The Tucks (Film Thoughts: Girl/Tucked)

girl-french-movie-poster-mdThis always  happens. I would see films back to back and somehow there would be a connection between the two of them, and this time I have stumbled upon two films dealing with gender identity.

First up is ‘Girl,’ from Belgium. I know this was their entry last year for Best Foreign Film and I somehow missed this. But I have finally seen it (via Netflix) and I have to say I was quite taken by it. I know that this film has been twinned with some controversy, basically stemming from the lead actor being cast. Since this is a trans role dealing with the trans experience, the community was up in arms over the casting of a cis actor, Victor Polster, in the role of Lara, the film’s protagonist.  Controversy aside, I think he plays the role perfectly – so internal, so quietly intense that most times I felt like I was watching a documentary – seeing a real living human being right up there on the screen. The story telling could be all over the place – plots are explored and never followed up – but his performance pulls it all together. There are some cringe worthy parts of the story line – the scene before the ending is worse than anything from a horror movie – but I also felt Lukas Dhont was able to express love, compassion, and acceptance. Hate this, protest it, love it – but definitely see it.

p16188166_v_v8_aaThere’s a similar but different kind of identity issue in ‘Tucked,’ from Director Jamie Patterson. The film centers around ‘Jackie,’ a drag queen in a London bar.  Jackie is really Jack, played by Derren Nesbitt, and early in the film he has been diagnosed with cancer and is given six months to live. But Jackie is no ordinary drag queen – he is actually a straight man who just likes to cross dress, and he has been estranged from his daughter. Enter Faith (Jordan Stephens) a young up and coming drug performer who has been shunned by his family. He is taken under Jackie’s wing and…well, you don’t have to be a fortune teller to see what happens. This is certainly a smaller film with medium charm, and a big heart. Both its predictability and competent performances make up  what makes it appealing – like fabulous glittered comfort food.  Wear a boa and enjoy.

Emotions Slammed (Movie Thoughts: Fighting With My Family)

DxxU0W6WkAAJOYbI guess it goes without saying that I am not a fan of Wresting. In fact, I barley understand it. However, my late father was a big fan of it, and he would talk endlessly about these characters to anyone who would listen. I would gloss my eyes, of course, but deep inside, the sport had a soft spot in my heart because of my father’s affection for it. I was resisting watching ‘Fighting With My Family’ because of the subject matter, but I am glad I did. I’s a very poignant piece of narrative, and yes, it made me cry. I am not ashamed to admit that a wrestling movie made me cry.

The story revolves around the Knight family of Norwich, England, which i am assuming is some sort of working class neighborhood outside of London. The family business is wrestling, and everyone in the family is in it. They have been sending tapes to the WWE about the kids, and one day they get a call that they are being invited to audition when the show comes to the UK. And I guess we can all guess what happens after.  Britani (Florence Pugh) gets picked, and her brother (Jack Lowden) get left behind. The movie is part sibling rivalry, and part fish-out-of-water for Paige (she had to change her name) and all family drama. Pugh is great here, all vulnerable and touch, while she gets tougher.

Produced by Dwayne Johnson, it is a little bit of a commercial for the WWE (they had a hand in the production as well) It made me appreciate what goes on in the showmanship of wrestling, and while I wasn’t really converted to a fan, it made me respect the craft of it more. And is wrestling fake? Who cares, because the emotions essayed here are very real.

Simply Sims (Music Thoughts: Rhapsody in Technicolor, Sylvia Mims)

Sylvia-MimsAs you probably know, I listen and write about new albums featuring songs from The Great American Songbook, and I admit to sometimes having fatigue about them. Some great interpretations of most of these songs are already ingrained in my head that more often than not, new renditions come up short when compared to these classic versions. Sure, I know that’s unfair for these newer artists, but it comes with the parcel of interpreting these songs.

And then very rarely, I chance upon a singer that impresses me immensely. Sylvia Mims, in her new album, ‘Rhapsody in Technicolor,’ just does that . I like her soulful take of these songs. And by soulful, I do not mean soul as a genre. She sings these songs with such lived-in quality that you can feel the emotional connection to the lyrics. Plus. the arrangements appeal to me – very introspective, contemplative, and on the right songs, romantic. I can’t remember the last time I listened to songs being sung where I instantly felt the feeling of loving so vividly. ‘The Nearness of You’s message, for example,  has never felt more purposeful. I had to listen to it twice so I can recapture the feeling.

This is also an album that, I suspect, will grow deeper with each spin. I plan on peeling its layers.

One Man’s Trash (Perfume Thoughts: I Am Trash, Les Fleurs du Dechet, Etat Libre d’Orange)

375x500.50009I haven’t bought a new scent in a year.  I think it’s because my collection isn’t situated yet. I have most of it in my apartment, but they are still packed. I think a part of me feels bad for them so I don’t want to get a new brother or sister for them just yet. But i was at Scent Bar’s pre-Valentine’s event and I was bewitched by ‘I Am Trash,’ from Etat Libe d’Orange and sometimes you just fall in love, and you want to take them home.

I was fascinated by the story of the scent – inspired by trash – and I thought I was going to get a weird odor-y scent. But ‘I Am Trash’ is a floral – it’s alternate name is ‘Les Fleurs du Dechet,’ which loosely tranlates to The Flowers of Decay. I do get a rose here mixed with lily of the valley. But I also get fruit – apple and orange, based on apple and orange peels that you find in the garbage. And guess what – this scent is surprisingly fresh and clean, and will be perfect for nice Spring Days. But right now, on a cold winter day, it gives me just the right amount of sunshine. It’s somehow what I cling to nowadays, and I am in love with it. Who says I don’t have a Valentine?

The Up and Up (Movie Thoughts: The Upside)

large_epvl4k2dxqogffbegit49rsqu3cI really had no plans of seeing ‘The Upside’ because of Kevin Hart and his homophobic comments. But there were very slim pickings, and I had read that audiences are loving it. I saw its original version, the French movie ‘The Intouchables,’ and I remember liking it, but thought it was a very American kind of movie, so I guess it is inevitable that there is an American remake of it.

Well, what do you know. I hate to admit it, but I will be honest – I loved this film. John Hartmere is credit with the American screenplay and I thought it did a pretty good job of Americanizing the story, and making it something we can relate to instantly. And it had great performances. Bryan Cranstone is wonderful as Philip, the millionaire paraplegic who employs Del (Kevin Hart) to take care of him. Philip wanted something different, and Del is as different – and rough – as they come. They forge a friendship, and they learn from each other. It’s all trope, mind you, but you believe because the characters are believable. And I hate to say this, but I was charmed by Hart’s performance. I don’t think I have ever seen one of his films before, and he sure can fill a screen. (But then again, he plays a homophobe here, so…)  And I had wondered why Nicole Kidman would take a supporting role here, but after seeing the movie I get it – she makes her own mark in the film and is wonderful as well.  This is an entertaining commercial film, probably a bit more mainstream for my tastes, but I had an enjoyable time watching it. And as long as you keep it a secret, i can even confess I was touched by it.

And So (Music Thoughts: So This Is Love, Christina Watson)

1543341514_christina-watson-so-this-is-love-2018The only thing I know about Christina Watson is that she is based in New Orleans, so she has jazz all around her.  I first listened to the album and while I acknowledge her jazz artistry but at first the music did not move me. Then I kept on listening, and I started to really feel her music, and I do admit she is pretty good. It doesn’t hurt that she has pretty solid musicians behind her, and obviously she has a lot of fans – she did this with an Indiegogo campaign.

Merry Murphy (Television Thoughts: Murphy Brown, CBS Thursdays)

p15528460_b_v8_ab‘Murphy Brown’ appears as the newest ‘reboot from the 90s’ show after “will and Grace’ and ‘Roseanne,’  and based on the pilot episode anyway, this feels like a misfire. While I am glad to see Candance Bergen reprise her role, the show seems lifeless and out of touch. Granted, it premieres after a day of riveting reality television that is the Supreme Court Nomination hearings of Brett Kavanaugh so it has very tough competition. But after an exasperating day of dealing with the harsh reality that we are in now, lame jokes about Trump are the last thing I need to hear. I hope the show gets beyond all that, because there is a lot of promise here. Brown is now a host of a morning show at a Cable News Network so there’s a lot of potential there. Plus her child, Avery, is now a hunky adult (Jake McDorman) and is a journalist as well, and just happens to be on a show competing with his mother at a rival cable network. That sounds like a good set-up. I doubt the show will veer very much away from its topical politics stance, so we will see how much my tolerance will be for it.