From Harlow To Berlin (Film Thoughts: Lynn + Lucy, Heute Oder Morgen)

I have always loved ‘foreign’ movies, but I have been drawn to them more of late, probably due to my wanderlust. I haven’t traveled in a while, obviously, so glimpses of life abroad fascinate me.

lynn-and-lucy-poster-1-600x750‘Lynn + Lucy’ is set in working class England and is about a pair of friends, Lynn and Lucy. At the start this seems to be a story about friendship, but it is a lot more than that. It is a drama with a social commentary. Fyzal Boulifa wrote and directed this film based on a news report she saw about a young mother who found herself turned by her community after she loses her young child. The same happens to  Lucy (Nichola Burley) here, and the turning makes Lynn (Roxanne Scrimshaw) examine her loyalties. Both actresses are great here, as they portray women who are trapped between life circumstances, their friendship, and societal pressure. The story was absorbing and even had elements of surprise. My only complaint is that some of the accents were very hard to decipher at times. Still, this was a very fulfilling watch.

4921252From Harlow, England, I was off to Berlin for ‘Before We Grow Old.’ (Heute Oder Morgen) This film is about a summer in Berlin. I have read some reviews that sat that watching the film is akin to spending a summer in this German city, and I scratch my head because this film is about a threesome. I guess it speaks of the city’s wild and carefree spirit. A young couple meets a British doctorate student and they become involved with each other, and we see what happens to their relationship once feelings gets involved with the said third party. I liked the film a lot, as it is very raw in. a lot of ways – we see how jealousy and possessiveness rear its ugly head – and how this affects an otherwise steady union.

I Love You More Today Than Yesterday (Movie Thoughts: Palm Springs)

palm-springs-poster-scaled‘Palm Springs’ made history at Sundance earlier this year as the biggest sale in the history of the festival – ever. It sold for 17,500,000.69, and that sixty nine cents is pivotal because it broke the record for 2016’s ‘Birth Of A Nation.’  I wonder if the price was worth it. It set high expectations for the film, and of course, this was before a pandemic happened, so a theatrical release was probably skipped, and now it is streaming on Hulu. I had been looking forward to seeing the film – I am a rom com addict after all – and if there had been a theatrical release, I think I would have been there on opening night.

Now I wonder if the film would have played better on the big screen. The idea of the film seems to be made for it – it is a large idea, about a couple who meet at a wedding, only that wedding day is in an infinite loop, kind of a ‘groundhog Day’ kind of situation. Before you can say ‘I’ve seen this before,’ the story has some different elements, and at most times is quite funny. It is a rom com with some sci-fi elements, and … that’s where it lost me. I always gravitated when romance is triggered by human emotions rather than super circumstances – and it took me a while to get on board with this. Andy Sambery and Christin Milioti are very good, too, and they ultimately made me cross over to believe everything, but I haver to admit, the ‘sci fi’ part was a big distraction for me. Ultimately, I liked the film, but probably not enough for repeat watchings, and certainly not worth the price, with out without the sixty nine cents.

Teens’ Spirits (Movie Thoughts: The F**k It List/Castle In The Ground)

filYet another Netflix teen movie comes and here I am watching it. This one is a dud. When a type A kid Brett Blackmore (Eli Brown) feels regret that he didn’t want to do the things he wanted to do because he spent his time studying, he makes a list of things he should have done,  and he calls it the ‘The F**k It List,’ and it goes viral. He joins a prank that disqualifies him from the colleges he got accepted in, and well, everything else in the film is as unbelievable as it sounds. It’s a dud – all of it, the film, the concept, everything. And I wonder how many more Netflix teen movies I will get sucked into.

 

cigJoey Klein’s ‘Castle in the Ground’ is also about a teenager, Henry, but this teen has bigger problems. He is taking care of his sick mother, and when the sick mother passes away from an accidental overdose, he gets caught in the world of opioid addiction. Alex Wolff plays Henry and he is engaging enough of an actor, but the film felt aimless, as the story packs everything in and results to nothing. Plus the cinematography is so dark most times I felt like I couldn’t see anything.

Make Me Feel Like A Teenage Dream (Film Thoughts: Babyteeth/Looks That Kill)

babyShannon Murphy’s ‘Babyteeth’ is a film about a couple of things  – it’s a teenage romance story, a teenage coming of age, and also of the teenage with a disease genre. You would think that would be too much all in one film but the parts of the stories intermingle with each other seamlessly that everything jiust works.

Milla (Elizabeth Scanlen, from the last Little Women film) has cancer, and when she thinks her life has stood still because of it meets Moses (Tobey Wallace) at a train station and falls in love with him. At first he is ambivalent about her, but responds to the affection she shows him. This, for me, is the most interesting aspect of the film – that push and pull of emotions between the two characters – is it an unrequited love? Does he become to love her because of pity, or is it genuine? In stories like these, we never really know what’s real, and the screenplay plays with all aspects of emotions, and Scanles and Wallace are both fantastic – vulnerable both at unexpected times, and showing strength when their characters need to be. What happens is ultimately heartbreaking, and is fantastic filmmaking.

81NwMxL2sTL._RI_On a smaller level, teenage angst is explored as well in Kellen Moore’s ‘Looks That Kill.’  The premise is cringe-worthy.  Max  is a teenager (Brandon Flynn) possesses such beauty that whoever sees him, dies. Like literally. It took me a long while for me to get on board with that idea and I didn’t know where the film would go, until Max meets Alex (Julia Golden) and the film, as it turns out, becomes a sweet love story. I mean, even the most beautiful is looking for love, right? It seems like a waste to have Flynn star in a film and then cover his face with bandage, but here we are. I got caught in their sweet story and I bet a lot of young people will, too. This film would be great summer watching while in quarantine.

The Journey of They (Book Thoughts: I Wish You All The Best, Mason Deaver)

9781338306125_custom-fc9f9dc97885f9b88d3d063fdf0163a277235e09-s300-c85I think I was at about the seventh chapter of Mason Deaver’s ‘I Wish You All the Best’ when I exclaimed to myself, ‘this is very good.’  Nowadays it’s getting rare and rare for me to really emotionally connect with art, and I can say i connected with this one. The book is about Ben, who in the beginning of the book comes out to their parents as non-binary. he gets immediately thrown out in the middle of the night – in thirty degree weather with just his socks on. They call their sister who they have not seen in ten years, and they start to live with her, and study at a new school. So you could just imagine what they – and the readers – have to go through. I found myself riveted by everything – as he gets paralyzed by what is happening to him. They meet Nathan, and they fall in love with him. I have to admit this gave me a lot insight about what non binary is – I have not really been educating myself as deeply as I should have. But all in all, this is a fantastic story about self-acceptance and finding yourself in a world where you have to pick yourself up.

What Is Lost Can Be Found (Movie Thoughts: The Lost Husband/The Rhythm Section)

1_3qFDQV1RAP78f3so7B90KQI thought ‘The Lost Huband’ was going to be one of those Lifetime/Hallmark movies, and it is but at the same time it is not.  The set up certainly is – a recently widowed woman, Libby (Leslie Bibb) shows up at. her aunt’s country house with her two kids after her husband dies and she loses the family home. The familiar tropes come in – she starts working  as a farm hand and she is a city girl. Luckily, she is helped by the farm manager, O’Connor (Josh Duhamel) who, of course, in the beginning, hates her but we all know these two are attracted to each other, right? Of course, the film sets that up perfectly, although to its credit, it’s not a hard sell. The two have great chemistry, and I still, after all these years, feel tingly feelings whenever Duhamel is on screen. There’s a weird sub story line in the last part of the film about an unwanted child that I think maybe should have ended at the cutting floor, but really, a lot of this film is good if not great entertainment. You won’t be able to resist its charms after a while. I mean just go along with it!

fid19887Meanwhile, I started watching ‘The Rhythm Section’ because of Blake Lively, who I am kind of look as an actress. But there isn’t much else in the film that interests me, as Lively’s character becomes an assassin who seeks revenge for the murder of her family. I was instantly bored by the film, and it never gained ground.

Romantic Melody (Book Thoughts: 19 Love Songs, David Levithan)

44599131._SX318_Nineteen short stories about love – sounds right about my alley, right? I wish I could say I enjoyed all of David Levithan’s ’19 Love Songs’ but for me it was a mixed bag. There were high points, of course, like ‘Quiz Bowl Antichrist’ about a teen in a quiz team who falls for his teammate and I also liked ‘The Woods,’ wherein a guy discovers his boyfriend’s secret: that he writes Taylor Swift fan fiction. And I especially liked the short story about young Jewish boys falling in love with the backdrop of the two of them going to Broadway shows.  But there were some stories that were just okay, or maybe I just cannot relate to them.

Cut For Your Life (Television Thoughts: Making The Cut S01 E03 E04, Amazon Prime)

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I told you I would be writing about ‘Making The Cut,’ right? And so I am.

I like the show still, but I have a little bit of a problem with it – a competition show is only as good as the competitors and I find myself saying ‘meh’ about the contestants. I guess that was also evident in the production, because Episode 4 had them fighting for their lives (is that kind of like Lip Sync for your life?’)  I think that episode probably addressed what a lot of viewers are thinking. The show is almost halfway done ( think there’s a total of ten episodes) and I have yet to really see the aesthetic of the designers. One thing is for sure, though, and that my favorite has not changed – Sander, in my opinion, has the bold ideas and the skill. But could his brand be a global; brand? I don’t know if he is able to do ‘accessible’ looks. For example, his dress for the last challenge was beautiful, but as Heidi rightly observes, ‘that’s hard to replicate for the accessible look.’  And he seems to be a nice person, too. He says he helps people because this is a design competition, and he says he wouldn’t want to win just because he has an advantage (that he knows how to sew) On the third episode, the editing made it seem like he would not get along with Sabato, but they even won.

Some other observations:

I am getting tired of Esther’s stuff – it’s so specific and so the same.

Megan’s designs are very Ann Taylor. She needs to go.

Naomi is still the best judge.

Trains and Cats (Film Thoughts: Label Me/Kater)

b124676bbe1db5ef6cfae13c24620557Do we need to see another film about a gay prostitute?  Well, we get another one, and this one is from Austria, via Kai Kreuser, who wrote and directed ‘Label Me.’ Waseem is from Syria, and Lars is a local. The film starts at a train station wherein they have some kind of agreement and before you can say sex, the two of them are at it at Lars’ apartment. But no, Waseem doesn’t kiss, and he only tops. Their relationship becomes a lot more than customer/supplier, and sure we have seen this story a million times before. However, I like the subtlety that Kreuser infuses in the film –  societal and religious restrictions prevent Waseem from truly admitting what he thinks his orientation is. There is a great scene wherein he discovers Lars’ sketchbook and finds drawings of him – and this triggers something in him. There’s a lot of good style here that makes this familiar story feel new.

bc46d6d096e60a9e53245fd1ef354172From neighboring Germany comes Handl Klaus’s ‘Kater.’ We see an ideal couple, Stefan and Andreas who live an ideal life with their cat. But something snaps in Stefan, and he (accidentally, maybe or not) kills their cast Moses. This incident brings out the fragility of their relationship. Can you ever trust someone again when he has killed your cat? I am not a cat person, but I wonder if I would feel differently if their pet was a dog. I know a lot of people have loved this film, but I had reservations. I think what happens next is much too abstract, and I wanted a little more explanation for my ‘closure.’ But this has great performances from the leads, and it certainly isn’t boring.

Hopelessly Devoted (Book Thoughts: Only Mostly Devastated,Sophie Gonzales)

51ExgSWeDfLWell, the good news is that I am reading. My free time isn’t as vast as others – I work in ‘essential business’ – but I do have more time than usual, and I said why not just start reading again. I actually have a pretty big TBR pile on my Kindle so I just picked one to start. And Sophia Gonzales’ ‘Only Mostly Devastated’ is as good a book as any. i actually discovered this via Instagram – I was target-marketed by the publishers and I saw the synopsis and I was instantly sold. The plot of the book borrows heavily from ‘Grease.’  Two teenage boys meet at a lake in North Carolina – Will and Ollie – and have this torrid romance. Well, since they are minors, its probably better to describe their summer romance as tender. Ollie gets a curve ball, though – his aunt has cancer so his parents decide for them to stay in North Carolina and he has to go to school in Colinswood – the same high school where Will goes, of course. He gets the shock of his life, and he is emotional since Will has been ghosting him since after their summer romance ended.

The book moves at a great pace, and Gonzales doesn’t waste any time before we get to the bottom of things. Will befriends a bunch of girls and gets caught in their social high school drama as well. I love that the book is from Ollie’s point of view, as we get to see really feel what he is going through. There are times when I thought he was making wrong decisions still getting involved with Will, who seems to be tormented by the  fact that he could be attracted to guys (he is bisexual) and it made sense because he is Venezuelan-American. I thought that part of the story was resolved a little too neatly – but this could just be my baggage speaking. I thought one of the most touching part of the story was Will’s relationship with his dying aunt – I found myself tearing hp when the inevitable happened. All in all a very addictive read, and it will get your romantic inclinations pumping – I kind of needed that right now.