Tiny Bubbles (Perfume Thoughts: Viva Le Juicy Le Bubbly, Juicy Couture)

What kind of emotion does this bottle get from you? For me, it’s something between annoyance and euphoria, but you have to admit it is certainly not boring. If you saw this on someone’s perfume counter, you would more or less know the kind of person they are.

The juice, you ask? It has notes of blood orange and freesia, and that is exactly how it smells. It’s a juicy orange, and accentuated by some aldehydes that gives it some ‘fizz.’ Does it smell a bit like alcohol? Yeah, the wine cooler kind, I guess. I grabbed this sample on the way out this morning, and I don’t regret wearing it.

I also can’t see myself ever wearing it again.

Somewhere Down The Road (Film Thoughts: Nomadland)

I have a friend who despises Frances McDormand. I think his beef with her is over a style issue – McDormand doesn’t really come off as the fashionable sort, and when she attends events such as Oscars, he finds her appearance lacking, or in his words, ‘disrespectful.’  Though I admit to agreeing with him on that front, she is also not my favorite when it comes to acting – her style strikes me as overly technical, every tic and word rehearsed. But she has won two Academy Awards so what do I know? She is in almost every frame in Chloe Zhao’s ‘Nomadland,’ and I think here she gives a masterful performance and is the heart and soul of a movie that is chock full of heart and soul.

I didn’t think I would like this film when I first heard about it. I didn’t know if a movie about nomads would hold my interest. But surely the film is much more than that. It’s a meditation on loneliness, of freedom, of what to do when you don’t know what to do next. Fern lost her husband, her home, and everything else she has known and seeks to find meaning in the open road. And the film isn’t really about what she finds – it’s about the acceptance of the choices you make based on the situations you are in. As Fern, McDormand gives an open-eyed weariness and vulnerability that will capture you. She learns more about herself in each interaction she has with people on the road. When she strikes a connection with someone you think will give her stability, the film doesn’t give you tropes, it challenges you in where it takes the story.This film has won the top prize in Venice and Toronto film festivals, and I surmise more forthcoming. It’s the perfect film for the times we live in – it offers insight on all the uncertainties we are experiencing in the world today. It doesn’t give us answers, it gives us a path to a road to it.

The Cat Lady (Television Thoughts, Call Me Kat, Fox)

‘Call me Kat’ on Fox is the American adaptation of BBC’s ‘Miranda,’ and I note that even though I have never seen the original show. The premise is certainly kind of cute – Kat has a cat cafe, and is a 39 year old single woman. And of course, the cast is very gay – it has Cheyenne Jackson and Leslie Jordan, So I knew I just had to check it out.

And I like it, mostly. Enough for me to want to check out the next episodes after the pilot, which I saw. The ‘gimmick’ of Kat breaking the fourth wall is a bit on the annoying side, but I am able to to tolerate it. Mayim Bialik could probably take it down a notch (two spitting water gags in an episode?) but I guess that’s just what the director ordered. But above all, the show has a sensibility – a gay one – that I like. It celebrates someone who is single, and kind of eccentric, and a little bit lonely, but above all, mostly happy.

Losing You (Film Thoughts: Pieces of a Woman)

Kornel Mundruczo’s ‘Pieces of a Woman’ has a most harrowing opening scene – a home birth gone wrong. Even though I knew the outcome, it was still a stressful experience to watch (Kata Weber based the screenplay on her own experience) and yes, when things go horribly awry, you feel you are torn to shreds. Half an hour in, and after this scene, the opening credits come up, and the movie is jist starting, but you feel like you have gone through so much with these people. Vanessa Kirby and Shia LeBeouf play a husband and wife who have to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy, and their characters will haunt you – I am still shaken.

I know that there have been sexual allegations against LeBeouf of late, and that is a shame, because it distracts you from appreciating his wonderful performance here, as a husband who, with his wife, suffers from their loss. The character is sensitive and gruff at the same time – I saw someone describe it as Marlon Brando-ish. I really still think, sexual abuse case or not, that he is one of our best young actors.

But this is Kirby’s show, of course – it’s a great emotional and physical performance. She is a revelation to me, in the sense that I don’t think I have ever seen her performances before (sadly, I have not caught up with ‘The Crown’) She owns every minute when she is on screen, and you are gutted by her character’s pain. It’s unforgettable.

Ultimately, this film is such a tough watch. I call it the Schindler’s List syndrome – describing films that are such emotional downers to me that I don’t think I ever want to rewatch them.

My New York (Series Thoughts: Pretend It’s A City S01 E01, Netflix)

They say once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker, and I would like to hope that’s true. At times I certainly still feel that way a lot of the times, even if I no longer live there. ‘Pretend It’s A City,’ on Netflix will probably not appeal to a lot of people, but I bet you any New Yorker will love it.

I wonder, though: Fran Lebowitz polarizes a lot of people, and she is honest and raw in here, in conversation with Martin Scorsese. I tend to agree with a lot of her ‘rants’ – she opens the first episode of the series by saying ‘I hate Times Square,’ and I dare you to find a real NewYorker who disagrees with her.

All throughout the first episode, she raises very important points. For example, one always loves the New York they knew, however horrible that may be in retrospect. My New York is the New York of the 90s, and she mention s that she loved the New York of the 70s even though in reality the city had a lot of struggles then.

So yes, it’s that kind of show – you will either nod in agreement with her, or disagree vehemently – but for a New Yorker, this show will definitely not be boring.

From Seoul to Soul (Film Thoughts: Minari)

I immigrated to the United State with my mom and dad in 1984 so I cannot help but feel a certain affinity for Lee Isaac Chung’s ‘Minari,’ an immigrant story of sorts set around the same era. In the film, a Korean family moves to Arkansas from California. But you need not have that same back stpry to appreciate the film – anyone can relate and feel for the characters in this wonderful film. This is one of my favorite films of 2020, a healing tonic to everything we’ve gone through the past year. It’s a film that aches and soothes at the same time.

And it is driven by wonderful performances. Steven Yeun is magnificent as Jacob, the father who has a classic American dream – he wants to succeed in something and wants his kid to witness it. And Yeri Han as Monica gives a quiet and gorgeous performance as his wife – who goes along for the ride and sees what it does for her family. A lesser actress could have easily given a shrill performance in the same role.

The film is named after a Korean herb that stubbornly grows anywhere – it’s obviously a metaphor for the family. There is a persistence in the American dream experience, and this film tells an effective variance of that. story. Our stories all have the same framework, but wonderful storytellers infuse them with specific that make each one unique. This film is exceptional in telling.

Opulent Amber (Scent Thoughts: Amber Star, Xerjoff)

I ended last year talking about a star, so I am going to begin the new one with the other half of that star, Xerjoff’s ‘Amber Star.’ First of all, I just want to say that I am a big fan of the amber note. There was a time I couldn’t get enough of it, and loo0king at my wardrobe I know that I have a lot of amber scents. Over the years, I have mellowed on it – living in warmer weathered States made me resist it a little bit.

But right now, coupled with a very brisk (for me) 46 degrees, I am truly enjoying ‘Amber Star.’ It’s a nice rich amber – warm and enveloping, and it is smooth – the benzoin mix makes it smell elegant, without the roughness of, say, Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan. With the floral top note of ylang ylang, it truly is beautiful, in the best possible way.

But again, I ask, is it worth it? If I had all the money in the world and no care about spending it, I can think of a couple more amber scents that I love just as much. I will not deny that this scent is truly special, and is well done, and has superior quality, so in a sense the price can certainly be justified, but still….

You’re Toxic, I’m Slippin’ Under (Film Thoughts: Promising Young Woman)

Let’s start the year off with an interesting film, one I had been looking forward to seeing since I saw its trailer months ago: Emerald Fennell’s ‘Promising Young Woman.’ Initially, OI had mistaken that this was going to be a comedy, but from articles I have read since I surmised that it was also some kind of thriller. Carey Mulligan stars as Cassie, a young woman who ‘traps’ men while at the bars, going home with them, and teasing them, and when they act on her come ons, gives them some kind of lesson. She has a notebook with numbers of her conquests – some are labeled in black, others in red (we never really know what this actually means, we guess the red ones are when the encounters turn violent)

It turns out that Cassie is out for revenge. She quit medical school years ago, around the same time when her friend Nina was raped, and we find out that she had such potential – she was doing well, and had to bow out. Cassie is on a revenge rampage, and from these we piece together what happened to her.

There are some loopholes in the story, and the characterizations seem hollow, but Mulligan gets into the role it kind of does not matter – we see her intent anyway. I don’t know if I really agree with some of her later actions – I am usually on the camp where wrongs do not make a right but the story handles that for me later on. I also have reservations about the tome of the film – in the middle of it all there seems to be some kind of romantic comedy thing happening between Cassie meeting Ryan (played by Bo Burnham) and then the the films turns very dark towards the end. But all of this can be overlooked because you will be engrossed by Mulligan, and the film, for the most part. This film will probably cause you to think about boundaries, mental health, and falling in love, and all at the same time. And it has the best use of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Something Wonderful’ outside of ‘The King & I.’

Martial Love (Film Thoughts: Your Name Engraved Herein)

It’s 1987, and Martial Law has jiust been lifted in Taiwan. The setting is an all-boys Catholic school, and this is where we first see Birdy (Jing-Hua Tseng) and Jia Han (Edward Chen) as high schoolers. One os an outcast, the other is popular. And against all odds, they fall in love, but this love is never spoken, and not really acted upon. Such is the premise of ‘Your Name Engraved Herein,’ the most successful LGBT film in Taiwan’s history. I guess nowadays they call the genre BL (boy love) and it’s so accepted now that the film broke box office records even in the midst of the pandemic.

I thought I had already gone wary of gay films where one character is long-suffering, and the story consists of one-sided unrequited love affairs (really, it has become so tiring for me) but director Kuang-Hui Lui focuses on the love story that you cannot help but be swept by it. It is set at a different time of course, where this love is still a love that dare not speak its name. I cannot help but be touched by it, and I am probably around the same age at the time as these characters were. The film felt true, even if at times the melodrama is so pronounced it feels screechy. So cue in the melancholy music and I am there. And I bet you will be too. So go fire this up on Netflix and have a good cry.

Some Life (Movie Thoughts: All My Life)

I knew that ‘All My Life’ was promised to be a weepy – it’s a love story ravaged by cancer. there’s even an added texture to it by it being based on a true story (we see the real-life characters in the end via their wedding video) And the actors, played by Jessica Rothe and Harry Shum Jr look great together so it’s a pleasant watch. But can I ask for a little depth. There was nothing for me in the film to hold on to. The actors try their damndest but their charm wasn’t enough for me to care. Plus, there was a tiny bit of white people entitlement aspect in the film that was just a little bit disturbing for me. So, no I didn’t care enough to cry.