shower breaks, mocks French women sho smoke outside gyms, acts entitled at her office – but Collins is charming and appealing she somehow overcomes these character traits and you still tae her side.

And also, just like in other Darren Starr shows like ‘Sex and the City,’ and ‘Younger,’ you are in awe of the fashion sense. Collins looks cute in all her outfits (we don’t even care how she can afford them) from her eyelet cropped top she uses for running to the black ball gown she wears to the Opera. Fashionistas will have bulging eyes looking at everything she wears.

And of course, the men. Lucas Bravo, who plays her love interest, plays the French man in all the best way possible (I bet you fall in love with him instantly, too) From their meet-cute to cliffhanger endings, their storyline cute and complicated enough for all to pine for.

I can’t remember the last time I finished a series so quickly, and have been texting friends who I know will lap this series like a French poodle in heat. It’s made for you and me, and you know who you are,

You Shouldn’t Have (Movie Thoughts: Then Came You)

Against my best judgement, I kind of like Kathie Lee Gifford. I used to watch her with Regis and found her funny, and liked that she did not take herself too seriously. I loved that she was a great champion to New York Cabaret and was an angel to Nancy La Mott. I know she is probably a fundamentalist Christian at heart who secretly hates gays, but for the most part I show her kindness. I am kind of fond of one of her albums, the one she did with Christopher Marlowe, and some songs from those are from my daily playlist.

So I come into ‘Then Came You’ with a little bit of hope. In my heart, I knew it was probably going to be bad, but I was hoping it would be at least a fun time. Sadly, it wasn’t. The script, by Gifford herself, rehashes some of tritest tropes there is, and I thought maybe she could sell it, but found her trying too hard, and failing. Craig Ferguson has a character that is kind of hard to like, and their chemistry, while relaxed and sure, believable enough, not enough to carry the deficiencies of the script. The Scottish scenery is beautiful, and Gifford has an assured presence – her wardrobe is fantastic – but all in all, the film comes up short. It’s really too bad.

Late At Night (Music Thoughts: This Dream Of You, Diana Krall)

If you can believe it, there was a time that I wasn’t exactly ‘sold’ on Diana Krall. But over the years, not only have I warmed up to her, but I have become to really appreciate her artistry. I think I finally turned the corner on her album ‘When I Look In Your Eyes,’ which I used to listen to incessantly (I know every breath of that record) and while I don’t think her later albums after that are as good, there’s still something in all of them I enjoy.

I was excited to hear ‘This Dream Of You,’ because, well lets face it, these are the leftover tracks from her 2017 sessions with Tommy LiPuma which resulted with ‘Turn Up The Quiet.’ LiPuna has since passed away, but since he was the producer of ‘When I Look In Your Eyes,’ I know there’s a lot of good to come from here. And there, I love the slowed-down ‘Singin In The Rain,’ and the tenderness of ‘More Than You Know.’ Krall always lets her instrumentalists sign. She gives great time to Anthony Wilson in ‘But Beautiful,’ and the title befits the moment. One big misstep for me, though: the syncopated unmelodic redoing of ‘How Deep Is The Ocean,’ which ruins the beautiful Irving Berlin melody.

But all in all, still a stellar late night album, perfect with cheese and a Pinot Noir.

Teens in Time (Film Thoughts: Dramarama/Max and Me)

Me and teen movies. I know sometimes I complain that some of them can be pretty inane, but there are really times really when I find some that are not bad at all.

One that I really liked is Jonathan Wysocki’s ‘Dramarama.’ This film is about a group of theater kids who are getting together one last time before one of them goes to NYU Drama School. Of course, there is some partying, but there’s also a lot of issues simmering underneath – secrets, lies, desires.

It’s a lot more layered than that, of course. These kids are outcasts, and they think they have all their experiences, but they are really just getting out in the real world. I know and can identify with these kids. I know why they are together. One of them has not come out yet, although he is very close to, and may even do it the same night. It’s a very introspective type of movie, and I was a little bit verklempt when it ended. You can tell that these kids are bound to do bigger things.

Claire Andrew’s ‘Max and Me’ is a teen ghost story, but it’s a sweet and cute story. A young spots his neighbor through his window and then realizes the girl is a ghost. And of course, you can just imagine where the. story is going, but I didn’t really mind it because the actors are charming, and even though the film could probably be shortened a bit, a lot of it is pretty fun. This could be worth your time.

Too Rich (Series Thoughts: Filthy Rich, Pilot, Fox)

Kim Catrall headlines the new soap opera series on Fox, titled ‘Filthy Rich,’ and it really seems to be a good idea, at least on paper. She is the diva of all divas, and would be a great modern Joan Collins. And she has the juiciest role here in this new show, and even has the most fabulous name – Margaret Monreaux, the wife of a tele-evangelist a la Jim Bakker. The character herself is an Oprah type, with her own television show hawking recipes and such.

But of course all is not what it seems. Her husband, played by Gerald Raney, goes missing from a plane crash and puts the family in disarray – well, the family finds out he has fathered three other adult children, besides his two with Margaux.

That’s a lot already happening in the first episode, and to be honest, it feels rushed. I think the writers here do not want you to get bored, serving you bombshell after bombshell scene after scene. It feels exhausting, and at the same time lazy. We never het character exposition, and we get a whole bunch of them here. I think that’s most important – we hardly know Margaux, first of all, and she is the star of the show.

But you know what, I will keep on watching, and see where this goes.

Call Me after the Chiogga Festival (Series Thoughts: We Are What We Are, S01 E03)

I love how Luca Guadigno celebrates art in his projects, and we see that here in ‘We Are What We Are’ as well when the third episode, ‘Right Here Right Now III’ open with Fraser and Caitlyn discussing about poetry. Walt Whitman, Ocean Vuong – I cannot think of any other show that would mention both of those names in the same episode. It seems that Fraser and Cait have been spending a lot of time together, so much so that their group of friends now think they are dating (she doesn’t mind, he has issues about it) And in a scene that is another nod to ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ Fraser tells her, ‘We will never kiss,’ and then uses a wine bottle to shake her hand. Of course this is reminiscent of that scene wherein Elio and Oliver make a truce and use the artifact to shake hands See – I can always find a connection to the film – tribute or repetition for Guadigno? I love the relationship between the two kids – they obviously found some kind of kinship with each other, and at fourteen years old, it is nice to have someone to talk to about your life questions, like what transgender means.

My favorite part is the scene at the library, when Fraser returns his book of Ocean Vuong poetry. Major Jonathan is there, and he has been waiting for the same book. You can see that Fraser has a crush on him, and it intensifies when he finds out they share the same love for poetry, even the same port. They discuss that Vuong is to release his novel, and yes, I have read that novel, and now wonder if Guadigno will make it into a movie – yeah all kinds of things happening here.

And we get to the Chiogga festival. It made me miss Italy. It made me miss Italian gelato when the screen pans to a closed gelateria. And then we see Fraser see his mom with Jonathan, and he sees them dancing. You can see the range of emotions in his face. I wish Grazier was a better actor, but he falls short in that scene, as it could have been more powerful. But he’s good enough, and he is young still.