Rural Iceland is the setting for Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson’s ‘Heartstone,’ about a pair of friends, Thor (Baldur Einarsson) and Christian (Blaer Hinriksson) who discover more about themselves one late Summer. Amidst domestic problems at home, but find solace int heir friendship. Christian seems to find more in the company of Thor, which the latter dismisses, and this results to Christian committing suicide. It’s a sad story of one’s coming out to himself, and the internal repercussions that go with it, Atmospheric Iceland is gorgeous and beautifully shot, and the story is as touching.
Pose is back, and I am happy.
I bet a lot of people – myself included – never thought it would get a second season, but here it is, and it is more assured, more confident. The first season was a little timid, but this time around, it definitely has a more vocal voice. and that is a good thing. The timeline moves forward to 1990 and here these characters are, on the summer that Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ hits it big. I remember that time specifically, it is the start of a very tumultuous year for me, but I came out of it better, and with a great understanding of who I was then. The AIDS crisis is in full swing at this point, but the big difference between the 80s and this period is that there is a lot more awareness – and people are getting fed up and starting to fight. There is a scene in the premiere that got to me, and that is when they go to the ACT=UP meeting. It was very realistic – it is at the basement of the LGBT Center, and it looks very similar (albeit cleaner) than how it was. And I remember ACT-UP meeting were very scary to me – their anger petrified me, but at the same time I was in awe of them – their bravery overwhelmed me. I was a young and didn’t know how to deal with myself, much less join a movement. I was too scared to be myself totally and to be with them. Pray Tell would probably label me a coward, just like he did Elektra.
And that is probably what will make this season more compelling for me. This era was the start of a big change in my life, and as I watch these characters’ stories, I bet I will see myself in all of them.
‘Marilyn’ is that kind of movie that will make you think, and will probably make you angry, and its ending will definitely shock you. Directed by Martin Rodriguez Redondo, it is the story of Marco (Walter Rodriguez) who lives with his family of ranch hands in rural Argentina. He is seventeen years old, and i discovering his sexual orientation. His world is small, and has to fit within its restrictive norms. Most days he is stoic but he fully comes into himself during Carnival where he wears a dress and has a chance to be ‘himself.’ The film is on the short side, but it packs a lot, and I was engrossed instantly. Rodriguez is fantastic, and you will empathize with his character for the most part, even as the final scene will see a drastic shift in him.
Once in a while, there’s a movie that really touches me. I may not be the best movie in the world, but nowadays I find that stories that touch me are rarer to find. But ‘Un Frere’ (A Brother) took my soul in 70 minutes or so, and now I just need to tell the world to see it because chances are, it’ll touch someone else’s soul too.
Tom (Simon Royer) is vacationing with his family when he finds that another boy Felix (Marin Lafitte) is temporarily living in their house. And it doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going. He falls in love with him, and finds a little about himself in the process. Royer’s wide eyed innocent performance is spot on, and it was great to see that exact moment when we see him recognizing that he is attracted to Felix. And int he beginning we sense that Felix may not really be into it, but as their friendship deepens, we see Tom’s effect on him. This is a sweet and sour summer story, with elements of awakening and coming of age, and perhaps the French provincial version of ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ It’s charming, and it made me cry just a little bit.
This 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.
There’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.
I 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.
As 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.